A number of times in davening, we find the word שאתה, which I would assume would be vowelized as שֶׁאַתׇּה, "she'atah", that you. Instead, we find it vowelized as שָׁאַתָּה, "sha'atah".

For example, in Modim (siddur link):

מודִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ. שָׁאַתָּה הוּא ה' אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבותֵינוּ לְעולָם וָעֶד

I realize that the source for this must be Shoftim 6:17, which vowelizes it this way:

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֔יו אִם־נָ֛א מָצָ֥אתִי חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֶ֑יךָ וְעָשִׂ֤יתָ לִּי֙ א֔וֹת שָׁאַתָּ֖ה מְדַבֵּ֥ר עִמִּֽי׃

And Rashi there comments (Alhatorah translation):

שאתה – כמו שאתה.
"That you." The same as שֶׁאַתׇּה, with the segol vocalization.

Why would the siddur follow what is a strange spelling which needs to be explained in Tanach (sha'atah), as opposed to what would be expected (she'atah)?

Bonus: which is correct for davening?


1 Answer 1


Sephradim say "she'Atah". And there are other cases of "sha'Atah", eg in Emes veYatziv.

In the Torah, you will not find a "she-" prefix. HQBH uses "asher". (Nor the "kishe-" for when / whenever.)

In early Navi, you'll find "sha-". Not too often, but one case is in Shofetim 6:17, when Gid'on refers to Hashem as "sha'Atah". (Another is the two occurrences of "shaqqamti" in Shiras Devorah, 4:7.)

Joshu Blau of the Academy of the Hebrew Language says that this was the Northern contraction of "asher", but the Southerner's "she-" eventually wins out. (Phonology and Morphology of Biblical Hebrew, pg. 183) Except that Devorah was in Bet-El, so unless she borrowed northern coinage to make the poem work...

Tefillah used to tend toward Mishnaic Hebrew in both Ashk and Seph. With exceptions like the masculine "lakh" in "Modim anachnu Lakh". But when the printing press made publishing a siddur with nequdos possible, some hypercorrections went into Nusach Ashkenaz by experts convinced we're all saying it wrong.

These tended to be maskilim, as few else in Ashkenaz were studying diqduq. One prominent name is R' Shelomo-Zalman Hanau (Razah). Research seems to indicate his diqduq rules were employed by Lubavitch's Alter Rebbe in making Nusach Ari. But that has been debated here in the past. In any case, somehow, people managed to buy into the idea of changing large chunks of the vowelization of their davening in a comparatively short time.

Although, the medieval manuscripts indicate that we were using Mishnaic Hebrew all along.

These corrections made the Ashk siddur a lot more biblical. It began the debates between "morid hagasham" vs "morid hageshem", since in Mishnaic Hebrew there is no "hagashem", even if it's the last word of the sentence. And in earlier Ashkenaz, they said "vesein chelqeinu besorasakh, sab'einu mituvakh" -- just as Seph still say.

The presence of "sha'Atah" in Shoferim meant that that became the form in Ashkenazi in the past 2-3 centuries. And indeed, in earlier manuscripts, the word is "she'Atah".

In addition, it is possible that the "sha-" is the usual contraction for when one word is taking both the "she-" and "ha-" prefixes. That Gid'on was calling G-d "The You", and this is what we're imitating in davening.

  • "In the Torah, you will not find a "she-" prefix" except once, בשגם הוא בשר
    – Heshy
    Sep 26, 2019 at 20:10
  • @Heshy whatever that word means
    – Double AA
    Sep 26, 2019 at 23:52
  • @Heshy: Grammarians generally do not read that as be- + she- + gam. This is actually a good thing... it is gra,,arians noting that chumash is written in an older Hebrew than Shofetim and Rus, which is in an older Hebrew than neviim acharonim. Bible Critics have to claim the chumash was written in an intentionally formal style, but then they havenn’t much to say about sha- vs she-. The weight of the argument is certainly on the side of mesorah. Sep 27, 2019 at 0:52
  • What's your evidence of no pausal nouns in Mishnaic Hebrew, or to lakh vs lekha? There isn't a reliable witness to the pointing, AFAIK. On the other hand, there clearly are pausal forms for verbs.
    – magicker72
    Sep 27, 2019 at 2:37
  • @magicker72, I am not really relying on evidence. I was taught this by a rav who has a PhD in Semitic Languages, and didn't care enough about the topic to look it up myself.It seems the paper to cite is Ben-Asher, 2009, "“Contextual Forms and Pausal Forms in Mishnaic Hebrew according to Ms. Parma B", but I can't find a copy of the paper itself. Sep 27, 2019 at 9:49

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