There is one trope phrase that appears only once in the Torah, in Bamidbar 35:5, a yerach ben yomo followed by a karne farah.

The text of the verse follows; I've bolded the words with these tropes:

וּמַדֹּתֶ֞ם מִח֣וּץ לָעִ֗יר אֶת־פְּאַת־קֵ֣דְמָה אַלְפַּ֪יִם בָּֽאַמָּ֟ה וְאֶת־פְּאַת־נֶגֶב֩ אַלְפַּ֨יִם בָּֽאַמָּ֜ה וְאֶת־פְּאַת־יָ֣ם ׀ אַלְפַּ֣יִם בָּֽאַמָּ֗ה וְאֵ֨ת פְּאַ֥ת צָפ֛וֹן אַלְפַּ֥יִם בָּֽאַמָּ֖ה וְהָעִ֣יר בַּתָּ֑וֶךְ זֶ֚ה יִֽהְיֶ֣ה לָהֶ֔ם מִגְרְשֵׁ֖י הֶֽעָרִֽים׃

And ye shall measure without the city for the east side two thousand cubits, and for the south side two thousand cubits, and for the west side two thousand cubits, and for the north side two thousand cubits, the city being in the midst. This shall be to them the open land about the cities.

For something that appears only once in the Torah, this seems an unusual place for it to show up -- we're in a verse that describes reserved spaces around the Levites' towns in four directions and one of the directions is treated this way? And it's not even the direction itself; it's one of four instances of אַלְפַּיִם בָּאַמָּה in the verse.

What is special about this use of trope?

  • 1
    very very similar judaism.stackexchange.com/q/43607/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 3:38
  • ...and I didn't find it before asking, oops. (I don't think it's a dupe, but it is very similar.) Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 3:41
  • 1
    I don't see the difference between the questions.
    – msh210
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 5:30
  • 2
    I'm asking for why it's special -- could be a survey of sources on the matter, like on any other "what does such-and-such passage mean" question. The other one is asking for a d'var torah, if I understand correctly. An answer to that could address this, but "here's a link to my rabbi's talk" really doesn't help me. (Actually, isn't the other guaranteed to produce low-value results? It's asking for links, not answers.) Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 12:59
  • The dry grammar of it is that it's the same as a Pazeir in terms of 'pausal'-ness, and no one knows what pattern a dozen Pazeir's in Tanakh have that get them upgraded.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 23:39

1 Answer 1


I sifted through a number of sites, and all, seem to give a "D'var Torah", so there doesn't appear to be anything "authritative". However, this article seems to give the most "direct" answer, I think:

As to the future – that can found in just one word. The word is ‘ba’ama’ and occurs several times in chapter 35 verse 5. It is a measurement and in itself does not seem so significant. ‘You shall measure two thousand ama to the east…’ However, the first occurrence of this word has a unique musical note attached to it. Found nowhere else in the Bible, it is known as ‘karnei parah’ - the horns of a cow –and that is rather what it looks like. The text commands us to measure out an area around each city. Why? For the cattle of course! That is what the note tells us. From the beginning the Israelites had cattle. Pharaoh’s words after the tenth plague, when he finally agrees to let the people go are ‘Take your flocks and your herds and be gone.’ (Exodus 12:32) ‘And they went – and a mixed multitude with them, and flocks and herds and very many cattle. (Exodus 12:38). Last weeks parashah described the first act of settlement – the apportioning of land outside Israel to the tribes of Reuven and Gad and to half of the tribe of Menasseh precisely because they had so much cattle.

As for the 2nd part of your question, why just THAT direction, I surmise some ideas.

  • It happens to be the first direction mentioned. (I know that's an overly-simplified answer, but it may really not be more complex than that.)
  • It may have something to do with the other trope groupes that follow in this verse. Yerach ben Yomo / Karnei Parah are considered "4th-level disjunctives" (See this wikepedia item that explains the trope rules and groupings.
  • The easterly direction, which in this case, is the one mentioned first, is often the most "important" direction in the Torah for that is where the sun rises, and indicates the beginning of the new "day" (daylight, that is, not the calendar day.)

This wikipedia article has another explanation on why this word has a Karnei Parah. It's not my personal favorite, but you may enjoy it.

  • Where else is east the most important direction? Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 16:24
  • @CharlesKoppelman - Off the top of my head, one example is the fact that Moshe and Aharon who were the most "important" people in the travel through the desert camped on the east side of the Mishkan. Additionally, the Torah's word for "east" is often "kedem" which means "forward" or "in front of".
    – DanF
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 17:13
  • I'm skeptical of any article that starts with "that can found in just one word". It appears in Nach too, several times (more often than shalsheles actually, outside of Tehillim Mishlei Iyov). You don't have to have an answer for all of them, but at least acknowledge it.
    – Heshy
    Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 12:13
  • @Heshy Now that I reread the citation, the author is incorrect by stating "..found nowhere else in the bible". It's on the word "Haman" in Esther as well as a few other places in Nac"h.
    – DanF
    Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 13:26
  • The simple answer here is that we have a very unusual situation in this verse of a four-fold repetition. According to the rules of ta'amim, each one is one level "deeper" than the one following (see Exodus 25:35 sefaria.org/Exodus.25.35?lang=bi&aliyot=0 for three-fold). Here we kinda ran out of levels. If there were a fifth-level ta'am, this would be it. - So it has to be on the first of the four.
    – MichoelR
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 19:52

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