Friday, December 29, 2017

You Make the Call - אבל מצרים

From 2010:
Last week, the בעל קריאה said אֵבֶל מצרים instead of אָבֵל מצרים. I did correct it on the spot but it occurred to me afterward that perhaps it is only אָבֵל because of סמיכות in which case, I don't think it is a critical mistake absolutely requiring correction. Is that the case?

But I was wrong:

elie said...
המילה אָבל מצרים אינה לשון אבלות
יש עוד מקומות כמו אָבל השיטים
לכן כשקרה אֵבל הוא עשה טעות חמורה

Friday, December 15, 2017

Clear the halls!

Over חנוכה we will be reciting על הניסים numerous times - probably more than 30. As we describe the process following the military victory, we say "ופנו את היכלך". It is rather important to put the stress on the right syllable in ופנו. When properly pronounced with the accent on the last syllable, u-fi-NU, it means "and they cleared out." However, if pronounced with the accent on the previous syllable, u-FI-nu, it would literally mean "and our mouths." (It is possible that the laws of context might make this a less serious error but there's nothing wrong with doing something right!)

Also, another reader pointed out:
Of course, if one is precise in pronunciation, there are 2 other differences between the words.  The word for “mouth” is spelled with a chirik malei, which is pronounced differently than the chirik chaser in “clean.”  And, what goes along with that is that the nun in “clean” has a dagesh, while the nun in “mouth” is rafah – those 2 nuns are also pronounced differently.

נעשה נס - Correction

In one of the more sung verses of מעוז צור we have the phrase נעשה נס לשושנים. In every text I've seen, it is written נַעֲשָׂה. However, I have heard it sung many times נַעֲשֶׂה, with a סגול. (I'm pretty sure I even remember Uncle Moishy singing it that way! Gasp!) I'm quite certain that is incorrect. For it to be past tense, even though נס is masculine, it would have to be נַעֲשָׂה. With a סגול it would mean "let us do," in the future.

Based on some reader feedback, it appears I have to recant. It appears the סגול might actually be correct.

Yaakov Gross wrote:
The reading with segol appears to be correct.  Consider a regular Kal verb, say G M R (to complete), in the Nif’al:Nigmar with a patach is Perfect (aka “past”): it became depleted, it was completed;with a kamatz, it’s the present participle: it is completed. For nachei lamed he, the Perfect has segol in place of patach. Thus, laaseh nes – “a miracle was wrought”.Whereas the present participle keeps the kamatz, so na’asah would be “a miracle is being wrought”
Some interesting sources from another reader:
See נחמיה ה:י"ח and ישעיה כ"ו:י"ח and contrast with ויקרא ז:ט.   
See also אבן עזרא בראשית א:כ"ו and י"ב:ז.
However, in a separate discussion, I was shown this extensive write-up on this very issue which seems to suggest the other way around and that the קמץ is correct.

Monday, April 10, 2017

חד גדיא

I don't usually cover Aramaic דקדוק and I cannot claim to know terribly much about it but it seems the entire world sings חד גדיא pronounced thusly: חד גדיא, חד גדיא דְזַבִּין אבא בתרי זוזי It's a tricky word because almost the same word is used for buying as for selling. However, it seems from the הגדות מדויקות that the proper pronunciation is in fact דִזְבַן. I haven't done too much research on this but I know someone who has. The newly published Haggada of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks by Koren Publishers also has דִזְבַן.

הגיענו - הגדה vs יגיענו

כן ה' אלוקינו יגיענו למועדים ולרגלים אחרים

In just about all the הגדות I've seen, the נוסח of the ברכה at the end of מגיד is as above. However, in אבודרהם and רבינו סעדיה, as well as the הגדות מדויקות you will find the word יגיענו substituted with הגיענו. This version seems more correct considering the context. The entire ברכה is in the second person. Why would we change to the third person with יגיענו? Furthermore, it seems this portion of the ברכה is meant as a request. The word הגיענו is certainly לשון בקשה whereas the word יגיענו seems to be merely a statement of fact. Why is it that almost all הגדות have this version?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

