The use of letters ב,כ,ל,מ is pretty standard with verb infinitives in Hebrew, for example, לראות אותו, בראותו, מראותו, כראותו.

What is the difference in using בכל"מ with the word פני? For example why the Torah says "מפני שיבה תקום" (Vayikra 19,23) and not "לפני שיבה תקום"?

(I know that מפני is used a "because of" but I am interested in the meaning as "before").

  • 1
    A מ means “from.” מפני שיבה תקום thus means “from before an elder you should stand.” Sticking a ל there just doesn’t work.
    – DonielF
    Aug 12, 2018 at 20:56
  • 1
    @DonielF Just as מ means from, ל means to, so לפני would be "toward before", and that's more suitable in לפני שיבה תקום. On the other hand, מפני is suitable when one goes away as Moses exited from before Par'oh
    – Al Berko
    Aug 13, 2018 at 11:12
  • @DonielF Al isn't incorrect, actually. See e.g. Shemot 9:10 and 9:11. In both places where לפני is used, it means "in front of" or "before". So, in his example, לפני שיבה תקום it could also mean "before". If anything, ל means "to" or "for" whereas מ means "(away) from".
    – DanF
    Aug 13, 2018 at 18:35
  • @DanF Maybe that gives you an insight into the mitzvah - stand before them to run away. :) As opposed to והדרת זקן
    – DonielF
    Aug 13, 2018 at 18:38
  • I'm unaware of many instances of כפני . I think there may be one instance in parshat Vayishlach, but I think it's a rare occurrence. Can you provide some examples?
    – DanF
    Aug 14, 2018 at 14:12

1 Answer 1


Partial answer for now. I'll address what seems to be your main focus.

Viewing Targum on Shemot 9:11 which has both words לפני and מפני

לפני is translated by Targum as קדם which could "generally" translate as "in front of" (either positionally, as when people stand in a line), or "before" (which could also be positionally as when one event occurs "before" another), or "before" meaning "in the presence of", which is what I believe is the best translation in Shemot 9:11.

מפני is translated as מן קדם meaning "from the presence of". The term מן could mean either "away" (which is what "from" could mean) or "because of". So, in Shemot 9:11 it means that the magicians couldn't stand in the presence of Moshe because of the boils.

Likewise, in the verse you cited, it means, because of שיבה (I'm uncertain how to best translate this word), you should stand.

  • Nice move, I also thought to translate it "because of שיבה" but I didn't find anybody explicitly saying so, also how this interpretation aligns with the Gemmorah in Kiddushin that discusses the issue?
    – Al Berko
    Aug 14, 2018 at 14:17
  • Al, you may want to edit in the Gemarrah in Kiddushin if you feel this is relevant. Also, your question appears divergent. The title and part of the body begins with an interest in the different prefixes. The end, and your last comment seems to focus more on just two of the prefixes with a specific emphasis on one verse. I think you may want to focus on just these two in this question, which is what I've answered, and separate the rest into a different question.
    – DanF
    Aug 14, 2018 at 14:20
  • The RaDaK points out in Parshat Noach (Bereshit 7:7) : ויבוא נח וגו' שבעה ימים נכנס קודם בא המבול זהו. מפני מי המבול ונכנס קודם שיבאו. ולא ידענו טעם לדברי האומר בדרש (ב"ר ל"ב) שאף נח היה מקטני אמנה, שהרי הכתוב מעיד עליו שהיה צדיק תמים ועשה ככל אשר צוהו ה':
    – Eli83
    Nov 12, 2018 at 19:58

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