Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Early skirmish in the war against Christmas. (By the way, I like the word "skirmish." It sounds like something they would have made up at Mad Mag.) Anyhow, early skirmish (gleeful chortle about saying it again) in the war against Christmas: the drugstore at Dempster and Crawford (as they quaintly call Pulaski out in Skokie) is already selling Chanukka/Chanukkah/Hanukka/Hanukkah stuff (I list them alphabetically).
And to give the opening shot in another seasonal war, I don't care whether you spell it with a "Ch" or an "H"! I don't care whether you spell it with an "h" at the end! The important thing is you use one "n" and two "k"s. And also, you shouldn't accent the "a," since it isn't a real syllable.A Facebook friend (and why doesn't Facebook have interlocutors as well as friends? I mean, this guy actually is a friend, but he was also an interlocutor in this case) asked why I "insisted" ("insisted"? jeesh) on one en and two kays. This is my answer.
The real answer is that I just wanted to stir the pot a little by starting a seasonal spelling fight while not engaging in the "Ch/H" controversy. But I'll also give Hebraiqally geeqy answer to the question of why you "should" use one en and two kays, and also explain that it isn't really relevant.
Most Hebrew consonants can accommodate a dot (dagesh) in the middle. With almost all such consonants (including nun) it means the consonant should be doubled. The nun in חֲנֻכׇּה has no dot, therefore it's not doubled. That was the easy part.
So now we come to the "almost all such consonants" part. When a hei or an alef has a dot, the dot is called a mappiq. With the hei, the dot means the hei should be pronounced (like when a person saying Kaddish goes "shemeihhhh rabba"). You don't find many alefs with mappiqs, and when you do it means you should make sure to do the glottal stop.
But anyhow, there are six consonants--bet, gimmel, dalet, kaf, peh, and tav, the bgdkft letters--where the dagesh can mean one of two things. It can either mean that you pronounce the letter as a stop instead of a fricative, or it can mean that you both double it and pronounce it as a stop instead of a fricative. (I've heard that Yemenite Hebrew makes the stop/fricative distinction with all six bgdkft letters. Most of us reading this don't.) So which is it with the kaf in חֲנֻכׇּה? Obviously it's a "k" instead of a "chhhhhh," but that's true with both options. But is the "k" doubled?
Two things suggest that it's doubled. First, the diagonal row of dots (a qubbutz) is a short vowel, which suggests that the syllable is closed, which would mean that it's a doubling dot (don't ask). Second, we can look at nouns with the same pattern of vowels as חֲנֻכׇּה but with a non-bgdkft letter in the same position as the kaf. If those letters have a dagesh, they must be doubling dageshim. And if we look at such words, like גֽדֻלָּה and קְדֻשׇּׁה, we find that the non-bgdkft letters in that position do have dageshim. This also makes it very likely that the kaf in חֲנֻכׇּה is doubled.
But wait a minute there!, you may be exclaiming. In those two supposedly vowelly similar words, the vowel with the first letter is the two vertical dots, and in חֲנֻכׇּה it's a horizontal line with the two dots to the left of it. What the heck? Good question. The two piled dots (a sheva, whence the English "shewa") are sometimes silent and sometimes pronounced like a shewa. Under the first letter of a word, it's always pronounced. Even when it's pronounced, a sheva isn't considered a full-fledged vowel, and it doesn't form a real syllable. But anyhow, the chhhet and/or heth, the first letter in חֲנֻכׇּה, can't take a pronounced sheva (neither can alef, hei, or ayin). So what to do? You use what looks like a combination of a real vowel and a sheva--a semivowel. And like a sheva, a semivowel isn't a complete vowel and doesn't form a syllable. And can't be accented. Which is why I said you shouldn't accent the first "a" in Hanukkah (or whatever).
But this is just pretending that the "Hanukkah" (or however you spell it) that we say in English is Hebrew. It isn't, although it obviously comes from Hebrew. It's English. And it's--I don't know, sociolinguists probably have a name for it--let's call it Anglophone Jewish Intracommunal Patois (AJIP--I was hoping it would end up having a cool abbrev, but it didn't) (although to paraphrase Paul Robeson, "When Israel was in AJIP land, Let my people go"). Anyhow, AJIP words don't come directly from Hebrew--they come from Yiddish, where it's just fine to accent "Hanukkah" on the first syllable.
The entire staff of Consider the Source wish our entire readership a happy holiday.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Sunday, May 05, 2013
(I'll let that stand as a paragraph by itself so you can let it sink in and go "Wha?" [I mean so you, not the paragraph, can go "Wha?"!]!)The prayer begins, "My God, keep my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking guile. May my soul be silent before those who curse me, and may my soul [nefesh] be like dust [ʿafar] before all."
