Friday, November 24, 2017

Qualification of the אהוי rule

I have recently been asked on a number of occasions regarding apparent exceptions to the אהוי rule which is that if a word ends with one of those letters, it will remove an expected דגש at the beginning of the next word. This is provided that the first word is connected to the second by means of a טעם משרת such as a מרכא, rather than a pausal note like an אתנחתא or טפחא.

The first example was in ויצא:
ל:טז ...וַתֹּ֨אמֶר֙ אֵלַ֣י תָּב֔וֹא
The י does not remove the דגש from the תּ even though it has a מונח which functions as a משרת.

Another example on which this question was raised was in אחרי מות:
יח:ה ...וָחַ֣י בָּהֶ֑ם
Again, the דגש remains in the בּ.

This phenomenon is interestingly observed in בחוקתי. The first mention of the word בחוקתי is on a טפחא which is a מפסיק anyway. But when it is mentioned in the negative portion, we find:
כו:טו וְאִם־בְּחֻקֹּתַ֣י תִּמְאָ֔סוּ
The מונח is a משרת but the תּ keeps its דגש.

It is important to forget about the actual letters for a moment. The essence of this rule is that it is applied when the first word ends with a vowel. This best way to understand this apparent anomaly is to observe a similar paradigm we find the English language with the letter Y. It can function as a consonant, as in yes or year, but can also be used as a vowel, as in the word gym or psychology. When the י extends a vowel sound, which would seem to be only after a צירי or חיריק, it functions as a vowel. However, after any other vowel, the function of the י is clearly a consonant, closing the syllable. Therefore, the אהוי rule would not apply. 

(Now, this applies to צירי and חיריק because they both end with a י sound. That is why the י is said to extend or fill the vowel. If one pronounces a חולם "oy," shouldn't it apply there, too, whereas if you pronounce it "oh," it would not. As per the comments below, דברים ד:ח וּמִי֙ גּ֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל is a good example. If this theory is correct it would prove the "oy" pronunciation to be incorrect. But I'm not fully convinced myself.)

Complete it.

לבן commands מַלֵּא שְׁבֻעַ זֹאת, complete this week. If it is simply mispronounced מָלֵא (with a קמץ instead of a פתח) that would completely change the meaning of the word from the imperative verb "complete" to the adjective, complete. If the בעל קריאה is one who discerns well between פתח and קמץ - and they should - this should definitely be corrected.

I am not an expert on the דגש but I know someone will correct me if I'm wrong but there probably is no דגש in the adjective version of the word so that is another differentiation (if applicable) to watch out for.


It is interesting that the first עליה of ויצא seems to contain an usually high instance of words that can stick together and thus, should be carefully separated by the בעל קריאה:

ויצא יעקב
וילך חרנה
וישם מראשתיו
סולם מוצב

They actually all appear in the fist עליה during the week.

From his Sleep

One of the textbook examples often given of the smallest mistake which makes a world of difference is וַיִּיקַץ יַעֲקֹב מִשְּׁנָתוֹ, found in the first עליה of this week's פרשה. If the שוא נע is not pronounced under the ש, it changes the meaning of the word from "from his sleep" to "his learning," from the root of the word משנה, suggesting perhaps that יעקב אבינו, instead of awaking from his sleep, ceased to learn!

However, R' Binyamin Marwick points out that this mistake may not be as grave as it seems. First, we must accept that in judging whether a mistake changes the meaning of a word, we may only consider other words from לשון הקדש. We wouldn't worry that someone mispronounced a word and made it sound like a different English or French word. That said, we might also suggest that the realm of different words is limited to the Biblical lexicon. One might even suggest that it may be constrained to include only word forms found in תורה as נביאים and כתובים include a vastly expanded vocabulary. The evolved language, although it may still be considered לשון הקדש, would not figure into the equation. R' Marwick suggest that the word משנה referring to תורה study is of Talmudic origin and not a biblical word and therefore, this mistake need not be corrected.

Come on, People! Part II

This past  שבת, after the shul's official מנחה, I was sticking around to learn a little when a group from a בר מצוה came in and started another מנין. They didn't really have someone to lain. I happen to know the first עליה of ויצא but there was someone else who "offered" so I let him do it. He definitely ran into some difficulty which I do not fault him for. But then he said וַיִּיקַץ יַעֲקֹב מִשְּׁנָתוֹ וַיֹּאמַר  - instead of וַיֹּאמֶר. Yes, imagine the horror! Unfortunately, someone in the crowd had the audacity to call out the correction - and he was quite adamant about it. I tried my hardest to drown him out and assert that it made no difference and he should just go on. But he actually went back and repeated the entire פסוק. It's bad enough to make such a correction under normal circumstances. But certainly, when the בעל קריאה is already nervous because he does not know it so well and is up there as a last resort - these corrections are more than unnecessary. I really wanted to go up to the "correcter" afterwards and kindly explain that the difference between וַיֹּאמַר and וַיֹּאמֶר is about the same as the difference between מִצְרָיִם and מִצְרַיִם. But I could not gather the courage.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Different types of kissing

A reader recently asked me about the different forms of the word "to kiss" found in the תורה. As a simple illustration:

בראשית ל"ג:ד וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ
בראשית ל"ב:א וַיְנַשֵּׁק

There seem to be two different בנינים used. Is there a difference in meaning between the two or any reasoning behind why one would be used more than the other?

