Torah Tidbits

27 August 2014 / 1 Elul 5774
Issue 1056
Shabbat Parshat Shoftim
August 08, 2013

Towards Better Davening and Torah Reading


In honor of the sedra, we’ll take another shot at one of the rules that is grossly disregarded by many people - especially (it seems) by native English speakers.
Many people pronounce the name of this week’s sedra SHOF-TIM. [We’re just looking at the syllables, not which syllable is accented - so we put the whole word in uppercase letters. Most of the words that we will be looking at are accented on the last syllable.]
This is really a compound error in pronunciation because the FEI which the SH’VA is wrongly used to close off the first syllable AND (as a result) the SH’VA is pronounced NACH.
The first letter SHIN is voweled by a CHOLOM, which is a long vowel (T’NU’A G’DOLA). When a letter with a long vowel begins a word, and the first syllable is not accented, then the first syllable of the word is an open syllable, meaning it consists of the letter and vowel only and is not closed off by another consonant- letter with a SH’VA NACH.
The letter with the SH’VA begins the following syllable and the SH’VA under it is a SH’VA NA, meaning that it is heard as a very short vowel (rather than not sounded at all - that’s the SH’VA NACH).
A letter with a SH’VA NA does not constitute its own syllable, but rather attaches itself the the following syllable.
In other words… the name of this week’s sedra has two syllables: SHO and F’TIM.
The second word of the sedra also has two syllables: V’SHO (the VAV with SH’VA NA has too short a vowel sound to constitute its own syllable but rather prefixes itself to the strong SHO. The second syllable is T’RIM, with TET/SH’VA attaching itself to the strong RIM syllable.
Saying SHOF-TIM does not change the meaning of the word; it is just not the correct way to say it.
Similar words from the daily Amida are: SOMEICH NO-F’LIM, HASHIVA SHO-F’TEINU, here’s a hard one: O- Y’VEI (not OY-VEI) and O-Y’VIM (not (OY-VIM), SO-F’REI-HEM, HA-BO- T’CHIM.
The words chosen for this review were only ones with a CHOLOMed letter at the beginning. There are other long vowels that follow the same rule. Just one example: the grandson of Aharon HaKohen, son of Elazar, was PI - N’CHAS (not the common pronunciation PIN-CHAS).
Because meaning does not change between the ‘correct’ and ‘sloppy’ pronunciation of these words, we are not talking about serious mispronunciations. We were dealing with ‘fine tuning’ our way of davening and Torah reading.

In This Issue of Torah Tidbits

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