Sunday, October 4, 2015

Come on, people!

I had an experience this morning (2011) which really bothered me. During laining, the בעל קריאה, instead of וְקַרְנֵי רְאֵם קַרְנָיו, said וּקַרְנֵי**. Gasp! No, the real gasp was the chorus of know-betters who shouted the completely unnecessary correction. I had to go over to someone to make sure I had really heard right but sure enough, that is what went down. When will people learn?

**The truth is that by now, I am actually not 100% sure if that was the actual "mistake." It's probably because of what is said in the גמרא סנהדרין כ"ט: כל מילי דכדי לא דכירי אינשי - a person does not remember words of nothingness.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

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 עזלא are often together and when they are, they join the two words. The notes קדמא and עזלא 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

Friday, July 24, 2015

To correct, or not to correct

I have had a number of people point me to a recent article discussing a פסק that declared that one should not correct בעלי קריאה because the embarrassment caused is more grave (דאורייתא) than an incorrect laining (דרבנן). Here is a reference the article. The original essay was written for the Techumin publication of the Tzomet Institute is only available for ₪ 15.

My thoughts are as follows: It is an interesting פסק in a "general sense." But it shouldn't apply in most situations. The בעלי קריאה in our shul, for instance, want to be corrected. And I dare say any decent בעל קריאה should. 

As for extra sensitive individuals such as Bar Mitzvah boys, I have already seen discussion along those lines suggesting that it is best to "lower the bar" for such situations to avoid embarrassment.

It also should be noted that the calculation involved here is not so simple. True, the heckling of corrections might cause some embarrassment on the spot. But if mistakes are allowed to go uncorrected, what will ensue after the fact in the way of murmurings, slander or any other type of undesirable behaviour?

Another point made to me by a reader: Where does this end? Suppose a ש"צ skipped יעלה ויבא. What then? I'd certainly like ot get my hands on the original text.

Friday, May 22, 2015

שבועות takes it on the chin

In the English-speaking world we still manage to pronounce the names of the holidays fairly precisely - except, of course, there's yontif. פסח has, for some reason become peisach. But that's not such an egregious mispronunciation. Shavuos, however, has it tough. The conventional lazy way to pronounce it, Shvues, completely changes the meaning from "weeks" to "oaths." Ironically, there are two מסכתות which end on daf 49 and are thus customarily learned from פסח to שבועות. One of them is Shevuos.
Hope you all enjoy the YOM TOV of SHAVUOS.

Friday, April 17, 2015


I was recently asked by someone about the proper pronunciation of חטף vowels. It has always been my understanding that the חטף vowels can essentially be pronounced either way. Take מרדכי, for example. There is a חטף קמץ under the ד. Most people pronounce it as a שוא but I have heard some pronounce it more like a קמץ. However, I recently saw a puzzling line (highlited below) in the משנה ברורה סעיף ה, ס"ק  ב which throws that notion into question. He seems to indicate that the pronounciation of the חטף vowel is like neither of the two. Can anyone shed some light on this opinion of the משנה ברוה and anything else regarding חטף vowels?