Morsels of Hebrew Grammar  
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Aharei ('Beyond') (Deut 11:30) Rashi states 'After crossing the Jordan far beyond'. This is what Aharei always means: a great distance. Derekh mevo hashemesh 'the way of the setting of the sun'. This means: beyond the Jordan to the West. The tunes of the verse prove that these are two separate parts for they are allocated separate tunes; Aharei is marked with a pashta and derekh has a yetiev and the dalet has a dagesh.

According to Rashi the words Aharei derekh mevo hashemesh means 'far off, beyond the western bank [of the Jordan]'. He draws his proof a detailed dicussion of the tunes and the vowel signs.

The Rashbam disagrees. He reinterprets the tunes and explains the verse as meaning 'beyond, on the western route'. Rabbi A ibn Ezra follows suit and writes 'follow the route to the West and you will find them [Mount Grizim and Mount Eval]'.

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Why does the Tet in shemitta have a Dagesh?

Ta'aseh shemitta (Celebrate a year of release) (Deut 15:1). From the verse itself it is evident that the root is Shin, Mem, Tet, but it is not evident why there is a Dagesh in the Tet of shemitta. For those who follow the approach to grammar that has been accepted for close to a thousand years - that nearly all roots have three letters - this is a problem. But for those who doubt whether this system is fully explanatory of the relationship between roots, and believe that there may be a common denominator for a number of roots, there may be interesting points here. It is hard to believe that the prophets thought that there is no connection between the roots of the words pahad, vafahat, vafah ('fear, and the pit, and the trap'). Anyone who maintains that all we have here is alliteration, does not escape the argument that the similarity of sounds between the roots is parallel to some form of commonality of meaning, thereby joining those who doubt that roots of three letters are the only unit, and perhaps there is something more basic. In the Torah we also find similar alliteration. When Yosef is jailed the verse states that he was put in a beit hasohar (prison) a place where the asirei ('prisoners') of the king asurim ('are imprisoned') (Gen 38:20). Here also one can discuss whether this is purely alliteration or whether the roots are related both in sound and in meaning.

In the Mishnah we find a number of roots created by prefixing a Shin to an existing three-letter root. For example, shakhleil from Kaf Lamed Lamed; shaabeid from Ayin Bet Dalet. Can this also occur in the Bible? If so, we can argue that Mem Tet is the basic form from which the root Mem Vav Tet is derived, and from this the root Shin Mem Tet. Because in roots where the second letter is a Vav, the third letter is sometimes doubled we can then understand why the Tet has a Dagesh that gives the letter a double sound value.

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Tashmeit yadeikha (Deut 15:3) What does this mean? Even Hebrew speakers can err and think that the Tav at the beginning of tashmeit means 'you'. However in Hebrew verbs, the future singular second person masculine form (you will) and the singular third person feminine form (she will) are the same and start with Tav. Therefore this phrase should be understood 'your hand should loosen' its grip on the debtor.

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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