Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Vav HaChibbur vs. Vav HaHippuch - A comment on Hirhurim's post: And These Are The Names

There are two types of vavim which function in Biblical Hebrew. One is the vav hahippuch, which takes a verb written in perfect form and transforms it to imperfect (roughly, past to future tense), or from imperfect to perfect (again roughly, future to past tense). An example of this is vayhi. Yehi means "it will be," and the va and gemination of the following consonant (doubling via a dagesh chazak, which often drops in case of yud shva or mem shva, as it does in this example) transforms it to "it was." This vav, as mentioned, transforms a verb from one tense to another, and only sometimes functions as well as "and." Thus, וַיְהִי need not be translated as "and it was" -- "it was" suffices.

The other type of vav is the vav hachibbur - the vav of connecting. It functions as "and" for verbs and nouns.

Now, Hirhum noted today, in his post "And These Are The Names":
Exodus 1:1 -- "ואלה שמות בני ישראל הבאים מצרימה And these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt"

I've seen some modern commentaries (e.g. Hertz, Sarna) who make a big deal about how the book of Exodus begins with the letter "vav" that serves as a conjunction. They claim that this connects the story of Exodus with that of Genesis. I don't get it.

Aside from this phrase being (intentionally) repeated from Genesis 46:8, there are plenty of books in the Bible that begin with the letter "vav". Exodus is not unique at all in this respect, and many of these other books could not be a continuation of anything.

Here are the books that begin with a "vav":
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Ezekiel, Jonah, Ruth, Esther, Ezra
Jonah is certainly not a continuation of any previous book. Neither are Ruth or Esther.

Clearly, the "vav" is just one of the oddities of Biblical Hebrew.
You can probably already intuit my reaction. Of his examples, only two are good. Exodus, as previously mentioned, begins:

וְאֵלֶּה, שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, הַבָּאִים, מִצְרָיְמָה: אֵת יַעֲקֹב, אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ בָּאוּ.

This is the vav hachibbur, and thus it is the type of vav that serves as a conjunction.

Leviticus, however, begins:

וַיִּקְרָא, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה; וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֵלָיו, מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר.

This is the vav hahippuch, and should (or could) be translated "He called to Moshe."

Numbers begins:

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה בְּמִדְבַּר סִינַי, בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד: בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי בַּשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית, לְצֵאתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם--לֵאמֹר.

Again, the vav hahippuch - Hashem spoke to Moshe.

Joshua begins:

וַיְהִי, אַחֲרֵי מוֹת מֹשֶׁה--עֶבֶד יְהוָה; וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן-נוּן, מְשָׁרֵת מֹשֶׁה לֵאמֹר.

which is the vav hahippuch. The standard translation begins: "Now it came to pass after the death of Moses" rather than "and it came to pass..."

Anyway, even if vav hahippuch also functioned in the above examples as a conjunction, within Torah we assume the same author (Moshe), and with regard to Joshua, we have the statement in Bava Batra 14b: יהושע כתב ספרו ושמונה פסוקים שבתורה - which means that a connecting vav would indeed be appropriate at the start of sefer Yehoshua. At any rate, it matters not, because it is the vav hahippuch, not hachibbur.

Next, Judges. It begins:

וַיְהִי, אַחֲרֵי מוֹת יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, וַיִּשְׁאֲלוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, בַּיהוָה לֵאמֹר: מִי יַעֲלֶה-לָּנוּ אֶל-הַכְּנַעֲנִי בַּתְּחִלָּה, לְהִלָּחֶם בּוֹ.

Again the vav hahippuch. See a pattern beginning to emerge?

Samuel:

וַיְהִי אִישׁ אֶחָד מִן-הָרָמָתַיִם, צוֹפִים--מֵהַר אֶפְרָיִם; וּשְׁמוֹ אֶלְקָנָה בֶּן-יְרֹחָם בֶּן-אֱלִיהוּא, בֶּן-תֹּחוּ בֶן-צוּף--אֶפְרָתִי.

Again the vav hahippuch. Check the translation for the presence of the word "and." The same is so for 2 Samuel, but after all, they are the same book, and printers separated it for length.

Kings. Here we finally have a good example.

