Volume 49 Number 20
                    Produced: Mon Jul 25  5:55:41 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Mike Gerver]
Bracha/ Baruch
         [David Curwin]
Hot Water on Shabbat
More on Hitpael
         [Russell J Hendel]
teaching Aramaic
         [Tzvi Stein]


From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Sun, 24 Jul 2005 19:17:57 EDT
Subject: Berakha

Regarding the recent postings by Andy Goldfinger and Ira Jacobson,
speculating on the relationship between the words bracha, meaning
"blessing," berekh, meaning "knee," and breicha, meaning "pond," the
etymological dictionaries I have consulted suggest that the three words
are unrelated to each other, or, if there is any relationship, it goes
back very far, probably earlier than proto-Semitic, and is no longer
possible to discern. We should not assume that two roots with the same
spelling in Hebrew are necessarily etymologically related. There are
many examples of separate Hebrew roots having identical spellings. In
some cases (though not in this case, I think), it is possible to tell
that the roots are separate, because they have different spellings in
other Semitic languages, which have preserved phonemic differences that
are absent in Hebrew. (An example of such a phonemic difference is
between the Semitic phoneme usually indicated by a theta, which
corresponds to shin in Hebrew, tav in Aramaic, and th in Arabic, and the
Semitic phoneme usually indicated by "sh," or "s" with a small "v" over
it, which corresponds to shin in Hebrew and Aramaic, and s in
Arabic. Since the distinction occurs in Aramaic, among words that are
clearly cognate to Hebrew words, no one can deny that this distinction
is real, and is absent in Hebrew.)

Ernest Klein's Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew
Language lists beit-resh-kaph, "to kneel," as derived from the noun
"berekh" meaning "knee." The noun, with the meaning "knee," occurs in a
wide variety of Semitic languages, including Arabic, Aramaic, Ethiopian
(by which Klein means Amharic, I think), Ugaritic, and Akkadian. It does
not seem to occur in other Afro-Asiatic languages, a wider family that
includes Semitic. (Actually, Marcel Cohen, in his 1947 book on
Afro-Asiatic languages, then called Hamito-Semitic languages, lists some
Berber and Cushitic words for "knee" that he considered parallel to
"berekh," but the more recent Afro-Asiatic dictionaries by Belova et al,
and by Ehret, do not list these words, so they are apparently not
generally accepted by modern scholars.)

Klein lists beit-resh-kaph, meaning "to bless," as a separate verbal
root, which occurs, with the same meaning, in Aramaic, Arabic, Akkadian,
and Ethiopian. He quotes a scholar named M. H. Goshen, who speculates,
based on a similar root in Ugaritic, that the word originally meant "to
strengthen." The Hebrew noun "bracha," meaning "blessing," is derived
from the verb. Again, this root does not seem to occur in other
Afro-Asiatic languages.

Finally, Klein lists "breicha," a noun meaning "pond" or "pool," as of
unknown origin, unrelated to the other two words. He cites words with
similar meaning in Arabic, Ugaritic, and even Egyptian (a language that
is Afro-Asiatic, but not Semitic), and word a meaning "cistern" in Old
South Arabic (a Semitic language that is distinct from Arabic). The
Afro-Asiatic dictionary by Belova et al lists the Egyptian and Semitic
words as having a common Afro-Asiatic origin.

In short, because similar words with the three different meanings,
"knee", "bless" and "pond" are found in all branches of Semitic, and, in
the case of "pond" even in Egyptian, it seems clear that the three words
were separate roots very far back, in spite of their identical
spellings.  None of the meanings were derived from the others in
historical times within Hebrew.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: David Curwin <tobyndave@...>
Date: Sun, 24 Jul 2005 22:58:29 +0300
Subject: Bracha/ Baruch

The question was raised as to the meaning of "baruch" in the blessing
"baruch atah hashem". I think the meaning of that is fairly clear - it
derives from the commandment "achalta v'savata u'berachata" - "you will
eat, be satisfied and m'varech (bless) hashem." That is the foundation
of all of our brachot that we recite.

