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The word למען appears frequently in Tanach and in prayers. When in prayers, it usually means "for the sake of". (e.g. עשה למען שמך). However, the meaning in Tanach is less clear:

לֹא תֹאכַל עָלָיו חָמֵץ שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל עָלָיו מַצּוֹת לֶחֶם עֹנִי כִּי בְחִפָּזוֹן יָצָאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לְמַעַן תִּזְכֹּר אֶת יוֹם צֵאתְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ (Devarim 16:3)

In this case it seems to mean "in order that" which is similar to the meaning used in prayers.

וְהָיָה בְּשָׁמְעוֹ אֶת דִּבְרֵי הָאָלָה הַזֹּאת וְהִתְבָּרֵךְ בִּלְבָבוֹ לֵאמֹר שָׁלוֹם יִהְיֶה לִּי כִּי בִּשְׁרִרוּת לִבִּי אֵלֵךְ לְמַעַן סְפוֹת הָרָוָה אֶת הַצְּמֵאָה (Devarim 29:19)

Here it makes little sense that he's ignoring the Tochacha "in order to" have his unintentional sins treated seriously (using Rashi's interpretation). Perhaps here it means "thereby" or "resulting in".

כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת בָּנָיו וְאֶת בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו וְשָׁמְרוּ דֶּרֶךְ ה' לַעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט לְמַעַן הָבִיא ה' עַל אַבְרָהָם אֵת אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר עָלָיו (Bereishit 18:19)

With regard to the first למען, Hashem knows Avraham, "thereby" or "in order that" Avraham will command his sons to be righteous? Neither alternative seems logical. Maybe here it means "because".

For the second למען, it might mean "therefore", similar to the usage in the verse in Devarim 16:3.

Thus, my question is: Does למען actually have a specific meaning? Or is it a multipurpose word, so that it can mean anything to fit the context?

  • Good question, but I take exception to your last example. Bereishit 18:19 is an enigmatic verse that the commentators struggle to make grammatical sense of. It is hard to question a single word in such a context. – LN6595 Mar 3 '15 at 22:01
2

It seems that all your definitions collude with the same single definition - "as a consequence / result of"

Let's see how this fits into each of your quoted verses:

  1. Don't eat chametz. As a result of that, you will remember...
  2. The result of someone saying "I will have peace" is that he will be satisfied (i.e. in this verse it is a not a result of not observing the mitzvoth, but a result of his saying that he will have peace, i.e., this is his thinking.)
  3. The first לְמַעַן seems superfluous because the same word appears at the end of the verse. Sforno commentary fills in the blanks by in a sense, connecting things to the previous verse where G-d states that Avraham shal lbecome a great nation... (continuing in this verse, is the reason why G-d is doing that) - "Because I know that as a result of (my making Avraham into a great nation), he will teach .... and as a result of his teaching his children....

    3A. The 2nd לְמַעַן means - As a result of teaching his children... G-d will bring unto Avraham what he has told him.

Yes, 3 and 3A, still seem a bit redundant even after explaining it this way, so, it still requires a bit more research...

  • I believe the issue in 3 is with the verse, not with your explanation. All the early commentators struggle with that verse, so it makes a poor exemplar for the meaning of לְמַעַן. – LN6595 Mar 8 '15 at 18:31

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