Thursday, March 23, 2017

תרשיש ושהם

והטור הרביעי תרשיש ושהם וישפה

In the listing of the stones on the חושן there is a difference between the last row and the other three. The last row is "תרשיש ושהם וישפה" There is a וי"ו before the second stone as well as the third. In the other three rows, the וי"ו appears only before the last stone. משך חכמה points out that the reason for this is as we find in קריאת שמע, that certain groups of words have the first word beginning with the same letter as the next word like "על לבבכם" and therefore must be very carefully differentiated. So, too, here תרשיש and שהם have the same problem. Therefore, in order to differentiate between the two, told Moshe "תרשיש ושהם" so he would not get mixed up.

The difficulty is, however, that in (פקודי (ל"ט:י"ג the list does not contain a וי"ו before שהם. Although משך חכמה does make mention of this fact he does not clearly indicate why that is. ר' ברוך אפשטין, in ברוך שאמר, gives an answer. In ה', תצוה is talking to משה. Therefore, it was important there to differentiate between the two so that there is no confusion. In פקודי, however, the Torah is merely giving a recount of events so it was not imperative to place a וי"ו in the middle.

One of the members of the חבורה where I heard this brought up an interesting point. At the beginning of שמות we seem to find a similar phenomenon. When listing the sons of יעקב a וי"ו is only used for the last name in each פסוק. Except for א:ד, where there is a וי"ו before נפתלי. It would seem that this is to differentiate between the נו"ן at the end of דן and the נו"ן at the beginning of נפתלי. However, here it seems only to be giving a recount and there is no one speaking to anyone. I do not know an answer to that problem.
Any suggestions?

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

Jewish Milk

I once saw an article about חלב ישראל and decided to post this. A friend of mine pointed out to me once that the common pronunciation of this term, Cholov Yisroel, is actually incorrect. Due to סמיכות (which I'm not 100% certain of, see comments) it should be chaleiv Yisrael as in לא תבשל גדי בחלב אמו. I've always wanted to try some funny "proper דקדוק" social experiments - like have everyone use that term in public and see what kind of reactions you get, and the one I suggested on another occasion.

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.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


I very often find myself focusing very closely on possible little mistakes that might go unnoticed and sometimes, the bigger mistakes fly over my ahead. Such was the case one פרשת פרה when I missed a biggy. Fortunately, it was in the הפטרה. In (יחזקאל ל"ו:ל), instead of פרי העץ, the בעל קריאה said פרי הארץ!! I heard murmurings and I knew I had missed something but I just wasn't sure what it was so I couldn't very well correct it.

I joked with people afterwards that perhaps it is not such a serious mistake. After all, if you make a בורא פרי האדמה on an apple, you are יוצא, right? It is still אדר.

Let your Soul not be Desolate

Although mistakes in the הפטרה might not be as serious, they tend to be more prevalent since the reader of the הפטרה tends to be less of a seasoned lainer (depending on the shul.) Unfortunately, there was one year I heard this done completely wrong every time. In the הפטרה of פרשת פרה, towards the end, there are numerous instances of the word נְּשַׁמָּה, meaning desolate. If it is mispronounced נְּשָׁמָה it refers to the soul. Two words, nearly indistinguishably similar whose meanings couldn't be further apart. It would be advisable, if you know who will be laining the הפטרה, to alert them to this in advance. Fortunately, our shul has acquired קלף's for all the הפטרות and now only actual בעלי קריאה lain it.

As MG points out in the comments - for those who are particular about pronouncing a דגש חזק - the דגש in the מ is also an important distinction between the two words.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I could use a rest

Tonight (פורים תשס"ז) I made a correction on a split-section decision which I wasn't sure really changed the meaning.
ט:כ"ב כַּיָּמִ֗ים אֲשֶׁר־נָ֨חוּ
The בעל קריאה pronounced it na-CHU, with the accent on the last syllable. I know that the שורש of נח - or whatever it should be in full form - is a very tricky one with words sounding very similar but meaning completely different things. For example, see שולחן ערוך או"ח כ"ה:ז ובמשנה ברורה. So I corrected on the spot. Any thoughts as to whether it changes the meaning?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Bigsan and ...

