Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Aleph's and Ayin's


The שולחן ערוך או"ח קכח:לג, based on the :גמרא מגילה כ"ד states that someone who cannot properly pronounce the letters, such as one who mispronounces an א as an ע or an ע as an א, should not go up to perform ברכת כהנים. The difficulty with this is that the פסוקים do contain an א but do not contain an ע. Why then would someone who mispronounces an ayin as an aleph be forbidden from performing ברכת כהנים?
רש"י in the גמרא seems to be sensitive to this issue. He gives a specific example of a grievous mispronunciation that would result with the exchange of an ע for an א. However, when explaining the opposite substitution, he writes simply that as a result of this substitution he will disqualify his prayers. This statement of רש"י is quite vague and requires further interpretation but it shows, nevertheless, that רש"י addressed the lack of an ע in ברכת כהנים.
The issue is dealt with further in the commentaries on the שולחן ערוך. The question is raised in באר היטב but no answer is given. מחצית השקל seems to suggest that this is not an issue as the גמרא is simply referring to one who confuses the two letters. Thus, as long as one of the substitutions is significant, it is a sufficient problem.
I suggest a possible explanation for the גמרא which may be the meaning of רש"י as well. After the כהנים complete the main part of ברכת כהנים, they recite an additional prayer which begins, "רבונו של עולם, עשינו מה שגזרת עלינו..." concluding with the פסוק:
הַשְׁקִיפָה מִמְּעוֹן קָדְשְׁךָ מִן-הַשָּׁמַיִם, וּבָרֵךְ אֶת-עַמְּךָ אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאֵת הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּה לָנוּ--כַּאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתָּ לַאֲבֹתֵינוּ, אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ
Pronouncing the ע of נשבעת as an א would drastically change the meaning from "you have sworn" to sounding something like נִשְׁבָּתָּ, "you have been taken captive." Although this is not part of the actual blessings of the כהנים, perhaps it is a serious enough mispronunciation to forbid a כהן from performing ברכת כהנים.

Another suggestion made by Snag in the comments is that the real שם המפורש used in the בית המקדש might have contained an ע. But that doesn't with רש"י and also doesn't account for why we would still be particular about this today.

9 comments:

Dick Duke said...

Wouldn't that be changing an ayin to a heh? The word for captured is "נשבה". It's certainly not spelled with an aleph.

Shtikler said...

Of course.
However, the pronunciation is exactly the same. Both the ה and the א have no consonance to them. Thus, one who does not pronounce the ע will say נשבת. One might argue, however, that the actual vowel under the ב is a פתח and would have to be a קמץ to change the meaning.

Dick Duke said...

That is not true. A heh with a shva should be pronounced differently then an aleph with a shva. The heh should sound like a mapik heh.

Shtikler said...

That may be.
But there is no ה at all in נשבת, let alone a ה with a שוא.

Dick Duke said...

There's no aleph either!! The point is it's being MIS-pronounced. If one mis-pronounced it as having an aleph, he is not saying the word which means "you have been taken captive."
He would only be saying that if he mispronounced it as a heh, since that would change the meaning.
You're not looking for changes that make the new word meaningless (otherwise you could have used any of the other words in that posuk, like "מִמְּעוֹן"), you're looking for changes that make the new word meaningful but in the wrong way.
Face it, this pshat is a dochek gadol. Never mind the fact that this posuk is part of Birchas Kohanim, just something said afterwards.

Shtikler said...

I will not deny that the פשט is דוחק. In fact, it was originally published on my Weekly Shtikle site where I tend to be more liberal with homiletic license. (Can I assume that's your comment there?) But it's not דוחק for the reason you are stating. Bottom line is - ה and א are not pronounced (generally.) הקורא לעינין אלפין is simply one who is unable to pronounce the ע and therefore, it sounds merely like an א. Such a person will pronounce it נשבת. End of story.

Dick Duke said...

If one pronounced that word (which has a shva under the ayin) as if it had an aleph, he is not saying the word which means "you have been taken captive." It is wrong to state that an aleph with a shva is not pronounced. It is a nach nir'eh. Basic dikduk. End of story.

Snag said...

As I understand it, during Birchas Kohanim they would use the 24 or 72 letter name which has been lost to us. This may well have included an 'ayin.

This explains the Gemara, but probably nor the Shulchan Aruch.

mirskym said...

Perhaps the issue isn't that there is an ayin that may be mispronounced and disqualify the duchaning, but that a person who cannot distinguish between the two is likely not careful in general in clear diction and therefore better not to go up and duchen?