Sometimes Chazal make drashot on a word that you just find totally implausible. Like on daf 10b of Ketuboth they say that the term Almana- Widow- is based on the word Maneh- the amount of money an widow receives in her Ketubah if she remarries (as opposed to the double portion – maataim- that the virgin receives).

Are they for real or is it just a cute mnemonic device that happens to linguistically work out?

Thankfully the gemarah expresses the same consternation. When the word Alamana appears in the  Torah, it wasn’t known that the Rabbis would later institute this kind of Ketubah, with this specific amount. To me this is another way of saying that creative linguistics shouldn’t work backwards; you can’t assume origin from the current usage or the current value assigned. Other voices in the gemarah quiet the question by citing additional locations where the language employed by the Tanach seems to reflect a reality much later than its period of composition.

Now I’m getting into Biblical Criticism and that’s not a place I feel comfortable going….. Just want to say that while the Rabbis play with language, and imbue words with multiple meanings from multiple periods of history- granting the word  a timeless power- I also think they are winking at us, aware of the elegant word games they are playing.

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