Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bit at a time Bible Hebrew -- Genesis 2:2-3

Genesis 2:2-3
ב וַיְכַל אֱלֹהִים בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וַיִּשְׁבֹּת בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה:
ג וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת־יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ כִּי בוֹ שָׁבַת מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים לַעֲשׂוֹת:
Transliteration: Va-y’khulu ha-shamaim v-ha-arets v-khal-tsvaam.
Translation:    The heaven and earth were completed and all their hosts.
Vocabulary in this lesson:
He rested
He rested
He sanctified
I italicized melakhah just like in previous lessons I italicized raqia.  I will keep on doing this when I know that the traditional translation doesn’t capture the real meaning of the word. 
Melakhah has a specific meaning in Jewish law.  It means the 40 less one or 39 categories of work prohibited on Sabbath.  You can’t do these things for pay on Shabbat, and you can’t do them for free; you can’t do it for yourself, and you can’t do it for others.  What’s more, if a non-Jew does something that is melakhah specifically to benefit a Jew, the Jew has to refuse the benefit. The only exception is when there is danger to the life of anybody. 
Melakhah also appears in the Ten Commandments, in the commandment to observe Sabbath.  I won’t go into it further.  There are pages and pages of Jewish law taken up by giving the categories and things that are included in them.
What I will say here is that Hebrew has more than one way of saying “work” and each has a separate connotation that shows why “work” is a bad translation for melakhah.  First and foremost, is avodah.  Lavan uses this word to refer to what Yaaqov did to earn his wives.  But Lavan was a foreigner.  In the Bible, avodah mostly means worship of Gd.  They have similar underpinnings; avodah is solely dedicated to Gd, and Yaaqov worked for Lavan and couldn’t work for anybody else at that time.  In modern Hebrew, avodah means what you do for a living.
In Mishnah, what you do for a living is peulah.  This word is rarely used nowadays and is never used in the Bible.
A third word is maasayv, “his deeds.”  Yosef is doing “his deeds” when he is working for the jailer.  But he is doing melakhah when Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him for the last time and that has the connotation that he was working on a holiday; all the Egyptians were at their temples and he was the only one in the house except for her.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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