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Prayerbook Vocabulary Studies
May 22, 2007
© Rabbi Jack Moline

When we talk about gifts, we acknowledge that there are at least three different ways to convey them. You can send a gift, give a gift, or bring a gift. Each way is different in its context and in what it conveys about the gift and the giver.

Sending a gift is perhaps the least personal way to show appreciation or celebration. Of course, it is sometimes necessary when you find yourself at a different location than the recipient. But in this circumstance, after taking the time to select a gift, we rely on UPS or the US Postal Service to drop the selection at the front door of its destination.

In Hebrew, the word for send is "lishlo'ach." From that same root comes the notion of an emissary, one step removed from the person of origin.

Giving a gift is slightly more personal. In this case, there you effect the transfer from one individual to the other. I sometimes get the image of the "gift table" when thinking about this word – the gift gets set on a designated surface with others. Giving a gift somehow sounds almost obligatory.

In Hebrew, the word for give is "la-tet," and the most familiar forms are "notein" (gives) and "matanah" (present).

Bringing a gift is most personal of all. When you bring someone a gift you make a point of delivering it yourself. You put something into the gift that is beyond the physical object – there is a drawing-near of giver and receiver.

In Hebrew, the word for bring derives from the root "bet-aleph," meaning "come." "La-vo" means to come, and "l-havi" means to cause to come, that is, to bring.

(These days, we mostly remove ourselves entirely from the process of gift-giving by sending a gift card over the internet. The web site will even acknowledge delivery, making it possible to complete the transaction without any human contact whatsoever.

When we say God is "meivi," from the verb "l'havi," we suggest that in this aspect God includes something of God's self in the offering of a gift. What that gift is is the subject of another discussion.

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