Volume 9 Number 59
                       Produced: Wed Oct 20 19:29:14 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Pronunciation - Havarah (5)
         [Eli Turkel, Aryeh Weiss, Roy Bernstein, Allen Elias, Michael


From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 93 11:55:19 +0200
Subject: Pronunciation - Havarah

     As Eitan mentioned I have an article entitled "Variations in
Sephardi and ashkenazi Liturgy, Pronunciation and Custom" that appeared
in The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Vol. 18, p5-34,

     Basically there is support for almost every possibility. Rabbi
Weisz (Minhat Yitzchak) strongly objects to changing ones pronunciation
and claims that it is done only for political reasons. He stresses that
the Israeli pronunciation combines the worst of sephardi and ashkenazi
pronunciations. Other rabbis say that the pronunciation is only a custom
and there is no problem changing it especially if one leaves in a
community where everyone has a different pronunciation. They stress ,
however, that the worst case is to use parts of each pronunciation which
frequently happens when one changes in the middle of life. A number of
sephardi rabbis insist that all ashenazim should change to the sephardi

      As mentioned by others there are two basic approaches to the
problem. R. Moshe Feinstein holds that all pronunciations widely used
are valid and one should keep his original pronunciation at least in
private. The other approach is to say that some pronunciations are
better than others and are to be preferred. R. Zvi Pesach Frank says
that one does not fulfill his requirement for Megillah if he hears the
Megillah with a "chassidic" accent, which he says is not real Hebrew. I
have never seen in print a justification of the hasidic pronunciation.
A question is how to define better. It is clear from the gemara that an
ayin is different that an aleph and a heh from a chet. Other differences
can be deduced from a study of rishonim. It is questionable whether one
can rely on philology to determine which is better. Several people have
discussed how the resh "should" sound. I don't remember anyone saying
where this opinions come from. Do we decide on the correct Hebrew from
how Arabs talk?  I have seen studies that claim that American English is
closer to Elizabethian English than is modern British pronunciation.
Furthermore, I strongly suspect that almost from the time of Joshua
there were differences in pronunciations between the tribes (e.g.
shibboleth versus sibboleth).  As such there is no such thing as "the"
correct pronunciation.  On the other hand the Rosh moved from Germany to
Spain and has several responsa on differences in customs. He mentions
nothing about differences in pronunciation which may indicate that 600
hundred years ago the differences were less pronounced than today.

      There are also differences between one's private prayers and being
a chazan. I have heard that when Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach uses
"sephardit" when he performs a wedding for an "Israeli" crowd. On the
other hand whenever I have heard Rav Aaron Lichtenstein daven as chazan
it was always in "ashenazit".

      In my article I discuss applications to Shema, layning, Megillah
etc.  I also discuss changing between "nusach ashkenaz" and "nusach

      In scholarly articles transliteration from Hebrew into English is
based on the Sephardi pronunciation. At the other extreme Artscroll is
very insistent on using only ashkenazi pronunciation and never sephardi.
I am not sure why Artscroll insists on using the phrase "Erez Yisrael"
rather than "land of Israel" in their English.


From: aryeh@optics (Aryeh Weiss)
Date: Tue, 5 Oct 93 02:11:09 -0400
Subject: Pronunciation - Havarah

A recent post on havara states:

> From: <YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)

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

First of all, the "ashkenazic" pronounciation is no more "proper"
(whatever that means) -- there is no distinction between het and chaf,
ayin and alef or saf and samah. Furthermore, the accents are most words
are corrupted because in German the words are rarely accented on the
last syllable.  All Hebrew pronounciations have evolved due to local

> 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!

Yemenite pronounciation preserves certain differences between hard and
soft consonants. It is not clear that it is "most accurate", though it
is certainly interesting. Most people dont understand Yemenite
pronounciation -- a fact that makes its use in ritual questionable.

> When i brought this up at the table, people who studied in such a day
> school noted that in fact they were erroneously led to believe that Ben
> Yehuda's Hebrew is more accurate, whereas all it really does is
> incorporate everyone's shortcomings!

It may very be more accurate, though you are correct that day schools
should at least teach the pronounciation of het and ayin. Still, leaving
a dagesh kal (the dot that hardens the thaf into a taf) may be more
"accurate" than changing the thaf into a taf. The bottom line is that
there is a lot of improperly promounced Hebrew out there, covering all

The main reason for maintaining ashkenazic promounciation is minhag, not
accuracy. Minhag is very important, but after many decades of the use of
"spharadit" (even corrupt spharadit), at least in Israel, it is hard to
say that 2nd generation Israelis have this minhag.  Even in the US,
spharadit has been taught for quite some time, and often by Israeli
teachers whose Hebrew was much better than their American counterparts.
Given the importance of teaching conversational Hebrew (so people can
communicate in Israel, the only country where Hebrew is spoken in daily
life), and the practical difficulty of teaching children to speak one
way and daven another way, I think that the decision to teach havara
spharadit is quite understandable.

  Aryeh Weiss
  Jerusalem College of Technology

From: Roy Bernstein <RDB@...>
Date: Thu, 14 Oct 1993 13:42:20 GMT+0200
Subject: Pronunciation - Havarah

All the discussion on the "correct" pronunciation makes me wonder if
others have the same confusion as I do regarding the correct
pronunciation of Hashem's name - is it Ad-nay or Ad-noy??

