Monday, March 15, 2010



There are tons of tafs in מגילת רות, the scroll of Ruth. Of course it is a grammatical letter and so more common. The first thing to note about this last letter is how it substitutes for a ה when forming a construct. The root of that word above is מגלה, used for example in Psalm 40:7

בִּמְגִלַּת־סֵפֶר כָּתוּב עָלָי

In the scroll of the book it is written of me
מגלה is not a particularly common word (but a related word did occur this past Sunday morning in the lesson from Joshua 5:9,
הַיֹּום גַּלֹּותִי אֶת־חֶרְפַּת מִצְרַיִם מֵעֲלֵיכֶם 
today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you
hence the name Gilgal. (Who says etymology is unimportant - roll-scroll to you!) Note here too that the reproach has been modified from absolute to construct, from חרפה to חֶרְפַּת

This replacement occurs when adding an object pronoun to a feminine ending for a verb - how about this example from Ruth 2:13?
כִּי נִחַמְתָּנִי
for you have comforted me
This taf is a normal part of the second person qal perfect suffix. The additional nun helps identify the remainder of the suffix as a first person object pronoun.

A third suffix in which ת plays a part is the feminine plural (vav-taf or holem/taf ot).  ת is also common in the role of prefix. Remember that א gives us a signal as a first person singular imperfect, ת is a signal as a second or third person singular or plural imperfect. 

The whole of verse 13 illustrates all five of these uses
אֶמְצָא-חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ אֲדֹנִי
כִּי נִחַמְתָּנִי
וְכִי דִבַּרְתָּ עַל-לֵב שִׁפְחָתֶךָ
וְאָנֹכִי לֹא אֶהְיֶה כְּאַחַת שִׁפְחֹתֶיךָ
and she said,
taf prefix signals the third person imperfect (preterite)
let me find favor in your eyes my Lord
for you have comforted me
taf is the second person singular suffix (masculine in this case) qal perfect as is the first taf in the next line
for you have spoken to the heart of your handmaid
שפחה became שִׁפְחָתֶ forming construct from absolute
and I myself am not one or your handmaids
the holem-taf represents the feminine plural - in this case there is no vav with the taf to illustrate as a reading helper.

If we back up a bit to Ruth 1:8, we find another grammatical role for taf in the ending תֶם- for second person plural qal perfect. As noted previously, (Ruth - Vol 7 in The Anchor Bible by Edward Campbell, 1975) this masculine pattern may be a dual. The feminine תֶן is not found in Ruth (at least I could not see one).
כַּאֲשֶׁר עֲשִׂיתֶם עִם-הַמֵּתִים וְעִמָּדִי
Taf does have a number of words where it plays a part in the root. Even some of these like בַּיִת (house) may be derived from a verb in this case בָּנָה in this case ending in ה. As a final letter, it is third in מות, death, though is this a real tri-literal root or is the vav a meter here? The latter, I think.

But this exercise of reading Ruth letter by letter is now declared complete even though it could go on forever!
Time to tend another vineyard. I think I will retranslate the Song - in fact I think I will look at all the megillot and put these into my new/old peculiar Poetry and Flowers blog. I notice that this Sufficiency blog now has a backup larger than 4M so I think I will blog elsewhere. Look for me at the links and please do update your aggretors and stay in touch. Just look at all the grammatical letters here: 8 of 14, > 50%. Can you read this verse?
כַּרְמִי שֶׁלִּי לֹא נָטָרְתִּי

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