Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Vayigash - on טוֹב and טוּב


When is the word טוב spelled with a חוֹלם and when is it spelled with a שוּרק?

Kaf HaḤayyim[1] writes that the word טוב blessing of Hagomel should be recited with a חוֹלם. He writes as follows:

וצריך לומר הוא"ו של תיבת חוֹלם בחוֹלם מפני שהוא סוף ברכה ואינה סמוכה לתיבה שלאחריה.

R. David Kimḥi[2] has a different understanding. He writes:

ויש לומר כי טוֹב בחוֹלם שם תואר וטוּב בשוּרק שם דבר ובין בסמוך במוכרת אחד הם והוא הנכון, כי מבחר וטוֹב לבנון[3] סמוך והוא בחוֹלם.

R. Yitzḥak Abadi takes this approach as well,[4] and therefore maintains that the word טוב in Birkat Hagomel should be recited with a שוּרק, for while it is not סמוך, it is a שם דבר and not a שם תואר.

I am troubled by this because of three verses in this week’s parsha. Three times we find the word טוב in a similar fashion to Kimḥi’s example of וטוֹב לבנון, yet they are all spelled with a שוּרק:

ואתנה לכם את טוּב ארץ מצרים.[5]

כי טוּב כל ארץ מצרים לכם הוא.[6]

עשרה חמורים נושאים מטוּב מצרים.[7]

The obvious thing to note is that in these cases טוב is not a שם תואר but a שם דבר, because it means from the good (noun) of Egypt. But this is enigmatic because Kimḥi’s entire proof is from וטוֹב לבנון, which seems to be an exact parallel to מטוּב מצרים.

It would seem fair to answer that Kimḥi did not translate וטוֹב לבנון the way we would think. Artscroll renders it “the best of Lebanon.” I wish to posit that Kimḥi rendered it “Lebanon the good.” The fact that it is hyphenated makes this less difficult to accept.

But why did Kimḥi translate וטוֹב לבנון this way and not simply that וטוֹב is a noun? Furthermore, what proof did he have from there that the difference between טוֹב and טוּב lies in the distinction between שם דבר and שם תואר, if he could have just as easily rendered it as Artscroll did?

The answer is our parsha. In syntax, מטוּב מצרים is exactly the same as וטוֹב לבנון. They are both cases of סמוך. This therefore is clear proof that the difference between טוֹב and טוּב has nothing to do with whether or not it is סמוך. The only alternative is that the translation is different, and the difference between טוֹב and  טוּבlies not in syntax, but in meaning. Thus Kimḥi renders וטוֹב לבנון the way he does, and presents his thesis that  טוּבis a שם דבר and טוֹב is a שם תואר.

*          *          *          *          *

Besides for Hagomel there is another common application of this rule. In the fourth blessing of Grace after meals, the custom of Ashkenazim is to say:

ורחמים, וחיים, ושלום, וכל טוֹב, ומכל טוּב לעולם אל יחסרנו.

Rabbi Abadi[8] notes the fact that the Ashkenazi custom is to say  ומכל טוּבwith a שוּרק, and says that this in fact is the correct pronunciation.

He neglects to mention that the common custom[9] is that the words וכל טוב just before that are pronounced with a חוֹלם. This would only accord with the Kaf HaḤayyim, for both are a שם דבר, but while מכל טוּב is סמוך, וכל טוב can be said to be the end of the sentence.

So… I went and asked the rabbi. His response was indeed, the correct way to say it is ורחמים, וחיים, ושלום, וכל טוּב. He added that in the teshuva which contains his formulation of the Birkat Hamazon Hakatsar[10] there is a ta’ut sofer, and where it says וכל טוֹב it should say וכל טוּב.


[1] Oraḥ Ḥayyim III 219:16
[2] Sefer HaShorashim entry טוב, pp. 251-252
[3] Ezekiel 31:16               
[5] Genesis 45:18
[6] Ibid 20
[7] Ibid 23
[8] Ibid
[9] See Artscroll, Metzudah, etc.
[10] Ibid 59 (The nikud on the Hebrewbooks version –
http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1525&st=&pgnum=63 – is corrupted; in the actual sefer I have this is the only mistake there.) 

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