The Hebrew for "keep my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking guile," except for the possessives, comes directly from Psalm 34:14: "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking guile." The difference is important. In Judaism, we have free will--we are responsible for our own ethical behavior. We may ask God for strength, but we do not ask God to prevent us from doing wrong things; we need to prevent ourselves from doing them. "My God, keep my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking guile" is a complete distortion of Jewish ethics."May my soul be silent before those who curse me, and may my soul [nefesh] be like dust [ʿafar] before all." This may sound like a prayer to be a forgiving person, but it isn't. Dust can't forgive. Even if it could forgive, it has no reason to, since it can't be offended. Dust isn't human. We are. Forgiveness is an activity, and this is a prayer for passivity.The language of Eloqai Netsor reminds us of Genesis 2:7: God formed man from dust [ʿafar] and breathed life into him, and man became a living soul [nefesh]. In the verse, God forms us from ʿafar and we become a living nefesh; in the prayer, we ask that our nefesh be like ʿafar. For those who take the verse seriously--and note that I didn't say "literally"--this prayer should seem both ungrateful and dehumanizing.
Just to clear up any ambiguity, I'll point out that I dislike Eloqai Netsor.I no longer say Eloqai Netsor; if you know anybody whose first name is "Rabbi," please don't tell them about it. Note that I'm not saying others shouldn't say it. If I were compiling a siddur, it would include Eloqai Netsor in its proper places, since it would be an Orthodox siddur. But there would also be a note saying that some have the practice of replacing it with Hareini Moḥel. The note would be true, since I make that replacement.
Hareini Moḥel is an "I forgive" statement that precedes the bedtime Shema (also known as the hypnagogic "Hark!"!)! It appears in many siddurim at the beginning of the bedtime Shema song and dance. The various Korens and ArtScrolls include it, but Birnbaum does not. Some versions are longer than others, some are more annoying than others. I use a brief rendition, which includes nonannoying material found in all the versions:
I forgive all who have angered or annoyed me, and all who have sinned against me, whether against my body, my possessions, my honor, or anything that is mine; whether under compulsion or willingly; whether mistakenly or maliciously; whether by passing thought, by planning, by word, or by deed. Let no human being be punished on my account.Hareini Moḥel divides those whom you're forgiving into two categories--those who have angered or annoyed you, and those who have sinned against you. Note that people in the first category didn't necessarily do anything to you--it's about your reaction to them, not about what they've done to you. This shows a realistic understanding of anger. Maybe they annoy you just by existing; maybe they just grate on your nerves. You're forgiving them not necessarily because of anything they've done, but because you need to let go and mensh out. Can someone belong to both categories of people you're forgiving? Of course. (Silly and annoying question; I forgive you for asking, for existing, and for frowning [don't deny it! I saw it!] at my spelling of mensh.)In Eloqai Netsor one whines: someone cursed me!, I'm going to suffer in silence, and I want my soul to be like dust (maybe it's unfair to call it whining--writing this post is putting me on an anti-Eloqai-Netsor roll). In Hareini Moḥel, we act like adults. We acknowledge that some of our anger may not be rational, we forgive everyone, and we take responsibility.
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, is a non-profit international organization offering wide range of resources, services, and educational programs to the world-wide Jewish community, including helping those with unwanted addictions and habits. JONAH works directly with those who struggle and with their families and friends. For more information go to www.jonahweb.org or call 201-433-3444.If you go to the website, as I did, you'll find that JONAH is "dedicated to educating the world-wide Jewish community about the social, cultural and emotional factors which lead to same-sex attractions." That seems to be JONAH's entire program. It does not seem to deal at all with chemical addictions. The notice in Likutei is very misleading, and it appears to be intentionally so.
As shandes go, this is minor stuff. The notice doesn't rape children or throw acid in anyone's face. JONAH doesn't seem to verbally abuse homosexuals. Nevertheless, the notice probably gave a moment of false hope to the reader who was looking for an Ortho org that deals with chemical addictions. Whoever placed the notice should be more careful, ashamed of themselves, or both.
Friday, April 27, 2012
I think the most intimidating part about it is that initial On in the title. This guy was serious. Some is also impressive.
Monday, April 16, 2012
This post follows the custom of Prof. Werner Weinberg (cited below) and abbreviates ḥq = ḥaṭaf qamaṣ, qg = qamaṣ gadol, and qq = qamaṣ qaṭan.
