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In Parashat Bechukotai, the word קרי comes up often to describe intransigence. What is this word? Is it ever still used?

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    Haim, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for the interesting question! If you haven’t done so already, you should take a look at the tour. Please consider registering your account, to enable more site features, including voting. I hope you find more Q&A of interest and stay learning with us! – mbloch May 30 '16 at 18:07
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    Can you clarify what you mean by "What is this word?" so people can better answer you? Clearly you don't need identification of the word, since you've already identified it as קרי. – msh210 May 30 '16 at 19:16
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    When you ask "Is it ever still used?" do you mean in modern Hebrew? What "still" are you referring to? – Rish May 30 '16 at 19:45
  • If you like an answer, consider marking it correct. If not, consider clarifying what additional information you would like. – mevaqesh Jan 5 '18 at 6:31
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The word קרי appears only seven times in tanach*, and all of them are here in this section, (according to the Mesorah Ketana,) so there's some dispute about exactly what this word means and what its root is.

*I'm including the word בקרי, also only found here, in this count.

I've seen the following explanations:

Happenstance (1)

The ספרא, as brought by Rashi, defines it as ‏**עראי (the opposite of קבוע, fixed). (The implication of the ספרא, according to Rashi, Rashbam and others, is that the word is related to מקרה, happenstance, "ולא תדיר, כאדם שאינו הולך תדיר אצל בוראו" "And not consistent, as a man who does not walk consistently with his creator.")

**spelled עריי in the ספרא itself, but עראי as brought by Rashi.

Happenstance (2)

Rambam, citing the phrase והלכתם עמי, בקרי. והלכתי עימכם, בחמת קרי at the beginning of הלכות תענייות, also treats the word as meaning happenstance, but specifically explains that the phrase והלכתם עמי בקרי is what happens when G-d sends troubles so that people will repent, and instead of doing so, they treat it as happenstance, and so G-d responds with greater troubles - "I will walk with you בחמת קרי." Radak, in his Sefer haShorashim, translates word and phrase the same way. ("If you say that the suffering I bring upon you is happenstance and do not repent for your sins..." - applying the word קרי to our response to events in our lives, rather than service of G-d.) This interpretation appears in other commentaries as well.

Rebelliousness

Saadiah Gaon (in the backtranslation of his Arabic translation of the Torah found in the תורת חיים edition of the chumash) translates קרי as מריכם - rebelliousness. The linguist Yonah ibn Janach, who considers it part of the קרה root, also says ענינו קשי ערף ומרי - it refers to stubbornness and rebellion.

Resistance

The early linguist Menachem ben Saruk, as brought by Rashi, explains it as ענין מניעה - resistance. (He treats it as one definition of the two-letter root "קר".)

Targum Onkeles (also brought by Rashi) translates קרי as קשוי, hardness. Rashi explains this as also referring to resistance - hardening one's heart to resist becoming close to G-d.

Coldness

Rav Moshe Shternbuch suggests that may also be לשון קרירות: coldness - that is, serving G-d without feeling and without hiddur ("beautifying" the mitzvot).

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    +1 Excellent answer. I'll just add that coldness and resistance could be the same linguistic situation. – Double AA Jun 1 '16 at 2:03
  • @DoubleAA Since Rish includes my source in his (far more thorough) answer, would it be more proper to fold my answer into his? – Lee Jun 5 '16 at 17:54
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RaSh"I on Wayiqra 26:21 states:

ואם תלכו עמי קרי: רבותינו אמרו עראי, במקרה ...

And if you treat me as happenstance: Heb. קֶרִי. Our Rabbis said that [this word means] temporary, by chance (מִקְרֶה)

  • See a similar usage of the word מִקְרֶה in Devarim (Deut.) 23:11. Has the same definition, and I think that verse is a good example. – DanF May 30 '16 at 21:48
  • @DanF No, that is מִקְּרֵה with a Dagesh in the ק. – Double AA May 31 '16 at 2:53
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    @haim I've heard this explained as if we treat things happening in the world as happenstance and not attributed to God, then he will let things actually happen by happenstance, which often ends badly. – andrewmh20 May 31 '16 at 4:40
  • @andrewmh20 Rabbe'inu Baḥya says this in the introduction to Sha'ar HaBitaḥon: "[...] If one does not place his trust in G-d, he will place his trust in something else, and whoever trusts in something other than G-d, the Al-mighty will remove His providence from such a person, and leave him in the hands of the one he trusted [...]." – Lee May 31 '16 at 6:49

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