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

Parashat Ki Tetze 5762

When to pronounce a [y] sound

oyevecha (Deut. 21:10) ('your enemies') The letter Yud has two functions in Hebrew; both are illustrated in this word. The first Yud (following the Alef, is part of the root and) is to be read as a consonant [y]. The Mesora indicates this by placing a Sheva under it. (There is some discussion as to the character of this Sheva, but that is not our concern here.) The second Yud (following the Bet, is a suffix indicating plurality and) is to be read as a vowel [i]. The Mesora indicates this by not placing any nikud ('diacritic mark') on this letter.

sove (Deut. 21:21) ('glutton') Some readers also have a [y] problem at the end of this word. They should not pronounce anything like a [y] at the end of sove as there is no Yud there.

* * * *

A nod to two letter roots?

maake (Deut. 22:8) ('a fence') The meaning is clear from the context. Here R' A. ibn Ezra maintains that the root is Ayin Kuf Heh and not Ayin Vav Kuf. In Psalms (55:4), he accepts Ayin Vav Kuf as a possibility - thus Ayin and Kuf are the critical letters.

* * * *

What does kodesh mean?

pen tikdash (Deut. 22:9) A comparison of all the words in the Bible with Kuf Dalet Shin as their root would be worthy of an extensive discussion. Let us just look at some of the better-known authorities on this pasuk.

Onkelos (2nd cent) translates 'lest you become defiled'

Menachem ben Saruk (10th cent.) writes in 'Machberet' (the first Hebrew dictionary) in the entry for the root Kuf Dalet Shin that it falls into three parts (or sub-entries). In order to illustrate this he usually lists verses from the Bible into each sub-entry - here each of the verses includes a word of the root Kuf Dalet Shin. In the first sub-entry Kuf Dalet Shin refers to God and people or things close to Him. Menachem ben Saruk himself characterizes the verses in the second sub-entry as dealing with 'being prepared'. In the third sub-entry the verses deal with prohibition in matters of procreation. Rashi (11th cent.) 'It is to be understood in accordance to its Targum (Onkelos) as "disgusting". All things that are distanced by people whether because of their praiseworthiness like things sanctified, or because of their disgrace such as things which have been forbidden may have words based on Kuf Dalet Shin applied to them "do not approach me because kidashticha" (Isaiah 65:5). However there Rashi follows Targum Yonatan and explains kidashticha as meaning purity and holiness. It is R' Yosef Kara (the 1st) who explains there, similarly to Rashi here, "I became defiled".

Rashbam 'It become prohibited like sacred [property of the Temple]'

R' A. ibn Ezra (12th cent.) states 'This word has been explained by Menachem ben Saruk the Sefaradi ('of Spain') in his Machberet. It is derived from Kuf Dalet Shin because they mix with each other.' Elsewhere he comments on hayikdash (Haggai 2:12) and argues that it cannot mean 'defilement' (like Targum Onkelos here or Targum Yonatan there). In his lengthy discussion there he further praises the explanation of Menachem ben Saruk. It seems that R' A. ibn Ezra's reference is to the third sub-entry. It is of interest that in addition to the above two references by R' A. ibn Ezra to Menachem ben Saruk, the 'Chalamish' program only brings up one other reference to Menachem ben Saruk in R' A. ibn Ezra. Ramban writes that it becomes prohibited like sanctified [property of the Temple].

Chizkuni writes 'In case it becomes mixed like kadesh ('male prostitute') and kedesha ('female prostitute') who become mixed with others.

It seems that each of the commentaries has emphasized a particular aspect of the complex meaning of this word, and we can conclude with the Malbim (Meir Leibush Ben Yechiel Michel 19th cent.) who writes 'It indicates preparation and separation and special appointment for an elevated and lofty purpose, like being sacred and so separated from physical matters, or the opposite, and all things away from the ordinary (Hakarmel, Jerusalem, 1990. It refers to Malbim, Isaiah 3 but I have not found it there).

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