Thursday, May 16, 2019

נר תמיד

There is a custom to include a light in every shul which is on constantly, called a נר תמיד. Most people are aware of this. So what's the problem? I think that is what leads to a very popular misreading of a פסוק at the beginning of תצוה which is also found in אמור.

 לְהַֽעֲלֹ֥ת נֵ֖ר תָּמִֽיד

I think people automatically group the two words נר תמיד together in their minds and thus read it with a טפחא on להעלות and a מרכא on נר which is incorrect. It does change the meaning ever so slightly but I would never correct that on the spot. Maybe after the fact, I would point it out.

Monday, May 6, 2019

סוכת דוד

I'm sure everyone will notice the reference in this week's הפטרה to the phrase we insert in ברכת המזון for סוכות - (actually, it's the other way around, the phrase is a reference to the פסוק)

הרחמן הוא יקים לנו את סכת דויד הנופלת

I'm probably not the only one, however, to notice the slight anomaly in the פסוק. We are accustomed to saying הַנֹּפָלֶת, with a קמץ under the פ. I believe it is this way in most, if not all ברכונים. But in the עמוס ט:י"א ,פסוק, it is written with a סגול, even though it is on an אתנחתא.
This therefore begs two questions:
  1. Why would it not change to הַנֹּפָלֶת on an אתנחתא?
  2. Seeing as it does not in the original biblical text, why would we change it in ברכת המזון?

    Please see Elie's comment.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Stand up, goat

וְהַשָּׂעִיר אֲשֶׁר עָלָה עָלָיו הגּוֹרָל לַעֲזָאזֵל יָעֳמַד חַי

The above bolded word is translated "shall be made to stand." However, if it is mispronounced יַעַמֹד it would mean simply that the goat "shall stand" (on its own.) Beware.

מטמאת - Watch that plural!

וְכִפֶּר עַל הַקּדֶשׁ מִטֻּמְאֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
וְטִהֲרוֹ וְקִדְּשׁוֹ, מִטֻּמְאֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
With these and any other instances, it is of utmost importance that it is not pronounced מִטֻּמְאַת, which would change it from plural to singular.
(It should also be noted that while the שוא under the מ is a שוא נח, it is important to create a separation between the מ and א so that the א doesn't disappear and it is pronounced as if it is מטמות, i.e. it should be mitum-os, not mitu-mos.)

A Revealing Note

This seems to have come up fairly often so I should probably address it in a post. Every now and then, a בעל קריאה will mix up תְגַלֶּה (with a סגול) and תְגַלֵּה (with a צירי.) This comes up many times in אחרי מות and again in קדושים as well. I have seen people get rather antsy about this. However, (please correct me if I'm wrong) there is absolutely no difference whatsoever. The only factor that determines the נקוד under the ל is that it will get a צירי if it is at the end of a פסוק or on an אתנחתא. Otherwise, it will be a סגול. This should never be corrected by anyone on the spot.

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.)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

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 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?

Friday, April 12, 2019

שבת הגדול

This Shabbos, the last Shabbos before Pesach, is called שבת הגדול - the great Shabbos. Or is it? Have no fear. I am certainly not doubting that it is שבת הגדול. But is that really what the term means? Shabbos is found all over Tana"ch as being feminine. Therefore, the term for the great Shabbos should have been Shabbos HaGedolah. One is lead to believe that the term Shabbos HaGadol must truly mean the Shabbos of the Gadol. Incidentally, this would change the pronunciation from Shabbos to Shabbas. So if it is the Shabbos of the Gadol - what does that mean?

I have heard a number of answers on this subject but I found many to be unsatisfactory. There seem to be two viable options. First, perhaps the term skips a word. It is the Shabbos of "something" great. This is most commonly used to refer to it as the Shabbos of the great miracle that was entailed in B'nei Yisroel's gathering of the Korban Pesach unharmed. (For an alternate approach to what that something might be see this post.)

I heard in the name of R' Yaakov Kaminetzky that the term is not meant to be a gramatical conjugation but rather, it follows the same pattern as Shabbas Chazon, Shabbas Nachamu and Shabbas Shuvah. It is merely referring to a significant word in the haftarah for this occasion. In our case, it is a reference to the end of the Haftarah, when HaShem proclaims, (Malachi 3:23) "Hinei anochi sholei'ach lachem es Eliyah HaNavi lifnei bo yom HaShem hagadol vehanora." This pasuk refers to the coming of Eliyahu HaNavi before the great and awesome day of HaShem - the ultimate redemption. Shabbas HaGadol is a direct reference to the word hagadol in this pasuk.

