Volume 11 Number 70
                       Produced: Mon Feb  7 20:01:12 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Accenting the Wrong Syllable
         [Dr. Jeremy Schiff]
Divrai Torah
         [Yoni Leci]
Proper Pronunciation (3)
         [Mitch Berger, Eric Kerbel, Jeff Finger]
Talking & Teaching
         [David Charlap]
The Big Bang and Genesis
         [Marc Warren]


From: <schiff@...> (Dr. Jeremy Schiff)
Date: Mon, 7 Feb 94 16:52:03 +0200
Subject: Accenting the Wrong Syllable

I share Leora Morganstern's surprise/concern about the widespread
misplacing of accents on Hebrew words ("it's a sheHAkol", "I have to
daven MYriv" etc.). It indeed is extremely depressing that this has
become a political issue, but I think this is more out of ignorance of
the masses than anything else. (At least, as Leora points out, we have
quite clear traditions as to where words are accented, so it can only
really be ignorance that leads people to err in this).

The sociological origin of this phenomenon is presumably that galut
exposed us to languages in which it is not the norm that words are
accented on the last syllable. One rarely hears a Hebrew word that was
supposed to be accented on the penultimate syllable accented wrongly -
though one instance that comes to mind is the piyyut of yamim noraim
that I have heard performed as "Hashem meLECH, Hashem maLACH,..." (I'm
sure it has been performed as "Hashem MElech, Hashem MAlach..." on
occasions too). I'm sure a lot of mj readers will agree that when
learning in English, it seems very natural to misaccent certain Hebrew
words....and for that matter if you're learning in English anyway, I
don't see anything wrong with this, just so long as you realise that
you're in effect talking a new hybrid language.

But in davvening, and particularly in kriyyat shema and other
obligations where there is a duty to get the words right, accenting the
wrong syllable is simply wrong. Though I am loathe to say it, probably a
sizeable number of "Western" Jews do not fulfil the obligation of
kriyyat shema because they pronounce every second word wrong (leOLam,
VAed, veahAVta, leVAVecha, NAFshecha....  in case anyone's wondering I'm
just copying from a Rinat Yisrael siddur all the words which Shlomo Tal
felt a need to accent for us).  A public campaign against this would not
be a bad idea; at the very least anyone involved in chinuch has to be
made aware of this issue - and this is a difficult task, because it's
not too easy to go over to people and say "You know - you've been saying
Shema wrong all your life".

Another mistake that has become prevalent in the Western Jewish
community, of no halachic significance I think, but a little embarassing
when you come on aliyah and starting writing on a blackboard in front of
a class of Israelis, is that we tend to write some letters backwards,
e.g. mem, ayyin and shin (in script) - all of these can be written in
two ways, from right to left (correct) or from left to right (wrong),
and because we're used to writing from left to right, us westeners tend
to do it wrong. I'm glad to say I've managed to put right most of the
Hebrew mispronounciations I learnt as a child, but I'm having a lot of
trouble correcting my handwriting. To give credit where credit is due,
the reform of my speech is due to a wonderful teacher called Harold Levy
(zichrono livracha) who taught me when I was a teenager....he had a
stock of retorts for anyone who accented the wrong syllable - I think
his favorite was "There's a big difference between your dinner guest
saying `There's sand in the DESert' and him saying `There's sand in the



From: Yoni Leci <te2005@...>
Date: Mon, 7 Feb 94 12:00:24 -0500
Subject: Divrai Torah

Does anyone have any Divrai Torah written by prominent Rabbonim
abouth the current situation in Eretz Yisrel? I am hoping to produce
a weekly information sheet about the situation in Eretz Yisrael at
the moment and would very much like to include Divrai Torah in it.



From: <mitch@...> (Mitch Berger)
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 94 09:26:54 EST
Subject: Proper Pronunciation

In v11n61 Leora Morgenstern brings to our attention a list of oft misquoted
words. Much commendation. For similar reasons, I try to use a siddur that
has meteg's and sh'va marks (eg Art Scroll, Metzudah, Rinat Yisrael) so
that I can read the words correctly without having to think about correct
dikduk [grammar] vs. ingrained habit. It would get it the way of thinking
about the meaning of the words.

