[b-hebrew] Hidden Grammatical Agendas?

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Mon May 9 17:21:32 EDT 2005


First of all, Hebrew grammar was indeed not "discovered" by modern
Europeans. The Masoretes obviously knew the rules (and invented some). So
did many Medieval Jewish scholars. The "academic" grammar used by many
modern scholars is, to a certain extent, disconnected from this tradition.

But if I understand what you wrote correctly, what the person you quoted was
referring to was not really grammar, but using the spelling for midrashic
purposes. Remember, that Jewish tradition teaches that the Torah was
literally written, or at least dictated, by God, and that every letter must
have a meaning. For example: the name "Ephron", the man from whom Abraham
bought the cave of Machpelah in Gen. 23. is usually spelled )PRWN, with the
W. But in verse 16, it appears twice, the second time, in which Abraham
weighs out the 400 shekels for him, it's spelled )PRN, without the W. Rashi,
quoting talmudic traditions, says that the missing letter is a sign that "he
said much and did not even do a little, taking big shekels from him". In
other words, the deficient spelling symbolizes a deficient personality.
Another commentator (Hezkini, 13th cent.) notes that the numerical value
   )PRN is 400, just like the price he took for the cave.

There are hundreds of such midrashim.


----- Original Message -----
From: "wattswestmaas" <wattswestmaas at eircom.net>
To: "B-Hebrew" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 9:49 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Hidden Grammatical Agendas?

> I am interested to hear your comments please........
> I have been surfing some rabbinical "communications" on the jewish web.
> of the stuff goes over my head but I did come accross a very 'small'
> paragraph in a letter in response to somebody else, (unfortunately I could
> not follow the thread),  they were talking about 'Deficient spelling' and
> gathered from the gist of what must have been talked about that they were
> conferring about the fact that assigning grammatical rules are not the
> priviledge of 20th century advances in the understanding of language and
> linguistics.  I gathered too from the reply that someone must have said
> the 'Biblical hebrew' of the hebrews had its grammatical rules which may
> well have appeared 'unorthodox' to todays scholars.  But the climax came
> when the rabbi said that deficient spelling was a grammatical rule! also
> indicating (surprise surprise) a deficiency in the noun or concept that
> in the sentence.
> What are your thoughts please?
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