This approach gives great significance to the name and plays beautifully into the theme of the day. Whereas Chazon, Nachamu and Shuvah are all the first words of their respective haftaros, HaGadol is not, certainly indicating a special meaning. Just as this pasuk in the Haftarah gets us ready for the ultimate redemption, on this Shabbos we are readying ourselves for the celebration of the great redemption from Egypt. This pasuk gets us in the geulah mood which allows us to better appreciate the seder and its geulah theme.

Please see the comments for further discussions on the gender of שבת and some of the opinions not fully discussed here.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

White Hair

The beginning of this week's פרשה contains many instances of the מפיק ה, indicating the female, third-person possessive. The proper pronunciation of these is more critical than usual as we find the word טהרה both with and without. The absence of an expected מפיק ה would certainly change the meaning. There is another such instance later on. In the discussions of the various laws of צרעת, there are a number of references to hair. In 13:20, when the כהן observes the white hair, the word ושערהּ has a מפיק ה as expected, indicating that its hair turned white. However, earlier on, (13:4) in reference to hair that has not turned white, we find the very same word without a מפיק ה. Most חומשים go out of their way to call attention to this apparent anomaly.

I had originally thought that this was simply another one of the many grammatical anomalies found in the תורה, such as the missing דגש in the שׂ of the last word of פסוק י in this very פרק. However, I found a very logical explanation for this in משך חכמה. In the later reference to the hair, rewinding to the beginning of the paragraph reveals that the subject is בשר, flesh. That is why ושערהּ is punctuated in the possessive form, because the hair emanates from the flesh. However, the subject of the earlier pasuk is עור, the skin. Although the hair appears to be coming from the skin, in truth, it comes from the flesh underneath it so the non-possessive form without the מפיק ה is used.

A reader offered the following alternative approach which seems more plausible, partially due to MDJ's question in the comments:

Note that “Hair” in English has two separate connotations – either referring to individual strand of hair, or to a collection of strands. I suggest se’ara (the fem. Form) has the former meaning, and se’ar (masc.) the latter.
When we describe a situation where white hair has appeared, it may be a minimal amount or (more typically) an entire section, so “hair” is used in the collective sense.When we describe the opposite situation, we say not one strand of hair has turned white.
Thus:In 13:3 which speaks of some hair turning white, the masculine form se’ar is used.In 13:4, the condition described is that no hair (not even a minimal number of individual strands) has turned white – so the feminine form denoting a strand is used.And in 13:20, which (like 13:3) speaks of some of “its” hair having turned white, we are back to the masculine form, but with a feminine possessive suffix added.

