Morsels of Hebrew Grammar  
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Parashat Behar-BeHukotai 5761

What does safiah mean?

sefiah- (Levit. 25:5) The root is Samekh, Peh, Het. In the Tenach all 17 occurrences of words having this root (as raised by the Halamish program) denote attachment - a person to a group of people, a growth on the body, serving God. Rashi interprets safiah to mean something that grew from seed that dropped during the previous harvest. R' A. ibn Ezra relates it to sefaheini (Sam. 1, 2:36). There it clearly means 'join me [to a group of priests].' It seems that Rashi sees the attachment to be by way of descent, while R' A. ibn Ezra sees the attachment to be a joining, that is to say during the previous harvest the seed joined the ground and then grew. Rabbi S. R. Hirsch points out that the root Samekh, Peh, Het, is related to the root Shin, Peh, Het, which is the root of the word for 'family' (Samekh and Shin both belong to the 'dental' group of letters). Rabbi Hirsch also quotes the same reference as R' A. ibn Ezra. It follows that safiah is that which 'grows from the leavings or droppings of previous harvests, or grows wild' (Hirsch, S.R. The Pentateuch translated and explained Vol. 111 (part 11), London 1962). Having pointed out that the root Shin, Peh, Het is related, Rabbi Hirsch could have derived both meanings from it, as in addition to the word for 'family' denoting someone attached lineally, the word for 'maidservant,' denoting someone attached non-lineally, is also derived from the root Shin, Peh, Het.

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Caution and Advice for the Torah Reader!

litzmitut (Levit. 25:23) 'for permanence;' latzemitut (Levit. 25:30) 'for the permanence ;' These two words have a difference of pronunciation and different meanings. In litzmitut the Lamed has a Hiriq. This is because the Tsade has a Sheva, and as there cannot be two Shevas at the beginning of a word, the Lamed receives a Hiriq, but the meaning remains as though the Lamed had a Sheva. In latzemitut the Lamed has a Patah. This is so because it has absorbed the He and Patah of the definite article. It follows that confusion of these words invalidates the Torah reading (Shulhan Aruch O.H. 142:1). How can the reader remember which is which? The Hizkuni advises that litzmitut with a Hiriq is followed by qi with a Hiriq. Latzemitut with a Patah is followed by la with a Patah in lakoneh.

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What is the significance of the two Khafs in berkekha?

R' A. ibn Ezra presents two opinions. 1) All grammarians maintain that the second Khaf is additional and the meaning of be'erkekha remains 'of value.' 2) Some [presumably not grammarians] say it means second person singular possessive addressing the Kohen and surprisingly, though a grammarian, R' A. ibn Ezra supports the latter opinion. R. Saadya Gaon, Rashi, and Rashbam support the earlier opinion. Though the Beraita (Arakhin 4:1) is not clear, both the Mizrahi and Malbim understand it to present the second opinion.

Letter to the Editor.

R' Esriel Sternbuch writes that in Aharei-kedoshim I named a piece "Of Alef and Ayin" giving the misleading impression that the difference between these two letters alone determines whether or not the Hataf vowel after the prefixes buchal is dropped. He suggests that in reality the Alef becomes silent only in variations of the shem Adnut. He emphasizes this by pointing out that in addition to the seven exceptions to this rule listed in the Masora (Tehilim, 136:3) there is one further exception (Micha 4:13)! Yes, he is right, the title I gave was over-reaching. However my intention in that piece was to call the attention of Torah readers to the need to distinguish between the words ladoshem where the Alef is silent, and la'azazel where the Ayin has a Hataf vowel. In fact, silent Alef following the prefixes buchal is more widespread than he indicates: it is also standard with the word leimor, with the shem Elokim (Gen 20:23 etc.), and also occurs elsewhere (e.g. Jer. 40:1; Daniel 7:6-7). Thank you R' Esriel Sternbuch!


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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