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I was surprised to hear a lecturer pronounce the word עם in the phrase עם הדומה לחמור with a חיריק. I know that all of my teachers pronounced it with a פתח. When I pointed out the גמרא at the end of כתובות (111a), which uses the דרש to connect slaves to the word עם with a פתח, he sent me to the מהרש"א, but I'm not sure which way it points.

Can someone show a clear source which discusses this question, or which clearly proves the answer to be one way or another?

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There are numerous earlier and later authorities that read this derasha as having a patach, here is a very short sampling:

  1. Abarbanel to Yonah 4:11:

כי אם מפני שהעם היושב בה היה עם הדומה לחמור

  1. Maharsha, Ketubot 111a:

ועם מלשון עם כמו לעם עליה דעם כולל נמי שפחה

  1. Torah Temimah on that passuk:

איירי בשפחה שטבלה לשם עבדות, וכתב מהרש״א דנקט שפחה לרבותא, דאלו עבד שנתגייר יש לו זכות המילה, משא״כ שפחה, עכ״ל, ודריש עם כמו עם בפת״ח העי״ן. ובעיקר טעם הדרשא עם הדומה לחמור עיין מש״כ באות הקודם.

  1. Meiri Kiddushin 62a

שכל עבד או שפחה כנענית ושבשבעה עממין עם הדומה לחמור הוא

  1. Beit Shmuel Even Haezer 25:4

ולא ישמש בפני שום מין אדם. אפילו עבדים אף על פי שהם עם הדומה לחמור

I can make a strong argument that this side is correct, but I can't deny that ultimately, there were those who read it with a chirik.

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  • By the way, there are dozens more sources that prove this, see, e.g. Me'iri Kiddushin 41b and 62a. Nov 15 at 15:25
  • The Midrash Seichel Tov doesn't contradict the Netziv's read. Neither does the Radak or the Daas Zekeinim. I agree though that the Abarbanel and torah Temimah do.
    – Heshy
    Nov 15 at 15:48
  • @Heshy the Netziv's read is very questionable; why repeat the word "im" if it means comparable? The derasha should just be עם החמור - הדומה לחמור. According to his read, they are like something like a chamor. Nov 15 at 15:52
  • @Heshy also, if it is im, it should speak in the plural, whereas am could be singular (or plural also, I guess). Nov 15 at 15:54
  • @Heshy for another similar read to Netziv, see Keli Yakar, but I still disagree... Nov 15 at 15:56
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The Netziv explains this drasha as follows: עם החמור – ׳את החמור׳ מיבעי. אלא רמז להם השתוותם לחמור, כמו שכתבתי (פסוק ג׳) ד״עם״ משמע יותר השתוות מ״את״. ומזה יצא הדרש הידוע (יבמות סב,א. נדה יז,א) ׳עם הדומה לחמור. According to the Netziv, the drasha is based on the fact that עם, "with," implies commonality; thus, the drasha means "עם, which means הדומה" and should presumably be pronounced as "im," although the pronunciation "am" may be intended as a play on words.

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  • Netziv's view is extremely hard to understand. 1. Why repeat the word עם a second time in the derasha; it should just say שבו לכם פה עם החמור - הדומה לחמור? 2. Why does it use singular language to describe the two lads; it should say עם הדומים לחמורים? 3. How does it possibly fit the Gemara in Ketubot mentioned above, which compares two uses of Am? Nov 15 at 16:22
  • I see the Hebrew and numbering didn't quite come out properly, but you get the point... Nov 15 at 16:23
  • @רבותמחשבות as I said, it may be that Chazal intended it to be read as "am," but according to the Netziv, the basis of the drasha is that the word "im" means הדומה. See also R. Soloveitchik's commentary on the pasuk הן עם לבדד ישכון (Chumash Mesoras HaRav): "The Hebrew word am, nation, is identical to the Hebrew word im, with. Our fate of unity manifests itself through a historical indispensable union."
    – wfb
    Nov 15 at 17:01
  • then this really doesn't answer the question at all... Nov 15 at 17:16
  • Seeing the Netziv inside, I don't think he shows that in the derasha the pronunciation is am. He says that the derasha is based on the passuk using im, which everyone agrees to. He explains the connotation of im in biblical Hebrew. But the drasha in gemara could be saying am.
    – N.T.
    Nov 17 at 11:29
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I would like to add to רבות מחשבות 's answer, by pointing to מדרש רבה on the passuk, where the דרש appears in another form: שבו לכם פה עם החמור עם החמור. This clearly indicates that this is a case of אל תקרי אלא, where the pronunciation is changed in the דרש.

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The proper vocalization is with a patach as you can see on sefaria and this online menukad text of the gemara. This makes the most sense anyway when you understand the context of the gemara like you mentioned.

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    Erm, are these sites authoritative? Nov 15 at 8:59
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    @Kazibácsi define "authoritative". it's very clear from the context it's am hadomeh lachamor and not im. i bring the links only as additional proof but in truth you don't even need them btw what makes the links any less authoritative than say, a tuvia's gemara?
    – ezra
    Nov 15 at 9:01
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    A rabbi with a sufficiently long beard says so? I mean, I've been looking for a (written) source that argues why either version has to be correct and the other one incorrect. It doesn't really matter in this particular case what I (a definitely non-authoritative person) think. Nov 15 at 9:15
  • @Kazibácsi you won’t find one because i’m struggling to see how it could ever be interpreted as im hadomeh lachamor that doesn’t even make sense
    – ezra
    Nov 16 at 0:58
  • @ezra did you read the other answers? It may not be the right read, but it does make sense.
    – Heshy
    Nov 16 at 10:06

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