Toldot: Language and Translation

The lads grew up and Esau became one who knows hunting, a man of the field; but Jacob was a wholesome [tam**] man abiding in tents. Isaac loved Esau for game that was in his mouth; but Rebecca loved Jacob.

Jacob simmered a stew [va-yazed yaakov nazid], and Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. Esau said to Jacob, “Pour into me, now, some of that very red stuff [min-ha-adom ha-adom] for I am exhausted.” (He therefore called his name Edom.)
Breishit/Genesis 25:27-30, Stone,** [bracketed Hebrew added]

Once Yaakov was boiling boiled-stew,
when Esav came in from the field, and he was weary.
Esav said to Yaakov:
Pray give me a gulp of the red-stuff, that red-stuff,
for I am so weary!
Therefore they called his name: Edom/Red-One. — 25:29-30, Fox**

And Jacob prepared a stew and Esau came from the field, and he was famished. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me gulp down some of this red stuff, for I am famished.” Therefore is his name called Edom. — 25:29-30, Alter**

[One day,] when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the [hunting] field. He was famished, and he said to Jacob, “I’m famished; let me gulp down some of that red stuff!” (That is why he was named Edom). — 25:29-30, TWC,** [bracketed material in the Plaut/Stein]

“Boiling boiled-stew,” Fox says, “may connote plotting, as in our English ‘cook up,’ ‘brew,’ ‘concoct,’ or ‘stir up’ trouble. Other forms of the Hebrew denote ‘insolence’ or ‘intentional evil.'”

Alter comments: “…[the Torah] comes close to assigning substandard Hebrew to the rude Esau. The famished brother cannot even come up with the ordinary Hebrew word for ‘stew’ (nazid) and instead points to the bubbling pot impatiently as (literally) ‘this red red.’ The verb he uses for gulping down occurs nowhere else in the Bible, but in rabbinic Hebrew it is reserved for the feeding of animals.”

The Edom pun, he adds, “which forever associates crude impatient appetite with Israel’s perennial enemy, is on ‘adom-‘adom, ‘this red red stuff.'”

*Fox: “plain”; Alter: “simple,” with this note:

The Hebrew adjective tam suggests integrity or even innocence. In biblical idiom, the heart can be crooked (‘aqob, the same root as Jacob’s name –cf. Jeremiah 17:9), and the idiomatic antonym is pureness or innocence — tom–“of heart” (as in Genesis 20:5). There may well be a complicating irony in the use of this epithet for Jacob, since his behavior is very far from simple or innocent in the scene that is about to unfold.

**Please see Source Materials for citations and more information.

Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.

The “Opening the Book” series is presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group pursuing spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.

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