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Would saying "ve-dibarta BAM!!!" (with the letter A pronounced like Apple) help me to discharge my obligation when reciting kriat shema, or would it be better that I say "bam" instead? (the letter A pronunced like stackexchange.cOm)

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It would be best if you said it like the A in meta. – Double AA Jun 28 '12 at 4:35
@ba If that is what he meant, he certainly chose an odd way of saying it. – Double AA Jun 28 '12 at 6:58
@DoubleAA "help me to discharge" = "be a part of my discharging" (because saying two words doesn't completely discharge his obligation). – msh210 Jun 28 '12 at 7:59
If you're Syrian,I believe that would be standard. – Seth J Jun 28 '12 at 11:38
@AdamMosheh Kametz is pronounced like 'a' as in 'apple' in the Syrian community. – Seth J Jul 3 '12 at 13:55

Your question is a little confusing: are you asking about stress or about vowel quality? So far as stress is concerned, the phrase is pronounced vedibarTA BAM, with a stress on the final syllable of the first word and on the second word as well. (This differentiates it from vediBARta BAM, which would be a perfective: "and you spoke of these things".)

So far as vowel quality is concerned, there are different traditions. Given that the word is written (in Deuteronomy 6:7) with a qamatz, many Ashkenazim would pronounce it like the O-vowel in "drop" (Australian English pronunciation), while many Sephardim would pronounce it like the A-vowel in "rum" (AustlE again). Even if you are Ashkenazi, you might prefer to pronounce it with the Sephardi pronounciation, given that this is the standard pronounciation in the State of Israel.

Finally, the mishna in Berakhot 2:3 states that you have not fulfilled your obligation in reciting the Shema unless you are precise about the letters (דקדק באותיותיה), and different commentators interpret this differently. Some (like Melekhet Shlomo), think it refers to aspirating non-aspirated consonants (and vice versa) or to running letters together, while others (like Rav Ovadiah of Bertinoro) think it refers to running two words together as one. Both of these interpretations are combined in the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chayim 61).

At the end of the day, while most authorities think that you need to be careful about the consonants (or at least consistent with them), I don't think anybody worries about the vowels. Consider what Rabbi Moshe Isserles says, on Orach Chayim 61:24. Where the mechaber states that one needs to read the Shema according to the way in which it is vocalised in the Torah, he notes that "in these lands [ie: in Europe], people don't do this, but those who are precise with the language might be strict in this matter" (אבל לא נהגו כן במדינות אלו. ומכל מקום המדקדקים מחמירים בכך).

Finally, even the mechaber concedes (Orach Chayim 62:1) that while it is a mitzvah to be precise about the words, you have still fulfilled your obligation even if you were not.

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Shimon bM, welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for your well-sourced answer! I encourage you to register your account by clicking the link above to keep track of your contributions and to allow you to fully utilize the sites capabilities. I look forward to seeing you around. – Double AA Jun 28 '12 at 6:51
In your penultimate paragraph, you quote the Rama as saying one need not be careful about the vocalization of the words. I believe, however, that the Rama is specifically referring to the musical cantallation on the words (the 'trop') and not to the vowels, which, when altered, can change the meaning greatly. (Consider switches such as Mitzaveh, Metzuveh and Mitzvah all of which are spelled the same: מצוה) – Double AA Jun 28 '12 at 6:55
"the mishna in Berakhot 2:3 states that you have not fulfilled your obligation in reciting the Shema unless you are precise about the letters" - the mishnah actually cites a dispute about this, and the halachah follows the view that one does fulfill his obligation even without being precise (as you later quoted from SA). But it is true that ab initio one must pronounce the words properly. – Dave Jun 28 '12 at 13:22
Simon, sorry for misunderstanding but in my experience the kamatz pronunciation follows the way I described it. Are you perhaps from a commonwealth country? I am American born so perhaps that is the cause of our disagreement: we pronounce the English examples differently. – Double AA Jun 28 '12 at 16:54
I am, indeed, from Australia :) Didn't know I was making that obvious! Thanks, Double AA and Dave for the info about the Rema and about the Mishna. You are both correct, though as far as the Rema goes, it seems as though the mechaber (62:1) is effectively saying there what I thought the Rema was saying on the previous passage anyway. I shall have to read it more closely. – Shimon bM Jun 29 '12 at 4:23

I learnt from a classic textbook on Hebrew grammar by Weingreen that a patah carries the sound 'a' as in 'had', and kamatz gadol/kamatz katan are 'a' as in 'are' and 'o' as in 'hop' (I actually think Weingreen said 'oh' as in 'hope', which might explain why Americans say Moe-she and Aha-rone?!).

In any case I recently came across a fascinating piece in Conversations, a collection of essays put out I think quarterly by www.jewishideas.org. The piece in questions describes three sets of vowel-sounding styles. One with 5 vowels (I think Alexandrian/Egyptian/Southern Israel), 6 (Babylonian), and 7 (Yavneh, Israel or thereabouts - the edition of Conversations is not currently with me).

Styles where kamatz and patach are the same sound 'Are', where seghol and tzeirei are not distinguished - it is fascinating, and opened my eyes, frankly. See if you can get your hands on a copy of the current edition - issue 13: insights from the Sephardic experience.

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If Weingreen said kamatz katan is 'o' as in 'hop', I assume he's British? (American 'hop' is very different from British 'hop'.) – msh210 Jun 28 '12 at 8:02

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