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הָרַחֲמָן הוּא יְבָרֵךְ אֶת בַּעַל הַבַּיִת הַזֶּה וְאֶת בַּעֲלַת הַבַּיִת הַזֶּה. אוֹתָם וְאֶת בֵּיתָם וְאֶת זַרְעָם וְאֶת כָּל אֲשֶׁר לָהֶם.

The word otam in this harachaman seems superfluous. Does it have a meaning separate from "et ba'al habayit hazeh ve'et ba'alat habayit hazeh" or is it just there because it sounds nice?

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    I vote for "it sounds really nice"
    – avi
    Feb 1, 2012 at 21:05

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+50

I would guess that it’s grammatically necessary so that “וְאֶת בֵּיתָם וְאֶת זַרְעָם וְאֶת …” attached to the host & hostess rather than to their “בית”. The phrase would not be ambiguous without the “אותם” (The Muppets’ talking houses notwithstanding ☺) but it would be grammatically incorrect.

Edit: In this post’s comments, Alex suggests a different possible grammatical issue. I’m far from skilled enough in dikduk to guess which (if either) is correct, but my suggestion remains the same: “אותם” is grammatically necessary even though there is no semantic confusion possible.

(There are plenty of examples of this in English; e.g., the meaning of “I no like!” is perfectly clear even though it’s grammatically incorrect.)

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  • Bayit is singular feminine and Zar'am is plural. I don't see how it would be unclear. Maybe if you were blessing only a Ba'alat HaBayit.
    – Double AA
    Feb 2, 2012 at 17:27
  • @DoubleAA, see my edits. (The meaning of what I wrote is the same as before; I’ve just made myself clearer.) Feb 2, 2012 at 17:43
  • Still not convinced (but FWIW I wasn't the one who downvoted).
    – Double AA
    Feb 2, 2012 at 17:45
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    @DoubleAA, I was thinking along somewhat the same lines as J.C., but that maybe the problem is not so much that you might think ביתם to be referring back to הבית הזה, but to בעלת - i.e., that it might be misparsed as "the mistress of this house, [as well of] their houses, their children..." (Incidentally, בית is masculine, despite the tav at the end - hence הבית הזה, not הזאת.)
    – Alex
    Feb 2, 2012 at 19:30
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    @ Alex. I don't think that it could be misinterpreted as you suggested. You have turned "their children, houses, and all they own" into an extension of the prepositional phrase "of this house." But the word את tells you that they are direct objects (i.e. something is being done to them -- they are being blessed). Feb 2, 2012 at 21:01

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