Friday, August 17, 2018

Clean Blood

In פרשת שופטים, there are three instance where the term דם נקי, or a variation thereof, appears. If the vowel underneath the ד is a פתח, it would indicate סמיכות and the translation would be, "the blood of a clean (innocent) person." If it were a קמץ, it would simply mean clean blood. Although one might argue that the connotation is ultimately the same, I would say this is still a rather significant difference. Oh, wouldn't it be nice and simple if it were always the same. Alas, not only is it not always the same, there is not always 100% clarity as to which way it should be pronounced.

In שופטים, we have the following:
י"ט:י וְלֹא יִשָּׁפֵךְ דָּם נָקִי
י"ט:י"ג וּבִעַרְתָּ דַם הַנָּקִי
כ"א:ח וְאַל-תִּתֵּן דָּם נָקִי
The latter two appear to be undisputed. However, someone came over to me about the first one suggesting the בעל קריאה had said it wrong. I was certain he had not. But sure enough his (Artscroll) חומש had a פתח while mine (חורב) had a קמץ. I have embedded a snippet from the ספר אם למקרא למסורת below which should bring some clarity to the subject.

Two of a kind

In the beginning of the פרשה, י"ז:ו, regarding the giving of capital punishment, the pasuk says "על פי שנים עדים...", that we require at least two witnesses. Later on, (י"ט:ט"ו), regarding monetary matters, it states "על פי שני עדים...", again that two witnesses are required. Although the words שנים and שני both seem to mean 2, there is still a difference between the two. What is the difference, and why is one used over the other in each instance?

נצי"ב writes, in העמק דבר, that שני means two identical objects whereas שנים doesn't mean 2, but rather a pair. In ירושלמי סנהדרין, quoted in the .רא"ש כ"ג, it says that if two witnesses give absolutely identical testimony, they must be investigated further for something is a little suspicious. It is told that the גר"א would disqualify witnesses who gave absolutely identical testimony based on a משנה in סנהדרין. Therefore, with regards to capital cases, since there is a requirement to deeply investigate the witnesses (דרישה וחקירה), it says שנים, because identical testimony is not accepted. But in monetary matters, where there is no requirement of דרישה וחקירה, it says שני, because they are allowed to be identical.

[I was once asked why when we count the omer we say שני שבועות or שני ימים instead of שבועיים or יומיים. I answered based on the above, that שבועיים or יומיים would mean a pair of weeks, or a pair of days and therefore, would not be a real counting of two and for the sfira, we require a genuine count.]

מהרי"ל דיסקין offers an alternate explanation. The word שנים means not only two, but two at the same time. Just as רגליים or ידים refers to a presence of two hands or feet, שנים means two together. Therefore, for capital matters, it says שנים because the two witnesses must be present together. Two witnesses who observe a capital crime, but don't see each other are not valid witnesses. This is referred to in the gemara as עדות מיוחדת. However, for monetary matters, עדות מיוחדת is still valid. So the תורה wrote שני instead of שנים over there.

ר' יעקב Kaminetzky, in אמת ליעקב offers yet another approach. He suggests that the proper wording would usually be שני עדים. However, the :גמרא סוטה ב teaches that the word עד by itself implies two witnesses - because only the testimony of two witnesses is valid - unless the תורה makes it clear that it means one. Therefore, I might have thought that שני עדים means that two groups of two witnesses are required to build a capital case. Therefore, the term שנים עדים is used, implying שנים שהם עדים, two individuals who are witnesses, to dispel any such notion. Then, once it is clear that capital cases do not require two groups but rather simply two individuals, it is obvious that no more is needed for monetary cases and so the conventional wording, שני עדים, is used.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Don't Feed the Animals

We have previously discussed the possible mix-up of כבש and כשב. Whether or not the two words mean the exact same thing, it definitely needs to be corrected. I actually had to do just that this past שבת when I'm pretty sure the בעל קריאה said שה כבשים instead of י"ד:ד - שה כשבים. But while I was contemplating that, something arose on the very next פסוק which I was unsure of. Someone claimed that instead of אַיָּל, a deer, he said אַיִל, a ram. Whether he did or he didn't is not particularly relevant at this point, I suppose, but it is worth pointing out how similar these two words are while they refer to two completely different animals. And by posting this now, hopefully it will jog my memory to be en garde in coming years.

