עַל־מְנָת שֶׁ־

Discussion in 'עברית (Hebrew)' started by InfatigableLearner, Sep 14, 2012.

  1. InfatigableLearner

    InfatigableLearner Member

    Hello everyone,

    I have two questions regarding the expression עַל־מְנָת שֶׁ־ (al menat she-). The first of these is whether the noun מְנָת (menat) itself is to be seen as an absolute or a construct in this expression. I know the origin of מְנָת is from מָנָה (manah; “portion”) whose construct form according to Even-Shoshen is מְנַת (menat) with a patach, but which always appears with a kamatz gadol in the Tanakh (cf. 2Ch 31:4; Psa 11:6; 16:5; 63:11; Jer 13:25). I also know that the expression עַל־מְנָת שֶׁ־ derives from Mishnaic Hebrew. Accordingly, Even-Shoshen has an entry for מְנָת which explains that it is “a Mishnaic form of מָנָה.” It is in this entry that one finds an explanation of the expression עַל־מְנָת and within this entry מְנָת is shown to be the vocalization for both the absolute and construct. Thus since the vocalization is the same for both and because the noun’s appearance before שֶׁ does not ensure that it is an absolute, compare for example כְּדֵי שֶׁ־ (kedei she-), I am left wondering how to parse the noun in this expression.

    My other question concerns the usage of this expression. Even-Shoshan states that the meaning is בִּתְנַאי־, כְּדֵי (“on condition, in order to”) and highlights this meaning with the following examples (translations adapted from Jacob Neusner’s translation of the Mishnah):

    לֹא יִשְׂכֹּר אָדָם אֶת הַפּוֹעֵל עַל־מְנָת שֶׁיִּלְקֹט בְּנוֹ אַחֲרָיו
    “A man may not hire a worker on condition that his son collect behind him.” (Mishnah, Peah 5:6)

    הַלּוֹמֵד עַל־מְנָת לְלַמֵּד, מַסְפִּיקִין בְּיָדוֹ לִלְמֹד וּלְלַמֵּד
    “He who learns so as to teach—they give him a chance to learn and to teach.” (Mishnah, Abot 4:5)

    My interest more directly concerns the meaning “on condition that” whose example here points to a hypothetical or unrealized condition. My question is, does the usage of the expression עַל־מְנָת שֶׁ־ permit one to use it within a sentence where a condition has been actually met? Basically what I am asking is, could this expression ever be used to convey the sense of the English “given that” or “based on the fact” while still remaining good Hebrew? My impression is that it cannot, but I just wanted to run it past others here to either validate or invalidate my feeling on this.

  2. origumi Senior Member

    Regarding the second question:

    In modern Hebrew על מנת is practically in order to, כדי.

    In Mishnaic and Gemaraic times it may denotes in order to, yet as a technical term the meaning is on condition. על מנת condition can refer to something that has already happened - see many examples in Bavli Kidushin 49:2. It can also refer to a condition that must be met immediately, or to the future. על מנת is a specific variant of on condition (well, this is under dispute): for אם one must specify what should happen if the condition is met and what should happen if the condition is not met. For על מנת it's enough to specify the positive result. This is, however, more a matter of legal terminology than language.


    על מנת is not a synonym of כדי: http://www.safa-ivrit.org/milon/ע"מ
    אם requires dual condition, על מנת does not: http://www.ybm.org.il/hebrew/LessonArticle.aspx?item=3371
    על מנת is Aramaic for in purpose and on condition to get a portion: http://hadarperry.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/על-מנת
  3. origumi Senior Member

    Also: try to obtain the AJS Review, January – March 2011 which includes:

    Moshe Azar: Al-menat in Mishnaic Hebrew: A Syntactic and Semantic-Pragmatic Examination


    And maybe also Berachyahu Lifshitz, Asmachta, Jerusalem 1988, pp. 162-169.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2012
  4. InfatigableLearner

    InfatigableLearner Member


    Thank you for the excellent articles and reference, I will definitely look into getting that article from AJS Review and work on translating those sites to better understand this expression. The reference you gave to Bavli, Kiddushin 49:2 would indeed appear to show that עַל מְנָת “refer(s) to something that has already happened” as you say, but I’m not quite sure if this is exactly what I had in mind although it certainly seems to. To illustrate what I had in mind, consider the following made up sentences (sorry if the Hebrew is poor, hopefully the English will help):

    הוּא יְקַבֵּל אֶת הַתַּפְקִיד עַל מְנָת שֶׁהוּא הַמּוֹעֳמָד הַטּוֹב בְּיוֹתֵר
    “He will get the job provided that he is the best candidate”

    הוּא קִבֵּל אֶת הַתַּפְקִיד בְּקַלּוּת עַל מְנָת שֶׁהוּא הָיָה הַמּוֹעֳמָד הַטּוֹב בְּיוֹתֵר
    “He got the job easily given that he was the best candidate”

    In the former עַל מְנָת is the equivalent of בִּתְנַאי, while in the latter it moves toward to the domain of “because” or “since” (but not exactly equated). The first nuance is not in doubt, while it is the possible nuance seen in the second example which I have thought might be questionable. Now in the Mishnah at Kiddushin 2:2, the focus of the discussion for Bavli, Kiddushin 49:2, I see the examples הִתְקַדְּשִׁי לִי עַל מְנָת שֶׁאֲנִי עָשִׁיר (“Be betrothed to me on condition that I am rich”), etc. Here a suitor is presented as holding out a condition which is actually said to exist for him that should form the basis of his acceptability to her. Thus I think עַל מְנָת might indeed reasonably be translated and understood as “Be betrothed to me given that I am rich” which would seem to show my doubt for such usage is unwarranted. Would shifting this sentence around slightly to read הִיא הִתְקַדְּשָׁה לוֹ עַל מְנָת שֶׁהוּא עָשִׁיר (“she was betrothed to him given that he is rich”) more in line with the second created example above still yield an acceptable sentence?

  5. origumi Senior Member

    Professor Moshe Azar of the Haifa University was kind enough to show me a version of his article 'על מנת' בלשון חז"ל: בחינה תחבירית וסמנטית-פרגמטית. This article is motivated by an earlier article by Professor Shim`on Sharvit of the Bar-Ilan University, גיזרונו של הצירוף 'על מנת'. The article focuses on the semantics of על מנת and not on the basic syntactical structure and development. Therefore, for example, the question whether מנת is a construct state gets no answer.

    Prof. Azar says it explicitly: על מנת משמשת תמיד להורות על העתיד לבוא = al menat is used always to indicate what is about to happen in the future (the translation to English is by me). I guess that this answers the question about past or complete condition. The context is a rare exampe of verb in paste tense that followes על מנת, in: אמ' ר' הושעיא: הדא דתימ' על מנת שקנו שלא לחלוק, אבל אם קנו על מנת לחלוק, אוף ר' מודה לרבן שמעון בן גמליאל שזה חלק מגיע לו משעה ראשונה (Yerushalmi, Demai, 6:8). BTW, in my Gemara the text is different, but I am sure that Prof. Azar holds a scientific edition much more accurate than mine.
  6. origumi Senior Member

    Professor Azar has passed away few weeks ago. May he rest in peace.

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