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At the end of Birkas Hamazon, why do we say 'vezaro mevakesh lachem' and not 'lechem'? Thanks!

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Arielj, Welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks for bringing your question here! I look forward to seeing you and your awesome choice of picture around. –  Isaac Moses Nov 16 '11 at 20:07

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The standard grammatical rule is that a word whose first vowel is a segol gets converted to a komotz when that word ends a sentence (or at an etnachta, which functions like a semicolon). This is a verse that ends with "lechem", so it becomes "lachem."

Similarly, Vayeitzei begins that Yaakov left from Be'er Shava. (Would have been Sheva, but it's at the end of a clause). "Ato" (patach-komotz) for "you" becomes "oto" (komotz-komotz) throughout the siddur (look especially at shemoneh esrei) where it ends a clause or sentence.

To elaborate on that:

There are, if my computer-script counted properly, 44 “oto”s in Tanach, vs. 560- something “ato”s (so the komotz accounts for about 7% total, or 1 komotz per 13 patachs). Note also that as far as I can tell, if it's “you are adjective”, the stress is on the last syllable. If it's “adjective are you”, it's on the first syllable. All komotz cases (because they end the clause) are mil'el (stress on the first syllable), but the patach form is also occasionally mil'el, e.g. (but not limited to) a zakef katon.

Verse illustrating

First instance of "you" with a komotz is Genesis 3:10:

Genesis 3:10 with vowels

Here's Isaiah's prayer, paraphrased in the siddur but maintaining the relevant vowelization:

Isaiah verse

And a verse from the Zachor Haftarah, containing two forms of "you" according to the usage described here:

Samuel verse

Of course, Psalms, Proverbs, and Job employ a different cantillation system, so what defines a partial or full stop there is quite different.

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Exception: chataf segol. Notice we don't say "hashem elokeichem ommes". –  jake Nov 16 '11 at 15:17
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@jake: not really an exception. The rule Shalom is talking about applies only to stressed syllables; by definition, a chataf is unstressed. –  Alex Nov 16 '11 at 17:49
    
@Alex, Good point. But then the "ato" -> "oto" thing mentioned here is not really an application of this rule. –  jake Nov 16 '11 at 17:52
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@Jake, "ato" with stress on latter syllable is where it's in the middle of a clause, e.g. "you are x." If it ends a clause it's "x are you", and stressed on the first syllable. If it's a short stop (zakef katon) it's stressed on first syllable but patach; if a long stop (etnachta or sof psuk) it's stressed on first syllable and becomes komotz. –  Shalom Nov 16 '11 at 18:53
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You might wish to clarify "a word whose first vowel is a segol gets converted to a komotz" by specifying that you're dealing only with two-syllable mil'el words. –  msh210 Nov 16 '11 at 20:10

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