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    Words & their opposites – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. How can two contrasting Hebrew words, shachar (dawn, light) and shachor (black) come from the same root?

    shachar shachor hebrew wordA. This often happens with language. Take the English word “root”, which can mean to plant or to pluck up. Or “cleave”, which can mean to adhere or to separate.

    The sh-ch-r root is found in a statement in Pir’kei Avot (3:12) which reads, Hevei… no’ach l’tish’choret – in the context of the statement possibly “be submissive to a superior”, though it is hard to see how the root leads to this conclusion, but more probably “be affable to the young”, understanding tish’choret as a person who is young because they are at the dawn (shachar) of their career or one whose hair is black (shachor).

    It is also possible that there are two separate roots from different origins with the same letters of sh-ch-r. (This is the approach of Brown, Driver and Briggs in their lexicon.)

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