Friday, September 14, 2018

A Happy Ending

During this time, between ראש השנה and יום כפור , the common greeting seems to be גמר חתימה טובה. (According to a shiur הרב יעקב משה קולפסקי, זצ"ל used to say over, it might still be appropriate to use the popular pre-ראש השנה greeting, כתיבה וחתימה טובה. But אין כאן מקום להאריך.) However, the gender of this greeting puzzles me. What is it that we are wishing? Should it be a גמר of a חתימה טובה? Or, are we wishing that the גמר חתימה be a good one? The shortened version of this greeting, גמר טוב, would seem to indicate that it is the latter. If so, should the greeting not be גמר חתימה טוב?!

It could be that the general public is thrown off by the word חתימה to think that the term, as a whole is feminine. Nevertheless, see this Kashrus Kurrents article and footnote 1 regarding proper grammar vs. common convention.

Well, whatever the proper gender is - it should all be for the good!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Remember us for the good

One of the lines of אבינו מלכנו is:
אבינו מלכנו זכרנו בְּזִכָּרוֹן טוב לפניך

Above is how it appears in most מחזורים. However, I have found in the סדור רנת ישראל and in the recently released מחזור מקראי קודש from רב אהרן לופיאנסקי slightly differently, זכרנו בְּזִכְרוֹן טוב לפניך, apparently putting סמיכות between זכרון and טוב.


(The Koren Sacks siddur has זִכְרוֹן as well.)


Any thoughts?

Please see the comments.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Nitzavim Takes it on the Nee

I try not to be too nit-picky about transliterations. But this week's פרשה is very often mispronounced and mistransliterated Netzavim. It is חיריק under the ו so it should be Nitzavim. Hey, I'm just standing up for what's right. (You see what I did there?)

Don't you worry


    In pasuk ל"א:ח, Moshe gives Yehoshua words of encouragement upon his taking over of Moshe's position. The pasuk ends off, לא תירא ולא תיחת. In pasuk א:כ"א, Moshe commands B'nei Yisroel, with regards to their seemingly imminent conquer of Eretz Yisroel, אל תירא ואל תיחת. The commands are almost exactly identical. The only difference is the exchange of the word אל for the word לא.


    Both לא and אל may both be translated as "don't." However, there is a difference between the two. The word אל is, for the most part, confined to a single meaning. Alternatively, the word לא is slightly more flexible. It can take on the form of a command, as in לא תרצח, thou shall not murder. However, it can also take on the form of a promise or assurance. Perhaps the clearest example of this is when HaShem commands Moshe to prevent בני ישראל from ascending the mountain to fight following the incident with the spies. Moshe is told (א:מ"ב) to declare "לא תעלו." The simple reading is clearly, "do not go up!" However, Rashi quotes from a Midrash, "לא עליה תהא לכם אלא ירידה," it will not be an ascent for you, rather a descent i.e. you will not succeed. Here we see clearly that the word לא can mean both a command and a promise, even at the same time.


    Therefore, in our parsha, Yehoshua is not being commanded not to fear, but rather being promised that he will have nothing to fear. In דברים, he is being told not to fear. Indeed, the expression in דברים is said in the context of other commands. In our parsha, however, it is stated in the context of other promises.


    I understand that the above distinction is not 100% clear-cut and there are numerous examples which might throw it into question. I'm open to suggestions.

     Recently, I heard a different approach from משך חכמה. In the פרשה of קרבן פסח - שמות י"ב:ט he explains that אל implies a certain tone of בקשה whereas לא is a more definite prohibitive commandment. Perhaps that explanation can be applied here as well. As leader of the nation it was imperative that יהושע show absolutely no fear whatsoever. Therefore it was delivered in the form of a commandment - לא תירא ולא תיחת. But when בני ישראל are being briefed prior to their imminent entry into ארץ ישראל it is simply stated in the form of a request. Or, alternatively, we can suggest that this "request" was made just prior to the demand for spies which had drastic consequences. With that now many decades in the past but its lessons still very clear, a mere request was no longer appropriate. It was clear that the to not fear and not tremble must be an outright commandment.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Tough Day at the Office

[From תשע"ג]

Last week was an interesting one, to say the least.
First, at the beginning of כ"ו:י"ט, the בעל קריאה committed the capital crime of say וְלְתִתְּךָ instead of וּלְתִתְּךָ. What could be worse than that? I'll tell you what - half the shul correcting him! I really actually had an urge to tell him to specifically go back and say it wrong again. But I resisted the urge. Of course, later, כ"ט:ד, when he said וְאוֹלֵךְ instead of וָאוֹלֵךְ - not a peep! (Don't worry I did correct that one.)

My oversight of the קריאה has its pros and cons for the בעלי קריאה. On the one hand, they have to deal with me. But on the other, they don't have to deal with anyone else. Case in point: as soon as the עליה with the תוכחה was complete, a well-meaning individual raced to the בימה to insist to the בעל קריאה that in כ"ח:ס"ח he had said וְהֵשִׁיבְךָ instead of וֶהֱשִׁיבְךָ. He just looked at him, pointed at me and said, "Talk to him." I believe he was right. That was what it sounded like. However, I proceeded to convince him that there is actually no change in meaning and thus, it did not warrant a correction. Any objections? We certainly agreed that the vowel under the ו was inconsequential. I'm no expert when it comes to conjugation. But I pointed out that in a shorter form, there is a צירי under the ה, as in וְהֵשִׁיב אֶת הַגְּזֵלָה. My guess is that the elongation of the word "softens" the vowel into a סגול.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Shiluach Ha...

This week's פרשה contains one of my דקדוק pet peeves. The mitzvah of sending away the mother bird is very commonly referred to as "Shiluach haKan." However, the word is "kan" in the pasuk only because of סמיכות. When referring to the mitzvah, the proper term should be "Shiluach HaKein."

However, I was very intrigued to find this point actually discussed in this article by R' Zvi Goldberg of the Star-K. See footnote #1 (it's linked at the very beginning.)

Shva vs. Kamatz?

In this week’s Parsha, the pasuk states (Devarim 24:6),

"לא יחבל רחים ורכב וגו'"

Tosefos discuss how there are actually two separate prohibitions, one for the רחים and one for the רכב. In the course of their discussion Tosefos mention that there was a possibility that some opinions could have thought that there was actually only one prohibition for the two, but since ורכב is written with a חטף it shows that these words are somewhat separated and are to be considered as two independent prohibitions. (Tosefos Menachos 58b) The Yaavetz mentions that Tosefos are referring to the lack of a שוא when they say חטף. (Yaavetz Menachos 58b)

The Rashash questions Tosefos’ assertion based on Targum Lashon Ivri (chapter 34). The rule as mentioned there, is that when the trop under the last word of a list of two or more items has a hard pause then the ו takes a קמץ instead. Based on this rule the lack of a שוא is not something that connotes a separation in our pasuk since וָרָכֶב clearly has an esnachta beneath it. Rather, it shows that the items are separated and that this is the last of the list. (Rashash Bava Metziah 115b)

I was wondering if one could possibly answer on Tosefos’ behalf that even though linguistically the pasuk does not demonstrate that two as being separate, on a level of drush one can see that they are. The Torah was given with an esnachta in this place instead of another trop formulation from the pasuk. The pronunciation conjures up the idea of the words being separate even if the actual reading does not mean that. Therefore, one can assume the words have a level of separation to the point that they can be considered independent prohibitions.