Friday, July 28, 2017

Past and Future

ספר דברים by nature is full of challenges relating to the tense of verbs. There was one that slipped by me a few years ago. It's not that I didn't catch it, just that I failed to correct it on the spot after deliberating in my mind. Not sure which is worse.

משה רבינו relates (א:י"ג) that he instructed the nation to gather wise men וַאֲשִׂימֵם בְּרָאשֵׁיכֶם. Although this is being related in the past, he is stating that he said in the past that he will place these men as heads of the nation - in the future. The בעל קריאה mistakenly put a קמץ under the וי"ו of ואשימם which I am pretty sure would change it from future to past. This is an easy mistake to make as everything which follows is indeed in the past tense. This is also tricky to catch since the difference between the וי"ו ההיפוך and the regular וי"ו is a שוא and a קמץ or פתח. But here it ends up being a difference between a קמץ and פתח. (See the comment by Bezlalel for more detail as to why this ends up being more tricky.)

Hopefully recording this now will help me be more mindful of it in future years.

יהצה, what is your real name?

In this week's פרשה, we find בני ישראל are confronted militarily by סיחון. The פסוק states כ"א:כ"ג ויבא יהצה. The question is, what was the name of the place? Was it יהץ and the pasuk is stating that he came to יהץ and the suffix ה implies to? Or is the name of the place actually יהצה?

The הפטרה appears to settle this quite unequivocally. In שופטים י"א:כ it states ויחנו ביהצה. That seems quite clear that the name of the place is יהצה. However, shockingly, אונקלוס in our פרשה renders ואתא ליהץ (as well as in דברים ב:לב)!!

תרגום יונתן in שופטים renders ושרו ביהצה.

Thank you to R' Ari Storch for pointing this out.


elie said...
ישעיה טו ד
ירמיה מח לד
!!!יהץ!!!
MG said...
This question is asked in the Sefer Derech Sicha (questions to R' Chaim Kanievsky by one of his talmidim). R' Chaim answers simply that the name evolved to יהצה by Yiftoch's time. Targum Onkelos, although written later, used the name that existed in the time of Moshe, which was יהץ.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Cold has Passed

This past שבת I did not daven in my normal venue and therefore, was not in my usual position to correct. There were two faulty accents which unfortunately went completely uncorrected. The first was at the end of מטות:
ל"ב:ל"ח וַיִּקְרְא֣וּ בְשֵׁמֹ֔ת אֶת־שְׁמ֥וֹת הֶעָרִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר בָּנֽוּ
The בעל קריאה put the accent on the first syllable, BA-nu, instead of the second, ba-NU. This changes the meaning from "built" to "us" or "among us."

Then, in מסעי:
ל"ד:ד וְנָסַ֣ב לָכֶם֩ הַגְּב֨וּל מִנֶּ֜גֶב לְמַעֲלֵ֤ה עַקְרַבִּים֙ וְעָ֣בַר צִ֔נָה
Here, the accent was mistakenly placed on the last syllable, tzi-NAH. It must be on the first syllable, TZI-nah. The real meaning is "to Tzin." However, the way it was pronounced, it would seem to mean "and the cold passed," or "the shield has passed," as in תהלים צ"א:ד.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Whose tribe is it anyway?

(ל"ו:ט)
וְלֹא תִסֹּב נַחֲלָה מִמַּטֶּה לְמַטֶּה אַחֵר


A slightly embarassing story: A number of years ago, I was all ready for this פסוק and when the בעל קריאה pronounced it לְמַטֵּה אַחֵר I pounced on him and corrected him. One of the גבאים then corrected me and showed me that his חומש clearly said לְמַטֵּה.


First, let me clarify my position. When I was going over the פרשה the night before, I noticed that the תרגום of למטה אחר was "לשבטא אחרנא". This would mean that the term is translated as "another tribe." Pronouncing it לְמַטֵּה would give it סמיכות and it would then be understood as "the tribe of another. If that were the proper form, the תרגום would have been "לשבטא דאחרנא." The former also seemed to be the more intuitive understanding of the words. I was therefore quite confident that this was the right pronunciation and לְמַטֵּה would distort the meaning of the word.


