The Shabas table song "Tzur mishelo achalnu" contains the following line:

יִבָּנֶה הַמִּקְדָּשׁ עִיר צִיּוֹן תְּמַלֵּא

yibane hamikdash ir Tziyon t'male

the Temple should be built; you should fill the city of Zion

It seems so unpoetic to have the first half, "yibane", in nif'al construction (and passive/intransitive), and the second, "t'male", in piel construction (and active/transitive). They could easily be balanced:

יִבָּנֶה הַמִּקְדָּשׁ עִיר צִיּוֹן תִּמָּלֵא

yibane hamikdash ir Tziyon timale

the Temple should be built; the city of Zion should be filled

— with both in nif'al construction (and passive/intransitive). (We do find timale in that form in Shir Hashirim 5:2.)

Why aren't they balanced?

Note that I wrote the above question based on the unpoeticness of the switch in construction. That is, I contend that timale is better (after yibane) and ask why it's not used. I suppose unpoeticness is arguable. However, even if both forms (timale and t'male) are equally poetic, my question stands (albeit weaker): why switch constructions mid-sentence?

(Note that there is at least one prayer book in which timale is used, matching yibane: in "הסידור המדוייק איש מצליח (מהדורא רביעית) לפי מנהגי ונוסח הספרדים ועדות המזרח", according to a report I received via e-mail. But that's the only one I know of. I've checked a number of (mostly Ashk'nazi) prayer books and Shabas-song books, and all had t'male.)

  • 3
    I had always assumed most bentchers just didn't know dikduk...
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 14:50
  • In another forum, David Bannett noted: "Both Seligmann Baer and the Mateh Yehuda (peirush on zemirot by R' Yehuda Oppenheim in 'Shlosha S'farim Niftahim', zemirot with peirushim) refer one to Y'shayahu 33:5 where it says milei Tzion tz'daka (piel)." And I replied: "On the contrary, this is a reason not to use piel here, as it has bitransitive (has two objects) in Is.: 'fill X with Y'. Here, it's 'fill X' with the filling material implied, not stated. No?"
    – msh210
    Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 20:59
  • ...and Rabbi Seth Mandel noted (in part): [T]he verb m-l-’ becomes very complicated even in the T’NaKh. See Ps. 72:19. I would bet that the first reaction of most people, including the recondite denizens of Mesorah, would be to correct it to read “viymalle’ k’vodo et kol ha’aretz.” Since HaZa’L established the nusach of t’filla based on myriad quotes from the T’NaKh, even hidden in places where most people don’t recognize them, it is conceivable that whoever composed the z’mira did the same. Give me rules that cover all cases of m-l-’ in the T’NaKh and then we can talk about z’mirot. [...]
    – msh210
    Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 22:44
  • [...] And even then personally I would spend my time doing other things (the Aramaic z’mirot in the Diwan, anyone?). Of course, I do not expect my comments to be part of the general thread. I felt the need to say something because the discussion was so seriously high-minded. One should treat grammar, unlike the Masorah of theT’NaKh, with a modicum of levity.
    – msh210
    Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 22:44
  • 1
    If you want to check the accuracy and validity of Zemiroth in a Siddur, etc., the way to test it is by looking at the text they use for Yedid Nefesh.
    – Seth J
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 19:37

2 Answers 2


There are two equally valid ways of saying this verse, but they have completely different theological meanings.

The way you see it written means: The temple should be built, either by us, or by You, or by others, and You will then ensure that it is filled.

The way you want it to be written means: The temple should be built, either by us, or by You or by others, and we , or You, or others will fill it.

The first one, I believe becomes a request to fulfill the words of the prophets. The second one, is a statement of hope that one day these things will happen.

  • I'm not seeing how the first is a request and the second merely a statement of hope. Can you explain, please, how the change in verb makes that difference?
    – msh210
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 15:46
  • Passive vs active. A passive thing is not a request, it's just a statement. The "You" in this context is obviously Hashem, and therefore a request. It's not a praise because the temple isn't standing.
    – avi
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 17:45
  • Avi, even following the idea that only HaShem can fill the city, does that mean that for poetic purposes it would be wrong to ask that the city be filled? How is that theologically invalid?
    – Seth J
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 15:50
  • @SethJ Where do you see me saying that one is theologically invalid? They just express different theological ideas.
    – avi
    Commented Jan 22, 2012 at 8:54

t'male mean : Hashem, you will fill the city of Zion, (with happy people, with buildings, with joy... and so on).

It can be written this way to mean that we should do ours and Hashem will complete our work.


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