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In four places in Tanakh, our text has an aleph with a dagesh: Gen 43:26, Lev 23:17, Job 33:21, and Ezra 8:18. What is the significance of this, and for the first two examples, how would you indicate its existence while laining?

Commentaries that I've seen:

Gen 43:26Radak points out that it's there, but otherwise says nothing. Minchat Shai says to look in ספר הנקוד הגדול from רב אשי, but I don't know where to find that.

Lev 23:17Ibn Ezra says he doesn't know what it means.

Job 33:21Malbim comments that this is from the binyan Pual, that normally comes with a dagesh.

On all four, Minchat Shai mentions the phonomenon, but does not explain it, besides pointing to ערומים from Gen 2:25, where he says:

מצאתי להרמ״ה ז״ל בהקדמת ספרו שכתב זה לשונו כל אתא דקריא דגש באורייתא לו סמיך לה מקמא אתא דכתיבא ולא קריא בר מן חמשה תלת מנהון מלאים וא״ו ותרין מנהון מלאים יו״ד

and then lists עָרוּמִּים, תְּלוּנֹּתָם, תְּלוּנֹּת, and our two examples, וַיָּבִיאּוּ and תָּבִיאּו. I'm not sure of who he's quoting, and I'm having some trouble parsing the Aramaic, but he seems to be saying that the Vav and Yud male are causing a dagesh, but only in these five instances (in Torah). Can someone fully translate this passage, and help shed some light?


There is also the matter of the Reish with a dagesh, which occurs numerous times in Tanakh, but for which I don't have the time to currently look up commentaries. Thoughts? Related?

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    magicker72, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thank you very much for this fascinating and well-documented question! I hope you get great answers here, and that you also look around for other material here that suits your interests, perhaps including our 129 other dikduk questions. – Isaac Moses Feb 13 '14 at 16:28
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    Consider also that it may be a mappik not a dagesh – Double AA Feb 13 '14 at 17:39
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    An alef is often a vowel as well, cf Genesis 1:1 – Double AA Feb 13 '14 at 19:37
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    @magicker72 I'm not saying these are the only 6 where it is consonantal. I'm saying that for some reason a mappik was included in these six to clarify that it was not to be elided. Why only these six? Either the Masoretes had some reason to think you might skip the Aleph here, or alternatively they are leftover from a system which marked more if not all Alephs this way. – Double AA Feb 17 '14 at 2:47
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    It might be like the dot in the vav here sefaria.org/Deuteronomy.29.25 – Double AA Jul 26 '16 at 22:29
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It's very common in some of the manuscripts - for example, the codex of the Prophets from the Qaraite synagogue in Cairo, which was written by Moshe ben Asher. There, it features in every the occasional consonantal aleph (and might therefore be understood to be a mappiq). This is generally considered to have been a feature of the Palestinian vocalisation system.

Sources:

  • Israel Yeivin, Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah (trans. and ed. E.J. Revell; Masoretic Studies 5; Society of Biblical Literature, 1980), 20-21 and 285.

  • P. Joüon and T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Roma: Gregorian & Biblical Press, 2009), §20a.

  • E. Kautzsch (ed.), Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar (trans. A.E. Cowley; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), §14d

As to what it is doing in these four instances in our printed texts, there may be different opinions. Yeivin (op.cit. 285) points out that Gen 43:26, Lev 23:17 and Ezr 8:18 represent most of (though not all of) the situations in which a verb of root בוא is stressed on the first syllable and precedes a word commencing with lamed. "Possibly," he suggests, "there was a tendency to slur over the alef in this situation".

As for Job 33:21, he speculates that the dagesh (or mappiq) might have been there in order to encourage people to employ a glottal stop (ie: ru'u, nor ruwu), since there are two O-vowels. As above, this is just his speculation.

