Morsels of Hebrew Grammar  
This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

Parashat Ki Tavo 5762

A Question of Analysis and Halacha

la:ser (Deut. 26:12) ('to tithe') For lack of a better symbol, a colon (:) has been used here to indicate an Ayin with a Sheva. The root of la:ser is Ayin Sin Resh. This root occurs a number of times in the Torah in the Piel conjugation. Among the characteristics of Piel is a Dagesh in the middle letter of the root and a Sheva under the prefix. However in this instance there is no Dagesh in the middle letter of the root nor do the vowels fit the pattern of Piel. One should therefore not be surprised to find that R' A. ibn Ezra (12th cent.) states that it is Hiph'il. This analysis also has difficulties. The infinitive of the Hiph'il normally has a Sheva under the prefix Lamed followed by a Heh with a Patach. One also expects a Yud after the second letter of the root. Furthermore Rabbi A. L. Gordon (19th cent., editor of Siddur 'Otzar HaTefilot') in his Chumash Binat Mikra points out that this root, Ayin Sin Resh, never occurs (elsewhere) in Hiph'il. He therefore disagrees with R' A. ibn Ezra and writes that this verb is indeed Piel with the vowels interchanged (metathesis). He does not explain the lack of the Dagesh. In addition to the lack of the Dagesh which supports R' A. ibn Ezra's view, it may be pointed out that there are examples of the Heh of Hiph'il being absorbed in this manner (e.g. Num. 5:22), Yud is not critical to Hiph'il, and the root Ayin Sin Resh does occur in a Hiph'il type noun, maasar.

If the Torah reader errs and reads this word as a regular Piel does he need to re-read? The principles underlying the answers to this question are dealt with in detail in Dikduke Shai (Jerusalem, 1999, Biurim, S. 6, Ch 1) and the decision may depend on the above dispute.

* * * *

Where does the stress go?

hashkifah (Deut. 26:15) ('Look down') The root of this word is Shin Kuf Peh, the conjugation is Hiph'il, it is an elongated imperative, and its stress is on the penultimate syllable. Some words are found in the Tenach only in the regular imperative, some only in the elongated imperative, and some in both. Thus we find habet (Psalms 142:5), which is a regular imperative, and habita (ibid. 13:4), which is an elongated imperative. There are a number of examples of elongated imperative in the Torah, and all have their stress on the penultimate syllable (Gen. 27:7; 29:15; 32:30; 37:16; Exod. 32:10; Num. 23:18). It is therefore clear that hashkifah is to be read with the stress on the penultimate syllable; both the Koren edition of the Tenach and the Tikun, Simanim, indicate this by printing the word with two Telisha signs on it.

If the Torah reader reads this word with the stress on the final syllable does he need to re-read? The principles underlying this question are dealt with in detail in Dikduke Shai (Jerusalem, 1999, Biurim, S. 6, Ch 2).

The same problem occurs in the reading of Hallel in the pasuk ana h' hoshiah na, ana h' hatzlichah na (Psalms 118:25), with its two elongated imperatives. Minchat Shai, a commentary that deals with Masorah and grammar, quotes the Masorah on hatzlichah as saying that there is none identical to it with the stress on the last syllable, and there is one vehatzlichah (Nehemiah 1:11) with penultimate stress. This means that, contrary to the accepted rules, hatzlichah in our pasuk should be read with the stress on the last syllable. Minchat Shai discusses this assertion at length and concludes that if one is in doubt one should follow the custom. Many siddurim indicate the stress on this word in accordance with the Masorah as reported by Minchat Shai. In the Tenach, which Rabbi M. Breuer edited (according to the Masorah of Ben Asher in Keter Aram Tzova), he indicated that hoshiah and hatzlichah should both be read with penultimate stress. Many chazanim read it this way.

Correction. Last week this passage should have been as follows: The second Yud (following the Bet of oyevecha, is a suffix indicating plurality and) is to be read as a vowel [a]. The Mesora indicates this by not placing any nikud ('diacritic mark') on this letter.

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
E-mail address:


This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to

Jerusalem, Israel