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In Arabic, the root S-L-M (س ل م) has a general meaning of "Peace", but can also be used for "Submission" (such as in the words Islam/Muslim). Given the close relation between Hebrew and Arabic, I'm curious to know whether the Hebrew Sh-L-M (ש ל ם) can be similarly interpreted thus.

In particular, was this root ever used to refer to those who whole-heartedly submitted themselves to the Mosaic Law (and thus to G-D's authority)? If not, was a different term (with similar meaning) used for these people, in order to distinguish them from the children of Israel as a whole?

I got following Hebrew terms from a Wikipedia article:

  • Mushlam (מושלם) — perfect
  • Shalem (שלם) — whole, complete

Have these concepts ever been extended to perfect (Mushalam) followers or complete (Shalem) submission in the Tanach?

P.S: This question evolved here

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2 Answers 2

In particular, was this root ever used to refer to those who whole-heartedly submitted themselves to the Mosaic Law (and thus to G-D's authority)?

A word with that root was never used for that purpose that I know of, but I'm no expert in all of Hebrew-language Jewish writings from all time. Nor, even, in Tanach.

If not, was a different term (with similar meaning) used for these people, in order to distinguish them from the children of Israel as a whole?

Yes.

In Exodus 32:26, Moses says "מִי לַה׳ אֵלָי", roughly "whoever is God's, come to me". He was referring to those who were wholeheartedly following God, to distinguish them from the children of Israel as a whole, just as you seek. (See the context in Exodus there.) So the term you seek is "מִי לַה׳", roughly "whoever is God's". But note that that phrase is not generally read as a substantive.

Probably closer to what you're seeking is Deuteronomy 18:13. There, we have "תָּמִים תִּהְיֶה עִם ה׳ אֱלֹקֶיךָ". This is a difficult phrase to translate, and a difficult one to interpret. Interpretation first: Rashi and especially Nachmanides say it means that we should look only to God and that if astrologers or the like tell us what will happen we should nonetheless trust that God can do whatever he wishes. The key word here is "תָּמִים", which the JPS here translates as "whole-hearted" but which really means "complete": Onkelus here translates it into Aramaic as "שַׁלְמִין", from the root you seek. Rabbi Kaplan (The Living Torah) translates it as "totally faithful".

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@Ali, well, it includes the tetragrammaton, so the real pronunciation is unknown to us (or me). The usual pronunciation is /mi ladonɑj elɑj/, but that uses God's name. The usual pronunciation religious Jews would use to avoid saying God's name unnecessarily is /mi laʃɛm elɑj/. (Pronunciation varies by dialect, though.) –  msh210 Feb 17 '13 at 6:52
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@Ali, you can hear it in context by downloading Exodus 32 from here and skipping to 04:49 of the MP3. Note that as far as I know, this is the only use of this term in the Bible. I believe it was used once again in the post-Biblical Chanuka story. –  Isaac Moses Feb 17 '13 at 14:27
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For the second term ("tamim tiheh"), get Deuteronomy 18 from here, and skip to around 01:53. –  Isaac Moses Feb 17 '13 at 14:40
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I object to this answer because it can give the incorrect impression that מִי לַה׳ is a standard appellation for a subgroup of devoted followers (which someone might write out as Milashem, which probably looks a lot like Mushalem or Muslim to the OP who seems intent on establishing a connection). Of course, as you and @IsaacMoses pointed out in the comments, this is not how the term would actually have been spoken. Also, there's no reason to think that this was ever meant as a title to categorize or characterize a group of Jews (the only title these people had was Levi)... –  Fred Feb 18 '13 at 7:05
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... So offering this in the answer seems like feeding into the OP's fantasy. –  Fred Feb 18 '13 at 7:09
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Just by way of reference, and by no means is this the authority on the subject, Google Translate shows several Hebrew words for "submission", none of which has the root Sh-L-M.

The closest I can think of to your desired translation are:
שולם/Shulam = paid (passive voice)
נשלם/Nishlam = completed; also paid (passive voice)

The reason I say these examples are close is that they convey a sense of someone having fulfilled an obligation (although fulfilled is usually translated in the root M-L-A [where A is an Aleph], P-T-R, or Y-Tz-A, depending on the context).

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the wikipedia articles shows Mushlam (מושלם) — perfect Shalem (שלם) — whole, complete and i remember i actually found something similar when we had discussions, let me dig it out –  Ali Mar 1 '13 at 15:38
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@Ali, all the Sh-L-M words have the same broad conceptual meaning of wholeness, so the question is really answered from the start. "I got following Hebrew terms from a Wikipedia article: Mushlam (מושלם) — perfect Shalem (שלם) — whole, complete" Yes, yes you did. But what of it? There is no such concept in Hebrew as in Arabic of someone submitting to G-d in that way, though in Judaism that's what we do. It's an Arabic innovation, probably by Muhammad or his followers, to declare themselves somehow more submissive to G-d than their Jewish peers. –  Seth J Mar 1 '13 at 15:45
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