In Tehillim 127:2, the author spells the word for sleep as שנא:

Aleppo Codex

Source: Wikisource

I found this unusual, as the word is usually spelled שנה in Tanach (Tehillim 90:5, Mishlei 6:4, and Mishlei 20:13).

As far as I can tell, these four pesukim are the only ones in which the word appears alone (i.e. not the more common משנתו, "from his sleep," but rather simply שנה, "sleep"), and only in Tehillim 127 is it spelled with a trailing א instead of a ה. Why?

  • Why do you think this word means sleep and not something else. It is spelled differently after all.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 14:54
  • @DoubleAA Because in the targum it is written as דמכא? Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


Note: As Michlol Yofi points out, there are a few other words in Tanach spelled with an Alef instead of a Heh or a Vav. For example: זרא, מרא, כלא.

As @Double AA wrote, Minchat Shai on the pasuk writes:

"שנא. כל שנה כתוב בה"א בר מן חד כתיב אל"ף כן יתן לידידו שנא מלמד שת"ח שמשכימין ומעריבין בבתי כנסיות ובבתי מדרשות ומנדדין שינה מעיניהם בעוה"ז לעסוק בתורה הקב"ה נותן להם נחת רוח לחיי העוה"ב וישנים שינה אחת וממנה מקיצים לחיי העוה"ב כמו שנאמר על זאת הקיצותי ואראה ושנתי ערבה לי:"

Translation: "Shena - every sleep (shena) is written with a Heh except for this one time, spelled with an Alef, "He provides as much for His loved ones while they sleep", which teaches that sages (Talmidei Chachamim) that rise early and stay late in synagogues and study halls and keep sleep from their eyes in This World in order to study Torah, Hashem will give them pleasure (Nachat Ruach) in the life of The World to Come, and they sleep one sleep, and awake from it to life in The World to Come, as it is said on this "At this I awoke and looked about, and my sleep had been pleasant to me"."

Both Radak and Metzudat Tzion state simply that Shena with Alef is like Shena with Heh, without further explanation.

Torah Tmimah brings the Gemarot in Ketubot 62a and Yoma 77a that say:

"כן יתן לידידו שנא מאי כן יתן לידידו שנא א"ר יצחק אלו נשותיהן של תלמידי חכמים שמנדדות שינה בעולם הזה וזוכות לעולם הבא וכו':"

Translation: "What does “for He gives His beloved sleep” mean? Rav Yitzḥak said: These are the wives of Torah scholars who disturb their sleep in this world by staying up waiting for their husbands, who rise early and return late from learning Torah, and they thereby merit the World-to-Come."

Ben Yohayadah on the Gemara in Yoma writes:

"ואלו הנשים שהם כן לבעליהם יתן להם שכר נדנוד שינה. ונרמז נדנוד זה בשביל התורה דכתב שֵׁנָא באלף ולא בה"א לרמוז דנדנוד זה הוא בשביל לימוד התורה שלומדין בעליהם ואלף לשון לימוד כמו (תהלים נה, יד) 'אַלּוּפִי וּמְיֻדָּעִי', (איוב לג, לג) 'וַאֲאַלֶּפְךָ חָכְמָה'."

Translation: "...And these are the wives that are so to their husbands, [Hashem] will give them the reward for [causing] lack of sleep. And this [causing] lack of sleep in order to study Torah is hinted in that he wrote Shena with an Alef and not a Heh to hint that this [causing of] lack of sleep is for the study of Torah that their husbands study, and Alef is a term of study, like (Psalms 55:14) "my companion, my friend" (Alufi u'Meyudai), (Iyov 33:33) "and I will teach you wisdom." (V'Aalefcha Chochma)."

Shitah Mekubetzet writes on the Gemara in Ketubot:

שנא כמו שנה בה"א אל"ף מתחלפת בה"א דכתיב והאיש משתאה לה כמו משתהה והיינו דמתרגמינן וגברא שהי.