One little nit to pick. She writes:
> So, those who refer to (e.g.) Rav Soloveitchik as the Rov, instead
> of the Rav, aren't making a decision about how to pronounce the kamatz
> (or making a statement about their particular position in the religious
> spectrum,  all too often indicated by one's choice of pronunciation);
> they're just using Hebrew incorrectly.

When we use Hebrewisms in English, must the grammar of the word be
preserved?  If so, the word I underlined preceeds a comma - should it be
Rav or Rov (with a patakh or with a komatz)? If it need not be preseved,
then why worry about someone saying the Rov?  We're also assuming that
these words are Hebrewisms and not Yiddishisms. I don't know proper
Yiddish for Rav, but perhaps Rov is proper Yiddish.

Toward the end of the article she writes:
> What's especially puzzling about all this is that there seems to be some
> sort of political agenda involved.  I've noticed that those with
> Yeshivish affiliations tend to mispronounce words in this way more often
> than those with YU and/or modern/centrist Orthodox affiliations.

The distinction is on the relative importance of theoretical correctness
and minhag. The Yeshivah world places great importance on "Toiras
Imechah" [the Torah of your mother - i.e. what you learned at home,
minhagim of the family]. Speaking correctly is of less importance. This
position is pretty justifiable, since the entire hav'arah [accent(?)]
you are using is minhag already, you are only speaking "correct hebrew"
in relation to your own minhag.

On the other hand, Toiras Imechah had nothing to say against broccoli,
yet the same socio-political group was perfectly willing to rethink
their position at based on theoretical rectitude.

Perhaps the underlying principle is that it was Ben Yehudah et al who
changed the way hebrew would be spoken with total disregard, no make
that contempt, for minhag that makes minhag a particularly sore point on
this issue. The more "modern" community is much more fluid in their
acceptance of new pronunciations; many speak in the Israeli havarah.

> One other comment on the subject of correct pronunciation: A number of
> submitters to mail.jewish have argued that there is no way to determine
> the original, "correct" pronunciation of Hebrew given our lack of
> concrete, objective evidence.

This comment is usually made about havarah, I haven't seen it applied to
dikduk before. Many rabannim who we use daily in halachic discourse
wrote sepharim on dikduk, from Rash"i to the Gr"a. The Gr"a has clear
rules for which syllable to stress, when to pronounce the shva, and
other things clearly ignored today.  I don't know how valid the argument
is with regard to havarah either. Clearly, R. SR Hirsch had a clear
notion of "correct" pronunciation of the letters when he declares to
words phonetically related. How can you discuss which two letters are
phonetically similar, with out knowing what they are phonetically?  Yet,
this kind of exogesis is one of the cornerstones of R. Hirsch's work.

While we are on the subject of speaking correctly, my pet peave:
On Shabbos morning, the traditional tune for Kedushah reads:
	Az, bikol ra'ash gadol, adir vichazaq mashmi'im qol
or in English:
	Then, in a big noise, great and mighty they make heard a voice
which makes no sense. Every siddur I've seen has it:
	Az, bikol ra'ash gadol adir vichazaq, mashmi'im qol
	Then, in a big, great and mighty noise, they make heard a voice
It bothers me terribly, since the Chazan is showing off that he isn't following
the meaning of the words he is saying as my representative.

 | Micha Berger  | Voice: (201) 916-0287 | On Torah, worship, and |    |  |   |
 | <mitch@...> |   Fax: (212) 504-4581 |   supporting kindness  |    |  |   |

From: <eric.kerbel@...> (Eric Kerbel)
Date: Mon,  7 Feb 94 10:13:00 +0000
Subject: Proper Pronunciation

The posting by Leora Morgenstern: Proper Pronunciation Vol. 11 #61 must
have caused great confusion amongst your readers, and cannot be left

She insists with no lack of self assurance that the title Rov when used
to mean Rabbi *must* be pronouced rav, not rov, and that those using the
*rov* form: " aren't ...making a statement about their particular
position in the religious spectrum,..they're just using Hebrew

What she is blissfully unaware of is that minhag avoseinu and massores
are indeed the very criteria that establish our very definite position
in that spectrum.

