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Parashat Mikeitz 5761


uma nitztadaq (Gen. 44:16) ('how can we justify ourselves?') The word nitztadaq has unusual spelling: Nun, Tzade, Tet, Dalet, Quf. Rashi points out that the root is Tzade, Dalet, Quf, and explains that every root, which has Tzade as its first letter and appears in Hitpael has a Tet in place of Tav. Furthermore, instead of the Tet appearing before the root of the word, it is placed among the letters of the root after the Tzade (metathesis). Rashi then gives a number of examples of words whose root commences with Tzade and in the Hitpael have a Tet between the Tzade and the following letter. Thereby Rashi has dealt with this problem just as he did with the similar problem of mishta'e (Gen. 24:1).

However here it is more complicated, for in addition to the change in the order of the letters, we also have the replacement of the Tav by Tet. It would seem that, for this reason, Rashi has here seen fit to add further details of the rule. He explains that in the Hitpael form, a root that begins with Samekh or Shin, has the Tav separating the letters of the root, and again Rashi gives a number of examples.

Rashi has now dealt with the rule for the Hitpael of roots beginning with three of the five Dental letters: Zayin, Samekh, Shin, Resh, Tzade, (see Aryeh Kaplan, comment., Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation, Samuel Weiser, Inc. NY 1990 p.102). The letter Resh need cause no concern; in any case it is problematic from a number of points of view, as discussed by Rabbi Kaplan (ibid. p. 160). However, in view of Rashi's treatment of the other letters, his omission of a discussion of the application of this rule to verbs whose root begins with Zayin is remarkable. It is quite clear that the rule is a manifestation of phonetic assimilation. In the case of the letters Shin and Samekh, that are hissed between the teeth and unvoiced (there is no buzz sound in the throat), the Tav articulated by tapping the tongue between the teeth and unvoiced, follows. In the case of Tzade hissed at the top of the front teeth (on the alveolar ridge) it is followed by Tet articulated by tapping the tongue on the alveolar ridge. Therefore one would expect that Zayin, articulated by hissing between the teeth and voiced, should be followed by Dalet, articulated by tapping the tongue between the teeth and also voiced. And of course, that is what we find in words with roots such as Zayin, Yud, Nun and Zayin, Mem, Nun. No doubt Rashi knew about this, and frequently used such words himself. See, for example hizdayen (Rashi, Psalms 35:3) and hizdamen (Rashi, Ezek. 38:7). Why did Rashi omit the detail of roots beginning with Zayin from his otherwise full treatment of the above rule?

The above question is posed by the rabbinical grammarian Yitzhaq Isaac Auerbach (early 18th century) in his Be'er Rehovot (published as part of Sefer Dikdukei Rashi). The author's solution is that Rashi omitted this detail because such terms appear only in the Hebrew of the Sages. That is to say Rashi here restricts himself to the grammar of Biblical Hebrew.

In 1968 I mentioned this problem and the solution to the late Rabbi Eliner of Jerusalem. Without blinking an eyelid, he responded 'This is a good solution, but it depends on the Ketiv [HZMNTVN] and Qere [hizdamintun] in Daniel, chapter 2, verse 9.'

This amazing response is an example of the thorough Torah knowledge of the beloved of Jerusalem. The quality of the knowledge cannot be gainsaid. However as to the argument that hizdamintun is an example of a root starting with Zayin in the Hitpael (countering the solution in Be'er Rehovot), it should be noted that the passage in Daniel is in Aramaic and not fully germane to a discussion of Hebrew grammar.

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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