Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bit at a time Bible Hebrew -- Genesis 1:4

Genesis 1:4 

ד וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאוֹר כִּי־טוֹב וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ:

Transliteration: Va-yar elohim et-ha-or ki tov vayavdel elohim ben ha-or u-ven ha-choshekh.
Translation:     Gd manifested the light for it was good and Gd separated the light and the darkness.
Letters in this lesson: ט, ד, ח
Vocabulary in this lesson:

because, for, if, when
divide, separate
between, from

We have two words from the same binyan in this lesson.  They are from the hifil binyan which is called the causative. 

We also run into another trick of Biblical Hebrew.  The word va-yar is based on the root resh alef heh which means “see”.  It is in the hifil, and to cause to see is “show” or “make manifest.”  But what happened to the heh?  In Biblical Hebrew, sometimes the final heh disappears in an aorist, which is what yar is, an aorist.  Another example you will see fairly soon is va-yaas.

Most translations say “Gd saw the light,” but as you can see, the real translation is more like what I have.  Or even “Gd showed that the light was good.”  Now, let me point out that this is kind of a loose translation because there’s no “is” in that clause before the “and”.

A famous commentator said that the word ki has four meanings: “but”; “that” or “which”; “lest”; and “if”.  If I remember them correctly.

The root of yavdel is bet dalet lamed.  The basic meaning is separate, so “caused to be separate.”

The idiom ben…uven… sometimes gets translated literally, so “between… and between…”.  That’s too much precision.  Just learn it as “between X and Y.”

Jewish tradition says that when Gd created the universe, He created somewhere where imperfection was possible.  Before that, Gd’s perfection was manifest everywhere.  In that perfection, there was no need for Torah (which includes Talmud) because they assume that things can go wrong and they tell how to fix it.  But Gd creates nothing without purpose, so it was necessary that there be the possibility of things going wrong.  That’s the universe we live in.  To prove that it is imperfect, but not evil, the creation story keeps repeating the word “good” about things that Gd created.
In the last lesson you may  have noticed that yod had dagesh plus a cholam chaser.  The dagesh is a spelling issue, not a pronunciation issue.  The same issue is in this verse twice.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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