Let me apologize for not dealing with the meteg. I believe that the meteg is often useful in determining the status of a qamaṣ, but has so many other uses that it isn’t always reliable. I remembered to write about the meteg at the last minute, and this post has been on my virtual desk for so long, so I’m putting the discussion off until another time (b”n). I apologize, because I know some of you are interested in the meteg. Why don’t you write about it, and I can just comment on your post?
So now to finally begin (or is finally beginning illogical? whatever).
In a post dated November 29, 2011, I announced that I disagreed with what I called the ṣohorayim rule (actually, at the time I called it the tzohorayim rule)--the rule that when a qamaṣ precedes a guttural with a ḥq, that qamaṣ is a qq. Although I disagreed with the rule then, I now believe that such a qamaṣ is in fact often, or even usually, a qq, as the rule predicts. But let’s discuss qamaṣim in general before we get to the question of those that are followed by a guttural with a ḥq.
As Gesenius notes in section 9u of his Grammar (downloadable here), “The grammatical origin of the words in question…is of course the surest guide” to the status of a qamaṣ. Makes perfect sense, and in fact the qamaṣ in צָהֳרַיִם is a qq under this guideline, since the word is the dual form of צֹהַר (the qq is the short vowel corresponding to the ḥolam). This, like Gesenius’s statement, is intuitive.
Without any knowledge of a word’s origin, we rely on two qualities of the qq: it must be in an unaccented closed syllable. There seems to be unanimous agreement that an accented qamaṣ is always a qg. But an unaccented qamaṣ in an open syllable may be a qq, and one in a closed syllable may be a qg. Everyone seems to agree that the first qamaṣ in שָׁרָשִׁים is a qq, but it is in an open syllable. This is consistent with Gesenius's generalization; שָׁרָשִׁים is the plural of שֹׁרֶשׁ.
There is at least one whole category of closed unaccented qamaṣim that are gedolim: the ⊃atei meraḥiq, discussed in Gesenius 20f. When one word that ends with an unaccented open qamaṣ or segol has a conjunctive cantillation and is followed by a word that begins with an accented syllable (this includes monosyllables), the first letter of the second word often takes a dageš ḥazaq. The open qamaṣ that ends the first word was and remains a qg, even after it’s closed by the dageš. An example of ⊃atei meraḥiq given by Gesenius is שׇׁבִיתׇ שֶּׁבִי (Psalms 68:19). The first word is accented on the bet, the second on the šin. The qamaṣ at the end of the first word is a qg, and it is closed by the dageš ḥazaq in the šin. Thus, the syllable is closed, and yet the qamaṣ remains a qg.
What about the inflected forms of רֹאשׁ that begin with -רָאשׁ? This seems like an obvious case where we need a qq. So why do people treat it like a qg? According to Gesenius (97, near the end [97 isn’t divided into subsections]) רֹאשׁ is “obscured from רָאשׁ"--that is, its ur-form (which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s from Aramaic) is רָאשׁ. There's no way of knowing this if you don't know anything about other Semitic languages; those who have never heard of Ras Tafari should probably pronounce these words with a qq.
Finally, let’s talk about Mordecai. Everybody seems to agree that the name מָרֽדֽכַי comes from the Persian name “Marduk.” If that is correct, and if “Marduk” is pronounced “Marduk,” and if the surest guide to the status of a qamaṣ is its origin, why is the qamaṣ in מָרֽדֽכַי not a qg?
Now, let’s return to the ṣohorayim rule. My former reasoning, which I now reject, was straightforward. A qq, I assumed, has to be in a closed unaccented syllable. More importantly, I assumed that a syllable that ends with a ḥaṭaf vowel is an open syllable. Why? Well, it sure doesn’t sound closed. And in the recorded ši⊂urim that first got me interested in this stuff, the lecturer said that you can identify open and closed syllables by their sound (assuming that one pronounces an ⊂ayin at the end of a syllable). Let’s use צָהֳרַיִם itself as an example. The first syllable can’t end with the hei; if it did, the first thing in the next syllable would be the ḥq. That won’t work, because the first thing in a syllable has to be a consonant. But if the first syllable is the ṣade and the qamaṣ, then the syllable is open, and the qamaṣ has to be gadol. (A reminder: I no longer accept this argument.)
