Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Kriat Shema 2:9
9. [following from Halakhah 8, where Rambam ruled that the reading
must be done carefully...] How should he be careful?
He should take care not to "weaken" a strong letter, nor
"strengthen" a weak letter; not to "move" a "stationary" Sh'va
nor to make stationary a moving Sh'va.
Therefore, he must leave space between the "connected" letters -
between any two letters which are similar, where one comes at the
end of a word and the other begins the next word. For instance:
*b'khoL L'vav'kha*,he should first read *b'khoL*, wait a bit and
then read *L'vav'kha*. Similarly with *va'avad'teM M'hera*,
He must enunciate the *zayin* of *l'ma'an tiZ'k'ru*.
He must extend the *dalet* of *echaD* (in the first verse), in
order to crown God in the heavens, on earth and in the four
directions. However, he must not slur the *het* (in *eCHad*), so
that it doesn't sound like *ei chad*.
[RABD1: "How should he be careful..." I don't know what's lost if
he "moves" a stationary schwa, if he says *b'khol l'vavkha*,
leaving the second *bet* stationary, so that it won't sound like
a *vav*; similarly, if he enunciates the *Yod* in *Yisra'el* so
that it doesn't sound like an *Alef* or anything of that sort,
let him "move" the stationary vowels and this is praiseworthy.
Similarly *Nish'ba'* must be separated (from God's Name which
follows - end of the second Parasha) so that the *Alef* is not
"swallowed" by the *Ayin*]
[RABD2: "He must extend the *dalet*..." some say, he also
shouldn't extend the *Alef* too much, so that it doesn't sound
like *ei chad*.]
[this shiur is more of an introduction to some of the nuances of
Hebrew pronunication; some of our more experienced and learned
Haverim may find that this is "old ground" - but review is also a
part of learning!]
In Memory of Judy Licht (Yehudit bat R'euven)
May her soul be bound up with the bonds of eternal life.
The Hebrew language, unlike English, is generally written with
consonants only. Therefore, proper vocalization (putting vowel
connectors between the consonants) depends on the *niqud* -
markings above or below the consonant. Errors of this type,
while easily made by the novice, can render a wholly different
meaning to the word. As Meir points out (below), there are two
issues at play here: proper pronunciation and comprehensible
pronunciation. In other words, it is possible to be understood
correctly while mispronouncing a word (for instance, saying
"Yisra'el" instead of "Yisra'eil"); yet some errors in
pronounciation lead to miscommunications (e.g. *Qal* - light,
instead of *Qol* - voice).
Almost all of the vowel markings bear consistent sounds - they
are vocalized the same way in every circumstance. Except for the
*Qamatz Qattan*, which will be addressed later, the only vowel
marking which is vocalized differently, depending on the context,
is the *Sh'va'*. In order to understand how the Sh'va' (marked
with two vertical dots - ":" underneath the consonant) operates,
we must first introduce the two types of Hebrew syllables.
T'NUA' Q'TANAH AND T'NUA' G'DOLAH
A syllable is known as a "T'nua'"; Hebrew includes "big"
syllables ("T'nua' G'dolah") and "small" syllables ("T'nua'
Q'tanah"). The rule is simple: if the vowel in question is a
long vowel, the syllable driven by that vowel is a T'nua'
G'dolah. If the syllable is driven by a short vowel, it is a
Each basic sound has a short vowel and a long vowel:
"Ah" has the short Patach (single horizontal line under the
letter) and the long Qamatz (marked like a small "T" under the
"Ee" has the short Hiriq (marked by a single dot under the
letter) and the long Hiriq (same dot under the letter, if that
letter is followed by the letter Yod).
"Eh" has the short Segol (marked by three dots arranged in a
bottom-pointed triangle) and the long Tzeirei (two dots,
horizontally arranged next to each other).
"Oo" has the short Qubutz (three dots in diagonal descending
order) and the long Shuruq (the letter is followed by a Vav with
a dot in the middle).
"Oh" has the short Holam (single dot above the left side of the
letter) and the long Holam (the letter is followed by a Vav with
a dot over it).
For example, take a look at the word "Shabbat", which is written
with a Shin (Patach under the Shin), a Bet (Qamatz underneath)
and a Tav. Since the first syllable is driven by a Patach, it is
a T'nua' Q'tanah. Since the second syllable is driven by a
Qamatz, it is a T'nua' G'dolah.
The general rule of vocalization of T'nu'ot is that a T'nua'
G'dolah ends with the vowel; a T'nua' Q'tanah ends with a
consonant. You might almost think of them as "open" and "closed"
syllables; a T'nua' G'dolah ends "open" - without attaching
itself to the next consonant - and a T'nua' Q'tanah ends "closed"
- attaching itself to the next consonant.
Before moving onto the Sh'va, one note about the Qamatz Qatan.
There are some words where a Qamatz, normally a long vowel, is
placed as a short vowel. The classic and most well-known case is
the two-letter word Kol. Since the Qamatz here cannot be
pronounced as a long vowel (since there is only one other letter,
which is unvocalized) - it becomes a short vowel and is
pronounced like a short "o".
