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How to define ענה ?

Rabbi Ari ShvatElul 26, 5778
52
Question
I would like to know how to define the root word ענה, what actual meanings are given to this root and what is the common denomitor? [I’ve found this root in different verses, so I don’t want to focus on just one verse. But to name some I came across this root in Bereshit 18:27, Shemot 10:3, Shemot 22:22, Vayikra 23:27, Yeshayahu 58:3, I even came across a phrase outside of the Tenach in which it could mean ‘apologize’ (נעניתי לך מחול לי)]
Answer
The Hebrew root ONH, as demonstrated in the verses which you cited, can either mean: answer/fulfill a request/satisfy, or conversely: hurt/suffer/lack. Similarly a poor person is called: ANI, and a humble person: ANV, from this same root, because they lack and think themselves lowly. It is also ONA, to fulfill your wife’s intimate needs (Shmot 21, 10). As is often the case in Hebrew, the same root serves as an idea and its exact opposite [e.g. nikar and nochri (known and unknown); tzafuy and mitzupeh (seen and covered); kales and keles (praise and mocked)], and is just understood from the context. Although it may sometimes be a little confusing, the philosophic message is that anything can be used for good or for the opposite- it’s up to our free–will!
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