Friday, August 3, 2018

To make a מתנגד cringe

Funny story:

A couple of years ago, I was in
ארץ ישראל during this week and I found myself davening in a chassidishe מנין. When the בעל קריאה got to the following פסוק:

ח:ט אֶרֶץ אֲשֶׁר לא בְמִסְכֵּנֻת תּאכַל בָּהּ לֶחֶם

he "mistakenly" pronounced the word miskenus. A voice from the back called out in correction "Miskenis!"

I remember thinking to myself, "Leave him alone, he actually pronounced it right the first time."

To Afflict the Corrector

ח:ג וַיְעַנְּךָ
Need I say more? I think I do. Most people with even a slight דקדוק awareness will know that it is important to not pronounce this וַיַעַנְךָ. That would mean "and He answered you," rather than "and He afflicted you." You might hear some בעלי קריאה making the שוא very clear to show that they are saying it correctly. However, this too is incorrect. It is a שוא נח under the יו"ד. So the actual proper pronunciation would be: vay-a-ne-CHA. One has to be very careful to make the "Syllable Stop" before the פתח. I'm not sure if there is a better technical term for that but I'm going with it for now - the art of "pronouncing" the שוא נח such that it breaks the syllable such as in אַתָּה הָרְאֵתָ last week -  har-EI-sa, as opposed to ha-REI-sa.

Of course, the real problem becomes that the very correct pronunciation here is barely discernible from the very incorrect pronunciation, which makes my job all the more difficult. So, maybe pronouncing that שוא נע isn't such a bad idea after all.

As another reader has pointed out, the דגש חזק in the נ is another important differentiating factor. Properly executing it should remove all doubt as to whether the word has been pronounced correctly.

Those Bad Egyptians


In the beginning of the פרשה we are promised ז:ט"ו וְכָל מַדְוֵי מִצְרַיִם הָרָעִים אֲשֶׁר יָדַעְתָּ, לֹא יְשִׂימָם בָּךְ, we will not be subjected to "madvei Mitzrayim hara'im".  It seems that most of the meforshim explain it to mean the bad sicknesses of Mitzrayim. However, a while back, it seemed to me that the notes in the pasuk suggest otherwise. The notes קדמא and אזלא are often together and when they are, they join the two words. The notes קדמא and אזלא appear on the words מצרים and רעים. It would seem, therefore, that the word רעים is describing מצרים and it means the sicknesses of the bad Egyptians. This in fact, would seem to be the way that the תרגומים translate it. אונקלוס is slightly ambiguous but תרגום יונתן seems clear.


However, I was very soon notified by my friend, Ari Brodsky that my assumption on the טעמים was incorrect:
I disagree with the suggestion from the te'amim.  If I'm not mistaken, there
is a telisha ketana on the word madvei.  A telisha ketana is a mesharet,

just as is the kadma.  If I remember correctly from what I read in Rav

Breuer's book Ta'amei Hamikra beKaf Alef Sefarim uveSifrei Eme"t, he

explains that when you have the sequence telisha ketana - kadma - azla,
there is no way to tell from the te'amim whether the word with the kadma is
more closely connected to the word with the azla, or to the word with the
telisha ketana.  It could be either way.  (I'm not saying that there's
anything wrong with understanding it the way the Targumim do, I'm just
saying that you can't prove it either way from the ta'amei hamikra in this
case.)

Friday, July 27, 2018

Raise the valleys

I was recently contacted by a בעל דקדוק whom I trust regarding a פסוק in this week's הפטרה:
כָּל גֶּיא יִנָּשֵׂא
Since the word גֶּיא does not have any vowel under the יו"ד, the letter is completely silent and therefore, should be pronounced with a סגול and should not sound like a צירי. And this is how he instructed the Bar Mitzvah boy he was teaching to prnounce it. (Most other times you see this word it is סמוך and there is therefore a צירי under the יו"ד.)