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Lubavitch prayer books include the words אָב הָרַחֲמִים where other prayer books have אַב הָרַחֲמִים (specifically, in the amida of musaf and mincha of Shabas Shuva, and in a prayer said after removing the Torah scroll from its cabinet). The latter calls God "The father of mercy".[1] But the former makes no sense to me at all: it translates literally as calling God "Father the mercy", with father being a noun as before.

Why does this nusach have this wording? And how do its proponents explain the phrase?

Footnotes:
[1] Translation of רַחֲמִים as "mercy" here is approximate, but the issue is beside the point.

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are you asking why it is "אָב" and not "אַב"? –  Menachem Jul 17 '11 at 22:03
    
@Menachem, precisely. –  msh210 Jul 18 '11 at 4:05
    
Is this distinction (between "אָב" and "אַב") discussed anywhere? I've never heard of it before. Does it apply to Avinu as well? –  Menachem Jul 18 '11 at 5:59
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@Menachem, the distinction in meaning, you mean? It's a standard part of Hebrew grammar. See e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status_constructus. Avinu is always (or, depending on how you look at it, never) of this (construct, as it's called) form, so does not change its vowels depending on circumstances: it always means "our father", whereas av sometimes means "father" and sometimes "father of". –  msh210 Jul 18 '11 at 16:13
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1 Answer 1

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From Lessons In Tanya, Iggeres Hateshuvah, ch. 7:

There are two distinct states of Divine compassion, indicated by the terms “Merciful Father” and “Father of Mercy”. The former term (אב הרחמן) merely signifies that G‑d possesses the attribute, or middah, of mercy — and since middah means not only “attribute” but also “measure”, it refers to a finite quality of mercy. The latter term (אב הרחמים) stresses the fact that G‑d is the father, or fountainhead, of all mercy. Arousing His essential quality of mercy “from the Source of mercy” thus means arousing His infinite measure of compassion — supreme compassion.

- and thus we use the phrasing אב הרחמים at times when this essential quality is more evident (for example, at Minchah on Shabbos, which Kabbalistically is a time of great Divine favor, רעוא דכל רעוין).


As msh210 pointed out, though, I've misunderstood his question: it was about why אב הרחמים has a kamatz in Chabad siddurim, not about the difference of אב הרחמים vs. אב הרחמן.

It seems that the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l himself had the same question. In his notes on the Siddur Tehillas Hashem ("Rostov Siddur") of 1941, he comments that it would seem that the correct grammatical form should be with a patach. In a later series of notes on Siddur Torah Ohr, he makes the same observation but concludes, evidently after consultation with his father-in-law and predecessor R. Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, that it should be left with a kamatz.

No reason is given, although perhaps it is indeed related to the idea above, that אב הרחמים represents the idea that the אב Himself is רחמים rather than just possessing that quality.

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While this is interesting and serves as an answer to why we sometimes say אב הרחמן and sometimes אב הרחמים, it doesn't seem to address my question, unless I'm missing something. –  msh210 Jul 18 '11 at 4:06
    
@msh210, you're right, I missed the fact that you were asking about אב with a kamatz vs. a patach. –  Alex Jul 18 '11 at 14:22
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