The Hebrew word for the act performed at a circumcision is "לימול". The root appears to be נ.מ.ל. Following the exceptional rules for roots whose first letter is נ, the causative participle and nominative should be "ממיל" (with the second מ דגושה). Why then is the universal word for one who performs the act of circumcision "מוהל" as if the root is י.ה.ל (e.g.), which can't possibly be the case?

  • Not as if the root were י־ה־ל: then it'd be mohil, not mohel, right? It's as if the root were מ־ה־ל (kal present). – msh210 May 18 '11 at 16:30
  • Note that the verb many times in l'shon Chazal acts as מ־ו־ל kal, as in the infinitive lamul (in the b'racha), the past mal (in "mal v'lo fara k'ilu lo mal"). I assume that in fact it is מ־ו־ל kal in l'shon Chazal. That doesn't help answer your question, though, AFAICT. – msh210 May 18 '11 at 16:30
  • As soandos points out, מ־ו־ל kal is found in Tanach also. That still doesn't help answer your question, though, AFAICT. – msh210 May 18 '11 at 16:50
  • @msh210 - The י.ה.ל hypothesis is not perfect and kal is more simple an explanation than hif'il, which necessitates mysteriously dropping the מ, but (a) some imperfects in hif'il have a tzere rather than a chirik (such as the jussive) and (b) in the source parasha there are several instances of the hif'il to describe what Avraham did. As you mention, it is quite problematic no matter which way you slice it and I probably should have just left Occam's Razor alone. – WAF May 18 '11 at 17:45
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    The past-tense form at judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/7637 seems to imply it's מ־ה־ל kal. – msh210 May 18 '11 at 19:54

The root is מול, sometimes considered a biliteral root, מל. Compare קם.

There are cases in the Semitic languages where a full consonant appears in the middle of such roots to "fill them out" to the usual triliteral form. Compare Aramaic רהט "run" (Hebrew רץ).

  • I like where this is going. Are there examples in Biblical Hebrew? Is מ.ל then the same root as נ.מ.ל? – WAF May 18 '11 at 17:53
  • נמל simply reflects the nif'al. This is not common in פ"ו roots like קם, since most of these are intransitive. – Joshua Fox May 18 '11 at 18:17
  • Sam is transitive; is nisam (?) attested? – msh210 May 18 '11 at 19:55
  • ...likewise ban. Nivon? – msh210 May 18 '11 at 19:58
  • How do you translate "himol yimol"? – WAF May 18 '11 at 20:08

The Talmud Yerushalmi in Mesechta Yevamos דף מג,ב פרק ח הלכה א uses the word as follows כההיא דאמר רבי הילא בשם רבי יסא הלוקח עבדים ערלים מן הגוי על מנת למוהלן. I guess that is the source of the ה

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    Are you suggesting that this Gemara added in a Hey for some reason, and everyone else is just for some reason referencing the Gemara when they speak, even though it isn't proper grammar? – Double AA Jan 22 '13 at 18:45

I believe you have the wrong root: http://ericlevy.com/Revel/BDB/BDB/14/num108.html#t59 what נ.מ.ל gives. For the root see: http://ericlevy.com/Revel/BDB/BDB/13/mem32.html#t18

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    No, נ־מ־ל is the correct root, per Rashi and ibn Ezra to B'reshis 17:11. – msh210 May 18 '11 at 16:27
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    Had you looked down the page, it makes mention of "Aramaic מְהַל" which is where I believe the "he" comes from. With regards to the shoresh of the word, I can just tell you what I found, and it makes sense. – soandos May 18 '11 at 16:29
  • @WAF @msh210 you are assuming that mohel is or Hebrew origin, and that it shares the same shoresh as לימול. That is not necessarily the case. – soandos May 18 '11 at 17:07
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    Granted. Please elaborate here. – WAF May 18 '11 at 17:50
  • This midrash is a pretty Hebrew source. Is there reason to believe it is either not the earliest? – WAF May 18 '11 at 20:29

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