Tuesday, December 06, 2011

How can the amplifying 'azla geresh' appear on קטנתי?

Summary: Assuming -- and it is an assumption -- the role of azla geresh is to amplify and make great, how can it appear on word קטנתי? Birkas Avraham has a ready explanation based on a Zohar. Or, this is a good reason that some switch the azla geresh for a revii. But perhaps this azla geresh gives the lie to the theory. I offer a bit of analysis, based on Wickes, of both azla geresh and revii.

Post: On the pasuk of קטנתי מכל  החסדים, Birkas Avraham writes:

1. A reason for the trup of azla geresh in the word קטנתי -- one who is small is great.
In the pasuk (32:11) קטנתי מכל  החסדים ומכל האמת... ("I am less than all the kindness and truth...), the word קטנתי has the trup in all the Chumashim with an azla geresh [that is, a geresh by itself, without a leading kadma], and there are those for whose emotions this is not understood: that upon the littleness there should be a trup like this. And there are those who read, because of this, with the trup of revii, and I don't know if such is found in the masorah. And in truth, there is already in the holy Zohar (volume 1, page 122b regarding Sarah Imeinu, and in volume 3, page 168a) "one who is small is great." And regarding Yaakov is is stated that he is the קטן. And how fitting is for him the trup of azla geresh, for behold he went (azal) and divorced himself (nitgaresh) from his father's house from the fear of Esav, and returned to his greatness. And perhaps this greatening trup hints to the position of Rabbi Levi in Midrash Rabba (parasha 76, siman 3), 'I am worthy, but I have lessened, etc., see inside.'

I'll note first that indeed, we find this in the masorah of the Teimanim. Thus, they have:
Birkas Avraham's question is based on a different (modern?) theory of trup which gives a semantic meaning to each occurrence of a given trup symbol. Thus, a tevir always means X and azla geresh always means Y. And so, each occurrence is explained. And where the (made-up) rule is violated, that is not a disproof but a cause for derasha, or creative acrobatics. (I am being mean.)

Meanwhile, according to the theory of trup advanced by Wickes, there is a rather mechanical system in place in which the verse is continuously divided into clauses and subclauses based on pure syntactic rules, and the trup symbol used to mark the division is mechanically calculated based on the trup symbol at the end of the clause and the distance in words until the end of the clause. The trup symbols still can inform us about meaning, but usually just by selecting a particular syntactic parse of the pasuk, yielding a specific parse tree with a specific overarching meaning.

(As an aside, there is a weirdness in the development of the names of trup, in which kadma was called azla, but with azla then transferring to the geresh via kadma ve'azla. See Wickes inside.)

With the azla geresh vs. the revii, we have two competing parses, each of which we should perhaps consider in turn.

With an azla geresh in place on the first word, we have the following parsing. In the first half of the pasuk (up to the etnachta):

קָטֹנְתִּי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ אֶת-עַבְדֶּךָ

we have two divisions at the level that subdivides etnachta -- namely, the zakef at הָאֱמֶת and the tipcha at עָשִׂיתָ. The earlier (zakef, הָאֱמֶת) one takes hold first, and so the second marks a minor dichotomy. Thus, we have so far:

קָטֹנְתִּי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת ||  אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ | אֶת-עַבְדֶּךָ

The place of the minor dichotomy on the right side of הָאֱמֶת will be marked by revii or pashta. There is only one such trup symbol on the right-hand side, namely the pashta on הַחֲסָדִים, and so the minor dichotomy is there. Therefore, we have:

קָטֹנְתִּי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים | וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת ||  אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ | אֶת-עַבְדֶּךָ

The geresh at קָטֹנְתִּי is what marks a dichotomy of a clause ending in revii or pashta, and so, it subdivides קָטֹנְתִּי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים into

קָטֹנְתִּי | מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים

but this also at the lesser level. Thus, in total, we have:

קָטֹנְתִּי | מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים || וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת |||  אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ || אֶת-עַבְדֶּךָ

However, if we have a revii in place at קָטֹנְתִּי, then the picture is slightly different. Backtrack to where we had:

קָטֹנְתִּי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת ||  אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ | אֶת-עַבְדֶּךָ

There are now two trup-symbols which can subdivide a clause ending in zakef, at הָאֱמֶת. One is the pashta at הַחֲסָדִים, but the other is the revii at קָטֹנְתִּי. And the earlier one is the one that takes hold as the major dichotomy, with the later one marking the minor dichotomy.

And so, we have:

קָטֹנְתִּי | מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת ||  אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ | אֶת-עַבְדֶּךָ

Or, marking all the dichotomies with relative divisions:

קָטֹנְתִּי || מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים | וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת |||  אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ || אֶת-עַבְדֶּךָ

If I had to select between the two, I would choose our trup, that of azla geresh. The word קטנתי is a Verb. And as Wickes writes, in such a case, "the weight of the clause lies at the end; and the last member is first separated by the dichotomy, then the second from the end, and so on till we reach the verb.

Recall that with azla geresh, the division was:
קָטֹנְתִּי | מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים || וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת |||  אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ || אֶת-עַבְדֶּךָ

That is, we first separated off the Preposition Phrase at the end, אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ אֶת-עַבְדֶּךָ. Then we separated off one element of the list of Objects from the predicate, וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת. Finally, we separate off the first of the list of Objects, מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים.

However, I would not say that the revii is at all impossible or even difficult. As Wickes writes on the same page, sometimes the compound member is treated as separate members and sometimes it is first grouped together. With the revii in place, what occurs is the grouping together of מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת prior to division.

So, I would not really select either of the two as "correct". Both seem to work. I know this is not very exciting, but nevertheless, it is an attempt to apply the boring yet consistent mechanical methodology to analyzing trup.

Note: See the Chazanut group. The switch-off appears not only on katonti but also on in Parshat Va'era, Gen 21:12, on the word vatelech.


Jr said...

I think you mean 21:19.
There is also one in noach 10:32 on the word ומאלה.

joshwaxman said...

thanks. yes. i copied the reference without double-checking it.

Anonymous said...

I think you've mistranslated the BA. It should I think be (starting after your inserted square brackets, and sticking as closely as feasible to your translation so as to point out he differences rather than translating as I would normally):

and there are those for whose emotions this is not understood: that upon the littleness there should be a trup like this. And [... same until:] And how fitting is for him the trup of [...]

joshwaxman said...

thanks. I'll look it over and correct the post.

kol tuv,

joshwaxman said...

thanks. i modified the translation in accordance with your correction.


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