Ask The Rabbi

A Lily by Any Other Name

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Lilly - Shoshana

Seth wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I have always thought that the Hebrew word "shoshana" means rose but recently a teacher of mine told me it means lily. Which is the correct meaning?


Dear Seth,

Most commentaries define the shoshana as the lily. However some associate it with the rose (vered). Still others say that shoshana is a general name for flowers. In the Midrash, we find that the word shoshana comes from the word "shesh" meaning six, as a shoshana is said to have six petals. Some say the six petals are the outer ones, but that in reality a shoshana has 13 petals. It is said to be red or white and have a pleasant fragrance.

Sources:

  • Rashi Shir Hashirim 2:3, Ibn Ezra ibid 1:17 ,Metzudot ibid. 2:3, Vayikra Rabbah 23:3,6
  • Bereshet Rabbah 221:1
  • Zohar Pinchas 233b
  • Pesiktah Rabbati 10
  • Zohar, Preface 1:1


 
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