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  • My digital copy of the Cairo Codex is not very high quality, but I'm not noticing any mappiks in the alefs. Is it really every consonantal alef? – Double AA Mar 10 '14 at 3:03
  • I misread what Yeivin wrote - my apologies! He cites three examples (Isa 51:19, Jer 38:12 and Hag 1:1), and while he notes that it is common throughout the manuscript tradition (as do Joüon and Muraoka), he does not say that it occurs with every aleph in Cairo Codex, as I thought he did. (You might note as well, by the way, that Cairo Codex frequently puts a rafe over the aleph in ישראל). – Shimon bM Mar 10 '14 at 4:49
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The HaEmek Dovor explains unexpected dageshim as an intensification of the meaning.

Thus, in Gen 43:26 he says that:

the dagesh in the Aleph indicates the strength of the bringing, to show that each one tried to present the gift with their own hand rather than have one or two of the brothers bring it on behalf of all of them. This was in order to show how beloved the matter was for them and that each one of them had pleasure from it. In this way the part of Yosef’s dream in (37:7) which showed that “your sheaves encircled (my sheaf)” was fulfilled.

In Lev 23:17 he says that:

since the verse says “From your dwelling places, you shall bring (תָּבִיאּוּ) bread”, this seems to imply that the bread was baked in "your dwelling places", but the gemara in Menachos teaches that this is not true - only flour is brought, because the bread must be baked inside the Temple.

For this reason there is a dagesh in the aleph, to teach that it is a strong bringing, that is, it refers to the actual bringing of the bread at the moment of the Shavous offering. To avoid all of this confusion it really should have written “from your dwelling places תקריבו לחם (you shall offer bread)”, but since the bread is not actually offered up but only accompanies the animal sacrifices that are brought together with it, it could not write this, and so it instead wrote תָּבִיאּוּ with a dagesh in the aleph.

I do not have his commentary on Job or Ezra (if he wrote one).

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  • Rabbi Naftoli Tzvi Yehudah Belin (author of the Emek Dovor on the five books of the Torah) also wrote a short commentary to the rest of Tanakh called Dvar HaEmerk. However, he does not comment on the alephs with dageshim in Iyov and Ezra. – Joshua Pearl May 3 '15 at 13:19
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In his book on Tiberian Hebrew (pp. 135ff), Geoffrey Khan suggests that in fact, the dot in the aleph is to be pronounced as a doubling of the consonant, not simply as a sign that the aleph should be read as a consonant. In other words, he suggests that the dot in the aleph is in fact a dagesh hazak, not a mappik.

His arguments are based on the following factors:

  1. Masoretic sources always refer to this dot as a dagesh, not a mappik
  2. Some Masoretic treatises explicitly list the aleph with a dagesh in lists of words with normal dageshim
  3. Karaite transliterations of Hebrew use the Arabic shadda (equal to a dagesh hazak) over the aleph with a dagesh, explicitly indicating doubling of the consont
  4. One masoretic manuscript indicates that only הע"ח cannot take a dagesh
  5. The Babylonian nikkud had a different sign for dagesh and mappik, and a dagesh was used on the alephs
  6. Hebrew reading traditions from the Middle East treat the dot in the aleph as a dagesh

I would add also that the mappik is occasionally written under the letter he (pp. 163ff) in masoretic Tanakh manuscripts, but to my knowledge the dagesh aleph always has a dot within the aleph.

The dagesh was there, he argues, as a method to preserve the aleph from elision. Aleph, like other gutterals, was especially prone to elision.

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  • What was the common occurrence: elided alefs or using degeishim to prevent sound elision? – Double AA Sep 8 at 2:56
  • @DoubleAA I meant the elision of glottals. Already by the Tiberian period glottals were weakened to the point that they could not usually be geminated, and some were in fact elided fully. For instance, the word ראש originally had a glottal stop (ra'shu in proto-Semitic) but even in the Dead Sea Scrolls one finds רוש and the like. Edited accordingly. Using a dagesh to prevent ellision was not very common in the standard Tiberian tradition, but not unheard of. – Argon Sep 8 at 3:25
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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? Who cares? 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
meal (bread)there 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 קבלת התורה 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.

Chag Sameach

Akan A. Mazurek,MD

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