[b-hebrew] Light be made versus Let there be light.

James Christian jc.bhebrew at googlemail.com
Fri Oct 16 08:51:18 EDT 2009

Ok. Thanks for this. This finally helped me to make some headway with this.
Judging from what I've read below you have stimulated me to see that *if*
this is the correct understanding of the verb in question then the way we
say this kind of thing in English is something like:

May there be light
May light be made
May light become
May light come into existence
May light come into being

I know some of these still sound quite bad and none of them really sound all
that colloquial but we definitely have a general 'May...' construction in
English which regularly expresses this kind of thing:

'May that never happen'
'Be that as it may'
'May God forbid' often shortened to 'God forbid' or 'Heaven forbid' or
something that

The two competing understandings that remain in my mind are either

1) May... [some kind of optatative sense]
2) Light...[some kind of vocative sense]

Can anybody come up with any support for a vocative understanding?

James Christian

James Christian

2009/10/16 Joel C. Salomon <joelcsalomon at gmail.com>

> James Christian wrote:
> > Hi Karl,
> >
> > 2009/10/15 K Randolph <kwrandolph at gmail.com>
> >
> >> James and Steve:
> >> I can see the question as far as how best to render these ideas into
> >> English.
> >>
> >> But for the Hebrew, I can’t recognize your questions. Grammatically it
> is
> >> simple, common Hebrew, other than the subject matter. God commands the
> >> light
> >> to come into existence, and it does.
> >>
> >
> > Are you suggesting a vocative understanding here? i.e. That God is
> talking
> > to the light? If so, this a very different understanding to the one
> > presented by a translation of 'Let there be...'. If so, what linguistic
> > criteria do you use for extracting a vocative sense? Just common sense?
> > There is no vocative case in Hebrew so we can't be absolutely sure unless
> we
> > have some other form of linguistic apparatus to judge this by. What
> > understanding does orthodox Jewish tradition hold. Is God speaking to the
> > universe in general? To a co-worker of some kind? Or to light itself?
> In general, who is being directed to do something when yehiy (יהי) is
> used?  E.g., Ruth 2:19:
>        let your recognizer be blessed = יהי מכירך ברוך
> I’m not sure that’s a meaningful question.
> I’d suggest looking at the other tenses of the word, especially the past
> tense vayehiy (ויהי) = (and) it was.  By that token, יהי would mean “it
> will be” or “it shall be”; accordingly we would have
>        there shall be light = יהי אור
> or something like that.
> Wrt. your last question, Orthodox Jewish tradition does not consider God
> to have had any partners in creation.
> —Joel Salomon
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