Volume 9 Number 46
                       Produced: Wed Oct 13 12:33:03 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Geshem, Gashem (or is that Gawshem?) (3)
         [David Kessler, Bob Werman, Larry Weisberg]
Pronunciation - Havarah (4)
         [Larry Weisberg, Philip Beltz Glaser, Lon Eisenberg, Shaul


From: <kessler@...> (David Kessler)
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 1993 09:15:29 +0300
Subject: Geshem, Gashem (or is that Gawshem?)

In re: the question of whether the mention of rain in the Shemona Esreh
is read "geshem" or "gashem", Avi mentions that the difference is
related to whether the mention is considered a separate sentence or part
of the following sentence.  I just wanted to point out that what Avi
says is the opinion of the Rav zt"l, and can be found in Shiurim
L'zechor Avi Maari, in (as I remember) the chapter "To shout and to blow
at troubled times".  Also, I seem to remember once seeing a teshuva of
R. Ovadia Yosef, who was asked about this point and said something to
the effect that grammatically "gashem" is correct, but the Sephardic
minhag is "geshem" and should be kept because the people who established
the minhag knew what there were doing better than we do.  Chapter and
verse, anyone?  

David Kessler Dept. of Physics, Bar-Ilan Univ.

From: <RWERMAN@...> (Bob Werman)
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 93 06:23:15 -0400
Subject: Geshem, Gashem (or is that Gawshem?)

The popular Kol Bo Siddur has both versions in the amida, geshem for
shaHarit and gashem for minHa-ma'ariv.

Which goes to prove that Kol Bo [Everything is in it!] is an accurate

__Bob Werman    <rwerman@...>    rwerman@vms.huji.ac.il

From: Larry Weisberg <WEISBERG@...>
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 93 12:14:15 IDT
Subject: Geshem, Gashem (or is that Gawshem?)

In 9/44 David Ben-Chaim asked whether the word Geshem is with a Segol or
a Kamatz.  The answer which the Moderator gave (that it depends whether
the word Geshem (rain) is the end of the sentence or not), is the reason
the Rav zt"l preferred the Segol, since the phrase "Mashiv HaRuach
U'Morid HaGeshem" is just the first of a list of G-d's attributes, which
continues with "MeChalkel Chayim, etc".

For the same reason, I would assume that (in Israel or Nusach Sphard) in
the summer one should say "Morid HaTal (with a Patach)" rather than
"Morid HaTol (with a Kamatz)."  A friend mentioned that there is another
reason (rather kabbalistic, in my mind) for Geshem, namely that the word
Geshem (as opposed to Gashem) rhymes with Chesed (kindness).  If that is
the reason for saying Geshem, then one cannot extrapolate to Morid


From: Larry Weisberg <WEISBERG@...>
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 93 12:14:15 IDT
Subject: Pronunciation - Havarah

In 9/43 Yosef Bechhofer writes:

> Aside from the fact that every single Ashkenazic Posek -from ...
> to ... Reb Moshe zt"l ...
> holds that it is forbidden, or at least improper to
> deviate from one's anscestors' havara except in a case of an obvious
> mistake.

I believe that R. Moshe has been misquoted.  It is true that he held
that *in America* the proper Havarah is Ashkenazit and that one should
not change to Spharadit.  However, in his Responsa Orach Chayim, Vol.3,
Number 5 (toward the end), he wrote: (my translation)
   ... and also with regards to accents (Havarot) which are a subject of
   controversy as to which one is the true/correct one, it is forbidden
   to change unless one is going to the other place with no intent to
   return (e.g., making Aliyah - my clarification).

Clearly, it is OK to change to the Havarah of where one lives.  Also,
I spoke to Rav Lichtenstein a while back and I mentioned that I thought
the Rav zt"l held that one should never change one's Havarah.  He said
that he didn't think the Rav was opposed to an Oleh changing to Spharadit,
but rather those that come to Israel for a year (e.g., to study) and
then return to America.  Those people should not change their Havarah.  It
would seem, then, that the Rav and R. Moshe had the same opinions.

> As I said, even modern Israeli pronunciation is improper, because they
> do not distinguish between komatz and posach, but this is worse.

Actually, they both have faults:  Spharadit is weak in vowels (Patach
is the same as a Kamatz Gadol) and Ashkenazit is weak in consonants
(Ayin vs. Aleph, Chet - Chaph, which many non-"REAL" Spharadim distinguish).
I believe the Rav mentioned this as a reason why neither is better than
the other.

