Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dear Uncle

This guest post was graciously given to me by Harav Avraham Isenberg, a second generation expert baal dikduk.  I had mentioned to him that Rav's appellation for his uncle, Chavivi, is really just a synonym for the literal meaning of the regular word for uncle, Dodi.  This is his analysis of the Hebrew word Dod and its web of connections with several other words.
I do have a very small הערה. I think it is self evident that just as רחמים, mercy, is related to  רחם, the womb, so, too, ידיד\דוד, love, is related to דד, the breast. I always wondered where אהבה and חיבה fit in. As you will see, Rabbi Isenberg suggests that they are related to "אח אבא." 
Love and mercy are then definitively feminine, while friendship - fraternity - looks to the relationship between men.(It's interesting that in Hebrew, the womb is seen as the seat of mercy, while in Greek/Latin and English, the womb, hystera, is the source of the word hysteria. ....אלו ואלו....) 
I made a few insignificant changes; if something is not right, it's probably my fault.  
Rabbi Isenberg and I are related by affinity but not consanguinity.

The Gemara in Nedarim (76b) says א"ל רב הכי אמר חביבי  to which the ר"ן  explains "ר' חייא, שהיה דודו של רב" or in plain English, Rav called his uncle R' Khiyya by the term חביבי. Indeed Rav was a nephew from both sides since the :גמרא פסחים ד says " 'רב בר אחוה דר' חייא ובר אחתי". We also find this in Eruvin 12b, where Rashi explains that the word  חביבי was used to refer to ר' חייא שהוא אחי אביו ואמו של רב. 

The question then arises why Rav did not attribute his quote to his UNCLE using the Hebrew word דודי  rather than חביבי  which is usually understood to mean "my dear one" ? 

The immediate answer is that the Hebrew word דוד translated as uncle actually in its biblical sense can mean beloved, as in שיר השירים more than once- (2:16) דודי לי or (6:3) אני לדודי . Grammatically speaking the word דוד has as a gradational variant, the root stem of the verb -ידד from which we have the word ידיד a dear friend. Hence it is not too far a stretch to say that Rav used a term of endearment when referring to his dear uncle from both his mother and his father's side quite in the same fashion as that of the word for uncle derived from the expression of love. 

While this may seem to fully answer the original question, one may now delve further. What is the basic meaning of the verb חבב? In fact one may question the actual existence of the word חבב in Hebrew. 

The sole reference of חבב, (other than חובב in Bamidbar 10:29, which was one of the names of Yisro,) is in the last פרשה of the תורה , in the third passuk of וזאת הברכה (Devarim 33:3)  אַף חֹבֵב עַמִּים.   This is its only appearance in Tanach. It is a fact that many verbs indeed only appear once in תנ"ך with nary an objection to including them in the totality of Hebrew שרשים. Indeed ספר איוב is a trove of such שרשים. This would be basis for the explanation given by Rashi, גם חבה יתירה חבב את השבטים. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch as well as the Manedelkern Concordance accept חבב as pure Hebrew. 

On the other hand the אבן עזרא on the פסוק says "מגזרת ארמית מלשון: והייתם לי סגולה". The רמב"ן, after mentioning the explanation of the אבן עזרא but not explicitly by name (פירשו בו שהוא מלשון ארמית), argues and says the word חבב is to be understood as having come from the same source as (Iyov 33:3) לִטְמוֹן בְּחֻבִּי עֲו‍ֹנִי whose שרש is either חבא or חבה
והנראה אלי, כי "חובב" מגזרת לטמון בחובי עוני (איוב לא לג), מענין חדר בחדר להחבא (דהי"ב יח כד), ושם חביון עזו (חבקוק ג ד), יאמר גם אתה בידיך מחביא ומסתיר עמים, כל קדושי ישראל הנזכר, ירמוז כי כל העדה כלם קדושים והשם יסתירם בידו
The inference to be drawn from both explanations is that the root חבב is not a pure Hebrew שרש. 

