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Hebrew word of the week: Pardes

Pardes: garden, orchard, orange grove

Talmudic literature has many words taken from Persian, but they are usually rare in the Hebrew Bible (except in the later books of Esther and Daniel). However, pardes is well known, as in Song of Songs 4:13, pardes rimmonin, “orchard of pomegranates.”

The Old Persian form, pairidaeza, means simply “a round wall, enclosure,” hence, “protected home garden.” It appears in Greek and Latin as paradisus, hence the English “paradise, Garden of Eden.” In Arabic, it becomes firdaus, and from there it is reborrowed by Persian. Hence the name of the most famous Persian poet, al-Firdawsi (who died circa 1020).

In modern Hebrew, pardes usually just means “orange grove.” Another Persian loanword in Hebrew for “orchard” is bustan, meaning, literally, “fragrance-place”* (Talmud, Sabbath 30b).

*The suffix -stan means “place,” as in Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.

Yona Sabar is a professor of Hebrew and Aramaic in the department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures at UCLA.

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