Memory (Zikaron)


The three-letter root of this Hebrew word zikaron (זִכָּרוֹן) is ז-כ-ר. These three letters alone also spell out the word zachar (זָכַר, “male”). Other words coming from the same root include mazkir / mazkirah (מַזְכִּיר/מַזְכִּירָה, “secretary”), mazkeret (מַזְכֶּרֶת, “souvenir”), and tizkoret (תִּזְכֹּרֶת, “reminder”).

  1. It has been said that the Jewish People do not have history, but rather have memory. Does having zachar (“male”) at the root of the word zikaron (“memory”) mean that Jewish memory is gender-based (as in “HIS-story”)? Why might those two words be connected?
  2. How do the words "secretary," "souvenir," and "reminder" connect to the word zikaron (“memory”)?

Cemetery (Beit Almin)

בֵּית עָלְמִין

On Yom Hazikaron, many people visit military cemeteries, with the official State ceremony taking place at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. Soldiers place Israeli flags with a black ribbon on every grave so that no one is forgotten.

Israeli soldier plants flag at an Israeli soldier's grave

There are a few ways in Hebrew to say the word “cemetery.” This phrase with the root ע-ל-מ, shares those root letters with some other words, including olam (עוֹלָם, “world”), elem/alma (עֶלֶם/עַלְמָה, “a young man/woman”), leheialeim (לְהֵיעָלֵם, “to disappear”) and lehitaleim (לְהִתְעַלֵם, “to ignore”).

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

  1. In what ways are these words connected?
  2. Why might these words all share the same root letter?

Torch (Masuah)


In both Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron ceremonies, it is customary to light a memorial torch — in the same way that it is customary to light a memorial candle in homes and graveside.

The three-letter Hebrew root for this word, strangely, is נ-ש-א (note that the first letter of the root, נ, is not found in this word). There are other words that share this root and you might be surprised by what they are:

The word masa (מַשָּׂא, “burden”) has the same root, as does the word masa’it (מַשָּׂאִית, “truck”). The Hebrew word for president (Nasi, נָשִׂיא) comes from this root, as does nisuim (נִשּׂוּאִים, “marriage”).

Photo credit: Wikimedia

War (Milchama)


While we continue to hope and pray for peace, these remembrance days exist because of war.

The shoresh of the word milchama are the letters ל-ח-מ. Sharing those root letters is the word lochem (לוֹחֶם, “fighter”). Other words with the same root include lechem (לֶּחֶם, “bread”) and lehalchim (לְהַלְחִים, “to weld or solder”).

Bereaved Families (Mishpachot Sh'kulot)

מִשְׁפָּחוֹת שַׁכּוּלוֹת

As we remember the fallen, we also remember those who are living with loss.

The shoresh of sh'chol (שְכּוֹל, “bereaved”) is ש-כ-ל. Sharing this root is the word seichel (שֵׂכֶל, “intellect” or “common sense”). Another word is haskalah (השכלה, “education”), which in colloquial Hebrew refers to higher education, and is also the Hebrew term for the Haskalah (period of Jewish Enlightenment).

  1. In what ways are these words connected?
  2. Why might these words all share the same root letter?

Etymology of Hebrew Words Series