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Parashat Tetzaveh 5761


Of Semikhut and other matters

maasei ha:rash even (Exod. 28:11) (‘work of an artisan of stone’) Generally ha:ra:sh has a long vowel, a Qamatz, in both syllables (as in Exod. 35:35), but here the second syllable has a Patah. Rashi points out that in this case ha:rash is in the Construct State (Semikhut), qualified by the word even, and adds that this form also occurs in Isaiah (44:12; 44:13). The principle underlying this point is that there is a tendency to slightly shorten words in Semikhut and in this case the Patah, which is a short vowel, replaces the Qamatz, which is a long vowel.


Previously, with reference to the verse vehar sinai a:shan kulo (Exod. 19:18) (‘and Mount Sinai was all smoking’), Rashi explained that the word a:shan is not a noun, citing as evidence that the Shin has a Patah and this makes it belong to the same class of words as a:mar (‘said’) and sha:ma (‘heard’) which are verbs, and Rashi concludes that every a:sha:n in Scripture has a Qamatz [in the second syllable] because it is a noun. It follows that one could think (correctly) that ha:ra:sh with a Qamatz in both syllables is a noun, and (incorrectly) that ha:rash with a Qamatz in the first syllable and a Patah in the second syllable is a verb. To avoid this error Rashi found it necessary to explain Semikhut and its context.


R’ Shemuel Ben Meir (Rashbam), Rashi’s grandson, agrees with Rashi regarding the Patah under the Resh. However, he is concerned with the Qamatz under the Het. The problem is that a set of words which has a Qamatz in each of their two syllables such as ba:sa:r (‘meat’), ma:ta:r (‘rain’) has two changes in its vocalization in Semikhut. Not only is the second Qamatz replaced by a Patah (as discussed above with regard to ha:ra:sh) but the first Qamatz is replaced by a sounded Sheva. In our examples we obtain besar- (‘meat of’) metar- (‘rain of’) and in the case of the first letter of the word being a guttural (Aleph, Heh, Het, Ayin) which cannot be pronounced with a sounded Sheva, that letter receives a Hataf (‘snatched’) vowel. Thus Ha:kha:m (‘wise man’) becomes hakham- (‘wise man of’), the small letter indicating the Hataf vowel - a special variety of sounded Sheva for guttural letters. In the case of the group of nouns like aya:l (‘deer’), da:ya:n (‘judge’), ta:ba:h (‘cook’), qa:tza:v (‘butcher’), [sometimes known as the names of occupations – (accordingly ga:na:v ‘thief’ is the name of an occupation!)] the first syllable is not reduced. The Rashbam explains that ha:ra:sh belongs to this group and would be expected to have the same vowels ‘and the group has a Dagesh [in the second letter of the root] like ga:na:v and therefore the Het [of ha:ra:sh] has a Qamatz’ (Rashbam). This means that because the Resh cannot receive a Dagesh the Het has a Qamatz. Underlying this is the rule for vocalizing syllables which teaches that a closed syllable (which has a consonant at its end) and is unstressed, always has a short vowel (Hiriq, Segol, Patah, Qubutz, short Qamatz). The Dagesh in the second letter of the word indicates a doubling, with the first part of that double sound closing the previous syllable, and the second part opening the next syllable (as though what were written were qa:tz-tza:v). The Resh does not receive a Dagesh, therefore the first syllable of ha:ra:sh remains open, and in place of a short vowel (Patah) it receives a long vowel (Qamatz). The Rashbam continues ‘therefore the Het has a Qamatz and not a Hataf vowel.’ This means ha:ras:sh does not belong to the group of nouns which normally have Qamatz Qamatz for were it so the Het would have a Hataf Patah as does hakham-.

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The many facets of al

al hahoshen (Exod. 28:24) (‘on/for the breastplate’) Rashi explains at length that al in this context means ‘for the purpose of’ as though he were aware that there is a different opinion. In fact we find that the Rashbam, maintains that al here means its simplest literal meaning ‘on.’ Perhaps Rashi knew of this opinion before the Rashbam wrote it.

al heshev ha’efod (Exod. 28:28) (‘to the belt of the vest’) Here Rashi explains that al means ‘to’ and I have not found any commentary which disagrees with this opinion.

al petil tekheilet (Exod. 28:38) (‘on/with a blue thread’) In Rashi’s opinion the tzitz (‘forehead plate’) lay on the blue thread. In the opinion of R’ A. ibn Ezra the tzitz is tied with the thread and he quotes a number of verses where al can be understood as meaning ‘with’. The Ramban also disagrees with Rashi, and seems to agree with R’ A. ibn Ezra.

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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