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In Megillas Ester, several proper nouns (such as Mordechai, and Shushan) use komatz and patach interchangeably. In sefardi pronunciation this does not make much of a difference, but in ashkenazi pronunciation, this makes names sound noticeably different: MordechAi vs. MordechOy; ShushAn vs. ShushOn. Is there a hard rule that rules the correct nikkud for these?

In addition, there are instances where the word "she came" has varying vowels with letter Beys and Veys, such as to make these words sound "B-a-a" "V-a-a." What is the rule there?

2 Answers 2

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There are grammatical rules in general, but for your case:

  1. It's always שושַן הבירה, otherwise שושָן.
  2. It's always מרדכַי except on an esnachta, sof pasuk, or in exactly one case a zakeif katon ויגידו למרדכָי את דברי אסתר.
  3. The general rule is any of the letters בגדכפת have a dageish (dot) at the beginning of a word, except when they come after a word that (a) ends in a vowel, like היא and (b) has a non-pausal note, like munach. (There are a few more exceptions to the exception.) In my examples, I'm thinking particularly of בערב היא באה.

In general, it's important to pay attention to the pronunciation, but of the three things you've asked the first one is the most important, because it actually changes the meaning of the word. שושַן הבירה means "the Shushan of the palace", and according to many commentaries refers to a different section of the city than just plain שושָן. (I still don't think it would invalidate the reading if you mess it up, but it has higher significance because of this difference.)

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  • Do you happen to know the reason for the vowel change under zaqqef qatton in your example? Commented Apr 11 at 11:59
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    Because it's the biggest break in the pasuk, so it could have been an etnachta but got downgraded because the pasuk is so short. This happens elsewhere occasionally. ויעשו בני ישראל את הפָסח במועדו (in the Pesach Sheini story) has a kamatz on the tipcha because it's the biggest break in the pasuk.
    – Heshy
    Commented Apr 11 at 12:31
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    @Qwerty judaism.stackexchange.com/a/130916/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 11 at 12:38
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מרדכי takes a Kamatz when it is on a hard pause (same as most nouns that have a patach or segol on the primary stress).

שושן takes a Patach when it is attached to הבירה (same as the construct form of any noun normally ending in a Kamatz).

באה loses its Dagesh when the previous word ends in an open syllable and has a conjunctive Trop (same with any word beginning with one of the six בגד"כפת letters).

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  • +1. "same as any noun ending in a Kamatz in construct form": except (inter alia) "דת" every time it appears in Esther.
    – msh210
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 18:47
  • @msh210 And פתגם
    – Heshy
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 1:46
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    @Heshy and msh, those are Aramaic words, not Hebrew. Different rules.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 1:58
  • If you're right that "דת" in Esther is foreign (and I seem to recall reading somewhere that it's Persian, actually, not Aramaic, but may be misremembering or the source may've been wrong), it's not really foreign. It's used in Hebrew running text, so it's Hebrew, just a loanword. So "same as any noun ending in a Kamatz in construct form": except loanwords.
    – msh210
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 3:23
  • No rule is perfect...
    – Double AA
    Commented May 28, 2018 at 14:35

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