Thursday, November 24, 2016

water from the well

1. Eliezer begins his prayer to Hashem to bring him the right girl for Yitzchak with the words, "Hinei anochi nitzav al ha'ayin," (24:13) I am standing next to the well.  Aside from the fact that the Torah already told us (24:11) that he had tied up his camels next to the well, the information seems entirely unnecessary in context. 

Abarbanel explains that these words are key.  If you are sitting in your home in the living room or some other room and ask one of your kids to bring you a drink, a good kid will (sooner or later) bring you the drink.  But if you are standing in the kitchen next to the refrigerator and ask your kid to pour you a drink, it would be very hard for any modern kid to not at least be thinking, if not to say openly, "Why can't you get it yourself since you are standing right there?"  That's just the reality of the way things are, and they probably were not that different back in Avraham's time.  "Hinei anochi nitzav al ha'ayin," says Eliezer -- I'm next to the refrigerator.  I'm not just looking for a good girl who will bring me water when I'm a bit far away from the well.  I'm looking for the girl who won't think twice about drawing the water for me even when I'm standing right there and could do it myself.  That's a real special girl.

2. Yitzchak brought Rivka "ha'ohela Sarah imo," into his mother Sarah's tent.  (24:67)  "Ha'ohela" is a strange construction. In Hebrew there is usually not a hey ha'yediah in front of a possessive, e.g. you would say "beis chaveircha" if you were talking about a friend's house, but not "ha'beis chaveircha."  See Ibn Ezra.  Also, the final hey in ha'ohela seems completely out of place.  HaKsav v'haKabbalah, as he always does, has an interesting linguistic insight that sheds new light (you will get the pun soon) on a pasuk we read in pesukei d'zimra every Shabbos. 

In Tehillim ch 19 we read that Hashem created the heavens and sky, "b'kol ha'aretz yaztah kavam u'bi'k'tzey teivel mileihem, la'shemesh sam ohel ba'hem."  The first half of the pasuk means the sky is spread over the earth, causing people to speak of its wonder (Rashi), or it's as if it declares G-d's wonders (Metzudah).  The way the Rishonim explain the second half is that G-d made the sky like a tent, an ohel, which contains the sun.  That's the translation you will find in your Artscroll siddur.  However, that's not how the Targum renders it.  Targum translates as follows: "l'shimsha shavei mishrivei ziharah be'hon" -- the sun casts its bright rays on them.  Ohel can mean light.

The word uses the word ha'ohela in our pasuk, explains HaKsav v'haKabbalah, to suggest the secondary meaning of asher ohela, which gave light. The tent of Sarah, the tent of Rivka, was a place of light whose rays emanated out to the world (see Tagrum Yonasan as well).


  1. I think the leading hei is weird, as you write. "El ha'ohel Sarah imo" would be weird. But what's strange about the final hei? Using "-ah" to say "toward" (instead of "el") is common. And if you want to translate the "ohelah" as light, then your prepositional phrase has no preposition.

    Second, the Targum on Tehillim often veers from strict teitch.

    1. Please see ישעיה י"ג י', איוב כ"ט ג', איוב ל"א כ'ו
      The second source is the well-known בהילו נרו על ראשי

    2. Funny coincidence that the word Halo has a completely different etymology- unless the etymologists just missed the connection to the semitic word.
      halo (n.)
      1560s, "ring of light around the sun or moon," from Latin halo (nominative halos), from Greek halos "disk of the sun or moon; ring of light around the sun or moon" (also "disk of a shield"); ""threshing floor; garden," of unknown origin. The sense "threshing floor" (on which oxen trod out a circular path) probably is the original in Greek. The development to "disk" and then to "halo" would be via roundness. Sense of "light around the head of a holy person or deity" first recorded 1640s. As a verb from 1791 (implied in Haloed).