It turns out I wasn't completely wrong. As the ספר אם למקרא (which I was finally able to score for myself) points out, there is a מחלוקת as to how this word is to be pronounced. Indeed, R' Breuer, on whom my חומש was based, says it should be לְמַטֶּה . But there are others who disagree. The בעל קריאה actually called me in the middle of the week to acknowledge this and stated that had he known, he would have made sure to pronounce it לְמַטֶּה in accordance with R' Breuer.

Nevertheless, when פ' מסעי comes around every year, I make sure to keep my mouth shut on this פסוק.

They are correct, sir!

כ"ז:ז כֵּן בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד דֹּבְרֹת
ל"ו:ה כֵּן מַטֵּה בְנֵי יוֹסֵף דֹּבְרִים

A friend of mine pointed out the glaring similarity between these two פסוקים which are obviously closely related. But, additionally, he pointed out, why is דובר used instead of the more common מדבר. Any thoughts?





Binny said...
kal vs. nifal
I assume it is to show that they did not present their argument in a harsh manner. These are not the only pplaces where that verb form is found in kal.


Anonymous said...
Binny: you mean Kal vs. Piel...

ELIE said...
אבל בתחילה כתוב ויקרבו ראשי האבות...ויְדַבְּרו ולא ויִּדְברו
אבל בפרשת פינחס לא כתוב על
בנות צלפחד ותדברנה
לכן אולי נאמר בדרך של ביני
בנות צלפחד ביקשו יפה לא בתקיפות ולכן כתוב שם דוברות
וכדי להשוות כתוב כך גם על מטה יוסף


The Interrogative

(ל"א:ט"ו)
וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם מֹשֶׁה הַחִיִּיתֶם כָּל נְקֵבָה


When the soldiers returned with the women they had captured from מדין we find משה quite annoyed. He exclaims in a rhetorical manner, "You let the all the women live?!" A rhetorical question, however, is still a question. The understanding of this statement as a question hinges on the ניקוד of הַחִיִּיתֶם. If this word were to be mispronounced הֶחֶיִֵיתֶם it would lose its interrogative form and be understood as a statement - "You have let all the women live." While the message of the פסוק would ultimately be the same, I think this mistake would distort the true meaning of the word and should definitely be corrected on the spot.

To afflict or to answer


(ל:י"ד)
כָּל נֵדֶר וְכָל שְׁבֻעַת אִסָּר לְעַנֹּת נָפֶשׁ

Of course, one should not get too distracted with all the מפיק ה's that they miss the important nuance in this פסוק. An erroneous פתח under the ל would change the meaning of the word from that of affliction to that of answering. En garde!

[Also, it is best to stress the דגש חזק in the נו"ן for the same reason as per the anonymous comment below.]

Don't miss the Mapik!

The first עליה of the פרשה contains many instances of a מפיק ה. Sometimes I think they should have an oxygen tank up there just to get through it. For many of them, it might not be entirely critical as its meaning is clear without the מפיק ה. However, for words like אִישָׁהּ where missing the מפיק ה would change the meaing of the word from "her husband" to "a woman," it is of utmost importance to make sure that these words are pronounced properly.

Monday, July 17, 2017

One Big Happy Family?

The recounting of the tribes and their various descendants generally follows a pretty steady pattern. The first name contains no prefix and the rest are prefixed with a למ"ד as follows: פלוני... לפלוני... לפלוני... וכו. An anomaly is found, however, in the children of גלעד. We find איעזר, לחלק, ואשריאל, ושכם, ושמידע, וחפר. The latter four are prefixed with a וי"ו. Why?

In a discussion within the דקדוק WhatsApp group, it was suggested that the explanation for this might lie in the turn of events at the end of the next week's פרשה in which the daughters of צלפחד are instructed that they must marry within the שבט in order that their father's portion of the land not end up belonging to another שבט. Perhaps these are the individuals, or the families of the individuals, who married those daughters. Since their families were ultimately intertwined, instead of the traditional למ"ד separating each name, a וי"ו החיבור is used to indicate that in the end, they were all one big family.

Friday, July 14, 2017

I Say Yericho, You Say Yereicho

The city we know of us Jericho is commonly pronounced יְרִחוֹ. This is, in fact, how it is written in נ"ך*. However, in last week's פרשה and this week's, and in all other examples in the תורה it is written יְרֵחוֹ (with a צרי). Anyone have an explanation for the change?

*As per Anonymous' comment: It is written this way in יחושע, שמואל and מלכים (with the exception of מלכים ב כ"ה:ה) but in ירמיהו, עזרא, נחמיה and דברי הימים it is יְרֵחוֹ as well.

