Monday, August 20, 2007

Request for Ki Teitzei: An Explanation of the Krei/Ketiv of Naar/Naarah

I'm bumping this up again, to see if I get any response.
I received the following query by email. I have my own response, but thought I'd give it some airtime. Perhaps someone has heard of other, more classic, explanations.

The question:
Could you ask if anyone reading your blog has sen why the word hanaarah appears without a heh so aften in the torah, as in Parshat Ki Tayzei?
My reply was essentially that it is not so much a krei/ketiv as a spelling convention. For example, all over Tanach we have the TA ending with just a tav at the end -- e.g. veahavta, while the word ATA is spelled אתה. The same for chaf sofit, as in uvelechtecha, where there is no heh after it. (In Tehillim from Dead Sea Scrolls, I believe they put the heh ending after the chaf.) The same for nun sofit on occasion. It may well be that in this particular context of a RA ending, no heh is required, and so it is naara with no heh after it. The pronunciation is identical, since the heh is just an em hakeria.

However, it certainly makes sense that other explanations have been given over the years. And, why specifically in Ki Teitzei (besides frequency of naara), why specifically naarah, and why the exception in hanaarah (with the definite article) in Devarim 22:19. Is anyone familiar with any alternate explanations?



Anonymous said...

The simple explanation as to why na'ara is written without the letter hei at the end, is that that was that seems to have been the original spelling convention in Ketav Ivri. An examination of the old Moabite Mesha Stone inscription reveals an absence of letters such as ה, ו and י utilized as vowels. This very fact illustrates that one of the distinguishing features of ancient Hebrew is that it began employing these very letters like vowels to indicate proper pronunciation, a feature that was a revolution in alphabetic writing. However, originaly, this was not the case as can witnessed by their almost total abscence in the Mesha Stele.

In addition, we seem to have dropped the ה at the end of words once we introduced sofit letters, and so na'ara without the final ה was a proper writing convention at that time.

However, I think that you'll like this beautiful explanation from Rabbi Bogomilsky's book Vedibarta Bam.

QUESTION: The word "na'arah" is usually written with a hei. Why is it written here three times without a hei and the fourth time with a hey?
ANSWER: Jewish men and women are sons and daughters of a king (Shabbat 67a). Regarding the daughter of a king, King David says, "Kal kevudah bat melech penimah" — "The complete glory of the princess is within" (Psalms 45:14), which means that Jewish girls should not be out in public, but primarily at home conducting themselves modestly (see Rambam Ishut 13:11).
The man who slanders his wife that she is lacking virginity is in effect accusing her of being out on the streets like a "na'ar" — "a young lad" — and not a "na'arah" — "a young Jewish lady" whose place is inside. Since, he is in effect, accusing her father of not giving her a proper upbringing and supervision. The father plays an active role in her defense. When it is established however, that the husband made a false accusation, he is fined one hundred silver shekels which he must give "la'avi hana'arah" — with a hei — to the father who indeed raised his daughter to behave exactly as is proper for a Jewish young lady.

Anonymous said...

Also interesting that in the Torah "naarah" is ALWAYS spelled without the heh (with 1 exception I believe), and in Nach it is ALWAYS spelled WITH the heh. (Verify this in your local concordance.)

joshwaxman said...



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