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Which part of Hebrew or textual grammar tells the reader to add to the verb in question the word "habitually"?

For example, Exodus 21:36 (Parashat Bo), Chabad translates the verb in question as

"[habitually] goring",

whereas Mechon-Mamre,

"wont to gore"?

I came across this, because it was quoted by Rashi in this week's Parasha, Behar-Bechukotai, namely Leviticus 26:41

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  • Rashi is 26:41, no? או אז יכנע: כמו (שמות כא לו) או נודע כי שור נגח הוא, אם אז יכנע. לשון אחר אולי שמא אז יכנע לבבם וגו': That's Bechukosai. (I know, it's a double this week.) – Shalom May 4 at 10:01
  • @Shalom, ok. corrected. – ninamag May 4 at 12:09
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Great question!

It's not just the "from yesterday"; it's the conjugation on the word "goring", looking very, very carefully at the vowels:

נַגָּח

That's a patach (straight line) under the first letter, and a kamatz (little "T") under the second, with the second letter getting an internal dot. Let's call it na-GUHCH.

The much more common conjugation, "nuh-GACH" is to reverse those vowels and omit the dot inside the 2nd letter, which gives you the simple, third-person past tense, which is the simplest form of most vowel roots in Hebrew. ("Gored.")

The form used here, however, refers to a profession. "Melach" is salt, and a ma-LUHCH is a sailor. Ta-BUHCH is a butcher ("tuh-VACH" means "butchered"); chayil is an army, and cha-YUHL is a soldier. (You've certainly heard it in Modern Hebrew, but it's also in Ecclesiastes; Numbers uses "the army men" [anshei hatzava], a term the Chafetz Chaim used in his work for Jews drafted in the Czar's army ... but chayuhl is shorter.)

(There's a famous comment in Rashi about a king chatting up the "camel drivers and donkey drivers" -- use this same vowel construction and you realize it's the profession; not "I chatted up the camels and donkeys.")

As I'm not aware of a full-time profession goring per se (okay, maybe bulls used in bullfighting), the Torah is cleverly using this construction here for "a habitual gorer."

Per request of other such nouns-derived-from-verbs in Tanach: I attempted to script it. Easy way to weed out the false positives was just look for this pattern in the masculine plural. Here's a few, in descending order of biblical frequency:

טַבָּחִים (butchers/executioners)

גַּנָּבִים (thieves)

כַּוָּנִים

לַעַזָּתִים (?)

הַקַּלָּעִים (sling-shooters)

וְהָחַמָּנִים (sun-gods)

הַדַּיָּגִים (fishermen)

צַיָּדִים (hunters/trappers)

הַגַּלָּבִים

וּבַטָּחִים

וְגַמָּדִים

דַּוָּגִים

הָרַמָּכִים (breeding stock, most likely)

הָרַקָּחִים (perfumers)

For those playing along at home, if you don't want to put Hebrew into your code, turn everything into hex vals.

    # patach something dagesh kamatz something chirik yud mem-sofit 

re.match('.*0x5b7 0x.{3} 0x5bc 0x5b8 0x.{3} 0x5b4 0x5d9 0x5dd.*', hex_vals)

Woops, this doesn't get you the soldiers in Koheles 10:10. וַחֲיָלִים, יְגַבֵּר Exercise for the reader!

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  • can you give other similar examples and sourced to a TaNaCH passage, so I can look it up. Thanks. Great Answer! I know you gave other examples, but I do not know how to look these up. – ninamag May 4 at 12:10
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    @ninamag גנב a thief exodus 22 – Double AA May 4 at 13:20
  • @DoubleAA in your example, both the first and second letter has an internal dot, גַּנָּב (does this matter)? – ninamag May 4 at 13:29
  • @ninamag The first dot is because בגדכפת at the beginning of a word always gets a dot (called dagesh lene or dagesh kal). It does not matter for this purpose. No different than how you sometimes have בִנְיָמִן vs בִּנְיָמִן – Double AA May 4 at 13:33
  • @Shalom Where can one find a comprehensive list of such verbs in the Tanakh, namely verbs with "a patach ... under the first letter, and a kamatz ... under the second, with the second letter getting an internal dot"? – ninamag May 6 at 11:51

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