By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, June 17, 2009

The modern Hebrew term for balance is izun, and as a verb, la’azen. In the Bible we are commanded to “have a just balance” (mo’azanei tzedek), meaning to use accurate scales in the marketplace. Moznayim is the biblical term for scales. Izun and la’azen come from moznayim.

The root of both moznayim and izun is ozen, ear. It seems that as far back as the Bible, people knew that the ears played a crucial role in the body’s regulation of balance and equilibrium. While they may not have known the specifics of the inner ear’s vestibular system and its role in keeping us from falling over, people embraced the ear as a symbol of balance. This awareness impacted language development and thus moznayim was born.

Today, you will find yoga teachers in Israel using the term shivui mishkal (an equilibrium of weight)to describe the goal of certain postures. Shivui derives from shaveh, meaning equal, and mishkal means weight and comes from shekel, which was a term of measurement and a coin in the Bible. Izun is reserved for more theoretical situations, as in an izun between two opposing forces, and shivui mishkal refers to the body’s sense of balance.

Last updated: 4:11pm, June 17 2009