Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Deviating From Dikduk To Avoid Negative Omens On Rosh Hashana

A great Magen Avraham in hilchot rosh haShana, in סימן תקפב ס"ק ד ד
אין מחזירין - ואפי' רצה להחזיר אסור בת"ה סי' קמ"ד ועי' סי' ק"ז (ד"מ), זכרנו כתבנו בחטף קמ"ץ, בזכרנו לא יאמר לחיים טובי' רק לחיים עד וכתו' לחיים טובים כל וכו' (לבוש) אבל י"א שגם בוכתוב א"א טובי' עד בספר (מט"מ), לחיים הלמ"ד בשב"א ולא בפת"ח דלא לשתמע לא חיים ודוקא בר"ה קפדי' אבל בכל השנ' אומרים השכיבנו לחיים בפת"ח תחת הלמ"ד ע"פ דקדוק דכשהשב"א באה בתחיל' התיב' באותיות שאינן אח"הע קורין בפת"ח (ב"ח מט"מ) ועמ"ש סי' ח', שהשלטן בקמץ תחת שי"ן שני, ואין לומ' באהב' מקרא קדש רק יום תרועה מקרא קדש, ודברך אמת ואין לומר מלכנו, וכופלין לעילא בכל הקדישים שאומרים (כ"ז במנהגים
ולבוש וב"ח
Thus, the word lechaim should be pronounced with a sheva under the lamed and not with a patach, even though in general, such as in Hashkiveinu, we say it with a patach, according to the rules of dikduk that when the sheva occurs at the beginning of a word on letters that are not gutturals, we read it with a patach. (Based on the Bach.)

The reason for avoiding the grammatically correct patach sound here is that it should not sound like lo chaim, such that it is almost as if we are saying (chas veshalom) "remember us not for life." Thus, he would have us stray from dikduk in order to not give rise to an improper implication, but particularly on Rosh Hashana.

The particular dikduk at issue, though, is one with which I am unfamiliar. It might help to note that the Magen Avraham was Rabbi Avraham Abele Gombiner, a 17th century Polish rabbi, so he is noting Polish (Galician) pronunciation patterns of Hebrew. The Bach, to whom he refers for the dikduk, is Rav Yoel Sirkis, 1561-1640, and also a Polish rabbi.

I am also unsure if he is talking about whether, even in written text, there would be a patach where he claims, or whether it would be written as sheva but just pronounced as patach. After all, in describing it, he writes לחיים הלמ"ד בשב"א ולא בפת"ח דלא לשתמע לא חיים ודוקא בר"ה קפדי' אבל בכל השנ' אומרים השכיבנו לחיים בפת"ח תחת הלמ"ד ע"פ דקדוק, which has strong connotations of the actual vowel under the letter. But he might just be using this as an indication of pronunciation. The end portion, where he cited the principle of dikduk at play, seems to make it clear that there is an actual sheva underneath the letter, but that it is just being pronounced as patach. Thus, ע"פ דקדוק דכשהשב"א באה בתחיל' התיב' באותיות שאינן אח"הע קורין בפת"ח.

I would offer the following interpretation, and welcome further insights in the comment section:

He is not speaking of an actual patach being written in. Indeed, in many cases we have transformation of sheva to full patach. This is due to influence of a chataf patach under the guttural which follows. Since a chataf patach counts as a sheva na, and we cannot have two sheva nas in a row, we upgrade the sheva in the first letter to a full vowel, and specifically the full version of the chataf in the next letter. lechaim is not a good example of this because there is a full patach under the chet, and not a chataf patach. Furthermore, the grammatical principle being cited is one which appears to exist in all letters, regardless of context.

Rather, I believe that he is speaking of a different rule. In some communities, they pronounce (or pronounced) all sheva nas as if they were chataf patachs. And we already know that consistently across the board, a sheva na under a guttural is pronounced as a chataf patach. The grammatical, phonological principle of the Bach appears to be that of course, a sheva under a guttural in the beginning of a word would be pronounced as a patach (that is, as a chataf patach, but who says they make a distinction in vowel length). The chiddush is that for all other letters besides gutturals, even though if a sheva na appeared under it in the rest of the word it would be pronounced in its normal way, as a sheva na, in this particular context of being in the beginning of the word, it is also pronounced as patach (or chataf patach). A slightly variant explanation is that they indeed pronounce chataf patachs, but would only pronounce it under a guttural, while under any other letter it will be a full patach.

It would be illuminating to see the full list of grammatical rules of the Bach, such that we could make a better determination.

Not that this matters to us, since we (or at least I) do not pronounce this as a patach or chataf patach.


Soccer Dad said...

I don't know if I posted this here before, but I remember when I was learning in KBY, travelling to Haifa with a bunch of Israelis where were listening to a Pirchei cassette.

When the boys sang "Hayom haras olam..." the Israelis all started laughing.

Did you talk to Rabbi Rosenberg about the wine? I mentioned it to him and he said it had nothing to do with pagum. I must have remembered incorrectly.

joshwaxman said...

I haven't spoken to his about it yet, but will try this Shabbos. I intend to eventually put in another post -- I've heard it has to do with the diluting of the Din represented by the redness of the wine.
Kol Tuv,


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