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Parashat Vaeira 5761


Interchangeability of Vav and Yud

hinei yad Hashem hoyah (Exod. 9:3). Rashi writes that it is based on Heh Vav Heh ('to be') and points out that that is how one says in feminine: for past hayeta ('she was'), for future tihyeh ('she will be'), and for the present hoyah ('she is') (and using a ? for the letter 'Ayin') as in ?osah ('she does'), rotzah ('she wants'), ro?ah (she pastures).

The way Rashi has presented the examples he regards Heh Yud Heh as the root of hoyah, yet at the beginning he wrote Heh Vav Heh indicating that he regards Heh and Vav as interchangeable. A little further on (v. 18) Rashi is more explicit about this, saying that every verb whose root commences with Yud (such as Yud Samekh Dalet, Yud Lamed Dalet, Yud Dalet Ayin, Yud Samekh Resh), there is a Vav in place of the Yud (for example hivaseda, hivaleda, vayivada, vayivaled leyosef, bidvarim lo yivaser ?aved) when it is in the Hitpael conjugation. R' A. Ibn Ezra writes explicitly that we find here Yud interchanging with Vav. The example he quotes is veata hoveh lahem lemelekh (Neh. 6:6), hoveh (masc.) there is the same as hoyah in our verse. A similar interchange is to be found in qovai (Isaiah 49:23) and qoyei (ibid. 40:31). R' A. Ibn Ezra on Isaiah (ibid., 1619 edition, Basilia, facsimile at back of Isaiah, Schocken, Tel Aviv, 1938) spells qoyei with two Yuds.

Rabbi Yedidya Shelomo Rephael ben Avraham of Norzi (16th - 17th century) in his Minhat Shai (a grammatical commentary correcting the first Venice edition of the Bible) explains that the Yud of qoyei has a Tzeirei and it is the second letter of the root, while the Yud indicating that it is plural has been omitted from the written text and retained in the pronunciation through the merging of the two Yuds (Minhat Shai, Psalms 37:9). According to the Minhat Shai the Vav is a vowel - Holam - as in rotza, shomer, holeikh. Perhaps the author of Minhat Shai did not have the version of Ibn Ezra on Isaiah quoted above.

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The meanings of 'al'

al tzivotam (Exod. 6:26) Rashi comments that this means 'Betzivotam - all their hosts, tribe by tribe.' Rashi goes on to say 'Sometimes al simply replaces a single letter as in al harbekha tihyeh (Gen. 27:40) which means beharbekha, ('by your sword'), amadtem al harbekhem (Ezek. 33:26) means beharbekhem, ('by your sword').

Similarly on al penei terah aviv (Gen. 111:28) Rashi comments 'during the lifetime of his father Terah.'

Rashi points out that al may have other nuances too. Thus on vealav (Num. 2:20) Rashi quotes the Aramaic translation of Onkelos (2nd cent.) 'close to' with approval.

There are other meanings too and sometimes the correct interpretation is a matter of dispute. Thus on the verse vezavahta alav (Exod. 20:21) Rashi writes '[you shall slaughter] near [the altar]' similar to vealav matei menashe (Num. 2:20) [near him is the tribe of Menasheh]. To emphasize the point that al here does not mean on, Rashi goes on to say that as proof that it does not mean on literally, one can quote the teaching of the Sages 'the flesh and the blood on the altar of the L-rd your G-d (Deut. 12:27) - there is no slaughter on the altar (Mekhilta, ch. 11).' However Tosefot (Zevahim, 58) interpret this verse as indicating that mideoraita ('in Torah Law') one may slaughter on the altar; Rambam (Hil. Pesulei Hamukdashim 3:1) takes the same view. It may be that Rashi interprets the verse in accordance with the rabbinic decree.

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


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