I was about to reaffirm my earlier post but allow for exceptions and leave it at that until I came across a paper by Werner Weinberg, “The Qamāṣ Qāṭān Structures.” Weinberg identifies three ways of determining the status of a given qamaṣ--the etymological (he cites the statement of Gesenius that appears near the beginning of this post regarding the origin of a given qamaṣ), the phonological (a qq appears in a closed unaccented syllable), and the morphological. As its title suggests, the paper is largely devoted to morphology. Although Weinberg talks about these as three approaches, he doesn’t actually treat them as separate. At the end of the etymology section, he writes (paragraph 1.4), “Aside from obvious cases, one has to be an accomplished Semitist to use a purely etymological approach--and yet, even the expert cannot always decide between qq and qg.” The footnote attached to this statement lists fourteen footnotes that cite Semiticist minority reports on certain qamaṣim, and all are in the section on morphology, even though he had just said that these were disagreements on etymology.
(Weinberg’s paper has several illogical arguments around the edges. I mention this not out of disrespect for Weinberg, but because I’m implicitly sort of recommending the paper by citing it, and I believe it’s my duty to warn people.)
Anyhow, the insight. The main thing we’re taught about ḥaṭaf vowels, other than that they’re shorter than short, is that they appear under guttural letters when a ševa⊃ na⊂ would otherwise be called for; a ševa⊃ na⊂ can’t appear under a guttural. True enough. But what isn’t dwelled on as much is the fact that a ḥaṭaf vowel can also stand in for a ševa⊃ naḥ. We see examples of this all over the Hebrew language. Consider some hif⊂ils. Look, for example, at מַבְדִּיל. It seems noncontroversial that the ševa here is naḥ. Therefore, the ḥaṭaf pataḥ in מַחֲזִיק must be standing in for a ševa⊃ naḥ.
OK. Now. Here comes the insight I got from Weinberg (wait for it!). Weinberg has several lists, by category, of words that take qq. I quote the beginning of section 3.1.1 (one of several that make this point):
3.1.1. qoṭl-type nouns, singular inflected: אׇהֳלִי (Jer 10 20), etc. [incl. pr. nouns]; אׇזְנִי (I Sam 20 2), etc….And a few other sections of Weinberg contain similar lists: 3.1.2 (qoṭl-type dual nouns, including our old friend צָהֳרָיִם [Isaiah 16:3]) and 3.1.3 (qoṭl-type nouns plural construct, such as אׇהֳלֵי [Numbers 16:26]).
Don’t worry, the insight is in the next paragraph.
All of the examples I’ve cited (although not all that Weinberg lists) are consistent with Gesenius’s statement about the origin of the qamaṣ: all come from words whose uninflected singulars have a ḥolam. But in terms of the argument about the ṣohorayim rule, here’s the insight. All of these are, according to Weinberg, lists of “qoṭl-type nouns.” In other words, the second radical carries a ševa⊃ naḥ. The ḥq under the hei in oholi stands in for a ševa naḥ. The first syllable of the word isn’t the qamaṣ ⊃alef; the first syllable is the qamaṣ ⊃alef and the ḥq hei, and (my big insight from Weinberg) it is a closed syllable. The qamaṣ under the ⊃alef meets the criteria for a qq without invoking the ṣohorayim rule. My big insight should have been obvious--when a syllable ends with a ḥaṭaf vowel that stands in for a ševa⊃ naḥ, it’s a closed syllable. My problem, as I mentioned earlier, was that I assumed that closed syllables sound like they end with a consonant. [Note to myself: remember to include video of me smashing a rotten eggplant on my head in sheer embarrassment.] The first syllable of צָהֳרָיִם is צָהֳ, but its underlying form is צָהּ; it is a closed syllable. So now I conclude that the ṣohorayim rule often works.
But not always. R’ Mordecai Breuer writes, “A qamaṣ that precedes a ḥaṭaf qamaṣ whose source is a ševa⊃ naḥ is considered a short vowel.” Note the restriction--“whose source is a ševa⊃ naḥ.” This strongly suggests that he rejects the ṣohorayim rule as a universal generalization. So do I.
Let’s look at a few other cases. What about כָּאֳנִיּוֹת (Proverbs 31:14), which we sing Friday nights as part of “⊃Ešet ḥayil”? Here we have a qamaṣ preceding a guttural with a ḥq; how is it pronounced? According to Gesenius (102d), a prefixed prepositional bet, kaf, or lamed that is attached to a ḥaṭaf letter takes the full vowel associated with that ḥaṭaf. Based on some words that are familiar from worship, this makes intuitive sense. Consider בֶּאֱמֶת and לַאֲדוֹנֵי. Using this reasoning, it’s clear that the qamaṣ in כָּאֳנִיּוֹת is a qq. And obviously, since אֳנִיּוֹת begins with a ševa⊃ na⊂--words don’t begin with a ševa⊃ naḥ--this qq is an open syllable.
