Monday, July 15, 2024

bara and bari

The Hebrew root ברא has three distinct meanings. Two are very familiar, one much less so.

One meaning is "to create" and is found in the very first verse of the Tanakh: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא - "In the beginning God created..." (Bereshit 1:1). The noun form of this verb is beriah בְּרִיאָה - "creation."

Another is related to healthiness, and is found in such words as bari בָּרִיא - "healthy" and beriut בְּרִיאוּת - "health." It is generally accepted that the original usage of this meaning was "to be fat, to grow fat." Klein suggests that the Talmudic term bari בָּרִי meaning "surely, certainly" is related to בריא meaning "healthy, sound."

The last usage of ברא is "to cut down trees," as found in Yehoshua 17:15 and 17:18, and in the more metaphorical sense in Yechezkel 23:47, where it means "to cut down people."

Are there any connections between those three meanings?

Gesenius, admittedly an older source, claims that they are related. He writes that the common meaning to all is "to cut, to carve out, to form by cutting." That leads to the sense "to create, produce, fashion." He then writes that the meaning "to eat, feed, to grow fat," comes from "cutting food." And the connection between "to cut" and "to cut down" is fairly obvious. Gesenius also adds another meaning: "to beget", from which the word bar בַּר derives, connecting it to "creation.". I haven't seen anyone else say that bar comes from ברא, so I won't discuss it further here, but I did discuss that meaning of bar in this post.

Klein, however, does not make any of those connections. These are his three entries, unrelated to one another:

1) ברא  to create. [cp. Aram., Syr. בּֽרָא (= to create), OSArab. (= to found, build), מברא (= building, structure), Mahri bere (= to bear a child). Arab. bara’a (= to create) is an Aram. loan word.]

2) ברא to be fat. 1 he made fat; PBH 2 he recovered (from illness), recuperated; PBH 3 he became fat; MH 4 he made healthy. [Arab. bari’a (= to recover from disease), JAram. בְּרָא, בְּרִי (= to get well, strong). cp. the related base מרא ᴵᴵ.]

3) ברא  to cut down (a forest). [Arab. barā (= he hewed with an axe).]
In particular, he notes that ברא as "to be fat" is cognate with another root, מרא, with the same meaning. This is due to the occasional substitution of the letters bet and mem (for example, נשב and נשם, as we mentioned here.) That relationship to מרא would not be found in the other two meanings of ברא.

Here is Klein's entry for מרא:
מרא ᴵᴵ to be fat.
    — Hiph. - הִמְרִיא he fed, stuffed. [Akka. shumrū (= to fatten), marū (= well-fed, fat), Ugar. mra (= to become fat), Arab. mari’a (= agreed with — said of food). Stem of מְרִיא (= fatling), מֻרְאָה (= crop).]

This root and its related words aren't common in Modern Hebrew. There is a homonym, המריא, meaning "to take off" (as in an airplane), which originally meant "to soar, fly" (found in the Tanakh only in Iyov 39:18). According to Klein, these two meaning of מרא are also unrelated. This is what he writes for the flight meaning of מרא:

Of uncertain origin. The orig. meaning was perhaps ‘to beat (the air) with the wings’, in which case מרא would be relative to Arab. marā (= he whipped or urged on a horse).

Back to ברא. There are scholars who do, however, connect some of the meanings. For example, BDB does not connect the meaning "fat, healthy", but does say the meanings "create" and "cut down" are connected. They write that the original meaning is "shape, create", and note an Arabic cognate meaning "form, fashion by cutting, pare a reed for writing, a stick for an arrow." 

The TDOT (entry ברא) writes that "the Hebrew root br' probably has the original meaning 'to separate, divide.'" This would mean that ברא might derive from bar (or both have a common origin), not the other way around as Gesenius claimed. It also notes a Punic cognate meaning "a sculptor," and while the entry doesn't cite the meaning "to cut down trees," I can see a connection between sculpting and cutting (down).

Kaddari quotes a theory that claims that the use of ברא in Bamidbar 16:30 implies a type of fissure:

וְאִם־בְּרִיאָה יִבְרָא ה' וּפָצְתָה הָאֲדָמָה אֶת־פִּיהָ...

"But if the Lord creates a new-creation and the ground opens its mouth..."

I found the connection there to "cutting" fascinating, but Kaddari rejects it, saying that the Arabic root mentioned above by BDB means specifically sharpening reeds and cutting trees, but not cutting in general.

There is also a theory suggested the Wikitionary editors for ברא, in which the two meanings - create and cut down - are contronyms, similar to חטא meaning both sin and cleanse. Unfortunately, they did not provide a source, so I can't give further information.