דקדוקי פרשת תזריע והחודש

דקדוקי קריאה בפרשת תזריע, במפטיר החודש, בהפטרת החודש, ובראשון של מצֹרע.
תזריע היא הפרשה הקשה ביותר לקריאה שיש. אולי אפילו קשה יותר מויקרא, אם כי לא אתווכח עם אף אחד שיחשוב הפוך ממני.
קריאה או קריעה? בא נאמר שהמפטיר הוא סוג של נחמה לעומת הפרשה עצמה. נדמה לי שבשנה שעברה ספרתי משהו כמו 18 פסוקים המתחילים ב"וראה הכהן" או "וראהו הכהן". כמעט בלתי אפשרי לזכור את כולם ללא כל עזרה.
יב ב וְיָלְדָה: אי הקפדה על השווא נע בלמ"ד משבשת את המשמעות. וְטָֽמְאָה: המ"ם בשוא נע, והאל"ף צריכה להישמע. לא לקרוא וְטָמָה. וכן בפסוק ה.
יב ד בִּדְמֵי טָהֳרָהֿ: אין מפיק בה"א. יְמֵי טָהֳרָֽהּ׃ הה"א מופקת[1].
יב ה עַל-דְּמֵי טָהֳרָֽהֿ׃ אין מפיק בה"א.
יב ו וּבִמְלֹאת: הלמ"ד בחולם והאל"ף אינה מונעת. יְמֵי טָהֳרָהּ: הה"א מופקת.
יג ד וּשְׂעָרָהֿ: אין מפיק בה"א.
יג ה לֹא-פָשָׂה: שׂי"ן שמאלית
יב ב וְיָלְדָה: אי הקפדה על השווא נע בלמ"ד משבשת את המשמעות. וְטָֽמְאָה: המ"ם בשוא נע, והאל"ף צריכה להשמע. לא לקרוא וְטָמָה. וכן בפסוק ה.
יב ד בִּדְמֵי טָהֳרָהֿ: אין מפיק בה"א. יְמֵי טָהֳרָֽהּ׃ הה"א מופקת.
יב ה עַל-דְּמֵי טָהֳרָֽהֿ׃ אין מפיק בה"א.
יב ו וּבִמְלֹאת: הלמ"ד בחולם והאל"ף אינה מונעת. יְמֵי טָהֳרָהּ: הה"א מופקת.
יג ג הוּא: יש לשים היטב בכל הפרשה מתי מנוקד הוּא ומתי מנוקד הִוא!
יג ד וּשְׂעָרָהֿ: אין מפיק בה"א.
יג ה לֹא-פָשָׂה: שׂי"ן שמאלית
יג ו כֵּהָה: הה"א בקמץ.
יג ח וְטִמְּאוֹ: המ"ם בשוא נע, והאל"ף צריכה להשמע. לא לקרוא וְטִמּוֹ. וכן בהמשך.
יג יא בַּשְׂאֵֽת׃ השׂי"ן בשוא נח ללא דגש; אין לבלוע את האל"ף, לא בַּשֵׂת.
יג טז וְנֶהְפַּךְ: הה"א בשווא נח והפ"א בדגש קל וכן הדבר בהמשך
יג יט אוֹ בַהֶרֶת לְבָנָה אֲדַמְדָּמֶת: טעם טפחא בתיבת בַהֶ֖רֶת
יג כט בְּרֹאשׁ אוֹ בְזָקָֽן׃ הבי"ת בשווא, בלתי מיודע, יש להיזהר מלקרוא בפתח
יג לב וְלֹא-הָיָה בוֹ: טעם נסוג אחור לה"א הראשונה
יג לז צָֽמַח-בּוֹ: געיה בצד"י, יש לקרוא בהעמדה קלה שם
יג לט בֶּהָרֹת כֵּהוֹת לְבָנֹת: טעם טפחא בתיבת בֶּהָרֹת
יג מב נֶגַע לָבָן אֲדַמְדָּם: טעם טפחא בתיבת נֶגַע
יג מה פְרֻמִים פָרוּעַ: הפ"א בשתיהן רפויה. יַעְטֶה: העי"ן בשווא נח אך אין להבליעו כי אז יישמע כלשון 'הטייה'. וְטָמֵא ׀ טָמֵא יִקְרָֽא׃ פסק בין התיבות וְטָמֵא – טָמֵא, יש להפסיק מעט בין הראשונה לשנייה
יג מח בְעֵרֶב: הבי"ת בשווא, לא מיודע, בשונה מההמשך שאז היא בקמץ: בָעֵרֶב
יג מט וְהָרְאָה: הה"א בקמץ קטן, והרי"ש בשוא נח. להיזהר מהבלעת האל"ף, לא וְהוֹרָה ולא וְהָרָה!
יג נא אֲשֶׁר-יֵעָשֶׂה: היו"ד בצירי
מפטיר שבת החודש שמות יב:
יב ג בֶּעָשֹׂר: העמדה קלה בבי"ת להדגשת הסגול המורה על מיודע. וְיִקְחוּ: וא"ו החיבור בשווא נע, לשון עתיד
יב ז וְנָתְנוּ: מרכא בנו"ן כטעם משנה. הַבָּתִּים: דגש חזק בתי"ו (אחד מן היוצאים מן הכלל), יש להטעים מעט את הבי"ת בגלל המונח על אף האי נוחות שבדבר.
יב יא וְכָכָה: הטעם בכ"ף הראשונה מלעיל. כדי למנוע טעות סומנה זרקא בכמה חומשים גם בכ"ף הראשונה.
יב יד תְּחָגֻּֽהוּ׃ החי"ת בקמץ חטוף (קטן).
יב טו מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל: היו"ד בחירק ודגש חזק, אין לקרוא מיאישראל
יב טז לֹא-יֵעָשֶׂה ... יֵאָכֵל: היו"ד בצירי וגעיה אחריו המורה על העמדה שלא יישמע 'יַעשה' וישנה משמעות.

