Shema

  Morsels of Hebrew Grammar  
Parsha Homepage | Previous Issues


Parashat Shemini from 5761

Where is the definite article?

vayehi bayom hashemini (Levit. 9:1) ('On the eighth day') When an adjective describes (qualifies) a noun in Hebrew it is required to 'agree' with it in 'number,' that is to say if the noun is singular, the adjective must also be so; in 'gender' - if the noun is masculine the adjective must also be so; and they must also agree with regard to both having or lacking the definite article He. Here hashemini is singular and masculine as is bayom but hashemini has a prefix He with a Patah followed by a Dagesh in the Shin while bayom has not! How do we explain this?

Normally the prefix Bet ('on') has a Sheva but here it has a Patah followed by a Dagesh in the Yud. This is the very vocalization of the definite article He and provides us with the clue. It is the equivalent of be-ha-yom - the two prefixes have merged, the He representing a slight sound (low in decibels) is absorbed by the Bet while its vocalization, the Patah followed by the Dagesh in the Yud, remain!

* * * *

Three units of meaning!

milevad (Levit. 9:17) ('beside') This is an interesting word to analyze. Even a Hebrew speaker can be mistaken in thinking that there is only one element of meaning here, and in modern spoken Hebrew this may actually be so. However we are looking at the language of the Torah and should not be diverted by equivalents in modern languages.

The term for words and parts of words that are meaningful is 'morpheme'. The word milevad is made up of three morphemes. Thus mil- has a range of meaning including 'of' and 'from' (Because the Lamed has a Dagesh it both closes the first syllable and opens the second. Thus the first part of this double Lamed is an echo of the final Nun of the word min of which the prefix mi- is an abbreviation.), le- has a range of meaning including 'of' or 'to,' while -vad is derived from the root Bet, Dalet, Dalet. The evidence for the double Dalet in the root can be found in the declension. For example, when the Torah says ein od milevado (Deut. 4:35) ('there is none beside Him'), there is a Dagesh in the Dalet of milevado indicating a double Dalet.

The morpheme -vad also appears as a stand-alone word. It then has a Dagesh qal in the Bet. Thus we find bad bevad (Exod. 30:34) and Rashi comments 'it seems to me to mean alone, they [the spices] will be one by one, each one equivalent to the other.' R' A. Ibn Ezra similarly says there 'each one [spice] will be crushed alone and then they will be mixed.' This interpretation can also serve to help understand the use of the same word for linen cloth - after the raw flax has been processed the pure linen alone remains. The word also occurs for branches of trees; these I would suggest are single parts of the tree. So bad/vad means alone. The word badad (Lam. 1:1) displaying all the root-letters, means alone in the sense of 'lonely, without inhabitants' (Rashi). After our analysis the impossibility of literal translation is clear, so in our context 'beside' is an appropriate translation.

* * * *

Where is the Tav?

titama'u (Levit. 11:24) ('you will become defiled') This word has an unusual structure, it is a Hitpael, and the Tet has a Dagesh because of the absorption of the Tav (R' A. ibn Ezra). The Tav of the prefix hit- (that normally has a Sheva and is here next to a Tet where its sound is not very distinct) becomes absorbed by way of the Dagesh in the Tet. This rule only applies to the plosives Dalet, Tet and Tav that are also Linguals (Dalet, Lamed, Tet, Nun, Tav) (see Sefer Yetzira 2:3, Aryeh Kaplan ed. p. 102).

These comments have been put into book form for publication in English and Hebrew. Dedications are available for both books.

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
E-mail address: fredit@bezeqint.net

Shema

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to parsha@shemayisrael.co.il

http://www.shemayisrael.co.il

Jerusalem, Israel

732-370-3344