Throughout the Mishneh Torah, Rambam spells the term for the recitation of Shema, without an א, as קרית שמע, even though the Aleph is part of the root of the word. To my knowledge, there is no grammatical principle which requires the Aleph to be dropped when adding a ת to the end of the word. Yet Rambam consistently leaves out the א (whereas Shulchan Aruch, by contrast, includes the א in his codification).

Does anyone address this discrepancy, and is there any grammatical justification for his spelling? This question is relevant to both textual clarity of a leading Halakhic work, as well as having the potential to clarify grammatical principles of the Hebrew language used by our teachers.

Importantly, the MS. Hunt. 80 manuscript at the Bodleian Libraries of Oxford, which is hand-signed by Rambam himself, leaves out the Aleph.

  • For what it's worth, the Segula Publishing version includes the aleph. I did check another version that drops the aleph.
    – wolf_math
    Nov 10, 2017 at 0:15
  • For what it's worth, the Mechon Mamre edition, which spells it with a Yud, in it's "with Niqud" edition vocalizes it as Qiryat Shema (like as "[the] town/city of"), where one would have expected Qeriyat Shema, in keeping with common pronunciation.
    – Tamir Evan
    Nov 10, 2017 at 2:59
  • Not sure what’s off-topic about this. Again, not everything about Hebrew is off-topic. This is asking about how Hebrew is used in a halachic source - seems on-topic to me.
    – DonielF
    Nov 10, 2017 at 17:49
  • @mevaqesh "Putting the programmer on a boat doesn't change the question." But putting a language question in a Jewish text does qualitatively change the question because it's now about how to understand a Jewish text. Asking what the word Asher means is off topic, and asking what a word in a Pasuk means is on topic, even if it's the same word Asher. In this regard context clearly matters, unlike a boat to code.
    – Double AA
    Nov 12, 2017 at 5:05
  • How is that unrelated to Judaism? Jewish scholars across the centuries discussing the precise wording of a Jewish halachic text (albeit with a drush-like approach.) They are Jews mining a Jewish text for Jewish meaning.
    – Chaim
    Nov 12, 2017 at 5:06

2 Answers 2


Why not ask your question on the Mishnah? E.g.:

חתן אם רוצה לקרות קרית שמע לילה הראשון קורא

(Brakhos 16b)

Mishnaic Hebrew is different than Biblical Hebrew. Maimonides (and almost everyone else), when writing in Hebrew, used the forms of Mishnaic Hebrew.

It might look weird to someone familiar with Israeli Hebrew, but that's because in Israeli Hebrew spellings of certain words were intentionally reverted to Biblical forms.

  • What text of the Mishna are you using? Are you sure you're not just looking at a typo?
    – magicker72
    Nov 10, 2017 at 18:22
  • @magicker72, standard Vilna Shas. Added link.
    – paquda
    Nov 10, 2017 at 19:09
  • 1
    The same is true with the word בריה instead of בריאה
    – b a
    Nov 12, 2017 at 13:57

All credit for this answer goes to Adam ben Nun at www.nosachteiman.co.il, for his well-researched article of the various spellings of Kriat Shema. I will attempt to summarize some of the main points presented therein.

He begins by noting that we find a variety of spellings in earlier manuscripts of the Talmudim and Midrashim: א. קרית שמע. ב. קריית שמע. ג. קיריית שמע

He then asserts that, amazingly, the correct way to enunciate the phrase should be קִריַת שמע, with a chirik under the ק and a shva nach under the ר. He brings a number of grammatical parallels in the Mishnah and other writings which he sees as supportive. The author points out that the Teimanim have always pronounced it as such. He even references certain manuscripts of the Mishnah which include this pronunciation.

As to the meaning of קִריַת שמע, the author presents a number of possibilities from various Teimani commentaries on the Mishneh Torah who - we should note - all took this girsa seriously:

  1. R. Zeharya HaRofeh (הרז"ה), early 15th century, writes in his commentary to Mishneh Torah that קִריַת implies city-like:

    כלומר, קריאה לפי סדר ידוע, כמו הבניין, מ[לשון] קריה נאמנה [ישעיה א, כא כו] וכו'.[15] ולכן קרא אותה קרית, ולא אמר קריאת".

R. Chaim Korach (b. 1823) offers a similar approach his commentary to Mishneh Torah, with additional explanation as to the connection of Shema to a city:

ולמה נקרא שמה קרית שמע ולא אמר קריאת.[18] התשובה, שאין קריה פחותה מג' שכונות,[19] כמו שנאמר קריה נאמנה, ועוד.[20] לפי שיש בה ג' פרשיות, שמע והיה אם שמוע ויאמר".

  1. R. Saadyah Edni (15th century), in his commentary to Mishneh Torah, explains (as translation by R. Pinchas Korach in his "פירוש רבינו סעיד ן' דוד אלעדני", קרית ספר ה'תש"ע, עמ' כט) that, firstly, it's simply another way of writing the same thing. But then he adds that some say that it means to imply city-like structure of disparate components:

    ויש אומרים לפי שהיא צריכה קריאה בסדר ידוע כעין הבניה מן "קריה נאמנה" (ישעיה א, כא), ולכן אמר קרית שמע. ויש אומרים לפי שהיא מיוסדת ממקומות רבים, לפי שהיא שלש פרשיות משלשה מקומות מן התורה".

  2. R. Yitzchak Wanna, in the late 16 - early 17th century, wrote along the same lines in one of his works:

קרית שמע, כמו קריאת. ולשון קריה היא. תרגום ערים, קרוין. כלומר שאינה במקום אחד בתורה, אלא במקומות הרבה כמו הערים שאחת הנה ואחת הנה".

In conclusion, at least amongst many of the Teimani scholars of Rambam's writings, his spelling of קרית שמע was seen as intentional, with both grammatical validity and a lesson to be learned.

  • 1
    It should be noted, that further down in the article (in the section titled "ההסבר הדקדוקי על דרך הפשט") he says the commentaries he brought were given in the way of a Derash on the term as it was pronounced. He then goes on to give a Peshat explanation on how the pronunciation (and spelling) shifted from Qeri'ah to Qeriyah in the language of the Mishanah (as in @paquda 's answer), and then shifted further to Qiryah, and brings examples for both shifts.
    – Tamir Evan
    Nov 20, 2017 at 8:18

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