Friday, November 10, 2023

My Master's Brother(s)

פרק כד contains two very similar phrases with one very important distinction which would seem to change the meaning:
כ"ז בַּדֶּרֶךְ נָחַנִי ה' בֵּית אֲחֵי אֲדֹנִי
מ"ח לָקַחַת אֶת בַּת אֲחִי אֲדֹנִי לִבְנוֹ
The first one seems plural and the second is singular. However, there are two points that trouble me about the above observation:

1) I cannot understand why it would be plural. It doesn't really make much sense in context.

2) The תרגום of both is אחוהי which would seem to imply singular on both counts. When תרגום translates אֲחֵי that is clearly plural, such as במדבר כ"ז:ד, he actually leaves the word untouched and translates as אֲחֵי.
Is it possible that even אֲחֵי is singular here? (And if so, perhaps does not need to be corrected.) And of course, if so, the next question would be why does the word change?

Update 2016: Based on Anonymous's comment below (the second one) question #2 is not a question at all. In looking into it further, I came up with a theory to address my first question. The first פסוק is אליעזר's actual private prayer. אברהם sent him to find a girl from his family, seemingly without any further direction. So in truth, he could have ended up at any of אברהם's relatives and that would have sufficed. He was praising השם for guiding him to "the house of [one of] his master's brothers," אחי being used more loosely as a general reference to all relatives.

When telling over the story to רבקה's family, however, he felt that wouldn't make them feel terribly special. Using the singular form implied that he was specifically pleased with having found a girl from this particular family.


Anonymous said...

Bisuel was the son of Nachor, and also the son of Milka Bas Horon.
So Rivka was actually descended from the brothers of Avrohom !
This would not be according to Targum, of course.

elie said...

אינני יודע למה בתואל נכתב באנגלית
אני הייתי כותב
אבל בפשטות כל האחים של בתואל הם
"אחי אברהם"
ונחור כנראה שכבר לא חי אז

Anonymous said...

Onkelos uses אחוהי with a cholom-vav to indicate plural (אֲחֵי is just the construct form). He uses אחוהי with a shuruk-vav to indicate singular. There are dozens of examples of this in Sefer Bereishis; see Gen. 42:3-4.

Perhaps there is just a mistake in the placement of the dot in Onkelos?

Shtikler said...

Anonymous, I'm embarrassed that I overlooked that. You are definitely correct. The words are indeed distinct in אונקלוס.
And in looking into this further based on your correction, I've come up with a theory as to the discrepancy.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome - however, what version of Onkelos are you looking at where you see these words pointed differently? In the editions of Onkelos that I've seen (see here for example: as well as the Mikraot Gedolot HaKeter) they are both spelled with a shuruk. So although I suggested it was an error, perhaps this needs some further analysis.

Secondly - you don't need to make this about Eliezer making them feel "special". In his original prayer he is discussing Avraham's family generally (Beis), so the plural of brothers is appropriate (especially in light of the fact that Rivka was descended from two brothers, as Anonymous I points out). When he talks about Rivka (Bas), she can only be the daughter of one brother. Grammatically there's no way to have a plural here.