This post will probably be of little interest to those who lain in הברה ספרדית.
I'm not sure why but this year, my "pet peeve" energies have been spent on the widespread misconception that מרדכי was אסתר's uncle. It states explicitly twice that they were cousins but everyone seems to teach that he was her uncle. Anyway, another part of the story the kids tend to know very well is that of Bigsan and Seresh. Now for the younger kids, it is always a challenge to remember the difference between Seresh and Zeresh, Haman's wife. But it doesn't have to be that hard!

The geniuses at Kol Rom have just released Megillas Lester, a brilliantly executed 3D-animated film revolving around the story of the מגילה. They put up a number of fascinating behind the scenes video and one of them discusses where they went specifically with חז"ל and when artistic license was used. He discusses something that never occurred to me. The name of the second guard was actually Teresh. It never appears that way in the מגילה because it is always preceded by a וי"ו. I've included the video below (jumping to the important part):

This is the time

You make the call:

It was a pretty breezy Purim as far as the מגילה goes. However, there was one thing I was a little unsure of. At night, the בעל קריאה said ד:י"ד וּמִי יוֹדֵעַ אִם לָעֵת כָּזֹאת הִגַּעַתְּ לַמַּלְכוּת instead of לְעֵת. I let it go. My thinking was that the term as a whole is a definite, even if לְעֵת is indefinite. What do you say?

I would also say that in the back of my mind, I hoped that there was actually another גרסא that had לָעֵת. I have been using an Artscroll Megillah for the last while. But I have realized that it might not be as מדוקדק as I would like. Can anyone recommend a readily available new מגילה which is known to be מדוקדק?

מגילת אסתר Advisory - Floor or coal?

Here's one to get you started:

עַל רִצְפַת בַּהַט-וָשֵׁשׁ

A couple of years ago, one of the readers of this blog pointed out to me a very subtle observation on the above word which I am certain is not at all well-known. The proper pronunciation is as above and the word means 'floor.' Probably due to the Hebrew word with which most are familiar, it is quite common to pronounce this word רִצְפַּת.

However, in ישעיה ו:ו we have the word רִצְפָּה meaning 'coal.' It is therefore very important that the word is pronounced properly. I would even suggest mentioning it to the בעל קריאה beforehand.

See the comments below for a lengthy discussion.

מגלת אסתר

Being in charge of correcting for the מגילה is a very scary task. It's enough that everyone is so uptight about making sure every syllable is pronounced correctly. What makes it worse is all the different שיטות and knowing what might be a mistake and what is not. I once was "right-hand man" (I might have stood on his left) for someone who chose to repeat the פסוק for every word that was a matter of significant dispute, not just להרוג ולאבד and לא עמד בפניהם.

On that note, the רב of our shul told me this past week he once heard someone read בפניהם and not go back. He was very troubled as he read in מנחת שי that לפניהם was in fact the more likely correct word. However, he later found in קסת הסופר by the בעל קיצור שלחן ערוך that בפניהם is in fact correct. Surprisingly, to support this assertion, he asserts that this is the way it is found in the Concordance!

So, anyone who has any advisories to offer, anything to look out for, please post.
For anyone who is not registered as a contributor, I have made a new link on the right to send questions or comments to be posted.


Here's a good one from MG in the comments:
A lesser-known mistake but one that I've heard: "צהלה ושמחה" - the first "ה" in "צהלה" is a חטף-פתח. If pronounced as a קמץ., it changes the meaning to a noun.

Please see more in the comments below:

Balaila hu

During K'rias Hamegillah, I thought I heard the Ba'al K'riah say "Balaila hu" instead of "Balaila hahu". [The person whose job it is to correct insists otherwise] I decided not to reread that word in my Megillah for two reasons.

