Morsels of Hebrew Grammar  
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Parashat Haazinu 5761


A point for Torah readers

Ha l'Ad-onoy (Deut. 32:6) (we will see the meaning of Ha 'for G-d'). Last week I wrote in accordance with Minhat Shai (regarded by Ashkenazim and Sefaradim as the authority on matters of the correct text of the Torah) that even though the He is written as though it were a separate word it is read together with Ad-onoy as one word - Hal'Ad-onoy. Minhat Shai maintains that both the Lamed and the Yud each take a Shva, and indeed the manuscript proofread by ben Asher known as the Keter Aram Tzova (from which the Rambam copied his own Sefer Torah) has both the Lamed and the Yud with a Shva. It should be noted that in the Leningrad manuscript the vowels accord with the ordinary rules of Hebrew grammar - the He has a Hataf Patah, the Lamed has a Patah, and the Yud has a Shva.

Yemeni grammar scholars disagree. The Humash Keter Torah edited by Rabbi Yosef Kappah includes two grammatical commentaries. Both from Helek HaDikduk and from Marpei Lashon it appears that the Yemeni tradition is very firm - the He is to be read as written - it is a separate word.

A hint to this dispute can be found in Rashi. He comments on this pasuk 'it is an expression of question'. Had there been no other possible interpretation, Rashi would not have said this. In truth, we have here a dispute among the ancient Aramaic translations. In Targum Onkelos it says 'Behold! Before G-d'. We can see that in Onkelos' opinion, the He is exclamatory, similar to the word He in 'Behold! Here is seed for you' (Gen. 47::23). However, the Targum Yerushalmi translates 'Is it possible ?' The Yemeni grammarians are following Onkelos (it should be noted in passing that Reb Wolff Heidenheim had the same opinion), while Rashi, Minhat Shai and others follow the Targum Yerushalmi.

The notes to the text of the Torah, known as the Massorah, should be of help in clarifying this question. Further on, at the words esh dat, the Massorah says that these words are written as one, and read as two. However about Ha l'Ad-onoy the Massorah says that the He is written separately, but says nothing about how it is to be read. Should this be taken to mean that being just one letter - as there are no other single-letter words in the Torah - it is assumed that it will coalesce with the next word (there is no prior word in the verse) or is it to be taken to mean that it is to be read as written?

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Another reading point

Vayitosh a-loahh asahu ('and [the nation] abandoned G-d who made it') (Deut. 32:15). In the last syllable of G-d's name, the Lamed has a Holam and the He has a Patah and a dot in it called a Mapik. The Patah is a Patah Genuva, a stolen or furtive Patah. This vowel sign is unusual, in that it is read before the consonant with which it is associated. This is not a peculiarity of the Divine Name, it is a regular part of articulatory Hebrew phonetics. The rule states that after the vowels Holam, Shuruk, Tserei, and long Hirik, the letters He, Het, and Ayin, have a Patah, and the Patah is pronounced before that final letter as though it had stolen its way in furtively. This is because He, Het, and Ayin are guttural sounds and so are pronounced more easily with Patah which is a back vowel.

When a He at the end of a word has a dot in it called a Mapik the He is to be sounded in the same way as it is at the beginning of a word. Any other He at the end of a word without a dot in it is silent (as it is in English 'hurrah'). One should always take care to pronounce those Hes which are meant to be pronounced.

Wishing all readers a Gemar Chasima tova.

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


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