Sunday, July 12, 2009

What's in a name? Salu

Zimri was the son of Salu. In the beginning of parshat Pinchas:

יד וְשֵׁם אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל הַמֻּכֶּה, אֲשֶׁר הֻכָּה אֶת-הַמִּדְיָנִית--זִמְרִי, בֶּן-סָלוּא: נְשִׂיא בֵית-אָב, לַשִּׁמְעֹנִי.14 Now the name of the man of Israel that was slain, who was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a fathers' house among the Simeonites.

Salu is an interesting name. It seems to mean "weight." As we find in Sanhedrin 82b:
R. Johanan said: [Zimri] had five names: Zimri, the son of Salu, Saul, the son of the Canaanitish woman, and Shelumiel, the son of Zurishaddai. Zimri, because he became like an addled egg [beza hamuzereth]; the son of Salu, because he outweighed [hisli] the sins of his family
We find a match to this in Eicha 4:2. As Gesenius writes in his Lexicon:

If it were as written in the second derivative, with a patach under the samech and a dagesh in the lamed, then it would look like a theophoric name, just like Azzur / Azaryahu or Shallum / Shelemyahu.

Indeed, we find that name elsewhere, in Divrei Hayamim:
דברי הימים א פרק ט
  • פסוק ז: וּמִן-בְּנֵי, בִּנְיָמִן--סַלּוּא, בֶּן-מְשֻׁלָּם, בֶּן-הוֹדַוְיָה, בֶּן-הַסְּנֻאָה.
Perhaps one could say that it is the same name here, but that it was transformed into a special pausal form because in parshat Pinchas there is an etnachta. This would then perhaps mean "one lifted up by God," or something along those lines. And I also wonder idly whether, since סלה as sela is related, and is used as a musical notation, there is some connection to the name Zimri.

We find Sallu elsewhere, as the family of Sallu. Check on Jastrow on Salluni. He notes that in Bereishit Rabba, we have:
ט [וידו אוחזת בעקב עשו]

ואחרי כן יצא אחיו
הגמון אחד שאל לחד מן אילין דבית סלוני,
אמר לו: מי תופס המלכות אחרינו?
הביא נייר חלק ונטל קולמוס וכתב עליו: ואחרי כן יצא אחיו וידו אוחזת בעקב.
אמרו: ראו דברים ישנים מפי זקן חדש!
להודיעך כמה צער נצטער אותו צדיק
Of course, that does not necessarily mean that it was the house of Sallu that was mentioned here, despite them being an important mishpacha.

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