Hebrew Quiz II

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The Maters Lectionis or in Hebrew imot kri’ah, in other words the letters mentioned in yesterday’s quiz – א ה ו י – were added before the Masoretes produced the Masoretic text – the authoritative Hebrew text of the Torah including its vocalization and accentuation.

When they added the diacritical notes – the little dots and signs which indicate the vowel sounds – why didn’t the Masoretes do away with א ה ו י? In other words they could have deleted the Mater Lectionis as they now had the vowel sounds expressed twice in a single syllable.

For instance, if you take a simple and well-known word: תּוֹרָה (Torah). The sound o is expressed both by the holam (the dot) and the vav while the ha sound is expressed twice thanks to the kamatz (the little sign) and the he.

Question 2:
Why did the Masoretes keep the Maters Lectionis?

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6 thoughts on “Hebrew Quiz II

  1. Hmm. Interesting question, and I look forward to learning the answer from you.

    I wonder if it’s connected to the fact that while most words in the Torah are written malei (מלא – literally, “full” or “complete” – i.e. with these letters), others are written chaser (חסר – “missing”). And the commentaries always attach great significance to each case of a word being written chaser.

  2. Answer: Based on Devarim 13.1 (thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it), the Masoretes didn’t feel they could alter the original text by deleting a consonant. For the same reason, even if they wished to make the text legible for the next generations of Jews, they added signs and dots rather than other existing consonants as imot kri’ah so as not to alter the original text.

  3. Pingback: Weekly Review with Hens « Ilana-Davita

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