ועשה בצלאל ואהליאב

"ועשה בצלאל ואהליאב" (Shemos 36:1)

There are two main types of וי"ו at the beginning of a word: a וי"ו החיבור and a וי”ו ההיפוך. A וי”ו החיבור links the word with that which preceded it, and a וי”ו ההיפוך switches the tense of a verb (and also implies sequence and order). The puzzling thing about all this, is that a וי”ו ההיפוך when switching a verb from past tense to future tense is punctuated in exactly the same manner as a וי"ו החיבור. Usually context can guide us to proper understanding, but sometimes context is not enough. A nice example of an ambiguous וי"ו is ועשה בצלאל ואהליאב. That וי"ו could be either a וי”ו ההיפוך or a וי"ו החיבור . תרגום אונקלוס and תרגום יונתןunderstand it to be a וי”ו החיבור and the אבן עזרא and רש"י מכות יב. understand it to be a וי”ו ההיפוך." There is a further מחלוקת between רש"י and the אבן עזרא regarding whether it is regular future tense or a command which has enough of a relationship with the future to be a possibility within a וי”ו ההיפוך which has switched a verb to future tense.
NOTE: See Weekly Shtikle's blog on the above פסוק.

The obvious question which the camp which understands it to be a
וי”ו החיבור (past tense) must deal with is that according to the plain reading of the text, בצלאל had not even gathered the donations yet, how could he have already done the work? Because of this issue, the אור החיים הקדוש explained that ועשה is referring to making the instruments necessary for the work and not referring to the actual work itself.

One final question: Why would the
תורה create this ambiguous וי"ו?

This is a question one could ask regarding many of the unclear parts of the
תורה system where ראשונים and אחרונים argue. The only possible answer is that the ambiguity is calculated to allow for both interpretations within the text.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

יעשה vs. תעשה

From Ephraim Stulberg:
שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים יֵעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה

In the above פסוק, where we are told that "for six days shall work be performed." The passive "יֵעָשֶׂה" is of course masculine, in spite of the fact that its subject is the feminine "מְלָאכָה". And so follows the question: What's up with that?

R, Yaakov Kamenetzky observes that in many instances in which the word "כל", or "all", is used to modify a noun, the gender of the verb/adjective used to describe even a feminine noun will be masculine. Thus, in פרשת בא, we have the phrase (כָּל מְלָאכָה לא יֵעָשֶׂה בָהֶם" ( י"ב:ט"ז", where the masculine "יֵעָשֶׂה" refers back to the word "כל" more than it does to the feminine "מְלָאכָה". R' Kamenetzky suggests that the verse in כי תשא is to be read as though the word "כל" were present. R' Kamenetzky also quotes the opinion of a certain R' Nathan, who appears to have been some sort of confederate of his back in Lithuania, who explains the incidence in בא by positing a rule in which the gender of passively constructed verbs does not necessarily correspond to the gender of their related nouns. R' Kamenetzky is somewhat dismissive of this suggestion, though it clearly solves the question in כי תשא much more effectively.The truth is that R' Nathan's suggestion had already been anticipated by an earlier authority, namely רד"ק, in his comments on מלכים א ב:כ"א:

וַתּאמֶר יֻתַּן אֶת אֲבִישַׁג הַשֻּׁנַמִּית לַאֲדנִיָּהוּ אָחִיךָ לְאִשָּׁה

He explains that when the passive voice is employed, it creates a sort of gap between nound and verb. רד"ק reads the verse in מלכים as follows: "It shall be given, namely Avishag the Shunamite, to Adoniyahu". Likewise, we would read: "For six days it shall be done, namely 'work'". Actually, this is not very different from the explanation given by R' Kamenetzky. R' Kamenetzky makes the important point of noting that the phenomenon is not limited to the נפעל, and that it really applies in any case where a neuter noun is employed. However, R' Nathan's point is also crucial, for it recognizes that this phenomenon will be much more prevalent in cases in which the נפעל is utilized, thus creating an implicit break between subject and verb which is filled by the invisible neuter.

