Morsels of Hebrew Grammar  
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Simchat Torah 5761


An ancient dispute

ve'ata meirivevot kodesh (Deut. 33:2) Rashi, who explains that ve'ata means 'and with Him', is following Onkelos and the Sifri. Accordingly, the root is Aleph Tav Tav which is also the root of itti (with me), ittekha (with you), etc. Roots of this kind are known as Kefulim (doubles) because the third letter of the root is the same as the second. However the Rashbam, Rabbi A. ibn Ezra, and the Ramban understand it to mean 'came' as does its Aramaic cognate. They are following the Targum of Yonatan ben Uzziel. According to them, the root is Aleph Tav Heh.

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The meaning of Torah

torah tziva lanu (Deut. 33:4) (He commanded us, the Torah) Knowing the roots of words adds depth to our understanding of their meaning, therefore it is worthwhile to consider what the root of the word 'Torah' is. It is widely accepted that the root is Yud Resh Heh. In the verse 'He cast (Yud Resh Heh) them into the sea' we note a word of this root in the Qal and it means 'throwing in a particular direction'. In the Hiph'il conjugation the same root becomes lehorot which means 'to teach'. This also has a connotation of giving direction, though the direction is intellectual rather than spatial. The word Torah is derived from this Hiph'il verb. The 'Torah' is the source of our teaching. Rabbi Moshe Eisemann of Kiryat Sefer has pointed out that Rabbi S R Hirsch has a particular theory here. Hirsch writes: We do not believe that Torah comes from Yud Resh Heh but from Heh Resh Heh like holikh from Heh Lamed Khaf. The root Heh Resh Heh connotes the reception of seed; in Hiph'il it means 'to sow'. Hence to implant the seeds of truth and goodness, of spirituality and morality in others - to teach (Hirsch, Gen. 26:5).

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To whom is Moshe Rabbeinu speaking?

uleleivi amar tumeikha ve'ureikha (Deut. 33:8) The question bothering the commentaries here is that as tumeikha ve'ureikha (Your perfect things and Your lights) is addressing the Divine Presence, does the phrase uleleivi amar also address the Divine Presence and mean 'He said about Levi' or does it mean 'He said to Levi'? Rashi and Rabbi A. ibn Ezra maintain that it means 'He said about Levi', while the Ramban refers to them and writes that in his opinion it means that Moshe Rabbeinu faced each tribe, called to Levi, gazed at him, and said tumeikha ve'ureikha.

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Why the Qamatz?

Vayikra (Gen. 1:5) (and He called) We find verbs with an otherwise identical structure (Qal, future, masculine, third person, with or without Vav hahippukh) having a Pattah in their final syllable. Thus for example yishma, vayikrav. However, as Vayikra has an Aleph which is silent to conclude the last syllable, this syllable is open and a long vowel is appropriate. The vowels come in pairs - short and long. They are: Segol, Tzere; Qubbutz, Shuruq; short Qamatz , Holam (with or without a Vav); Hiriq, Hiriq followed by a Yud; and the long vowel of Pattah is a long Qamatz.

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The position for the stress when there is a furtive Pattah

Yehi raqia (Gen. 1:6) (Let there be firmament) The Ayin has a furtive Pattah. This means it is to be read as though there were an Aleph with a Pattah between the Yud and the Ayin. The furtive Pattah never receives the stress, so here the stress is on the second syllable which is qi. Furtive Pattah occurs frequently in the prayers.

I wish to thank my sons and an anonymous reader for help throughout the year; and the Ribbono shel Olam 'for keeping us alive, preserving us, and bringing us to this time'.

I will be happy to receive comments on these notes in English on Hebrew grammar related to the week's Parasha.
Good Shabbos and good yom tov, Meshullam Klarberg, 35/4 Meshech Chochma, Kiryat Sefer, Israel 71919


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