Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bit at a time Bible Hebrew -- Genesis 1:12

Genesis 1:12
יב וַתּוֹצֵא הָאָרֶץ דֶּשֶׁא עֵשֶׂב מַזְרִיעַ זֶרַע לְמִינֵהוּ וְעֵץ עֹשֶׂה־פְּרִי אֲשֶׁר זַרְעוֹ־בוֹ לְמִינֵהוּ וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי־טוֹב:
Transliteration: Va-totse ha-arets deshe esev mazria zera l’minehu v’ets oseh-pri asher zaro-vo l’minehu vayar elohim ki-tov.
Translation:    The earth brought out grass, herbs seeding seed of its kind and tree making fruit that has its seed in it of its kind and Gd saw that it was good.
Letters in this lesson:
Vocabulary in this lesson:
brought forth (v)
make (v)
Here’s an important verb you need to learn the parts of.  We’ve had the aorist in Genesis 1:7, יַּעַשׂ, and now we have the present tense.
You must learn the plural endings.  They are the same as for nouns and adjectives.  In fact, “make” in this verse functions as a noun, “making fruit”.  “Making” in English is a gerund which is a verbal noun. 
Also notice that the vowel in the first syllable of both words is “o” but they are spelled differently.  The vav with the “o” mark over it is called “writing a word out plene”, that is, in full.  In the other word, there is only the “o” mark but not a vav.  This is called chaser, “lacking.”
The chaser version of oseh can also be read asah, which is the past tense.  You can see that if you tried to say asah-pri instead of oseh-pri, you create a completely different meaning.  A tree that made fruit in the past tense might not make fruit now.  The context shows that these trees constantly make fruit of their kind; the present tense has a connotation of a continuous process or repeated procedure, so it is only right to use the present tense pronunciation here.  This is a good example of why not using vowels does not allow free-form interpretation.
Some of the rabbis thought it was significant when a word was written out chaser instead of plene.  One of the first ones is Genesis 9:12.  Midrash Rabbah Breshit, a collection of folkloric or moralistic comments on Genesis, says that the word dorot, “generations”, is written without the two vavs it could have in it because some generations didn’t have rainbows as a sign that Gd was not going to wipe the world out in a flood again.  They didn’t need this sign because all the Jews in them werer completely righteous.  One was the generation of King Chizkiyah and another was the generation of R. Shimon bar Yochai.
© Patricia Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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