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 43:26 -- Radak 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 23:17 -- Ibn Ezra says he doesn't know what it means.

Job 33:21 -- Malbim 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?

  • 2
    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
  • 2
    Consider also that it may be a mappik not a dagesh – Double AA Feb 13 '14 at 17:39
  • 1
    An alef is often a vowel as well, cf Genesis 1:1 – Double AA Feb 13 '14 at 19:37
  • 1
    @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
  • 1
    It might be like the dot in the vav here sefaria.org/Deuteronomy.29.25 – Double AA Jul 26 '16 at 22:29

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.


  • 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.

  • 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

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).

  • 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

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .