Winter, Gazing, and Covering: the Biliteral Root סת

Home Forums Roots – שורשים Winter, Gazing, and Covering: the Biliteral Root סת

Viewing 1 post (of 1 total)
  • Author
  • #2632

    QUESTION: I was wondering about the word סתיו. Why does it mean “autumn” in modern Hebrew when it seems to mean “winter” (or end of winter) in TaNaKh (see Song of Songs 2:11)? Also, whichever season it means, which of these explanations would you find most plausible in explaining the word’s etymology: a) it’s chilly so one needs to cover up (סות in Gen 39:11, presumably some sort of garment)? b) it’s an enticing (הסתה) time to go outside after the cold season? c) or is it somehow related to סוי in Aramaic, “to gaze”, since now one can see the ground since ice has melted?
    Seems like biliteral סת is associated with “covering up”, because: a) סות (ibid), b) סתם “seal up” (as in Gen 26:18), c) סתר “hide”, d) סתו, “time to cover up”? Without the letter תי”ו, biliteral סו implies “covering”: d) מסוה “face covering” (Ex 34:33, which Ibn Ezra & Rashbam link with סות, although Rashi related to סוי gaze).
    On further reflection, Rashi suggests that סות is a “seductive colored blouse/dress” (הסתה), which would explain the feminine possessive ה”א of סותה, in the כתיב at least.
    Can it be that according to Rashi, covering up, gazing, and enticing are all related? Covering up in the sense of framing the way you are seen, or how others see you? So מסוה was a face covering that enabled them to gaze at Moses, and סות is a seductive colorful gown that entices man to gaze at woman?
    And in the winter, a covering enables you to go out and be seen? (Otherwise, you’d be stuck indoors and no one would see you)
    Anyway, please share your thoughts on סתיו.
    Speaking of which, i think I’ll head outside. Here in Massachusetts, it’s finally thawing out, we can see the ground, and it’s an enticing time to go outside after being indoors all winter… but we still have to cover up! No one is seen outside without some sort of covering. It’s still March! 😉

    P.S. ראב”ע cites an opinion that סותה is from כסות without the כ”ף , though he doesn’t accept it. Yerios Shlomo suggests it was a smock to cover oneself while pressing grapes, hence “ובדם ענבים סותה”. Also, he suggests that סתיו is end of winter since the ice has melted מס, and מ of האמתי”ו isn’t important radical, but just the סמ”ך alone can imply melting!

    ANSWER: There’s a well-known expression (coined apparently by Ramban): “a wise man’s question is half the answer.” One may add that such a question can thaw even a frozen brain, enticing the reader to seek knowledge. In this case the question left little to answer, virtually covering the gamut of human knowledge about the word סתיו.
    I would add only some hints from Chazal relating to the associations of the word via allusion:
    פסיקתא רבתי ט”ו – משיח מה אמר לי: קוּמִי לָךְ רַעְיָתִי יָפָתִי וּלְכִי לָךְ. כִּי הִנֵּה הַסְּתָיו עָבָר (שה”ש ב:י-יא) – זו מלכות הרשעה הזו שהיא מתעה את הבריות, כמו דאת אמר: כִּי יְסִיתְךָ אָחִיךָ בֶן אִמֶּךָ (דברים יג:ז).
    This citation certainly suggests a connection with הסתה as you mention, in the sense of sidetracking and leading astray. Perhaps in a broader sense: prevention of actualization of positive objectives.
    This sense of prevention dovetails with your suggestions of covering, hiding and sealing. And this in turn leads to the ultimate power of hindrance: enslavement:
    שיר השירים רבה ב:כח – כי הנה הסתו עבר – אלו ת’ שנה שנגזרו על אבותינו במצרים. שמות רבה טו:א – ענה דודי ואמר לי מה את עושה כאן במקום טמאים… אמרו לפניו רבון העולמים ת’ שנה אמרת לנו להשתעבד ועדיין לא שלמו. אמר ליה כבר שלמו שנאמר: כי הנה הסתיו עבר (שיר ב) מיד גלו הצדיקים את ראשיהם שהיה מכוסה.
    Here I believe the allusion is to the סת words you list, all denoting one form of blockage or another.
    And yes, even Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim’s suggestion of the basic meaning of melting does not contradict the basic meaning of prevention, because “melting” itself is used as a metaphor for inaction, as in:
    דברים כ:ח – וְלֹא יִמַּס אֶת לְבַב אֶחָיו כִּלְבָבו.
    What does all this have to do with winter? Winter is of course the rainy season in Eretz Yisrael, ergo a time of the suspension of many activities.
    Aside: the word is used as the basis for an adjective in לשון חז”ל, eg:
    תרומות יא:ב – דְּבַשׁ תְּמָרִים וְיֵין תַּפּוּחִים וְחֹמֶץ סִתְוָנִיּוֹת וּשְׁאָר כָּל מֵי פֵרוֹת שֶׁל תְּרוּמָה; רמב”ם פהמ”ש – חומץ סתוניות הוא חומץ העשוי מן הענבים שבימי החורף, והוא מגזרת כי הנה הסתיו עבר (שיר השירים ב), והוא שם לזמן הגשם.

    Yehoshua (Jeremy) Steinberg

Viewing 1 post (of 1 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.