Morsels of Hebrew Grammar  
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Sukkot 5761


shor o kesev o ez ki yivaled (an ox or a sheep or a goat when they are born) (Lev. 22:27) Rabbi A. Ibn Ezra offers two possible interpretations 1. the adult name of the animals is used indicating what they grow to be; 2. the adult name is the name of the species.

ki yivaled (when they are born) Rashi comments 'this excludes an animal born by caesarian section'. The Hizkuni (13th century) expands on Rashi (both are following the Torat Kohanim, a Tannaic commentary) and writes 'when they (the animals) are born, but not man when born; this means it is not called "an ox or a sheep or a goat" to be suitable as a sacrifice unless it is "born" (naturally), but a human being born by caesarian section and not in the natural way is just as qualified to bring a sacrifice as is a person born in the natural manner'.

The root of yivaled is Vav Lamed Dalet/Yud Lamed Dalet. Hebrew roots of this kind are called Peh Yud roots. That is to say the first letter of the root, called Peh by Hebrew grammarians, is a Yud. In roots of this kind the letters Vav and Yud may replace each other.

The verb refers to the one born, and belongs to the conjugation (manner of forming verbs) called Niphal which often has a passive connotation. That is to say the action of the verb applies to the subject of the sentence (here the one born) rather than the subject of the sentence being the one who performs the action. However not every Niphal is passive as Rabbi M.H. Luzzatto points out in his Sefer Haddiqduq.

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lo thish'hatu vekhi-thizbehu tizbahu (do not slaughter do not sacrifice do not sacrifice) (Lev. 22:29-30). These words are structurally similar but have small grammatical differences. Sometimes such small differences are of significance in the meaning of the words, in which case, the reader must repeat if he has read them incorrectly. Other differences are less important (See Sh. A. O. Ch. 142).


1. thish'hatu - thizbehu have equal vowels excepting that the Het of thish'hatu has a Hataf-Patah, whereas in the equivalent position the Bet of thizbehu has a Sheva na - a Sheva which is sounded slightly. (When there are two contiguous Shevas, the second is a sounded one.) However, the gutteral letters Alef, Heh, Het, Ayin cannot be pronounced with a regular Sheva na and in its place comes a 'snatched vowel'. This is the special Sheva na for the letters Alef, Heh, Het, Ayin. Therefore thish'hatu has a Hataf-Patah in the equivalent position that thizbehu has a Sheva na. This change is phonetic and does not affect meaning.

2. vekhi-thizbehu tizbahu There are two differences here, and we will deal with them in the order that they appear: the first is a Tav with a Dagesh and one without. Generally speaking the letters Bet, Gimmel, Dalet, Khaf, Peh, Tav receive a Dagesh when they occur at the beginning of a word. This Dagesh is called a Dagesh Qal and indicates that the letter is to be pronounced as a plosive. After a word concluding with the letters Alef, Heh, Vav, Yud which has a minor tune associating it with the following word, the letters Bet, Gimmel, Dalet, Khaf, Peh, Tav are without a Dagesh and are pronounced as fricatives. (This variation of pronunciation has not been preserved equally in all Jewish communities.) In vekhi-thizbehu there is a small perpendicular line under the word vekhi called a meteg or geyah. This is a secondary tune, and together with the hyphen, joins vekhi to thizbehu causing the Tav not to have a Dagesh.

The second difference is a Bet with a Sheva and one with a Qamatz. The Qamatz creates the pausal form which comes at a sof pasuq, etnahta, and occasionally other pausal tunes. According to the Mishna Brura (142:4) a reader who misses a pausal tune must repeat. Whether missing a vowel of a pausal tune has the same rule, requires further study.

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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