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Ester 2:14 speaks of each candidate for the title of queen consort:

בָּעֶרֶב הִיא בָאָה וּבַבֹּקֶר הִיא שָׁבָה אֶל בֵּית הַנָּשִׁים שֵׁנִי

In the evening she would arrive and in the morning she would return to the harem second

The "שֵׁנִי/second" is unclear. Rashi says the phrase means "to the second harem". Ibn Ezra and Minchas Shay, on the other hand, say it means "to the harem a second time" — but they parse the phrase differently from one another:

  • According to ibn Ezra, "שֵׁנִי" means "פַּעַם שֵׁנִי/a second time". Even though "פַּעַם" is usually a feminine noun and "שֵׁנִי" a masculine adjective, so they don't go together, here "פַּעַם" is masculine.
  • According to Minchas Shay, "שֵׁנִי" means "פַּעַם שֵׁנִי/a second time". Even though "פַּעַם" is usually a feminine noun and "שֵׁנִי" a masculine adjective, so they don't go together, here "שֵׁנִי" is feminine.

Is that a general rule? That is, when the genders of a noun and its adjective don't match, does ibn Ezra reinterpret the noun (where possible) and Minchas Shay (or whomever he's quoting) reinterpret the adjective (where possible)?

  1. If so, why? What's the reason for that underlying rule?
  2. If not, why does each interpret this verse according to that rule?
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I was about to point out that ibn Ezra contradicts himself in his comment to Nechemia 3:30 sv. מדה שני, but then I read that ibn Ezra didn't actually write that commentary. –  Jamie Conway Jun 23 '14 at 12:14
I'm surprised that the Ibn Exra says that "pa'am" is feminine, since its plural, "pe'amim" is masculine. Is this an exception? –  DanF Jun 23 '14 at 19:37
I don't see why this verse would be markedly different than many other instances in Tanach where we find an adjective that doesn't agree in gender with the word immediately preceding it. Sometimes the adjective describes a word that is 3 or 4 words preceding it. So, in this case, maybe the word "sheni" describes the word "Beit" which is a masculine word? Apparently it can't describe the word "nashim" (immediatey preceding) as then the adjective would have to be plural (shniyot) as well as feminine. –  DanF Jun 23 '14 at 19:42
@DanF, paam is normally feminine. So is p'amim. Compare shulchan, shulchanos, both of which are masculine. Rashi's explanation, which I mention briefly, is that sheni attaches to bes. –  msh210 Jun 23 '14 at 23:07
@msh210 - thanks for explanation on "pa'am" - usually, the gender is determined by the plural ending, but there are numerous exceptions. –  DanF Jun 24 '14 at 13:18

1 Answer 1

Apologies in advance that this answer is based on anecdotal evidence. I have not done a systematic study of either ibn Ezra or Minchas Shai, but have searched through the texts as best as possible.

In all the examples I can find, ibn Ezra discusses the gender of the noun as being different than usual, rather than assert that the "incorrect" gender of adjective (or whatever object is under consideration) is used. See, for example, ibn Ezra to Gen 2:15, Ex 35:17 (short commentary), Micah 6:9, Eccl 10:15, among others. As noted in my comment, ibn Ezra did not write the commentary on Nechemia bearing his name (it was written by Moses Kimchi, brother of the Radak), and thus the comment on Nech 3:30 asserting that שני should be read שנית, as with Esther 2:14, is not a contradiction. For what it's worth, the examples ibn Ezra point to lend credence to his assertions.

I have not seen Minchas Shai refer to a noun as sometimes masculine and sometimes feminine. He does repeat his comment from Esther 2:15 in Nechemia 3:30, but I don't see any other independent examples of this type of comment.

Minchas Shai doesn't comment on Ex 35:17, but it's possible that it was so obvious that הצר is being used both as a feminine and a masculine noun in that pasuk that it didn't bear comment. It is thus possible that he doesn't fundamentally disagree with ibn Ezra. My own thoughts are that ibn Ezra is more-or-less well supported in his assertions, and claiming that the noun is of a different gender is easier than saying that the "wrong" declension was used.

I also think that we simply don't have enough data from Minchas Shai to decide definitively what his approach was. However, I think the silence in the places where you might expect a comment (like Ex 35:17) would indicate that in general his approach is as ibn Ezra, but that in the two aforementioned places, he finds it impossible to follow this approach. I would argue that for in Nechemia, מדה שנית has been used so many times in the same chapter that it seems impossible to suggest that מדה has switched genders. Then in Esther, partially supported by the example in Nechemia, and partially by 2 Samuel 23:8 (where the adjective is changed to feminine by a קרי/כתיב, viz. פעם אחד gets a קרי of פעם אחת), he feels it more sensible to change the adjective than the noun.

As a side note: in the particular case of the implied פעם in Esther 2:14, the BDB holds that the masculine use of פעם from Judges 16:28 quoted by ibn Ezra as support for his comment is a textual corruption, along with the other instances of masculine פעם. Neither ibn Ezra nor Minchas Shai has anything to say on the other places where פעם seems to be masculine (at least, nothing to say that's survived the years).

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