In "Mi chamocha ba'elim H', Mi camocha nedar bakodesh" (from the Az Yashir song by the sea, but also between the shma and the amidah in the morning, and elsewhere):

מִֽי-כָמֹ֤כָה בָּֽאֵלִם֙ יְ-ק-וָ֔-ק מִ֥י כָּמֹ֖כָה נֶאְדָּ֣ר בַּקֹּ֑דֶשׁ נוֹרָ֥א תְהִלֹּ֖ת עֹ֥שֵׂה פֶֽלֶא

Why does the second cuf have a dagesh (and thus is pronounced as the harder "C"), while the first has no dagesh (and is thus pronounced as the softer "ch")?

Rabbi Schmuel Mann (of blessed memory) speculated that this is related to how the words were sung, but we had a problem with that because there is nothing special about the trop on the phrase.

  • 3
    A cute answer I heard once is that when Nachshon Ben Aminadav went into the sea first, he was signing this song, and when the water got up to his mouth he was at the second מי כמוכה, the water forcing it into a dagesh. – Yishai Oct 22 '14 at 14:55
  • @Yishai I heard the same about Paroh saying this verse while drowning :) – jutky Oct 22 '14 at 21:08
up vote 19 down vote accepted

It's one of 10 traditional exceptions to the rules of BeGeD KePeT recorded by the master masorete Ben Asher in his Dikdukei haTa'amim.

Minchat Shai records two homiletic explanations:

  1. The second מי כמכה follows God's name and we don't want it to sound like we are declaring God to be a fellow named מיכה.

  2. The stronger form in the latter phrase indicates a strengthening of the Jews' praise.

The Siddur Tzelota deAvraham finds those reasons weak and proposes two others:

  1. [I don't understand this one.]

  2. The song was probably sung in a special manner and the extra Dagesh signifies a subtle pause in the tune which we no longer have. He supports this by noting 4 [5] more of the above referenced exceptions to the rules of BeGeD KePeT are also located here in the Song (גאה [באלים] גאלת כאבן גאה).

  • Are we worried we might sound like we are saying G-d is a fellow named מיכה, or are we worried about elevating מיכה to be on the level of G-d? I'm not sure if there's a difference, just trying to understand your answer. – Seth J Oct 29 '14 at 14:48
  • @SethJ No idea. – Double AA Oct 29 '14 at 14:58
  • Mika who made the idol in Shoftim, although wouldn't the text have already been vowelised before that event? – CashCow Jan 26 '15 at 11:25
  • @CashCow No idea. Probably just any old fellow named Micah. – Double AA Jan 26 '15 at 14:58
  • In his first reason, I think R' Landau was trying to say that the chaf rafa helps to group "מי כמכה" slightly more tightly together and thereby isolate "כמכה" a little from "באלם" to further emphasize that the verse is not likening HaShem to other gods. – Fred Jan 24 '16 at 21:55

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