Monday, October 22, 2007

BeKisa, BeKoso, BeKaaso

Someone asked me the other day to trace down the statement that a man's nature is revealed in three things: BeKisa, BeKoso, BeKaaso -- in how he spends, how he behaves when drunk, when angry.

It is in Eruvin 65b:
א"ר אילעאי בשלשה דברים אדם ניכר בכוסו ובכיסו ובכעסו ואמרי ליה אף בשחקו
"three things betray a man: his purse, his cup, and his temper"

Rabbi Ilai is a third generation Amora from Eretz Yisrael.

The last part attracted my attention the most. ואמרי ליה אף בשחקו. First off, what is this ואמרי ליה ? Is it not usually veAmri lah, rather than leih? Indeed, this is the text Rabbenu Chananel seems to have. But secondly, veAmri lah usually connotes a girsological variant. But saying this is somewhat difficult, for he explicitly states that a man is judged in three things. Perhaps leih is right, and it refers to the Chachamim who add a 4th?

The last word --בשחקו , or in Rabbenu Chananel's version, בשוחקו. "Mirth" is fitting paired with anger. But it is also interesting phonologically speaking. Each of the three entries in the list sounds similar. It stands to reason that the third should sound similar as well. Of course, it is an addition to the list, so it need not be exactly similar, but somewhat similar would be nice.

Rabbi Illai is from Eretz Yisrael, and they relaxed their gutturals, so the ע in כעסו is fine. And perhaps the chet in שחקו as well.

What about the other letters? Well, the sin corresponds to the samech, and the kuf corresponds to the kaf. The positions of these two are switched, but there is still the sound similarity.

But then, the kaf is really a khaf, in each of the three examples! That is, it occurs after a sheva na or a sheva merachef, so we should not expect a dagesh kal in it to specify the plosive rather than fricative. Perhaps we can say it is still close enough. Or perhaps this could give evidence on a specific pronunciation of the letter in that context at the time. Or perhaps not. Just idle speculation here.

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