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The blessing we say on bread, "hamotzee lechem min ha'aretz" -- on what syllable is the stress in the word "hamotzee"?

Is the bracha pronounced "ha-MO-tzee" or "ha-mo-TZEE"?

In Psalms 104:14 we find le-HO-tzee lechem min ha'aretz, but in Deuteronomy 8:15 we find ha-mo-TZEE lecha mayim.

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It should be mileil because it is nasog achor –  Double AA Aug 7 '13 at 23:15
To make it clearer, the following word, LEchem, has stress on its first syllable. In Dt 8:15, the following word laCHEM has stress on its second syllable. The former case triggers the nasog achor. –  josh waxman Aug 7 '13 at 23:21
@joshwaxman, in Deut. 8:15, the word is "Lecha," which has only one syllable (assuming that shva does not a syllable make)! –  Isaac Moses Aug 8 '13 at 2:31
@IsaacMoses correct. But the sh'va na suffices to bar the nasog achor rule IINM. Edit: I just checked a grammar book I have at hand, and it does not list such a bar. Despite that, I suspect there may be such -- but now I'm far less confident. –  msh210 Aug 8 '13 at 4:12

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

From what I can tell, either way you accent this word is probably fine.

My understanding, based on Biblical grammar

My understanding is that the accent in this case goes on the 'mo' syllable, due to the rule of "nasog achor."

This rule says that when multi-syllabic Word A is followed (without disjunctive cantillation) by Word B, and Word B has an accent on its first (or only) syllable, then Word A's accent goes to its penultimate syllable, even if it would normally be on the last syllable. (See, for example, Exodus 20:19, eh-LO-hei CHE-sef vei-lo-HEI za-HAV. Not eh-lo-HEI CHE-sef, as that would put stressed syllables back-to-back.)

So, in the first verse you cite, Psalms 104:14

‏לְה֥וֹצִיא לֶ֝֗חֶם מִן־הָאָֽרֶץ׃ ...

Because the cantillation on "lehotzi" is conjuctive and the accent on "lechem" is on the first syllable, the accent moves from the last syllable, 'tzi', to the penultimate one, 'ho'.

(I'm not sure why this rule doesn't apply to the second verse you cite, since "lecha" has only one syllable. Maybe someone can edit this to explain.)

Similarly, in the blessing, the word "lechem" has an accent on the first syllable, so it pushes the accent back one spot on the previous word, "hamotzi."

Survey of Siddurim

I (and other yodeyans) looked in various different siddurim, all of which have marks to indicate when the accent is on the penultimate syllable, for printed confirmation of my understanding. Unfortunately, I found that two confirmed my observation by placing an accent mark on the 'mo' syllable, while two did not. Perhaps someone can provide reasoning or documentation to explain the position of the two that did not.

Siddurim that confirm my understanding and place the accent on the previous syllable in this case:

Siddurim that defy my understanding in this case:

Explanation from Koren

I wrote to Koren Publishers' Senior Hebrew Grammar Expert, Efrat Gross, asking why they don't print the accent on the penultimate syllable in this case. She replied with this answer from the Koren Siddur's chief proofreader, Chanan Ariel:

כפי שנאמר בדברי ההסבר, מיעטנו ב"נסוג אחור" מפני שלא ברור אם יש להחיל את כללי לשון המקרא על לשון התפילה בעניין הזה. במקום שלא מסומן בו "נסוג אחור" אין פירושו של דבר שהקורא בנסיגת הטעם איננו צודק, אלא שחשבנו שאין חובה לקרוא בנסיגת הטעם. מאחר שיש כאן שינוי מלשון הפסוק שיש בו צורת מקור ולא צורת בינוני, חשבנו שעדיף שלא לקבוע מסמרות בעניין מקום הטעם.‏

Here's my translation (with some help from Shalom and Avi Shmidman):

As is stated in the explanatory notes, we limited [application of] "Nasog Achor" because it's not clear if the rules of Biblical language apply to the language of prayer in this matter. Where "*Nasog Achor" is not indicated, this does not mean that one who reads with the accent pulled back isn't correct, but that we thought that there's no obligation to read with the accent pulled back. Since this text differs from the language of the [Biblical] verse, which is in the infinitive form1, rather the participle form2, we thought that it would be better not nail down the placement of the accent.

So, at least according to Koren, either way is acceptable.

1. "להוציא" - "to extract"

2. "המוציא" - "The One Who extracts"

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I sat down to make a clear case with backing from four sources and found myself making a compromised case with sources in both directions. "No battle plan ..." –  Isaac Moses Aug 8 '13 at 2:45
@Shalom, don't get me started. The way they have taught generations of people to mangle the meaning of words in bentching ... –  Isaac Moses Aug 8 '13 at 12:48
@IsaacMoses the plot thickens ... the British United Synagogue siddur, which used Lord Sacks' translation pre-Koren, has the stress mark ha-MO-tzee. Yet the Koren-Sacks doesn't ... –  Shalom Aug 11 '13 at 21:39
Interesting. This also fits with Koren's using Kayemet instead of Kayamet in the blessing Emet veYatiz. Don't extend rules of Biblical grammar without precedent. –  Double AA Aug 22 '13 at 5:37
Just to point out a misunderstanding in the translation of Chanan's note above: the phrase "כאן שינוי מלשון הפסוק שיש בו צורת מקור ולא צורת בינוני" refers not to primary and secondary sources, but rather to this specific case: צורת מקור is the infitive (the form להוציא which appears in the verse), as opposed to the צורת הבינוני (that, is the participle המוציא) which appears in the benediction. From here it is also apparent that the quote from Chanan above is not a direct quote from the back of the siddur, but rather a personal reply to this query, in which he just refers to the other essay. –  Avi Shmidman Aug 22 '13 at 12:47

To answer the pasuk in Devarim, nasog achor does not apply following a mafsik - a break/pause, if I remember correctly, and lecha has a pashta on it, which is a mafsik. Since, klalei dikduk have you pausing anyway after a mafsik, there is no need fto use nasog achor for tiferes Ha'kriah. On L'Hotzi in Tehilim, the trop is a maircha, which is a mechaber - a connector, so nasog achor applies.

The above is correct but irrelevant. More correctly, nasog achor is called when there is not enough space between the accented syllables. Since lecha is milra, there is a tenuah between the stress on -tzee and the stress on -cha so המוציא can stay milra. In Tehilim, lechem being milail would leave no space between -cha and Le-, and there is no natural pause because it is a maircha, so nasog achor activates.

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Avraham, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for the analysis! Shouldn't it be the trop on hamotzi that matters, and not that on "lecha"? In Devarim 8:15, the former has a mahpach, and the latter has a pashta, so there's no pause between them. –  Isaac Moses Aug 23 '13 at 19:43
Yes, you're correct, I mixed two things up, I will correct the answer. Thanks! I cannot upvote your comment yet, though, sorry. –  Avraham Aug 23 '13 at 19:50
So you're saying, as msh210 did that the sheva na' under the lamed makes a tenu'a? –  Isaac Moses Aug 23 '13 at 19:59
Not a full-fledged tenuah but enough of a pronounced syllable to prevent nasog achor. I believe we see similarly with meteg rules that a shva na can be counted as as syllable, even though it is not a tenuah. –  Avraham Aug 23 '13 at 20:13
This looks like a comment on... something. Can you edit it to clarify the relevance to the question (pronunciation of hamotzi in the b'racha)? –  msh210 Aug 27 '13 at 21:50

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