As I was going through Parashat Behalotecha, I noticed that the word "Cushit", referring to Moshe's wife, is spelled two different ways in the same pasuk, once with a chaf and once with a khaf. Does anyone know why this might be? Do any sources attach any special significance to this? NB I am aware of the term's meaning in modern Hebrew, please don't bring that up unless it's relevant to your answer.

וַתְּדַבֵּ֨ר מִרְיָ֤ם וְאַהֲרֹן֙ בְּמֹשֶׁ֔ה עַל־אֹד֛וֹת הָאִשָּׁ֥ה הַכֻּשִׁ֖ית אֲשֶׁ֣ר לָקָ֑ח כִּֽי־אִשָּׁ֥ה כֻשִׁ֖ית לָקָֽח׃

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married: “He married a Cushite woman!”

  • Possible duplicate judaism.stackexchange.com/q/64588/759 The letters בגדכפת lose and gain degeshim all the time in all sorts of words in Tanakh. We need a new question for every possible case? Names like בנימין פרעה דוד all have this phenomenon and this word is no different – Double AA Jun 3 '18 at 3:59

The reason why the second one is a chaf, is because of the dikduk rule יהוא.

There are 6 letters that when found at the beginning of a word have a dot in it - a dagesh. These letters are בג"ד כפ"ת. The exception to this rule is when the letter the previous word ended with one of the 4 letters of יהו"א. Then we drop the dagesh. This rule is only true if the word with יהוא is read together with the בג"ד כפ"ת word. (See מנחת ש"י שמות ו/ב printed in many מקראות גדולות חומשים, or almost any Dikduk Sefer.)

For example, at the end of the פרשה in פסוק ח by the words בעבדי במשה the word בעבדי does not have a dagesh because it does not follow a יהו"א. However, the במשה has a dagesh, because it follows the יו"ד, of בעבדי. When the words are not put together, such as by [the beginning of פרשת בשלח, that starts with] ויהי בשלח, [the words are not connected as we see from the trop], we go back to the regular rule of בג"ד כפ"ת and read it with a dagesh.

As far as the first one being a kaf, I don't know the rule when these letters are in the middle of a word.

  • What about a וְנָתַתָּ֧ עַֽל־הַשֻּׁלְחָ֛ן לֶ֥חֶם פָּנִ֖ים לְפָנַ֥י תָּמִֽיד which still has a dagesh? Or what about וְאִכָּבְדָ֤ה בְּפַרְעֹה֙ וּבְכָל־חֵיל֔וֹ ? Or what about וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ֣ בַדֶּ֔רֶךְ? Or וַיַּ֥רְא בָּלָ֖ק בֶּן־צִפּ֑וֹר? Or וַיֹּ֛אמֶר ס֥וּרָה שְׁבָה־פֹּ֖ה? – Double AA Jun 3 '18 at 4:12
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    @DoubleAA - Good question. There are 4 exceptions [or 5 according to some] to the יהו"א rule, one of them is "מפיק". Rabbi Lenchitz in מפתח הדלת pg כ"ח, uses your pasuk as an example for this rule of מפיק. In any case, the answer given takes care of one of Josh's questions. – פרי זהב Jun 3 '18 at 4:39
  • @DoubleAA - ובלכתך בדרך is another good example of an exception. The word ובלכתך ends with a קמץ, and is treated as if there is a ה"א after the כ"ף, making it into a יהו"א ending. – פרי זהב Jun 3 '18 at 4:49
  • I know these are all different exceptions to your rule. But consider really how good is a rule if it has so many arbitrary sounding exceptions? (and you only addressed 2 of my 5 verses) – Double AA Jun 3 '18 at 12:18
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    @DoubleAA - In שו"ת ר' אברהם שטנג סי' י"ג printed in back of שו"ת דברי אור, he explains many of the rules of בג"ד כפ"ת. At the end of the תשובה he writes that when the first two letters of the second word are both בג"ד כפ"ת and בומ"פ [ones that you need to use your lips] it overrides the יהו"א rule. [I don't know why.] The example he brings is ואכבדה בפרעה. – פרי זהב Jun 3 '18 at 20:34

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