Volume 50 Number 04
                    Produced: Tue Nov 15  7:07:46 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

bet resh kaf (2)
         [Yehoshua Steinberg, Yehoshua Steinberg]


From: Yehoshua Steinberg <ysteinberg@...>
Date: Sat, 12 Nov 2005 19:40:00 -0500
Subject: Re: bet resh kaf

>I'm sorry I could not reply sooner, but I just came back from Gan-Or in
>Gush Katif, participating in a group that rescued one farmer's pineapple
>crop before it was bequeathed to our enemies.

Al tikrei ananas ela ein ones (at a time like this there are no
excuses).  Kol Hakavod. Just kidding about the al tikrei, so don't start
getting bent out of shape.

>Regarding the plays-on-words by Hazal, Sunday's daf yomi had an
>excellent example.
>On the verse, "shomer shabbat mehal'lo", the gemara comments "al tiqri
>'mehal'lo' ela 'mahul lo.'"

Thank you indeed for that great example. As a matter of fact, I'm sure
you realize that the term "mechila" is not used in Tanach for
forgiveness - it is a leshon Chazal. If Chazal decided they needed to
coin a new term for absolution in addition to selicha and kapara, it's
worthwhile examining why, especially a few days before Elul. I will
restrain myself from launching into a full analysis here of the
differences between these three terms, but a few words are necessary for
our purposes (happy to discuss it more off-line, especially selicha,
which I won't explain here at all).

The root of Kapara, I'm sure you'll agree is caf-peh-resh.  This root is
found in other contexts as well: "Cover (vechfarta) it inside and out
with pitch (kofer)" (Gen. 6:14). "And you shall make an ark cover
(kopores) of pure gold" (Ex. 25:17). Not puny Steinberg, but the great
tri-literalists Rabbeinu Yona and Radak both included these two vastly
different verses in the same entry ,caf-peh-resh, because they both mean
covering (some may indeed claim that the English "cover" is a
cognate). Kapara (forgiveness) is also found in these same
entries. Ergo, the term kapara would mean essentially a wrapping of
sorts, a concealment of sin, in contrast to absolute exculpation.

Knowing human nature, Chazal realized that people might be dissatisfied
with this "half-measure" in terms of forgiveness. Repentants want
absolution, period, not some burying of the sin which may rear its ugly
head at some future time (notice for instance how multiple events are
explained as "kaparos" for the Golden Calf and the sin at
Shittim). Chazal said OK, you want expiation? Fine. But that's called
something else: mechila.

The Midrash Tanchuma (Shemini 6) says the following: "In this world I
forgive them (niskaper) through sacrifices, but in the World to Come I
shall exculpate them (mochel) without sacrifices, as it is written, "I,
indeed I am He Who wipes out your sins'."

It would take less that a full membership in Mensa to discover that the
root Chazal chose for this new term is chet-lamed-lamed (or chet-lamed
according to the bi-literalists).  Many, many "disparate" words derive
from this root, but they all share the same kernel of meaning:
emptiness, vacuum.  Not happy with your sins being hidden from view?
Looking for absolution?  You'll have your sins wiped out all right, but
not in this world. Because wiping *them* out means wiping out everything
else. But the good news is that those misdeeds can actually work to your
advantage. See Yoma 86b: even intentional transgressions can be
transformed into merits.

Sorry for the long-typedness, but all that brings us back to Chazal's
"play on words". If you refrain from making the Sabbath into a spiritual
vacuum, eventually you will be repaid by being "vacuumed" of your
misdeeds.  Chazal thus reiterate to us the principle repeated so often:
we're repaid precisely measure for measure. The message would be languid
being taught on its own, without demonstrating how it is anchored in the
depths of the Holy Tongue.

>The lesson is that one who observes Shabbat--his sins are forgiven.
>This is based on the prefix "me," meaning "from" attached to the root
>het lamed lamed (which means "to profane").  Hazal have noted the
>similarity in sound between this word derived from the root het lamed
>lamed, and the word derived from the root mem het lamed. 

I'm afraid you may have to concede this one, Ira. Again not one of the
sifrei Hashorashim, not Radak nor Rabeinu Yona, not to mention Menachem
and Yerios Shelomo or 4 other traditional sources I know of list
mem-chet-lamet as a root. What books are you looking at?

>They of course had the understanding that the words are not
>linguistically related by even the maximum stretch of the imagination,

Could it be because not even minimal exertion is needed to see it?

>but that did not prevent
>them from stating the lesson they derived.
>"Anyone with an ounce of respect, and a few minutes to spend examining
>the words more closely," will understand that the derush contained in
>the "al tiqri" statement is not intended to be linguistic, but rather

OK, we're ready for your next example.
May we be blessed and our sins forgiven.

Yehoshua Steinberg <ysteinberg@...>

From: Yehoshua Steinberg <ysteinberg@...>
Date: Mon, 07 Nov 2005 15:11:10 +0000
Subject: Re: bet resh kaf

>>What is found in the Gemara is "ein meshivin al hahekesh",
>There is an expression "ein meshivin al agadot."

Not in the Talmud, as I mentioned. And in any case, how does this change
the argument?

>I wonder whether your long argument here was meant to be taken
>seriously.  I maintained that Hazal knew Hebrew far to well to expect
>us to accept their "al tiqrei" literally.

