Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Vayishlach #2: Dual Etymologies for People's Names

This is a continuation of the post below about dual etymologies for names. Below I discuss dual etymologies, both explicit and implicit, for place names - namely, Machanayim, Peniel, and Bet El.

Here, I'd like to address the same phenomenon except in terms of people. If we look in last week's parsha, Rachel has her first son and names him Yosef. In Bereishit 30:23-24:

וַתַּהַר, וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן; וַתֹּאמֶר, אָסַף אֱלֹקִים אֶת-חֶרְפָּתִי.
וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ יוֹסֵף, לֵאמֹר: יֹסֵף ה לִי בֵּן אַחֵר.

"And she conceived, and bore a son, and said: 'God hath taken away my reproach.'
And she called his name Joseph, saying: 'The LORD add to me another son.'"

Asaf means to gather, Yosef means to add. Which is the cause of his name? The word לֵאמֹר strongly suggests it is יֹסֵף ה לִי, but if so, why mention אָסַף אֱלֹקִים אֶת-חֶרְפָּתִי?

Rashbam seems troubled by this, and states that אָסַף is the source of the name, but if so, Rachel's son would have been called Asaf. Since she said יֹסֵף ה לִי בֵּן אַחֵר, she called him Yosef and not Asaf. Thus, both of Rachel's statements contributed to Yosef's name, and so both are the etymological source.

It bears mentioning that the first statement has אָסַף with אֱלֹקִים, while the second statement has יֹסֵף with ה. So this might account for this dual etymology and perhaps elsewhere but surely not everywhere.

Also, it would not have been unusual had the word לֵאמֹר been absent and the entire statement been:
וַתֹּאמֶר, אָסַף אֱלֹקִים אֶת-חֶרְפָּתִי
יֹסֵף ה לִי בֵּן אַחֵר
ַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ יוֹסֵף

This would be poetry, and clever wordplay on Rachel's part, using two related words and then determining on that basis Yosef's name. However with the word לאמר, the second pasuk seems transformed, as if to say shat she called him this to say this message and no other.

I would also add that this seems to be a krei/ktiv. Yosef's name is spelled יוֹסֵף, spelled full with a vav. However, in the statement יֹסֵף ה לִי בֵּן אַחֵר, the word יֹסֵף is spelled chaser. The ktiv is then Yasaf, past tense. If we recall, earlier Rachel gave her handmaid Bilhah to Yaakov, in pasuk 3:

וַתֹּאמֶר, הִנֵּה אֲמָתִי בִלְהָה בֹּא אֵלֶיהָ; וְתֵלֵד, עַל-בִּרְכַּי, וְאִבָּנֶה גַם-אָנֹכִי, מִמֶּנָּה.
"And she said: 'Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; that she may bear upon my knees, and I also may be builded up through her.'"

וְאִבָּנֶה also bears the connotation of having a son.

Bilhah bears Dan, whom Rachel names, in pasuk 6:

וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל, דָּנַנִּי אֱלֹקִים, וְגַם שָׁמַע בְּקֹלִי, וַיִּתֶּן-לִי בֵּן; עַל-כֵּן קָרְאָה שְׁמוֹ, דָּן.
"And Rachel said: 'God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son.' Therefore called she his name Dan."

I heard on Shabbos someone say that this was a depressed and bitter Rachel, saying that Hashem has judged her unworthy of having children directly. It seems to me that she is *happy* with this child, considers it as if it is her own.

Then, she has another son via Bilhah, Naftali, in pasuk 8:

וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל, נַפְתּוּלֵי אֱלֹהִים נִפְתַּלְתִּי עִם-אֲחֹתִי--גַּם-יָכֹלְתִּי; וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, נַפְתָּלִי.
"And Rachel said: 'With mighty wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed.' And she called his name Naphtali."

Look in last week's postings about the correct translation of the above pasuk. But Naftulei may very well mean "prayers", as in tefillah, rather than "wrestlings", and Elokim may mean Hashem rather than "mighty". This would match וְגַם שָׁמַע בְּקֹלִי from above in pasuk 6.

Thus, Rachel really believes she already has children. If so, we can translate the ktiv of יֹסֵף ה לִי בֵּן אַחֵר, with past tense Yasaf, as "Hashem has added to me another son. The fact that his name Yosef with the vav is the imperfect form (meaning future tense) does not matter, because the tenses of names in Biblical Hebrew are archaic and therefore weird. Consider Bereishit 16:11:

וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ מַלְאַךְ ה, הִנָּךְ הָרָה וְיֹלַדְתְּ בֵּן, וְקָרָאת שְׁמוֹ יִשְׁמָעֵאל, כִּי-שָׁמַע ה אֶל-עָנְיֵךְ.
"And the angel of the LORD said unto her: 'Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son; and thou shalt call his name Ishmael, because the LORD hath heard thy affliction."

Yishmael's name is in the imperfect form, even though the etymology is כִּי-שָׁמַע, that Hashem heard, in the past.

Still, there is embarrassment in being barren (hmm... are the words related? and embarazado means pregnant in Spanish... :) ), and so having her own son naturally gathers up her חרפה, so the Asaf is also true.

On the other hand, imperfect = future tense implies a tefillah, which is in synch which the ideas expressed by Dan and Naftali. This meaning is conveyed by the krei.