The question really is, what does it mean to be "mevarech et hashem"?
This is an issue I've looked into extensively over the years.

There are a number of commentators who explained bracha in that verse as
praise. They feel it is necessary to distinguish between a bracha that
God gives man, and one that man gives God. When God gives man a bracha,
or when God gives nature, or when man gives man, the person receiving
the bracha receives something from the giver. Those who explain bracha
from man to God as praise feel that how can man possibly give something
to God? (This approach seems to be held by the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim
3:13, and the Maharal on Pirkei Avot 6:11)

However, this approach was rejected by a number of the Rishonim,
including the Rashba and Rabbeinu B'Chaye. The Rashba on Brachot 7a says
explicitly, "Don't think that bracha (from man to God) means praise, for
bracha means addition and increase, as in (the way God promises to
'bless your bread and your water'".

These rabbis and others believed that man's actions can have influence
on God. This is a complicated concept, but is expanded in a number of
kabalistic works, and Rav Soloveitchik describes it wonderfully in his
essay "HaBrachot B'Yahadut."

But I think Rav Hirsch (Bereishit 9:17) explains it best. He writes:

"He must be receiving blessing from man, one can not get away from it.
And why should one have to try and get away from it? At the moment that
God made the fulfillment of His Will on earth dependent on the free
decision of Man He said to them barcheni, bless me, further My purposes,
fulfill my wishes, realize my Will, bless my work...And when Jews say
"baruch atah hashem", they express the vow to God to dedicate all their
forces to the fulfillment of the Divine Will. Looked at it in this way,
bracha is the fundamental thought which the whole of every Jewish life
is to convert into a reality. The whole Torah teaches us nothing else
than how we can "mevarech et hashem" and that we are to do so..."

There are a number of other interesting sources that deal with this
question. One particular question (which I won't go into now, but if
anyone's interested, I can post it as well) is the connection between
the pasuk "hashem yimloch l'olam va'ed" (Shmot 15:18) and the Ramban's
esoteric reference there to "sod habrachot."

-David Curwin


From: <engineered@...>
Date: Sun, 24 Jul 2005 18:30:06 -0400
Subject: Hot Water on Shabbat

Many months ago, we discussed using hot water on Shabbot.  I had posted
that I follow my rebbi by turning down the temperature in the hot water
tank before Shabbot.  I now have a source that I want to share with the
list.  In the July 22nd (this week), The Jewish Press, Rabbi Rapael
Grunfeld did his Daf Yomi column covering Shabbot 40B.  The following is
the paragraph that pertains to our discussion.

    "May one use hot water from the tap on Shabbat?  This depends on
whether the water coming out of the tap was heated on Shabbat (in which
case it would be forbidden), or whether it was heated before Shabbat --
in which case it would be permitted, subject to the restrictions
described above.  [Note the restrictions above pertaining to washing a
person's body with hot water on Shabbot.]  But even if the initial
waster coming out of the hot water tap was heated on Erev Shabbat,
opening it on Shabbat would be prohibited if this would inevitably cause
cold water to re-enter the boiler in the hot water's place and be heated
on Shabbat.  Accordingly, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein permits using water from
the hot water tap on Shabbat if one turns off the boiler approximately
two hours before Shabbat.  Turning off the boiler guarantees that cold
water re-entering the boiler will not be heated on Shabbat, neither by
the fire nor by the hot water in the boiler, which by Shabbat would have
cooled down to below the temperature of Yad Soledet Bo (40C to 70C).
This solution may be practical in a one-family home but not in an
apartment house."

My rebbi, Rabbi Shlomo Singer was a close talmid of Rabbi Feinstein.  I
personally find that I am not always home two hours ahead of Shabbot.
However, by keeping our week day hot water temperature on the low side
and by turning the water off before the last long shower, I have found
that the water can be turned down less that 30 minutes before Shabbot


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 24 Jul 2005 23:10:09 -0400
Subject: More on Hitpael

RE: The thread on the meaning of hitpael. Several additional points can
be made.  As Ira pointed out, it may very well be that Modern Hebrew
does use hitpael a certain way.  I however wasnt changing any ground

First the Hitpael of Gadal and Kadash occurs in Ezekiel. I think it
clear that the opening words of the Aramaic Kaddish come from an almost
identical Hebrew verse in Ezekiel 38:23.