Although a Sh'va is a "stop" (telling the vocalizer to hold that
consonant, much as is done with the last letter in a word - like
the Tav in Shabbat), not all stops are alike. If a consonant is
at the beginning of a T'nua', it is impossible to pronounce it as
a totally "stopped" consonant. For example, the word "T'nua'" -
since we are asked to pronounce the Tav at the beginning - but
not to "move" it anywhere, it must have a minimal movement of
sorts. That is why it is properly written - in transliteration -
with an apostrophe. There is the slightest movement with the
On the other hand, if a letter at the end of a T'nua' has a
Sh'va, it can easily and properly be pronounced with no movement
at all. For example, the name "Avraham" - underneath the "Vet"
(aVraham) is a Sh'va; since this letter is at the end of the
first T'nua' of the word, it can be pronounced with no movement
whatsoever. We do not call him Av'raham, rather Avraham.
Now, since a T'nua' G'dolah ends in a vowel and does not attach
to the next consonant, if a Sh'va is preceded by a T'nua'
G'dolah, it is vocalized like a Sh'va at the beginning of a word
- it is slightly moved. This is called a "Moving Sh'va" - or
"Sh'va Na'". If, however, the Sh'va is at the end of a T'nua
Q'tanah (i.e. the letter before it bore a short vowel), that
letter is the end of the T'nua and is totally stopped. The
letter is vocalized as a "Stationary Sh'va" - or "Sh'va Nach".
(You should be able to figure out, from this information, whether
the Alef - the first letter of Avraham - has a Patach or a Qamatz
Rambam is concerned that when reading Sh'ma, we are careful about
the difference between Sh'va Na' and Sh'va Nach - let's see some
examples from the Sh'ma itself.
The word Yisra'eil is a good example for us. The first syllable
is clearly a T'nua' Q'tanah, since the Yod has a short Hiriq
under it (i.e. it isn't followed by another Yod) - hence, the
"Sin" of yiSra'eil is the end of that T'nua' - and is a Sh'va
Nach. In the second (Rabbinically added) line, the third word is
"K'vod"; again, since the Sh'va is under the first letter, it
must be a Sh'va Na'. Look at the first word of the next verse -
"V'ahavta" - the vowel under the "Heh" is a Patach, so it is a
T'nua' Q'tanah- which means that the T'nua' ends with the Vet -
v'aHAVta - so the Sh'va under the Vet is a Sh'va Nach.
T'nua' - syllable
Sh'va Na' - moving Sh'va
Sh'va Nach - stationary Sh'va
Now, what happens if a letter is the end of a T'nua' Q'tana - but
also has its own vowel? For instance, the Bet of shaBBat is both
the end of the first T'nua' - but is also the beginning of the
next T'nua'. How can we demonstrate, both in written and oral
form, that this letter is part of two T'nu'ot?
Enter the Dagesh. Dagesh is simply a dot in the middle of the
letter - and almost all letters can take a Dagesh. What the
Dagesh means when that letter is at the end of a T'nua' Q'tanah
is that the letter should be understood to be doubled. (Arabic
has the similar Shadda over the letter to be doubled). Therefore,
we properly read Shabbat as "Shab-bat" - the Bet is doubled, as
it "closes off" the first T'nua' and also begins the second.
(This should not be confused with a Dagesh Rafeh - the letters
Bet, Gimel, Daled, Kaf, Peh and Tav always take a Dagesh at the
beginning of a word or if following a T'nua' Q'tanah; however,
this does not represent a "doubling" of the letter).
In other words, there is an assumed Sh'va Nach at the end of
every T'nua' Q'tanah - and, if that letter has another vowel, we
read it as if both are happening; first a Sh'va Nach, then the
letter again with its own vowel.
Rambam is expressing concern that D'geshim be dealt with
properly, such that a letter which should be read "doubled" is
Our Haver, Meir Levin, has provided an insightful explanation of
the dispute between Rambam and RABD; further comment would add
ML: (Meir Levin ):
Point 1. The disagreement between Rambam & Raavad is only about
the Shva Na and Shva Nach. Raavad agrees regarding other steps to
be m'dakdek b'otiotehah (careful about the enunciation). This is
because refinements in Shva does not change meaning of the words
whereas others do.
The disagreement appears to be whether *dikduk* (careful
enunciation) is a part of Kriah when Kitvei Hakodesh are
involved. Rambam states in Ch. 12 of Hilkhot Tefilla that if
someone reads from a Sefer Torah without dikduk - we make him go
back and reread properly. This is quoted in Shulkhan Aruch but
the Rama disagrees. Raavad holds that dikduk is a part of
obtaining correct meaning. Rambam maintains that it is a part of
correct reading. Therefore, Rambam holds that dikduk is also
required in other languages and Raavad says that it is only a
peirush (translation) (meaning-based) and does not require
See Rambam to Pirkei Avot 1, 17. s.v. Rabbi Shimon omer. He
states that there are 2 types of recommended speech 1. _Reading_
Torah, talmud etc. 2._ Speaking_ of middot etc - called Derech
A side-question: Why is the requirement regarding Kriat Hatorah
even B'di'avad and for Shma only L'khat'hila?
Perhaps, Kriat Hatorah is an obligation of the Tzibbur [public]
(quoted in the name of R.Moshe Soloveitchik). Dikduk has two
components. 1. How one pronounces 2. How one understands.
Regarding Shma there is a component of understanding. Even if it
was not pronounced correctly, the text was still understood
correctly. This is not the case with the Tzibbur.
Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project