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Parashat Mishpatim 5761


Belonging, describing and other matters

ki tiqne eved ivri (Exod. 21:2) ('when you buy a Hebrew slave') Rashi says this is a slave who is a Hebrew and not a slave of a Hebrew. Generally, semikhut ('the construct state') can be recognized. That is to say, when one noun describes or qualifies another as belonging to it, there is a slight change in the first noun. Thus, for example in the word mishpat ('rule') in the absolute form (standing independently), the Peh has a Qamatz e.g. kamishpa:t (ibid. v.31) and in semikhut the Peh has a Patah e.g. kemishpat habanot (ibid. v.9) ('the rule of the girls'). However, there are groups of nouns where there is no difference between absolute and construct. One of these groups is called Segolates. This group includes words like melekh ('king'), begged ('garment'), shemesh ('sun'). Eved ('slave') belongs to this class, and therefore Rashi has to explain that the slave mentioned in the verse is a Hebrew and not a (non-Jewish) slave who belongs to a Hebrew.

shor-ish (ibid. v.35) ('the ox of a man') The word shor is also identical in construct and absolute. This is why Rashi and Rabbi A. ibn Ezra both explain that we have here semikhut 'the ox of a man.' Many people believe that the study of language is dry and humorless. While it may be dry, some of its masters are certainly not humorless. Let us note the comment of Rabbi A. ibn Ezra, one of the pioneers of Hebrew grammar, to this verse. He tells us that ben Zuta, a Kara'ite (who accept only the literal sense of the Bible), explained that shor in the next phrase, shor re'ehu (ibid.), is absolute and re'ehu is an adjectival clause. According to ben Zuta, the verse means that the ox of a man gored his friend, another ox. Rabbi A. ibn Ezra's response was that oxen do not have friends other than ben Zuta himself! Despite the sharpness of the response, there is a dry semantic point here - which he maintains elsewhere (Job 36:33) - that re'ut ('friendship') characterizes human relationships. (A Purim point: The Mishna Berura in the Beur Halakha 695 sv 'o shel' quotes Turei Even who, in discussing Mishloah Manot, assumes that lere'ehu ('to one's friend') includes the poor [one's friend need not be one's social equal to carry out the Mitzva], and raises a doubt whether one can fulfill the duty of 'portions for one's friend' and 'gifts to the poor' by giving two gifts to one poor person and one gift to another.)

Meanings of similar roots and roots with similar meanings

va'asher lo tzadah (Exod. 21:13) ('and the one who did not lie in ambush') In the opinion of Rashi, Rashbam, and Rabbi A. ibn Ezra, the root of tzadah ('ambush') is Tzade, Dalet, Heh and all three quote as evidence tzodeh (Sam. I, 24:11) ('to ambush'). Rashi points out that it cannot be related to tzad tzayid ('hunt' - in Rashi's opinion the root is Tzade, Dalet) for if so there would be no place for the Heh at the end. It follows that in belo tzediyah (Num. 35:22) the root is Tzadeh, Dalet, Heh, which means 'without ambush.' Nevertheless it seems to me that there is a commonality of meaning between the roots Tzade, Dalet, Heh and Tzade, Dalet - 'ambush' and 'hunt.' This relationship between roots that have two letters in the same order, is common. Another example is 'the jail - beit hasohar (Samekh, Heh, Resh) - the place where the king's prisoners - asirei hamelekh - are held - asurim (Aleph, Samekh, Resh)' (Gen. 39:20). This indicates that there is a relationship between the roots. Most Hebrew grammarians reject this view, but I find it compelling.

Different roots which might be confused

vehamoti (Exod. 23:27) Rashi writes 'like vehemamti' ('and I will daze') the Heh is of the root. The root is Heh, Mem, Mem and because of the double Mem it belongs to the group of verbs called Kefulim or Ayin Ayin. Rashi explains that both these forms are possible for verbs that have the last letter double, and gives a number of examples so that we can recognize them and their special forms in the Qal conjugation. He adds that anyone who translates vehamoti as 'and I will kill' is in error, for were it of the root related to killing, the Heh would not have a Patah, nor would the Mem have a Dagesh, nor would it have a malopum, ['male' ('full') and pum ('mouth' in Aramaic), hence a name for the holam 'o' sound] rather it would be vehemati with the Tav having a Dagesh to indicate that it is in place both of the Tav of the root (which according to Rashi is Mem, Tav only), and the Tav of the suffix ti.

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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