Re: Searching "SEGAL" #general


In a message dated 8/1/2003 11:23:16 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
vogelko@... ( Jane Vogel-Kohai) very kindly checked an
authoritative dictionary of Hebrew contractions and abbreviations, "Otzar
Roshei Teivot" to shed light on the origin of SEGAL (S-G-L) which is
popularly believed to be the title for a Levite and hence is a family name
borne almost exclusively by Levites.

The "Otzar Roshei Teivot" lists the following:
Segula La"Adonai - Virtue to God
==this acronym is new for me. However, it does not seem to have any
connection to Levites

Sgan L'Kehuna - assistant to priesthood
Sgan L'Kohen - assistant to Cohen (priests).
==this origin (in its two varieties) is frequently accepted. The meaning
of Segan is, however, "deputy, vice, or surrogate" as my dictionary has
it, and as is generally agreed. The Kohen Gadol (High priest) of the
Temple in Jerusalem had a deputy who also had to be a Kohen, who performed
the High Priest's duties when the High Priest could not officiate.
However, only a Kohen could perform a Kohen's role, and he could have no
deputies or surrogates who were not Kohanim, not even Levites.

The Levites were teachers. They also were singers and musicians in the
Holy Temple, and assisted the Kohanim in certain duties, schlepping,
cleaning--but no sacraments and they were neither surrogates nor deputies
to the Kohanim.

Jane continues with:
"I think these definitions describe what the Levites were, and makes more
sense than Sgan L'Levi."
== [Sgan L'Levi." means Deputy to the Levite, M.B.]
==The Levites may correctly be considered assistants, but that is not the
meaning of the word Segan, which is surrogate etc. Because of the
punctillious precision that Jewish law demanded of the Kohanim in the
Temple, and in describing their privileges and duties, the likelihood that
a Levite would ever be referred to as a Kohen's deputy is essentially zero.

Jane adds:
"Sgan Leviah is also listed but I don't know if the meaning is Ass't Levi
(in some kind of Aramaic form) or if the meaning is ass't accompanier,
which also would fit a Levite.
==This sense of "deputy Levite" is the one that is popularly associated
with SEGAL and the Levites..Here the problem is that Levites came in only
one rank: either you were or you weren't a Levite. No surrogates and no
deputies. [the sense "accompanier" for "leviah" does not in Hebrew refer
to a musician-acompanist but to someone who accompanies others in a march
or parade, such as a wedding procession, or, R"L, a funeral procession]

The essential problem is that there is no mention of the role of Sgan Levi
"deputy" Levite or of Sgan Kohen (deputy priest), during the many
centuries during which the Temple in Jerusalem was the focus of Jewish
ritual, nor in almost 1000 years after the destruction of the Temple in 70
CE and the total cessation of Kohanic Temple rites and duties. In that
millenium, the rabbis took great care in noting in the Talmud and in
commentaries, every tiny detail of the Temple worship and procedure, so
that the Kohanim could properly perform their duties once the Temple was
restored (which many believed would be by an instantaneous act of God). In
all those many volumes, in all those thousand years, there is no mention
anywhere of such a person as a deputy to the Priesthood or a surrogate to
the office of Levite.

And then suddenly, in the Rhineland of Germany, almost as suddenly and as
miraculously as the hoped-for restoration of the Temple, we learn that
some Levites were deputies to either the Kohanim, or to other Levites--and
there is nothing to back up this sudden claim or sudden title. This leads
me to suspect that the attribution of SEGAL to Levitic duries in the past
is probably an urban (or a rural) legend.

I have played with the idea that "Segel Leviah" ("of the Order of the
Levites") might be a better explanation for the term SEGAL when applied to
Levites, but I am apparently the only one who thinks Segel Leviah would be
an appropriate origin--and even I am very, very, very far >from being
convinced of this origin.

I think we have to look elsewhere to understand why this term arose in
distant Germany, a thousand years after both Levites and Kohanim lost
their ritual and sacramental duties. Suggestions anyone?

Michael Bernet (a hereditary Levite but no one's surrogate), New York

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