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Parashat Aharei-Kedoshim 5761

Of Alef and Ayin

goral ehad ladoshem (even though the Taz (O. Ch. S. 621 end) says that the word adoshem does not indicate respect, nevertheless it is used here as it illustrates the silent Alef) vegoral ehad laazazel (Levit. 16:8) ('one lot for God and one lot for Azazel') Here as in most places the Tetragrammaton is read as the Adnut name. The Alef in the Adnut name usually has a Hataf Patah ('a very short [a] sound' which is only a Sheva-like semi-vowel), however when preceded by the prefixes ba- va- ka- or la- (which have a Patah - a short but full vowel) the rule is that the Alef becomes silent and loses its Hataf Patah. (The Masora and Minhat Shai, Psalms 135:5, record that there are seven exceptions in Scripture to this rule.) No such rule applies to the letter Ayin which is always pronounced. This explains the difference between ladoshem which has just one full vowel between the Lamed and the Dalet, while laazazel has a full vowel plus a Hataf vowel between the Lamed and the zayin.

* * * *

The idea of classifying the letters of the alphabet according to their place of articulation is to be found in Sefer Yetzira attributed to the Patriarch Abraham, and known to Saadya Gaon (10th century). There are many versions of this little book. Here we follow the edition of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach, Maine, USA, 1990). We find:

Twenty-two Foundation Letters

He engraved them with voice
He carved them with breath
He set them in the mouth
In five places

Alef Chet He Eyin in thethroat (Gutturals)
Gimmel Yud Kaf Kuf in the palate (Palatals)
Dalet Tet Lamed Nun Tav (Linguals)
Zayin Samekh Shin Resh Tzadi in the teeth (Dentals)
Bet Vav Mem Peh in the lips (Labials) (ibid. Ch 2, Mishna 3, p. 102)

Later he provides an alternative translation, "Engrave them with voice, carve them with breath, and set them in the mouth in five places (ibid. p. 107)." Knowledge of this passage illuminates the following comment by Rashi.

lo telekh rakhil ('do not go talebearing') (Levit. 19:16) Rashi comments: I say that as all those who sow discord and speak derogatively go into their friends' homes to spy (leragel) are called people who go spying (rakhil = ragil) for we have not found talebearing without the expression of halikha ('going') other forms of derogatory speech do not employ the term halikha therefore I say that the expression rakhil is related to holeikh umragel ('going and spying') that the Khaf interchanges with Gimmel because all the letters which are articulated in the same part of the vocal tract interchange with each other, Bet with Pe and with Vav, Gimmel with Khaf and with Quf, Nun with Lamed, Resh and Zayin with Tzade
Rashi gives examples of words where this occurs. It is not clear why Rashi listed those letters and not others. In the case of Nun and Lamed it may be that they form a separate sub-group of the Linguals. Dalet, Tet and Tav are plosives, while Nun is nasal (the tongue blocks the passage of the air through the mouth, it is released through the nose) and Lamed is lateral (the air is released through the sides of the tongue). It should be noted that in the Hitpael conjugation, Tav of Hitpael is replaced by a Dagesh in Dalet, Tet and Tav when any of them is the first letter of the root (see Rashi, R'A. ibn Ezra, Levit 14:4; Num. 7:89; Habak. 1:5).

I will be pleased to have comments on these notes on the Parasha.
Good Shabbos, Meshullam Klarberg, 35/4 Meshech Chochma, Kiryat Sefer, Israel 71919
E-mail address: fredit@zahav.net.il

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