All of the brothers

(כ"ז:ט-י)
וְאִם אֵין לוֹ בַּת וּנְתַתֶּם אֶת נַחֲלָתוֹ לְאֶחָיו
וְאִם אֵין לוֹ אַחִים וּנְתַתֶּם אֶת נַחֲלָתוֹ לַאֲחֵי אָבִיו


In the first פסוק one must be careful about לְאֶחָיו, to his brothers, not being pronounced לְאָחִיו, to his (singular) brother. However, the second פסוק contains a more dangerous possible mistake (by that, I mean that it is a mistake much easier to make and much harder to detect) and that would be לַאֲחִי אָבִיו instead of לַאֲחֵי אָבִיו, once again erroneously switching the plural to the singular.

פינחס - What's in a name?

... A יו"ד, that's what. In the תורה, the name פינחס is written מלא, thus rendering the שוא underneath the נו"ן a שוא נע. However, in שמואל, the son of עלי is פנחס without a יו"ד. Could it be that they are actually considered different names?

Lest one suggest that this might be a תורה-נביאים quirk like ירחו, in the very last פסוק of יהושע, it is written פינחס.

Last week, the בעל קריאה did not pronounce the שוא נע in פינחס so since he was reading it again anyway for מפטיר I brought this to his attention whereas I would never do so for or a regular שוא נע.

UPDATE: Based on Elie's comment, the above appears to be incorrect. Both names are really פינחס. But the one פנחס is an exception. So now the question is "Why?"

Reader question: שבת בשבתו

A reader recently sent in this interesting question:
In this week's parsha, במדבר כח:י, the פסוק reads:
'עֹלַת שַׁבַּת בְּשַׁבַּתּוֹ וגו
Why is the סמיכות form (שַׁבַּת) used instead of שַׁבָּת?

Shaggy said...
We often employ the semichut construct at times for certain words, see Nechemia 9:14 "וְאֶת-שַׁבַּת קָדְשְׁךָ".
Similarly in Parshat Emor "מִשְׁפַּט אֶחָד יִהְיֶה לָכֶם".
Just a Masoretic quirk.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Dead of the Plague

The following was apparently told over in a dream to his son by R' Shraga Feivel of Smargan. The last pasuk of this week's parsha (25:9) gives us the devastating death toll of the plague that followed B'nei Yisrael's intermingling with the Midyanites. There is an odd structure to the trop, notes, on this particular pasuk. The esnachta, which somewhat resembles a wishbone, indicates the primary stop in the middle of a pasuk. It usually concludes a thought. Take, for example, a few pesukim earlier (25:3) "Vayitzamed Yisrael leVa'al Pe'or, vayichar af HaShem beYisrael." And Yisroel clung to Ba'al Pe'or, and HaShem's wrath glowed upon Yisroel. The esnachta is used to separate the two distinct thoughts. However, our pasuk seems to be one single thought. In fact, a very similar pasuk earlier on (17:14) seems to classify such a statement as one thought. Why, then, is there an esnachta on the word bamageifah?

R' Feivel answers that this pasuk has in it a hidden meaning. Because of the terrible sin at Ba'al Pe'or, it was necessary to wipe out 24,000 of B'nei Yisrael. However, the gemara (Sanhedrin 105b) tells us that the period from the Shittim to the Gilgal (which encompasses this period,) was a period of goodwill during which HaShem did not become angry with B'nei Yisrael. Therefore, in order to lessen the blow of this plague, HaShem made it so that included in the 24,000 would be those who had reached their time to die anyway. This is expressed by the complete thought "Vayihyu hameisim bamageifah," and the dead ones, i.e. those who had reached their time to die, were in the plague. The pasuk then finishes off with a separate thought, tallying the total number of deaths in the plague.

I thought that perhaps this interpretation of the word meisim as those who were to die rather than those who died is in accordance with Rashi in parshas Ki Seitzei. Without getting into detail as to the meaning of Rashi, the pasuk warns to put a fence around one's roof so that you should not bring blood upon your house, "ki yipol hanofeil mimenu," if a faller were to fall from it. Rashi comments "Ki yipol hanofeil - ra'ui zeh lipol," the faller - one who deserved to fall. Here, too, we see a noun referring not to one to which something happened but one to whom this was destined to happen.