Second: There may be thousands of hitpael uses in Modern Hebrew but
there are less than 3 dozen biblical roots that occur in the Hitpael
(stats like this surprise people).  The idea of justifying a theory of
what Hitpael means from less than 3 dozen examples justifies the
assertion that we may not fully understand the hitpael and perhaps we
must modify our ideas.

Thirdly: I have already indicated that calling something "Derush" is an
emotional not an intellectual statement. It does not allow
discussion. So allow me to defend Ira by articulating WHY he thinks what
I say is derush and then answer him.

Let us start with something everyone agrees with: Everyone agrees that
the root Yud-Resh-Shin can mean (Depending on the mode/binyan) inherit,
poor, conquer.  The causative mode has a connotation of conquest--I
CAUSE someone else to inherit to me his property--i.e. I CONQUER
him. Similarly the piel binyan (Which can also be causative) indicates
that I cause someone to be poor by INHERITING against their will their

As I just said the meaning of Yud-Resh-Shin in all 3 modes is agreed on
by everyone (For a list of sample verses see
http://www.Rashiyomi.com/gn45-11a.htm) The reason WHY it APPEARS derushy
is because of the equation INHERIT+CAUSE=CONQUEST. Here the causative
mode changes the concept; INHERIT become CONQUEST. It is this change
which gives the grammar its homiletic feel. By contrast the causative
mode of DRESS ME is to DRESS SOMEONE ELSE. Here the word DRESS (me)
becomes changed to DRESS (Him) The DRESS stays the same. It is the fact
that the CAUSATIVE changes INHERIT to CONQUEST that bothers us.

But, and this is my point, this happens frequently in Hebrew. You cannot
reject such interpretations and many of them are agreed to. What you can
do is examine them logically and see if they fit the pattern.

Using this we can examine the example I gave from Ex08 BRAG (Pay Aleph
Resh) + INTERACTIVE=CHALLENGE. To BRAG is simply to brag. But to
challenge is a) to say how great I am by b) asking someone else to
challenge me with a task. Thus conceptually CHALLENGE is indeed an

We could pursue this with other examples: Right now I simply wish to
show that much of grammar has the homiletic feel and we need to sit down
to argue logically.

Russell Jay Hendel; http://www.Rashiyomi.com/


From: Tzvi Stein <Tzvi.Stein@...>
Date: Sun, 24 Jul 2005 21:43:22 -0400
Subject: Re: teaching Aramaic

> From: Charles Halevi <c.halevi@...>
> But that was never my question. The core issue here is, **Why don't day
> schools and yeshivot teach Aramaic as a language?** I never asked
> whether there is an esoteric book or two on grammar. And having one
> dictionary buried in one or three school libraries is NOT the same as
> teaching it as a language to understand our sacred tomes. Since Aramaic
> is the language of the Talmud and other major Jewish works, not teaching
> it as a language is a travesty, IMHO. And knowing its grammar sans
> fluency in the language is very inadequate, to say the least. (Please
> let me make it clear: none of my ire is directed at Allen Gerstl's
> thoughtful reply.)

Don't take this the wrong way, but have you learned in yeshiva?  In my
exprience Aramaic was taught concurrently with Talmud.  When a new word,
idiom or grammatical structure was encountered in the text, it was
explained, so that it would be recognized again.  As with Hebrew, the
roots of words were pointed out to help us recognize related words later
on our own.  Aramaic was taught in much the same way as
Hebrew... concurrently with the text.  I'm sure there's a fancy name for
that method of language instruction, but not being an "educator" I can't
name it.

I don't think my experience was so unique... I don't see what the big
issue is.


End of Volume 49 Issue 20