QUESTION: Dear R’ Klein,
I hope all is going well with you. I’m wondering if you have seen anything about the word משל, parable, and particularly if there is any linguistic link to the word מושל, rulership or power.
Thanks for all your Torah, and have a freihlechen Adar!
ANSWER: Menachem, Ibn Janach, and Radak all write that the shoresh משל has two separate meanings. That said, Rav Hirsch to Gen. 4:7 and Gen. 10:10 puts the two meanings together. It’s hard to do Rav Hirsch justice in my pathetic English, but basically he says something like משל meaning a way of expressing something’s identity or meaning. So in terms of a parable, it helps you clarify the נמשל and in terms of ruling, the ruler helps clarify everyone’s role by telling them what to do. You have to see it inside, it sounds nicer in Hebrew. That’s all I know off-hand. Please tell me if you find anything else.
I happened to have been reading Jose Faur’s The Horizontal Society earlier today, and I saw that on Page 79 he writes:
The Hebrew mashal (root MShL) usually translated as ‘metaphor,’
and ‘proverb,’ is connected to moshel ‘ruler, legislator,’ because the ideal government, as per Ec 12:9, governs by issuing ‘aphorisms’ (including
both the idea of ‘metaphor’ and ‘proverb’) to guide the people. In this
sense mashal is an ‘analogy that governs,’ best understood in the light of
Justice Cardozo’s remark, concerning the two forms of legal analogies, The
Paradoxes of Legal Science, p. 8:
The one searches for the analogy that is nearest in point of similarity, and adheres to it inflexibly. The other, in its choice of the analogy that shall govern, finds community of spirit more significant than resemblance of externality.