Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Vayishlach: The Etymology of Maavar Yabbok

In Bereishit 32:
כג וַיָּקָם בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-שְׁתֵּי נָשָׁיו וְאֶת-שְׁתֵּי שִׁפְחֹתָיו, וְאֶת-אַחַד עָשָׂר, יְלָדָיו; וַיַּעֲבֹר, אֵת מַעֲבַר יַבֹּק. 23 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two handmaids, and his eleven children, and passed over the ford of the Jabbok.
כד וַיִּקָּחֵם--וַיַּעֲבִרֵם, אֶת-הַנָּחַל; וַיַּעֲבֵר, אֶת-אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ. 24 And he took them, and sent them over the stream, and sent over that which he had.
כה וַיִּוָּתֵר יַעֲקֹב, לְבַדּוֹ; וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ, עַד עֲלוֹת הַשָּׁחַר. 25 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
כו וַיַּרְא, כִּי לֹא יָכֹל לוֹ, וַיִּגַּע, בְּכַף-יְרֵכוֹ; וַתֵּקַע כַּף-יֶרֶךְ יַעֲקֹב, בְּהֵאָבְקוֹ עִמּוֹ. 26 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was strained, as he wrestled with him.
Why is it called the ford of Yabbok? It would seem that we should connect מַעֲבַר יַבֹּק to the wrestling, to the וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ in pasuk 25 and the בְּהֵאָבְקוֹ עִמּו in pasuk 26. And perhaps even the מַעֲבַר to וַיַּעֲבֹר and וַיַּעֲבֵר, though perhaps that is what one does at a ford, for by definition it is "a place where a river or other body of water is shallow enough to be crossed by wading." So naturally he would be crossing here.

Of course, another etymology of place name comes from here - Peniel, though that is a place that has other etymologies (as I covered in earlier years).

This is an example of a non-explicit etymology, as the text does not attribute the name to this incident. But non-explicit etymology happens elsewhere.

There are other options. This could be the name of the place, for other reasons, and what he did there was called that after the place. Or, because of the name of the place, what he did -- wrestling, or whatever -- could have been called by some other term, but for poetic purpose a word was selected which echoed the name of the place.

Shadal cites Gesenius:
וגזניוס אומר בי אמר כאן "ויאבק" ע"ש הנחל יבוק

1 comment:

v-afsi ode said...

i still remeber friday night of y2k the rebbe gave a whole deep sichah on the remez of nachal YaBoK to the impending apoclipse (yud= y bais= 2 kuf=k)


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