Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bit at a time Biblical Hebrew -- Genesis 2:4

Annnd we're back.  If this is your first time here, you can see we're almost a year on the way. 
You can see the first lessons here.

Genesis 2:4
ד אֵלֶּה תוֹלְדוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ בְּהִבָּרְאָם בְּיוֹם עֲשׂוֹת יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהִים אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם:
Transliteration: Eleh toldot ha-shamaim v-ha-arets b’-hibaram b’yom asot **** elohim erets v’shamaim.
Translation:   These are the births of heaven and earth in their being created, on the day of the Lord Gd creating earth and heaven.
Vocabulary in this lesson:
Generations, births
Their being created
The verb hibaram has two features, one new and one you have seen before.  The one you saw before is adding a personal suffix that indicates number and gender as well as person.  The one you didn’t see before comes from the fact that this verb is in a binyan called nifal.  Nifal is the passive version of the pal/qal simple verb form, plus hibaram is a gerund or verbal noun.
I won’t give the nifal conjugation until we have another nifal verb.  That will show you how rare it is.
A classic question:  were heavens or earth created first?  From word sequence you might have thought it was the heavens, but you could only base that on verse 1 of Genesis and that would be quoting out of context.  This verse has the two words in both orders.  The answer that seems to have satisfied most rabbis comes from R. Shimon bar Yochai, see lesson 18.
The **** represents the Tetragrammaton which appears in this verse for the first time.  Before it was always elohim, Gd.  I say that as these are two separate episodes, there’s no problem that they might use different words for Gd.  You'll find the same thing in biographies, as Umberto Cassuto pointed out a long time ago: one chapter discusses the subject as child under a childhood nickname, another as a young professional using the professional title, and another as an adult parent using maybe just the last name.  The fact that this is the first verse of a new aliyah reinforces that it begins a new episode. 
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