Thursday, February 17, 2011

Is the Sichfa a special variant of etnachta?

Summary: Or, is it an etnachta by another name? Considering this theory, because of an instance of the sichfa in parashat Ki Tisa.

Post: In the midst of Ki Tisa, we encounter the following short pasuk {Shemot 33:14}:

14. So He said, "My Presence will go, and I will give you rest."יד. וַיֹּאמַר פָּנַי יֵלֵכוּ וַהֲנִחֹתִי לָךְ:

The trup on this is:
 יד וַיֹּאמַ֑ר פָּנַ֥י יֵלֵ֖כוּ וַֽהֲנִחֹ֥תִי לָֽךְ׃

Thus, there is an etnachta on the very first word of the pasuk. A bit later, in the same perek:

18. And he said: "Show me, now, Your glory!"יח. וַיֹּאמַר הַרְאֵנִי נָא אֶת כְּבֹדֶךָ:

Where the trup is:
יח וַיֹּאמַ֑ר הַרְאֵ֥נִי נָ֖א אֶת־כְּבֹדֶֽךָ׃

where once again, there is an etnachta on the very first word of the pasuk.

Minchas Shai writes on the first of these pesukim:

"The author of Mikneh Avraham wrote -- and the author of Arugas HaBosem is drawn after him as well -- that when the etnachta appears at the head of the pasuk, it is called sichfa, just as this one here. And so too וַיֹּאמַ֑ר הַרְאֵ֥נִי נָ֖א which is in close proximity. And he calls it{'s pausal value} an eved or a kotz, which is less than a mesharet ."

Let us consider some of these sources and decide whether we are convinced by this. First, Rabbi Avraham ben Rabbi Meir of Balmish, in Mikneh Avraham. He writes regarding the orthography and etymology of the etnachta as follows:

"Atnachta is called this because it is rest {menucha} together with groaning {anacha}, patterned after a man who labors and afterwards sits and groans. And its form testifies to this, for it is below the word, as an arc on the right and and ark on the left, and above towards the left, in the form of a thorn at the point they connect. And it is as if it is a dish turned over on its face, and therefore they call it sachafa {J: Aramaic for overturned}. 

The truth is that they reserved this particular name for the one which is at the head of the verse, as we will say. And it is in the form of making a groaning {anacha} from a man who labors and then sits. And its melody is similar to this, for it is a greater pause than the pause of the zakef katon and in that pause, there is some sort of groan. And also, together with a sort of low and defeated sound, which informs about it that it is below the word, like the tarcha {=tipcha}."

He also writes about the sachfa as follows:

"Sachfa is an atnach at the head of the verse. And it is called this for it is in the form of a turned-over dish, turned on its face."

Competing with this etymology, orthography, and explanation of pausal value is one put forth by William Wickes. First, regarding the orthography and etymology of etnachta:

I would give this explanation great credence. To compare the etymologies, Wickes gives a straightforward grammatical analysis of the word, atnach as the Aramaic infinitive aphel {=causative} of tav-nun-chet, and for atnachta, a nominal verb for which he gives a parallel. In contrast, the former explanation as a blend of the overlapping words anacha and manoach appears rather fanciful.

Also, this etymology of the groaning rest is somewhat tied in, or at the least, reinforced, by the orthography. But Wickes showed that this particular orthography was a while in development. It appears in our earliest codex as a simple inverted V and later on as an inverted U. And only later did it get that stylistic thorn. And he gives a rather nice explanation (that it is silluq combined with tipcha) and parallel to Syriac accentuation. This undermines this orthographic support for the etymology.

At this point, it also undermines the etymology of sachfa, as this type of etnachta, for there is no inversion of a plate to speak of. Unless we can demonstrate that the introduction of this terminology dates to this later orthography. But even if so, that would, in turn, undermine establishing the sachfa as a special kind of etnachta, where it appears at the head of a verse.

Here is how Wickes explains the name sichfa:

Thus, he understands it as a synonym for etnachta, where in different systems, the same trup symbol goes by a different name. He appeals to the orthography of the Babylonian system, in which a tipcha is written as a V and etnachta as an inverted V. Also, sichfa as a play on the word tipcha.

This sounds plausible. And if so, it would not need to be specifically an etnachta at the head of a verse.

Really, we should go through this short list and determine if anything said in these mesorot can shed light on the role of the sichfa. For example, see if when the masora parva {=mesorah ketana} to Vayikra 18:15 refers to a specific sichfa, and check if that occurrence is indeed a case where the etnachta symbol appears on the very first word. I would imagine that the Mikneh Avram must have some basis for what he is saying, either from oral or written tradition, or derived from its usage in masoretic literature.

I have not traced down each of the masorot mentioned by Wickes, but here is one. The Leningrad Codex states:

Thus, every etnachta and sof pasuk has tegaleh with a tzeirei, while the rest have with a segol. This is admittedly strange since a simple search revealed that there is no instance in which תגלה occurs as the last word of a pasuk. Could sof pasuk be an error for sichfa? I don't know. (Perhaps this is just a general way of indicating pausal forms, which occur in these two contexts.) But this is summarized in the Masorah Ketana here, in the same pasuk in Acharei Mos, as:

כל סחופי בצרי, all sechufei are with a tzeirei. Here, no mention is made of sof pasuk, which seems right. But it is discussing an etnachta, and is stating that all etnachtas have a tzeirei. Once again, consideration of all the examples of the word תגלה reveals that it does not occur as the first word of a pasuk. If so, this would be evidence against the interpretation of the Mikneh Avraham, and in favor of Wickes' thesis that it is simply a synonym for a regular etnachta.

I don't think I have access to these Oriental masorot which Wickes mentions, to check whether they can support the thesis of the Mikneh Avraham. If anyone has access, or knows where it is available online, I would much appreciate any help.

(And of course, whether the etnachta symbol has some special value when it appears in the first word of a verse is somewhat dependent on whether this is a unique symbol called sichfa.)

1 comment:

Mark Symons said...

What's also interesting - and consistent with the etnachta not really being an etnachta - is that the tipcha in both pesukim seems to act like an etnachta, and take pausal forms (as it does when there is no etnachta and it serves as the etnachta - as in Nu 9:2
וְיַֽעֲשׂ֧וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל אֶת־הַפָּ֖סַח בְּמֽוֹעֲדֽוֹ׃)


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