Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I understand the word Shemesh comes from Shamash which means to serve. Why is the sun called a servant? Why is it more of a servant than the moon, or the wind, or even grass?

share|improve this question

closed as off-topic by Double AA May 9 '14 at 17:37

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions about the Hebrew language or about history or news of the Jewish people, Jewish individuals, or the State of Israel, except as related to Judaism, are off-topic. If this question does relate to Judaism, please edit it to indicate how." – Double AA
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I asked this question under the assumption that there was a p'shat that had a good lesson to learn from it. It wasn't just a random "why is the sun called Shemesh" but rather "does anyone know a good vort on this topic because I vaguely remember such". – Tzvi May 9 '14 at 20:47
This question isn't about language in the etymological sense; it's looking for a drush about the word - just like Chazal so often do for both Hebrew and Aramaic words (such as אלמנה - על שם מנה and in countless other places). The Shelah, Maharal, and so many more thinkers have given philosophical insights based on similar ideas, which have to do with theology, not etymology. (In short: I think this questions shouldn't be on hold. Maybe it can be reworded to say 'is there a lesson to be learned from...') – Matt May 11 '14 at 1:37
Thank you @Matt that was my intention exactly. You explained it perfectly – Tzvi May 11 '14 at 14:11
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Zohar Chadash (Beraishis 518) states that the sun is so called because it 'serves' humanity and sustains all life - משמש את הכל. This is also quoted in the relatively obscure Midrash Tadshe, no. 20, and a similar reason is given by the Maharal (Chidushei Agados Nedarim 7b). I believe this theory better explains why the sun, as opposed to the stars or constellations, was given this name, as it literally does support all of life on earth more than any other astrological body.

The theory that it needs to be emphasized that it's one of God's servants because people were wont to serve the sun (see Rambam Hil. Avodah Zarah 1:1) is one that I've heard as well, but cannot find a source for it.

share|improve this answer
I've never heard my vort before. I thought it was my own chiddush lol – Tzvi May 9 '14 at 20:48

I had a nice thought, but of course no mekor, since I thought of it: The sun is one of the most powerful forces that humans know of. Perhaps God knew that one day people would worship other forces in the world other than Him chas veshalom. He knew that the sun would be a prime candidate for such worshipping, because of it's tremendous force and clear beneficence to this world. Therefore, He gave it a name that contains the root "servant" in it to show very clearly that the sun is only a servant of Hashem.

share|improve this answer
In Breishit, in the story of creation, the sun and moon are called "me'orot" - "things that make light". Then it states that G-d placed the sun and moon "limshol bayom uvalayla" - and there is a debate as to what the word "limshol" means. One of the translations means "to rule" and another means "to be an example" (not sure , an example for what?) If you accept the first exmaple, "ruling" like a king, a king "serves" his people. (at least that is the Judaic concept of what a Jewish king SHOULD do.) – DanF May 9 '14 at 15:04

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.