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Parashat Beshalah 5761


ozi vezimrat Ka, vayehi li lishuah (Exod. 15:2) This passage occurs here as the first part of the verse; as the last part of the verse (with G-d's name added) (Isaiah, 12:2); and as a verse on its own (Psalms, 118:14). The meaning of the words needs to be determined.

There are three difficulties here: 1. From the joining of the words ozi vezimrat by a Vav, it seems that the two words relate equally to G-d's name. If so, why does one have a suffix - Yud - and the other does not? 2. What does zimrat mean? 3. What is the meaning of the Vav in vayehi?

Onkelos translates 'and my praise is G-d' [dealing with difficulties 1. and 2.]. He adds 'he made his statement', that is to say vayehi ('and it [his statement] was my salvation'), [dealing with difficulty 3.].

Rashi questions this interpretation, arguing that if so, ozi is identical to uzi. Rashi maintains that this is not so, for throughout the Bible we find uzi, excepting in the three above-mentioned verses. Therefore Rashi maintains that the Yud of ozi is not a suffix meaning 'mine'; rather, it is part of the word - similar to hayoshevi bashamayim ('Who sits in the heavens') (Psalms 123:1) [solving difficulty 1.]. Rashi explains zimrat as being related to lo tizmor ('you shall not prune'), [solving difficulty 2.]. He goes on to say that the Vav of vayehi presents no difficulty, for there are many places where there is an additional Vav like this, [dealing with difficulty 3.]. According to Rashi, the passage means 'the strength and revenge of our G-d was our salvation'. Or, in the words of R'A. ibn Ezra, in his summary of Rashi: 'the strength and cutting of G-d was our salvation'. (R' A. ibn Ezra was concerned only with Rashi's grammatical construction, not with the translation of zimrat.)

Following his neat summary of Rashi, R' A. ibn Ezra provides his own interpretation. He states that had Rashi known Arabic, which is similar to Hebrew, he would have understood the difference between the Vav of vayehi li lishuah, and the Vav conversive (changing the tenses) in other verses. R' A. ibn Ezra also disagrees with Rabbi Moshe haCohen HaSefaradi, who follows Onkelos and claims that vezimrat is the same as vezimrati. The Ramban in turn provides us with a neat summary of R'A. ibn Ezra's view. He explains that the word ozi is to be understood as standing both for itself, and qualifying the following word: 'my strength and the cutting of my strength is G-d [dealing with difficulties 1. and 2.] and He was my salvation' [dealing with difficulty 3.]. The finality with which the Ramban quotes R' A. ibn Ezra indicates that he accepts his view.

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ne'ermu mayim (Exod.15:8) ('the waters piled up') Some years ago Professor Yisroel Herszberg (a founder of the Gerer Shtibel and leader of the Daf Yomi shiur in Beit Midrash 'Katanga' Melbourne, Australia) pointed out that the word ne'ermu is unusual in that its tune is neither on the ultimate nor on the penultimate syllable. In fact it is on the syllable before the penultimate!

There are two underlying rules which bring about this situation. The first rule is that most words in the Bible have their stress on the ultimate syllable. There are also groups of words which have their stress on the penultimate syllable. These include some verbs, and those nouns known as 'segolate.' The second rule is that when one Sheva follows another in the middle of a word, the second - and only the second - is sounded (Sheva-Na).

The basic word is ne'eram. It has its stress on the ultimate syllable, but because the Ayin is a gutteral letter, there is a Hataf-Segol where there would otherwise be a Sheva (nishlam/ne'eram). When the plural suffix [u] ('they') is added, the Resh requires a Sheva (nishlemu/ne'ermu). However according to the second of the above rules the Hataf-Segol, which is a kind of sounding Sheva, cannot precede the Sheva of the Resh. Hence it becomes a full Segol. When ne'ermu is followed by mayim, which has penultimate stress and the tunes connect the words, we have two stressed syllables intoned almost together. Because this is phonetically offensive, the stress on ne'ermu is moved backwards. As the stress cannot rest on a vowel which has expanded from a Sheva, it must move back two syllables.

I will be happy to receive comments on these notes in English on Hebrew grammar related to the week's Parasha.
Good Shabbos, Meshullam Klarberg, 35/4 Meshech Chochma, Kiryat Sefer, Israel 71919


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