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Parasha Ki Tisa 5763

What does memulach mean?

memulach (Exod. 30:35) The root is Mem Lamed Chet (In The Living Torah Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan reports three interpretations: 'well-blended;' 'salted;' 'finely ground').

Rashi writes 'As its Targum me'arev ('stirred'=well-blended), he should stir the ground ingredients well with one another.' Rashi then refers to Jonah (1:5), and Ezekiel (27:27) where a word of the same root is used to mean sailors, and says that it is used 'because they stir the water with their oars.'

Rashbam also interprets the word so, and follows up with the same observation about sailors stirring the water.

R' A. ibn Ezra understands it as 'salted' and writes that this is the source of the teaching that salt from Sodom should be included in the incense which was sacrificed (see TB Keritut 6a). He adds that some interpret it as finely ground (i.e. there is nothing recognizable there) like the term melecha (which is from the same root) in the verse eretz melecha (Jer. 17:6) ('wasteland').

Ramban analyses the above opinions, writing 'It [the incense] should be salted with salt from Sodom as the Sages taught "a quarter of salt from Sodom" (TB Keritut 6a)' endorsing R' A. ibn Ezra's opinion. He goes on to say 'And Onkelos translates it as 'stirred' - that is to say memulach means 'melded' - that he should make all the [ingredient] spices 'finely ground' and 'well-blended' so that they meld and no one spice can be recognized. To support Onkelos, he then refers to three verses with words derived from the root Mem Lamed Chet (Isa. 51:6; Jer. 38:11; Psalms 107:34) all of which mean damage and destruction (hence 'finely ground' is an acceptable translation). He then quotes Rashi's comment and proof-reference to Ezekiel (27:27), and argues that the reference is not valid proof for Rashi's translation. In Ramban's opinion it is the wise among the seamen who are called malachim (literally 'salters') because they know the mood of the sea as though they sense its saltiness or its sweetness; they, so to speak, know when it will be sweet and pleasant for seafarers, or when it will be harsh and bitter for them. The oarsmen are, he points out, not called malachim. In Ezekiel (27:8-9) the 'wise seamen' and the 'oarsmen' are referred to separately. It is the elder seamen who are knowledgeable of the sea who are the malachim, and he quotes from the same passage (verse 29) illustrating three distinct types of seamen. (Ramban is saying that though Rashi followed Onkelos in the translation his reasoning was different and the basic meaning of the root Mem Lamed Chet is 'salt.') This type of thinking may be the source for the Oxford English Dictionary entry 'salt' meaning 9 'a sailor esp. of much experience.' Similarly in the verse 'a fruitful land to a melecha (Psalms 107:34) ('salty'='barren') for on salty land nothing grows, as we find with reference to Sodom (Deut. 29:22) and to Shechem (Judges 9:45). Further to the destructive power of salt Ramban suggests that it is possible that the letter Lamed is added to the basic root as we find 'for the heavens nimlechu like smoke' (Isa. 51:6) meaning nimachu ('wiped out') and refers to other words with an extra Lamed elsewhere (Psalms 44:15; Job 21:23). In Ramban's opinion the basic meaning is 'salted' and that, he maintains, is also the opinion of Onkelos and R' A. ibn Ezra.

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Do the conjugations have meaning?

pareku vayitpareku (Exod. 32:2-3) ('undo' 'and they undid from themselves') The first is in the Pi'el conjugation and the second in the Hitpa'el conjugation. Does this make any difference to the meaning? R' Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (Ramchal) writes in his book on grammar that Hitpa'el indicates that the actor acts on himself and not on another. However sometimes it has the same meaning as the Kal. (Sha'ar 2, Chelek 2, Ch. 4 - Differences between the conjugations). It follows that no definite meaning can be established.

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Which letters interchange?

charut (Exod. 32:116) Rashi writes Chet Resh Tav and Chet Resh Tet have the same meaning both mean 'etch.' To answer the obvious question 'Surely these are distinct roots?' we must resort to a comment of Rashi's elsewhere. Rashi writes 'All the letters which have the same point of articulation (Guttural: Alef Heh Chet Ayin; Palatial: Gimmel Yud Kaf Kuf; Lingual: Dalet Lamed Tet Nun Tav; Dental: Zayin Samech Tzade Resh Shin Sin; Labial: Bet Vav Mem Peh Sefer Yetzirah; later grammarians have placed the Resh elsewhere) are interchangeable (Rashi, Levit. 19:16). So Tet and Tav are interchangeable. According to Rashi this rule applies within Hebrew. However R' A. ibn Ezra writes that he only allows changes between Alef Heh Vav Yud.

Between Aramaic and Hebrew: Shin>Tav, Ayin>Alef and others change.

I will be pleased to have comments on these notes on the Parasha.
Good Shabbos, Meshullam Klarberg, 35/4 Meshech Chochma, Kiryat Sefer, Israel 71919
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