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Parasha Behar 5763

Is it lo or is it lo? (Can’t see the difference? Read on!)

habayit asher ba’ir asher lo (spelled with Alef [meaning ‘not’], but read lo spelled with Vav! meaning [‘it has’]) choma (Levit 25:30) (‘the house which is in the city which has a wall’): The Masora says ‘There are 16 written similarly with Alef and read with Vav.’ Following both the ketiv (‘written’) and the kere (‘read!’) Torat Kohanim explains, ‘Even though it does not now [have a wall] but it did have previously.’ In a passage of Rashi (11th century) (in most editions this passage appears in brackets and the editor of Torat Chayim, Rabbi Ch. D. Chavel, points out that it did not appear in the first edition of Rashi), both the Masora and the Torat Kohanim are quoted and it is pointed out that the word ir (‘city’) is feminine so the pronoun referring to it should have been la (spelled with a mapik (‘pronounced’) Heh meaning [‘she has’]), and explains that because the written form is lo (spelled with Alef) they tikenu (‘fixed’) lo in the Masora, one form similar to the other form. According to this passage in Rashi, the Masora has abandoned the requirement for masculine-feminine agreement between a noun and its pronoun (which is obligatory in Hebrew), for the sake of ‘one form similar to the other form!’ Is it ‘fixed’ thereby? Research is required to determine the origin and status of this passage in Rashi.

Chizekuni (13th century) (who may or may not have been aware of the above passage in Rashi) is also concerned with the non-agreement of ir and lo. He writes that the word lo refers to sadeh (‘field’), which is masculine and, he argues, is understood in the sentence even though it does not occur there. We have had discussion of words implied in sentences as explanations for apparent none agreement elsewhere (Morsels, Emor 5762).

Malbim (19th century) (who probably was aware of the above passage in Rashi and its problematic status) is also concerned with the non-agreement of ir and lo. He argues that lo refers to bayit. One should see the words asher ba’ir (‘which is in the city’) as parenthetical and read habayit … asher lo choma directly. According to Malbim the question disappears. There is no problem with lo.

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The form for Pause and the form for Feminine

vechi yamuch achicha umata yado imach (Levit. 25:35) (‘should your brother slip and his hand go down with you’): Why do we have the form imach here, which looks as though it is feminine? The default form, which would match achicha, is imecha. However there are many words that have a special pausal form. That is to say when they occur at the end of a Pasuk, at an etnechta, or occasionally at lesser pausal indications, they adopt a pausal form. Thus we have eved (ibid. verse 42) and its pausal form aved (ibid. verse 42); beferech (ibid. verse 53) and befarech (ibid. verse 46); ta’avdu (1 Sam. 4:9) and ta’avodu (Levit. 25:46); tel’chu (ibid. 26:21) and teleichu (ibid. verse 3); yimakku and yimaakku (both ibid. verse 39). However there are four words where the pausal form and the feminine form are identical, they are: our case imach (imecha); otach (Deut. 28:48) (otecha); itach (Exod. 18:22) (itecha); and imach (Gen. 26:28) (imecha).

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What is the Root?

ve’even maskit (Levit. 26:1) (‘a stone of maskit’): Rashi interprets maskit as ‘covering’ as in sakoti kapi (Exod. 33:22) (‘I covered [with] my hand’), for, he explains, they cover the earth with a floor of stones. According to Rashi the root is Sin Kaf Kaf, as the Dagesh Chazak in the Kaf of sakoti indicates the double value of the letter. Consistently, in his comment on the first Mishna in Sukka he points out that sukka and sechach both of which mean ‘cover’ are related. Rashbam writes that maskit is derived from Sin Kaf Heh just as marbit (1 Sam. 2:33) is derived from Resh Bet Heh. He points out that maskiyot levav (Psalms 73:7) is similar and there it means ‘that which the heart sees’ and here maskit means ‘a stone for seeing’ for it has on it images and designs [for people] to look at. R’ A. ibn Ezra writes that it is a noun like marbit and the reason is that it is decorated stone like maskiyot levav and like sechiyot hachemda (Isa. 2:16). Thus R’ A. ibn Ezra, like Rashbam, sees the root as Sin Kaf Heh. We must say that the disagreement between Rashiand the others is only with regard to the root of the word maskit, as all would agree that the two roots Sin Kaf Heh and Sin (or Samech) Kaf Kaf exist. For R’ A. ibn Ezra the distinction is central to his three-letter root theory. Rashi too mentions the root Sin Kaf Heh in his comment on the name Yiskah (Gen. 11:29) where he explains that it means ‘look.’ (The poet who wrote me’et kol socheh ‘from He Who sees all’ in baruch kel elyon - included in the Zemirot for Shabbat morning, was using the root Sin Kaf Heh, as Sin and Samech can interchange.)

Perhaps the two views on maskit can be partly reconciled if we note that the two roots both start with Sin Kaf and the third letter may be regarded as additional. We could then say that covers are the parts which are visible.

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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