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Rashi's note on Num. 11:5 הָאֲבַטִּחִים is

בורק"ש

per
http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/olam_hatanah/mefaresh.asp?book=4&perek=11&mefaresh=rashi, accessed Dec. 2019.

How is this read and what plant does he indicate?

6

Rashi's original is

באדיק"ש

This is read "Battikh,"

بطيخ (ba-Ta-ya-kha) (possibly cognate with abatiach, modern Hebrew for watermelon?),

And now

In Arabic, battikh usually is watermelon but can refer to [a musk]melon or be inclusive of both.. Conceivably, the word for watermelon in biblical Hebrew (avattihim, Numbers 11:5) and Hebrew, Greek (pepon) and Latin (pepo) of the Roman period could have been similarly duplicitious.H. Paris et. al. 2012

Muskmelon, Cucumis melo, is a species that includes canteloupe and honeydew melon types.

Here is a current Wikipedia page in Arabic describing the Battikh, which is interWiki linked with the English page for Muskmelon. Watermelon meanwhile has its article there as بطيخ أحمر, battikh achmar, red melon.


Now, here are varied versions of Rashi's note that I have found, in chronological order:

בודיכש

per 13th-14th century Codex Parma 3204, p. 114b or 243 in viewer, the "base version" at https://www.mgketer.org/home/manuscripts Snapshot below: Parma3204-p114b

And מילוניש (melons)

per 1470/5230 Rome, p. 151b or 161 of pdf.

And באדיק"ש

per 1501/5261 Thessaloniki, חומש ותרגום אנקלוס : עם פירוש רשי והרמבן, printed by יהודה גדליה. Third link here is Sefer Bamidbar. That link takes you to this viewer. Page 355b, which is 50 of 178 in the viewer, snapshot below: 1501 Thessaloniki p. 355b BATTIKH'S


Here are later versions where the Dalet has changed to Resh:

בורי"קש

per 1852/5612 Vilna, Chumash Netiboth Shalom.

And בור"קש

per 1912 Vilna, Chumash Miqraoth Gedoloth.

And (באררעטש bourraches) בורי"כש

per 1932 Berlin, Chumash Meqor Chayyim.

And בודיכש

per mgketer.org as of Jan. 2020.


Source 1852 Vilna has this footnote on the Rashi:

(bourrche בורקי"ש) (איין קיכענגעוועכש)

[ayn kikhenGewächs, "a cooked/cookable? plant," as borage is often eaten cooked], and then in the "Biur" section [Moses Mendelssohn] a long note explaining:

This is בורראשי (in other words, בורעטש borage or אכסענצונגענ קרויט Ochsenzungen Kraut) Ox-tongue-plant (in the Family Boraginaceae), but there are those who render it as the Targum (מעלאנען melons)...

Now, the borages are not melons at all, so this seems quite confused. But what borages and melons do have in common is:

  1. Hairy stems and leaves, and
  2. Borage is said to taste like cucumber (cucumber, melon and squash are all in the curcubit/gourd family Cucurbitaceae).

Targum (Onkelos) has abatiach, melon.


Here is a rejected hypothesis of mine from before I found the earlier printing with "Battikh:"
The original Rashi is בורק"ש. This is read bourc which in Old French is bâtard.[4] A second sense of bâtard, "bastard," is "hybrid plant."[5]


Also, Targum Yonatan renders abatiach as

מְלַפְפוּנַיָא

which is melon.

While we are mentioning melopepon, Jastrow's entry for melopepon seems dubious:

‎an ‎apple-shaped ‎melon, ‎cucumber-melon, ‎prob. ‎the ‎fruit ‎squash.

insofar as squash is a New World food.

Further support for abatiach to be a type of melon comes from the Yerushalmi, Ma`aseroth 1b: [6]

אמר רבי יוחנן רכיב הוינא על כתפי דסבי ושמעית קליה דרבי שמעון בן אלעזר יתיב מתני מכניסין במעי מלפפון ואין מכניסין במעי אבטיח. מה בין מעי מלפפון למעי אבטיח. אמר רבי שמעון בר ברסנא מעי מלפפון לאכילה מעי אבטיח לזריעה. אם את אומר כן נמצאת מכבד את הקרקע בשבת:

Translated: Said R' Yochanan: I was riding on my grandfather's shoulders when I heard the voice of R' Shimon ben Elazar sitting and teaching: We may gather the innards [i.e. seeds] of the melopepon [on Shabbat, off a dirt floor], and may not gather the innards of the abatiach. What is different between melopepon [seeds] and abatiach seeds? Said R' Shimon bar Barsana: Melopepon seeds are fit to eat [i.e. large watermelon seeds? they are a common snack]; abatiach seeds [only] to plant [muskmelon? these are sleek and unrewarding]. [He replied] If that's what you think then one may sweep the dirt floor on Shabbat!

Since abatiach seeds are not worth eating, it seems at least by Mishnaic times the abatiach is the muskmelon. I suspect the breeding of the watermelon into its sweet form earned it the new (and hence necessarily borrowed) name (melo)pepon, thus restricting the name abatiach for muskmelon exclusively.


References

[4] Frédéric Godefroy, Lexique de l’ancien français, https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Lexique_de_l%E2%80%99ancien_fran%C3%A7ais/5

[5] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/b%C3%A2tard

[6] https://he.wikisource.org/wiki/%D7%99%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%A9%D7%9C%D7%9E%D7%99_%D7%9E%D7%A2%D7%A9%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%AA_%D7%90_%D7%91

| improve this answer | |
  • It seems that you're quite into the topic, so I'd suggest you to start with manuscripts. Also check this one, as they checked many of them: mgketer.org/mikra/4/11 – Kazi bácsi Jan 6 at 6:37
  • OK mgketer has בודיכש.. Where should I find manuscripts? – Nissim Nanach Jan 6 at 15:27
  • Here is the list of manuscripts they used with the digitalised versions of them: mgketer.org/home/manuscripts – Kazi bácsi Jan 6 at 16:55
  • In the Gemara language, מלפפון is today's melon, not cucumber. It's obvious when you know Latin. מלפפון is composed of two words - melon (today's water-melon) and papon (apple). – Alaychem goes to Codidact Jan 7 at 9:39
  • @AlaychemDiamondMonicaback Thanks, I've updated that. And I think you meant melon = apple and pepon = ripe, from Greek and via Latin en.wiktionary.org/wiki/… – Nissim Nanach Jan 10 at 20:00

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