Word of the Day Monitin: A Story That Starts With God's Promise to Abraham

Just like today, 'reputation' in ancient Hebrew was closely linked to money and celebrity.

Elon Gilad
Elon Gilad
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Elon Gilad
Elon Gilad

When Israelis talk of one’s reputation they use the word monitin [mo-ni-TEEN]. In today's material world a person's monitin is often determined by how much money they have and what they do with it. But even in its original use, more than 1,500 years ago, the word was closely related to money.

The word first appears in Genesis Rabba, the mid-First Millennium rabbinic text, in a discussion on what is meant by God when he promises Abraham “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2).

Rabbi Brachia says on behalf of Rabbi Chalbo that “his monitin went out into the world.” This has been interpreted as meaning that his reputation has gone out into the world and has been used ever since. But where did the word come from?

In the Roman Empire, where they lived, there was no bigger celebrity than the emperor. Everyone knew the emperor and knew what he looked like because his name and face were minted on the coins throughout the world. These coins were called monēta.

Why did Romans call their coins monēta? Because they were coined in a mint also called monēta. This Roman mint did not only serve as a mint though, it was a temple to the goddess of money Juno Moneta, which gave it her name. The etymology of moneta is not certain but probably comes from the Latin monere - to warn - or the Greek moneres. This is how the word monitin - quite literally - was coined.

In modern Israel, the link between money and celebrity was highlighted – perhaps inadvertently – in the now-defunct magazine "Monitin," which started appearing in the late 1970s and closed in 1993, shortly after merging with the local edition of "Penthouse." In its final days, much like the Roman Empire, the magazine was all about sex, money and politics - not necessarily in this order.

Pontius Pilate had a celebwity fwiend, Bigus Dickus. He had a wife, you know, Incontinentia.Credit: Screenshot from "Life of Brian"

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