Although it is obviously open, it may be nonobviously closed. And at this point I’m speculating even more cluelessly than usual. Clearly, an initial ḥaṭaf is standing in for a ševa⊃ na⊂, since there is no initial ševa⊃ naḥ. Nevertheless, let’s look at what happens in a word that begins with a plain old simple ševa⊃ na⊂, and imagine what would happen if the gutturals could take a ševa⊃ na⊂. An asterisk indicates a hypothetical form that doesn’t really exist.
1b. אְנִיּוֹת *
Both of these ševa⊃s are na⊂, since they go with the first letter. Now let’s add a prepositional kaf to both. Without making any of the necessary changes, the words become
2a. כְּצְדָקָה *
2b. כְּאְנִיּוֹת *
I don’t know whether these hypothetical ševa⊃s would be na⊂ or naḥ. I suspect they’d be na⊂, and for our present purposes it doesn’t matter. Let’s go one further step, again treating word b like word a.
3b. כִּאְנִיּוֹת *
The real ševa⊃ in 3a becomes naḥ in this situation, and so does the hypothetical one in 3b. Is it possible that כָּאֳנִיּוֹת is derived from 3b? If so, once again we have a closed syllable.
What happens when the article is prefixed to a ḥaṭaf? Gesenius notes that before a guttural, depending on the details, the vowel in the article either remains a pataḥ or is “modified to a Seghôl or fully lengthened to Qameṣ” (35e) (emphasis added; Gesenius’s italics on the names of the vowels deleted to emphasize my emphasis). In other words, it’s a qg. Before an ⊂ayin with a ḥq, the article has a qamaṣ (35k), as in הׇעֳמׇרִים (Ruth 2:15). This is a qg preceding a guttural that has a ḥq: exactly what the ṣohorayim rule doesn't allow.
The last instance or noninstance of the ṣohorayim rule that I discuss concerns a postbiblical form. Near the end of the ⊂Al ḥeṭ, we call God
סׇלְחׇן לישראל ומׇחֳלׇן לשבטי ישורון
I’ve been assuming (maybe incorrectly) that סׇלְחׇן and מׇחֳלׇן have the same vowels. If so, what are they? Is the first qamaṣ a qg (with ševa⊃ na⊂ and a ḥaṭaf qamaṣ coming from a na⊂), or is it a qq (with naḥs)?
The dictionaries I’ve looked at all have מׇחֳלׇן. They also all have an entry for סׇלְחׇן, סַלֽחָן, with the pataḥ version appearing first. I surmise that these are two different pointings for the same word, rather than synonyms, because if they were two different related and synonymous words, they would have separate entries. Since the pataḥ is the short vowel that corresponds to the qg, I gather that the vowel in סׇלְחׇן is a qg--it just seems less Occamly plausible for the two pointings of the same word to differ by a pataḥ and a qq. The mishnaic grammar of M. H. Segal lists some basic forms of nouns formed by adding a final nun:
The correct vowels for סׇלְחׇן may be irrelevant. It’s irresponsible to guess authorial intention, especially for me--I mean, well, I’m clueless about my own intentions most of the time. Nevertheless, I’m guessing that the author of the prayer intended that סׇלְחׇן and מׇחֳלׇן be pronounced with the same vowels, so that’s what I’m going to do.
Cluelessness, uninformed speculation, weak assumptions, wild guesses, and more cluelessness, always cluelessness--what blogging is all about. Please comment and correct.
 קמץ הבא לפני חטף קמץ, שמקורו שוא נח, נחשב תנועה קטנה. R. Mordecai Breuer, Ṭa⊂amei ha-miqra⊃ (Jerusalem: Ḥorev, 1989), p. טז (frontmatter).
 M. H. Segal, A Grammar of Mishnaic Hebrew (Oxford: Clarendon, 1927), 119; downloadable here.
 Seligmann Baer, Seder ⊂Avodat Israel (Rödelheim: Lehrberger, 1901), 100. Hebrewbooks.org has two scans of it--here and here. Some pages have clearer scans in one version, some in the other.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Before donating blood, remember to hydrate yourself. Also, especially if you’re a female person, iron up. (Personal note: I got a ninety-day ineligibility because my iron was just a little bit below the threshold last time I went to donate. For females, it’s three weeks. The reason is that it’s more unusual for a male to have low iron.)
See you there! February 2, when I’m eligible again. But don’t wait for me.