Column #95. Contents of this weekly column are (mostly)
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.
More on the "Ha, you thought the ALEF was silent, didn't you?" Issue...
I just wanted to add a couple of comments to YL's excellent comments on ALEF in
First of all, it is not true, as was claimed in TT 594, that a glottal stop
would have to be followed by a vowel, so YA'DIR would have to be YA'ADIR. As YL
implied, glottal stops function as consonants; just as a syllable can end with a
consonant like T or D, it can end with a glottal stop. In fact, that is exactly
what happens in Cockney English: a word like "cat" is pronounced with a glottal
stop at the end (instead of the T that standard dialects of English have).
Second, still on YA'DIR, the DAGESH KAL in the DALET shows that the ALEF is
functioning as a consonant: after a vowel, BeGeDKeFeT letters don't get a DAGESH
Should we or shouldn't we?
I'm going to raise more questions than answers, but we'll see what developes
over the next few issues. Should an Ashkenazi Jew pronounce AYINs with a
guttural sound, like S'faradim do, or should we stick to the silent AYIN of our
upbring- ing and our father's ways? Is the glottal stop ALEF just of academic
interest, or are we supposed to try to make the silent ALEF silent no longer?
Let's ask the question one more way, because I actually asked to a Rav for a
P'SAK. DALET is one of the six letters that has two different pronunciations
depending upon whether there is a DAGESH (dot) in the letter or not. Just like
BET and VET, KAF and CHAF, and PEI and FEI - the three letters that do not raise
an eyebrow when we speak of there being two ways to pronounce them, the other
three letters of the six also have two pronunciations each. Those of us who
daven in Ashkenazis distinguish between TAV and SAV (which we usually call TUF
and SUF, with the U sounding as it does in the English words CUT and FUN).
Regular "Israeli Hebrew" pronounces both the TAV with and without a DAGESH as a
T. When it comes to the GIMEL and DALET, only Yemenites and some (but not all)
EIDOT MIZRACH distinguish between the DAGESHed and non-DAGESHed form of the
Back to the question. DALET with a DAGESH sounds like the letter D. DALET
without a DAGESH is "supposed" to sound like a voiced TH, as in these, those,
this, that, the, breathe... (as opposed to the th of think, thimble, breath,
bath, and chrysanthemum. Shulchan Aruch says that one should draw out the
pronunciation of the DALET of the word ECHAD in the first pasuk of the SH'MA.
Pronouncing the unDAGESHed DALET like a D makes it impossible to stretch it. The
word either comes out ECHAAAAAAAAD, which is not what Shulchan Aruch asked for,
or it sounds like ECHAD' with a short vowel sound with the DALET, as if it had a
SH'VA NA under it, which it doesn't. I don't know how to write the next
sentence, but with a voiced TH for ECHATH (remember, as in "this"), you CAN
stretch the TH sound. And it seems, that it is exactly what Shulchan Aruch
wants. Question: Can I, an Ashkenazi Jew, switch my DALET without a DAGESH to a
voiced TH? Especially in the Sh'ma where Shulchan Aruch has what to say about
The answer I received was, NO. "AL TITOSH TORAT EMECHA", do not abandon your
mother's Torah, favors - for me - the ECHAD of my father and grandfather. And
what about keeping the BA-ruch A-ta of my predecessors, rather than the
"correct" ba-RUCH a-TA? No, that's different.
What say you, dear TT readers?
[The Parshat Vayeitzei Homepage]
[The TORAH tidbits Homepage] [How to use TORAH tidbits]
[About The OU/NCSY Israel Center] [About TORAH tidbits]