Number One: There is really no difference in meaning. The Radak writes in Michlol (pg 42) that a "heh hayediah" modifying a noun and an adjective (2 words read together) can be placed on the first , second or both words. [hence the machlokes Rav Shabsai Sofer and Matteh Moshe about "bizman haze"vs. "baz'man haze"] So grammatically "balaila hu" means the same thing as "balaila hahu." [The "beis" includes within it a "heh hayediah," hence the patach, and dagesh chazak in the lamed]

Number Two: There are 4 places in Tanach where "balaila hahu" is written "balaila hu". [B'reishis 19:33, 30:16, 32:23;Shmuel I 19:10] so even if there was a change in meaning, one might argue that where exceptions to the rule exist, one need not correct the mistake, as its correct meaning is still within the realm of possibe interpretation.

Something else that was "hidden" in the מגילה

While others might have been having more mainstream הערות or simply paying attention to the מגילה, I had the following observation:

ומה שאלתך וינתן לך ומה בקשתך עוד ותעש

Certainly, the word שאלה is feminine. Therefore, we would expect the פסוק to read ומה שאלתך ותנתן לך just as ותעש is in feminine form due to בקשה being feminine. I believe the following must be the explanation: If someone requests something, it is certainly possible to perform the request. However, if someone asks for something, you cannot give them "their asking." Rather, you give them the thing which they asked for. Therefore, we treat this as if there were a hidden word, perhaps as follows: ומה שאלתך וינתן הדבר לך and that is why it is masculine.

However, as MG points out in the comments, even בקשה switches seemingly to masculine earlier on in the מגילה. The אבן עזרא says there that it is referring to a hidden דבר. So my explanation for the gender change was correct. But my distinction between בקשה and שאלה apparently was not.

Fighting the Good Fight

One of the more serious mistakes a בעל קריאה can make when reading the מגילה is actually not in the מגילה itself. This hit me one year when I heard this mistake made and unfortunately, did not have the reflexes to correct it on the spot. After we finish the מגילה we make the ברכה of הרב את ריבנו, He who fights our fights. The proper pronunciation is, of course, הָרָב. But when mispronounced הָרַב, I believe that means "He who increases our fights." (Or, Elie suggests in the comments that perhaps it might have a different meaning.) That's not a good thing at all. Honestly, if I hear this again, I would try to correct it ... unless someone thinks otherwise.

Not that kind of oil

Rather hot of the press, just had to make this correction tonight and figured it would be a good idea to bring it to everyone's attention.
ב:י"ב ששה חדשים בשמן המר
The phrase that appears a number of times in the תורה is שמן המאור so it is easy to mistakenly use that term here but it obviously completely changes the meaning. I highly doubt the king would have fancied a woman who smelled like olive oil. Some of you might be thinking "oh come on, that's obvious." Well, I'll have you know that while I corrected it immediately, no one else in the entire shul even flinched, from what I could tell. So keep an eye out for this one.

שם and שמה

ונתת שמה מים
ויתן שמה מים
ונתת שם מים
All three of the above פסוקים refer to the setting up of the כיור. The simple question is: What is the difference between שם and שמה?

As the comments below indicate, there doesn't seem to be any difference between the two. But this is always what I ask when I encounter things like this: "If there's a difference - what is it? If there's no difference - why are they different?"

Of plurals and singulars

As part of the process of producing the priestly vestements, פסוק כ"ח:מ commands "ולבני אהרן תעשה כתנות", and for the sons of Aharon you shall make tunics. This can be interpreted in two ways - one tunic for each כהן or many tunics for each כהן. This is the subject of a dispute in ירושלמי יומא ג:ו. The רבנן hold two tunics for each כהן and ר' יוסי holds one tunic for each כהן suffices.

In the .גמרא מגילה ז we find רב יוסף learns that when it says in מתנות לאביונים in מגילת אסתר it means 2 total מתנות for 2 אביונים - only one for each poor person. טורי אבן in חגיגה and אבני שהם in מגילה (same author) comment that this גמרא goes like ר' יוסי in the ירושלמי who holds one tunic for each כהן. However, asks מצפה איתן in מגילה, from תוספות in .חגיגה ג we see that the הלכה in regards to the dispute in the ירושלמי is like the רבנן - two tunics for each כהן. If רב יוסף in מגילה is going only according to ר' יוסי then it is not in accordance with הלכה!

