Dovidl Wide

Purifying the Metzora through Dikduk

Apr 26, 2012

The parashot of Tazria and Metzora are notorious for necessitating digging beneath the surface to uncover deeper meaning in the pesukim. Here's a beautiful example:

In Vayikra 14:11 the Torah describes the eighth day of the purification process for a metzora. He brings his offerings, and: "The kohen who is purifying (hametaher) stands the person who comes to be purified (hamitaher) and his sacrifices in front of Hashem."

A careful study of dikduk will uncover that the word hamitaher has two dageshim, in the letter mem and in the letter tet, while the word hametaher has none, even though the spellings of the two words are identical. The grammatical reasons for this are as follows:

The word hamitaher is written in hitpael, denoting that someone is doing an action to himself. Like the words mitlabesh or mitpashet, it really requires a letter tav before the tet and should be spelled and pronounced hamit-taher. The dagesh in the tet comes to replace that tav, signaling that the tet should be read with strong emphasis, as if it were two letters, a tav and a tet. A dagesh appears in the letter mem as well because it follows a hei hayediah at the beginning of the word, and a hei hayediah generally dictates that the following letter be read with extra emphasis.

The word hametaher also begins with a hei hayediah but the dagesh falls because of the shva under the mem and is replaced instead with a meteg under the hei to separate the hei from the rest of the word. The letter hei in the middle of the word hametaher also should carry a dagesh, being that it is the middle letter of the verb in the piel form. Like the words melamed and mevorach which have a dagesh in the mem and reish, the word metaher should have a dagesh in the hei, but that dagesh does not appear because the letter hei, being an ot gronit (guttural) coming from the throat, cannot be overly emphasized.

If you've been patient enough to follow this far, you deserve a treat. Here comes: My father Shlit"a (whom I love to quote in these bulletins), pointed out something beautiful. While the word hametaher refers to the kohen who is officiating the service for the metzora, the word hamitaher refers to the metzora himself. The kohen is merely performing an external act as part of his function in the mishkan. The real, internal work, is the job of the metzora himself, who must do teshuva in order to achieve complete purification. The emphasis, the dagesh, is on him!

Venue: Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh


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