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Parasha Matot-Mas'ei 5763

Problems of syntax and agreement

yutan et ha'aretz (Num. 32:5) ('may the land be given'): There is a problem of syntax (acceptable flow of words) here as, after a passive verb such as yutan, one does not expect a direct object opening with the word et. There is also a problem of agreement as ha'aretz is generally feminine, e.g. veha'aretz hayeta (Gen. 1:2) ('the land was'). In order to agree with ha'aretz, the verb hayeta is in the feminine form, so here one would also have expected the verb in the feminine form tutan. R' A. ibn Ezra addresses both of these problems. He writes, 'Some say that et is the object of yutan.' The 'some say' solution solves the two problems above, for if et is the object then it is not a direct object - it does not have et before it. The problem of agreement is also solved, as et can be presumed to be masculine. However, one wonders, what does et mean? R' A. ibn Ezra raises a different problem with the 'some say' solution. He writes 'and I do not know why as [and quotes a number of verses where ha'aretz is in agreement with masculine verbs and pronouns. Elsewhere he explicitly makes the point that] eretz may be masculine (R' A. ibn Ezra, Levit. 18:28). Thus he negates the need to explain the use of the masculine verb. It would seem that R' A. ibn Ezra did not see the flow of words as problematic. However Or hachaim hakadosh writes 'perhaps this means that the giving should be in an effective manner' implying the insertion of a word between yutan and et ha'aretz thereby solving both problems.

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Disappearing Dagesh

ki lo-milu (Num. 32:11) ('they were not wholehearted'): The word milu has most of the characteristics of a past tense Pi'el verb, in that its points are the same as those of a regular Pi'el, e.g. kideshu (1 Sam. 7:1) ('they sanctified') excepting for the Dagesh in the second letter of the root which kideshu has, and milu does not. This observation provides the background for R' A. ibn Ezra's comment here. He writes, 'The Lamed is light (without Dagesh) and it (the verb) is of the heavy conjugation (Pi'el). He proceeds to provide examples both here and in his comment to the following verse. (The numbering of the chapters and verses was introduced by non-Jewish printers centuries after R' A. ibn Ezra.) The dropping of the Dagesh seems to be governed by phonetic rules. It is common in the letter Lamed with a Sheva (e.g. halviyim), and in other letters with a Sheva followed by a guttural letter (Alef, Heh, Chet, Ayin) (e.g. vayisu).

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How to read Radak

chorvu (Jer. 2:12) ('dry up!'): In some editions of Tenach the Chet of chorvu has a Chataf-Kamatz (e.g. Mikra'ot gedolot Schocken, Tel Aviv, 5698 'A new edition corrected in accordance with photograph of the first print of Mikra'ot gedolot with 32 commentaries which was published in Warsaw by Yoel Lebensohn in the years 5682-5686), while others have an ordinary Kamatz (e.g. Tenach editions of M. Breuer, Edi/Dotan, Koren). What is the background to this divergence?

{The Chataf vowels (Chataf-Patach, Chataf-Segol, Chataf-Kamatz) are kinds of Sheva-Na (sounding Sheva), mostly used with the guttural letters (Alef, Heh, Chet, Ayin). Because it is of the nature of sounding Shevas to precede the vowel of the syllable, if the Masorah places a Chataf-Kamatz followed by a Sheva that precedes a vowel (and both must therefore be a Sheva-Na, as in the Schocken edition) we have one Sheva-Na preceding another - a highly anomalous situation.}

It seems to me that the answer lies in the commentary of the Radak (here) reproduced and expanded in the Minchat Shai. I will quote the Radak with the additions of Minchat Shai [in brackets and small type].

Chorvu: indicating destruction. The Chet is read with a Kamatz Chataf and it is in the imperative in the Kal conjugation [like shomu and sa'aru] and the Masorah on it says there is no [other] with Chataf. Rabenu Yona wrote [in Sefer haRikma] that there are people who read it charevu like charevu pene ha'adama (Gen. 8:13) ('the surface of the earth dried') but also explained it as imperative but of the Dagesh form like pareku nizmei hazahav (Exod 32:2) ('take off the golden nose-rings'). He disagreed with them on the basis of the above Masorah, and furthermore the Masorah on charevu pene ha'adama [says] 'there are two and [both are] in the [same] verse' [Radak in his commentary and in Michlol page 19] (Radak and Minchat Shai here).

The issue turns on what Radak means by Kamatz Chataf. While he sometimes calls what we call Chataf-Kamatz Kamatz Chataf, on other occasions he calls what we call Kamatz Katan*, Kamatz Chataf (e.g. Judges 9:11; 1 Kings, 12:10). If we understand that what Radak means here by Kamatz Chataf is Kamatz Katan, we avoid the anomaly.

*Sefaradim pronounce Kamatz Katan [o].

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Baruch shehechiyanu vekiyemanu vehigiyanu lizman hazeh!!!

For Simchat Torah 1999, I prepared the first Hebrew page of 'Perurei dikduk' which was distributed to local synagogues and, by request, to people by e-mail or fax. Later, at the suggestion of my daughter, I started translating the pages into English. From 2000 Parashat Devarim onwards, 'Shemayisrael' posted these pages on the Net under the title 'Morsels of Hebrew Grammar' and I wish to thank their staff and in particular the web-mistress Shushi Schenkolewski. I wrote the Hebrew for three years, and then stopped, feeling that I had said everything I wanted to. With this page then, I am completing the third cycle of the English, and hope to publish both the Hebrew and English versions as books. If any reader has knowledge of publishing and is willing to share his or her experience in the area of book publishing with me I would be very thankful. Finally a heartfelt thanks to the thousands of visitors to the site, the hundreds of regular readers, and a special thanks to the correspondents who wrote with enquiries or criticisms questioning my assertions or correcting my errors. I look forward to thanking them by name in the forthcoming volumes.

Shelomchon yisgeh ('May your Peace wax great!')


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
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