Shema

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


Parashat Naso 5762

In Galicia (S.E. Poland, or W. Ukraine) Chirik and Shuruk were pronounced identically; this saved problems ki minchat kenaot hu (Num. 5:15) ('it is a meal-offering of jealousy') Rashi explains 'This flour - flour - is masculine.' Rashi's problem is that the subject is mincha and that is feminine. Hence we would expect the pronoun to be hi with a Chirik. There is no problem with the written form which has a Vav, for the Mesorah lists only 11 places where hi is spelt with a Yud. Similarly, we find minchat kenaot hi (v. 18) and therefore here, Rashi found it necessary to say that the subject is kemach that is masculine, so hu has to be in agreement with it and masculine. Hundreds of years before Rashi, the Mesorah had noted this, pointing out that it is spelt with a Vav and read with a Shuruk. In the 16th century the commentary Minchat Shai gave readers a memory aid for these two verses. The tune of the first hu is a Zakef which refers to kemach; the second is read hi and has an Etnachta and refers to mincha. Zakef is masculine, and Etnachta is feminine. In Ashkenasi editions of Targum Onkelos we find hu (Chumash Ha'amek Davar; Chamishei Chumshei Torah, Vienna 1859, republished by Schocken Tel Aviv, 1959). However, the Yemenite tradition is hi (Torat Chaim, Mossad HaRav Kook Yerushalayim, ed. Rabbi Yosef Kapach, 1993). We also find hi in Targum Yonatan ben Uziel. These traditions do not follow the Mesorah.

* * * *

The absorption of the Heh of the Hif'il

latzbot velanpil (Num. 5:22) ('to make swell and to make fall') Rashi comments 'It is like lehatzbot beten, it is to indicate this [missing Heh] that the Lamed has a Patach.' Rashi continues 'Similarly we find lanchotam haderech (Exod. 13:21) ('to lead them on the path'), larotchem baderech (Deut. 1:33) ('to show you the way'), and so velanpil yarech [is like] lehanpil yarech.' All of the verbs discussed by Rashi are in the Hif'il conjugation. Rashi is explaining that it is possible for the prefix Lamed to absorb the Heh of the Hif'il and to receive its Patach so that the syllable that characterizes Hif'il normally created by the Heh, will remain there. The absorption of this Heh is similar to the absorption of the Heh of the definite article with the prefix letters Bet, Chaf, Lamed that is almost universal. and the absorption of the Tav of the Hitpa'el lo yittama (ibid. 6:7) ('he shall not defile himself') This is like yit-tama as is explained further on in Rashi and in R' A. ibn Ezra (ibid 7:89). R' A. ibn Ezra explains the matter fully in Leviticus (14:4).

* * * *

Who or what shall be brought?

yavi oto (Num. 6:13) ('he shall bring him/it' - there is no neuter in Hebrew) In the verse it is not clear who or what is brought and the commentators differed in their approaches. Rashi, following the Sages in Sifre, writes, 'He shall bring himself'. Rashbam writes [He shall bring] 'his basic sacrifice as the following verses explain'. R' A. ibn Ezra sees both of the above as possibilities and writes 'He shall bring his soul, as we find vayir'u haro'im otam (Ezek. 34:8) ('and the shepherds pastured themselves'), or, the priest will bring him, by order[ing him] against his will, to sacrifice the sacrifices which he is obliged to bring'. Similarly Ralbag offers both interpretations. However R' O. Sforno argues strongly for the interpretation of the Sages. He writes 'The Sages explained "He shall bring himself" and this is because whenever someone comes before someone who is to bring about a change in him, we find it says that he is brought to the person who is to bring about the change by another who is senior to himself. This is similar to the idea expressed by the sages "A prisoner does not release himself" (Berachot 5:b; Nedarim 7b), hence we find it is written of the Metzora regarding his being declared defiled or pure "and he is brought to the priest" (Levit. 14:2), and regarding the Sotah we find it is written "and the husband shall bring the wife to the priest" (Num. 5:15), and so too with regard to a slave we find "and his master shall bring him close" (E xod. 21:6). However in our case with the Nazir who is to be shaved, thereby becoming changed to another person, there is no senior person to bring him but "He shall bring himself" (All at ibid 6:13).'

* * * *

G-d's Name in Hallel and elsewhere

Just as a Patach under a final Chet must be read before that Chet, so must a Patach under a final Heh be read before that Heh. Thus the word spelled Gimmel Bet Vav Heh is to be read Gavoah, so must Alef Lamed Vav Heh (G-d's name) be read to rhyme with Gavoah.

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: fredit@zahav.net.il

Shema

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 parsha@shemayisrael.co.il

http://www.shemayisrael.co.il

Jerusalem, Israel

732-370-3344