Today, while teaching someone the verse Genesis 2:7, I had cause to be puzzled as to the correct accentuation of its first word, וַיִּיצֶר֩. I corrected the student's milra accentuation and said it should be read with mil'eil accentuation. But on examination of the text, I started to doubt myself upon noting the position of the cantillation as shown in these two sources: https://www.blueletterbible.org/wlc/gen/2/4/ and: https://mechon-mamre.org/c/ct/cu0101.htm Both of them seem to suggest that it is milra, but I was convinced that it should be read with mil'eil accentuation, as this very good reader reads it:


I then looked it up in the Artscroll tikkun kor'im and saw something that is missing from the above two texts:

In the tikkun, the cantillation note that appears on the extreme left of the last letter (ר) is REPEATED above the second letter (ִי), which is where I expected the syllabic stress to be. The note is a Telisha Ketanah and the repetition of it is a mesorah device used to indicate the correct syllabic stress for several notes that are look-alikes of other notes and it is therefore not easy to distinguish them from their look-alikes visually. In most cases, one of the members of the look-alike pair is a conjunctive note, like this Telisha ketana and the other one is a pausal note, like Telisha gedola. Often, conjunctives lean or curve forwards, while pausal notes are vertical or they lean or curve backwards, but this is only a rule of thumb and it is not universally true.

For notes that have look-alikes, there is another visual distinction that is employed in the mesorah for notes that have look-alikes to eliminate ambiguity as to which note it is. The practice is to position the note at the far left extremity of the word if it is a conjunctive note or at the far right extremity of the word if it is a pausal note. In both cases, if its position does not coincide with the stressed syllable, it is repeated on the stressed syllable so that it can also perform its function of indicating the correct syllabic stress.

A frequently occurring example is the pair Kadma and Pashta, but they are an exception to the above positioning rule. Pashta, a pausal note, is always positioned at the extreme left of the word and is repeated, if necessary, on the stressed syllable (See Gen 2:17, second word, and the first word of 2:18.) Many Torah readers, even experienced ones, are unaware of the true reason for the repetition and think of it as a variation of the normal tune of Pashta and they mistakenly read the word with a doubled tune as though it was a word with two notes on it.

Does anyone disagree with any of the above?

  • Seems correct to me
    – Joel K
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 5:49
  • 2
    This site isn't geared for "long claim + who agrees?"-type questions.
    – magicker72
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 13:21
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    In any case, repeated telishot/zarka/segol aren't super old, and even repeated pashta is not as uniformly applied in the manuscripts as you'd think.
    – magicker72
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 13:22
  • There's no reason to dunk on people who have different tunes for pashta when it's mileil vs milra. Many Ashkenazim have a different tune when pashta is word-initial vs not (in spite of the lack of grammatical distinction): the pick-up note before the accented syllable is omitted when there's no syllable to put it on. In my limited experience of non-Ashkenazi cantillation, a different tune for "trei kadmin" is not uncommon.
    – magicker72
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 13:24
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    If I were to attempt to summarize, first the OP just seems to want to share his "discovery" that some editions have what I call stress helper marks. The OP then speculates on a variety of reasons why trope marks might be shaped, positioned, and sometimes even repeated so as to reflect disjunctive/conjunctive distinctions and to help make distinctions between look-alike or near-look-alike mark shapes. Then, finally, he criticizes some chanters on the basis of what he feels is their misunderstanding of pashta stress helpers. Quite a ride.
    – bfd
    Commented May 10 at 17:02

1 Answer 1


Of the many ideas put forward by the OP, one that I feel is wrong is that stress helper trope marks serve not only to mark stress, but also to distinguish look-alike (or near-look-alike) marks.

It is true that a word with a pashta stress helper, viewed as a whole word, looks quite different from a word with only a qadma, and thus pashta stress helpers do perhaps, accidentally, help distinguish two usually-same-shaped marks: pashta and qadma. But I could also argue the opposite: a pashta stress helper is easy to confuse with a qadma unless you look forward for the "real" pashta, i.e. unless you view the word as a whole. So I could argue that pashta stress helpers in fact make it harder to distinguish two usually-same-shaped marks: pashta and qadma.

So, in the pashta case, the OP's speculation isn't clearly wrong: arguments could be made either way.

Where the speculation falls apart is with respect to the other three postpositive accents.

A telisha qetana stress helper doesn't help distinguish from telisha gedola because editions using stress helpers for one type of telisha will use it for both!

Segol and zarqa have no look-alike or near-look-alike marks, so the only reason for their stress helpers to exist is to mark stress. (There is an ambiguity regarding zarqa-shaped marks in the poetic cantillation system, but I assume we are limiting ourselves to the prose cantillation system here.)

To be charitable, perhaps I have misunderstood the OP and the speculation was just limited to pashta and telisha qetana stress helpers. In that case, the speculation still doesn't make sense for telisha qetana.

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    Even in prose books we retain the distinction of the poetic books. Zarka is pausal so we place it like the pausal version of the poetic books (tzinnor). That's why shalshelet (prose) gets a line after it (it's not a psik).
    – Double AA
    Commented May 10 at 17:36
  • It is a good point, that some accents' musical role and visual role is the same (or at least similar) in both systems. But surely you'd admit that that is only true for some accents, right? Also, staying focused on the zarqa issue, I find it a stretch, the idea that zarqa stress helpers, in addition to helping with stress, also help readers distinguish zarqa from tsinnorit, a mark from the poetic system. But perhaps that's not what you meant to imply by your comment. I.e. perhaps your comment was not in support of the (IMO somewhat implausible) idea of the OP (if I understand the OP).
    – bfd
    Commented May 10 at 17:52

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