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Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Computer is Still Down

Not really the posting I wanted to put up, but between my computer crashing and various other distractions, like making a living, I am unable to make a 'real' posting at this time. I had wanted to concentrate on the word וילן vayalen at the beginning of the second aliyah (B'reishit 32:14). The same root word is used in v.22. It is also found elsewhere in the Torah, significantly, I think, in Parshat Balak Bamidbar 22:8. Think about what the word means in these contexts and check your translations and we'll hopefully pick this up next week when I should be back online again!

Shabbat Shalom


  1. In the first verse you mention, Vayalen seems to translate as “and he lodged”.

    In v 22 Lan translates as “lodged”

    In Parshat Balak Bamidbar 22:8, the translation of Leenu Po is “lodge here”.

    Leena means lodging in my dictionary.

    I see no reference in the lexicon of the old testament.

    On a dubious note: This could be a prophetic reference to Lon Cheney or his son. It could be a reference to Tu Bishvat or, as it is known, Chag Ha i’LAN’im. It could refer to tribal use of sheep oil or LANolin. Otherwise, I am stumped.
    OK, So what?
    Why do you point out this word?

  2. Genesis 32:14
    He (Yaakov) spent (vayalen) the night there, and then he took, from that which had come in his hand, a tribute to Esau his brother.

    Genesis 32:22
    So the tribute passed on before him while he spent (lan) that night in the camp.

    Bamidbar 22:8
    He (Bilaam) said to them (messengers of Balak),"Spend the night here and I shall give you a response, as HaShem shall speak to me."

    Clearly the sense of L-N in all three verses is 'lodge', which English verb we understand to mean 'to reside temporarily'. But the English verb 'lodge' seems, according to Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, to derive ultimately from the Old High German word for "upper roof, porch, leafy arbor." The English word, then, refers to taking shelter. From the translations above, from the Stone Edition of the Chumash, one would think that 'spend' is the translation of 'L-N', as in each case a form of our phrase 'spend the night' is used. We get the idea that the Hebrew verb may not imply taking shelter, but merely spending time in one place.
    In all three psukim, something momentous is happening while the 'lodging' is taking place. In Genesis 32:14, Yaakov has just begged HaShem to rescue him from Esau. He 'spends the night' before taking from his possessions his offering ('tribute' in this translation) to Esau. We do not know if he slept, in fact, in view of Yaakov's state of mind, sleep seems unlikely. In any case, even if there was sleep involved, the sleep is not the point. Yaakov stayed in one place overnight in the middle of his plan to appease Esau, while expecting HaShem's aid. iF 'shelter' is involved, it is the shelter of the Shechina and not of a material 'lodge'.
    In Genesis 32:22, Yaakov 'spends (lan) that night in the camp' while his plan is unfolding. He apparently does not stay the entire night; rather:
    ...he got up that night and took his two wives, his two handmaids, and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.(Genesis 32:23)

    From both of the references above, I deduce 'l-n' to have as its base meaning simply 'to stay'. In these instances'stay' could refer to Yaakov's remaining in one place as well as experiencing a 'stay' (as a 'stay of exectution', a 'stay of judgment') in a very important action in which he hopes to enlist HaShem's aid.
    I believe this is borne out in the case of Bilaam, who asks a 'stay' of action from the messengers of Balak. Balak asks for this 'time out'in order to try to enlist HaShem's aid for his own profit. Clearly neither sheltering for the night nor sleeping are his main concern: he needs the time to appeal to HaShem.

    Sorry I don't have time to develop this more at the moment. Any responses to what I have worked out so far?

  3. Well, the common translation of 'lan' is 'lodge.' It would seem that lan implies specifically staying somewhere overnight. This usage was adopted later by Chazal (e.g. 'mayim shelanu' meaning water which stood overnight, to be used for making matzo).

    What strikes me about this word here is:

    1) Immediately after saying that Yaakov was 'lan', the verse goes on to describe how he prepared the grand gift (tribute, whatever) for Esav. It is not immediately clear what lodging is taking place with all this activity going on! I think Anendia hits on this when pointing out that it is not clear that Yaakov slept, which would be implied if he lodged there. We'll come back to that in a moment.

    The description of this preparation and the instructions he gave goes on for several verses and is then punctuated by the second appearance of the term 'lan' in v. 22. This leads me to my next question:

    2) Why is 'lan' repeated? That is, didn't we know from back in v. 14 that Yaakov was 'lan?'

    'Lan' is not a common word in the Torah which is one of the reasons it provoked my curiosity. It seems to have this implication of staying, perhaps even sleeping, overnight, as is indicated in the story with Bilaam.

    In our story, it is possible also that Yaakov did sleep, albeit probably not very long, as Anendia points out. After telling us in v. 22 that Yaakov was 'lan' that night, the very next verse tells us that Yaakov got up and took his wives, etc.

    It is possible that v. 14 is a kind of headline which indicates that Yaakov set up camp there with all of his people and belongings. Yaakov himself perhaps didn't 'lodge' or go to sleep until he finished preparing the gift. Once he did start to relax, though, he got up to rearrange the camp.

    Anendia's point that in these instances of 'linah,' big things are happening is well taken. Although the riff about 'stay' is interesting, I think that has more to do with the implications in English than in the Hebrew.