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).

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.

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.