Let's try this once more. Al Tikrei doesn't mean there's a typo and it
should be read differently. This is what "literally" would mean. What I
contend (and see e.g.  R. YD Bamberger's "Koreh Be'emes") is that Chazal
are hinting to a kernel of connection between the roots of the words,
generally hidden in the bi-literal root divested of the seven letters
mentioned in the last post.

>To think otherwise is to accuse Hazal of not grasping the way the Hebrew
>language works.  And that I refuse to do.

I think you've repeated this several times, but what you've neglected to
do each time is to respond to my sources, e.g. those who understood the
Hebrew language in e different and IMHO far more insightful way than the
average Hebrew speaker today who flippantly dismisses Chazal's teachings
as plays on words.

>Having read this rebuttal of my thesis only reinforces my opinion.

And you're entitled to it. I would, however welcome reactions from
others who may be more open to alternative opinions.

>Certainly they did not think that ben and boneh actually, truly,
>honestly, are derived from the same root.  They used such a mis'haq
>milim to make a hermeneutic exposition.

Actually, truly, honestly not only did they ingeniously demonstrate that
connection, but they also connected 'even' (stone) to that root as
well, as quoted in an earlier post you may have missed. A stone, in case
you've never noticed, is often used in construction. Building.

And if the leading 'aleph' of 'even' distresses you, I have a list of
dozens of examples of similar words whose aleph is extraneous to the
underlying root, as expounded by Rishonim from across the gamut.

BTW, saying "word games" in Hebrew doesn't much change the meaning.

>And by the way, as has been shown here on MJ a few weeks ago (much to my
>surprise and delight), there are even cases of two roots that are
>identical in spelling but with different derivations, as in the root of
>berekh and the root of bereikha.
><MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver) wote on Sun, 24 Jul 2005 19:17:57 EDT:
>      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,

Without seeing the particular dictionaries he's quoting I will reserve
comment. However, it is clear that secular linguists have a different
concept altogether of the genesis of the Hebrew language. I have already
mentioned all of the traditional sources I'm familiar with and they do
see a connection. BTW, another question I asked which you may have
missed was: "in all sincerity, is it not presumptuous of modern scholars
to propound linguistic theories about local languages without so much as
consulting with the traditions of the native speakers?" How much more so
for none other than the People of the Book, whose days and nights have
been spent struggling to understand just these questions, and started
such inquiries when Oxford was a swamp and Berlin was occupied by

>If you like, you could explain how you kneel in the swimming pool and
>recite blessings.  But that does not validate the confusion between
>different roots.

There often seems to be a pattern that emerges when one runs out of
facts: resorting to cynicism. I remind you of the names of those who are
being sneered at by this comment: Menachem ben Saruk (quoted by Rashi
hundreds of times), Hakesav Vehakabbalah, Cheshek Shelomo, RSR Hirsch to
name a few who specifically explain how the noun blessing is related to
either the noun knee or pool or both. I think a minimum of respect is
called for.

>The validity of an exegetical point does NOT depend on its being a
>linguistic derivation.  To think so is to belittle the powers of Hazal
>to add meanings to texts.

I don't think this needs to be rehashed yet again. I believe anyone with
an open mind is capable of seeing how both are true: Chazal teach us
deep lessons anchored in the profundity of the Holy Tongue. If not, why
on earth quote verses for support? Just tell us the lesson!

     > They can teach us a lesson because of the fact that they
     > understand the underlying roots hidden beneath the surface
     > (divested of the he'emantiv letters:
     > heh-aleph-mem-nun-tav-yud-vuv).

>You seem once more to accuse Hazal of having an inferior understanding
>of language.  That seems to be a necessary part of your argument, and
>one that I reject.

That's a mouthful. How familiar are you with the works that treat these
topics?  How many minutes have you devoted to the study of the
Machberes, and the great German Jewish etymologists?

      >For instance, in Midrash Tanchuma (Vayakhel 7): al tikrei machon
      >ela mechuvan. A modern Hebrew speaker could dismiss this as a
      >"play on words" at best, more likely snickering to himself about
      >how these Rabbis knew nothing about grammar.

>As I have said, the conclusion is quite the contrary.  Becuas thet DID
>undersatnd the structyue\re of the words they coudl alow themselves to
>paly with them.  If "play" is not acceptable, we could repalce taht
>with "manipulate," "use intelligently," "use creatively" or any other
>similar term.

I guess you missed the rest of the paragraph. Otherwise I can't imagine
How you could have failed to see the brilliant connection Chazal are
teaching us exists between all the words stemming from the caf-nun root.

>You mean that after all this you REALLY think that Hazal really
>believed that the two words have the same root?!

Using a ridiculing tone does not make the argument any stronger, nor
indeed my Case any less cogent IMHO.

>Sorry.  That is not at all what they did.  Instead, they took words
>that sounded similar but were unrelated, and they made a play on the
>words to teach a lesson.  Believe me, the lesson loses nothing if we
>come to grips with the fact that Hazal were not as simple as you make
>them out to be.

It's unfortunate that these arguments tend to stray from the issue by
insinuating that anyone with a different opinion is a simpleton. To
return to the intellectual plane, I firmly believe that there are
connections between Biblical words stemming from the same root. There
are firm sources that suggest this, and I have been attempting to go
through the entire Biblical vocabulary systematically over the past few
years to prove it to myself. I'm not quite done yet, but I certainly
believe there's something there. I'm happy to share this with anyone

As always, may we be blessed from Hashem's wellsprings, to Whom every
knee shall bend.

Yehoshua Steinberg <ysteinberg@...>


End of Volume 50 Issue 4