Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Hebrew Name Mariah

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Mariah appears to be a variant of the Hebrew name Moriah, which is a common girls name in Israel. Moriah is not the name of a Biblical persona, but rather, it is the name of one of the most important locations in Jewish history, Mount Moriah. The first biblical reference to Mount Moriah is in Genesis 22:2 as the place to which Abraham is instructed to bring Isaac and offer him up as a sacrifice. Numerous important occurrences in Jewish history are connected to Mount Moriah, but none as critical as being the location of the Holy Temple(s). As it says in II Chronicles, “Then Solomon began to build the house of God in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah” (3:1).

Moriah, as a word, can have numerous meanings. One could connect it to marah as in bitter (particularly those who connect the name Moriah as a derivation of Miriam, which translates as “bitter water.”) But connecting bitter to a holy site such as Mount Moriah does not appear plausible. Perhaps it is related to the Hebrew word mor (myrrh) a sweet smelling spice. Several other etymological connections do, however, make sense. "What is [the meaning of] Mount Moriah?--With regard to this there is a difference of opinion between Rabbi Levi ben. Hama and Rabbi Hanina. [One says] because from this mountain instruction (from the root yud-reish-hey, meaning teach) went forth unto Israel; and the other says: Because it is the mountain whence fear (from the root yud-reish-aleph, meaning fear) came upon the nations" (Ta'anit 16a).

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