A Special Conversation with Rabbi Michoel Green (קץ + צף = קצף)

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    This special conversation between myself (JS) and Rabbi Michoel Green (RMG) centers around one of our most controversial essays about the shoresh קצף (see it in
    Hebrew or in English)

    RMG: Are you proposing that קצף is a compound of קץ AND צף? In other words, קץ as in קץ שם לחושך, that there is a limit to the anger (i.e. it will be short-lived), AND the צץ meaning to well up or bubble to surface etc? It wasn’t clear if that was your intention, but you seemed to have alluded to it at the end of your essay.

    JS: I think it is logical, although that was not my intention there, just a quick kind of closing tefillah. There definitely is a phenomenon of compound roots, and I even have a sub-commentary section in the upcoming (IYH!) ילקוט השרשים encyclopedia dedicated to the topic (although not fully developed to date). That said, as of now, I am focusing mainly on the (IMHO) more dominant biliteral subroot of the triliteral roots, and as you can see, fully treating (although in truth these articles just scratch the surface) one of those can easily fill a six-page article, and תפסת מרובה לא תפסת. My hope is once the gamut (or at least most) of these are treated, the jump to double roots will be relatively straight-forward, requiring just a look back at the conclusions on the biliterals and testing whether the combination fits consistently. That last word is key, because bringing two or three anecdotal examples and ignoring dozens of others proves nothing and IMHO can do more damage than good.

    RMG: To me, the “קץ” of קצף sounds like reaching the end of one’s patience, being at one’s “wits ends,” i.e. being fed up, not just in detaching from the object of one’s wrath (like the Ksav vhakabalah & RSRH proposed). Or maybe even in the sense of being disgusted (as in ויקוצו מפני בנ”י or ויקץ מואב מפני העם)? Can it be that קצף is a compound of קץ in that sense, and also of צף, as you explained?

    JS: Not sure there’s a contradiction, because separation is an end of sorts. But again, that’s not my primary focus here. I do have material on קץ and the related קט, and Sir Isaac Mozeson has put out some very interesting and convincing entries on these words and their apparent cognates, but again, it’s a tangent I didn’t want to get into in this article.

    RMG: Even if שצף means שטף, doesn’t טף also mean floating or rising to surface? I recall you wrote on this topic some time back about טוטפות, if I recall correctly.

    JS: Right, but the word שטף itself has a more forceful import, implying not floating, which can often mean peaceful, care-free sailing, but vigorous inundation, by which even objects never intended to float are made to do so.

    RMG: Regarding your comment about קצף frequently being written with preposition על identifying the person(s) who caused the anger, of course exceptions come to mind, like ויקצף המלך מאד (that you cited), and כי יצא הקצף מלפני ה’, but your point is still well taken. Do you think that might be why ויקצוף is “efol,” transitive, while ותרגז בטני (for example) is “efal,” intransitive?

    JS: That’s why I only included it parenthetically (in the Hebrew version; I think I omitted it in English), and stresses that it wasn’t 100% consistent. Not sure about the final point.

    RMG: Regarding צפר and צפירה morning light, I recall that you once explained that צפ might denote rising in that case too, as in rising of light.

    JS: Don’t recall that offhand, but it would fit. Although bear in mind that every word in Hebrew and Aramaic for “rising” also has a secondary meaning of disappearing. So many explain עלה השחר as describing not the rising sun or light, but on the contrary, the “rising”, disappearing darkness, as in שחור from the root שחר. This seems to be implied by e.g. the Targum Yerushalmi’s rendering of the phrase in Gen. 32:27: סליק עמוד שחרא.

    RMG: I’m interested in understanding whether you see any symbolism in the fact that קצף is associated with unauthorized entry of זרים into holy place, as in Rashi on ולא יהי’ קצף על עדת בנ”י (Num 1:53) “אם תעשו כמצותי לא יהי’ קצף ואם לאו שיכנסו זרים בעבודתם זו יהיה קצף כמו שמצינו במעשה קרח כי יצא הקצף וגו’ etc., and how this might relate to your thesis here about קצף being short-lived, or rage that bubbles to surface, etc.

    JS: Interesting, but again IMHO would require more study to see if there’s a consistent motif.

    BTW, I must say that my legal team had some concerns about answering your questions, but I can now reassure the many other members of this group who fear your perjury traps that the rumors of your nefarious intentions are greatly exaggerated.

    Yehoshua (Jeremy) Steinberg

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