Friday, June 24, 2022

What's different about אפרים?

This has bothered me for many years. The פסוקים enumerating the names of the spies are almost all identical in structure with the obvious exception of מנשה for whom it says למטה יוסף למטה מנשה. As such, the טעמים on the פסוקים are identical as well with the curious exception of אפרים. Instead of the זקף קטון as with the others, למטה אפרים has a מרכא-טפחא. Why?

I have heard a suggestion that perhaps the different tone is meant to indicate יחושע's ענוה. But I am not convinced. In pondering this issue I did come to an interesting discovery which may somehow be connected to the reasoning behind this. Of all of the sons of יעקב, the only one whose name is pronounced with the accent not on the last syllable is אפרים! Perhaps this affects how the פסוק needs to be noted.

As is often the case here, MG comes to the rescue:

MG said...
I've seen two answers for this. I'll leave out one of them because it has a more "Chasidish"/Drush slant.
Basically, this posuk is an exception because "Bin-Nun" is a "short" word (all the other names have more syllables). Because of that, we don't want to place a tipcha (pause/melech)immmediately prior, since that presents a slightly difficult flow of words. So we must have a mercha there, as that is the only possible meshares for a sof-posuk. Thus the tipcha (which is required to be in every single posuk at least once) gets moved to the word "Efroyim".

Friday, June 10, 2022

Alephs and Ayins

The שולחן ערוך או"ח קכח:לג, based on the :גמרא מגילה כ"ד states that someone who cannot properly pronounce the letters, such as one who mispronounces an א as an ע or an ע as an א, should not go up to perform ברכת כהנים. The difficulty with this is that the פסוקים do contain an א but do not contain an ע. Why then would someone who mispronounces an ayin as an aleph be forbidden from performing ברכת כהנים?
רש"י in the גמרא seems to be sensitive to this issue. He gives a specific example of a grievous mispronunciation that would result with the exchange of an ע for an א. However, when explaining the opposite substitution, he writes simply that as a result of this substitution he will disqualify his prayers. This statement of רש"י is quite vague and requires further interpretation but it shows, nevertheless, that רש"י addressed the lack of an ע in ברכת כהנים.
The issue is dealt with further in the commentaries on the שולחן ערוך. The question is raised in באר היטב but no answer is given. מחצית השקל seems to suggest that this is not an issue as the גמרא is simply referring to one who confuses the two letters. Thus, as long as one of the substitutions is significant, it is a sufficient problem.
I suggest a possible explanation for the גמרא which may be the meaning of רש"י as well. After the כהנים complete the main part of ברכת כהנים, they recite an additional prayer which begins, "רבונו של עולם, עשינו מה שגזרת עלינו..." concluding with the פסוק:
הַשְׁקִיפָה מִמְּעוֹן קָדְשְׁךָ מִן-הַשָּׁמַיִם, וּבָרֵךְ אֶת-עַמְּךָ אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאֵת הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּה לָנוּ--כַּאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתָּ לַאֲבֹתֵינוּ, אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ
Pronouncing the ע of נשבעת as an א would drastically change the meaning from "you have sworn" to sounding something like נִשְׁבָּתָּ, "you have been taken captive." Although this is not part of the actual blessings of the כהנים, perhaps it is a serious enough mispronunciation to forbid a כהן from performing ברכת כהנים.

Another suggestion made by Snag in the comments is that the real שם המפורש used in the בית המקדש might contain an ע. But that doesn't fit with רש"י and also doesn't account for why we would still be particular about this today.

Reader Question

כתוב בסי' עבודת ישראל (בתפילת יהי רצון שבברכת כהנים לפני אמירת תיבת "שלום") "בהתר ולא באיסור". "התר" נכתב עם פת"ח תחת הה"א וקמ"ץ תחת הת"ו. איזה מילה היא זו?

Friday, June 3, 2022

שבועות takes it on the chin... or under the shin

In the English-speaking world we still manage to pronounce the names of the holidays fairly precisely - except, of course, there's yontif. פסח has, for some reason become peisach. But that's not such an egregious mispronunciation. Shavuos, however, has it tough. The conventional lazy way to pronounce it, Shvues, completely changes the meaning from "weeks" to "oaths." Ironically, there are two מסכתות which end on daf 49 and are thus customarily learned from פסח to שבועות. One of them is Shevuos.
Hope you all enjoy the YOM TOV of SHAVUOS.