Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Introduction (2)

Part 2: Pardess, Origins and Import

Pardess is an ancient Hebrew word. It’s a pregnant word. Its sound is pleasant to the ear, even as its meaning recalls beautiful sights. Moreover, it carries within her the continuous trace of more than 2500 years of Jewish Diaspora and its widespread influence on world culture. Specifically, it stands glaringly at the intersection of multiple identities of the Iranian American Jewish people, secular and religious alike.

The Hebrew word pardess began life about 500 BC in the Old Persia as pairi-daēza, the “enclosed gardens” of the nobility of the Achaemenid (Hakhamaneshian) Empire. These were ancient predecessors of modern European gardens and parks, in which the shade of trees and the aroma of colorful flowers came together in harmonious arrangements around appeasing patterns of irrigation systems. The Persian word pairi-daēza was later transplanted into Greek by Xenophon as paradeisos, in which form it entered into the lexicon of the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, known as the "Septuagint Translation". Eventually, it branched out through the Late Latin paradīsus into the Old French and English paradis, the Italian paradiso, and the Modern English Paradise.

Concurrently, pairi-daēza survived in later stages of Persian language itself, partly in a diminished form as pardiss, and centuries later, in its Arabic transformations as fardiss and ferdows. Thus, it seems that the Biblical pardess was an early Hebrew variation on the original form of the word, which was then absorbed by the contemporary writer(s) of Shir ha-Shirim, “The Song of Songs.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

Introduction (1)

Part 1: Pardess Rimonim (פרדס רימונים)

Literally translated as “A Pomegranate Grove” or “An Orchard of Pomegranates” (Persian: "باغ انار"), this mellifluous expression appears as such in “The Song of Songs”, also known as “The Song of Solomon”, one of the thirteen books that form the third section of the Hebrew Bible, i.e. Ketuvim or “The Writings”. There [4:12-13], the male voice praises his beloved in the sweetest of words, in part describing her as “a locked garden” whose “shoots (or fields, depending on the translation) are like an orchard of pomegranates.”

[A list of referenced sources will be included with the last post of the Introduction.]