וְהַמֶּלֶךְ דָּוִד זָקֵן, בָּא בַּיָּמִים; וַיְכַסֻּהוּ, בַּבְּגָדִים, וְלֹא יִחַם, לוֹ.
"Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he could get no heat."

The translation lacks the word "and," but at last we have something we might call the vav hachibbur! I will have to return to this example later, but suffice it for now to note that we cannot readily claim that Kings is a continuation of Samuel, since we read (in Bava Batra) thatשמואל כתב ספרו ושופטים ורות, while ירמיה כתב ספרו וספר מלכים וקינות. We would also be hard pressed to say it is a continuation of some other sefer of Yirmiya.

Ezekiel
begins:

וַיְהִי בִּשְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה, בָּרְבִיעִי בַּחֲמִשָּׁה לַחֹדֶשׁ, וַאֲנִי בְתוֹךְ-הַגּוֹלָה, עַל-נְהַר-כְּבָר; נִפְתְּחוּ, הַשָּׁמַיִם, וָאֶרְאֶה, מַרְאוֹת אֱלֹהִים.

which is clearly vav hahippuch. Enough said.

Jonah begins:

וַיְהִי, דְּבַר-יְהוָה, אֶל-יוֹנָה בֶן-אֲמִתַּי, לֵאמֹר.

which is vav hahippuch.

Ruth begins:

וַיְהִי, בִּימֵי שְׁפֹט הַשֹּׁפְטִים, וַיְהִי רָעָב, בָּאָרֶץ; וַיֵּלֶךְ אִישׁ מִבֵּית לֶחֶם יְהוּדָה, לָגוּר בִּשְׂדֵי מוֹאָב--הוּא וְאִשְׁתּוֹ, וּשְׁנֵי בָנָיו.

which is vav hahippuch.

Though if one wanted to argue a connection, perhaps since it mentions the judging of the Judges, it could be a continuation of Judges, for שמואל כתב ספרו ושופטים ורות.

Esther begins:

וַיְהִי, בִּימֵי אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ: הוּא אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, הַמֹּלֵךְ מֵהֹדּוּ וְעַד-כּוּשׁ--שֶׁבַע וְעֶשְׂרִים וּמֵאָה, מְדִינָה.

which is vav hahippuch. Meanwhile, if one was looking for a connection, אנשי כנסת הגדולה כתבו יחזקאל ושנים עשר דניאל ומגילת אסתר, so perhaps one might find a link to some sefer among that list.

Finally, the second and only other good example - Ezra-Nechemia (for it is one sefer), which begins:
וּבִשְׁנַת אַחַת, לְכוֹרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ פָּרַס, לִכְלוֹת דְּבַר-יְהוָה, מִפִּי יִרְמְיָה: הֵעִיר יְהוָה, אֶת-רוּחַ כֹּרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ-פָּרַס, וַיַּעֲבֶר-קוֹל בְּכָל-מַלְכוּתוֹ, וְגַם-בְּמִכְתָּב לֵאמֹר.
"Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying:"

So we have a total of three seforim in Tanach total that begin with a vav hachibbur - Exodus, Kings, and Ezra-Nechemia. This is not very common at all.

Gil wrote:
Jonah is certainly not a continuation of any previous book. Neither are Ruth or Esther.
but Jonah, Ruth, and Esther, are not examples of vav hachibbur, and so they are irrelevant. Thus, he has not proved:
Clearly, the "vav" is just one of the oddities of Biblical Hebrew.
This is one of many cases where knowing the features of Biblical Hebrew is useful. (BIB 5200)

Now, what is actually going on in these examples? It is not really clear that these are simply functioning as vav hachibbur. As mentioned previously, there is a vav hahippuch. This, imperfect transformed into perfect, is the standard form for advancing the narrative in Tanach. (To prove this to yourself, open a Chumash and start reading.) Occassionally, the Torah (or Tanach) wants to provide additional information that is true at the time, without implying that this was what happened next. This is the vav serving as a parentheses.

The first example of this can be found in the second pasuk of Torah, according to Rashi.

א בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ. 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
ב וְהָאָרֶץ, הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ, וְחֹשֶׁךְ, עַל-פְּנֵי תְהוֹם; וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם. 2 Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.
ג וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, יְהִי אוֹר; וַיְהִי-אוֹר. 3 And God said: 'Let there be light.' And there was light.
One might think that it was:
Step 1: Hashem created Heaven and Earth.
Step 2: The land was not formless and void, and Hashem now hovered over the waters.
Step 3: Hashem created light via speech.

