Saturday, November 4, 2023

The Hebrew noun ראשׁ (roʾsh, pronounced RŌSH) means "head," but possesses many of the same various meanings as does the English word "head." For instance, ראשׁ (roʾsh) can refer to the head of a body, as in Genesis 3:15: "He will strike your head (ראשׁ), and you will strike his heel." It can refer to the leader of a group, as in 1 Samuel 15:17: "Samuel said, 'Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head (ראשׁ) of the tribes of Israel?'" It can refer to the very top of something, as in Genesis 11:4: "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its topראשׁו, literally: "its head") in the heavens." It can refer to the "head" or beginning of a river, as in Genesis 2:10: "A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches" (ראשׁים, roʾshim, literally "heads"). It can also be used to mean the beginning of a period of time, as in Ezekiel 40:1: "In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning (בראשׁ) of the year..." And it is, of course, this use as "the beginning" of a period of time where most people encounter the word ראשׁ, as it occurs annually in the Jewish holiday Rosh HaShanah, or "Head [of] the Year," otherwise known as the Jewish New Year.