Volume 50 Number 31
                    Produced: Wed Nov 30  5:26:54 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Mem Het Lamed (3)
         [Yehoshua Steinberg, Sammy Finkelman, Ira L. Jacobson]
Mem-Chet-Lamed **is*** a Biblical root according to Rashi/Mendelkorn
         [Russell J Hendel]
Word Derivations
         [Robert Israel]


From: Yehoshua Steinberg <ysteinberg@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 15:14:49 -0500
Subject: RE: Mem Het Lamed

From: Yehonatan Chipman <yonarand@...>

>     Re the dispute as to whether or not MH"L is a root: in addition to
>the classic books--Ibn Janah and the others- Mandelkern's Concordance
>and BDB -- Brown, Driver & Brigg's Lexicon of Biblical Hebrew (a
>revision of Gesenius) -- does not list this root, the concluison being
>that the word does not appear anywhere in the Tanakh.

Despite this being true (and I'd add other etymological works such as
Radak, Menachem and Yerios Shlomo), similar words --with disparate
meanings all seemingly unrelated to the Rabbinic "mechila"-- do appear
in the Bible. In Is. 2:19, we read of "mechilos," meaning caves or
"hollows." We also find a musical instrument in Ps. 53:1 called
"machalas" according to Rashi's first explanation.

These words (and a few more) appear e.g. in Radak's Sefer Hashorashim in
the entry chet-lamed-lamed, and Radak clearly indicates that there is a
common denominator linking them, namely - hollowness and emptiness. A
cave is a hollow structure, and the instrument resounds due to its being

The attribiute of hollowness/emptiness can be an advantage or
disadvantage. In these two cases it would generally appear to be a
positive attribute, creating shelter and the basis for music
respectively. But emptiness could just as easily be a negative thing,
leaving one lonely and isolated. It also depends what might have been
inside the now-empty cave or guitar before it was empty. If it was full
of gold for instance, one may think twice about dumping its contents if
there's a Day's Inn nearby, or to find another instrument to play Maggie
May on.

The Rabbis chose the same root for their additional synonym for
"forgivenness." I won't go over that again, but in light of the other
biblical mem-chet-lamed derivitives from the root chet-lamed-lamed, one
should ask what connection Chazal saw in the concept of forgivenness to
"hollowness" and "emptiness" to prompt them to coin this old/new term.

Again, I think the key to unlocking the mystery is to be found in
Midrash Tanchuma (Shemini 6): "Hashem said: in this world they are
forgiven (*niskaper*) with sacrifices; in the next world I will absolve
(*mochel*) their sins without sacrifices, as it is written, "I, yea I,
am He Who absolves your sins..." (Is. 43:25).

One thing that appears clear is that there is a practical distinction
being made between *kapara* and *mechila*: the former G-d grants in this
world, and the latter in the next. Why is this? The hint may be in the
Hebrew term quoted from the verse: "mocheh," meaning wiping clean. Would
this not seem the best possible form of forgivenness, superior to say,
"covering" the sins, which *kapara* denotes, as previously discussed?

Well, sort of. Yes, by exculpating the sins you are rid of them once and
for all, but apparently you are left with a vacuum, emptiness, death.
Hence, the only place this is desireable is in the next world.

>     The Even Shoshan Hebrew Dictionary, which is considered one of the
>better dictionaries, on the other hand, does list it as a distinct
>verb, defining it as: 1) to forgive, atone, remove sin; 2) to forego,
>forgive a debt, to refrain from demanding or suing for that to which
>one is entitled.  The examples given are all Rabbinic or later
>(Berakhot 5b, Taanit 20b, Mishnah Bava Kamma 9.7, Kiddushin 32a, and
>the Vidui for Yom Kippur). Even Shoshan does not mention any connection
>to HL"L.

It is a Rabbinic word, based on a biblical root, as mentioned previously
many times.  The dictionaries to use for this are the traditional ones
previously mentioned.