Minimizing Sin

ל"ד:ט וְסָלַחְתָּ לַעֲו‍ֹנֵנוּ וּלְחַטָּאתֵנוּ וּנְחַלְתָּנוּ 

As per a comment in this other post, it is important to be careful to not pronounce it וּלְחַטֹּאתֵנוּ, with a חולם on the ט. This would change it from singular to plural. As I've mentioned elsewhere, in situations like this, I appreciate the "oy-ers." It makes it much easier to discern if it has been pronounced properly or not.

ולא שתו

Another episode of You Make the Call:

One time, the בעל קריאה, when laining ל"ג:ד וְלֹא שָׁתוּ אִישׁ עֶדְיוֹ עָלָיו put the accent on the last syllable of שתו rather than the first. Usually, I am not a real stickler for accents and I let them fly when it isn't a glaring change of meaning. But here it would seem to completely change the word from "put" to "drink." So, I corrected it on the spot.

As per MG in the comments, I believe it was the right call.

Need to bring this up

ל"ב:ז אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלֵיתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם
ל"ג:א אַתָּה וְהָעָם אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלִיתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם 

There was a בר מצוה laining and he said הֶעֱלֵיתָ with a צרי the second time and I corrected it as a knee-jerk reaction. However, looking at the two words, I can't tell that there is any actual difference between the two. The תרגום is essentially the same. So, as I always do in these situations, I ask: If there is a difference, what is it? And if there is no difference, why are they different?

קול ענות

וַיּאמֶר אֵין קוֹל עֲנוֹת גְּבוּרָה וְאֵין קוֹל עֲנוֹת חֲלוּשָׁה קוֹל עַנּוֹת אָנכִי שׁמֵעַ

The pronunciation of the דגש חזק is an art which has fallen largely out of practice. Even amongst the best of בעלי קריאה I have heard few who actually still do. More often the not, the דגש does not change the meaning of the word in and of itself. However, one of my Rebbeim in ישיבת אור ירושלים once pointed out to me that in the above פסוק, the דגש diffrentiates between two words in the very same pasuk!

משה רבינו is answering יהושע that he does not hear the sound of the (victorious) outcry of the mighty, nor the (defeated) outcry of the weak. In those first two instances, the word ענות is from the verb לענות, to answer or to exclaim. Rather, says משה רבינו, it is the call of blasphemy, as רש"י explains, which afflict the souls of those who hear them. Here, the word ענות is from the word ענוי, affliction. Clearly, there are two different words in this pasuk and the only to diffrentiate between the two is with the pronunciation of the דגש.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Zachar Amaleik? What was he smoking?

In the portion read for Parshas Zachor we find the commandment תמחה את זכר עמלק, wipe out the remembrance of Amaleik. The gemara (בבא בתרא כא) relates a rather bizarre incident where Yoav, David HaMelech's general was sent to destroy Amaleik. He returns, having wiped out all of the males. When he is confronted by David HaMelech as to why the others were allowed to live, he declares that he was taught "Timcheh es zachar Amaleik," wipe out the males of Amaleik. Needless to say, Yoav was not very happy when he found out he had been taught wrong.

It is indeed quite difficult to understand how the mesorah could be so skewed as to totally misunderstand and misrepresent this pasuk. I heard an interesting insight into this mistake from the footnotes of the מעשה רב. Yoav's rebbe never thought that the word was pronounced "zachar." Rather, this error was a result of a misunderstanding of the possessive form of zachar."

The word for smoke is "ashan." The vowelization of this word is the same as "zachar." However, when the Torah describes Har Sinai and describes how its smoke rose like the smoke of a furnace, the term used is "eshen hakivshan." Clearly, when the word "ashan" is used in the possessive, both kamatzim are converted to segolim. Yoav's rebbe read the pasuk "timche es zecher Amaleik," and understood that zecher was the possessive form of zachar. He therefore mistakenly taught Yoav that the commandment is to wipe out only the males of Amaleik.