In 9/44 Ezra Tepper writes:
> I have no idea how any native English yeshiva or day school student
> properly fulfills the Torah command of the recital of Shma, unless we
> put his incorrectly pronounced Hebrew in the same category as reciting
> Shma in English which (according to the Shulchan Oruch) is valid.

In the same Reponsa of R. Moshe quoted above, he explains that any Havarah
which is used by a large Kahal (even, Litvish vs. Hungarian pronunciations)
is OK to fulfill one obligation's, not only of Prayer, but even for Chalitzah,
which has more stringent requirements, as far is being in Hebrew.

Incidentally, R. Moshe has a Responsa requiring an Israeli to pray
(Chazan) and read the Torah in Ashkenazit, when in an American shul, at
least one where every- one prays in Ashkenazit.  I don't know of many
people, who claim to follow R.  Moshe, who use Spharadit when they are
the Chazan in an Israeli shul.

From: <glaser@...> (Philip Beltz Glaser)
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 93 03:56:34 -0400
Subject: Pronunciation - Havarah

I have been observing several postings on the subject of pronunciation.
This is such a thorny issue -- halakhically, ideologically, and
(probably most importantly) emotionally -- that I have been resisting
writing in about this. But my yetzer hara` has gotten the better of me.
So here goes.

Yosef Bechhofer writes

> . . . every single Ashkenazic Posek -from
> Rav Kook zt'l . . . to the Seridei Esh and Reb Moshe zt"l 
> holds that it is forbidden, or at least improper to
> deviate from one's ancestors' havara except in a case of an obvious
> mistake. 

I am unqualified to address the halachik issues involved here, so I
won't try to. I would point out, however, that with the phrase "or at
least improper" Yosef leaves open the possibility that the problem
raised by some of these posekim is not halakhic in the strict sense of
the term. "Improper" may mean socially or culturally unacceptable to
some people. But that in itself does not make it HALAKHICALLY FORBIDDEN.
Perhaps Yosef could clarify this point. In addition, to the extent that
there is a real HALAKHIC problem with switching from one's ancestors'
pronunciation, on what is that decision based?

My concern, then, is with the linguistic and socio-linguistic (i.e.,
ideological) dimension of this issue.

Yosef continues:

> As I said, even modern Israeli pronunciation is improper, because they
> do not distinguish between komatz and posach, but this is worse.  I know
> someone will bring up that Reb Nosson Adler switched to Sephardic
> pronunciation, but a) his is a da'as yachid [single/lone opinion - Mod.]
> ; b) he switched to REAL Sephardic pronunciation which distinguishes
> between ches and chaf and pronounces ayin's, and I would indeed have no
> qualms if someone switched to Yemenite pronunciation which seems the
> most accurate of all, but that's not happening!

First, there is an halakhic inconsistency in Yosef's position. Above he
seemed to suggest that we should follow those posekim who insist on
retaining the pronunciation of our ancestors. Here, however, he implies
that the real issue is maintaining a pronunciation which preserves the
most ancient sounds of the Hebrew language. Second, if indeed
preservation of ancient sounds is the most important criterion, I must
raise some linguistic issues. All languages employ a set of phonemes --
basic sounds which create distinctions in meaning.  In English, for
example, the words "fog" and "dog" have a different meaning, a
difference which is maintained only by the phonemes /f/ and /d/.  It is
true that alef and ayin, and chet and chaf, are phonemes.  Arabic, for
example, preserves these sounds (which is precisely why sephardic Jews
have preserved them in Hebrew).  In the Shema`, for example, there is a
phonetic distinction between va`avadtem (you will serve) and va'avadtem
(you will perish).  But the failure to distinguish between these
phonemes has not proven deleterious. In the spoken language, the very
fact that many Israelis speak without making these distinctions (between
alef and ayin, and chet and chaf) is in itself proof that the instances
in which these distinctions are necessary are few enough so as not to be
a hindrance to communicating.  As for davening, Ashkenazus has never
made these distinctions.  Does that mean that generations of the
greatest Rabbis of Ashkenaz did not fulfill their obligation to say the

Ezra Tepper comments further:

> Both the traditional "boruch" schools and the Israeli-type "baruch"
> schools have one major common problem: neither group transmits the
> proper pronunciation of the "resh" in "baruch." As far as I know there
> are two traditions for this letter: one like a French er, where the
> tongue trills the letter on the palate or the guttural German r, which
> is what is used in Yiddish or in Israel. The American or English
> (England) "r" which is a lip-produced consonant has no tradition and is
> simply incorrect.