In fact, the vav of וְהָאָרֶץ functions not to advance the narrative - for it is not a vav hahippuch, but more a vav which functions parenthetically. That is, according to Rashi, it is telling the situation that existed at the beginning. Add to this that Rashi takes בָּרָא in the first pasuk not as "created," but rather "creation," and you have only a single act in the first three pesukim:

"In the beginning of Hashem's creation of Heaven and Earth, when the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters, Hashem said 'Let there be light' and there was light."

This may in fact imply lack of creation ex nihilo - yesh meiAyin - but that is worthy of a separate post. Note also that in the third pasuk, according to this rendering, we take וַיֹּאמֶר as "Hashem said" rather than "and Hashem said," for it is the vav hahippuch, not the vav hachibbur.

Now consider Kings. The first pasuk sets the stage for the condition, rather than advancing the narrative, and thus we would expect a vav to work parenthetically. And indeed, it is translated "now," not "and." See how it works with the second pasuk to form a unit:

א וְהַמֶּלֶךְ דָּוִד זָקֵן, בָּא בַּיָּמִים; וַיְכַסֻּהוּ, בַּבְּגָדִים, וְלֹא יִחַם, לוֹ. 1 Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he could get no heat.
ב וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ עֲבָדָיו, יְבַקְשׁוּ לַאדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ נַעֲרָה בְתוּלָה, וְעָמְדָה לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ, וּתְהִי-לוֹ סֹכֶנֶת; וְשָׁכְבָה בְחֵיקֶךָ, וְחַם לַאדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ. 2 Wherefore his servants said unto him: 'Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin; and let her stand before the king, and be a companion unto him; and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat.'
Similarly in Ezra:

א וּבִשְׁנַת אַחַת, לְכוֹרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ פָּרַס, לִכְלוֹת דְּבַר-יְהוָה, מִפִּי יִרְמְיָה: הֵעִיר יְהוָה, אֶת-רוּחַ כֹּרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ-פָּרַס, וַיַּעֲבֶר-קוֹל בְּכָל-מַלְכוּתוֹ, וְגַם-בְּמִכְתָּב לֵאמֹר. 1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying:
ב כֹּה אָמַר, כֹּרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ פָּרַס--כֹּל מַמְלְכוֹת הָאָרֶץ, נָתַן לִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמָיִם; וְהוּא-פָקַד עָלַי לִבְנוֹת-לוֹ בַיִת, בִּירוּשָׁלִַם אֲשֶׁר בִּיהוּדָה. 2 'Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD, the God of heaven, given me; and He hath charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Here, it sets up the situation of הֵעִיר in preparation for the first action in the narrative, וַיַּעֲבֶר-קוֹל.

In Exodus, however, we have:

א וְאֵלֶּה, שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, הַבָּאִים, מִצְרָיְמָה: אֵת יַעֲקֹב, אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ בָּאוּ. 1 Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, who came into Egypt with Jacob; every man came with his household:
ב רְאוּבֵן שִׁמְעוֹן, לֵוִי וִיהוּדָה. 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah;

Here, the vav's function is not parenthetical. It is not setting up for any narrative involving a vav hahippuch. It begins a geneological list. And in these types of lists, we can have either
וְאֵלֶּה or אֵלֶּה.

וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת returns 16 hits:

3 comments:

Josh said...

You draw a distinction between the conjunctive vav ha-chibbur (pardon the redundancy) and the non-conjunctive vav ha-hippuch, and appear to use the JPS 1917 translation available from Mechon Mamre to show the different ways the two types are translated. However, looking at the parshiyos of Sefer Bereishis, 9 of them begin with what appears to be a vav ha-hipuch, and 7 of these are translated in that edition as being conjunctive.

Does this not imply that the vav ha-hipuch is also conjunctive?

joshwaxman said...

from what I've read and heard, the vav hahipuch can function as either a) simply conversive or else b) simultaneously conversive and conjunctive but not c) simply conjunctive. So yes, but that need not pose the problem Hirhurim was troubled by.

Anonymous said...

You should note in there that the beginning of Ezra/Nechemia (one of your 3 cases) is clearly a restatement/continuation of the very end of Divrei Hayamim. And probably by the same author, too.

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