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Parashat Vayechi 5762

Vowels of BUCHaL

bazeh (Gen. 48:9); vavecher (Gen. 46:21); chazeh (Gen. 41:38); larov (Gen. 48:16) Normally the prefixes Bet, Vav, Kaf, Lamed (BUCHaL) take a Sheva. When Bet, Kaf, Lamed are combined with the definite article 'Heh,' the Heh is dropped and the letters Bet, Kaf, Lamed receive the vowel and possibly a Dagesh appropriate for Heh in that position. A case in point is vara (Gen. 44:34). This is clearly a case of the Kamatz representing the definite article, as Resh is one of the letters that do not take Dagesh. In certain positions, particularly in the case of words with a melech (major tune) before an accented syllable, Bet, Kaf, Lamed receive a Kamatz. Generally this is to be understood as an expansion of the Sheva and not a form of the definite article. Yet in the case of 'bazeh,' even though there is a Zayin and no reason for the definite article to take a Kamatz nevertheless R' A. ibn Ezra (Shita Acheret) and Radak explain 'ba' in bazeh as being the definite article.

In the first of the two Berachot before the Shema many Chasidic Siddurim have the Lamed of the words La-El and La-Melech with a Kamatz (e.g. "Tefilot mikol haShana" RaZ"Sh Baal haTanya vehaShulchan Aruch, and "Yeshuot Yisrael" Harav Chaim Yeshaya HaKohen, Baal Misgeret on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch). The source of this appears to be Mishnat Chasidim (65b) based on the Kabbala of the Ari. I attempted to accommodate this within the above grammatical rules but Professor D. Sohlberg raised the following objections: 1. If El has the definite article one would expect the qualifier baruch which follows it also to have the definite article. 2. If the Kamatz were there due to being before an accented syllable, then one would expect that word to be at a pausal position in the sentence. This cannot be when the next word is the qualifier baruch. The same problems apply to la-melech. These are strong arguments. Sometimes when the Kabbalists wrote about vowels (as with the many forms of Shem Havaya) they were explaining Kavvanot rather than actual pronunciation. If this was the intention here why did rabbanim, who were well versed in grammar, incorporate these vowels in Siddurim intended for everyman's use? I don't have the solution.

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Moving the stress for different reasons

bechori atah (Gen. 49:3) Both of these words should be read with the stress on the second-last syllable (penultimate). We will first explain the reason for the second word - atah. Normally this word has the stress on the last syllable. However when it has a pausal tune (in our case it has a zakef katan) it is stressed on the second-last syllable (cf. Gen. 3:11; 3:19; 4:11; 22:12 etc.) which turns out to be the first syllable of the word immediately following bechori. Because of this, the stress of bechori which normally would be on the last syllable, is pushed back one syllable. A change in the position of the stress, due to the stress on the following word, is known as nasog achor ('retreated'). The purpose of this rule is to ensure that two stressed syllables are not in close proximity. nasog achor only occurs if the tune on the first word is a mesharet (a minor tune) as then there is a close relationship between that word and the following word. If the tune on the first word is a melech (a major tune) that in itself breaks the proximity between the two words. Note that in the prayers atah almost always has the stress on the last syllable. However it is possible that in mechayei meitim atah the stress should be on the first syllable.

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The root is Nun, Tet, Heh

vayeit shichmo (Gen.49:15) Rashi explains that this means 'he lowered his shoulder'. He does not give the root as Nun, Tet, Heh, although elsewhere he explains vayeit as meaning natah (Gen. 38:16). Furthermore, in commenting on yikhat (Gen. 49:10) Rashi points out there are a number of letters which can drop out of the root, and the examples he gives are the Nun of nogeif and nosheich. Despite Rashi's acceptance of missing letters, he was a follower of the Machberet of Menachem which allowed roots to have between one and five letters. Two generations later, the theory which proposed that all (or nearly all) words have three-letter roots had become well-established; thus R' A ibn Ezra writes on our pasuk 'natah shichmo' indicating that Nun is part of the root, and elsewhere (Gen. 12:8) he writes that there is a long vowel after the Yud of vayeit instead of the Nun which is the first letter of the root. From that time on, the three-letter root theory which had been propagated by ibn Janah, conquered the grammatical market-place. Even the Vilna Gaon accepted it. For hundreds of years no interest was taken in the Machberet of Menachem, so that it was almost lost. R' Zvi (Herschel) Filipowski found five manuscripts scattered across the major libraries of Europe, and from these he prepared a printed edition of the Machberet (Edinburgh, 1854) which he annotated, indicating all the places where the work is quoted by Rashi.

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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