הפטרת החודש, יחזקאל מה:
יז וְהַנֵּסֶךְ נו"ן בצירי. וּבֶחֳדָשִׁים: העמדה קלה בבי"ת להבחין בין מיודע בסגול ללא מיודע בשווא וכן הוא בהמשך מו ג
חָג החי"ת בקמץ כא שְׁבֻעוֹת: השי"ן בשווא ולא בקמץ
מו ח וּבְבוֹא: בי"ת ראשונה בשווא נח על אף הקושי וכן הוא בפס' ט
מו ט נִכְחוֹ: הכ"ף בשווא נח על אף הקושי
מו י וּבְצֵאתָם יֵצֵֽאוּ׃ בכל הדפוסים וכתבי היד החוץ-תימניים הידועים הגירסא וּבְצֵאתָם, ובכללם כתר ארם צובא[2].
מו יב וּפָתַֽח לוֹ: טעם נסוג אחור לפ"א
מו יז וְהָיְתָה לּוֹ: טעם נסוג אחור לה"א, עם זאת השוא ביו"ד נע, ודגש חזק בלמ"ד מדין אתי מרחיק. וְשָׁבַת: הבי"ת רפה, פועל לשבות בלשון עבר

ראשון של מצורע
יד ב הַמְּצֹרָע מ"ם דגושה ושווא נע.
יד ד לַמִּטַּהֵר: המ"ם בחירק חסר והטי"ת דגושה.
יד ה וְשָׁחַט אֶת-הַצִּפּוֹר הָאֶחָת: טעם טפחא בתיבה וְשָׁחַט וכן הוא בהמשך בפסוק כא
יד ו עַל הַמַּיִם הַֽחַיִּֽים׃ טעם טפחא בתיבה עַל
יד ח וְאַחַר יָבוֹא אֶל-הַֽמַּחֲנֶה: טעם טפחא בתיבה וְאַחַר
יד ט יְגַלַּח הלמ"ד בפתח. יְגַלֵּחַ: הלמ"ד בצירי חי"ת בפתח גנובה.
יד י וְכַבְשָׂה: הכ"ף פתוחה.
יד יא וְהֶעֱמִיד: העמדה קלה בה"א למנוע הבלעת הגרונית החטופה. הַֽמְטַהֵר: זהו המקום היחיד בפרק בו המ"ם מנוקדת בשווא נח[3]
[1] כאשר מדובר בדמיה של האישה אז ללא מפיק בה"א, כאשר מדובר בימים, אז הה"א במפיק ולסיכום: ראשונה ושלישית הה"א ללא מפיק, שנייה ורביעית, במפיק.
[2] לפי תורה קדומה צריך להיות 'ובדרכם יצאו' על פי כתבי יד תימניים.[3] לפי הכלל בסוף תנ"ך ברויאר מוסד הרב קוק שגעית ה"א במילה בעלת טעם מפסיק משאירה שווא נח. הערה נוספת, בשוא הכוונה לכהן ולא לאדם הבא להטהר שאז מנוקד בחירק חסר.

תרגום המילה כבוס

יג נח אֲשֶׁר תְּכַבֵּס וְסָר מֵהֶם הַנָּגַע וְכֻבַּס שֵׁנִית וְטָהֵר׃ ת"א: דתחור ויעדי מנהון מכתשא ויצטבע תנינות וידכי.

הזכרנו כבר כמה פעמים את דברי רש"י כאן. מגיליון בהעלותך: ח ז וְכִבְּסוּ בִגְדֵיהֶם תרגום אונקלוס: ויחוורון לבושיהון. והנה בסוף פרשת תזריע (ויקרא יג נח) פרש רש"י: וְכֻבַּס שֵׁנִית ־ לשון טבילה. תרגום של כבוסין שבפרשה זו לשון ליבון׃ "ויתחוור"; חוץ מזה, שאינו לליבון אלא לטבול, לכך תרגמו׃ "ויצטבע"; וכן כל כבוסי בגדים שהן לטבילה, מתרגמין׃ "ויצטבע".

