Sunday, July 02, 2006

parshat Shelach: Earlier Theophoric Names Involving Shem Hashem; Keshem Shemikablim Sechar Al HaDrisha...

In a previous post on parshat Shelach, I suggested that Yehoshua was the first with a theophoric name involving YKVK. Mississippi Fred MacDowell (S.) pointed out that Yocheved may be such a name. Indeed, names beginning with "Yo" such as this may indeed be theophoric, with "Yo" short for "Yeho." Thus, Yonatan and Yehonatan.

(I would not consider Yehuda to be a theophoric name, BTW.)

As I pointed out in the comment thread on that post, Yosef may also be such an example. After all, we see in Tehillim 81:6:

ה כִּי חֹק לְיִשְׂרָאֵל הוּא; מִשְׁפָּט, לֵאלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב. 5 For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
ו עֵדוּת, בִּיהוֹסֵף שָׂמוֹ-- בְּצֵאתוֹ, עַל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם;
שְׂפַת לֹא-יָדַעְתִּי אֶשְׁמָע.
6 He appointed it in Joseph for a testimony, when He went forth against the land of Egypt. {N}
The speech of one that I knew not did I hear:
Clearly as it occurs in Tehillim, Yosef is understood as Yehosef, which would then be a theophoric name incorporating Hashem's name.

However, this might be a bit ambiguous within sefer Bereishit. In Bereishit 30:23:24, Yosef is named:

כג וַתַּהַר, וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן; וַתֹּאמֶר, אָסַף אֱלֹהִים אֶת-חֶרְפָּתִי. 23 And she conceived, and bore a son, and said: 'God hath taken away my reproach.'
כד וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ יוֹסֵף, לֵאמֹר: יֹסֵף יְהוָה לִי, בֵּן אַחֵר. 24 And she called his name Joseph, saying: 'The LORD add to me another son.'

Thus there is a dual etymology. The first does not involve YKVK, but rather Elokim, with a root of אסף. The second etymology does indeed involve YKVK, in which case perhaps it is theophoric, meaning "Hashem should add." On the other hand, there is no letter heh there, and the name Yosef (spelled with a cholam malei ) is matched in the same pasuk with Yosef - יֹסֵף - with a cholam chaser. So it does not really need a shem Hashem within the name, even though Hashem is mentioned. Indeed, other names of the tribes involve action by YKVK or Elokim in the etymology and are non-theophoric. So again, perhaps in Bereishit it is ambiguous.

On a related note, the following story. I know the person involved, but from what I've seen happen on the blogosphere, I try to omit names in stories that might be taken by anyone as controversial.

This fellow was on the subway and he saw a girl from Drisha learning Gemara. Her boyfriend was sitting next to her and had his arm around her, and they were occasionally nuzzling. {Slight clarification: she was trying to learn her sefer while her boyfriend was trying to nuzzle.} So he had a great line, and so, when it was his stop, before exiting the subway car he walked over to the girl and told her: כשם שמקבלים שכר על הדרישה כך מקבלים שכר על הפרישה.



Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Compare Yo-seif with Osar-seph... looks like maybe a switching of the putative theophoric element to me.

joshwaxman said...

good point and insight.
(though perhaps that would reflect a 3rd or 4th century BCE understanding of the name...)

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Exactly... whether יוסף was meant to be יהוסף or not, it seems that in the 3rd/4th c.BCE at least some people thought it was.


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