As a final note, I've often been asked, "Which is the correct pronunciaton of לבריאות said after a sneeze - livriut לִבְריאות or labriut לַבְּרִיאות?" Well, the Academy of the Hebrew Language has determined that both are acceptable. This blessing is of relatively late import (borrowed from the German gesundheit), and so isn't found in traditional sources which could determine the correct pronunciation. The livriut version is supported by other phrases like lichaim לְחַיִּים, whereas the labriut version (which includes the definitive article heh) finds support in similar forms in verses such as Iyov 36:11 and Tehilim 24:4. 


Tuesday, July 09, 2024

halakha and charig

Halakha הֲלָכָה can refer to the system of Jewish law as a whole, or the set of laws dealing with a specific subject. Most etymologies connect it to the root הלך, meaning "to walk" or "to go". Here is a sample of those:

Klein brings support for this approach by noting that the word sugya  סוּגְיָה also means walking:

סוּגְיָה, סֻגְיָה f.n. MH    subject for study.  [Aram. סוּגְיָא (= lit.: ‘walking, going’), from אַסְגִּי (= he walked, went). For sense development cp. הֲלָכָה (= law, rule, ‘Halachah’), which derives from הלך (= to go).]
I certainly thought that halakha was related to halikha הֲלִיכָה - "walking." This may have been supported by the well-known derasha found in several locations in Talmudic literature. For example, Megillah 28b:

תָּנָא דְּבֵי אֵלִיָּהוּ: כׇּל הַשּׁוֹנֶה הֲלָכוֹת, מוּבְטָח לוֹ שֶׁהוּא בֶּן עוֹלָם הַבָּא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״הֲלִיכוֹת עוֹלָם לוֹ״, אַל תִּקְרֵי ״הֲלִיכוֹת״ אֶלָּא ״הֲלָכוֹת״.

 The school of Eliyahu taught: Anyone who studies halakhot every day, he is guaranteed that he is destined for the World-to-Come, as it is stated: “His ways [halikhot] are eternal” (Habakkuk 3:6): Do not read the verse as halikhot [ways]; rather, read it as halakhot.
However, another theory gives halakha an entirely different, less obvious etymology. Prof. Saul Lieberman (quoted here) and others suggest that it may be related to the Aramaic word halakh הֲלָךְ meaning “toll, tax,” and therefore הֲלָכָה ultimately has the meaning of “obligation.” (See a challenge to Lieberman in "Alaktu and Halakhah Oracular Decision, Divine Revelation" by Tzvi Abusch, as well as furhter discussion here.)

Halakh is found in Ezra 4:13, 4:20, and 7:24. In each verse, it is listed as one of three types of taxes:

מִנְדָּה־בְלוֹ וַהֲלָךְ

The three are minda, blo (which we've discussed before), and halakh. The NJPS translates them as "tribute, poll-tax, and land-tax." The 1917 JPS translation has "tribute, impost, and toll." The Talmud (Nedarim 62b) identifies halakh with arnona אַרְנוֹנָא (a word we discussed here).

We see a related word in Talmudic Aramaic, karga כְּרָגָא (Bava Batra 8a) also meaning a type of tax.  And a land tax called kharaj in Arabic is found in Islamic law.

Lieberman quotes Genenius-Buhl (the German dictionary, not the English one) here as noting that halakh derives from the Akkadian ilku

The collaborative dictionary project Wiktionary claims that this Akkadian root also is the source of the Arabic root kh-r-j:

From خ ر ج (ḵ-r-j) in the sense “to extract” or “take out” [...] on the model of Imperial Aramaic 𐡄𐡋𐡊𐡀 (hlkʾ /⁠hălāḵā⁠/, “tribute, tax, any public charge based on land property”), itself calqued from Akkadian 𒅋𒆪 (il-ku /⁠ilku⁠/, “corvée, tribute, any public charge based on land property”). Also attested several times in Biblical Aramaic הֲלָכָא (/⁠hălāḵā⁠/) but otherwise missing in Aramaic. 

I don't know the source of this entry, so I'm wary of making too many conclusions from it. But Klein write that the Hebrew root חרג is cognate with this Arabic root:

חָרַג he came out in terror, quaked. [Arab. ḫaraja (= he came out).]

That root is only found once in the Tanakh, in Tehilim 18:46:

בְּנֵי־נֵכָר יִבֹּלוּ וְיַחְרְגוּ מִמִּסְגְּרוֹתֵיהֶם׃
Foreign peoples lose courage, and come trembling out of their strongholds.

That meaning is not found in Modern Hebrew. Today it means "to deviate, to exceed; to digress, to diverge, to stray." Klein doesn't include that meaning in his dictionary, but he does include the words choreg חוֹרֵג - "step" (as in step-child), which he says literally means "born outside" and the Modern Hebrew word charig חָרִיג, meaning "execptional, unusual, irregular."

Klein doesn't connect halakh and khoreg, and I didn't see anyone else who did. And it's important to note that although the Wiktionary entries connect the meanings of the Arabic roots meaning "to extract" and "to exit", they might not be related. But if they are, it would be interesting to see that halakha and  charig are cognates.