Dear Rabbi, I wonder if you can help me out with my Torah study. My Hebrew is not great, and I apologise if the question is a foolish one, but given the nature of the language I am struggling to work out how to read certain passages. My favourite story is that of Jacob’s transformation into Israel, and there is this line: "ויאמר לא אשלחך כי אם ברכתני" That final word is read as ’unless you bless me’, but is there anything in the language to suggest that it shouldn’t be read as ’unless you kneel to me’.? Is it just the context that tells us that it is ’bless’ and not ’kneel’, or is there something in the language that I have missed? Thanks in advance, Danny
It’s actually a great question for someone whose Hebrew isn’t fluent, because externally the differences apparently seem small. Nevertheless, anyone fluent in Hebrew will tell you that the 2 words, levarech (to bless) and lehavrich (to make one kneel) do come from the same 3 letter root and are obviously somewhat conceptually connected, but the conjugations cannot at all be confused or used interchangeably. For it to mean ‘unless you kneel to me’, it would have had to say: heevrachta lifanai [like in Chron. II, 6, 13: “vayeevrach … neged” (not: vayivarech et…); Tehilim 95, 7: neevricha (not: nivarech); Breishit 24, 11: “vayavrech” (not: “va'yvarech”].