Rav Hirsh often relates similar sounding word-roots. For example, in the beginning of Bereshit he compares the root ברא to ברח to show that they have the common meaning of "wanting to come out or be free". Is this type of comparison his "chiddush"? I have not come across this type of comparison in other commentaries.

"ברא" קרוב אל "ברח" "ברה", "פרח", "פרא", "פרע"

  • Rav Hirsch is the only Hebrew commentator I know of that tends to related things "phonetically" like this. I have his book "Biblical Etymology" at home. I'll see if I can find something there that explains his method.
    – DanF
    Jun 27, 2017 at 19:13
  • "Bara" and "Berach" sound nothing alike to me. But then again, if I had a Mizrahi accent...
    – ezra
    Jun 27, 2017 at 19:19
  • @ezra It is a matter of two of the three letters of the root being the same and the third letter being of a particular type. ח א ה ע or פ ב which takes a basic meaning and puts a different spin on it. Jun 27, 2017 at 19:47
  • I only have the example you brought, but there are 5 sources of letters, throat, palate, lips, teeth, tongue (see here - books.google.co.cr/… ) . Each of the letters from each source are interchangeable in certain circumstances. Perhaps R' Hirsch is following those rules -- See Rashi Vayikra 19:16 for an example of this...
    – Menachem
    Jun 27, 2017 at 20:22
  • ... and a color coded breakdown here: opensiddur.org/art/…
    – Menachem
    Jun 27, 2017 at 20:26

1 Answer 1


The relations between various hebrew roots relating them "phonetically" is not something that begin with Hirsch. In fact, other meforshim before had done this in their own commentaries, but not in an extensively manner like him.

Rashi, for instance, in his commentary to Vaycra 19:16 relates רגל to רכל (by interchanging the palatal consonant כ to ג):

לשון מדברת גדולות (שם יב ד), לכך אני אומר שלשון רכיל לשון הולך ומרגל, שהכ"ף נחלפת בגימ"ל, שכל האותיות שמוצאיהם ממקום אחד מתחלפות זו בזו, בי"ת בפ"א ובוי"ו, גימ"ל בכ"ף וקו"ף, נו"ן בלמ"ד, ורי"ש וזי"ן בצד"י

He also uses this approach in his commentary to Yeshaya 21:14 (by interchanging the sonant consonant נ to ל):

וחרב נטושה . פשוטה על פני הארץ כמו ( ש"א ל ) והנם נטושים על פני כל הארץ ( שם כה ) וינטשו בעמק רפאים ד"א נטושה כמו לטושה כל אותיות אשר מוצאיהם קרובים להיות ממקום אחד מתחלפות זו בזו נו"ן בלמ"ד כענין שנא' ( נחמיה יג ) לעשות לו נשכה כמו לשכה :

Ibn Ezra relates סגר to סכר (see his commentary to Bereishis 8:2). The Chizkuni to Shemos 28:28 relates יזח to יסח (by interchanging the sibilant consonant ז to ס) and so on.

In grammar (phonetics) these interchanges are made between the so called "homorganic consonants", because they are produced by the same organ of speech. By the way, these are the exact words of Rashi (see above):

שכל האותיות שמוצאיהם ממקום אחד

Althought Hirsch makes this central to his commentary that's not the only way he interprets the word or text in hebrew, he develops more and analysis further these homorganic consonants, as well as each letter, variants, expansions and structure of words. All this combined with wisdom, love and devotion certainly make his an unique approach to Lashon HaKrah.

  • 1
    Well written and sourced
    – user8726
    Jul 11, 2017 at 19:44

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