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Parashat Vayakhel - Pekudei 5761

  Opinions about masculine and feminine

et kal’ei hehatzer et amudav ve’et adaneiha (Exod. 35:17) (‘the curtains for the courtyard, its posts and its base-blocks’) Rashi points out that hatzer (‘courtyard’) is referred to here as both masculine and feminine (in amudav the suffix av is masculine, while in adaneiha the suffix ha is feminine). He continues, there are many words that have both genders. Rashi makes the same point in a number of places in his commentary. On the passage hamahane ha’ahat vehikahu (Gen. 32:9) (‘the one [fem.] camp and smite it’ [masc.]) he adds that the words shemesh (‘sun’), esh (‘fire’), and ruah (‘wind’) are further examples of this phenomenon. It should be noted that Rashi does not determine gender by examining particular suffixes such as -ah or the letter tav for feminine gender. The critical factor is agreement: certain words, or parts of words, must have the same gender or number as the noun in question.

R’ A. ibn Ezra makes the same point and provides further examples. Elsewhere (Gen. 49:20) he provides an extensive list of words which have both genders: bayit (‘house’), makom (‘place’), yad (‘hand’), esh (‘fire’), ayin (‘eye’), ruah (‘wind’), eretz (‘land’), aron (‘cabinet’), am (‘people’).

Hizkuni suggests that nouns indicating inanimate items may be both genders but after providing a number of examples points out that animate nouns can also fall into this category and refers to beheima (‘animal’) in Leviticus (27:9) which is referred to by both masculine and feminine pronouns.

Rabbi Moshe Haim Luzzato argues that nouns referring to male or female creatures are respectively masculine or feminine. Other nouns are feminine if they have the feminine form (Sefer HaDiqduq of Ramhal ed. E. Brieger, Brooklyn N.Y. 1994, p. 10)


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How should the Heh of the definite article be vocalized?

kol ha’oveir al ha’pequdim mahtzit ha’sheqel … he’ashir lo yarbeh (Exod. 30:13-15) (‘each one who is counted shall give half a shekel … the wealthy shall not give more’) Generally the Heh of the definite article is vocalized with a Patah and a Dagesh in the following letter. However, if the following letter is a guttural (Aleph, Heh, Het, Ayin) or Resh none of which accepts a Dagesh, that syllable becomes an open syllable and therefore there is a ‘compensatory’ Qamatz in place of the Patah. Rabbi Shabtai Sofer (of Premishlov, in his Siddur p. 36) writes that there are many rules on this issue detailed in the Mikhlol of the Radak where it says that generally speaking there is no compensatory Dagesh prior to the letters Heh, Het, Ayin. It is worth noting that in some instances there is a Segol in these positions.

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Furthermore how should the prefixes Bet, Khaf, Lamed be vocalized?

ba’tekheilet uva:’argaman uve’tola’at hashani (Exod. 38:23) (‘with the sky-blue, and with the purple, and the crimson wool’) Generally when the letters Bet, Khaf, Lamed come as prefixes they take a Sheva e.g. uve’tola’at. However, when they come together with the definite article, the Heh of the definite article is omitted, and the vowel appropriate to it is transferred to the prefixes Bet, Khaf, Lamed e.g. ba’tekheilet uva:’argaman. Therefore where the Tav can take a Dagesh as before tekheilet the Bet takes a Patah as the Heh of the definite article would, while in the case of argaman there is a Qamatz (indicated by a:) because the Heh of the definite article before the Aleph takes a Qamatz. For this reason the Hazzan who is he’ani mima’as (‘short of good deeds’) (Hazzan’s prayer prior to Mussaf on the High Holydays) knows to read be’asor lahodesh (Lev. 23:27) – for one of the places where the definite article Heh receives a Segol is when it comes before an Ayin with an unstressed Qamatz.


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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