Yehoshua Steinberg <ysteinberg@...>

From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Sun, 30 Nov 05 01:50:00 -0400
Subject: Mem Het Lamed

Ben Z. Katz, M.D. wrote:

BK> Machal is not a Biblical verb.  However, there is some evidence
BK> for its use in the Biblical period.  See the footnote to this effect
BK> in the article of my friend Jed Abraham that appeared in
BK> Torah Umada several years ago on Esau's wives (one of whom was
BK> name Machalah.)

Machalah is not the one of one of Esau's wives but one of Tzelophchad's
five daughters.

They are mentioned the first time in Bamidbar 26:33.

Machalah is listed first in all places but there is a different order
for her sisters in Bamidbar 36:11. Rashi says that that last time it is
in the order of their ages and the other times in the order of their
wisdom and that tells us they were all of equal worth. (Bava Basra 120
is cited in parenthesis. The Silbermann Chumash tells me in its last
footnote that that is 120a) At Bamidbar 27:1 Rashi says the order is
changed further on to teach us they were all of equal worth. That is
based on the Sifri. At Shemos 6:26 Rashi has a similiar idea - the fact
that in some places Aharon is remembered before Moshe and in some places
Moshe before Aharon is to tell you they were weighed like one. That is
based on the Mechilta to Shemos 12:1.

Silbermann says that all the supercommentaries on Rashi try to reconcile
what they see as a contradiction between two statements of Rashi on why
the daughters of Tzelophchod are listed in different orders, but in
reality they are two different explanations and one is based simply on
the difference in the order of their names and the other on [the fact
that] the word "Vatehenah" [is in the singular.]

Rashi combines the two statements and I guess Silbermann means to say
there is no contradiction - the equal is some other sense than age or
wisdom. Rashi probably means to say they are of equal standing before

Presumably Machalah was the oldest and also the leader.

What I'd like to hear now is the story of how you managed to get those
two quite different lists of people confused. Actually by Esau it isn't
really so much a list, but still you don't learn anything about them
pretty much but their names (their families a bit but that's all)

I don't blame you - I am just interested so maybe we can leaen how to
avoid (or recognize) such mistakes. One clue is maybe that what they
have in common is that in both cases you have a list of only women and
about the only thing mentioned about them (individually) are their

From: Ira L. Jacobson <iraeljay@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 22:22:29 +0200
Subject: Re: Mem Het Lamed

Yehoshua Steinberg <ysteinberg@...> stated on Tue, 22 Nov 2005
22:04:13 -0500, first quoting me:

I had said:

>>Then let me try again.  Do you think that Hazal did not understand that
>>mehal'lo and mohel are linguistically unrelated?

>I guess you meant "related."

Not at all.  But let me remove the double negative and restate: Do you
think that Hazal really thought that mehal'lo and mohel are
linguistically related?  Do you really think that you are reading Hazal
as they intended you to?

> I'd be interested in hearing about this. I have met Prof. Kor and hold
> him in high regard. However, the popular radio talks he gives are
> rarely on biblical Hebrew per se, which is the topic here.

They are on all aspects of Hebrew, from Biblical to Modern, including
the influence of Yiddish on Hebrew (yes, that's what I meant), as well
as Arabic on Hebrew.

Which reminds me that when I spoke to a linguist at the Hebrew Language
Academy about 15 years ago, discussing one of those word pairs wherein
one begins with an alef and the other with a heh (avtaha and havtaha, as
it happens) , this gentleman told me that he had explained the
difference between avhana and havhana to Avshalom Kor three times, and
he still doesn't get it.

> I have been examining "al tikrei" statements and variations thereof
> for several years and indeed have found several hundreds. I have found
> that many people either skip over them or flippantly dismiss them as
> plays on words. I believe there are indeed profound lessons being
> taught not only on a philosophic level, but on a philologic level as
> well.

Since this is an article of belief with you, and it flies in the face of
any linguistic analysis, I think I will retire from the discussion.
Just to note that I respect your right to believe in whatever you choose
as long as it does not violate Tora or civil law.

IRA L. JACOBSON         


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 2005 22:43:52 -0500
Subject: Mem-Chet-Lamed **is*** a Biblical root according to Rashi/Mendelkorn

Recent postings have stated that the root Mem-Chet-Lamed is not a
Biblical root and that eg it is not mentioned by Rishonim (as a Biblical
root) and not listed in Mendelkorn.

