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Why are certain words in the Torah pronounced differently than they are spelled?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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Indeed, there are many words throughout the Scriptures which are pronounced differently than they are written.1    Most commonly, this manifests itself in words which are missing letters,2   have extra letters,3   or are read slightly differently than they are written.4   On rarer occasions, there are complete words which although written in the text, are omitted when read,5   and there are certain words which are not written in the scroll, but which are added in orally when reading from the Torah6 .  There also instances when one two words are lumped together and written as one word, but pronounced as two words,7   and there are instances where in written form a single word is divided into two.8

When G-d dictated the Scriptures to Moses, He also informed him of how the words were to be written and how they were to be read -- sometimes these two coincided, sometimes not. The same holds true with the Books of the Prophets and the Holy Writings which were written with Divine inspiration.

When G-d dictated the Scriptures to Moses, He also informed him of how the words were to be written and how they were to be read -- sometimes these two coincided, sometimes not
In Hebrew, "K'ri" refers the way a word is read. "K'tiv" is the way the word is written.

The Torah is often compared to an onion; it has many layers. There is the simple interpretation of every verse which is reflected in its k'ri; but there so many other deeper layers to the infinite Divine wisdom extant in the Torah. Hidden in the k'tiv lies many of these profound messages and lessons. Various biblical commentators have devoted much effort to unlocking the secrets inherent in the k'tiv of the Torah. Perhaps the most famous of these commentators is the "Baal Haturim," the 14th century scholar who also spent much time decoding the Bible, using gematriah as well as other methods.

As an example, we will give the hidden meaning behind one k'ri and k'tiv:

In Isaiah 63:9 the prophet states: "In all [Israel's] trouble, He did not trouble." The simple meaning of this verse is that G-d does not trouble the Jews according to their deeds; commensurate to what they deserve to suffer. While the word "lo" is read with an aleph, thus rendering its meaning as "did not," it is written with a vov, which means "Him." Thus if the verse is to be understood according to its k'tiv, the translation would be "In all [Israel's] trouble, He was troubled." This is a clear indication that G-d suffers along with His children whenever they are in difficult straits.
  
  
        
   

Footnotes

  • 1. At times, for euphemistic reasons, an entirely different word is read instead of the word written in the text. See Deuteronomy 28:27 and Isaiah 36:12.
  • 2. For example: Genesis 27:28 (the word "viyishtachavu" is missing a "vov").
  • 3. For example: Genesis 27:3 (the word "tzayid" has an extra "hay").
  • 4. For example: Genesis 8:17 ("haytze" is written; "hotzeh" is read).
  • 5. For example: II Samuel 13:33 ("im" is written but not read).
  • 6. For Example: II Samuel 16:22 ("ish" is inserted when read, but is not written at all in the text).
  • 7. For example: Deuteronomy 33:2 ("aish dat" is written as one word).
  • 8. For example: Deuteronomy 32:6 ("hal'adonai" is written as two words).

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Shabbat » Reading of the Torah » Torah Reading

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Isaiah
1. One of the greatest prophets, lived in the 7th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies of Isaiah. The book is filled with prophecies concerning the Messianic redemption.
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.