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Why does the Hebrew word “chet” (“misdeed”) end with a silent Alef?

by Rabbi Yossi Marcus

  

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The letter Alef, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, alludes to the First and One Being: G-d. When a person does a “chet,” G-d’s presence is not very “pronounced” in his life—He temporarily forgets the Alef of the World.

Source: Degel Machne Efraim citing his grandfather the Baal Shem Tov (likutim to parshat Devarim).


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final alef

Posted by: Tonio, Berlin, Germany on Dec 22, 2004

The linguistic answer to the question is this: Alef is *never* pronounced at the end of a word. But usually a word that ends in alef is pronounced with a vowel at the end, e.g. Sin-Nun-Alef [sane] 'hate', Gimel-Bet-Alef [geve] 'pool', Dalet-Shin-Alef [deshe] 'grass', etc. What's unusual about [khet] is that it ends in Alef but the last sound pronounced is a consonant. There are a few other words like this, but not many, e.g. Gimel-Yod-Alef [gay] 'valley' (y is always a consonant in Hebrew) and Vav-Yod-Resh-Alef [vayar] 'and (he) saw'.

RELATED CATEGORIES

Miscellaneous » Hebrew / Languages » Hebrew

Baal Shem Tov
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), Polish mystic and founder of the Chassidic movement.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.