September 14th, 2014


The difference between מְחַיֶּה and מְחַיֵּה in the second בְּרָכָה of the Amida

This last year, I've been reading my way through Samson Raphael Hirsch's commentary on the Torah. He talks quite a bit about the meanings of Hebrew words (though he often gets his etymological derivations completely wrong, writing either in ignorance of or before the advent of modern Hebrew philology); and something he mentioned in last week's sedra answered something I'd been wondering about for years:

The second benediction of the Amida focuses on תְּחִיַת הַמֵּתִים the resurrection of the dead. (Indeed, it mentions it no fewer than five times, which would be good evidence, even if the Talmud didn't tell us so, that at the time the benediction reached its present form, rabbinical Judaism had a problem with other denominations—the Saduccees and Boethusians—denying the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.) However, the בְּרָכָה makes use of two grammatical forms, מְחַיֶּה and מְחַיֵּה. What is the difference between them?

As I understand it, the vowel on the last letter of the root of a verb turns to a סֶגוֹל when that root letter is a ה, which indicates that מְחַיֶּה is the correct present participle. So what, then, is מְחַיֵּה?

From Hirsch's writing about another word using the same grammatical form, I now understand that מְחַיֶּה is the verb form ("bringing life"), and מְחַיֵּה the noun ("bringer of life").

Another of my incredibly finicky questions about Hebrew grammar answered. Thanks, R. Hirsch!

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