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The infinitive absolute is a conjugation classified generally by a qametz under the first consonant, and a holem or holem - vav by the second. According to the Cambridge Introduction to Biblical Hebrew:

"A slight majority of infinite absolutes occur with a finite verb of the same root. These are called paronomastic. This construction usually heightens the verb's mood, i.e., its degree of reality, expressing certainty of emphasizing non - real mood. It can often be translated with adverbs such as surely, certainly, or clearly.

שתו תשתו

"You surely ought to drink - Jer 25:28 "

By this, then, it seems that the infinitive absolute is not superflous in the way it is commonly used, because it is serving a specific function, and the meaning of any verse would be slightly different without it.

However, many times in Rabbinic Literature, it is often seen as a redundancy, and expositions are made from that assumption:

"The double expression, die, you shall die (מות תמות) implies: death for Adam and deat for Eve, and by extension death for Adam and death for his offspring" - Bereshit Rabbah 16:6

"The verse concludes: eat, you may eat (אכל תאכל). R' Yaakov if Kfar Chanin said: With the double expression God was saying: When does an animal become fit for consumption? Once it is slaughtered. God was thereby hinting to Adam regarding the prohibition against eating a limb from a torn animal." - Bereshit Rabbah 16:6

"Rather, you shall surely bury him. This indicates that the post must be buried alongside the convict, and the post must be something that lacks only burial." - Sanhedrin 46b

So, does Rabbinic Literature misunderstand the infinitive absolute, by seeing it as a redundancy, when it is in fact significant to the meaning of the verse, or am I misunderstanding something about their method of exegesis? Is there any other way to convey the idea of "certainty" in Hebrew that wouldn't be seen as redundant? Are they holding two explanations, one being the simple meaning of the verse, and then holding that the word also has a deeper meaning, etc.?

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    Instead of being a misunderstanding, perhaps it is the crux of the argument amongst the Rabbis whether to make a drasha based on these types of phrases. – user6591 Apr 18 '16 at 0:08
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    The point of what in English is surely is to show that there is something more to be learned. – sabbahillel Apr 18 '16 at 0:52
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    And why was this extra certainty needed in this particular spot? – Double AA Apr 18 '16 at 1:09
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    I feel that understanding is through the rabbis. To say that rabbis are misunderstanding is ridiculous because they vehicle the transmission of the Torah. If I understand better and know this, I can say that someone misunderstand. To understand drashot of the rabbis is one of the more difficult part of limud Gemara. More student can not make this – kouty Apr 18 '16 at 6:55
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    Please expain it to me how it the second word not redundant? And why is Cambridge's exegesis of the second word more correct (in your point of view) – hazoriz Apr 18 '16 at 15:48
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does Rabbinic Literature misunderstand the infinitive absolute, by seeing it as a redundancy...?

(I don't think it's possible to speak for all of rabbinic literature, but) I believe there is ample evidence of non failure to recognize a function of the infinitive absolute, if not the one described in the quotation. Take for example the string of extrapolations from infinitive absolutes in Baba M'tzi'a 31a/b (starting about half way down), e.g.

החזירה וברחה החזירה וברחה [וכו']: א"ל ההוא מדרבנן לרבא, "אימא 'השב' - חדא זמנא; 'תשיבם' - תרי זמני." א"ל "'השב' - אפי' ק' פעמים משמע; 'תשיבם' - אין לי '"אלא לביתו. לגינתו ולחורבתו מנין? ת"ל 'תשיבם

The infinitive is understood to not be bound by qualifications such as time and quantity - and thereby extend the obligation from a one-time occurrence to one that shall be repeated as necessary to get the job done. Rava's inference is internal to the infinitive itself and independent of the finite verb attending it. Indeed he is rebutting an anonymous person suspecting that appears to be treating the finite verb as a redundancy.

Is there any other way to convey the idea of "certainty" in Hebrew that wouldn't be seen as redundant?

Sure there are! There are particles of affirmation like "hinei" and (rarely) "ken", as well as question-like structures that have the same effect.

Are they holding two explanations, one being the simple meaning of the verse, and then holding that the word also has a deeper meaning, etc.?

On the next page of the g'mara above there may be a debate over this exact point when, for some of the p'sukim in question (and only those according to Maharsh"a), the rationale of "The Torah speaks like people do" is proposed to explain this pattern. This argument, which I believe is only partially resolved by the end of the g'mara, is akin to not demanding an explanation beyond "the simple meaning of the verse". It entails a recognition that this phrasing is just the way to express the idea of the pasuk, despite the presence of the infinitive.

This g'mara is but one snippet that contains several examples of infinitive absolutes being interpreted as they are. Is it possible that these or other tana'im, amora'im, etc. held of this pattern's ability to "heighten the verb's. . .degree of reality" like the quoted introductory text does? Perhaps. Were they broadly and fundamentally missing out on the meaning of infinitives? I do not believe so.

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