Translation: "Shena (with Alef) like Shena (with Heh) as Alef is interchangeable with Heh as is written "The man, meanwhile, stood gazing" (Mishta'eh) like [Waiting? - unsure how to translate] (Mishtaheh), and as is translated (in the Targum) "V'Gavra Shahi"."

Rabbi Binyamin Vitalli in Alon Bachut writes:

"...והנה ידענו כי שלמה נקרא ידידיה בשמואל ב' י"ב ואמרו במדרש כי באותו הלילה שנשא את בת פרעה היה חנוכת המקדש וישן עד ד' שעות עד שנכנסה בת שבע אמו והקיצתו ומאותה שעה עלתה לפניו להחריב בית המקדש שנאמר כי על אפי ועל חמתי וכולי זה שאמר בדברו על החרבן מי גרם זה...זה שינתו של שלמה גרמה להחריבו וזה שאמר שוא לכם משכימי קום שקמו בהשכמה להקריב קרבנות שהרי כן יתן לידידו שנא השינה של ידידו גרמה שלא היה של קיימא ולכן כתוב שנא בא' לשון שנאה...השינה גרמה השנאה להחריב בית המקדש..."

Translation: "...And here now, we know that Shlomo was called Yedidyah in Shmuel 2:12 and it is said in the midrash that in the same night that he married Pharaoh's daughter was the inauguration of the Temple and he slept until four hours until his mother Bat Sheva entered and woke him up and from that hour forward it came before Him to destroy the Temple as is said: "On My anger and My wrath etc" this is what He said when he spoke on the destruction who caused this...the sleep of Shlomo caused the destruction and this is what is said "In vain do you rise early" who arose in the early morn to sacrifice sacrifices for for this "He provides as much for His loved one" the sleep of his loved one caused it [the Temple] to not be everlasting and for this wrote sleep [Shena] with an Alef meaning Hate [Sin'ah]...the sleep caused the hate [which] destroyed the Temple..."

Rabbi Moshe David Vali on the pasuk writes:

"...ומ"ש "שנא" באלף ולא בה', הטעם הוא, לרמוז אל ענין אחר, דהיינו לשון שנאה, כי שנא השי"ת כל שאר בני דוד לענין המלוכה, אע"פ שהיו גדולים משלמה ואומרים אני אמלוך, והשי"ת מאס בהם ושינא אותם ורצה לתת את המלוכה לשלמה שהיה ידידו. ונרמזו שתים הנה במלת "שנא", שהיא לשון שינה ולשון שנאה כמו שכתבנו..."

Translation: "...and what is written "Shena" with an Alef and not with a Heh, the reason is, that this comes to hint on another issue, meaning the term hate [Sin'ah] for Hashem hated all the other sons of David in terms of succession of the throne for though they were older than Shlomo and said I shall rule, and Hashem loathed them and hated them and wanted to give the throne to Shlomo who was his beloved. And two things were hinted in the word "Shena", which refers to sleep and hate as we wrote..."

Rabbi David Chazan in Chozeh David writes:

"...כן יתן לידידו שהוא הב"ה שנא כאלו ישן וח"ו הנה לא ינום ולא ישן שומר יש' ולכן שינה כאן מלת שנא באלף והיא ראויה בה' אלא להורות לשון שנאה שמי שהוא ידידו ואוהב אותם הם חושבים שהוא שונא ולכן מבקשים הם הגאול' כי הם חושבים שאין הב"ה חושש בצערן משנאתו אותם וח"ו כי כוונתו ית' הוא שיבא הזמן ויהיה גאולה שלימה..."

Translation: "So he will give to his loved one Who is the Kaddosh Baruch Hu shena as though He is sleeping and God forbid for "See, the guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps" and for this changed here the word Shena with an Alef and that is supposed to be with a Heh but this came to refer to the term hate [Sin'ah] that whoever is their beloved and loves them they think that He hates them and for this they ask for the redemption for they think that the Kaddosh Baruch Hu isn't occupied with their pain out of His hatred of them and God forbid for His blessed meaning is for the [right] time to come and the redemption will be a complete one..."

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