In a message dated 8/24/2001 12:49:11 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
<< Need information about "Parnash Hachodes" in Vilna,Lithuania during
" Parnash Hachodes " means in Hebrew, chairman of the Jewish Community. >>
Litavks (Jews of Lithuanian Latvia and Belarus) are the butt of much humor
on their prunciation. In the Litvak dialect there is a frequent confusion
of the Sh and S sounds.
The community president is called Parnass (spelled Peh-resh-nun-samekh.)
No place outside Litta would it have a sh as the last consonant.
Chodes, on the other hand, does not mean "of the month." That would be
Hechodesh, spelled Heh-chet-cholom-dalet-shin. An s-sound consonant at the
end is incorrect.
So, correcting on both sides of the equation, we'd get Parnass HeChodesh,
the president for this month.
Frankly, I don't know much about Vilna and I don't know much about
officials and authorities. Rotating a chairman at monthly meetings is
fine. Rotating a president once a month looks like a prescription for
chaos. In all the areas with which I'm familiar, the Parnass held his
position at least a year, often a lifetime--and the position was often
transmitted in one family for a number of generations. Generally speaking,
the Parnass was an important member of the larger community, both wealthy
and well-connected. He often provided the community with financial aid
(the title come >from the root "provider"). In many cases the synagogues
occupied a part of his house that he had set aside for that purpose; the
mikveh was in his basement, and he regularly sent cash or packages of food
or clothing to the needy. I don't see how a monthly change would have
My guess is that the title would have been Parnass Hakodesh, Parnass of
the sacred (duties.) Kodesh being a nice addition, like "Honorable" for a
Hekdesh, a word >from the same root as kodesh, is something specifically
set aside for holy purposes. Specifically, in Ashkenaz at least, it
referred to communal property for the poor such as hospital, old-age home.
Parnass HaHekdesh would then be a sort of almoner, distributor of help to
the poor. More commonly this position was called Gabbai Tzedek (treasurer
for charitable acts) abbreviated as Getz
If there was, indeed, a custom of rotating parnassim by the month (or
other short period) I'd be most interested in hearing about it and
especially learning where and why this was done.
Michael Bernet, New York
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