בפשטות כבוס הבגדים כאן [בפרשת בהעלותך] הוא לטהרה ולא לנקיון, כך מוכיח סוף הפסוק והטהרו. ולכן היה צפוי לפי הכלל של רש"י בסוף תזריע לתרגם ויצבעון (השווה עם לשון המקרא וּבְטַל שְׁמַיָּא יִצְטַבַּע דניאל ד יב). שאלה זו אפשר לשאול בשני מקומות נוספים: א. שמות יט י וְכִבְּסוּ שִׂמְלֹתָם; במדבר לא כד וְכִבַּסְתֶּם בִּגְדֵיכֶם, בשני המקומות ההם כמו כאן אף שלפי פשוטו מדובר בטהרה מתורגם לשון חוור. עיין בהעמק דבר ובמשך חכמה במקומות האלה (או בחלקם), גם הספר שערי אהרן דן בשאלה זו. שמעתי בשם הרב דויד צבי הילמן, וזה תוכן דבריו: התרגום מצד אחד משתדל לפרש פשוטו של מקרא, מצד שני אין הוא מתרגם בניגוד לתורה שבעל פה. ולכן אם התורה קוראה לטבילת בגדי הלובש בשם כיבוס – המתרגם מתרגמו בלשון צבע כמו שהבאנו מהארמית המקראית (לשון הרטבה), בשלושת המקומות היוצאים מן הכלל אין דין שנוהג לדורות אלא מעשה שהיה. כאן התרגום חוזר לכללו לפרש פשוטו של מקרא, כבוס לשם ניקיון. עד כאן מפרשת בהעלותך.

Friday, March 29, 2019

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.


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.

Thursday, March 28, 2019


As I have discussed in a different forum, the essence of פרשת שמיני is one word - להבדיל, do differentiate. Towards the end of the פרשה, in פרק י"א that manifests itself in a דקדוק sense as well. There are two sets of words which appear very similar but must be pronounced differently so that they take on their proper meaning:
Here, אכל means food items.

Here, אכל refers to a person who eats.

The trop is included to stress the difference in accent. The first is pronouned with a סגול and מלעיל. The second is with a צירי and מלרע.

2) מג וְלֹא תִטַּמְּאוּ is with a חיריק meaning "do not become טמא," whereas
מד וְלֹא תְטַמְּאוּ is with a שוא meaning "do not make טמא."

Both are definitely correctable. I once heard someone get the vowel right but the accent wrong on #1 (or vice versa, can't remember) and I corrected it on the spot.

Friday, March 22, 2019


[While we're all getting ready for פורים, let's take a look back at חנוכה:]

In 2013 I posted:
I might have missed this one: someone came over to me at the end of the עליה to tell me that he was pretty sure that instead of וְכָל נַעֲשָׂה בַמַּרְחֶשֶׁת, he was pretty sure he heard נַעֲשֶׂה (with a סגול.) He was pretty certain that changed the tense to future, "let us do." I tried to suggest that perhaps נַעֲשֶׂה is simply the masculine version of  נַעֲשָׂה and still means "made." However, I don't think that is correct. In מעוז צור we say נַעֲשָׂה נס לשושנים. Even though נס is masculine, it is still נַעֲשָׂה. So it would appear that if he heard correctly, then it was in fact a serious error.

However, later that year I actually posted specifically about that line in מעוז צור and thanks to some reader feedback, it produced some interesting revelations as to the proper pronunciation. There are even more links to follow there. With much confusion surrounding the issue I think the one clear outcome is that this should definitely be corrected (in the laining, not in מעוז צור).

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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.

Recently, this word was the subject of discussion in the Dikduk WhatsApp group. One of the members suggested that the mispronunciation is not as drastic as first thought since the two words - floor and coal - actually really emanate from the same root רצף. To support this assertion, he pointed to שיר השירים ג:י - תוכו רצוף אהבה. There רש"י explains it as connected to the word for floor while מצודת ציון connects it to גחלת.

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?

I could use a rest

Tonight (פורים תשע"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?

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):

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.

Recently, the following excerpt was posted in the Dikduk WhatsApp group which addresses this question:

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.

Not that kind of oil

From תשע"ד:

Rather hot of the press - not the oil 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/ear out for this one.

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.

Friday, March 15, 2019

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.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

כבש vs כשב

This is a question I have had for some time and a reader recently brought it up with me again in person and pointed out that it is very applicable with פינחס coming up:
Is the mistaking of כבש for כשב (or vice-versa) a correctable mistake? While the words are different, their meanings are exactly the same. What say you?

UPDATE: Once again, the Dikdukian is rescued by its readers:

MG said...
According to the Malbim these two words do NOT have the exact same meaning, and might even be referring to two different "types" of sheep:

Link to ספר at HebrewBooks

However, as per my comment per below, the מסורת הש"ס to :שבת צב might imply otherwise. As well, I happened upon a ספר חותם תכנית written in the 1860's which asserts that they are the same here.

