One or two places?
ra'amseis (Exod. 1:11) a place name, as are all the others; ra'meseis (Gen. 47:11); meira'meseis (Exod. 12:37; Num. 33: 3; 33:5). In our parasha this place-name is pointed with two Patachs one under the Resh and one under the Ayin and a Sheva under the Mem. Minchat Shai writes that the Masorah here states leit rafi. Leit means that there is no other word exactly like it anywhere in Scripture. Minchat Shai explains that rafi means that the Mem has a Sheva Nach because the Ayin has a Patach and refers to R' A. ibn Ezra. In all the other occurrences (whether with or without the prefix Mem) there is a Sheva under the Ayin. As a result the status of the Sheva under Mem is affected by the rule that the second of two Shevas in the middle of a word is a Sheva Na (sounding). ra'amseis is mentioned as a city of storage. Rashi (in a comment which does not appear in the first print), states that these cities were originally not suitable for storage and the building operation made them suitable. The implication of this comment is that we have here different pronunciations of the same place-name.
R' A. ibn Ezra maintains that these are two different place-names. In our parasha he writes this is not a place of habitation of Israel. Elsewhere (Gen. 47:1) he writes that the land of Goshen is a general name including smaller lands, one of which is the land of ra'meseis and the Ayin has a Sheva Nach. When the Ayin has a Patach, he argues, it is not a place where Israel lived, but one of Pharaoh's storage cities.
What does chatan mean?
chatan damim ata (Exod. 4:25) ('You are my chatan of blood') chatan damim lamulot (ibid.: 26) ('a chatan of blood because of the circumcision') Throughout Scripture chatan and all words derived from the root Chet Tav Nun are used in connection with marriage. Both the words for son-in-law and father-in-law are derived from this root. Because of this it is difficult to allocate any broader meaning to the word chatan, something that many people called on to 'say a few words' at a wedding try to do. (The word Kalla is easy. The root is Kaf Lamed Lamed and many other words derived from the same root carry connotations of wholeness or completeness e.g. kol ('all'), kolel ('institution for complete studies'), michlala ('university') - excellent material for those who 'say a few words').
In the two quotations above the 'marriage' connection is not so clear. Rashi maintains that Tzippora is speaking to Moshe and saying 'You are my husband of blood (i.e. 'death'),' 'a husband of blood ('death') because of the circumcision,' and maintaining the 'marriage' meaning. Although R' A. ibn Ezra suggests that chatan refers to the child, he also maintains the marriage connection by saying either 'you nearly caused my husband to be killed,' or by saying that women refer to a circumcised child as a chatan.
R' Yona ibn Janach (first half of the 11th century) in his Sefer Hashorashim includes these two quotations among his references for the root Chet Tav Nun and argues that the babe is being referred to. However he does not use R' A. ibn Ezra's somewhat sleight of hand explanations to deal with the problem of there being no 'marriage' connection. R' Yona ibn Janach is saying that the underlying meaning of words derived from the root Chet Tav Nun is 'to come close' or 'to approach.' So he writes 'she called him chatan damim because he came close to death and similarly chatan damim lamulot she said he was almost killed because of the circumcision.'
Although Rashi and R' A. ibn Ezra explain the verse differently they may well agree with R' Y. ibn Janach's interpretation of the word. Even if they don't, people called upon to 'say a few words' can rely on the interpretation of a giant among the pioneers of Hebrew language study - R' Yona ibn Janach.
I will be
pleased to have comments on these notes on the Parasha.
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