In terms of answering to the concern mentioned above about Elokim vs Hashem (והמבין יבין), I would just say here that Elokim was the shem used by both Dan and Naftali (see above), and if יֹסֵף ה לִי בֵּן אַחֵר is past tense and referring to the past births, then this pasuk is aware of the two psukim above. If anything, the אָסַף אֱלֹקִים אֶת-חֶרְפָּתִי is unaware of the above, since what is the source of the shame (except we shall answer about biological vs surrogate motherhood). Thus that distinction seems neither true nor useful here.

So in this case, I would state that the dual etymology is dual in the sense of coming from two roots, but really stems from a single poetic statement.

Another instance of dual etymology is that of Yissachar.

Leah had stopped giving birth so she gave her handmaid Zilpah to Yaakov (9). Zilpah bore Gad (10-11) and Asher (12-13).

Then, Reuven brings back the flowers from the field. Bereishit 30:14-18:

וַיֵּלֶךְ רְאוּבֵן בִּימֵי קְצִיר-חִטִּים, וַיִּמְצָא דוּדָאִים בַּשָּׂדֶה, וַיָּבֵא אֹתָם, אֶל-לֵאָה אִמּוֹ; וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל, אֶל-לֵאָה, תְּנִי-נָא לִי, מִדּוּדָאֵי בְּנֵךְ.
וַתֹּאמֶר לָהּ, הַמְעַט קַחְתֵּךְ אֶת-אִישִׁי, וְלָקַחַת, גַּם אֶת-דּוּדָאֵי בְּנִי; וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל, לָכֵן יִשְׁכַּב עִמָּךְ הַלַּיְלָה, תַּחַת, דּוּדָאֵי בְנֵךְ.
וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב מִן-הַשָּׂדֶה, בָּעֶרֶב, וַתֵּצֵא לֵאָה לִקְרָאתוֹ וַתֹּאמֶר אֵלַי תָּבוֹא, כִּי שָׂכֹר שְׂכַרְתִּיךָ בְּדוּדָאֵי בְּנִי; וַיִּשְׁכַּב עִמָּהּ, בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא.
וַיִּשְׁמַע אֱלֹקִים, אֶל-לֵאָה; וַתַּהַר וַתֵּלֶד לְיַעֲקֹב, בֵּן חֲמִישִׁי.
וַתֹּאמֶר לֵאָה, נָתַן אֱלֹקִים שְׂכָרִי, אֲשֶׁר-נָתַתִּי שִׁפְחָתִי, לְאִישִׁי; וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, יִשָּׂשכָר.
"And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah: 'Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes.'

And she said unto her: 'Is it a small matter that thou hast taken away my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also?' And Rachel said: 'Therefore he shall lie with thee to-night for thy son's mandrakes.'

And Jacob came from the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said: 'Thou must come in unto me; for I have surely hired thee with my son's mandrakes.' And he lay with her that night.

And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bore Jacob a fifth son.

And Leah said: 'God hath given me my hire, because I gave my handmaid to my husband. And she called his name Issachar."

Here, the explicit etymology is the giving of Zilpah to Yaakov in pasuk 9:

וַתֵּרֶא לֵאָה, כִּי עָמְדָה מִלֶּדֶת; וַתִּקַּח אֶת-זִלְפָּה שִׁפְחָתָהּ, וַתִּתֵּן אֹתָהּ לְיַעֲקֹב לְאִשָּׁה.
"When Leah saw that she had left off bearing, she took Zilpah her handmaid, and gave her to Jacob to wife."

Yet, all these psukim and events intervene. Zilpah has two sons, which means that at least 1 1/2 years have intervened between the giving of Zilpah.

Furthermore, the more immediate cause seems to be that Leah exchanged the mandrakes for a night with Yaakov. Not only that, but the words immediately preceding Leah's preganancy are her words to Yaakov:
וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב מִן-הַשָּׂדֶה, בָּעֶרֶב, וַתֵּצֵא לֵאָה לִקְרָאתוֹ וַתֹּאמֶר אֵלַי תָּבוֹא, כִּי שָׂכֹר שְׂכַרְתִּיךָ בְּדוּדָאֵי בְּנִי; וַיִּשְׁכַּב עִמָּהּ, בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא.
Thus, Leah talks of hiring him, "שָׂכֹר שְׂכַרְתִּיךָ." We would expect *this* to be the etymology of a son named Yissachar.

When discussing this with a friend of mine, I observed that in the phrase נָתַן אֱלֹקִים שְׂכָרִי אֲשֶׁר-נָתַתִּי שִׁפְחָתִי, the word שִׁפְחָתִי sounds much like שכבתי, "my laying" - an Al Tikra of sorts. This is false, and the reference is to the giving of the maidservant Zilpah, mentioned above.

Perhaps what we are dealing with here is dual etymologies, one private and not for public consumption because it is embarassing and personal, and one public one to promulgate. This would account for Asaf (private) with Yosef/Yasaf (public), and would account for hiring שכבתי (private) vs שִׁפְחָתִי (public).

This would also account perhaps for the dual etymology of Yitzchak, but I will perhaps return to this later, for it is 1:30 AM.

A quick listing of yet-uncovered with dual etymologies:
Yitzchak (Sarah vs outsiders laugh
Yaakov (heel/trickster, though Esav merely says his existing name Yaakov is appropriate)
Yisrael (named after wrestling/named later in Bet El)
Edom (red hair/red lentils)

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