What is the purpose of a dot (Mapik) in a Heh?
What is the difference between ba-shivyah (Deut. 21:11) ('among the captives' - there is no Mapik in the final Heh) and shivyaH (Deut. 21:13) ('her captivity' - there is a Mapik in the final Heh)?
Heh at the beginning or in the middle of a word, is pronounced by parting the vocal cords and passing the air between them with more force than in ordinary breathing. If Heh is to be pronounced at the end of a word the same is true; however Heh at the end of a word is frequently silent. How do we know whether a particular Heh at the end of a word is to be pronounced or not? The answer is quite simple. That marvelously detailed system called the Mesora, guides us. If the Mesora puts a dot (a Mapik in Hebrew) in the Heh, the Heh is to be pronounced. If there is no Mapik the Heh is silent.
Accordingly, we can distinguish between ba-shivyah (the final Heh has no Mapik, the Heh is silent) and shivyaH (the final Heh has a Mapik, the Heh is to be pronounced).
Although Mapik Heh frequently indicates feminine, this is not always so. Thus for example in the word gavoaH (Esther 5:14, 7:9) ('high') there is a Mapik Heh and the word is clearly masculine. In that case the third letter of the root of the word is a consonantal Heh that needs to be pronounced. The Mapik indicates that need.
In Aramaic the Mapik functions in the same way as in Hebrew. Thus in this parasha the Aramaic word for 'him' is leiH (Deut. 21:16) with a Mapik Heh, which if read correctly, is pronounced. Rabbi Tzvi Barzilai has pointed out that as the Heh at the end of the word ShemeiH (in the response to Kaddish) has a Mapik, it follows that one should pronounce the Heh in that word.
Dagesh chazak at the beginning of a word!
Veyatzata Shama (Deut. 23:13) ('and you shall go out there') There is a Dagesh chazak in the Shin - the first letter of the word. This is a special case. In order to understand it, we first need to understand the nature of the Dagesh chazak. The word Dagesh, which seems originally to have meant 'dot,' was established in Hebrew by the early grammarians. (The term occurs in the 16th cent. Shulhan Aruch, but not in the 12th cent. Yad Hachazakah.)
A dot, called Dagesh chazak, may be put in all letters except Alef, Heh, Chet, Ayin, Resh. Dagesh chazak indicates that the letter is to be read as a double-letter eg chaz-zan. In this sense gan-nav is parallel to lam-dan. The first letter of the doubled letter is read as though it had a silent Sheva (Sheva nach) as there is no sound between the two elements of the letter. We know that Sheva nach is characteristic of the end of a syllable. The same can be said of the first part of a letter with a Dagesh chazak. It is characteristic of the end of a syllable. This explains why Sefer Mislol [first published Hamburg, 1788] (R' Chaim Kesslin, Vilna, Rom, 1858 p. 127) states 'it is impossible for a Dagesh chazak to occur at the beginning of a word.' As he puts it - one cannot conclude a syllable when no syllable has, as yet, started.
Of course R' Kesslin is aware of this problem and on pp 159-164 he devotes a whole section to the rules of Dagesh and non-Dagesh at the beginning of words. His solution to the problem is that through the closeness of the words (the first has either no tune or a service tune bringing it close to the following word) the final vowel of the first word, which can only be Segol, Patach or Kamatz, becomes part of a syllable closed by the Dagesh chazak at the beginning of the second word. It should be noted that this means that if the final vowel is a Kamatz, that Kamatz will be a Kamatz Katan! Professor A. Dotan in his paper levayat dachik veate merachik has suggested that just as a dot in a Heh at the end of a word is a Mapik, something other than a Dagesh, so may a dot at the beginning of a word be in a category of its own. Indeed it may be called Dachik.
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I will be
pleased to have comments on these notes on the Parasha.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and