In Shmuel Aleph, 14:33 the word חֹטִאים is used (chotim). I always had thought that the word was chot'im with the vowel under the aleph (as it is in the title to this book) but that isn't the case. Then I thought that there might be a distinction between a plural verb "they sin" and the adjective "they are sinners" but since the word only appears that once in tanach, I can't compare it. The mefarshim only connect it to a similar punctuation for קֹרִאים "korim" (and not "kor'im") in Tehillim 99:6. There were grammatical comments which seemed to say that this is the only and proper vowel placement though when I compare it with בְּקֹרְאֵי earlier in the pasuk it seemed that the chirik should be under the aleph as it is in the title of this book.

R. Hirsch however, writes (במדבר פרשת שלח פרק יד)

א' של "קראים" היא נחה והקרי הוא "קורים", כאילו נגזר הפעל משורש "קרה". נראה לנו שהבדל זה שבין קרי לכתיב מגלה את הסוד, במה זכו הם שה' ענם יותר משאר בני תמותה. כאשר קראו אל ה' הם "נקרו לקראתו", נפגשו עמו

He says that the vowels point to a root not meaning "call" but "happen upon" or "meet" ending with a hey and not an aleph. This adds a layer of meaning absent in commentary like the Metzudat David who writes

הם היו קוראים לה׳‎

והוא היה עונה להם:

This seems to imply (though I could be wrong) that were the vowels different, i.e. with a vowel under the aleph, the word would mean something different and the placement here is intentional to point to a different meaning.

I cannot see, though, how this grammatical understanding would explain the analogous nekudot choice in "chotim" to explain what it means.

Are there any other commentators who deal with the vowel placement for either of these two words as a meaningful choice? Is there any other record of R. Hirsch applying this explanation to the other example of parallel vowels?

  • Consider asking this on biblical hermeneutics as the grammatical difference between them – רבות מחשבות Jun 24 '18 at 11:39

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