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Parasha Va'eira 5763

Distinguishing between a (past tense) verb and an adjective

ve'im ma'en ata (Exod. 7:27) Rashi writes 'and if you are a sarvan ('refuser')' (not like Onkelos) and Rashi continues 'ma'en is like mema'en or mesarev (as Onkelos) but it is a description of the man according to what he does, like shalev (Job 16:12) "quiet" sar veza'ef (1 Kings 20:43) ('dis-spirited and angry').' According to Rashi ma'en is an adjective (name of a quality). It would seem that Rashi is being consistent with what he wrote above 'kaved, name (of a quality)' (Rashi, Exod. 7:14) and according to Rashi Onkelos took the context into consideration when translating.

Here R' A. ibn Ezra agrees with Rashi and writes, 'The word ma'en is a transitive adjective (!) like shabe'ach ani et hametim (Ec. 4:2) ('I am praise-full for the dead')' and there in Ecclesiastes he also writes 'adjective.' However with regard to kaved he writes 'past verb' disagreeing with Rashi. It seems that in R' A. ibn Ezra's opinion, for kaved to be an adjective it would need a Dagesh in the Bet like shabe'ach. The same problem does not occur with ma'en as its second letter is Alef, which does not take Dagesh.

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An intersection of two binyanim

ya'alu hatzfardim (Exod. 7:29) Here Onkelos translated yiskun ordenaya ('the frogs will go up'); while for ya'alu et hatzfardim (Exod. 8:3) Onkelos translated vasiku yat ordenaya ('they will bring the frogs up'). Why does the first ya'alu mean 'will go up' while the second ya'alu means 'they will bring up?' Certainly only the second is followed by 'et.' The deeper answer is that these two verbs are identical parts of different binyanim ('conjugations'). Thus in the Kal we have aliti ('I went up') alu ('they went up') e'eleh ('I will go up') ya'alu ('they will go up'). In Hif'il we have he'eleiti ('I brought up') he'elu ('they brought up') a'aleh ('I will bring up') ya'alu ('they will bring up'). In the past tense the difference is clear, while in the future tense only the first person singular is distinct.

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What is arov?

hineni mashliach et he'arov (Exod. 8:17) ('behold I send the arov') 'mixed beasts says R' Yehudah, R' Nechemiah says a variety of wasps and mosquitoes, and R' Yehudah seems right' (Exod. Midrash Rabba, 11). In using the word 'mixed' the Midrash Rabba is attaching the Midrash to the words of the verse, as the root of 'mixed' has the same root as arov. What exactly was mixed is the subject of dispute in the Midrash. According to R' Saadya Gaon's Arabic translation it means 'a variety of beasts of prey' (R' Y. Kapah in Chumash Torat Chaim), and similarly Rashi writes 'all sorts of evil beasts and snakes and scorpions mixed.' Many other commentators and some modern translations base their comments on the above Midrash.

However Rashbam disagrees and writes 'Varieties of wolves are called arov, as it is their habit to hunt at night [to provide evidence he quotes verses] as is written ze'ev aravot yeshadedem (Jer. 5:6) ('a wolf of aravot will rob them') and it is written ze'evei erev lo garemu laboker (Zefan. 3:3) ('wolves of erev did not gnaw bones in the morning') and [he continues] as one may derive adom from odem and amok from emek and [similarly one can derive] arov from erev (here he adds a word very similar to 'nocturnal' in Laaz), for the arov wolf goes out at night. Emek ('valley') is a noun and the act (infinitive) is called amok ('deep') and so with adom ('red') and shachor ('black').'

It is common ground that the word arov is in the form of the infinitive, which can be used as a noun. The Midrash sees it as meaning 'mixed' while Rashbam, on the basis of slender but suggestive evidence, argues that it means a variety of wolves.

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
E-mail address: fredit@zahav.net.il

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