The Gemara Yoma quoted below enumerates five words in verses of the Pentateuque for which it's not clear, according to Issi Ben Yehuda if they are attached to the previous words or to the next words.

Yoma 52ab (Translation from Soncino).

Surely it was taught: Issi Ben Judah said: There are five verses in the Torah [the grammatical construction of] which is undecided:lifted up',(1) 'like almond-blossoms';,(2) 'tomorrow',(3) 'cursed'(4) and 'rise up'.(5)

(1) Gen. IV, 7: The meaning could be: If thou doest well (good!) - but thou must bear the sin, if thou doest not well; or the usual interpretation: If thou doest well, there will be forgiving (or lifting up of face) ; and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door.

(2) Ex. XXV, 33: Three cups, made like almond-blossoms in one branch, a knop and a flower, or: Three cups, like almond-blossoms . . a knop and a flower.

(3) Ex. XVII, 9: Go out and fight with Amalek tomorrow; I will stand on the top of the hill, etc.

(4) Gen. XLIX, 6, 7: And in their self-will they houghed oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce. Or: And in their self-will they houghed the cursed oxen. Their anger was fierce. (The cursed oxen would thus be an uncomplimentary reference to Shechem, a descendant of Canaan cursed in Gen. IX, 25) .

(5) Deut. XXXI, 16: Behold thou art about to sleep with thy fathers; and (this people) will rise up. Or: Behold thou art about to sleep with thy fathers and (wilt in future) rise up. This people will go astray after the foreign gods. - Tosaf. s.v. endeavours to account for the curious order of the sentences quoted.

But according to the Masoret, for almost each case the link to the previous word is obvious, e.g. the previous word is followed by a Sof Pasuk for the word"cursed".

So I don't understand why Issi Ben Yehuda didn't simply follow the Masoret. From Rashi in a next passage, it seems that there is a doubt in a verse in which Rav Chisda has a similar doubt, the question is if we have an Etnachta or a Geresh. There is no a sure Masora?

Nafka Minah. Ama Traksin following our Masorah needs to be Kodesh Hakkodadhim, and we are poskim following the doubt of Yosef Ish Hutsal (regarding a verse in Melachim, addressing the status of Ama Traksin) that it's a doubt, see Rambam Bet Habechira 4.2. So, it's seems that our Masorah doesn't help Halachically.

  • 1
    Probably there was a machlokes in the mesorah. We still have many of those. Most don't change the meaning but some do, like these.
    – Heshy
    Feb 16, 2020 at 22:07
  • 1
    Maybe they didn't have the trop marks?
    – Double AA
    Feb 17, 2020 at 3:27
  • @DoubleAA In this case we need to understand that cantilation is a Masoret, but with a weak strength, e.g. if the Halacha was pasken because of a Safek which is resolved in Masoret, the Masoret cannot Machria the Halacha.
    – kouty
    Feb 17, 2020 at 4:27
  • Have you seen manuscripts with Babylonian cantillation marks? They do not necessarily coincide with the one we have now. They may have had a different tradition. Feb 17, 2020 at 8:29
  • Not a full answer, but Rabbi Mordechai Hakohen wrote an essay on Issi ben Yehudah, theorizing that he took part in a little-known rebellion that took place about a year after the fall of Beitar. Many of his teachings and stories told about him may be attributed to his time as a rebel. In this case, RM"H explains that it is evident from the gemara that this teaching of the five verses was originally told over by Rabbi Yehoshua, years before Issi.
    – Harel13
    Sep 11, 2021 at 20:51

1 Answer 1


R. Yom Tov Asevili in his commentary there explains that it means that there is no indication from the words themselves. But once we have the Masoretic notes the doubts are indeed resolved.

נראה פירושה שאין להן הכרע מלשון התיבות כל היכא דליכא פסיקא דקראי או הפסק טעמים דאלו השתא דאיכא פסיקא דקראי והפסק טעמים נתברר ספקו

  • The Masoret is stronger than Isi Ben Yehuda?
    – kouty
    Feb 16, 2020 at 22:13
  • I read the Ritba, but it's very surprising, the mastike Hashmua have no Masoret and we have, are we neviim?
    – kouty
    Feb 16, 2020 at 22:17
  • This Ritba makes the question stronger
    – kouty
    Feb 16, 2020 at 22:18
  • @kouty It depends ow you read the Ritva. He is not necessarily saying that e have it and Issi Ben Yehuda didn't have it. He may be saying that Issi Ben Yehuda was saying that in theory we wouldn't know, but in actuality we do know because we have the information from the tradition.
    – Alex
    Feb 16, 2020 at 22:22
  • +1 I think that this is the beginning of a full solution
    – kouty
    Feb 17, 2020 at 6:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .