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Going through this week's Parsha (Vayetze), I came across these specific verses and was confused about why the ה is attached to חָרָן. Does anyone know why and are there any references for such? Todah Rabbah.

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3 Answers 3

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The Talmud (Yevamot 13b) states:

ובית הלל כיון דכתיב חוצה כמאן דכתיב לחוץ דמי דתניא ר׳ נחמיה אומר כל תיבה שצריכה למ״ד בתחלתה הטיל לה הכתוב ה״א בסופה ותנא דבי ר׳ ישמעאל כגון אלים אלימה מחנים מחנימה מצרים מצרימה דבלתימה ירושלימה מדברה

And Beth Hillel? — Since the expression used was huzah it is just the same as if la-huz had been written; as it was taught: R. Nehemiah said, ‘In the case of every word which requires a ‘lamed’ at the beginning Scripture has placed a ‘he’ at the end; and at the School of R. Ishmael the following examples were given: Elim, Elimah; Mahanayim, Mahanayimah; Mizrayim, Mizraimah; Dibelathaimah; Yerushalaimah; midbarah.

(Soncino translation)

Thus “Charanah” חרנה is the equivalent of “lecharan” לחרן, meaning “to Charan”.

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    Does this answer why it's spelled this way in these instances? This just explains the grammar is good.
    – robev
    Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 4:59
  • @robev i believe it does actually sound better grammatically
    – larry909
    Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 10:03
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    @larry909 what do you mean sounds better? Rolls off the tongue?
    – robev
    Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 10:39
  • I agree with @robev. It doesn't answer the question.
    – יהודה
    Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 0:58
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It is a common suffix known in Biblical Hebrew as the 'locative hei' or the 'directional hei' in that by placing it at the end of the said place/location it transforms the meaning to "to that place". So חרנה means "to Charan" i.e. that he went towards Charan.

It works with common nouns, proper nouns and directional adverbs.

So for example:

Common Nouns - ההר (mountain) becomes הָהָ֑רָה (see Devarim 10:1), ארץ (ground / earth) becomes אָֽרְצָה (see Shmuel II 14:11)

Proper Nouns - מצרים (Egypt) becomes מִצְרַ֔יְמָה (see Bereishis 41:57), בבל (Babylonia) becomes בָּבֶֽלָה (see Yirmiyahu 29:20)

Directional Adverbs - שם (there) becomes שָֽׁמָּה (see Bereishis 24:8) צפון (north) becomes צָפֹ֥נָה (see Bereishis 13:14) - the other directions are mentioned there in the pasuk.

As far as scriptural support alluding to this grammatical rule, it is worth noting the pasuk in Bereishis 14:10 where it writes:

וְעֵ֣מֶק הַשִׂדִּ֗ים בֶּֽאֱרֹ֤ת בֶּאֱרֹת֙ חֵמָ֔ר וַיָּנֻ֛סוּ מֶֽלֶךְ־סְדֹ֥ם וַעֲמֹרָ֖ה וַיִּפְּלוּ־שָׁ֑מָּה וְהַנִּשְׁאָרִ֖ים הֶ֥רָה נָּֽסוּ׃

Now the Valley of Siddim was dotted with bitumen pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, in their flight, threw themselves into them, while the rest escaped to the hill country. (Sefaria translation)

Rashi over there writes as follows:

הרה נסו means THEY FLED TO A MOUNTAIN. The word הרה is the same as לְהַר. When a word requires a ל as a prefix one may put instead a ה as a suffix...

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Alex's answer above explains how such a word usage is allowed to be used in this instance. But why would it be used in this instance?

As rashi and sifsei chachamin state in 28:10, he was going towards Charan, not to Charan. He stopped for 14 years to study by the school of Shem and Evar and only then actually went to Charan. The point being, that he is on a Journey, with the end destination being Charon. As opposed to going directly to Charan. Possibly similar in style and usage to the word קדימה: Going forward, or eastward.

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    What's the difference in English between to and towards? How do you know חרנה is towards and לחרן is to, and connotes the same difference in biblical Hebrew as you assume exists in English? A source for your assertions would make this a complete answer.
    – robev
    Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 10:38
  • @robev i edited the answer. (Did you see the sources i quoted? To me it seems that this is what they are trying to say.)
    – larry909
    Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 11:59
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    What does the suffix have to do with not arriving at the destination? When it says ויבאו אלימה had they not arrived yet? Where did rivkah stop on the way when yitzchak took her האהלה שרה אמו?
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 12:00
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    You haven't shown that one grammatical usage is more suitable for one syntactical usage.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 24, 2020 at 13:15
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    Even if that's true it's not up to you or me to decide what it means.
    – robev
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 5:59

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