Thursday, June 05, 2008

Naso: The segol of Pera

In the laws of Nazir {Bemidbar 6:5}, we read:
ה כָּל-יְמֵי נֶדֶר נִזְרוֹ, תַּעַר לֹא-יַעֲבֹר עַל-רֹאשׁוֹ: עַד-מְלֹאת הַיָּמִם אֲשֶׁר-יַזִּיר לַה', קָדֹשׁ יִהְיֶה--גַּדֵּל פֶּרַע, שְׂעַר רֹאשׁוֹ. 5 All the days of his vow of Naziriteship there shall no razor come upon his head; until the days be fulfilled, in which he consecrateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow long.
On this pasuk, Rashi says:
פרע -
נקוד פתח קטן לפי שהוא דבוק לשער ראשו, פרע של שער.
ופירושו של פרע, גדול של שער, וכן את ראשו לא יפרע (ויקרא כא, י).
ואין קרוי פרע פחות משלושים יום
Or in English:
growth Heb. פֶּרַע. [The word] is vowelized with a small “pattach” [known as “segol”] because it is [a construct state and] attached to the phrase“the hair of his head.” [The meaning is:] A growth of hair, and the word פֶּרַע means to allow the hair to grow [wild]. Similarly [we find],“He shall not allow his head to grow freely (לֹא יִפְרָע)” (Lev. 21:10). Any growth [of hair] less than thirty days is not considered פֶּרַע.
Thus, the segol under the peh is because the word is in the construct state. I am not sure what he would envision the word being in a non-construct state. But more on that later.

Shadal writes:
ה] פרע : רש"י לא דק, ואף אם לא יהיה דבוק לא ישתנה ניקודו, ודע כי מילת "קטן" איננה ברע"ח, ולא בס' הזיכרון, ולא ברש"י כתיבת יד שבידי
Thus, he notes that some supercommentaries do not have the word katan in patach katan. This could mean that Rashi was not speaking about the segol under the peh but rather the patach under the resh. Yachol lihyot. But I would note that Rashi will even use patach plain, without the word katan, to refer to segol. See this post on parshablog for an elaboration. So even if the word katan is not there, he might still be speaking about the segol.

Shadal also notes that Rashi is not being exact, since even if it was not in construct form it would have the same nikkud. He is right. But then, Rashi is not just lo dak -- he is entirely off! Yes, it is the construct state, but Rashi's attempt to prove it from the nikkud is entirely misguided.

So what is motivating Rashi here? What is Rashi thinking? I do not know if I am correct in this, but anyway:

If indeed pera is on the same pattern as zera, then Shadal is correct, and the construct form would be no different than the absolute form.

However, it is possible that Rashi thinks the absolute form is different, and that this is not in the same pattern as zera. (He may be incorrect in this, but I am trying to understand Rashi here.) We all know that Rashi looks to, and reacts off of, Targum Onkelos. And when we look at Targum Onkelos and Targum Yonatan, we see that rather than pera, they have פירוע, with a tzeirei malei under the peh, a shuruk after the resh, and a patach ganuv leading into the ayin. Perhaps Rashi engaged in a bit of comparative Semitic linguistics here and assumed that the absolute in Hebrew for this word would be similar, or identical. And then he is either saying that the tzeirei was reduced to a segol, or that the shuruk followed by patach ganuv was reduced / replaced with a patach, because it was in construct form.

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