In D'varim 18:19 we have:

הָאִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־יִשְׁמַע֙ אֶל־דְּבָרַ֔י

The word הָאִישׁ֙ has a pashta cantillation mark over it, as Minchas Shay notes; then comes the common sequence mahpachpashtazakef-katon. It's somewhat unusual to see the pausal pashta before that sequence. (The non-pausal kadma is much more common before mahpachpashtazakef-katon: it appears, for example, three p'sukim earlier: מֵעִ֨ם ה֤׳ אֱלֹקֶ֙יךָ֙ בְּחֹרֵ֔ב‎. Not that I'm suggesting that that should appear here: clearly, pausal cantillation was desired here.)

  • How unusual is the pashtamahpachpashtazakef-katon sequence in Chumash? in Nach? How many times does it appear, and where?
  • Do any commentaries offer a (midrashic or, say, chasidic) interpretation of this pasuk that takes the unusual cantillation into account?

(That second question sort of depends on the first: if I'm wrong and this cantillation sequence is actually very common, then the second question is pretty much moot.)

  • Also just a general note that to distinguish between a pashta and a kadma: kadma is placed over the letter where the accent is, whereas pashta is always placed on the last letter in a word (and sometimes also over the accented letter).
    – Double AA
    Aug 26, 2012 at 20:46
  • Pashta is also sometimes drawn/typeset with a slightly thicker line. I know I've seen (and been confused by) stand-alone pashta, but I can't remember where. This year, I'm pretty sure, and during that time I've been mostly leining shlishi, FWTW. Aug 26, 2012 at 21:03
  • Incidentally do we have anywhere in classical midrashim that a trop is explicitly darshined?
    – Double AA
    Aug 26, 2012 at 23:41
  • 2
    According to quantifiedcantillation.nl Pashta-Mahpach-Pashta shows up 28 times in Chumash, vs 487 times of Kadma-Mahpach-Pashta. So 5% as often. (I'm not counting Mahpach-Pashta-Mahpach-Pashta or Merkha-Pashta-Mahpach-Pashta as I think you wouldn't consider them a "disguised" Kadma-Mahpach that you'd ask about it.)
    – Double AA
    Dec 28, 2015 at 16:32

1 Answer 1


I cannot speak (entirely) about how rare it is. Nor can I speak about any midrashic analysis of it. However, I can address what causes it.

The pashta is a pausal trup sign that splits in half a clause that ends in zakef. Where two occur, first the first one divides, then the second one divides. This division usually occurs on the basis of syntax, such as whether an object, subject, verb, or preposition leads the clause. See William Wickes for a full discussion of this.

In the pasuk in question:

וְהָיָ֗ה הָאִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־יִשְׁמַע֙ אֶל־דְּבָרַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְדַבֵּ֖ר בִּשְׁמִ֑י אָֽנֹכִ֖י אֶדְרֹ֥שׁ מֵֽעִמּֽוֹ׃

looking only at the first half, up to the etnachta, we have:

וְהָיָ֗ה הָאִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־יִשְׁמַע֙ אֶל־דְּבָרַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְדַבֵּ֖ר בִּשְׁמִ֑י

The trup symbol at play that divides something ending in etnachta is the zakef on Devaray and the tipcha on yedaber. Thus, it is divided into:

וְהָיָ֗ה הָאִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־יִשְׁמַע֙ אֶל־דְּבָרַ֔י

אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְדַבֵּ֖ר בִּשְׁמִ֑י

and the second part of that is divided into:

אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְדַבֵּ֖ר


In terms of the first half, the revii and pashta(s) both divide something ending in zakef. And so, the clause:

וְהָיָ֗ה הָאִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־יִשְׁמַע֙ אֶל־דְּבָרַ֔י

is divided into:


הָאִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־יִשְׁמַע֙ אֶל־דְּבָרַ֔י

and the latter part is divided into:


אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־יִשְׁמַע֙ אֶל־דְּבָרַ֔י

and the latter part is divided into:

אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־יִשְׁמַע֙


The clause keeps getting divided off at the start, for syntactic reasons Wickes discusses.

Now, the general rule of dividing a clause ending in zakef (see in Wickes) is that the symbol used to divide is a pashta close to the zakef, and a revii further from the zakef. That is: 1 word before: Pashta 2 words before: most frequently Pashta, but Revii admissable 3 words before: most frequently Revii, but Pashta admissable 4 or more words before: must be revii

However, from a musical standpoint, a series of Reviis will not stand in certain circumstances, and so they will "transform" into Pashtas. This is what is happening in the present instance. To cite Wickes:

enter image description here

While I don't possess statistics as to the frequency of this pattern (there is some software out there that will indeed tell you), note that Wickes mentions that "examples of this transformation are (as we should expect) much more numerous than those in which R'bhia remains."

At the end of the day, since this is a perfectly normal pattern predicted by the rules of trup and subject to a specific syntactic structure of the sentence, I would expect this pattern to occur on occasion. And I would see no need to seek out midrashic explanation.


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