First, the French [r] does not trill (perhaps you are thinking of
Spanish or Arabic). Rather, the French [r] is more to the guttural side
of the spectrum. Further, the American [r] is generally not pronounced
with the lips. Like [l], it is a "glide" and is pronounced closer to the
alveolar palate. (Of course, if you live in the Bronx like I do, you
find that some dialects of American English add labialization to [r],
sort of like a subtle [w] added at the end of the [r]). In any case,
while a Hebrew guttural or trilled [r] sounds more exotic and genuine
than an American [r], it is still distinguishable enough from a lamed
and any other similar sounds so that an Israeli (and God, I assume) has
no problem understanding a resh pronounced as an American [r].

> I have no idea how any native English yeshiva or day school student
> properly fulfills the Torah command of the recital of Shma, unless we
> put his incorrectly pronounced Hebrew in the same category as reciting
> Shma in English which (according to the Shulchan Oruch) is valid.

As I pointed out above, Ashkenazus has never made the phonemic
distinctions which should, in theory, make the recital of Shema`

To sum up what I have said so far, I see no linguistic reason to argue
against the modern Israeli type of pronunciation, either in speaking or
in davening. Now for the socio-linguistic issue.

Yosef comments:

> Worse - the average American day school kid simply comes out
> with an Ashkenazic havara minus a distinction between tov and sov.

Yosef's initial complaint was against teaching "some quasi-modern
Israeli pronunciation."  I think that the pronunciation against which he
rails is not "quasi," but is the real thing, because Ashkenazic Hebrew
minus a distinction between tov and sov is precisely the way many modern
Israelis speak. There is also a critical point of similarity between
modern Israeli Hebrew and the day school Hebrew that Yosef ignores,
namely, that words are accented on the last rather than the next-to-last

It is precisely this identification with real (not quasi) modern Israeli
Hebrew that the day schools are seeking. Let me elaborate.

Having suggested that the linguistic problems raised are really
non-issues, I would like to suggest that there is a very strong
undercurrent here of ideological tension. Most people I know who support
Israeli pronunciation (including several American rabbis who switched to
Israeli pronunciation even though they have not yet made aliya) do so
because Israel is in a very real sense the center of world Jewish
existence. Some identify Ashkenazus with the life of the shtetl, which
in turn is associated with the Jewish powerlessness that led to the
horror of the holocaust. To pronounce Hebrew as an Israeli, in other
words, is to identify with life as a sovereign and dignified Jew who
needn't worry that s/he could be whipped out at the whim of the next
Hitler, may his name be blotted out -- that if s/he has to die, s/he
will do so defending the sovereign nation to which s/he belongs. This
socio-linguistic dimension is so powerful living in gullut intensifies
the yearn for that sovereignty. True Jewish sovreignty can, of course,
only be obtained by living in Israel; but some of us express our desire
to do so linguistically.

I do not mean to suggest that Yosef and Ezra don't hold Zionist values.
I cannot read their minds and won't pretend to.  However, in other
contexts I have seen that resistance to modern Israeli Hebrew
pronunciation tends to go hand in hand with a less Zionist and more
isolated, insular kind of Jewish existence.

Philip Beltz Glaser

From: <eisenbrg@...> (Lon Eisenberg)
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 93 03:56:46 -0400
Subject: Pronunciation - Havarah

As long as we're so worried about the correct pronunciation of "resh"
(and we _should_ be), IMHO, a more important issue, where those who
pronounce in AhkeNAsis (sic) are often guilty, is "milel" vs. "milra`"
(which syllable is emphasized).  In many contexts, these
mispronunciations change the meaning (usually tense).  The most common
error I here is in the Shema`, where most who pronounce in AshenaSIS
tend to say the first word of the second phrase as "ve aHAVtah" (And you
loved) instead of "ve ahavTAH" (You shall love).

From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 93 05:34:47 -0400
Subject: Pronunciation - Havarah

     The comments of several readers of Hebrew pronunciation reminded me
of a summary of a critical study of the issue which I posted last year
to another forum, which I thought might be worth sharing with
mail-jewish readers as well.

