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The Joy of Purim: Costume, Mask, Jester, Scroll

Purim is coming, and here is the etymology of some of the holiday's words



Costume (תַּחְפֹּשֶׂת)

The word for costume was probably created in the late 1920s or early 1930s. It was coined in the form of the biblical word for dress (תִּלְבֹּשֶׁת), along with other similar words such as haircut (תִּסְפֹּרֶת), offering (תִּקְרֹבֶת) in the language of the Talmud; enhancement (תִּגְבֹּרֶת) in medieval times; riding, combing, arming (תִּרְכֹּבֶת, תִּסְרֹקֶת, תַּחְמֹשֶׁת) in modern Hebrew. The verb to disguise oneself (הִתְחַפֵּשׂ) originates in the Bible: "And Saul disguised himself, and put on other garments" (Samuel I 28:8). It is commonly linked to the verb to search (חיפש), as the disguised person changes their appearance, making it necessary to search for them. The usage of the verb to dress in a costume (חִפֵּשׂ) is common, with its meaning differentiated from to search (to investigate thoroughly to find something) based on context.


Mask (מַסֵּכָה)

A mask is a face covering, for example, for the purpose of a costume. In the Bible, other words are used in a similar meaning: "and he disguised himself with ashes upon his face" (Kings I 20:38), "and put a veil upon his face" (Exodus 34:33). The word mask also comes from the Bible but originally meant a cast metal form – like a golden calf (עֵגֶל מַסֵּכָה), and also a covering: "as a curtain is spread over all nations" (Isaiah 25:7). In 1914, the term mask was defined alongside the term blanket in the sense of "the cover that is used for covering oneself at the time of lying down," following the prophet's words. The modern meaning of mask comes from its similarity in sound and meaning to the foreign word mask. It was included in theater terminology published by the Academy of the Hebrew Language in 1940.


Jester (לֵצָן)

The word jester is taken from the literature of the Talmud and is essentially synonymous with the biblical word for mocker (לֵץ) – a lighthearted person who frequently mocks and laughs. A jester who entertains people for compensation is mentioned in Rashi's language. The mocker and the jester are related to the verbs to mock (לָץ, הֵלִיץ) and to jest (הִתְלוֹצֵץ), as well as the nouns mockery (לָצוֹן) and derision (הֲלָצָה). Some believe that the root לי"ץ originally denoted speech, hence the biblical word for interpreter (מֵלִיץ). From the Talmud, we also inherit the jester's companions – the clowns and the buffoons, whose origins are in Greek words.


Scroll (מְגִלָּה)

A scroll is a rolled parchment strip written on or prepared for writing. Its name is derived from the root גל"ל and is similar in form to other doubled-root words: pathway (מְסִלָּה), celebration (מְסִבָּה), illness (מְחִלָּה, a pit in the ground), and more. In Talmudic literature, a scroll typically refers to the Book of Esther, hence the name of the tractate Megillah, which mainly discusses the laws of reading the scroll on Purim. Today, the Book of Esther may be printed in a book, and other scrolls are not necessarily written

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