Bereishit 45:22:

לְכֻלָּם נָתַן לָאִישׁ חֲלִפוֹת שְׂמָלֹת וּלְבִנְיָמִן נָתַן שְׁלשׁ מֵאוֹת כֶּסֶף וְחָמֵשׁ חֲלִפֹת שְׂמָלֹת

Why is the first occurence of the word "חלפות" written מלא (with the ו), and the second written חסר (without)? Why would the wording change in the middle of a verse like that?

3 Answers 3


When it's chaser it means the objects are similar like by the luchos. The Shevatim are diffrent sizes but Binyamin got 5 of the same size since it was only for him . (Torah Temimah)


An answer is proposed in the sefer שעשועי על התורה, on this week's parshah.

The gemara (Megilah 16a) that says that בנימין got five pieces of clothing, whereas the other brothers only got one apiece, to symbolize that in the future, מרדכי would go out with five pieces of clothing. The Gra asks on this that the symbolism is nice and everything, but how was Yosef allowed to create jealousy among the brothers like this? He answered that the five pieces of clothing that Binyamin got were worth, all together, the same amount of money that the clothes the brothers got were worth. (אילת השחר)

Now it makes sense -- the חלפות that the brothers got are spelled מלא, because those were regular clothes, while the clothes that Binyamin got were of inferior quality, and hence are only חלפת, without the ו.

See also שערי אהרן, in the name of the תורה תמימה.

  • Do you have the sefer Shashuai AL Hatorah
    – sam
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 23:47
  • Yes, I do. Do you?
    – MTL
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 1:39
  • Nope ,do you think you can find the answer to this question?judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/17895/…
    – sam
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 1:43
  • I'll take a look. I don't think that it's the same sefer as "תורתך שעשועי," since the title on the cover of my sefer is simply "שעשועי על התורה;" but it's worth a look.
    – MTL
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 1:51
  • @sam I started looking it up; the first thing I wanted to ask you was if you remembered what parsha it was; then I realized the point was moot, since your question was asked in 2012, and the sefer was publish in 2014 :P ....sorry!
    – MTL
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 19:09

The correct spelling of the word is חֲלִיפֹות, which is found in 1 Melachim 14:13.

The Masoretic Text in Bereishit 45:22 therefore indicates in the margin (the “small Masorah”) that the two appearances of this word in this particular verse are variants (since the Hebrew Bible was written over a thousand year period).

Please click to enlarge the image, below.

Bereishit 45:22

The notes in the margin for the first iteration state, “ג̇ כת̇ כן,” which translated from Aramaic means “written three times thus.” The notes in the margin for the second iteration state, “ב̇ חס̇ דחס̇”, which translated from Aramaic means “One of 2 occurrences of this word written in a doubly defective form” (lacking both yod and vav per חֲלִיפֹות, which is found in 1 Melachim 14:13).

In other words, in Biblical Hebrew variants are not uncommon with regard to the yod and vav, since they are the Matres Lectionis of Biblical Hebrew. Please note that the superscript 24 occurs in both notes, and points to the footnotes at the bottom of the page, which reference List 336 (the “large Masorah”), which Weil (2001) references as follows. The same Aramaic terms appear here as well.

List 336

  • The “written three times thus” are the first three verses.

  • The “one of 2 occurrences of this word written in a doubly defective form” (lacking both yod and vav) are the last two verses.

These references here provide no implied meanings for interpreting Bereishit 45:22 (based in the Aramaic notes), but do acknowledge to the reader that the Masoretic editors are aware of the variant spellings of this word within the Hebrew Bible and therefore attest that the variants are accurate as received.

Finally, the Babylonian Talmud provides very helpful background information why Joseph gave five sets of clothes to Benjamin. The Talmud indicates that Benjamin was the ancestor of Mordecai (from Esther 2:3). The five coats in Bereishit 45:22 are therefore in parallel with Esther 8:15, which the Talmud references in b. Megillah 1:13, I.1.A [Folio 16a and Folio 16b].

b. *Megillah* 1:13, I.1.A

In other words, the Talmudic rabbis understood that Mordecai “. . . went out in royal garb, blue [and white, a large golden crown, and a cloak of linen and purple],” which were reference to his five sets of clothes. Since Mordecai was the descendent of Benjamin, the giving of five sets of clothes to Benjamin from Joseph had presaged the distinguished place of Mordecai in Jewish history.


The excellent question was raised: “why is the ו present in one word, and missing in the same word later in the same verse?”

First, in old Hebrew (that is, before the eighth century BCE) the Hebrew letter פ (Pe) did not have the final form, which looks like this --> ף. In addition, there were no punctuation marks and no spaces between words. Thus Bereishit 45:22 would have looked something like this (using square characters, of course). *Please click the image, below, to enlarge for ease of reading.*

Possible rendering

This grammatical arrangement in this order occurs in the Torah in Badmidbar 18:21, where the word חֵלֶף means "in exchange for" (and by the way, the same verb נָתַן, to give, occurs in that verse as well!). The Hebrew word for "pledge" is תְּשׂוּמֶת, which would be misspelled in this verse by one letter (lamed), and of course the absent waw would be read as an absent waw helper. Thus the reader would have to re-read the verse to catch the correct meaning because the word תְּשׂוּמֶת is misspelled. By adding the waw helper in the word חֲלִפֹות, the Torah enables the reader to infer the correct Hebrew word (and phrase) is "change of clothes" and not "in exchange of a pledge (sic)" at a time when there was no punctuation or word spacing in Old Hebrew.

Finally, at the end of the verse, when the same word appears again, there is no need to indicate to the reader (with another waw helper) that the word refers to a change of clothes, and not to gifts given in exchange for promises to behave.

This observation helps us to believe and embrace that the Torah was written in Old Hebrew (in excess of ten centuries BCE); otherwise, with the aid of the two forms of the Hebrew letter ף/פ (which appeared in the eighth century BCE), the need of the waw helper would have otherwise have been superfluous. The waw helper was needed because there was no final form of the Hebrew letter פ in existence, which would have triggered to the reader if the ף was the last letter of the word, or not (i.e., חֵלֶף with the final ף, or חֲלִפֹות?).


Kelley, P. H., Mynatt, D. S., & Crawford, T. G. (1998). The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: introduction and annotated glossary. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, pp. 107-108.

Neusner, J. (2011). The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Vol 7b). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, p. 83.

Weil, G. E. (2001). Massorah Gedolah: Manuscrit B. 19a de Léningrad. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, p. 41.

  • Let me check my understanding of your answer: the first part is saying that I'm right in that the first word has a ו, and the second doesn't; and the second half of your answer (from "These references" and on) is saying that you don't have a particular explanation for why this is the case?
    – MTL
    Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 18:11
  • @Shokhet - The tod and vav are Matres Lectionis, which may or may not appear. These two Hebrew letters are simply aids to "see" the vowels at a time (before the Masoretic Text) when vowel points did not exist in the ancient Hebrew language. Their presence was only to help the reader to avoid misunderstanding them as other Hebrew nouns and verbs (at a time when vowel points did not exist).
    – Joseph
    Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 19:19
  • 2
    I knew that already, thanks. The question I had was "why is the ו present in one word, and missing in the same word later in the same verse?" ....you haven't really explained that.
    – MTL
    Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 19:20
  • @Shokhet - In all sincerity, a very very excellent question, and I apologize for not addressing this nuance as part of my original answer. I have added an addendum to provide the appropriate response.
    – Joseph
    Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 21:00
  • @Shokhet - I just posted the addendum - your question was EXCELLENT, and understood by me. Very Respectfully,
    – Joseph
    Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 22:00

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