It seems that Jerusalem is always written "ḥaser" (defective) in the Bible: that is, as ירושלם, without the י/yud, as opposed "malei" (full), as ירושלים. See, for example, Isaiah 62:6. This presents a problem when vowelizing texts, since a printer would need to figure out where to place the chiriq (the "eee" vowel). Some editions try to stuff both the chiriq and the patach or qamatz from the preceding letter under the ל/lamed. Others might try to put it under the ם/final mem (e.g. http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=43492&st=&pgnum=41).

What is the reason for Jerusalem always being written ḥaser? Is there a standard Unicode-friendly way for typing it ḥaser with vowels? (See the problem here: http://mechon-mamre.org/c/ct/c1062.htm) Are there any other such words where there is no room for putting all the vowels (not otherwise in a qeri/ksiv)? Is it even technically correct to call it "ḥaser"?

By the way, the only "malei" form of Jerusalem I could find is in 1 Chronicles 3:5. Are there any others?


7 Answers 7


One of the Chassidic masters (Bnei Yissoschor, perhaps?) says that the deficient spelling of Yerushalayim in Tanach hints to the phrase של רומי -- "[currently in the domain] of Rome" -- which has the same letters as ירושלם. I heard in the name of Rav Moshe Wolfson shlit"a (mashgiach of Torah Vodaas) that in Megillas Esther we find Yerushalayim spelled out in full, since its letters then denote the opposite idea: רומי שלי -- "Rome is Mine."


The Medrash in Breishis Rabah 56:10 mentions that Yerushalayim is a combination of Shalem, which is the name Malki Tzedek (Shem ben Noach) gave to the city, and Yirae which is the name Avraham Avinu gave the city. The Medrash says that Hashem combined the names to please both of them. Since the source of the name is from Shalem which is spelled without a Yud that is why it is mostly spelled without a Yud.

  • This one is correct. We get "Yerushalayim" from a pronunciation shift from "Yerushalem". Which, as mentioned above, was once simply "Shalem". Samaritans pronounce "shamayim" as "shamem", and our letter "mem" and the word "mayim" are related for this very same reason. As are "yayin" and its semikhut form "yen". To answer OP's question, most publishers put the hiriq under mem.
    – B.BarNavi
    Aug 10, 2011 at 5:57

A quick Bar Ilan database search reveals instances of the male spelling in Esther 2:6 and Divrei Hayamim II 25:1.


The furtive hiriq is a way to indicate the pronunciation that diverges from the received consonantal tradition, sometimes called a qere perpetuum. Another qere perpetuum is the name יִשָּׂשכָר which is always pronounced with one ש.

It appears that the original pronunciation for the name ירושלם was indeed "Yerušalem", coming from the name Shalem (Jerusalem may be the same city as the Shalem in Bereshit 14:18 and Tehilim 76:2). The form "Yerušalem" is found inter alia in

  1. The ketiv in most of Tanakh
  2. Early Hebrew Inscriptions (e.g. Khirbet Beit Lei inscription)
  3. Cuneiform transcriptions (ur-sa-li-im-ma/mu; see Luckenbill's The Annals of Sennacherib, p. 70 for instance)
  4. Greek books (Septuagint has Ἱεροσόλυμα)
  5. The Aramaic name (יְרוּשְׁלֶם)

However, the tradition of reading the final -ayim is surely ancient. It is found (five times) in later books of Tanakh and also on late inscriptions (such as First Revolt sheqalim from years 2-5) and attested to in the ancient Tiberian reading tradition.

As per Double AA's request for Babylonian sources, I have attached the vocalizations recorded in Yeivin's "מסורת הלשון העברית המשתקפת בניקוד הבבלי":

Babylonian Pointing of Jerusalem Babylonian Pointing of Jerusalem

  • How do Babylonian-pointed texts render it?
    – Double AA
    Apr 6, 2016 at 0:57
  • @DoubleAA I can only find it partially vocalized, as ירוּשלם. See, e.g. Song of Songs 3:5ff archive.org/stream/dermasoretische00kahlgoog#page/n111/mode/2up . I will keep looking for fuller Babylonian (and Palestinian) vocalizations.
    – Argon
    Apr 6, 2016 at 2:58
  • @DoubleAA Updated sources from Yeivin's book.
    – Argon
    Nov 19, 2016 at 22:55

Note that in Aramaic, it's spelled the same way but in fact pronounced chaser -- "yerushleim."

  • 1
    It would seem that the full spelling does not imply a diphthong to the extent that one can be called the "male pronunciation" and the other the "chaser pronunciation". After all, we have several minimal pairs of male words whose pronunciation varies (or varied), e.g. יין. For more on that, see here: jewishstudies.rutgers.edu/component/docman/doc_view/…
    – WAF
    Nov 4, 2010 at 22:01

The ḥaser looks right to me in the Mechon Mamre link, with the Ezra SIL SR font installed. The problem may be an artifact of your font or your software. See this question where I discuss how lots of software has problems with even simple (i.e. normal) nikudot formatting.

  • 2
    I have no idea whether the issues in this article have been fixed in Unicode 5.x or 6.x
    – Chanoch
    Nov 3, 2010 at 14:35
  • Chanoch: Excellent find, thanks! He mentions my issue in section 3.3.
    – Yosef
    Nov 3, 2010 at 19:19
  • P.S. your Ezra SIL suggestion on your response to the other nekudos question worked well for me in several applications running on Linux. FrankRuehl, on the other hand, was giving me the effect I was complaining about above: the chiriq was printed right on top of the patach.
    – Yosef
    Nov 3, 2010 at 19:30

The Medrash Talpios (written by the same author as the Shevet Mussar) says on Page 310 Anaf Yerushalayim that Hashem took away the extra Yud while the Jews are in Galus. Please look at the page in this facsinating link.


  • Great source! He gives multi-level answers that all fit with each other! Thanks!
    – Yahu
    Nov 5, 2010 at 7:30
  • Great source! Wish my Hebrew was better or there was at least a short summary in English of these fascinating multi-level answers that all interrelate so I could appreciate them!
    – Gary
    Aug 18, 2015 at 20:34
  • 1
    Note that the author of this work was a Sabbatean.
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 20, 2016 at 3:40

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