January 21, 2019

Hebrew word of the week: Nitsevet

Recently A.B. Yehoshua, a well-known Israeli writer, published a novel titled “Nitsevet,” translated as “The Extra” in English. The word nitsevet seems somewhat obscure to many Hebrew speakers because it is not commonly used (hence the correct pronunciation is given on the book’s front page). I have been asked whether there is any connection between nitsevet “extra” and Parashat  Nitsavim (Deuteronomy 29:9; just before Rosh Hashanah), about the Children of Israel solemnly standing (Nitsavim) before God (receiving moral instruction before entering the Promised Land).

Obviously, there is a semantic connection, but the context is quite different; a nitsevet “extra” usually just stands passively onstage, with no words to speak to the audience (more like netsiv melah “a pillar of salt,” like Lot’s wife); whereas Nitsavim are the solemn audience of the Divine voice at a historical moment.

* The informal word for “extra” is statist(it)  תי)טסיטטס.)

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