In many Chumashim, the word וישבע in Parshas Chayei Sara (24:9) contains both a munach and a meseg (meteg). One example:


I do not understand what the meseg is doing there under the beis. Typically a meseg denotes a secondary emphasis, most often two syllables (and sometimes more) before the primary emphasis. But here it just seems entirely out of place. Some Chumashim in fact do not have it at all. Is it just a mistake, or is there something more to it?

  • 2
    for instance, the Teimanim don't have it. temanim.org/nosachteiman/tort_amt/1/5.pdf But the Leningrad Codex has it. tanach.us/Tanach.xml#Gen24:9-24:9 I don't know, but given that the primary stress is on the shin, perhaps it would be indicating a LATER secondary stress? Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 18:43
  • @joshwaxman, yes, that's what it would indicate: meseg after the main cantillation mark is not unheard of, appearing here and there. But I don't know why it's on this word in particular: I'd think this word would have stress on the shin only (nasog achor) or on the ves only (if it's one of the exceptions to nasog achor, which, I'm embarrassed to say, I don't properly know). Minchas Shay doesn't comment, by the way.
    – msh210
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 18:59
  • @msh210 - can you give any examples of a meseg that follows the main trop?
    – Dave
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 19:04
  • @msh210 - The fact that you can identify the rule at all demonstrates a knowledge of the subject matter that far surpasses most people's. I'll confess that, although I spent a good number of years trying to master a number of the rules of Hebrew and other Semitic languages, I've let my grasp of them lapse these past few years, and I never really bothered to memorize the names of the rules themselves. We're all here to learn and help each other learn, so there's really no need to be embarrassed!
    – Seth J
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 19:40
  • Dave, certainly not offhand. I can assure you that they do exist in chumash.
    – msh210
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 20:22

1 Answer 1


Sort of what Josh wrote in his comment, it seems to have to do with the fact that the usual accent for this word would be on the ב, and it's moved to the ש because of nasog achor.1

Mishpetei Halashon Ha-Ivrit explains it as follows:

page 160 (note 6 to Shaar HaMikra)

Basically, this nasog achor would require (based on the rule of dechik2) that the first letter of the following word have a dagesh.3 The meseg, then, partially restores the accent to its usual place, thereby removing the dechik.

(It does seem to be consistent for all cases where the root שבע is mil'eil because of nasog achor. Other examples include I Sam. 28:10, II Sam. 19:23, and I Kings 2:8.)

  1. Nasog achor: the movement of word stress to a preceding syllable, to prevent two stressed syllables from being adjacent. (In this example, if the accent were in its usual place, you'd have "vayishaVA LO.")

  2. Dechik: when one word ends with an unstressed open syllable (ending in a vowel sound) and the next one's accent is on its first (or only) syllable. The unstressed syllable is sort of "squeezed" (the literal meaning of dechik) between the two stresses, and this causes gemination of the onset of the next syllable.

  3. Dagesh: A dot in a letter, which can change its sound from fricative to plosive (e.g., ב vs. בּ), or geminate (double) its sound.

  • Wow, good find! But what would be so terrible about letting the next word get a dechik? Also, I don't exactly get what he means that the meseg comes להתקצר במבטא - does that mean to shorten the pronunciation of the main trop?
    – Dave
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 19:26
  • @Dave: not sure about #1. About #2, I think הנכונה להתקצר במבטא goes together - he means that this syllable would be "expected to be shortened" in pronunciation, and the meseg (re-)lengthens it.
    – Alex
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 19:42
  • Alex, for everyone's benefit please define the terms you are using (eg., "Dagesh", "Nasog Achor", and, especially "Dechik", since you are the first to bring it up).
    – Seth J
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 19:43
  • 1
    Alex, how is this syllable open?? It ends in an ayin, which is not a mater lectionis.
    – msh210
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 20:25
  • @msh, true, but maybe in this case it's considered to behave like an open syllable because ע is guttural. But I don't know; I'd have to see whether there are other examples of roots ending with ע that are nasog achor, and whether this rule is applied to them too.
    – Alex
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 20:35

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