[b-hebrew] The 'Golden Rule of Hebrew Etymology'?

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Tue Feb 6 12:11:07 EST 2007


Dear Isaac:

I have no listed root for ברכה (BREKAH), 'pool' because, in order for
me to list a root, I must recognize a meaning connection to any root,
and with this word, I know of no such root. There may still be a
connection, namely that these are artificial pools, no more than knee
deep, but there are insufficient contextual clues to say for certain,
therefore I don't list such.

On 2/5/07, Isaac Fried <if at math.bu.edu> wrote:
>
> Dear Karl.
> You say: "ברך (BRK) to kneel down (to) -> to bless, not only as a superior blesses an inferior, but also as a form of greeting and to gain honor".
> I wonder where you got all this (it appears to me suspiciously like a description of sir Lancelot's knighting ceremony). I must say that I do not find even a shred of biblical evidence to suggest that the act of blessing involved any ritual of falling on the knees. In Genesis 48:14 we find a blind old man putting his hands on the head of his grandchildren, but kneeling, where does this come from?

Though the text does not directly say it, the context implies that
this blessing took place years after Jacob came to Egypt, when
Joseph's sons were at least in their late teens, if not older. So you
expect me to read that an ailing old man, sitting on his bed, reached
up to put his hands on the tops of the heads of two strapping young
men standing before him? Or is it more likely that they were kneeling
before him so he could reach the tops of their heads without
stretching?

Do you not recall that Solomon did the inferior to superior blessing
to God while on his knees during the dedication of his temple?

> In fact, I can hardly believe that for such a primeval (recall that in the beginning God blessed Adam and Eve and also the seventh day), delicate and spiritual act that has its origin in the heart and is carried out by voice or thought the bible would use such a crude imagery as a dubious social custom of falling on the knees before a superior.
>
Are you suggesting that the blessing is the primary meaning, and the
knee and kneeling the secondary meaning because it often was involved
in the action of blessing? Possible.

As far as dubious, it is recorded in both words and pictures in
ancient documents and monuments.

> In my humble, yet unwavering, opinion BRAKAH, 'blessing', has nothing to do with BEREK, 'knee'. They are both different derivatives of the same root, which essentially means 'to separate', 'to single out', 'to distinguish'.
>
I find this definition dubious based on its uses in Tanakh. The
concordance is my friend, allowing me to look at all the uses of words
in Tanakh. From its actual occurrences then I can try to recognize
what the ancients meant by the term. Your glosses above look forced,
not according to actual uses but according to some pre-concieved
theory.

> Isaac Fried, Boston University
>
As I understand your theory, a lot of time could have passed from the
original development of the words to when whey were recorded. As such,
words could have greatly changed in meaning from their originals so
that the theory is only partially true for written documents.

In your last letter, you asked about )DR אדר which is used as a verb
only in Isaiah 42:21. I was surprised at your question, as having
splendor could by some long extension be recognized as connected with
aggregation.

Karl W. Randolph.


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