I wrote a dvar Torah on this subject for this past Shavuot with some original chidushim, posted here:
It All Started With a Little Dot
By Alan A. Mazurek, MD
First a little grammar lesson (so please bear with me, and don’t fall asleep; it is after all Shavuot night!)
It was several years ago and I went to Larry Schiffman’s dikduk (grammar) class after davening, on Shabbat Parshat Emor. I was hoping he’d speak about the word תביאו״” found in ויקרא, Leviticus, perek כ״ג(23), pasuk 17, י״ז. The full pasuk is:
ממושבותיכם תביאו לחם תנופה שתים שני עשרונים סלת תהיינה חמץ תאפינה, בכורים לה׳
“From your dwelling places you shall bring bread that shall be waved, two loaves made of two tenth-ephah, they shall be fine flour, they shall be baked leavened ; first offerings to Hashem.”
The א aleph in תביאו has a dagesh, a dot, in it, an exceedingly rare thing, for an aleph to have. Larry didn’t discuss it but when I spoke with him privately he suggested I check with the Ibn Ezra, a commentator who often deals with grammatical questions in the Torah.
Looking in the Ibn Ezra, I read:
מלת תביאו זרה , בעבור דגשות האלף, כי לא נדע לו טעם
The word תביאו is strange, on account of the dagesh in the aleph, because we don’t know the reason [for it].
Ibn Ezra doesn’t know!!!
So nobody knows why this letter aleph in this word has a dagesh?! Very helpful.
Turning to the תורת חיים , the תנ״ך from the מוסד הרב קוק, there is a note quoting another verse, pasuk, this one in
בראשית, מ״ג, כ״ו- פרשת מקץ
( Genesis, 43:26)
and the word there is ויביאו and the aleph in that word also has a dagesh! Very unusual and rare. (More about that in a moment.)
The מקראות גדולות תורת חיים, also of מוסד הרב קוק lists 2 more places in תנ״ך where there is a dagesh in the aleph, א׳, of certain words: in ספר איוב, Book of Job ( ראו33:21) and ספר עזרא , Book of Ezra ( ויביאו, 8:18). Thus there are a total of only 4 places in all of תנ״ך where there is a dagesh in an א׳!
A rare event and nobody knows why?!
Now the question is: So what?
Keep in mind there are no coincidences in the Torah, Judaism or in life.
Now I was scheduled to give a brief talk the following morning, Sunday morning and I decided I’d talk about עניני דיומא, contemporary matters, so I was going to talk about sephirat haomer and the upcoming holiday of Shavuot . So wouldn’t you know? Where is this aleph with the dagesh found in the previous day’s parsha (Emor)? But in the very verses in the Torah that talk of the counting of the weeks of the Omer that lead to the declaration of the holiday of Shavuot!
In fact we have been saying some of these verses daily for over five weeks now, when we’ve been counting the Omer from pasuk, verse 15 (וספרתם לכם...) to pasuk, verse 21 (וקראתם בעצם...), including our verse 17 with that word תביאו, with the mysterious dagesh in the aleph!
So now, I decide it’s time for some deeper detective work, and to see if I can discern why this א׳ has a dagesh, a dot in it, and maybe learn something from this.
I discovered that because a dagesh in an aleph, א׳, is so rare, most Chumashim, Hebrew Bibles, including מקראות גדולות, DON’T HAVE A DAGESH IN THE ALEPH, EVEN IN THOSE FOUR PLACES WHERE THEY SHOULD! (This is probably for technical reasons having to do with printing and offsets.) In fact the first edition of the Artscroll Stone Chumash in 1993, the word תביאו had no dagesh in the aleph. But the second edition in 1994, does, and even has a note in the margin, “א׳ “דגושה. That’s how I first picked up on it. My Stone Chumash had the dagesh while the Chumash of my neighbor seated next to me did not. (mine was 1994, his 1993).
So now let’s examine more carefully these two of the four pesukim that have a dagesh in the aleph- the pasuk in Emor (Leviticus 23:17)where it says תביאו and the pasuk in Miketz (Genesis, 43:26) where it says ויביאו.
