Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- Genesis 1:2 b

Genesis 1:2.
ב וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחשֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם:

Transliteration: V’ha-arets haitah tohu va-vohu v’choshekh al-p’nei t’hom v’ruach elohim m’rachefet al-p’nei ha-maim.
Translation:    The earth was tohu va-vohu and dark above the depths and a spirit of Gd wafted back and forth above the water.
Letters in this lesson: ח, ך, ע, פּ, נ, וּ
Vocabulary in this lesson:
was (f.s.)
dark, darkness
on, over, above
spirit, wind
waft, 3rd f. s., piel form (repetitive)
face, construct state, masculine plural

The next most important thing about verse 2 is that it introduces a Hebrew word form you absolutely have to get down in your memory because you won’t understand Torah correctly without it.  That’s the construct state, and it means “X of Y” where X and Y are both nouns. 

This is very much like the genitive in other languages, but it NEVER means possession.  It simply links two words into a phrase that has to be translated “X of Y” or by an idiom.  A lot of translators will go the nearly-literal route and say “On the face of” for al p’nei but all it means is “above [a flat surface].” 

The fact that p’ney is the construct state means you will never see it alone the way it is in this word list.  It will be p’ney Y. 

You’ll see more examples of the construct and then I’ll give you the general rule.

The other verb in this verse has the root resh chet peh.  The base meaning of this root is shake or tremble.  However, the mem at the start of m’rachefet tells me that it’s in a binyan called piel.  The shade of meaning in the piel is something that happens habitually or even just repetitively.  The verb means that Gd’s spirit was in constant motion above the depths, and it is often translated as “hover” with the connotation of a bird hovering over its nest.

However that connotation had sad consequences for one rabbi.  He was one of four great sages of his time, and after he studied this verse one day, a colleague saw him in the street mumbling to himself.  Soon after he disappeared from society.  The reason?  Gd is infinite.  But at this point in time the waters had not been separated from each other.  How can something infinite hover “above” where there is no dividing line?  From then on it was prohibited to study the first part of Genesis using the method he was using, without somebody there to catch you when you get lost in these connotations. 

What’s the answer?  I’ve never gone into it.  But it’s also prohibited for me, even if I have, to discuss it with you online.  I have to know you face to face, I have to know for a fact that you understand Torah for yourself even without my help, and still I should probably refuse.  So if you find a website where somebody claims to have studied with a rabbi and learned the esoteric meanings of Genesis, you have my permission to believe it’s not true.  Especially if the website promises to teach them to you, online.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment