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 recently raised to 100. 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.