I have been told by some that saying a brocha (or is it bracha?)
utilizing the -nay ending constitutes an invalid brocha. My son alerted
me to this when his Rav at school corrected him. Since then I have been
making an effort to use the -noy ending in my davening and brochas. But,
and this is what confuses me, I have at the same time been observing
others and have noticed that many Rabbonim and Chazzanim also use the
-nay ending.

Institute For Maritime Technology (Pty) Ltd
P.O. Box 181, Simon's Town, 7995, Rep Of South Africa
Tel: (021) 786-1092    Fax: (021) 786-3634

From: Allen Elias <100274.346@...>
Date: 17 Oct 93 15:36:31 EDT
Subject: Pronunciation - Havarah

The Ashkenazic and Yemenite pronunciations of words in the Siddur have
deep Kabalistic significance. Changing them for the modern Israeli
pronunciation may or may not be halachically acceptable but it changes
the meaning of the prayers.

For example, the letter taf with the dot inside is referred to by
commantaries on Sefer Yetzira as taf kashe (hard taf), signifying harsh
judgement.  The taf without the dot, pronounced saf by Ashkenazim and
thaf by Yemenites, is known as taf rafeh (soft taf), signifying soft
judgement. If someone pronounces malchutcha instead of malchuscho or
malchuthcho the meaning of a merciful (soft) Kingdom is changed to a
harsh kingdom. If one is asking for mercy from the King it may not be a
good idea to invoke the harsh connotation of the word.

The pronunciation of vowels signify various combinations of the Ten
Sefirot.  If one pronounces a komatz as a patach (ahmen instead of
omain) the meaning is being changed. A komatz according to the RaMaK
signifies gevurah (strength).  Invoking something else when strength is
called for changes the meaning of the prayer.

Though Hashem understands our true intentions, invoking the correct
meaning of the words could not hurt. The Ari z"l says in Eitz Chaim the
vowels represent the spirit of the words and the consonants represent
the body of the words.  It is his opinion a word in the prayers
pronounced incorrectly is like a body without a spirit (guf bli

From: <mpkramer@...> (Michael Kramer)
Date: Mon, 18 Oct 1993 09:05:57 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Pronunciation - Havarah

On this much talked-about subject, one point/query, a personal anecdote,
and an aside:

The point/query: At what point does a havara become a havara?  In other
words, can we assume that at one point in history all Jews spoke Hebrew
the same "correct" way, that later distortions were introduced in
various different communities, and that one community has (or may have)
maintained the proper havara?  We know that in biblical times different
tribes pronounced certain letters differently (remember "shibboleth"
"sibboleth"?).  We know that even in our own times among European Jews
several very different havarot exist.  When did they start?  Were they
considered invalid when they "began" and then gradually gained
acceptance after a certain period of time?  Considering the fact that
Jews moved around a lot and that communities merged and separated in
response to various historical events (read: persecutions and
deprivations), that intermarriage occurred (between Jews with different
havarot) and children grew up hearing different pronunciations, and that
all languages change with time and with migrations (consider the various
pronunciations of English and Arabic)--considering the constant
pressures on Hebrew pronunciation over time, how do we decide at what
point a havara is fixed?  It seems to me that several "American" havarot
are emerging/have emerged in this generation that are different from,
though related to European and Middle Eastern dialects.  Will they ever
become halakhically accepted and set?  Are there halakhic rules for

The personal anecdote: My parents are American, my grandparents from
various different parts of Eastern Europe.  My parents pronounce Hebrew
differently from each other and from their parents.  I davened in a shul
where I heard many different havarot--indeed the subject of
pronunciation was a constant source of light-hearted humor whenever a
baal tfillah went up to daven.  I learned Hebrew in a yeshiva ktana
(Jewish elementary school) that taught ashkenazis but with a clearly
American flavor (shomer shabbos, rather than shoimer shabbis).  My
Hebrew, as a result, was different from that of my parents, my
grandparents, and many of the people I davened with.

When I went to Israel as a teenager, I was exposed for the first time to
Hebrew as a living language.  As a result, davening came alive for me,
torah reading cam alive for me, in ways I had never expected.  The fact
that it was not alive before was, of course, due to my own shortcomings.
Nevertheless, it became very important to me at the time to change
havarot.  When I returned to America, someone told me (I don't remember
who) that I had to ask my father's permission to make a change like
that.  I explained my reasons to my father (whom I really didn't speak
like anyway, though I didn't mention it at the time) and he readily
consented.  Since then I've davened and lained (read Torah) in
Sepharadit, making changes from time to time, when I learn that I've
been mispronouncing something.

I don't offer either the point/query or the anecdote as Halakhic
arguments or to urge anyone to do as I did.  I will admit, however, that
I am wholly perplexed at how havara can be legislated or why anyone
would want to.  What is the pre-aharonim source for the various halakhic
opinions I've been reading in MJ? [Just a quick note, the abbreviation
for this list is MJ (or mj or something like that) rather than MLJ.
There is another list, mail.liberal-judaism, that is refered to as MLJ.

Finally, the aside: For anyone interested in havara from a cultural
point of view, I heartly recommend listening to Piamenta's recording
"Shirei Admorim" (Songs of the Rebbes).  Throughout, the Piamenta
brothers sing hassidish songs in Sepharadic havara and the chorus
responds in heavily accented European Ashkenazis.  Great stuff.

Michael Kramer UC Davis


End of Volume 9 Issue 59