[Avodah] Shva Na's etc.

Akiva Miller akivagmiller at gmail.com
Tue May 28 03:38:46 PDT 2019

R' Sholom Simon asked:

> if the sound of a shva na and a chataf is the same, why did
> ben Asher use a chataf instead of a shva na, or vice versa in
> particular places

To me, this is an entirely reasonable question. And then the same question
about a different pair.

> ... someone earlier was asking about the difference between a
> shuruk and a kubbutz and stated something to the effect that
> there must be a difference, otherwise why would there be two
> ways to write the vowel.  RSM asserted (orally, to me) that,
> aderaba, the sound is exactly the same.  And then I asked the
> same question: why did ben Asher choose one over the other in
> various places.

I understand why Ben Asher was named in the first question: Until that
point, all our texts were consonant-only, and the correct pronunciation was
pure tradition. Ben Asher and the other Baalei Mesorah took it upon
themselves to devise systems to capture the traditional sounds with written
symbols. If I am correct so far, then it is entirely reasonable to ask why
someone would use two different symbols for the same sound.

But that's not the case regarding shuruk (a vav with a dot in the middle)
and kubbutz (three diagonal dots below a letter). This question, it seems
to me, should be asked not of Ben Asher, but of the original author of the
unvowelled text (which, in many cases, is Hashem Himself). "Why was a vav
used over here, but not over there?"

I fear that the answer will have something to do with the written text
being more malleable than I had been led to believe. I can accept the idea
that errors crept into the texts despite our best efforts, but I hope not
to hear that chaser/malei were a free-for-all until Ban Asher standardized

Akiva Miller
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