Towards Better Davening and Torah Reading
Column #24. Contents of this weekly column are based on the sefer: EIM LAMIKRA HASHALEIM, by R' Nissan Sharoni, Ashdod, a guide to correct pronunciation of Hebrew, specifically in davening and Torah reading.
Two weeks ago, we began to look at the KAMATZ GADOL and KAMATZ KATAN. In most books, they look the same (like a T under a letter). Rinat Yisrael is the noteable exception (and now there are others), printing a KAMATZ KATAN larger than the KAMATZ GADOL (the reverse of what their names would indicate).
The seventh day of the week is spelled SHIN with a PATACH, BET with a KAMATZ GADOL, TAV (or SUF, as the case may be). In the Sfardit pro- nunciation, the word is SHABBAT, with both the PATACH and the KAMATZ GADOL sounding the same, like the A in BAA BAA black sheep, or the sound the doctor asks you to make when he wants to check your throat. (Or the O in HOT, but it is funny to use an O for the letter that is represented by A.)
In Ashkenazis pronunciation, the word is SHAB- BOS. The PATACH sounds the same as the Sfardit one, but the KAMATZ is pronounced like the the OU in COUGH, or the AW in SAW.
Many people who pronounce their davening and Torah reading Hebrew in Ashkenazis are unaware of the other kind of KAMATZ, the KAMATZ KATAN. The KAMATZ under the KAF in the word for ALL is a KAMATZ KATAN. It is pronounced in Ashkenazis the same as the KAMATZ GADOL. The word is KawL. Because the pronunciation is the same, no “fuss” was made concerning the two KAMATZes when the typical Ashkenazis person learned to read Siddur and Chumash.
With Sfardit, the situation is different. Although the KAMATZ GADOL is sounded like a PATACH, the KAMATZ KATAN is not. It sounds like the Ashkenazis KAMATZ, or something approaching a CHOLAM. Something between KawL and KOL.
If in Sfardit there is no noticeable distinction between PATACH and KAMATZ GADOL, and if in Ashkenazis there is no noticeable distinction between KAMATZ GADOL and KAMATZ KATAN, then there is something amiss in each pronuncia- tion. Purists in the pronunciation of Hebrew do favor subtle differences in the sounding of all the different vowels.
Aside from the pronunciation issue, we should learn the differences between KAMATZ GADOL and KAMATZ KATAN. So let’s start again. Most KAMATZes are GADOL, a long vowel. There are several guidelines for the KAMATZ KATAN.
The easiest to spot is the CHATAF KAMATZ. That’s the KAMATZ with the two dots (SH’VA) to its right. Afternoon is TZA-HO-RAYIM (or TZawHawRAYIM in Ashkenazis). The TZADI has a KAMATZ GADOL. The HEI has a CHATAF- KAMATZ, which is sounded like a KAMATZ KATAN.
A letter with a KAMATZ followed by a SH’VA NACH and the KAMATZed letter has neither a METEG or a TROP mark – the KAMATZ is KATAN and the SH’VAed letter joins it in a closed syllable. Wisdom - CHOCH-MA. The CHET has a KAMATZ KATAN. The CHAF with the SH’VA is part of the same syllable. The KAMATZ is KATAN. The MEM, on the other hand is also KAMATZed, but it is GADOL.
Sacrifice - KORBAN. The KUF has a KAMATZ KATAN, the REISH has a SH’VA NACH. They are an unaccented syllable KOR (KawR). The BET has a KAMATZ GADOL. Even though it is in a syllable with the final NUN, that syllable carries the accent of the word and the KAMATZ is GADOL.
On the other hand, Yosef married A-S’NAT (AW-S’NAS, not AWS-NAS). The ALEF has a KAMATZ and a METEG, making the KAMATZ GADOL and the SAMACH’s SH’VA a NA, belonging to the following syllable. The same goes for Yosef’s nickname TZA (KAMATZ GADOL) F’NAT. more IY”H next week
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