Thursday, November 1, 2007

Hayyei Sarah II: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

השוקת - מלשון וישק את צאן לבן, שם דבר כמו בושת מלשון גם בוש לא יבושו:

והאיש משתאה - מלשון תשאה שממה והתי"ו כמו תי"ו בישתבח מן שבח, וישתמר חוקות עמרי מלשון שמר. כלומר משתומם ומחשב על שאמרה לו זאת הנערה גם לגמליך אשאב. הבין שזימן לו הק' מה שביקש. והמפרש לשון שתייה אי איפשר, מפני שהאלף שבו לא תהיה בלשון שתייה. ועוד שלא אמרה לו רבקה להשקות את גמליו עד לאחר שתייתו ואז התחיל להיות מחשב ותוהא:

מקום לנו ללין - מקום לנו בביתך, ולמה אנו צריכין? ללין, לבית לינה. שם דבר הוא כמו כי יהיה ריב בין אנשים מן וירב בלבן. בין דין לדין [מן דן אנכי. כמו כן לין] שם דבר מן וילן שם בלילה [ה]הוא. אבל היא שאמרה גם מקום ללון, פירושו ללון גופכם כמו לקום, לשוב מצרימה, ואילו היא אמרה גם מקום לכם כמו שאמרו הם מקום לנו, היה לה לומר ללין כמו שאמרו הם, שהיה משמע גם מקום לכם, ולמה? לבית לינה. אבל ללון אין צריך פירוש, שהרי משמע ללון בו בני אדם. זהו עיקר פשוטו למדקדק לשון הקודש:

Anyone who has ever studied Hebrew grammar, whether by taking an Ulpan, going to day school or just cuddling up with a copy of 201 Hebrew Verbs takes it for granted that there are seven בנינים, that “normal” Hebrew verbs are composed of three-letter roots, and that nouns are often grounded in those same roots.

Rashbam’s above comments, however, reveal how much we take for granted based on the painstaking work of our medieval predecessors. First, Rashbam notes that the word שוקת—used in Bereishit 24:20—is a noun, and that its root comes from the verb להשקות, to cause others to drink.

But even the explanatory move I just pulled depends on knowing how to get back to a Hebrew infinitive form, which is itself something Rashbam is working out in the third comment above, on Bereishit 24:23! There, he notes the subtle difference between two similar words in our parashah. When the servant asks Rivkah for a place to stay, he inquires if there is place for him ללין, which Rashbam reads as a lamed followed by a noun form of לין, meaning a place to sleep, parallel to the noun form of דין, meaning judgment. But when Rivkah answers, she says that indeed she has a place ללון, which Rashbam takes to be the infinitive verb form, parallel to other forms like לקום (to get up) or לשוב (to return). Though I am not at all sure a contemporary grammarian would agree with this analysis—I am fairly certain s/he would not—Rashbam’s work here is part of the pioneering effort of medieval Biblicists to sort out the rules we take for granted, and must always be appreciated in that light.

And indeed, the second comment here reveals a work still in process. Commenting on the word משתאה in Bereishit 24:21, Rashbam notes that there were people who saw the verb לשתות—to drink—in this word, and they saw here some kind of reference to the servant’s drinking from Rivkah at this point in the story. Rashbam points out, rightly, that this cannot work with the narrative, since the servant had already drunk by the time the camels were given water, and it is only after all of this that this verb appears. But as he tries to make the grammatical point that the tav in that word is not really a core part of it, we see how primitive the available terminology remained at that point. We would just say: “Of course, that is a hitpa’el form and the root is שאה!” But Rashbam must appeal to patterns and intuition, noting that we seem to have something parallel to the word ישתבח, which, he assumes his reader will concede, is obviously related to שבח (praise). Once one can imagine that tav dropping out, perhaps it can be extended to this case as well. [For other interesting comments in this mode, see Bereishit 26:26; 28:12; 30:11, 37.]


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home