"Are you well?" in Mishnaic Hebrew
October 19, 2011 3:30 PM   Subscribe

Anyone here have mad Mishnaic Hebrew translation skillz?

I just need to know how to say the equivalent of "Are you well?" in ancient or medieval Hebrew.

(If anyone can actually answer this utterly random question, I will seriously consider donating my firstborn child to Metafilter...)

posted by egeanin to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"Well" as in "healthy" or "well" as in "doing fine, thanks"?
posted by greatgefilte at 3:56 PM on October 19, 2011

Also, do you want mishnaic, medieval, or ancient (which I assume equals biblical)? They're all different...
posted by greatgefilte at 3:57 PM on October 19, 2011

Response by poster: greatgefilte: "well" as in health, like what you might say to someone after they sustain mild injuries.
Also, I'd prefer Mishnaic, but would settle for ancient or medieval if that's all I could get.
Thanks for any help you can offer!
posted by egeanin at 4:06 PM on October 19, 2011

Best answer: One never knows, but I think you'll have slightly better chances at an answer to this question after Saturday sunset - when the two days of chag and one day of shabbes which just started have finished.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:08 PM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I passed this one on to my mom. Here's her answer:

Neither the Bible nor the Mishnah are noted for their chit chat--especially the Mishnah where I'd bet a hefty sum no one says, "How are you?" In the biblical text the closest is "ha-shalom l'cha?" That would be if directly addressed to a single male speaker, which I think it never is. There is an instance of its being used in indirect speech: "Ha-shalom l'o?" (Is it well-being to him?) (Jacob to the shepherds in Gen. 29 asking about Laban, and they do answer: "shalom"). God does say to Hagar, "Mah l'ach Hagar?" What's to you Hagar, more colloquially, "What's with you Hagar?"
posted by phoenixy at 8:07 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

The answer phoenixy gave for Biblical Hebrew would be the same in Mishnaic Hebrew. But if you are asking because you are writing a piece set in that time period, then it;s worth pointing out that at that time Hebrew was basically a written language, much like Latin in the Church today. The spoken language among the Jews of the time was Aramaic.
posted by Mchelly at 7:36 AM on October 23, 2011

Best answer: To be particularly 'mishnaic', you could say 'lach' instead of 'lcha'. Between Biblical and Mishnaic Hebrew, there was a shift in the suffix that indicates second person singular masculine direct object / possessive: 'kha' became 'akh'.
posted by Paquda at 11:54 AM on October 28, 2011

Best answer: Okay, being a rabbi and a student of the Mishna, I do have to chime in on this one.

As it happens, we have evidence in the Mishna of exactly this sort of phrase used as a greeting between people. Tractate Middot 1:2 talks about the customs among the night-watchmen on the Temple Mount. When the supervisors would make their rounds around the Temple Court, in order to determine whether a guard was asleep, they would say to him: "shalom alecha!" - "peace [or "well-being"] upon you!"

(Note that this contradicts the lach/l'cha rule (which is admittedly often true) stated above by @Paquda.)

It's not exactly an inquiry after the guard's physical well-being (except that the Mishna goes on to describe how the supervisor would beat the crap out of the guard if he failed to respond!) - but it is an interesting example of exactly the kind of greeting that @egeanin was asking about.
posted by AngerBoy at 3:48 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! You guys are the best.
posted by egeanin at 8:57 AM on November 3, 2011

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