Wednesday, May 25, 2011

R. Solomon Hanau's offbeat Hebrew pointing practically applied; and how R. Michel Chassid's apostate son ripped him off.

Here's something interesting; it's a page from a machzor published in Metz in 1769 (which included the haskamah of the Sha'agas Aryeh, who was then the Chief Rabbi of Metz):

As you can see, "rabbi" in the Beraita de-r*bbi Yishma'el is spelled in a most unusual manner, with a קבוץ vowel. This accords with the view of R. Zalman Hanau (1687-1746), and I've never seen it in an actual siddur or machzor not published by Hanau himself (or published with his name, as in here) and this includes the Chabad siddurim which purport to follow his grammatical principles. This fairly maverick view, which would make the Hebrew word for "rabbi" something like "roubby" comes from his derivation of the word from the word רב (of the root רבב) rather than רבה.

Here's the nice title page of the machzor in question, printed by Moshe May:

In addition to printing all the Hebrew books in Metz, Moshe May also printed the first Yiddish translation of Robinson Crusoe there in 1764 (called בשרייבונג דאש לעבנש. . . פון רובינסאהן קריזאה, according to Steinschneider). So I guess maybe there is some traditional precedent for including, rather than excising, Robinson Crusoe (see here).

(Additional points of interest: this edition gives שלא עשני עכו"ם, as it's particular version, and includes in small type the blessing שעשני כרצונו and that long lost blessing המגביה שפלים, which it says is recited in "some places." Despite this being France, of all places, the Baruch She-amar reads המהלל בפי עמו.)

Getting back to Hanau, recently I came across Alois von Sonnenfels' "אבן בוחן Lapis Lydius oder Prüff-Stein," which completely steals Hanau's most famous and compelling original idea. More on that in a moment. Alois von Sonnenfels (1705-68) was the son of the Chief Rabbi of Berlin, Rabbi Michel Chassid (which was not a surname in those days!). His own name was Lipmann P[b]erlin and he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1735, with his three young sons, assumed the name Alois Wiener and was appointed professor of oriental languages and literature in the University of Vienna in 1745. He was given the noble title Baron von Sonnenfels the following year. Two of his children, achieved prominence in Austrian society, Joseph, in particular.

In any case, in the particular book we are discussing, which was published in 1757, Sonnenfels propounds upon the tenuah kallah (which he calls "de vocalibus minoribus" in Latin and "mindern vocalen" in German) for 30 pages (eventually he calls תנועה קלה it too, so it is 100% clear that he got it from Hanau, only he does not mention him even once).

The tenuah kallah is R. Zalman Hanau's particularly famous (and possibly dubious) discovery. The idea is that in biblical Hebrew the rules of sheva na and nach are supposed to reliably predict when the b'g'd'k'p't' letters are hard or soft. But for some reason, according to the Masoretic text, there are dozens and hundreds of examples where the rules do not work. Until Hanau they were seen as exceptions, possibly due to some quirk of the language. However Hanau realized that hundreds of exceptions are not a quirk, they must be governed by a rule. So he came up with the idea of the tenuah kallah, the light vowel. When a light vowel is followed by a sheva, although it may seem that it ought to be a sheva na, instead it is nach and doesn't transform a hard b'g'd'k'p't letter into a soft one. This is what Alois expounds, evidently his own discovery.

Poor Alois. His own name is misspelled in his Hebrew introduction:

I guess the bochur ha-zetser (typesetter) didn't know his zayins from his vavs. Haha. In case it isn't clear what I'm getting at, in Hebrew the two letters vav and zayin look very similar. So instead of writing "Sayeth Aloysius of [von] Sonnenfels, the author . . ." what it actually says is "Sayeth Alsoysoius of [von] Vonnenfels, the author . . . "

You can read his entire book here.

Of course there are those who would say that this is poetic justice since Hanau accepted the grading system of the accents developed by Christian Hebraists, and he certainly didn't mention them. On the other hand, the system of grading the accents was common knowledge at the time (albeit perhaps not to the Jews), whereas the tenuah kallah was definitely his innovation alone.

Which gets us into the next question: did he know Latin? Samuel David Luzzatto assumed he didn't: "[Hanau] deserves credit most of all for his Sha'arei Zimra, in which he sheds very clear light on the immensely complicated laws of the Accents, which he untangled with more precision and with more clarity and brevity than did Ledebuhr, Wasmuth, and Oesel, whose works, written in Latin, were most probably unintelligible to him." (From his Prolegomeni ad una grammatica ragionata della lingua ebraica, as translated by Aaron Rubin.) However, if he did adopt the grading system of the Hebraists, then perhaps he did know Latin.

Another piece of circumstantial evidence that he knew Latin was the fact that (it is claimed) that he moonlit as a teacher of Hebrew in universities in Holland. This report was written by his contemporary, the Hebraist Andreas Cnollen, in his personal copy of Hanau's Binyan Shlomo, and published in 1903 here. One presumes that if he was hired in some capacity to teach Hebrew in universities in the early 18th century that he could read Latin. On the other hand, as an unquestioned authority on grammar it is theoretically possible that his expertise was the only qualification he needed. Furthermore, it also means that he had contacts with Christians on the topics of Hebrew grammar and accents, and perhaps these contacts were sufficient for him to have learned their system of grading, and accepted it.


  1. I think you've uncovered the Hebrew equivalent of "mind your Ps and Qs".

  2. "When a light vowel is followed by a sheva, although it may seem that it ought to be a sheva na, instead it is nach and doesn't transform a hard b'g'd'k'p't letter into a soft one."

    No, Hanau says the exact opposite of this. When a sheva follows a tenuah kallah it is na, not nach, in his opinion, thus explaining why the bgdkpt letters that follow do not receive a dagesh kal (i.e. they are "soft").

    Example, from Krias Shema: "al kanfei vigdeihem", which we pronounce as nach (under the nun and gimmel, respectively), Hanau would have as na, thus explaining why the peh and dalet, respectively, are rafah.

  3. Just a small haara, the lubavitch siddur does not purport to follow Hanau, the old print of Tehillas Hashem was a photocopy of an older siddur that followed R' Hanau's system for the shva na's, with small changes with regards to nusach. For some reason its was never edited or checked over, (by the Rebbe, and presumably other Rabbonim) so the dikduk was left "as is." With regards to the new blue siddur that was published, the editors also decided for some reason to leave the shva na system in accordance with the previous version. The (relatively) new Israeli Chabad Siddur follows a different system of dikduk, that of Rabbi Shusterman, who was a Baal Koreh in 770 for the Rebbe.



Related Posts with Thumbnails