Morsels of Hebrew Grammar  
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A point for Torah readers Veheisirah 'and she will remove' (Deut 21:13) The Torah reading tune, which appears on this word, is a double telisha ketana. When there is a single telisha ketana it invariably is placed at the end of the word. When the accent of the word is on the penultimate syllable, this is indicated by a second telisha ketana. Thus in this word the accent is on the second last syllable even though the prefix Vav is conversive. Normally a Vav conversive means a change in the accent from the penultimate syllable to the ultimate, but this has not occurred here. In Leshon Haim (Published by the author, Moshe Haraz, Jerusalem 1976) it is pointed out that in Nahei Pe Alef verbs (where the third letter of the root is Alef) and in Nahei Pe He (where the third letter of the root is He) the Vav conversive does not affect the positioning of the accent. From our example here where the root is Samekh Vav Resh which is a Nahei Ayin Vav root (the second letter of the root is Vav) it seems that Nahei Ayin Vav verbs are similarly not affected.

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A story

'And he shall write her a sefer keritut "a message of cutting off", give it to her, and send her away' (Deut 24:1). Every profession has its stories. Here is a grammarians' story. A Kara'ite (one who believes only in the written Torah) came to Rabbi Elijah, the Gaon of Vilna, with a complaint. 'In Scripture the document that a man hands his wife when he divorces her is called sefer keritut "a message of cutting off", which is a suitable expression. Why do you Rabbanites call this document a get?!' Rabbi Elijah answered him 'This is an ancient question and it has many answers. But they are all in the form of the oral Torah. In order that a Kara'ite accept my answer, I need to give an answer based on the written Torah. Now, the Torah is written with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. These letters are pronounced in the five sources of speech which are:

1. the throat (the voice box and the area above) Aleph, He, Het, Ayin

2. the palate (the middle of the tongue is lifted to the palate) Gimmel, Yud, Khaf, Kuf

3. the tongue (the tongue lies in its natural position and its muscles tense) Dalet, Tet, Lamed, Nun, Tav

4. the teeth (the tongue pushes forward to the teeth) Zayin, Samekh, Shin, Resh, Tzade

5. the lips (the lips are pursed) Bet, Vav, Mem, Pey

Thanks to E. Davis for adapting the diagram from Language and its Structure.

(Even though the source of this analysis is Sefer Yetzira (3:2) the Karaite would have to accept it as it is based on biological facts.) Now the letters in each group have a relationship with one another as they are articulated homo-organically. They are also related to all the other letters, as somewhere in Scripture they are found directly following the other letters. The exception to this rule is Gimmel and Tet. They belong to separate groups and Tet never appears after Gimmel in the Bible. Thus they are a very appropriate symbol of the rift created by divorce.

A lovely story, widely told, but problematical. In the Talmudic Encyclopedia vol. 5, entry Get, note 7, it quotes from Rabbi Yaakov Algazi's work Kehilat Yaakov as follows: The letters Gimmel and Tet never appear joined in any word in the Tenakh, and therefore they called the symbol of separation between husband and wife "Get". We can see that the idea is correct but this is not one of Rabbi Elijah of Vilna's novel ideas. Nevertheless the grammatical point made by the story is true.

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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