Sunday, April 05, 2009

Why Birchas Ha*Chamah* and Not Birchas HaShemesh?

Some time today, someone came to this blog based on a search on this question. And I had an exchange about it some time ago with an anonymous commenter, so I thought that with birchat hachammah coming up I would bring it to the fore.

What is the diffrence between Chamah and Shemesh meaning when does the torah say one and when does the torah use the other? Any Mareh Makom or answer would be apprecialted. 
an interesting question. I think you can divide it into two questions: what is the story in Biblical Hebrew, and what is the story in Babylonian Aramaic.

As far as I could tell with a quick search, Chama appears in about 3 places in Tanach, once in Iyyov (always strange language) and twice in Yeshaya. My first impression is that Shemesh occurs much more often, and is of a kind with Yareach. Meanwhile, Chama, where it occurs, would be with Levana. Maybe an arcane word, borrowed from the Aramaic?

In terms of Babylonian Aramaic, both Shimsha and Chamta occur. From memory, my impression is that Chama is more common (134 times vs 19 times). But perhaps we can make a differentiation in usage between sunlight and the sun itself? Not always, though.

I think both occur in both languages, with different distributions, and I don't think a derasha based on the difference between them would necessarily be correct.

But as you can clearly see, this is all very off the cuff.
I was told after asking around a Bit that the Malbim or Reb Hirsch may talk about it in there Dictionaries and the person told me a DRUSH about Levana and Yerach I cant remember it from someone that Impressed I forget who. and the Ramban clearly states that Hebrew has no words that mean the same thing without at least a Nuance off difference (I HAVE A SNEAKING SUSPICION YOU DISAGREE) so Hopefully somne can lead me in the right direction MAREH MOKOM Wise so PUK CHAZI
Thanks for answering the question
your sneaking suspicion is more than justified (though I've heard of those claims and believe that they held this); this was a matter of dispute between pashtanim such as Ramban and pashtanim like Ibn Ezra, who held of the principle of kefel lashon.

I would maintain this especially where the words in question appear in disparate time periods in Tanach. (Shemesh seeming to appear early, in early books and in place names.)

Rav Hirsch, IMHO, does have one or two aspects of accuracy, but is mostly nonsense - a modern theory which I don't think is born out.

Clark's Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, based of Rav Shamshon ben Refael Hirsch, has on page 265 an entry for shemesh: 
serve: use as intended
explanation/commentary: 1) serving (refers to Devarim 4:19 and Tehillim 19:5). 2) sun, serving God's purpose (refers to Bereshit 19:23 and Shemot 32:25). 3) window, opening to the sun (refers to Yeshaya 54:12).
cognate meaning: serve. (phonetic cognates שמץ, lack will.)

on page 82, Chamam:

glow, project extreme heat.
explanation/commentary: 1) being glowing hot (refers to Shemot 16:21). 2) exhibiting sexual heat (refers to Bereishit 6:10 and Bereishit 9:27). 3) Glowing anger (Bereishit 27:44 and 49:7). 4) sun (Tehillim 19:7). 5) sun-idol (Vayikra 26:30).

gradational variant: chamam: glow; chamah: protect; chom: darken; ycham: warm.

cognate meaning: develop by agitation [phonetic cognates: hamam: ferment; `amam: be dependent; 'amam: develop]
Does anyone reading this blog have any insight into this question? Have you heard any derasha on the basis of this difference?


Anonymous said...

YAlkut NAchmenu

joshwaxman said...

can you give me a summary of what it says?


Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

I remember hearing that שמש and ירח became less popular because they're also the names of the general Semitic sun- and moon-deities.

Anonymous said...

My source told me (he knows everything) to see this sefer I do not have Access to It maybe you do, It is on Random Topics there is something on the Sun There I would need a Library, I think you should try Hebrew books I cant Guarantee anything but if anyone wrote anything its here. Maybe YU library has it?

Anonymous said...

Shemesh is biblical hebrew. Hamah is rabbinic hebrew. That's it.

And if you are trying to actually find a semantic difference between apparent synonym in a serious way, Rav Hirsch's linguistic observations are NOT a good place to start.

joshwaxman said...

yes, that is basically what I said. and i agree.

(except, of course that chama also occurs in biblical hebrew, on occasion.)


Anonymous said...

That hama appears in BH is no problem. Scholarly consensus is that MH is derived from a vulgar dialect contemporaneous with BH. It has some archaic features - so things that appear in scattered places in BH, e.g., in poetic texts (aka shirahs or isaiah), may be from ancestor of MH.
see any of works of m. bar asher.

joshwaxman said...

i wasn't saying that it was a problem. He is trying to find sources of (what I would consider false, but that doesn't matter) derashot on the subject.

I would guess some source like Malbim would be useful in this. Or where Rav Hirsch discusses it in his writing.

Yochanan said...

Isn't there a dagesh in the kaf of ברכת?

joshwaxman said...

likely yes, a dagesh kal. one could argue for the popular pronunciation of this, and birchas hamazon, based on treating the sheva under the resh as a "sheva merachef," since it was converted from a vowel of kametz. compare malchutecha. Here, I was paying more heed to popular pronunciation, since this IMHO justifies it, and because it shows up better when people search on Google. ;)

Dave (Balashon) said...

Yechezkel Kutscher (Milim V'Toldoteihen p. 79) quotes Abba Bendavid (I assume it's mentioned in his book Leshon Mikra U'Leshon Chachamim) as saying that when Lashon Chazal was given two synonyms, it preferred the one that wasn't found in Aramaic (chama and levana aren't found in Aramaic.)


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