This is not true. You have to know how to read Mendelkorn. ANd you have
to know how to use Rashi as a grammatical source. Let us begin with

Rashi was as much a rishon as Radack or Ibn Ezra or Ibn Ganach. The
primary difference between Rashi and other rishonim was the vehicle of
communication: Rashi wrote scattered comments while the other rishonim
wrote books. It "looks nice" to have a book but if the creator of
comments is consistent it is an equally valuable tool (There is the
catch...most people arent consistent...Rashi was).

Rashis comments on Machalath is based on what we call on the Rashi
website, the ALIGNMENT technique (Nechama Leibowitz had a different
approach mentioned below). In an article to appear in the Jewish Bible
Quarterly in a year or two I show that the alignment method is
equivalent to the modern footnote method. Hence it is not homiletic but
the simple meaning of the text.

The Rashi on Machalath may be found at url
http://www.Rashiyomi.com/gn27-01a.htm. Rashi compares Gn36-02:03 and
Gn28-09 both of which LIST Esauv's wives.  The language of the BIblical
text is very very explicit: Both MACHALATH and BASMATH are called the
daughters of Ishmael. Hence it is the simple intended meaning of the
text that they are the same person.  By using two names the text
indicates that the nicknames were popular nicknames....BASMATH obviously
means she perfumed herself alot. MACHALATH means she was forgiving (or
as the Talmud says, temporarily changed Esauv when he got married so
that he was forgiven on his wedding day). Whether you agree with Rashi
or not, it is clear that he regards Mem-Chet-Lamed as a Biblical root.

You **can** look this up in Mendelkorn. What you have to know is that
Mendelkorn has a "name" section --it is in the back. The philosophy here
is a) We arent sure that names are from roots but b) maybe they are. So
he puts them all inthe back and lets the reader decide for
themselves. At least 5 Biblical people have names that could come from
this root.

Nechama Leibowitz had a different approach (Following Rav meir). **ALL**
Biblical names reflect personality---so the fact that anyones name has
this root justifies classifying it as a root. (My approach is more
conservative...the name has meaning if the BIble emphasizes in some way
such as by an alignment that contrasts it with another name).

Biblical grammar is not a straightforward subject. It is tricky and
slippery. Hope the above helps
Russell Jay Hendel; http://www.Rashiyomi.com/


From: Robert Israel <israel@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 2005 09:50:36 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Word Derivations

Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...> wrote:

> Regarding word derivations, as discussed here on Mail-Jewish lately, I
> think it worthwhile to consider the opinion of a modern expert in
> linguistics, who stated:

>      In linguistics, derivation is the process derivation of
>      phrases of creating new lexemes from other lexemes, for hardy
>      weinberg derivation example, wired + slang + derivation by
>      adding a derivational affix.

>      Derivational affixes do not necessarily modify the syntactic
>      category; standard linear model derivation viscoelasticity
>      they can also modify the cq definition derivation meaning.
>      For example, surname derivations the derivational prefix un-
>      applies to adjectives (healthy achilles heel derivation
>      golightly surname derivation of the term unhealthy), although
>      it also occasionally brayton cycle efficiency derivation of
>      the name steele derivation applies to nouns and verbs. In
>      many cases, derivational derivations affixes brayton cycle
>      efficiency with regeneration its derivation change both the
>      syntactic category and cabal derivation the meaning: modern
>      modernize ("to make brown color derivations modern").

> Until we can come to grips with the basics stated here, we must do some
> serious contemplation.  See
> http://www.scipeeps.com/Sci-Linguistic_Topics_Cr_-_G/derivation.html

You do realize, I hope, that this mish-mash consists of a text 
interspersed with various unrelated words and phrases.  It was probably
created by incompetent use of copy-and-paste from a web page that had
the text together with side bars.  I think the original text is the 
article "Derivation (linguistics)" from Wikipedia: 


Robert Israel                                <israel@...>
Department of Mathematics        http://www.math.ubc.ca/~israel 
University of British Columbia            Vancouver, BC, Canada


End of Volume 50 Issue 31