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

Parashat Re'eih 5761

A new Hebrew grammar book

Eim le'Mikra haShaleim by Rabbi Nisan Sharoni, was published this year. It deals with rules of Biblical Hebrew grammar, common errors (including lists of words) in the reading of the Torah and the prayers, contains exercises for students, and much else. In many places there are lengthy notes on individual points. One is translated here.

tzon uvakar (Deut. 16:2) ('sheep/goats or cattle') The joining of tzon uvakar by the tune [tzon has a Munach, a 'joining' tune] indicates that the plain meaning is that the Pesach [sacrifice] may be of either cattle or sheep/goats, for were it to mean that cattle were for 'Peace offerings' or 'Festive offerings' the word tzon would have had a pause tune. However Pesach cannot be brought of cattle, as both the Sages and the commentators who give the plain meaning said, (see R' A. ibn Ezra, and R' Moshe ben Nahman [Nahmanides, Ramban]). It is for this reason that Rashi explained here, in accordance with the Sages, that the intention is the Festive offering of the 14th [of Nisan], which is eaten before the Pesach sacrifice in order that the Pesach sacrifice be eaten at the completion of the meal so that people be satisfied as is stated Pesahim 70a. Therefore this Festive sacrifice is regarded as similar to the Pesach itself. See Malbim who explained: "and at the time of sacrificing the Pesach, sacrifice cattle and sheep/goats" [sheep/goats for the Pesach sacrifice and cattle for the Festive sacrifice, see R' A. ibn Ezra here and Exod. 12:5]. And Ramban explained the intention of the verse according to the plain meaning, and you shall sacrifice Pesach - according to its rule as explained elsewhere that it should be of the sheep or of the goats, for G-d your G-d, and cattle and sheep/goats - for the Festive sacrifice. The Abarbanel agreed with his explanation see there, and this commentary fits well with the tunes.

Tosefot (Shabbat 55b DH maaviram) point out that there are differences between the wording of the Bible in the hands of the Sages and that of Tosefot, and they give two examples. Rabbi Akiva Eiger in Gilyon HaShas adds many more examples. Were the difficulty simply the word tzon having a munach,(a 'joining' tune) as suggested above, one could argue that the Sages' interpretation indicates that they had a different tune on that word. But an examination of the verse shows that the difficulty is in the structure of the verse. A stop tune could not be placed in that position.

The book is well presented and written in concise Hebrew. The first section can be used as an intermediate text for studying grammar, while the body of the work guides Torah readers in their difficult task. (There is a need for a work of this kind in English.) The book is available from the author at Mevo Ha'amora'im 4/3, Ashdod.

* * * *


misat (Deut. 16:10) The Dagesh in the Samekh is because of the Nun [of the root], and the word is of the same root as the word Nes [a sign] (R' A. ibn Ezra) meaning raising the hand. Thus the three-letter root is one of the Kefulim, the second letter of the root is duplicated: Nun, Samekh, Samekh. Thus even when the Nun of the root is present (as in nisi) the Samekh has a Dagesh to compensate for the second Samekh. This grammatical explanation does not contradict the view of the other interpreters - it complements them. Similarly hachukim (Deut. 16:12), hasukot (Deut. 16:13) and bechagekha (Deut. 16:14) are all Kefulim - their roots are Kaf, Kuf, Kuf; Samekh, Kaf, Kaf; and Chet, Gimel, Gimel, respectively.

* * * *

What is special about kadkhod?

vesamti kadkhod (Isaiah 54:12) The first Kaf has a Dagesh and the second one is soft and it is similar to kalkhel (Jer. 20:9). The two are similar according to the Masora (Minhat Shai); and in Jeremiah (20:9) Minhat Shai refers to the Masora Gedola (the ancient notes on accuracy in Bible text) in Daniel 5. There, both these words are listed among the 18 words in the Bible where the letters BG"D KF"T have a Dagesh at the beginning of a word following a word concluding with one of the letters AHV"Y and without there being a Mevatel (one of the four or five reasons that annul the effect of the rule which says that after a word concluding with one of the letters AHV"Y there is no Dagesh). It has been suggested that this Dagesh serves to make the word phonetically more pleasant. In both cases the second Kaf in the word has no Dagesh (even though it comes after a sheva nach) so in order to create phonetic variety the first one is hardened.

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:


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

Jerusalem, Israel