Friday, December 1, 2017

Appearances

This past shabbos (2014) we had the pleasure of a Bar Mitzvah boy with a wonderful, clear voice and very well-taught. There was one item which I apparently missed and was only later brought to my attention:
ל"ה:א לָאֵל הַנִּרְאֶה אֵלֶיךָ
He apparently said הַנִּרְאָה with a קמץ instead of a סגול. Of course, it is certainly wrong. The question is how wrong. What is the actual difference?

At this point I want to advertise a wonderful resource I have been making use of. For דקדוק enthusiasts and users of the popular mobile messaging platform WhatsApp, there is a WhatsApp group dedicated to discussions revolving around דקדוק and קריאת התורה. WhatsApp used to enforce a group limit of 50 and this group was maxed out but that limit was raised so there's room for more. You can contact me for more details if you are interested. Be aware, though, that discussions are generally in לשון הקדש.

So there was quite a debate about this on the group. Is it a difference of עבר/הווה? Is it זכר/נקבה? We went through a number of different פסוקים and debated the gender of the verb. Ultimately, however, it appears that it is actually a matter of עבר vs. הווה which is potentially a serious error. This matter is in fact discussed extensively in this essay. I am not familiar with the author but he seems to have quite an extensive library of דקדוד essays.

As is discussed in the essay, a קמץ would imply the past tense whereas the סגול would imply present. The question then arises - why is the present tense used when the phrase is clearly referring to the past. He does address this but in the end, I would suggest that it is reasonable to assume that since the error made actually transformed the word to the past, which is the actual meaning of the phrase as a whole, the error is not as egregious as once thought. Certainly, it should be corrected on the spot but perhaps forgivable after the fact.

This discussion ties in with another timely discussion involving the phrase נעשה נס in מעוז צור.

The Great דישון Confusion

Trying to follow עשו's three-dimensional family tree is hard enough. Following the offspring of שעיר החורי which follow the listing of עשו's is made equally difficult by the recurrence of the name דישן. Sei'ir named his fifth child דִשׁוֹן. Then, in a stunt mimicked by the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League thousands of years later, he named his seventh child דִישָׁן. Both appear in ל"ו:כ"א and later on in ל. Fair enough. We let the CFL get away with it, we can let שעיר get away with it as well. However, the confusion grows when the פסוקים list the grandchildren of שעיר. In פסוק כ"ה, his fourth child, ענה, decides that there are simply not enough דישן's in the family and names his son דִּשֹׁן as well. But when the Torah lists the children of שעיר's fifth child (פסוק כ"ו), formerly referred to as דִשׁוֹן, he is referred to there as דִישָׁן. Two פסוקים later, his brother is called דִישָׁן as well. This is more confusing than the CFL (The CFL had eight teams; שעיר only had seven children.)

The גר"א suggests that the spelling of the names is dependent on the placement of the word in the פסוק. If the word appears at a principal stop, that is, either the end of the פסוק or the אתנחתא that signifies the principal pause in the פסוק, then it is written דִישָׁן. When it is not, it is written דִשׁוֹן. When we are introduced to them, the fifth son is at the beginning of the pasuk and thus is written דִשׁוֹן. The seventh is on the אתנחתא in the פסוק and thus, is written דִישָׁן. When listing their children, both appear in the middle of the פסוק and therefore, both were written דִישָׁן. The proof to this theory is that in דברי הימים א א:ל"ח both are written דִשׁוֹן because both are not at the end or middle of the פסוק.

The only difficulty with this is that in דִישָׁן ,פסוק כ"ח appears on a טפחא note, not אתנחתא, an apparent violation of the גר"א's rule. To reconcile this problem, we must turn to אמת ליעקב in פרשת בהעלתך where he writes that when a פסוק does not contain an אתנחתא, the טפחא may take on the roll of the primary pause as in במדבר ט:ב and י"ג:ח. Here, too, the טפחא, in the absence of an אתנחתא, takes on the roll of the primary pause and turns דִשׁוֹן into דִישָׁן.

In the end, שעיר's fifth and seventh sons were both named דִשׁוֹן but that name changed to דִישָׁן based on the placement in the pasuk just as many other words have a vowel changed to a קמץ when at the end or middle of the פסוק. The גר"א, however, did not forget about ענה's son in פסוק כ"ה. He was also named דִשׁוֹן. But he was a different kind of a דִשׁוֹן. He was a דִשׁוֹן that didn't change despite the placement in the pasuk. So, here, and in דברי הימים א א:מ"א, even though his name falls on an אתנחתא, it is written דִשׁוֹן. That's one confusing family.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Qualification of the אהוי rule

I have recently been asked on a number of occasions regarding apparent exceptions to the אהוי rule which is that if a word ends with one of those letters, it will remove an expected דגש at the beginning of the next word. This is provided that the first word is connected to the second by means of a טעם משרת such as a מרכא, rather than a pausal note like an אתנחתא or טפחא.

