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Parashat Vayetze 5761


Vatikra shemo Yissakhar (Gen. 30:18) "and she called his name Yissakhar." In the Hebrew text the name Yissakhar is written with two letters, each of which can be read as [s] or indeed as [sh]. How should it be read? In well-accepted Hebrew texts, the first of these letters is marked with a diacritic mark on the left side indicating that it is to be read as [s] and a qamatz indicating that it is to be read with an [a] vowel. The second of these letters has no guide to pronunciation at all. Thus the reader does not know whether to read it as [s] or [sh] and whether to pronounce it with or without a vowel, or perhaps not to read it at all! The Minhat Shai (R' Yedidya Shelomo Refael Nortzi, according to Encyclopedia Judaica lived 1560-1616 and finished his work in 1626!) quotes the Mesorah 'Throughout the Torah there are two Sinin (Shinin?) written but not read.' Rabbi Yaaqov Kamenetsky (obm) quotes the same Mesorah with the addition of two words, 'even this,' and explains:

The implication is that there are localities where the first Yissakhar is read with two Sinin, this [phrase in the Mesorah] indicates that even the first is also read with only one Sin. These localities have a source on which they can rely, for in the breastplate [of the high priest] Yissakhar was written with two Sinin as is evident from Mesekhet Sotah (36a) and there we say 'according to their birth' as their father called them, accordingly by the name that their father called them one reads with two Sinin, and for this reason the Mesorah states that this is so only in writing but the reading is with only one Sin.
Rabbi Kamenetsky goes on to say that the Hatam Sofer gives a reason for reading [the first time] with two Sinin so that it appears it was the practice to do so where the Hatam Sofer lived.

It should be noted that a letter with a Dagesh is considered doubled, the first letter having a silent Sheva. Accordingly the reading Yissakhar is the equivalent of Yis-sakhar. Similarly when two letters which are articulated in the same area (of the five areas) of the vocal tract and the first letter has a silent sheva, that letter may be absorbed in the following letter by way of a dagesh as is explained by Rabbi A. ibn Ezra (Levit. 14:4). The abovementioned Mesorah may then be explained as meaning that when one reads Yissakhar the first time one should read it with a slight break in the [s] sound: Yis-sakhar. This interpretation of the Mesorah seems to fit more closely with the traditions of reading than the widespread custom of reading Yisaskhar.

The reading Yis-sakhar also fits well with the commentary of Rabbi David Kimhe (12th - 13th centuries). Leah called her son Yissakhar. Rabbi D. Kimhe explains: that is to say yesh sakhar ('there is reward') for my deed. The names of all the other sons of Ya'aqov are explained in the Torah at their birth. According to Rabbi David Kimhe Yissakhar is also explained 'And Leah said "G-d has given me sekhari ('my reward')" and she called his name yesh-sakhar' - thereby affirming one of the principles of the faith. That is the written form.

The form that is read is virtually identical. We have seen that a letter can be absorbed in the letter following. Also Tsere in a stressed syllable tends to become Hiriq in an unstressed syllable; e.g. shesh/shishi: sefer/sifri: ben-yamin/Binyamin - similarly yesh-sakhar/Yissakhar.

A review of articles dealing with this matter from the point of view of minhag is presented by Rabbi J. David Bleich in Contemporary Halakhic Problems, Ktav Publishing House & Yeshiva University Press, NY 1977, pp 70-71.

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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