Most people are aware that Hebrew verbs
come from three-letter roots. Each root is
conjugated in the 8 dimensions of
person, gender,plurality, tense, activity,
modality, direct-object, and prepositional connective. For example
the root Shin Mem Resh means to watch.
The conjugations Shin-Mem-Resh-Tauv-Yud
and Nun-Shin-Mem-Resh-Nun-Vav mean
I watched and we were watched respectively.
The rules for Hebrew grammar are carefully described
in many modern books and are well known. Rashi will sometimes comment when a verse is using a rare conjugation
of an odd grammatical form.
When presenting grammatical Rashis my favorite
reference is the appendix in volume 5 of the Ibn Shoshan
dictionary. This very short appendix lists most
We should emphasize that the great 19th century commentator,
Malbim, introduced the powerful grammatical observation that
the same root can change meaning solely based on the prepositional
connectives used with it. From time to time we present intriguing
examples illustrating this rule.
The Hebrew root Mem-Caph-Resh means, in the interactive
mode (Hitpael) to disguise. However when combined with the preposition Lamed meaning to
the combination means to fawn appearance.
Hence we translate Dt28-52 as follows
And the Lord shall bring you into Egypt...
and there you shall fawn slave appearance to your enemies
but no man shall buy you [because they will prefer
to murder you].
This verse is analyzed in 3,5 and 9.
- In rule 3 we explain that the root Mem-Caph-Resh means to fawn appearance.
- In rule 5 we further support this translation of the root Mem-Caph-Resh
by showing that this root couldn't mean to sell
or to attempt to sell because it states explicitly no one will by you.
- In rule 9 we explain why no one buys you: because your
enemies prefer to kill you.