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Parasha Bamidbar from 5763

Suffix Vav Nun

legershon (Numbers 3:21) (‘for Gershon’): R’ Ya’akov Kamenetzky points out that this is a name which has Vav Nun as a suffix (Emet LeYa’akov). He refers to Bet Shemuel (Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer, 129:3), Tiv Gittin (section 25), and R’ Akiva Eger (Gilyon HaShas, Berachot 39b), all of whom deal with the issue of a name with a basic form, and having a suffix Nun or Vav Nun. Surprisingly he does not refer to Rashi who writes ‘pishon (Gen. 2:11) is the Nile, the River of Egypt, and because its waters grow plentiful and rise and irrigate the land it is called pishon similar to ufashu parashav (‘his horsemen become plentiful’) (Habb. 1:8),’ implying that the letters Peh Shin common to pishon and fashu indicate a common root and that the letters Vav Nun constitute a suffix.

The above examples are all proper nouns. Nun and Vav Nun also occur as suffixes to common nouns and adjectives. Thus the root of elyon (Gen 14:8 etc.) is Ayin Lamed Yud, the root of shulchan (Exod. 25:23 etc.) is Shin Lamed Chet, and the root of challon (Gen 8:6 etc.), is Chet Lamed Lamed (the Dagesh in the Lamed of challon indicating the two Lameds in the root). As Rashi (above) points out, searching for the root can help in the interpretation of a word. However care must be taken not to find a wrong root.

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pakad (‘appointed’), pakad (‘counted’), pakad (‘commanded’), pakad (‘remembered’)

ve’et aharon ve’et banav tifkod (Numbers 3:10) (‘tifkod Aaron and his sons’): Rashi writes ‘this is an expression of “appointment” and not one of counting’ (Moshe is commanded to appoint, not to count them). However further on we find pekod et benei levi (Numbers 3:15) and Rashi comments ‘when it is clear that he is not stillborn (that is, has lived for 30 days) he is counted,’ and understands the verb pekod to mean ‘count!’ Furthermore we find vehu pakad alay livnot-lo bayit (Ezra 1:2) (‘and He commanded me to build a house for Him’), and ve’hashem pakad et sara (Gen. 21:1), (‘and Hashem remembered Sarah’). English-Hebrew dictionaries also give a number of translations for pakad. It is unlikely that one word in the Tenach has so many different and unrelated meanings. Therefore it seems appropriate to find a common connotation to all these cases. It may be that the core meaning of the word is to focus or pay special attention to someone or something. The type of focus is then qualified by the context.

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The long and short of semichut (‘construct state’)

umasach petach ohel mo’ed (Numbers 3:25) (‘and the curtain of the entrance of the tabernacle of meeting’): A chain of four words in semichut is unusual. (Last year, after I wrote the Hebrew version of this, Professor D. Sohlberg sent me a reference to Isa. 10:12 where there is a chain of five words in semichut and suggested that there may be longer chains.) While a phrase of two nouns, one qualifying the other by way of semichut, occurs frequently and three is not uncommon, chains of four or more are unusual. It should be noted that the tune for the word masach in our verse is a Zakef Gadol, which indicates a pause, while semichut indicates flowing on. This does occur sometimes.

Some words change in semichut, others don’t. Generally speaking those which change become shorter, thus for example nasi (‘prince/president’)>nesi, sheimot (‘names’)>shemot (changing from two syllables to one); shulchaan (‘table’)>shulchan, avodah (work)>avodat (in the last two, the Kamatz under the Chet/Dalet - which is a long vowel - is replaced by Patach which is a short vowel); mizbe’ach (‘an altar’)>mizbach, nesi’im (‘princes’)>nesi’ei. However, words that conclude with Segol followed by a Heh, are slightly elongated - the Segol which is a short vowel, is replaced by a Tzere which is a long vowel.

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Why does the Mishna call the sacrifice of Shavu’ot Shetei HaLechem?

shetei halechem (Menachot, 5:3,6; 6:2,6; 11:1,2,4,9; Me’ila, 2:6; Arachin, 2:2) (‘The two [loaves of] bread’): Although lechem is commonly regarded as masculine, here lechem is treated as feminine! One cannot explain that this is a case where the grammar of the Mishna diverges from that of the Torah (Chulin 137b) as both in the Torah and in the Mishna we find that the word lechem is masculine e.g. lo al halechem levado (Deut. 8:3) (‘not on bread alone’), lechem tzar (Sanhedrin 9:5) (‘minimal bread’). We also find that the Mishna distinguishes carefully to say that the ‘two [loaves of] bread are kneaded’ in feminine, while the ‘shewbread is kneaded’ in masculine (Menachot 11:1). Agreement as to gender of nouns and their adjectives and verbs is fundamental to Hebrew. Perhaps this is because shetie halechem is a paraphrase of the verse tavi’u lechem tenufa, shetayim … (Levit. 23:17). If so we need to understand: Why is it in the feminine in this verse? R’ Sa’adia Gaon translated this passage (into Arabic) adding the word for chalot (‘loaves’). Rashi solved the problem by writing ‘this is the mincha chadasha (‘the new meal offering’ - feminine) mentioned above.’ Similarly when this phrase occurs in 1 Samuel (10:4) it would appear that the ‘loaves’ in the previous verse is the intended referent. However Tosefot (Menachot 94a VS. shetei halechem) and R’ A. ibn Ezra on the verse shemeina (feminine!) lachmo (Gen. 49:20) (‘his bread is rich’) state that lechem is both masculine and feminine.

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
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