Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Shemot: the placement of the etnachta in Shemot 1:1

The first pasuk in sefer Shemot is:
Note the placement of the etnachta, on the word mitzrayma. Rabbi Yehuda Leib Spira, in Harechasim Levik’a:

writes the following, referencing the placement of the etnachta:

(Shemot 1:1) “Each man and his household came”: with Yaakov came each man and his household. Therefore the etnachta is on the word mitzrayma.

The idea here appears to be that there were two possible parsings of the pasuk:

Had the etnachta been on the word Yaakov, then the pasuk would read:

(A) “And these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt with Yaakov: each man came with his household.”

However, since the etnachta is on mitzrayma, the words et-Yaakov bind to the second part of the pasuk, and so the pasuk reads:

(B) “And these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt: with Yaakov, each man came with his household.”

From Rabbi Spira’s choice of language, I think he is saying that the correct parsing comes first. And the trup follows the correct parsing. This is somewhat different from saying that the trup is X, and therefore the correct parsing follows from it. Maybe I am reading too much into this. Regardless, let us consider the two parsings and see which one is more appealing.

Weighing the alternatives in my head, (B) feels right, while (A) feels more awkward. It is hard to pin down exactly what. It is a feeling, in (B), that the first segment is fine and complete in stating that these are the ones who came down to Egypt, and the second segment delineates nicely that they came down with Yaakov. Meanwhile, in (A), adding et Yaakov to the first segment seems unnecessary, and having the second segment a bare ish uveito ba’u seems too brief, not to mention abrupt.

We can also look to the end of Vayigash, in Bereishit 46:8, which this opening pasuk is appearing to echo:

Up to the etnachta in pasuk 8 is the parallel to the entirety of Shemot 1:1. And that pasuk reads:

“And these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt | Yaakov and his sons. The firstborn of Yaakov, Reuven.”

Thus, eliminating the segment of “the firstborn of Yaakov, Reuven”, there are two ideas left, and “Yaakov and his sons” belongs in the second segment.

Thus, both an internal weighing of the feel of the pasuk and a comparison to the Biblical parallel / source pasuk in Vayigash corroborates the parsing given by the trup.


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