Having established that חבב is certainly Aramaic, if not originally or exclusively Aramaic, what then is the etymology of חבב in Aramaic? The answer to this question will directly impact our original question. We need only investigate the Targumim on the places where we find דוד or a variant of דוד in the meaning of Uncle or Aunt as in Parshas Kedoshim, (Vayikra 20:20) Targum Onkelos translates דֹּדָתוֹ as אִתַּת אַח אֲבוּהִי, or "the wife of the brother of his father" while the same English phrase is rendered by תרגום יונתן בן  עוזיאל as אּתַּת אַחְבּוֹי. The difference is apparent. The term אַחְבּוֹי is understood by Jastrow to be a contraction of the words אַח and אַבָּא. The suffix here וֹי is merely only a possessive ending meaning "his". Contrast this with the two תרגומים on the phrase בְּנֵי עֻזִּיאֵל דֹּד אַהֲרֹן  in Parshas Kedoshim (Vayikra 10:4) where the תרגום אונקלס  uses the word אַחֲבוּהִי (an insignificant variation of אַחֽבּוּהִי) yet the תרגום יונתן בן  עוזיאל uses חַבִיבָא. Clearly we have the source for using the Aramaic root stem חבב for "uncle". Furthermore a similar situation exists in the translation of the passuk in Va'eira, (Shemos 6:20) וַיִּקַּח עַמְרָם אֶת יוֹכֶבֶד דֹּדָתוֹ לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה where תרגום אונקלס translates the word דֹּדָתוֹ as אֲחַת אַבוּהִי yet תרגום יונתן בן עוזיאל uses חֲבִיבְתֵיהּ.  In other words  חֲבִיבָא  is to דוֹד as חֲבִיבְתֵיהּ is to  דוֹדָה

It emerges that according to יונתן בן עוזיאל the actual Aramaic term for 'uncle' or aunt' was the variation of the root stem חבב. A case could be made that the vernacular term for uncle or aunt depends on the time and place of the Aramaic dialect.

Getting back to the question of the source of the Aramaic verb חבב, two possibilities seem to present themselves. First we relate the word חבב to the two letter variation of just ח and ב. This way of looking at Hebrew and other Semitic languages is well documented in the Sefer ברזילי  מסה בתולדות הלשון העברית  published by מוסד הרב קוק תשמ"ג  (cf. pg 29-42 פרק שלישי.)  Building on these two letters we can correlate חבב with the Semitic Hebrew verb אהב, noting the closeness of the two gutturals ה and ח.  We could thus assume אהב  morphed into אחב. The process of replicating the last letter and dropping the initial letter leads from אחב to אחבב to חבב. The precedent for this behavior is spelled out by Rashi on the word שְׁפִיפֹן in Vayechi, Bereishis 49:17, when Rashi says ואומר אני שקרוי כן על שם שהוא נושף, כמו ואתה תשופנו עקב:. The initial נ drops off and the last letter פ is repeated.

This is one possibility and admittedly the likely one. We could, however, make a convincing case that the actual begining point is not from אהב but rather from the contraction of אח אבא or אחבא . We can note too that the word אַחְבּוֹי has as its stem the letters א-ח-ב. The next steps would be similar using the Rashi on שְׁפִיפֹן as before. The interesting twist is that with this possibility, the totality of every word חבב, if originating in Aramaic then progressing into Hebrew is due to the very relationship of a man or woman with his or her uncle. (Indeed under the principle אין דבר במקרה the variants of אחבא - אהבה - אחוה can not be dismissed lightly) In this light Rav may have had more than one reason to refer to ר' חייא as חביבי.

One or two points remain open. In Parshas Kedoshim (Vayikra 20:19)  in specifying the עריות the passuk spells out in detail ... וערות אחות אמך ואחות אביך לא תגלה without mentioning the word דודה until the very next passuk when refering to a fellow's aunt, only his father's brother's wife. This is also borne out of the pesukim in Vayikra 18:12-14 where the Torah reserves the term דודתך to אשת אחי אביו but spells out ערות אחות אביך and ערות אחות אמך without writing דודתך.  Why so? I can only assumeדברי תורה עניים במקום אחד ועשירים במקום . אחר. Also, ones mother's brother's wife is not expressly mentioned as an ערוה. The conclusion follows that unlike our usage for the word -aunt" in English or one meaning of דודה in Hebrew, the strict meaning ) מן התורה of דודה is only a father's brother's wife or a father's sister (as in the case ofיוכבד אשת עמרם .

Any further elucidations, comments, or insights are welcome. 

Rabbi Avraham Isenberg Chicago Illinois 773-539-0385 

I, Eliezer Eisenberg, do have a very small הערה. I think it is self evident that just as רחמים, mercy, is related to  רחם, the womb, so, too, ידיד\דוד, love, is related to דד, the breast. Where חיבה fits in, I did not know, but Rabbi Isenberg, above, suggests that it comes from אח אבא.  Love and mercy are then definitively feminine, while friendship - fraternity - looks to the relationship between men.(Ironically, in Hebrew the womb is seen as the seat of mercy, while in Greek/Latin and English, the womb, hystera, is the source of the word hysteria.)

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