In Genesis, Bereishit, (Miketz), the context is this: Yosef is the grand vizier of Egypt. His brothers are returning to Yosef for a second time with Binyamin in tow, because Shimon had been taken captive by Yosef. There’s a famine in Canaan and they were forced to go back to Egypt to Yosef to buy food. But they had to come with Binyamin. Now look at the pasuk before, 43:25:
ויכינו את המנחה עד בוא יוסף בצהרים, כי שמעו כי שם יאכלו לחם
They prepared the tribute (gift) for when Yosef would come at noon, for they had heard that they were to eat a
Look at the words- מנחה- a gift, tribute and לחם- bread, a meal.
Now look back at our pesukim in Emor, dealing with the Omer and Shavuot- Leviticus 23:16:
...והקרבתם מנחה חדשה לה׳
and you shall offer a new meal- offering to Hashem
and then, 23:17 :
ממושבותיכם תביאו לחם תנופה...
From your dwelling places you shall bring bread that shall be waved...
Actual bread loaves, not the barely grain as was waved on Pesach after the first day, Yom Tov. And the bread is mentioned again two more times and it’s real bread- leavened- חמץ תאפינה- they shall be baked leavened (23:17). And it’s brought ממושבותיכם
from your dwelling places, your homes, from ארץ ישראל- as Rashi says, ולא מחוצה לארץ- not from outside Israel.
So we see the words מנחה and לחם figure prominently in both places- in Miketz with the story of Yosef and his brothers and in Emor with the story of the Omer and Shavuot. One surrounds the word תביאו, you shall bring (Emor) and one ויביאו, and they brought (Miketz). And both have a dagesh in the aleph, א׳.
I submit to you that the dots in the alephs of these words are not a dagesh but a dot, a symbol, a sign to tell us of the connectedness of these two narratives of the Torah. In fact if one looks at the supplemental notes of תורת חיים תנ״ך it says:
״באלף של תביאו יש נקודה מעין דגש״
“In the aleph of [the word] תביאו is a dot like a dagesh”, suggesting that
it’s not for grammatical reasons at all!
So what’s the connection between the verses in Emor about Sefirat haOmer and Shavuot and the second meeting of Yosef and his brothers in Miketz?
We see from parshat Emor that Shavuot is intimately connected to Pesach and יציאת מצרים- the Exodus from Egypt. That the entire גאולה- Redemption was to lead up to
the receiving of the Torah.
In fact Shavuot is not mentioned in the Torah as a specific day. It is not a stand alone holiday. It is the 50th day of the counting after the initial Omer offering on the second day of Passover. That is why we call it Shavuot or Atzeret, the culmination of seven weeks - 49 days- of counting and then the 50th day is the chag.
So יציאת מצרים, the miracle is connected to and culminates in, the revelation at הר סיני, of מתן תורה, the giving of the Torah . But the Torah is signaling to us - don’t forget what brought us down to מצרים- the sin of the brothers selling Yosef, his suffering and theirs, and especially Yaacov’s, leading to an ultimate joyful reunion, only to later result in slavery, שעבוד, in מצרים . Remember where you came from, the Torah is telling us. Don’t forget your history.
But here is the most important part- you can only bring the לחם תנופה, the two loaves of waved bread, ממושבותיכם - from your homes, from ארץ ישראל, not מחוץ לארץ - only from the Land of Israel, not from outside the Land.
And we see this in parshat Miketz as well. It says twice in the pasuk in question (Miketz, 43:26), that Yosef came הביתה, home, and the brothers came home:
ויבא יוסף הביתה
ויביאו לו את המנחה אשר בידם הביתה
“When Yosef came home they brought home to him the gift that was in their hands.
The Torah is telling us very importantly that the only way this gift is acceptable, this offering, the culmination of all our suffering, the miracles, the גאולה- Redemption and
קבלת התורה- the receiving of the Torah, is if we are home, in ארץ ישראל, the Land of Israel.
My friends, it is time for us to go הביתה, home to Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel.
Akan A. Mazurek,MD