The first example was in ויצא:
ל:טז ...וַתֹּ֨אמֶר֙ אֵלַ֣י תָּב֔וֹא
The י does not remove the דגש from the תּ even though it has a מונח which functions as a משרת.

Another example on which this question was raised was in אחרי מות:
יח:ה ...וָחַ֣י בָּהֶ֑ם
Again, the דגש remains in the בּ.

This phenomenon is interestingly observed in בחוקתי. The first mention of the word בחוקתי is on a טפחא which is a מפסיק anyway. But when it is mentioned in the negative portion, we find:
כו:טו וְאִם־בְּחֻקֹּתַ֣י תִּמְאָ֔סוּ
The מונח is a משרת but the תּ keeps its דגש.

It is important to forget about the actual letters for a moment. The essence of this rule is that it is applied when the first word ends with a vowel. This best way to understand this apparent anomaly is to observe a similar paradigm we find the English language with the letter Y. It can function as a consonant, as in yes or year, but can also be used as a vowel, as in the word gym or psychology. When the י extends a vowel sound, which would seem to be only after a צירי or חיריק, it functions as a vowel. However, after any other vowel, the function of the י is clearly a consonant, closing the syllable. Therefore, the אהוי rule would not apply. 

(Now, this applies to צירי and חיריק because they both end with a י sound. That is why the י is said to extend or fill the vowel. If one pronounces a חולם "oy," shouldn't it apply there, too, whereas if you pronounce it "oh," it would not. As per the comments below, דברים ד:ח וּמִי֙ גּ֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל is a good example. If this theory is correct it would prove the "oy" pronunciation to be incorrect. But I'm not fully convinced myself.)

Complete it.

לבן commands מַלֵּא שְׁבֻעַ זֹאת, complete this week. If it is simply mispronounced מָלֵא (with a קמץ instead of a פתח) that would completely change the meaning of the word from the imperative verb "complete" to the adjective, complete. If the בעל קריאה is one who discerns well between פתח and קמץ - and they should - this should definitely be corrected.

I am not an expert on the דגש but I know someone will correct me if I'm wrong but there probably is no דגש in the adjective version of the word so that is another differentiation (if applicable) to watch out for.

Wordsthatsticktogether

It is interesting that the first עליה of ויצא seems to contain an usually high instance of words that can stick together and thus, should be carefully separated by the בעל קריאה:

ויצא יעקב
וילך חרנה
וישם מראשתיו
סולם מוצב

They actually all appear in the fist עליה during the week.

From his Sleep

One of the textbook examples often given of the smallest mistake which makes a world of difference is וַיִּיקַץ יַעֲקֹב מִשְּׁנָתוֹ, found in the first עליה of this week's פרשה. If the שוא נע is not pronounced under the ש, it changes the meaning of the word from "from his sleep" to "his learning," from the root of the word משנה, suggesting perhaps that יעקב אבינו, instead of awaking from his sleep, ceased to learn!

However, R' Binyamin Marwick points out that this mistake may not be as grave as it seems. First, we must accept that in judging whether a mistake changes the meaning of a word, we may only consider other words from לשון הקדש. We wouldn't worry that someone mispronounced a word and made it sound like a different English or French word. That said, we might also suggest that the realm of different words is limited to the Biblical lexicon. One might even suggest that it may be constrained to include only word forms found in תורה as נביאים and כתובים include a vastly expanded vocabulary. The evolved language, although it may still be considered לשון הקדש, would not figure into the equation. R' Marwick suggest that the word משנה referring to תורה study is of Talmudic origin and not a biblical word and therefore, this mistake need not be corrected.

Come on, People! Part II

This past  שבת, after the shul's official מנחה, I was sticking around to learn a little when a group from a בר מצוה came in and started another מנין. They didn't really have someone to lain. I happen to know the first עליה of ויצא but there was someone else who "offered" so I let him do it. He definitely ran into some difficulty which I do not fault him for. But then he said וַיִּיקַץ יַעֲקֹב מִשְּׁנָתוֹ וַיֹּאמַר  - instead of וַיֹּאמֶר. Yes, imagine the horror! Unfortunately, someone in the crowd had the audacity to call out the correction - and he was quite adamant about it. I tried my hardest to drown him out and assert that it made no difference and he should just go on. But he actually went back and repeated the entire פסוק. It's bad enough to make such a correction under normal circumstances. But certainly, when the בעל קריאה is already nervous because he does not know it so well and is up there as a last resort - these corrections are more than unnecessary. I really wanted to go up to the "correcter" afterwards and kindly explain that the difference between וַיֹּאמַר and וַיֹּאמֶר is about the same as the difference between מִצְרָיִם and מִצְרַיִם. But I could not gather the courage.