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Updated: 2021.06.29


Biblical-era accessible in the Levant Lactuca sativa longifolia (lettuce)
Click to enlargeBH: Biblical-era Egyptian & Levant (modern Romaine) lettuce 

fem. n. derived from the Aramaic חַסָּא — the long-leaved, Lactuca sativa, var. longifolia (Romaine) lettuce; a variety popular in ancient Egypt and Israel. This variety of lettuce had an early and intimate idolatrous history with the Egyptian god, Min.

So חַסָּה has come to be MH: lettuce, BH: 1. seek or find refuge, be merciful or sparing, care for or about; 2. Romaine lettuce; 3. the "Mercy Seat" on the A•rōn ha-Bᵊrit i.e. Throne of יְהוָׂה, flanked by 2 kᵊrūv•im, on the celestial Më•rᵊkâv•âh!

Klein & Jastrow apparently both pinned their definition of חַסָּא on Yōn•âh 4.10, where they simplistically assume חַסָּא to mean "to bend-over" (the castor plant). Yet, the theme of the base and cognates, to spare or show mercy. Ergo, Yōn•âh was caring for (i.e. tending) the castor plant (which was his sole refuge)!

While Klein and some other scholars define חֲזֶרֶת as horseradish (which is a Medieval European Ultra-Orthodox rabbis' assimilation that didn't even exist in ancient Israel), other scholars are correct in insisting that חֲזֶרֶת, not חַסָּא/​חַסָּה, meant, and means, lettuce.

What went awry?

135 CE! Following the Hellenist Roman destruction of Herod's Temple in 70 CE, followed by the quashing of the Bar-Kōkh Rebellion with the destruction of all yō•khas•in and Exile of 135 CE, the Hellenist Tzᵊdōq•im Jews fled to various outliers of the Greek-speaking and Euro-languages of the Hellenist Roman Empire while the Pᵊrush•im fled into Arabic-speaking and even further into lands of Far Eastern languages.

Ca. 135 CE, spoken Hebrew, after 2½ millennia of history, went extinct for more than 14 centuries; nearly 1½ millennia!

The following example of Eastern-Aramaic Bâ•vᵊl•­i Gᵊmâr•â to Ta•lᵊmūd Mi•shᵊn•âh, provides the last extant evidence of understanding ancient Hebrew that has been enigmatic in the modern era. Thus, the following represents a terminus post quem of the extinguishing of spoken Hebrew — c. 500 CE when, in Babylon, Rabi Shᵊmu•eil Bar-Na•khᵊmâni posed what, then, was still certainly a reasonable question in Eastern Aramaic of the Ta•lᵊmūd Bâ•vᵊl•i. Yet, this has subsequently been rendered inscrutable by the evolution of the metonym חַסָּה eclipsing the BH: definition of חֲזֶרֶת for "lettuce".

 “מַאי חָסָּאדְּחַס רַחֲמָנָא עִילָּוַון

(What is lettuce? It is the caring of the Compassionate Supreme-One!) Crazy

Most rabbis superficially interpolate over this problem, thereby hiding the conundrum from superficial readers. Practically everyone recognizes, however, that חַסָּא & Aramaic cognate חַסָּה has to derive from חוּס, obviously a cognate of חַס. Thus, the question was: "What is חַסָּא? It is the חַס of the Compassionate Supreme-One!

Thus, modern Hebrew is left in a muddle. חַסָּא/​חַסָּה means lettuce. Except that it doesn't. חֲזֶרֶת means lettuce, but it means horseradish. Then, חַסָּא/​חַסָּה/​חֲזֶרֶת means lettuce? Or horseradish? And חֲזֶרֶת is listed in Ta•lᵊmūd, along with מָרוֹר (!), as as an acceptable variety of מָרוֹר—"explained" as an "autohyponym", despite the oxymoron of maintaining that מָרוֹר, being listed last in the list of acceptable varieties of מָרוֹר—understands מָרוֹר to be the least acceptable substitute for מָרוֹר! Wha-a-a-t? Crazy

The Mi•shᵊn•âh Ta•lᵊmūd includes חֲזֶרֶת as an acceptable variety of מָרוֹר while Klein and some others defined it as horseradish. Thus, lettuce = the metonym חַסָּא/​חַסָּה became intertwined—despite the fact that horseradish didn't exist in ancient Israel and, therefore, neither מָרוֹר nor חֲזֶרֶת could have included, much less be defined as, "horseradish" in BH:!

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