vayelech (Deut. 31:1) ('and then he [Moshe] went') In form this is a verb in the future tense. However the Vav changes it to past tense. This Vav is known as Vav HaHipuch or Vav Conversive. Vav HaHipuch that changes future tense to past tense normally has a Patach and is followed by a Dagesh as in vayelech. When Vav HaHipuch is followed by Yud with a Sheva the Dagesh is omitted as in vaytzav (Deut. 31:10) ('and then he [Moshe] commanded). However Alef does not take a Dagesh. Thus when Vav HaHipuch is followed by Alef, Vav HaHipuch has a Kamatz as in va:atzaveh (Deut. 1:16) ('and then I [Moshe] commanded'). This is 'compensation' for the omitted Dagesh. However in vaatzavenu (Deut. 31:15) ('and I [G-d] will command him') the Vav has a Patach, because it is a regular Vav HaChibur that means 'and.' (Although Vav HaChibur normally has a Sheva, here it has a Patach because of the rule which does not allow two Shevas at the beginning of a word, and Chataf-Patach is a variety of Sheva. In this case the Vav has the vowel closest to the type of Chataf-vowel following.)
Vav HaHipuch that changes past tense to future tense has the same vowels as Vav HaChibur. It is usually Sheva but it undergoes changes before words starting with the letters Bet, Vav, Mem, Peh, or Yud, or before words where the first letter has a Sheva (or a Chataf-vowel). Sometimes it is accompanied by the main stress being moved to the last syllable which helps distinguish between Vav HaChibur and Vav HaHipuch from past tense to future tense. At other times it is impossible to distinguish between them. In one such case (Num.10:31) Rashi provides two explanations, allowing for both possibilities.
Using semichut - the construct state
nose'ei aron berit hashem (Deut. 31:25) ('the carriers of the ark of the covenant of G-d') Semichut is the special form of a noun which indicates that the noun which immediately follows it describes the previous noun e.g. bet hakeneset 'the house of congregating.' The absolute form is bayit, while the construct form is bet. In nose'ei aron berit hashem we have a string of four words where the first three are each in Semichut with the word following. It should be noted that the rule of good Hebrew style 'that strings of words in Semichut - the construct state - are undesirable' is purely a modern idea. Such strings are common in the Torah.
R' E. Sternbuch pointed out that the way in which tzevoyim (Deut. 29:22) has vowel-points in the Tenach edited by Rabbi M. Breuer so that there is no need for a separate kerei, means that in Devarim it has a chirik malei while in Bereishit it has a chirik-chaser. chirik malei and chirik-chaser he claims, are technically different vowels with different pronunciations. Furthermore R' Sternbuch argued, Rabbi Breuer himself is inconsistent in that on the word "Goyim" (Gen. 25:23) where the ketiv is with two Yuds (just like tzevoyim) he does provide a kerei replacing the first Yud with a Vav. I put both of these questions to Rabbi Breuer. He brushed aside the suggestion that chirik malei and chirik-chaser are significantly different vowels. As to the question about tzevoyim and goyim, he said that the Keter (the codex edited by Ben Asher and approved by Rambam) has no annotation on tzevoyim, but it gives a kerei for goyim (Psalms 79:10). Although the Keter on Bereshit is lost, all the other authoritative manuscripts there give a kerei with a Vav for goyim. This in itself, Rabbi Breuer pointed out is reason enough for him to edit as he did. However it shifts R' Sternbuch's question to the Keter. Why does the Keter treat tzevoyim and goyim differently? Rabbi Breuer pointed out that tzevoyim is always spelled without Vav and in one place is spelled with only one Yud, while goyim is always spelled with a Vav (except the two instances we are discussing) and never with only one Yud. It follows, he said, that Ben Asher had good reason to give the first Yud of goyim a kerei making it read as a Vav in accordance with its spelling elsewhere. The same argument does not apply to tzevoyim. As a result it can be seen that Ben Asher regarded tzevoyim and goyim as different cases and treating them differently was not inconsistent.
R' O. Kantor of Kiryat Sefer pointed out that in addition to symbols for 'ch,' 'j' and 'zh' mentioned last week, Modern Hebrew has also developed symbols for the English 'th' of which there are two, Dalet with an apostrophe, and Tav with an apostrophe. If used to indicate the phonetic value of the English sound 'th' which has a voiced sound as in 'this,' Dalet with an apostrophe is appropriate, while if used to indicate the phonetic value of the English sound 'th' which has an unvoiced sound as in 'thank' Tav, with an apostrophe is appropriate.
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I will be
pleased to have comments on these notes on the Parasha.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and