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Parasha Tazria 5763

Why is there no Dagesh Kal in the Tav of bishti? Why might one be expected?

o bishti (Levit. 13:48) (‘or on the warp’)

Introduction: Dagesh Kal is a dot which appears in six letters (Bet, Gimmel, Dalet, Kaf, Peh, Tav, – begad kefat) and indicates a ‘hard’ or plosive pronunciation. The air stream coming up from the lungs is blocked somewhere in the vocal tract and a sudden release generates the plosive sound. The same letter without the Dagesh Kal should be articulated by maintaining a semi-closure allowing the air to escape slowly creating friction and a fricative sound.

A Sheva Na is a Sheva which is slightly vocalized but not sufficiently to count as a vowel. To understand the question and the answer we will list the widely accepted rules of the Sheva Na as formulated by R’ Eliyahu Bachur (16th cent.). It 1) occurs under the first letter of a word; 2) is the second of two Shevas in the middle of a word; 3) occurs after a long unaccented vowel; 4) occurs under a letter which has a Dagesh; 5) occurs between identical letters. All other Shevas are Nach (‘silent’). The letters begad kefat normally receive a Dagesh at the beginning of a word or in the middle of a word after a Sheva Nach. In our verse the Sheva under the Shin qualifies as a Sheva Nach. We therefore expect a Dagesh Kal in the Tav of bishti. Why isn’t there one?

The prefix letters Bet (‘in’), Kaf (‘like’), Lamed (‘to’) (Bachal), are normally pointed with a Sheva. Because this is the first letter of the word it is a Sheva Na. If the prefix were not there the Shin would be the first letter of the word and it would have a Sheva Na. However when Bachal are prefixed to a word whose first letter has a Sheva they are pointed with a Chirik. R’ Zalman Hanau (Razah, innovative grammarian, late 17th early 18th cent.) accounted for this as follows: The rule which says that a the Sheva under the first letter of a word is a Sheva Na is the result of the fact that in Hebrew a consonant with a Sheva cannot be articulated independently. Therefore there is a need to attach the first letter of the word to the following letter (which does have a vowel) thereby making it part of that syllable. This explains why there cannot be two Shevas, both Na, following each other – the requirement to attach to a syllable would not be met! Therefore when one of the prefixes bachal is attached to a word whose first letter has a Sheva, that prefix cannot take a Sheva and instead receives a Chirik, which Razah asserts, is the shortest of the vowels. Razah calls a vowel which replaces a Sheva, a Tenu’ah Kalla (‘light vowel’), and argues that a light vowel is followed by a Sheva Na (contrary both to custom and to R’ Eliyahu Bachur’s rules). This provides a rationale for the lack of Dagesh in the following letter – in our case the Sheva under the Shin which is, according to Razah, a Sheva Na. Thus no Dagesh in the Tav is generated and the question in our heading has been answered (Razah, Tzohar HaTeva, tevat hatenu’ot 25). Responding to this creative explanation R’ Ya’akov Emden (Ya’avetz) writes that Razah … has made the Sheva Nach which comes after a short vowel into a Sheva Na. This is the result of his having invented the Tenu’ah Kalla (using double meaning) kemot shehi (‘the bride as she is’) all of her moving and suspect! (Ya’avetz, Migdal Oz Bet Midot 16, Aliyat Dikduk s.v. aval, Eshkol, Jerusalem, 1978. Reported in S.Y. Mandelbaum, Dikdukei Shai Jerusalem, 1999, p.132 n.8). However it should be noted that in the opinion of Razah there is no difference in the pronunciation of Sheva Nach and Sheva Na. He writes:

There is no difference in reading between Sheva Na and Sheva Nach in the matter of the speed and quickness [of reading]. The only difference is that Sheva Na is the beginning of the vowel (syllable?) and Sheva Nach is the end of the vowel (syllable?). For just as Sheva Nach is joined hurriedly to the vowel before it, so the Sheva Na is joined hurriedly to the vowel after it (Razah, She’arei Tefila, Intro. s.v. veze. Published with Yaavetz Luach Eresh, D. Yitzchaki ed. Otzreinu Toronto, Canada, 2001, p. 217).
This statement makes his changing the Sheva Nach which comes after a Tenu’ah Kalla into a Sheva Na less surprising.

(Note: Some Siddurim have the Sheva Na indicated according to the above Tenu’ah Kalla rule of Razah. They ought to instruct readers that in the opinion of Razah pronunciation of both kinds of Sheva is identical. Otherwise users will create a reading not in accordance with any point of view!)

Whether this Sheva, which comes after a vowel that has replaced a Sheva, is Na or Nach is then the subject of a dispute between Razah and Yaavetz. Dikdukei Shai lists additional authorities who maintain that this Sheva is Nach. Some of them are: Ben Asher; R’ A. ibn Ezra; Radak; R’ Shabbetai Sofer; Gaon of Vilna; R’ Wolf Heidenheim (Dikdukei Shai op. cit. p.129 n.2). The weight of authority is against Razah. R’ S. Dwelaicky in his haskama praises R’ Mandelbaum for taking this stand. The editor of the gentile Hebraist Gesenius (1910 edition, says that he decided to omit the concept of ‘Median Shewa.’

According to these authorities the question remains; why is there no Dagesh in the Tav? R’ Shabbetai Sofer (17th century, author of a grammatical commentary on the Siddur) answers as follows:

Whenever a Sheva Na becomes Nach because of the prefix before it, the letters Begad Kefat nevertheless remain soft (fricative) as though the Sheva were Na, as the prefix letter does not have the strength to do two things: to make the Sheva Nach (‘silent’) and to annul the softness of the Begad Kefat (Siddur, general intro. 3:5).

Dikdukei Shai (p.130 n.3) quotes Lechem Bikkurim who argues ‘we do not make one rule for another rule.’

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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