Additionally, the משנה ברורה קמ"ג:כ"ו (which was recently learned as part of the Dirshu דף היומי בהלכה program), based on מגן אברהם counts כשב/כבש as an example of a change in pronunciation without a change in meaning which would nevertheless necessitate putting the Torah back and laining from another.

Nevertheless, Jack Gross's comment is very poignant.  Whether there is a difference in meaning and whether this is a correctable mistake are likely two completely separate discussions. The difference in meaning might very well be debatable. But as for the קריאה aspect, it's simply a different word and the fact that it is almost the same is irrelevant. If the consonants are out of order, the word has not been pronounced properly and this needs to be corrected.
(Perhaps the same argument may be made regarding R' Marwick's position on בלילה הוא.)

Friday, March 1, 2019

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, February 21, 2019

Whys and Wherefores

The following thorough and intriguing write-up was submitted by a Dikdukian reader:

It is difficult to research a rule that apparently has no name.

I refer to what some colloquially refer to as the "למה" rule, because it is perhaps best illustrated with a handful of examples in which למה is used twice in close succession, once מלעיל and once מלרע (e.g., Shemot 5:22; Shemot 32:11-12 -- you know it from ויחל on a תענית צבור). The rule is that an otherwise מלעיל word becomes מלרע before a word that begins with an א, ה, or ע (of course, HaShem's name spelled with a י is pronounced with an א and therefore triggers the rule).

R. Yaakov Kamenetsky refers to the rule often in his ספר אמת ליעקב but generally as "that rule I have cited many times." Paul Jouon, in his well-regarded grammar written with T. Muraoka, calls it "hiatus" (a not uncommon grammatical process) but admits the name is less than ideal.

None of this sheds much light on the details of the rule itself. Jouon does mention that the word in question must end in an open syllable, but are there any other environmental factors?

Consider these examples (or nonexamples): 

  1. Bamidbar 11:8: שָׁטוּ֩ הָעָ֨ם וְלָֽקְט֜וּ... There is some disagreement about this one, as indicated in many חומשים that mark it as מלעיל but other sources, including מנחת שי and אמת ליעקבthat say it follows the rule and is מלרע. Those who say it is מלעיל claim that that is true to the meaning of the word, but we see other instances where the rule overrides that consideration (e.g., זָד֖וּ עֲלֵיהֶֽם Shemot 18:11). Nevertheless, it is unusual to see Koren and others mark מלעיל if it should be מלרע. My thought was that perhaps the rule is blocked with a תלישה (big or small), as seen in ...
  2. Bamidbar 16:7: וְשִׂימוּ֩ עֲלֵיהֶ֨ן קְטֹ֜רֶת where ושימו is marked (in every חומש I've seen that double-marks the תלישה in such a case) as מלעיל. But is טעם part of the environment that blocks the rule? Consider also ...
  3. Shemot 25: 24: וְצִפִּיתָ֥ אֹת֖וֹ זָהָ֣ב טָה֑וֹר... R. Kamenetsky says it is מלרע because of "that rule." Conveniently, the word doesn't show up elsewhere (without an א afterward) for comparison, supporting R. Kamenetsky's view by default. But what of other ל-ה verbs that don't trigger the rule, such as the very common ועשית? I had surmised merely that a ל-ה verb doesn't trigger the rule, and thus that the שורש of וצפית is not צפה as otherwise expected. And, in fact, other ל-ה verbs like וראית are still מלעיל before an א (Shemot 33:23, Devarim 4:19, the latter with a תלישה, fwiw). Further, the problem for the other view is that is doesn't explain why ועשית is often followed by an א and yet remains מלעיל (as in Shemot 27:1וְעָשִׂ֥יתָ אֶת־הַמִּזְבֵּ֖חַand we see וצפית as מלרע followed by את in 26:29). The other question here is possible interaction between this rule and that of וי"ו ההיפוך in עתיד/צווי -- but clearly R. Kamenetsky is saying the rule occurs here without saying why it doesn't in other seemingly like situations.

So what are the other environmental conditions that trigger/block the rule? I might like to write down each instance the rule shows up to see what's missing, but perhaps someone has done that already or has the software to find out quickly...?

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 Kamenetsky 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' Kamenetsky suggests that the verse in כי תשא is to be read as though the word "כל" were present. R' Kamenetsky 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' Kamenetsky 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 noun 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' Kamenetsky. R' Kamenetsky 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, February 15, 2019

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?

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.]