To continue the topic of "genders in Hebrew" I stumbled upon Torah Temima's commentary on the Posuk "דרך ילכו בה" and his citation of Ben Ezra:

"את הדרך ילכו בה.
[מכאן דדרך לשון נקבה] כטמדלא כתיב ילכו בו ...
והנה כלל זה בכלל מסכים עם הנחת הראב"ע דכל דבר שאין בו רוח חיים זכרהו ונקבהו, כלומר אפשר לכתבו בלשון זכר ובלשון נקבה, אך לפלא שכל המדקדקים לא זכרו כלל זה דהגמרא כי באופן כזה הולכין אחר הענין שעליו מוסב שורש זה כמבואר, והוא מסתבר מאד."

[My translation] ... this is consistent with Ben Ezra's assumption that inanimate objects can be assigned any gender.

This is very new to me, I googled a bit and saw that many cite RaB"A with that rule (here for example).

As I understand, this assumption completely contradicts the Gemmorah's long discussion in Kiddushin (2,2) about the gender of דרך - If the assumption was true there was no discussion at all.

Can somebody clarify on this rule?

  • The Gemara could embrace the Ibn Ezra's grammatical rule, but still discuss which gender is assigned by default to the word "derech". Admittedly, the word could be rendered masculine or feminine, but which is the default gender? This makes a difference in interpretation, because whenever the word diverts from its default gender, there will be a reason for it that affects the interpretation. SR Hirsch, for one, commonly interprets such diversions from the default gender of a word.
    – shmu
    Jan 27, 2019 at 7:42
  • @shim if I understand the rule right, there's no default gender at all. It's totally arbitrary. Hence the discussion is seemingly pointless.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 27, 2019 at 8:19
  • 1
    This seems to be contrary to Kiddushin 2b-3a, FWIW. Yes, I know that Gemara probably came from the Savoraim, not the Amoraim, but it’s still earlier than Ben Ezra.
    – DonielF
    Jan 27, 2019 at 18:17


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