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Parashat Toledot 5762

What is the Root?

vayitrotzetzu (Gen 25:22) ('they crushed'/'crushed each other'/'ran'/'quarreled'/'ran toward one another'/'broke') Before we examine the approach of the commentators to this problem we will note the options available. The early theory espoused by R' Menachem ben Saruk which accepts roots as having only two letters gives Resh, Tsade as the root (Machberet). However according to the three-letter root theory which spread in Spain in the tenth century, in France in the eleventh, and is today regarded as standard, the root may be either Resh, Tsade, Tsade, or Resh, Vav, Tzade. The prefix 'it' indicates that the verb is in the Hitpa'el conjugation and one would expect this to produce some modification to the meaning.

Rashi provides three approaches: 'Whether you like it or not this verse requires a comment by 'derash' for 1) what is [surprising about] this retzitza ('crushing')? (following Onkelos who wrote 'they crushed' hence the root is Resh, Tsade, Tsade) that the verse says 'if so why am I?' (implying pain rather than the embryos 'crushing') and therefore Rashi continues and says 2) our Sages 'derash' here is that it means 'ran' (implying either that root is Resh, Vav, Tzade, or Resh, Tzade). When Rivka passed the entrance of the hall of study of Torah of Shem and Ever, Ya'akov would run and quiver to go out, and when she passed the entrance of places of idolatry, Eisav would quiver to go out. (According to this derash it is difficult to see how the Hitpa'el conjugation modifies the meaning for this purpose; vayarutzu would have been sufficient. Therefore it seems that Rashi returned partially to his first interpretation and wrote) 3) they were crushing each other and fighting about the inheritance of the two worlds (this way Hitpa'el conjugation modifies the meaning adding reciprocity to the action).

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Why is the plural of Rav, Rabbanim?

verav ya'avod tza'ir (Gen. 25:23) ('and the greater will serve the younger') The meaning of the word 'rav' here may be closest the Tenach comes to the Hebrew of the Mishna where it means 'a person great in the Torah'. In the Tenach the plural of 'rav' is 'rabbim' with a Dagesh in the Bet because the root is of the 'kefullim' (2nd and 3rd letter of the root are the same). My grandson Moshe Yehudah asked me "Why do we say Rabbanim as the plural for Rav?" The superficial answer is that this is an exceptional case. The historical reason is that it is the plural of the Mishnaic title Rabban ('our master'). The form Rabbanim is to be found in the literature of the Sages (Bereishit Rabba, Par. 61). As is well known spoken Hebrew draws on the Hebrew of the Tenach, the languages of the Sages, and secular languages. However if we remember that the Jewish education of most of the early speakers of Modern Hebrew was just Siddur and Chumash and that they knew Yiddish from their homes, it is more likely that the forms Rav and Rabbanim were borrowed directly from Yiddish. Where did Yiddish get these terms? The early speakers of Yiddish were well versed in Torah and may have known the above Midrash as they were the followers of the authors of Tosefot.

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vav ha'hipuch and vav ha'chibur

ufarinu ba'aretz (Gen.26:22) (The stress in ufarinu is on the penultimate syllable, called mil'el) Rashi comments that its translation is 'and we will spread in the land'. What problem did Rashi see here that he felt the need to quote the Targum? Vav ha'hipuch from future to past is recognizable by its particular vowel - the Vav takes a Patach. This is not so with the Vav ha'hipuch from past to future whose vowels are identical with that of Vav ha'chibur. However it can often be distinguished by the change in the position of the stress in the word. Thus, for example, ve'ahavta (in the Shema) is stressed on the ta (the last syllable, called milra). But the stressed position does not change for roots whose third letter is Heh/Yud. In these cases one needs to judge by context - in our case as the context does not supply the clues, Rashi refers to Onkelos.

On the meaning of vav ha'hipuch R Esriel Sternbuch wrote:

I have already a lot of pros and contras from our Mefarshim. One of the more interesting is Targum Onkelos who translates every Vav Hahipuch with a Vav Hachibur. And I found a reference to the Sefer 'Jessod Ha-emuna' (on Rashi from R' Boruch mi-Kossov) where he states clearly in Parshat Vajechi that the Vav Hahipuch has no meaning of 'and' [I do not have this Sefer]. And there are a lot of contradictory opinions so I could not form a conclusion for myself.

By the way: This week I came across the Ibn Esra (Shemot, 24:14) who states on 'Vajomer', that the past presented by the Vav Hahipuch can also mean a plusquamperfect and the questioning of Rivka was before he gave her the gifts. Ultimately that means that you can never be sure of an order even in the same Pesukim. (Compare Tosfos in Chulin 95).

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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