November 28, 2013


וַיִּיקַץ פַּרְעֹה, וְהִנֵּה חֲלוֹם. ח וַיְהִי בַבֹּקֶר, וַתִּפָּעֶם רוּחוֹ

In this weeks sedra we read: Pharoah woke up and behold it was a dream. In the morning his spirit was troubled.

Probably a more literal translation of the unusual phrase ” vatipo’aim rucho” would be his pulse was racing or his head was throbbing/banging.

8. Now it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; so he sent and called all the necromancers of Egypt and all its sages, and Pharaoh related to them his dream, but no one interpreted them for Pharaoh. ח. וַיְהִי בַבֹּקֶר וַתִּפָּעֶם רוּחוֹ וַיִּשְׁלַח וַיִּקְרָא אֶת כָּל חַרְטֻמֵּי מִצְרַיִם וְאֶת כָּל חֲכָמֶיהָ וַיְסַפֵּר פַּרְעֹה לָהֶם אֶת חֲלֹמוֹ וְאֵין פּוֹתֵר אוֹתָם לְפַרְעֹה:

To which Rashi comments:

that his spirit was troubled: Heb. וַתִּפָּעֶם [Onkelos renders:] that his spirit was agitated, knocking within him like a bell (כְּפַעִמוֹן) (Tanchuma, Mikeitz 4). Concerning Nebuchadnezzar, however, Scripture says:“and his spirit was agitated (וַתִּתְפָּעֶם)” (Dan. 2:1). There were two [reasons for this] agitation: forgetting the dream and ignorance of its interpretation. — [from Tanchuma Mikeitz 2]

Lets look closely at source Daniel chapter 2, verse 1-3

דניאל פרק ב
א וּבִשְׁנַת שְׁתַּיִם, לְמַלְכוּת נְבֻכַדְנֶצַּר, חָלַם נְבֻכַדְנֶצַּר, חֲלֹמוֹת; וַתִּתְפָּעֶם רוּחוֹ, וּשְׁנָתוֹ נִהְיְתָה עָלָיו. ב וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ לִקְרֹא לַחַרְטֻמִּים וְלָאַשָּׁפִים, וְלַמְכַשְּׁפִים וְלַכַּשְׂדִּים, לְהַגִּיד לַמֶּלֶךְ, חֲלֹמֹתָיו; וַיָּבֹאוּ, וַיַּעַמְדוּ לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ. ג וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם הַמֶּלֶךְ, חֲלוֹם חָלָמְתִּי; וַתִּפָּעֶם רוּחִי, לָדַעַת אֶת-הַחֲלוֹם.

Daniel Chapter 2

1 And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.
2 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.
3 And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.

In our sedra it is written ותפעם רוחו vati’poem rucho whereas in Daniel it is written ותתפעם רוחו vatitpo’em rucho with two tavs.

With one vav it is niphal (passive) with two vavs it is hitpae’l ( reflexive). Great, I hear you saying Rashi and Rabbi Wise know classical Hebrew grammar but what difference does that make!!!

With one tav Pharoah didn’t know the meaning of the dream. With two tavs Nebuchadnezzar had two problems he didn’t know the meaning and couldn’t even remember the dream.

The Mizrachi explains that the two tavs mean that it is as if vatitpo’em should be read twice but it is compacted.

But look at posuk gimmel, when Nebuchadnezzar talks to the dream interpreters, he reverts to vati’poem ruchi!

The k’tav vekabbala based on the Midrash tanchuma explains that in reality Nebuchadnezzer did NOT forget the dream. He just made out that he did in order to separate the men from the boys and save time.
Pharoah had listened to various interpretations every day for two years until Yosef was remembered.

The hitpae’l reflexive is usually to do something to oneself. להתלבש, להתרחץ to wash (oneself) to dress (oneself) etc etc. But there is another usage.

In Mishle (13:7) יש מתעשר ואין כל
There are those who pretend to be rich but have nothing.
The verse continues מתרושש והון רב
Makes out/ presents himself as poor but has a fortune.

So we see that the reflexive in Hebrew can mean the way a person sees himself or presents himself. The reason that it is reflexive is that it is not based in reality it all in the mind of the person. He creates his own reality.

Now we can understand the second tav in Daniel. He didn’t really forget the dream but made out that he did. He generated his own reality.

That is why when he speaks to his advisers he drops the second tav. He is not going to tell them that he’s making it up.

Those of you who read the Bible or leyn carefully will know that with the niphal the emphasis is on the middle syllable. With the hitpae’l the accent is always at the end.

There is ONE exception in the whole of the Tenach. Our verse in Daniel ותתפעם רוחו. The accent is in the middle like a niphal because it wasn’t true. Chazal have indicated to us with the trop (the cantillation) the meaning which is the basis for the comment of the Midrash Tanchuma.

Rashi ( and all the great rabbis) knew grammar. Unfortunately it has all but disappeared from the syllabus. But as we go on Rashi will teach us the meaning of the Torah and we will get some grammar lessons thrown in free as a bonus.

Shabbat Shalom and a frelichen Chanukah.


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