There is a lot about pronouncing things correctly so we don't say the wrong thing, especially in tefilla. Eg in shema: we are to pronounce the ayin in "שמע" so it doesn't sound like "שמא"; "maybe", chas veshalom.

I have a two fold question. There are words that are homophones, and this can lead to unwanted meaning (eg כי יערב לו ידידותך), but we can't do anything about it. This actually applies to Ashkenazim with Shema as they generally pronounce ayin the same as aleph.

  1. So what are we to do?
  2. If nothing, then why are we so concerned about the ayin in shema?

This fear that we will end up saying something heretical - what is it based on? Surely the only fear about the ayin is from the general halacha of pronouncing the words of tefilla properly. We say many tefillot that are, in their homophonic meaning, heretical, and we don't have any issue with that (or do we?).

  • לא מאסתים ולא געלתים
    – Heshy
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 18:31
  • The best advice is probably for a person to study the prayers so that he will know what they actually mean when he says them. Alternatively, if you are praying from a siddur, you can see for yourself which word it is. In some places, there is a k'ri/k'siv that indicates both meanings, e.g. in Mizmor l'soda (T'hillim 100:3, "הוּא-עָשָׂנוּ ולא (וְלוֹ) אֲנַחְנוּ"). We belong to HaShem (וְלוֹ אֲנַחְנוּ), and we should not be so arrogant to feel that we are self-made (ולא אֲנַחְנוּ).
    – Fred
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 18:43
  • 1
    Shir HaShirim Rabba (2:4): ודגלו עלי אהבה. אמר ר' אחא: עם הארץ שקורא לאהבה איבה, כגון: ואהבת, ואייבת. אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא: ודילוגו עלי אהבה. How much more so is it not a problem if the person pronounces the word correctly.
    – Fred
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 18:47
  • I suppose you should exclude the א-ע pair, because one can learn to pronounce ayin to avoid such ambiguity. Better example is the לא-לו pair which is identical according to all traditions. (It seemed to me that indeed א-ע caused the most trouble.) Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 20:08
  • 1
    Related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/61100/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 4:40


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