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Parashat Balak 5761

What are the vowels of Heh Hayediah?

hassa:deh,(Num. 22:4) ('the field'), ha:'ana:shim ha:'eileh (Num. 22:9) ('these people') (a=Patach; a:=Kamatz)

When Heh Hayediah (the particle Heh which means the definite article 'the') is prefixed to a word that starts with any of the letters of the alphabet except Alef, Heh, Chet, Ayin, Resh, its vowel is Patach, and usually the following letter has a Dagesh. In theory, and indeed in the traditional pronunciation of many Jewish communities of the east, this indicates a doubling of the letter. The first sound segment of the letter provides the closing consonant of the first syllable and the second sound segment provides the opening consonant of the following syllable e.g. has-sadeh.

When Heh Hayediah is prefixed to a word that starts with any of the letters Alef, Heh, Chet, Ayin, Resh, which cannot be pronounced double and hence cannot receive a Dagesh, its vowel may be adjusted:

When the word begins with Alef, Resh and Ayin (other than an Ayin with an unaccented long Kamatz) the Heh receives a Kamatz e.g. ha:'anashim ha:'eileh, ha:raglayim (Isa. 7:20) ('the feet'), ha:'ayin (Gen. 16:7) ha:'a:yin (Gen. 24:29) ('the well'); When the word begins with Heh or Ayin with an unaccented long Kamatz or Chet with (any) Kamatz the Heh receives a Segol. heha:rim (Gen.17:19) ('the mountains'), he'a:na:n (Exod. 13:22) ('the cloud'), hecha:cha:m (Ecl. 2:14) ('the wise man'), hecha:i (Levit. 16:20) ('the live one') When the word begins with Heh or Chet with any other vowel the Heh Hayediah receives a Patah e.g. hachacha:mim (Exod. 36:4) ('the wise men'), haholeich (Gen. 13:5) ('who would walk'). When the five words eretz ('earth'), har ('mountain'), chag ('festival'), am ('people'), par ('ox'), are prefixed by Heh Hayediah they have the form that otherwise occurs only at a pause ha:'a:retz, ha:ha:r, hecha:g, ha:'a:m, happa:r In some words the Dagesh is omitted e.g. haleviyim.

What are the vowels of Mah?

meh asita (Num 22:28); al ma:h hikita (Num 22:32); mah tovu (Num 24:5); and why the Dagesh in the Tet? The rules for mah are the same as those for Heh Hayediah (and the Dagesh belongs to the obscure sub-rule exception dachik ve'atei meirachik where, when two words are particularly close and the first one concludes with certain vowels, the first letter of the following word has a Dagesh). My teacher, Tzvi Grossman z"l, pointed out that in the prayer 'le'olam yehei adam ' (A person should always be ') all prayer books have meh chayeinu meh chasdeinu. He maintained that although this is not in accordance with the established rules, it should be accepted as it is a very old tradition found in all prayer books. He was right with regard to both Ashkenazi and Sefaradi prayer books, but appears not to have consulted Yemenite prayer books. In 'tiklel torath avoth' Yemenite minhag according to the tradition of the Baladi region, (Benei Berak, 5754) it has mah anu [with a Patach rather than a Kamatz!] mah chayeinu mah chasdeinu [in accordance with the above rules].

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'Kal' and 'Niphal'

vatilachetz vatilchatz (Num. 22:25) To the first, Rashi adds 'she herself' ['was pressed'], and to the second ['she pressed'] Rashi adds 'others.' Rashi is explaining that, though the letters are identical, the difference in vowels changes the meaning. The passive verb belongs to the 'Niphal' conjugation (it does not follow that every Niphal is passive), while the active verb belongs to the 'Kal' conjugation (it certainly does not follow that every Kal is active). For a proper understanding of the conjugations one needs to study tables of the various conjugations in Hebrew. This cannot be done in translation and even transliteration is likely to confuse the beginner.

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Notes for Torah readers:

me'uma (Num. 22:38) occurs nine times in the Torah. It should always be read with the stress on the second last syllable (mile'eil).

Pinechas (Num. 25:7) When letter Yod follows the vowel Chirik they constitute a long vowel. In R' Eliyahu Bachur's five rules for identifying a sounding Sheva rule no. 3 says "a Sheva which comes after a long (unaccented) vowel is a sounding Sheva; accordingly the Sheva of the Nun in Pinechas should be sounded.

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
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