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Parashat Pinechas 5762

How does one parse a verb?

hitzu (Num. 26:9) Rashi explains 'They incited the children of Israel to squabble with Moshe - it is a causative expression.' Menachem gives the root of the word as the letter Tzade (Machberet - entry Tzade). His student, Yehuda Hayyuj (read: Chayyooj), developed the triliteral theory, which analyses all Hebrew verbs in terms of three-letter roots. This theory has been accepted ever since. According to the theory the Dagesh in the Tzade indicates a missing letter. There are only a handful of verbs whose second root-letter is Tzade and which have as their first letter a Yud that is replaced by a Dagesh. This is not one of them. The only other letter at the beginning of a root, which is dropped and replaced by a Dagesh in the following letter is Nun. Nun disappears easily when it does not have its own vowel. This may be because it represents a relatively 'quiet' sound. It would be interesting to draw up a relative decibel rating of the sounds used in Hebrew (as it would be in other languages). The missing Nun can be seen by comparing words which have much the same meaning though they appear in different tense, gender or number, or even as different parts of speech. Thus for example hasech nesech (Num. 28:7) ('pour a pouring') the first term is Hiph'il, either imperative or infinitive, while the second is a noun, yet the first is clearly a verb form of that same noun. Hence one can assume that both have the same root, Nun Samech Chaf, and in the verb the Samech absorbs the Nun. The Dagesh in the Samech indicates the absorption, the underlying form is hansech which becomes hasech. Similarly, in our case, we can explain that the underlying form is hintzu and with the absorption of the Nun it becomes hitzu. We now know that the first two letters of the root of hitzu are Nun Tzade. What is the final letter of the root? Again experience shows that the only letter that leaves no trace at the end of a root is Yud. For example the root Kaf Nun Yud is conjugated kaninu (we acquired), kenitem (you acquired), but kanu (they acquired). So we assume that the root of hitzu is Nun Tzade Yud. It belongs to the class of verbs known as Chasrei Peh-Nun ('Nun in first position in the root is missing'). It also belongs to the class known as Nachei Lamed-Yud ('Yud in final position in the root is soft'). The prefix is a Heh with a Chirik, a standard prefix for the Hiph'il past. This explains Rashi's comment. (Based on 'Leshon Chaim')

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Masculine and Feminine (m) and (f)

yutan nachalato (Num. 26:54) ('his inheritance (f) will be given (m)') R' A. Don inquired as to whether there is a definite characteristic by which (m) and (f) nouns can be distinguished. The answer is that there is a characteristic that invariably determines a noun to be feminine but nouns without that characteristic may also be feminine, (in the language of mathematicians it is a case of 'if' but not one of 'if and only if'). The characteristic that invariably determines a noun to be feminine is the accented suffix Kamatz followed by Heh. The word 'accented' in the above definition excludes three words that have an unaccented suffix Kamatz followed by Heh; they are: layla (based on leyl), nachala (Psalms 124:4 based on nachal), and mavta (ibid 116:15 based on mavet), all of which are (m). Nowadays it is widely accepted that suffix Tav is also a (f) characteristic. However two points must be made: 1) there are words which have Tav as the third letter of the root e.g. sherut - the Tav then proves nothing. Similarly shabbat though it ends with Tav is usually (f), but this is not because of the Tav. 2) In his book on grammar, R' M. Ch. Luzzatto (Ramchal), does not mention this rule and in his other writings he consistently uses words ending [-ut], such as chasidut, as (m). There is no way to determine (m). He does however point out that creatures that are biologically male or female, have terms which correspond: e.g. em ('mother'), rachel ('ewe') avot ('fathers'). We regard words as being (m) or (f) by seeing whether they have (m) or (f) adjectives or verbs accompanying them. The requirement that adjectives and verbs have the same gender (and number) as their noun is called 'agreement'. If we find that a noun has (f) adjectives or verbs we know that that noun is (f). The word even ('stone') is (f), hence even gedola, and avanim gedolot. On the whole nouns are consistently one or the other. Our verse seems to contradict this system as nachala has an accented suffix Kamatz followed by Heh making it clearly (f). According to the Radak (Isai. 13:3) one sometimes needs to insert an understood word. In our case it would be yutan chelek nachalato. Another solution is that the reference is to ish lefi pekudav (ibid.) ('each man according to his appointment') (cf Kid. 2b). The second answer is not in accordance with grammatical practice. See also the Targumim and Ramban's and Ralbag's paraphrasing of this verse.

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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