Devarim 1:1 uses the phrase "Mol Suf". The word is pronounced "Mol" vs. "Mul". I assume that the literal definition of the word is "against" or "near".

In other locations in the Torah, the word is pronounced "Mul". 3 such places, offhand:

  • Bamidbar 22:5 last word (granted that it is possessive, but has the same "root" meaning.)
  • Devarim 2:19
  • Devarim 11:30

Why is this pronounced "Mol", in Devarim 1:1? Does this have a different definition than "Mul", in this place?

Note: I know that there are numerous Midrashic translations of the names of the places mentioned in this verse. Your answer should not reference these unless it specifically explains the reason for the difference in the pronunciation of "mol".


1 Answer 1


The grammarian's answer is that cholam and shuruk are interchangeable. So writes Radak, Ben-Zev, and one of today's greatest Hebrew grammarians, R. Meir Mazuz. Why one is chosen in one instance and the other in another is simply a matter of style.

Interestingly, R. Yosef Bechor Shor interprets "מול" here as "to cut" as it is used most often in reference to "מילה". (See Radak in the link, who lists the two meanings under the same root.) If "suf" here is taken to mean the "Yam Suf", then "מול סיף" is not a place but an event. He interprets this verse as Moshe's introduction saying that the Torah and these mitzvos which he is about to discuss throughout Sefer Devarim were given "בערבה" after the splitting of the sea. The splitting of the sea is referred to as a "cutting" much like it is in Tehillim (136:13) "לגוזר ים סיף לגזרים".

  • Thanks. The beginning of your answer seems obvious, except to me. B"N, I will also research Mazuz'z work.
    – DanF
    Aug 8, 2014 at 18:30
  • @DanF, You're welcome. Mazuz's writings are not available online and, as far as I know, difficult to find outside of Israel.
    – jake
    Aug 8, 2014 at 18:36
  • "difficult to find outside of Israel". I know one Israeli very well. I grew up with him. He's my brother, literally, not metaphorically. If you have some idea where / how he can obtain a book etc. that he's written on this subject, please post. I'll ask him to send it to me. I don't think Israel charges customs for "Mazuz-as" :-)
    – DanF
    Aug 8, 2014 at 18:50

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