     For those seriously interested in a thorough treatment of Hebrew
pronounciation according to halakha, I strongly recommend the book
Sefath Emeth by R. Benzion Cohen (Jerusalem, 5747). The author makes a
study of all the ancient and modern Rabbinic sources and comes to the
conclusion that the halakhically correct pronounciation is a composite
of elements found in various traditional communities, mostly in the
Middle East. The following is a summary of the pronunciation he
advocates, to the best of my memory:

Consonant      English                   Notes
^^^^^^^^^     ^^^^^^^^^^                 ^^^^^

Alef                                  glottal stop

 (with dagesh)     b

 (without degesh)  v

 (with dagesh)     g as in 'gift'

 (without dagesh)  gh as in 'Ghali'   Like the Arabic Ghan (`Ayin
                   (UN secretary)     with a dot), similar to a Russian
                                      r (unrolled) (in Israeli newpapers
                                      Boutrous Ghali's name is actually
                                      printed with a resh, as if it were

 (with dagesh)     d

 (without dagesh)  th as in 'the'

He                 h (consonantal)

Waw                w                  When vowellized with a shuruq, the
                                      Yemenites still pronounce it as a
                                      consonant: 'woo'.

Zayin              z

Heth                                  strong unvoiced whispered he,
                                      pronouced by constricting the
                                      throat muscles. Like Arabic Ha.

Teth                                  "Tense" t, pronouced by pressing
                                      the tongue upwards and backwards
                                      against the soft palate while
                                      saying a regular t. Like Arabic

Yod                y

 (with dagesh)     k

 (without dagesh)  ch as in 'Loch'    German ch, like Arabic Kha.

Lamed              l

Mem                m

Nun                n

Samekh             s

`Ayin                                 Like a voiced Heth, or a
                                      guttural stop with the throat
                                      constricted (Arabic `An).

 (with dagesh)     p

 (without dagesh)  f

Sadi                                  "Tense" s (see Teth). Like
                                      the Arabic Sad. Not like ts!

Quf                                   "Tense" k (see Teth). Like
                                      the Arabic Quf.

Resh                                  R trilled with the tip of the
                                      tongue, perhaps as the Scottish.
                                      The correct movement of the
                                      tongue can be approximated by
                                      saying the 'dd' in the word
                                      'paddle'. Like the Arabic Ra.

Shin               sh

Sin                s

 (with dagesh)     t

 (without dagesh)  th as in 'think'

Vowels (short)
Patah               a as in 'far'

Qamas               o approximately as in eastern New England 'not',
                    or like o as in 'done' (see note)

Hiriq               ee as in 'seen'

Holem               o as in more (Yemenites and some Moroccans say it
                                  like an umlauted o, as in the German
                                  moeglich. Not like the dipthong
                                  Holem yod!)

Qubbus              oo as in 'room'

Segol               e as in 'get' (Yemenites say it broadly, close to a
                                   patah, possibly following Rashi who
                                   calls it a patah qatan)

Sere                ay as in 'say'

Note on Qamas: The Tiberian system of vowellization makes no
distinction between 2 kinds of Qamas. However, the Sefaradim often
pronounce the Qamas like a short Holem when it is derived from a Holem
or Qubbus; for example in the word "kol" meaning "all"; this is the
origin of the second pronunciation.

Vowels (long)
     I am not aware of any qualitative difference between the qubbus
and the shuruq, or between the hiriq, segol or sere with or without
a yod following them, respectively. The only difference I know of
is quantitative; i.e. the length the vowel is held. These vowels
do take the accent, however, and turn a following shewa into a
mobile shewa (see below).

Vowels (dipthongs)
Patah yod          i as in 'I'

Holem yod          oy as in 'boy'        (note on Holem above applies
                                          here as well)

Vowels (Hataf)

     The Hataf patah, qamas and segol are all short, unaccented
forms of the respective vowels.

Vowels (Shewa)
     At the end of a short unaccented vowel, the shewa is not pronounced
(shewa nah or "resting shewa"). But after a long vowel (or accented
syllable in the Bible), and also at the beginning of a word and under a
consonant with a strong dagesh, it becomes a shewa na` ("mobile shewa")
and is pronounced like a hataf segol (Sefaradim) of hataf patah
(Yemenites). When the shewa na` is followed by a guttural consonant
(Alef, He, Het, `Ayin), the Yemenites (and some Tunisians) pronounce it
like a short form of the following vowel (eg. shomi`im - "those who

     Any additions, corrections or critical comments will be greatly


Shaul Wallach


End of Volume 9 Issue 46