Do letters interchange?
vayisacheru (Gen. 8:2) (‘and they were closed’) R’ A. ibn Ezra comments here that it means vayisageru (‘and they were closed’) but, he argues, it is not that Chaf interchanges with Gimmel, it is just that they are two words with the same meaning. He goes on to say that no letters interchange excepting the letters Yud, Heh, Vav, Alef, [with each other] and also Samech to Sin. In the second version of his commentary (Mikra’ot Gedolot HaKeter – Bar Ilan Uni.) further accepted interchanges of letters are given: Tet from Tav in the Hitpa’el conjugation, and Heh to Tav at the end of a word because of its similarity in appearance (!).
It is implied that there are those who think otherwise.
Indeed R’ A. ibn Ezra is here disagreeing with Rashi who writes that the expression rachil (Lev. 19: 16) is an expression of going and being meragel, he states the Chaf interchanges with Gimmel, for all the letters which have the same place of articulation [in the speech tract] interchange with each other, Bet with Peh and Vav, Gimmel with Chaf and Kuf, Nun with Lamed, and Resh and Zayin with Tzade; and similarly vayeragel be’avdecha (II Sam. 19:28) which Rashi here explains means tale-bearing; and so too lo ragal al leshono (Psalms 15:3) (‘there is no tale-bearing on his tongue’), and this, Rashi explains, is why a hawker of spices or perfumes is called a rochel, because he moves from township to township with his goods. This detailed argument indicates that Rashi also knew that not all would agree with him on this point. A Mishna in Sefer Yetzira (2:3, R’ A. Kaplan ed.) lists all the letters, which have the same place of articulation. It is not clear why Rashi chose the abovementioned particular examples.
In their comments to vayeragel be’avdecha (II Sam. 19:28) Radak, R’ Yosef Caro (the 1st), and R’ Yeshaya of Trani (Mikra’ot Gedolot HaKeter – Bar Ilan Uni.), all follow the above Rashi.
R’ S. R. Hirsch in his commentary on the Torah frequently uses the theory of interchange of letters which have the same place of articulation, to clarify meanings. Here he writes that vayisacheru is related to sagar to close. He goes on to say ‘the word sachar is nothing else but closing a void, making good, restoring, hence wage.’
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at the first letter of identical letters
The following questions arise 1) If the Nun has a Chataf Patach why is there no Dagesh in the first Nun? 2) If the Nun has a Sheva what kind of Sheva is it? To answer 1) one may argue that R’ A. ibn Ezra’s view about ‘a joining of the two Nuns’ applies even with a Chataf Patach and that were the Nun to accept a Dagesh (which creates yet a stronger Nun sound) it should still be seen as too Nun-heavy. The five rules of Sheva Na by R’ Eliyahu Bachur will preface the answer to 2) Alef: A Sheva under the first (reminder: Alef) letter of a word is Na; Bet: The second (reminder: Bet) of two Shevas in the middle of a word is Na; Gimmel: The Sheva after a long unaccented vowel (Tenuah Gedola) is Na; Dalet: The Sheva under a letter with a Dagesh is Na; Heh: The Sheva under the first of identical letters is Na. Under rule Dalet the Sheva under the Bet in bedaberi is Na, but what happens when in a parallel word such as be’an/ni the Dagesh is dropped? It would seem that Rule Heh of the five rules would maintain its status as a Sheva Na. However there are doubts about Rule Heh (see Dikdukei Shai, p. 45, notes 14 and 16). Many Rishonim (‘early authorities’) maintain that it is a Sheva Nach and so is the tradition among Yemenites and perhaps Jews from Tunis. It would seem that the custom of reading such Shevas as Na derives from the persuasive authority of R’ Eliyahu Bachur.
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I will be
pleased to have comments on these notes on the Parasha.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and