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Dr. Avshalom Kor

What's  Watergate, Afula
  in a
Word and Tashlich

R ichard Nixon, 37th President of                         Eretz Yisrael before the establishment of                   Well, it seems that a verse in the book of                         Photo of Dr. Avshalom Kor: Roy Achiron
         the United States, was removed                   the State despite the British prohibition                   Nehemiah hints to the fact that it was
         from office after the Watergate                  to do so.                                                   there that our custom of Tashlich was
Scandal. The Watergate office complex                     It is also the root of the name of the city                 inaugurated: ‫ַו ֵּי ָא ְספ ּו ָכל ָה ָעם ְּכ ִאי ׁש ֶא ָחד ֶאל‬
was the Democratic Party’s headquarters                   of Afula in the Lower Galilee, because                      ‫ ָה ְרח ֹוב ֲא ׁ ֶשר ִל ְפ ֵני ׁ ַש ַער ַה ָּמ ִים‬, “Then all the
in Washington, into which the Nixon                       one goes up to it from the Jezreel Valley.                  people gathered together as one man at
Administration clandestinely sent five                    Back to Water Gate.                                         the plaza before the Water Gate...” (8:1)
agents to set up secret bugging devices.                  At the upper end of the Ophel was the                       In the Tanach, the word ‫ ְרח ֹוב‬does not
Like many other Biblical place names in                   Temple Mount wall, through which the                        have the same meaning – street – that is
the United States ( Jerusalem, Hebron,                    Kohen would (and will G-d willing)                          does in modern Hebrew today. Then it
Shiloh, etc.) Watergate has its origins in                enter the Hulda Gate with the golden                        meant a plaza or a square. Ezra the
Jewish sources. It was the name of one of                 flask filled with water, accompanied by                     Scribe stood on a wooden platform in
the Temple gates in Jerusalem, which is                   his escorts from the tunnels (which one                     the middle of the plaza in front of the
connected to both Rosh Hashanah and                       can walk through today) through the                         Water Gate, read from the Torah from
Sukkot.                                                   courtyards of the House of G-d to the                       morning to noon, and the people began
First of all, where was the Water Gate                    Water Gate.                                                 to cry, because they realized just how far
actually located?                                         The Mishna continues: “When they                            they had distanced themselves from the
Let us look at the Mishna (Sukkah 4:9):                   arrived at the Water Gate [one of the                       words of the Torah. Those tears were
On Sukkot morning, “How was the                           Temple’s southern gates], they sounded                      shed in front of the Water Gate, in the
water libation [performed]? A golden                      a teki’ah [long blast], a teru’ah [a staccato               afternoon, which could very well be the
flask holding three logs (approx. 1.5                     note] and again a teki’ah,” in order to                     source of our custom of Tashlich, in
liters) was filled from the Shiloah [a                    fulfil the words of Isaiah the Prophet:                     which we ‘throw away’ our sins into the
spring south of the Temple Mount].”                       ‫ ּו ׁ ְש ַא ְב ֶּתם ַמ ִים ְּבׁ ָ ׂש ׂש ֹון‬, “And you will  water on the afternoon of Rosh
The Kohen would go up from the                            draw water with joy” (12:3), because                        Hashanah.
Shiloah with his escorts, the priests and                 sounding the shofar heightens the sense                     One gate opening so many doors to the
the people, via the Ophel – ‫ ָּב ֹע ֶפל‬. The              of happiness.                                               wonders of the Hebrew language…
Ophel is a Biblical word (Nehemiah                        And then the Kohen would go up the
3:27), meaning “going up”.                                ramp to the altar and offer the water and                   Dr. Avshalom Kor is an Israeli linguist
As an aside, this is the same root as the                 the wine in the Temple every morning of                     and e‎ xpert on Hebrew grammar and
word ‫ ַו ַּי ְע ִּפל ּו‬after the story of the Spies:      the festival of Sukkot.                                     semantics
‫( ַו ַּי ְע ִּפל ּו ַל ֲעל ֹות ֶאל רֹא ׁש ָה ָהר‬Bamidbar  And what has the Water Gate got to do
14:44), and the name ‫ ַמ ְע ִּפי ִלים‬given to             with Rosh Hashanah?
those who attempted to make Aliyah to

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