מצפה איתן answers from פרי חדש אורח חיים תרצ"ד who writes that if the פסוק had written "ולאביונים מתנות" then it would have implied two to each but now that it says it the other way around it only means one to each. Therefore, the rule is that if the subject is written before the object then it may imply that to these subjects you will give (plural) objects to each. That then is the subject of dispute in ירושלמי where the פסוק in question is "ולבני אהרן תעשה כתנות", the subject coming before the object. However, with מתנות לאביונים where the object comes first, it means that these objects shall be distributed amongst the following subjects and everyone will agree that it is one per person. [This also explains why the גמרא in יומא entertains the possibility that there were two lots on each goat in the יום כפור procedure because the pasuk is "על שני השעירים גורלות," the subject before the object.]

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.

Friday, March 3, 2017

ונהפוך הוא

This week's פרשה contains many commands and thus, many instances of a וי"ו ההיפוך which changes the accent on the word. There seem to be a number of instances where the accent is not changed due to the נסוג אחור rule. Additionally, it seems the word ועשית, which appears numerous times, can never have the accent on the last syllable. If you know why, feel free to chime in.

In general, I do not correct misplaced accents for reasons I would like to discuss another time. However, I don't think it would be unreasonable to do so. Nevertheless, in those cases when the accent is not changed for circumstantial reasons, like ועשית, I find it very hard to justify a correction.

Watch out for that קמץ

אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה מָרְאֶה בָּהָר

The severity of this possible mistake is spelled out clearly in רש"י. Again, this is an easy mistake to make and a difficult one to catch. מָרְאֶה is a strange word you don't see very often. The natural inclination will be to read it מַרְאֶה but that completely changes the word from meaning "shown (by another)" to "show (to others.)" Be aware!

ככר זהב

כִּכַּר זָהָב טָהוֹר יַעֲשֶׂה אתָהּ

When I first read this פסוק I thought I would be writing this post as an advisory. The first word of this pasuk seems to be connected to the following word. Therefore it should be pronounced as written above so that it means, "a block of pure gold" and not "a block, pure gold." תרגום אונקלוס seems to support this with his clear indication of סמיכות in translating ככרא דדהב.

However, the חומש I use which attributes its editing to Rabbi Mordechai Breuer, זצ"ל, has a קמץ under the כּ"ף. I must therefore assume that this is a matter of dispute.

This issue becomes more intriguing with the פסוק in (פרשת ויקהל (ל"ז:כ"ד. Whereas the פסוק in פרשת תרומה was rendered by אונקלוס as ככרא דדהב, in ויקהל it is ככרא דהב. Why would they be different?

Anonymous said...
בדפוס סביוניטה אין הבדל בין תרומה לויקהל
March 23, 2007 3:01 AM

Please see further informative comments by MG. Essentially, it appears the קמץ is more correct.

The Lord and the Rings

If you can give me a consistent explanation for this, I just might consider bringing your clothes to the bathhouse for you (:סנהדרין ס"ב). I noticed a very intriguing discrepancy in the תורה's description of the rings that were affixed to the various vessels that required them. In some instances, no specific purpose was given for the rings but in most cases, it was stated that the purpose of the rings was to house the staves. I have constructed a table (without rings) detailing the exact wording for each vessel for both the commandment and the actual manufacturing.

עשיה צווי
(ל"ז:ג)-- (כ"ב:י"ב)-- ארון
בָּתִּים לַבַּדִּים (ל"ז:י"ד) לְבָתִּים לְבַדִּים (כ"ה:כ"ז) שלחן
לְבָתִּים לְבַדִּים (ל"ז:כ"ז) לְבָתִּים לְבַדִּים (ל:ד) מזבח הזהב
בָּתִּים לַבַּדִּים (ל"ח:ה) (כ"ז: ד)-- מזבח החיצון

I have accentuated the problematic portion of the word, namely the vowel underneath the למ"ד which seems to change inexplicably. Any ideas?