Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Careful with your tipcha, or you blaspheme Hashem!

An interesting warning on Minchas Shai on parshat Korach. He says that one must be extremely careful with the trup, and one who is not careful with the tarcha {=tipcha}, when he reaches this pasuk of Bamidbar 17:28, he will forfend blaspheme. And so to in the pasuk in Tehillim 3:2.

Besides linking to the trup, I included a graphical reproduction of the relevant part of the pasuk, with trup. The bottom one is the pasuk from Korach. Now, the mercha is on the word mishkan, and is not a trup symbol which introduces a pause. But the tipcha is on the word Hashem, and does introduce a pause. Thus, as written, we would have:
Whoever comes close to the Tabernacle of Hashem | shall die.
The vertical line in the sentence above marks the position of the pause.
But if the tipcha would be on the word Mishkan, then we could have:
Whoever comes close to the Tabernacle | Hashem shall die.
This is obviously blasphemy.

I wonder if it really is so problematic, since this "blasphemy" is thoroughly unintended. True, one takes steps not to run such problematic phrases together, or to mispronounce an ayin, in Shema. But in trup, I would guess that only those who really know the system realize that besides the music, there are disjunctive vs. conjunctive accents. I think there is an idea of invalidating a disjunctive substituted for conjunctive, or vice versa. But in terms of whether there is real "blasphemy," such that one should get upset at this butchering of the trup over any other, I don't know.

The pasuk in Tehillim has the disjunctive accent on Hashem, so it is:
Hashem | how many are my adversaries.
But with the pause placed elsewhere, such as after the word ma, we can get:
Hashem is what? | my adversaries are increased.

Update: An Anonymous commenter notes that Shaarei Teshuva (note 14) lays out similar concerns. He also suggests that the Tehillim verse should be misparsed as:
How is Hashem increased {=made plural} | my adversaries.

which is plausible, though then the full pasuk would not make sense. Which is quite possibly OK in this issue of implies blasphemy.


yaak said...

On the other hand, since it is a Patah under the Kaf (as opposed to a Kametz), which makes it samuch to the following word, the word "Mishkan" by itself is nonsensical, so ח"ו saying the next 2 words would not make sense in context.

But, I submit myself to the Minhat Shai.

joshwaxman said...

good point.
on the other hand, this works for Ashkenazim, but probably not for Sefardim and Israelis who are kametz challenged. and anyway, the words by themselves imply it, ignoring the context.
but i hear what you're saying...


BrooklynWolf said...

Another good example of this can be found in Eicha (2:20). Say it the wrong way and it sounds like God was killed in the Mikdash.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why all of your intellectual posturing is necessary. We take great pains not to come close to saying anything that sounds even remotely blasphemous. Surely this falls into that category (and this isn't "just" a Minchas Shai; see the Shaarei Teshuva O"CH 61:14). Whether it is unintended by the reader makes absolutely no difference. And your argument that not many truly understand the trup system, is just ridiculous. You are splitting hairs where you shouldn't be.

Yaak, your argument is even worse. So what if "Mishkan" with a patach is not technically grammatically correct. Two wrongs don't make a right! The concern is that "HaShem" and "Yamus" will be grouped together, period.

Finally, once we're splittng hairs: you butchered the butchering of the other pasuk. The mistake would not be "Hashem is what? | my adversaries are increased" (HUH??) implying a pause after the word "mah" (nobody would make that mistake, since the word "mah" has a makaf) but the mistaken pause comes after the word "rabu", implying chas v'sholom that there are multiple Gods.

joshwaxman said...

you are entitled to your position.

but i like yaak's argument. his point , if I may be so bold, is not that it is two wrongs, but that the resulting reparse does not yield a blasphemy, because the reparse does not make sense. it needs to be a grammatical sentence to make sense, and only after that can the sensible sentence be blasphemous or not. plus, that it does not make sense would cause one to correctly parse, despite the putative musical message which is probably meaningless to the baal koreh and his listeners.

your analysis of Hashem mah rabu tzarai sounds plausible. and thanks for the halachic reference. bli neder, i'll try to check it out.


Anonymous said...

That simply isn't true. You are over-intellectualizing the Minchas Shai. The sentence does not have to be grammatically correct for it to be blasphemous. The second example of "HaShem mah rabu tzarai" proves that. "Tzarai" makes no sense as a stand-alone word, yet the Minchas Shai was concerned about pausing after the word "rabu". Even according to your misinterpretation, "Hashem mah" is non-sensical. Yet there was still a concern of making a false statement.

joshwaxman said...

again, feel free to argue. but in my misinterpretation, i did not see this as a nonsensical statement, but rather implying that Hashem does not exist, which is a blasphemous rather than false statement.

now "The sentence does not have to be grammatically correct for it to be blasphemous" may be true, and may indeed be what Minchas Shai is saying. but one could theoretically oppose that and say that the sentence needs to be a sentence. nonsense is nonsense, neither truth nor blasphemy, in this position.



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