'כל מילה דלא מחוורא מסמכין לה מן אתרין סגין': ערך 'פיקרין' וערך 'פיקייליה'

Translated title of the contribution: 'Any Word Which is Unclear Should be Supported from Many Places': on the Lexemes piqarin and piqaliah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

For centuries, lexicographers have identified the word פיקרין or פוקרין in tannaitic and amoraic literature with the Greek ποκάριον, 'small fleece', a diminutive form of the word πόκος. However, the word ποκάριον is rare in Greek sources, and its presumed usage presents numerous problems in the rabbinic contexts in which פוקרין/פיקרין is used. This article proposes an alternative etymology for the word, based upon a different Greek word, φακιάλιον, attested more commonly in papyri as φακιάριον. The word φακιάλιον is not unknown in rabbinic literature; it has been cited by Joannis Buxtorf, in his seventeenth-century Lexicon, as the etymological basis of the word פיקייליה, mentioned in PT Betsah 5:2, 63a. It is my contention that the same word, in its alternate spelling φακιάριον and variants, lies behind the lexeme פיקרין/פוקרין as well. The Greek word itself is a loanword from Latin faciale. פיקרין, or φακιάριον, is a garment similar to the (סודר(ין, common in rabbinic literature, which is itself derived from Latin soudarium via the Greek σουδάριον. According to the Greek sources examined, the φακιάριον was a linen scarf worn around the neck or draped over the arm. It is mentioned in Diocletian's price edict of 301 among linen garments, and was produced, among other places, in Beth Shean. In Genesis Rabbah 77,2, Jacob is said to have threatened the angel by placing a פיקרין on the angel's neck. Scholars who interpreted this as ποκάριον, 'fleece', were forced to explain that 'neck' here means 'throat', and Jacob stuffed the fleece into the angel's throat. However, the context clearly indicates a scarf. The identification פיקרין with φακιάριον is further confirmed by Tosefta Kilaim 5:23, where it is mentioned in the form פוקרית together with ציפה (or according to the Erfurt manuscript in Tosefta Shabbat ציפי צמר), 'raw woolen tufts', as a forbidden mixture of wool and linen. Lieberman derives פוקרית from ποκάριον; however, if this were the case there would be no forbidden mixture, since both are wool. The preferred etymology here too is clearly ποκάριον, 'linen scarf'. Likewise, in Tosefta Shabbat 5:2, describing the treatment of fractures or wounds, פיקרין was taken by Lieberman to mean 'fleece of wool'. However, our understanding of linen scarf makes more sense. The Tosefta describes how the פיקרין is dipped in oil and wrapped around the fracture with a string, and if we assume that the reference is to a linen cloth, this is precisely the recommended treatment for fractures found in the works of the Roman physician Celsus. Finally, in PT Berakhot 2:2, 4c (=PT Eruvin 10:1, 26a) Rabbi Abahu is said to have continued wearing his tefillin at night, violating the regnant custom to remove the tefillin at sunset. The editor of the Yerushalmi explains that Rabbi Abahu wore his tefillin 'in the manner of פיקרין'. According to my proposal, this means that he wore the tefillin like a 'scarf', and not in order to fulfill the commandment of tefillin. The last part of the article examines the usage of φακιάριον in papyri and other classical sources, showing how its description matches that of the פיקרין mentioned in Talmudic sources.
Translated title of the contribution'Any Word Which is Unclear Should be Supported from Many Places': on the Lexemes piqarin and piqaliah
Original languageHebrew
Pages (from-to)565-576
JournalTarbiz: a quarterly for Jewish studies
Volume74
StatePublished - 2005

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