In last week's פרשה we had:
  בראשית כ"ז:כ"ו גְּשָׁה נָּא וּשְׁקָה לִּי בְּנִי
Is that yet a third בנין or simply a conjugation of the first one above?

I will eat, you will eat

יעקב , כ"ז:י"ט tells קוּם נָא שְׁבָה וְאָכְלָה מִצֵּידִי ,יצחק. Mispronouncing it וְאֹכְלָה would drastically change the meaning from the second-person "you shall eat" to the first-person "I shall eat," as evidenced by its use in פסוק כ"ה. Fortunately, our בעל קריאה last year was, what my son would call, an oy-er, and a very consistent one at that, so the mistake stood out and I was able to catch it. But this is a mistake that an oh-er could very easily get away with, unfortunately.

It should also be noted (as Elie did below) that וְאֹכְלָה has a שוא נע under the כ whereas וְאָכְלָה has a שוא נח.

A reader has cleverly pointed out:
An amusing mnemonic device: The pasuk states: "קוּם־נָ֣א שְׁבָ֗ה" and not קוּם שְׁבָ֗ה נָ֣א -- It is not a שוא נע!

(From) the Fats of the Land

The ברכה to יעקב begins ויתן לך האלהים מטל השמים ומשמני הארץ כ"ז:כ"ח. One might be tempted to translate the last phrase as "from the fats of the land," with the מ"ם as a prefix meaning "from." However, if that were the case, there should be a דגש in the שי"ן. But there is not. It therefore seems to be that the מ"ם is in fact part of the word - משמן. The same would apply in עשו's ברכה in פסוק ל"ט although it is harder to understand in context there.

Anonymous MG said...
The Minchas Shai brings down old manuscripts that in fact did have a dagesh in the shin, then dismisses these versions. He quotes the Eben Ezra and the Radak who both say that the "מ" of "מטל" applies to both words, implying that the "מ" of "משמני" is not one of שימוש. Then he quotes the Chizkuni who seems to imply that the "מ" is indeed a שימוש here.
עיין שם.
November 22, 2009 9:31 PM

Friday, November 10, 2017

My Master's Brother(s)

פרק כד contains two very similar phrases with one very important distinction which would seem to change the meaning:
כ"ז בַּדֶּרֶךְ נָחַנִי ה' בֵּית אֲחֵי אֲדֹנִי
מ"ח לָקַחַת אֶת בַּת אֲחִי אֲדֹנִי לִבְנוֹ
The first one seems plural and the second is singular. However, there are two points that trouble me about the above observation:

1) I cannot understand why it would be plural. It doesn't really make much sense in context.

2) The תרגום of both is אחוהי which would seem to imply singular on both counts. When תרגום translates אֲחֵי that is clearly plural, such as במדבר כ"ז:ד, he actually leaves the word untouched and translates as אֲחֵי.
Is it possible that even אֲחֵי is singular here? (And if so, perhaps does not need to be corrected.) And of course, if so, the next question would be why does the word change?

Update 2016: Based on Anonymous's comment below (the second one) question #2 is not a question at all. In looking into it further, I came up with a theory to address my first question. The first פסוק is אליעזר's actual private prayer. אברהם sent him to find a girl from his family, seemingly without any further direction. So in truth, he could have ended up at any of אברהם's relatives and that would have sufficed. He was praising השם for guiding him to "the house of [one of] his master's brothers," אחי being used more loosely as a general reference to all relatives.

When telling over the story to רבקה's family, however, he felt that wouldn't make them feel terribly special. Using the singular form implied that he was specifically pleased with having found a girl from this particular family.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

באר שבע

The episode of the wells involving יצחק and אבימלך comes to a conclusion in באר שבע. However, it was called באר שבע before they got there. Then, after the covenant between יצחק and אבימלך, it is named באר שבע. Is this the same באר שבע as the one named by אברהם? If so, why did they name it the same name all over again?

רשב"ם writes that this was in fact a different באר שבע from the one in the times of אברהם. However, an interesting explanation is given by the ספורנו. He writes that the name in אברהם's time was בְּאֵר שָׁבַע. After the episode with יצחק and אבימלך, it was renamed to בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע. It is very interesting that this theory can not be disproved. Any time that the city is mentioned until now, it appears either at the end of a פסוק, or an אתנחתא. Even if it were בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע from before, the סגול would have always changed to a קמץ. So we have no way of knowing if it called בְּאֵר שָׁבַע because of its position in the פסוק or if it is because that is really its name. ספורנו writes that it was in fact its name since it was only named as such to reflect the vow that אברהם made. Now that it reflected the number seven as well, corresponding to the seven wells that were found, it was changed to בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע.

One year, on ראש השנה, the בעל קריאה said בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע and I almost corrected him based on the ספורנו. But I didn't.

Different forms of יירש

Previously, I have discussed the intricate difference between the ברכה given to אברהם after the עקידה and that given to רבקה before she departed to marry יצחק. However, I recently noticed that in וירא, the word is written וירש whereas in חיי שרה it is ויירש with two יו"דs. תרגום אונקלוס is identical. Any explanation for why they would be written differently?