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Parasha Bechukotai 5763

What does the Hebrew word adam mean?

venatati et arechem chorba (Levit. 26:31) (‘and I will make your cities become ruins’): Rashi asks ‘Does this mean that there will be no adam there?’ He answers, ‘That cannot be as it is already implied by the verse “and I will make the land desolate” (verse 32) which covers adam.’ So he rephrases his question ‘What do I learn from the word chorba?’ He answers ‘Not even wayfarers will be there.’

The word adam occurs hundreds of times in the Tenach. If not for the above comment of Rashi I would have thought that adam means either 1) The first man, ancestor of all human beings; or, 2) Any descendant of the first man. It seems that Rashi understood differently. Rashi implies that wayfarers are not included in the word adam! R’ Eliyahu Mizrachi (Ram) notes this implication of Rashi. Referring to Rashi’s comment ‘Does this mean that there will be no adam there?’ Ram writes ‘That is to say no inhabitants of the land, but not [that it will be bereft] of simple wayfarers.’ According to Rashi it seems that the word adam is restricted to a settled inhabitant (of the adamah ‘earth’). The issue requires further study.

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The root Shin Mem Mem

vahashimoti … veshamemu (Levit. 26:32) (‘I will lay desolate … and they will be astonished’) hoshama (ibid verse 34) (‘desolateness’): Rashi, in commenting on the last of these examples, points out that Dagesh in the Mem indicates that the root is Shin Mem Mem as is quite clear in the second example. However veshamemu means ‘and they will be astonished;’ what does this have to do with desolateness? For the answer to this question we need to refer to a comment by Rashi elsewhere in the Torah. Rashi explains that the word tohu signifies astonishment and shimamon (‘amazement’) like a person astonished and mishtomem (‘amazed’) at its emptiness (Rashi, Gen. 1:2). Both shimamon and mishtomem are products of the root Shin Mem Mem. Perhaps surprise is a lack of understanding (emptiness of the mind) just as the desolateness of the earth is its emptiness.

By pointing to the two Mems in the root Rashi has explained the Dagesh in the Mem (which phonetically doubles the letter) of hoshama. Why the Dagesh in the Shin? Irrespective of whether we adopt the view of Rashi that this word is a verb in the infinitive, or that of R’ A. ibn Ezra that it is a noun, it seems to be a variant of the uncommon Hotpa’el conjugation - the Dagesh being in place of the Tav which is absorbed in the Shin.

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A third type of Sheva?

kizkor (Jer. 17:2) (‘as remembering’): The default pointing for the prefixes Bet Vav Kaf Lamed (Buchal) is a Sheva. When the first letter of a word to which they are prefixed has a Sheva, Bet Kaf Lamed take a Chirik and Vav takes a Shuruk. This is because it is unacceptable to have two consecutive Shevas that are Na.

Traditionally, and in accordance with the five rules of the Sheva Na of R’ Eliyahu Bachur, the remaining Sheva is a Sheva Nach (‘silent Sheva’). However R’ Zalman Hanau (Raza”h 1687 – 1746) in Tzohar HaTeva, (Tevat HaTenu’ot 12-13, facsimile edition, ’95 Y.A. Guttman 939 44 St. Brooklyn, N.Y. 11219, Tel. 718 871-6126) asserts that the vowel replacing the Sheva Na is not an ordinary short vowel. Raza”h claims that it is ‘lighter’ than other short vowels and hence should be called a Tenu’a Kalla (‘light vowel’). The following Sheva he then determines remains a Sheva Na. It should be noted that he does not believe that he is suggesting a different pronunciation than that of the traditional silent Sheva. In his introduction to Sha’arei Tefilla, his largely grammatical commentary on the Siddur, he writes that there is no difference between the pronunciation of Sheva Na and Sheva Nach; the difference between them is whether they are pronounced before a vowel (i.e. to start a syllable) or after it (i.e. to conclude the syllable).

The Sheva after a Tenu’a Kalla has come to be known as Sheva Merachef (‘hovering Sheva’) and in English, as the Median Sheva. Frequently it has the characteristic of the Sheva Na in that Beged Kefet letters that follow it do not receive a Dagesh e.g. lo vigvurat (Psalms, 147:10) (‘not by the might of’). However kizkor is one of many examples where the Sheva Nach rule is maintained. The new terminology of Raza"h does not help explain the phenomenon.


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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