QUESTION: How did סלק swtich from Aramaic to Hebrew? What does the root סל mean?

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    QUESTION: When did סלק become a Hebrew root? The only instances of in Tanakh are in Aramaic? Also , is it a possible biliteral cognate of the Hebrew סולם (“ladder”) and סוללה (a device used in siege), both of which facilitate ascent? And also סל (“basket”) can be used to lift somethin. Moreover, it seems that סלסלה (in Mishlei 4:8) means ‘lift it up’ according to ראב”ע , as does סלו לרכב בערבות (Tehilim 68:5). There was a city in trans-Jordan called סלכה. (Deut 3:10). Is it because it was a mountainous region and involved ascent? A סלע is a rock. Is it because it’s a high rock that ascends upward? Is סלעם a type of locust that flew higher than others?
    Please enlighten me. I’ll feel uplifted.
    יה”ר שיסתלקו שונאינו

    ANSWER: I have a theory that the equivalent of סלק in Leshon hakodesh is סק (shoresh נסק according to Radak), as in: אִם אֶסַּק שָׁמַיִם שָׁם אָתָּה (תהלים קלט:ח).
    There is a very interesting interplay between these two roots in the Targum, as pointed out by the author of Nefesh Hager (R’ Mordechai Levenstein) in Parshas Vayechi. Note: הפעל in Aramaic is the equivalent of פעל (קל) in Hebrew.

    ועתה אעלה – תרגם: וכען אסק, בהפעל “סק”. בפסוק ז’: ויעל יוסף – תרגם וסליק יוסף, בהפעל “סליק”. ובפסוק ו’ ויאמר פרעה עלה – ואמר פרעה סק, בהפעל “סק”. מזה נראה סגנון דלשון הארמי דעל לשון עבר משמש הארמי בהפעל “סליק” ועל הציווי ולשון עתיד משמש הארמי בהפעל “סק” לכן בפסוק ט’ ויעל עמו גם רכב, תרגם: וסליקו עמיה, וזהו כלל בכל התורה דוק ותשכח.

    In other words, סק and סלק are essentially synonyms, but one is used only in הפעל and one in ציווי and עתיד (we find a similar phenomenon in the Targumim of שמור and השמר, which are consistently rendered as טר and אסתמר respectively by Onkelos – see my article on P’ ואתחנן).

    In שפת הקודש we only have the one instance of סק cited above, but it indeed is in עתיד, so it would appear to fit the pattern as well. On the other hand, one of the words for burning in Hebrew is שק (נשק according to Radak), as in:

    וְאֵשׁ נִשְּׂקָה בְיַעֲקֹב (תהלים עח:כא). והכבד: וּבִעֲרוּ וְהִשִּׂיקוּ (יחזקאל לט:ט), אַף יַשִּׂיק וְאָפָה לָחֶם (ישעיה מד:טו)

    The interchanging of ס and שׂ is of course very common; the special meaning of נשק in contradistinction to say ביעור, would therefore seem to be that this type of fire rises straight up (as opposed to e.g. smoldering).

    Although in Leshon Chazal (and Modern Ivrit) סילוק came to mean removal / end, the original meaning of both סלק and סק (from which the modern word מסוק –helicopter- derives) is simply raising or rising. For instance ואד יעלה מן הארץ is rendered:
    בראשית ב:ו – ועננא הוה סליק מן ארעא.

    To explain the connection between rising and disappearing, just imagine the release of a hundred helium balloons: they rise and rise… until they disappear.

    Rabbi Yehoshua (Jeremy) Steinberg


    I would add a theory proposed by Rabbi Aharon Marcus in his work Keses HaSofer to Gen. 8:20 (it’s on page 262 in the 2016 Mossad HaRav Kook ed.). I cited this in one of my earlier essays:

    Rabbi Aharon Marcus (1843–1916) makes a fascinating suggestion. He proposes that in all Hebrew words whose essential root is the two letter combination SAMECH-LAMMED, the SAMECH is actually a placeholder for the letter AYIN which proceeds it. In other words, he says that when a word’s root seems to be SAMECH-LAMMED, it should really be understood as AYIN-LAMMED. The letters AYIN-LAMMED refer to something “on top” (al/lemalah) of something else, and to something which is “raised” or “ascends upward” (oleh/aliyah). To that effect, he suggests that the word selah should be understood using this paradigm, and that it too refers to something which “comes up”—in this case the type of rock which “comes up” from underground.

    Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

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