On Reflection

“Monday Musings” for Monday November 2, 2015

Volume V. No. 45/253


Personal Communication and Reflection

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DSc (Hon), DLFAPA*


Dear Friend:

Enjoyed your correspondence filled with not only information but information morphed into the rare commodity of wisdom. I was delighted to see your attempt to dissect the enormously rich and intellectually pregnant word “Selah.”  With respect, I disagree that the “Hebrew language is an ambiguous one.”  It is not. In my view, more appropriate adjectives to describe Hebrew language, and paleo-Hebrew language (and Aramaic language), are pleomorphic and flexible. These qualities are also shared with the Arabic language.  It is not uncommon for an Arab poet to use one word, the same word, to rhyme a 24-30 line poem (ghazal  or sonnet) meaning different things (homonyms).The record in Arabic language is one word used in an epic poem to mean 400 different things!

With this bit of background, let’s look at the beautiful word “Selah”.  It is indeed one of those truly useful and etymologically well-endowed Indo-European words whose organic DNA is so varied and so rich that makes it mean many things. Let me offer a few meanings and the appropriate occasions for use:

1)  Selah, also spelled SELAT is the second of five tenets or pillars of Islam. It         means prayer. Muslims are required to pray five times a day, before sun up or dawn; when the sun creates only a spot for a shadow, meaning high noon (the sun is directly perpendicular to earth); late afternoon; after sundown and before bedtime.

2)    Selah means permission or sanction. A son seeks parental Selah to go to the Sorbonne to continue his studies …

3)    Selah means peace. The closest Latin word to the Arabic or Hebrew Selah is Irenic, a peace that is generous, altruistic and not the kind of peace offered as the result of fear, intimidation and self-gain.

4)    Selah means “weapon”. Plural is Asleheh.

By the way the other four tenets of Islam are: the first one, Shahadat, or to witness, the third one is Zakat (giving alms and looking after the community’s poor), the fourth one, fasting, 30 days of the month of Ramadan; and last is Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca if one is financially able.

Love, Joy and blessings to All



The press and news media report that America is experiencing a shortage of prison beds. In North Carolina, with the prison population approaching 50,000, administrators are asking the county sheriffs to shorten the prisoners’ stay in their jails. Wake County jail is already overcrowded with more than 1500 inmates, some of whom we are told sleep on bedrolls.

Also, the debate whether to allow illegal immigrants to our technical colleges and institutions of higher learning is on the mind of the legislators.

Recalling the words of Blaise Pascal and Rene Descartes, both17th century mathematicians, scientists and moral philosophers “with opening of the doors to one school, you close the doors to fifty prisons”, I am wondering if there is a debate. We really should open the gates of knowledge to anyone who wishes to learn.

I hope our legislature has the wisdom to emphasize prevention, think long range, and spend fewer dollars on building prisons and more dollars on building schools. We need to encourage and facilitate learning by being hospitable and giving scholarships to all learners, legal or illegal, citizens or immigrants, who want to improve their lot.  That is the American value and the American way.

As one citizen, I would be happy to see my taxes go for building schools instead of prisons.


*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, Life Member, American Medical Association, Life Member, Southern Medical Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012).

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