By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
There are two types of people in the world:
- Those who care about distinguishing between Naw Shvahs and other Shvahs
- And those who don’t.
Both Rav Chaim Volozhin’s student, author of the Keser Rosh (see Siman 40) and the Aruch HaShulchan (OC 61:9) say to be like the first type of person.
To help out the type one people, and to help convince the type two people to become type one people, there are 5 rules of thumb – and they are BASIC ALEPH BAIS (this is a code to remember the five rules)
- Rule Aleph (the 1st rule) – Whenever, the Shvah appears under the 1st letter of a word – it is always a shvah naw.
- Rule Bais ( the 2nd rule) – Whenever there are two consecutive Shvahs in the middle of the word – the second one is always a shvah naw. If there are two shvahs at the end of the word, as in אַנְתְּ – both shvahs are silent. Aleph nun tes is therefore “ant” not “anteh.”
- Rule Gimel (the 3rd rule) – GEDOLAH [get it? It begins with a gimel]. Gedolah stands for Tenu’ah Gedolah, which means exaaaggerated sound. So when a shvah appears after an EXAAAGERATED* sound – it is a shvah naw.
- Rule Dalet (the 4th rule) – whenever the letter above has a DAGESH – a DOT in it – the shvah underneath has a shvah naw.
- Rule Hay (the 5th rule) – whenever the letters HAPPEN to look alike (in Hebrew “Hadomos”) – the first shvah is a shva naw as in -Hal’lu or Hin’ni
EXAAAGERATED SOUNDS – Tnu’ah Gedolah
Rule Gimel is the hardest rule of the five. That the shvah after an exaagerated sound gets a shvah naw. So what is an exaaagerated sound – a Tnu’ah Gedolah? There are basically five exaagerated sounds. The way to remember them is through the following word:
PEEE-TOOO-CHEY! CHOSAM or in Hebrew letters פיתוחי חותם.
- PEEE stands for a full cheereek – an exaaagerated EEE sound
- TOOO stands for a full vov (the OOOH kind not the V kind) as in, “Well that is just TOOO bad!”
- CHEY! Stands for tzayray – the two dot vowel – one on the left and one on the right
- CHO stands for Cholem – that vov which makes an OH sound – as in “Land Ho!!” whether or not it is full vov or just that dot on the upper left side
- SAM – stands for a kamatz that little tee vowel under a word. Please note, however, that after a komotz kattan which is a mini-sound called a tenuah ketana, the shva does not become a Nah Shvah.
Of course, many siddurim have some sort of sign above the Naw Shvas – such as a line – but some have mistakes in them, so it pays to know the rules.
For those unfamiliar with Naw Shvahs (moving shvahs) and Nach Shvahs (resting shvahs) – here is a definition from a mother-in-law of my son’s spouse.
- A regular shva, also called a shva nach, usually does not make any sound at all. We say that a Shva nach “is sleeping.” Examples are, אנשי and משלי. The shva under the nun in anshei and under the shin of mishlei are silent.
- When a shva is in the beginning of a syllable (or word), then it does make a sound (shva nah). We say that it’s awake. A driver may not sleep while driving a car but a passenger is allowed to sleep. An example would be p’nai. The shva under the pay makes a sound.
THESE RULES AND HALACHA
As an interesting aside, in Hebrew grammar there are the “beged kefes” letters, the letters that at times have a dagesh, a dot mark that indicates that the letter is stressed. The general rule is (there are other exceptions) that if the previous syllable ends with a letter that leaves the mouth open, the next beged kefes letter loses its dagesh.
Thus, in the pasuk “Ki miTzion teitzei Sorah” the tav immediately following Tzion retains its dagesh because the nun in Tzion ends with the mouth closed (notice that your tongue is touching the top of your mouth). However, the tav in Sorah (otherwise “Torah”) has lost its dagesh, since the previous word, teitzei ends with an ei, with the mouth open.
This explanation leads us to the conclusion that in the blessings of Borei p’ri ha’eitz and Borei p’ri ha’adamah, the word should really be pronounced “f’ri” rather than “p’ri” since the previous word, borei, ends with the mouth open. Indeed this is the position of Rabbi BenTzion Abba Shaul zt”l, that the word should be pronounced “f’ri.” Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef zt”l (Yavia Omer, Vol. IX No. 22) disagrees with Rav BenTzion Abbah Shaul zt”l, and says that when the word is intimately connected to the next word, there should be a pause between the words so that the beged kefes word will still retain its natural dagesh. Thus, Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l advocates that a slight pause be inserted between the words borei and p’ri.
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