The Ashkenaz Torah world is established on an unbroken chain of massores
handed down by Rebbe to talmid, which still today can be traced back
directly to the Gra (Gaon of Vilna) and beyond. By using the traditional
pronunciation we are firmly stating that our massores from the Litvishe
Gedolim is inviolate. Another example of this, by the way, is the
pronunciation of Rabbi Yehuda Ha'Nassi's title as Rebi and not Rabi. To
suggest that our great Roshei Yeshivos and Gedolim were and are unaware
that these words are spelt with a patach under the reish is

One more point. Even Shoshan (modern secular Hebrew) and Jastrow
(Haskalah) serve a very limited purpose, and transmit a very different
viewpoint from that of the traditional Torah world. My one copy of
Jastrow in fact contains a caveat in the form of an insert by Rabbi
Shlomo Alter Halperin (from Ha'Moreh, 1970) pointing out the danger in
relying on his tendentious and very subjective views, and his reliance
on anti-Jewish scholars.

Our people suffered tremendously as a result of "secular Biblical
scholarship" particularly in the 19th century, and it behoves modern
orthodox Jews to seek teachers who can impart their own massores to them
before dabbling in such treacherous waters.

Eric Kerbel (Johannesburg)

From: Jeff Finger <jfinger@...>
Date: Sat, 5 Feb 94 07:51:47 -0500
Subject: Proper Pronunciation

I have heard that among some groups in Europe, there was a deliberate
mispronunciation of Hebrew, even during t'fila, a reaction against the
Haskala's emphasis of Hebrew grammar to the exclusion of halakha. In
particular, mil'el-mil'ra distinctions were for the most part ignored.

Has anyone else run across this notion? The story seems a bit unlikely
to me. It seems much more believable that over the centuries, Yiddish
patterns of stress became the norm in the "Shiur Hebrew" of many, and
that this lack of precision became the norm of many, even during prayer
and k'ri'at ha'tora.

-- Itzhak "Jeff" Finger --


From: <david@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Mon, 7 Feb 94 11:10:55 -0500
Subject: Talking & Teaching

Aryeh Blaut <ny000592@...> writes:

>How does one answer the question:  "Why should we not talk during
>hazaras hashatz  (repitition of Shmone Esrei) or Kadish -- all of the
>adults are talking!?"

How mature are they?  Would they have the derech eretz not to criticize
everyone else if you said that the adults who are talking are wrong?

>As a parent, I also have the problem with my own children.  They are 
>only allowed to come to schul if they are coming to daven.  Talking, 
>running, playing are to be done at home, not at schul.  They look around 
>and see all of their friends doing anything but davening, and ask about it.

With respect to your own children and their friends, its a bit easier.
You can tell them that in your family you won't allow it, no matter what
his friends' families allow.  But since I don't have any kids of my own,
I might be completely wrong.

>We are looking to revise our admission proceedures.  How strict to be on 
>age cut offs, what to do with new students who have no Judaic 
>background, etc.?  Should we be testing in both Judaic Studies & General 
>Studies and place accordingly?  Any help would be appreciated.

I went to a yeshiva high school.  While I don't know about age and
background, I know that they did have separate placement for Judaic
Studies and secular studies.  (There were multiple sections of each
grade for secular studies, and a separate set of sections for Judaic


From: <warren@...> (Marc Warren)
Date: Sun, 6 Feb 94 22:14:39 -0500
Subject: The Big Bang and Genesis

In regards to the question if the world was created in 6 days, then why
is 15 billion years old.  I believe Dr. Schroeder's argument was this.
When G-d first created the universe, all the energy and mass was
centered in a single point.  This "point" then expanded and we begin to
see some of the effects of the big bang.  But since all the original
mass had been concentrated in this point the revalistic effects due to
gravity caused dramatic aging.  Which is why it now appears to us that
the earth is 15 billion years.  But if one were to simply go by the
number of nights and days, then the earth was created in 6 days.

Marc Warren


End of Volume 11 Issue 70