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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin


Hakhel asked:  A reader wrote that his Rav asked, but could not answer, why all the times “Atah” appears in Shmoneh Esrei it is milra--with emphasis on the second syllable--except for the second beracha, Mechayeh Maisim AH-ta. Your ideas are welcome!

Here are the responses we received from readers:

1)  I found that in the Chumash, the irregular version of the word "atoh" (with emphasis on the first syllable) actually appears in two different forms (aside from the regular version with emphasis on the second syllable): "AT-toh" (with a patach) and "OT-toh" (with a komotz). The former is used when the tropp is a zokeif kotohn (indicating a comma); the latter is used when the tropp is either an esnachtoh or a sohf posuk (indicating a period). This would explain "mechayei meisim AT-toh", where a comma is appropriate. The regular version is used when minimal-to-no pause is called for.

2A)  Well, first off that is not true. "Ki mochel v'solayach AHta" is m'lirah.  And in the siddur of Rav Shabai Sofer, a talmid of the Levush, who authored the first definitive siddur with an emphasis on dikduk, it is "mechye masim ahTa," same in the Ishaei Yisrael siddur edition of Nusach HaGra.  The question is what type of pausal there is after the word ahta.  By the way, there were some early siddurim that claimed that "rav l'hoshea" were really "v'rav l'hoshea."  Hint: see Sefer Yishaya, perek samech gimmel.

2A)  The statement “always” is blatantly incorrect. If the Rav was referring to a “b’fairisha ArtScroll”, he should be aware that while the current editions have a meseg under the AH, hence AHta, earlier editions had none, rendering it as ahTA. (There are other instances where ArtScroll has made similar changes from earlier editions without providing reasons for the change.)

Most of Tefilah has its origins in Tanach and in Tanach, AHta is used when the trop indicates a major stop in the posuk. There are some who seem to think that this rule also applies in Shemoneh Esray but I am unaware of any authority for that opinion and would appreciate hearing from any readers who might.

Rav Shabsai Sofer, a talmid of the Levush, authored the first and most definitive siddur with an emphasis on dikduk and all of its reasons, derivations and applications as they apply to davening, the Hagada and Birchas Hamazon.  It is an incredible encyclopedic collection of everything you might want to know but didn’t even know to ask.  t used to be a five-volume siddur--gives you some idea of how complicated dikDUK can be--but was reprinted in Eretz Yisrael under the sponsorship of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel of Baltimore some years ago in a new three-volume edition.  In his siddur, Reb Shasai renders it as "mechaye masim ahTa."  The same goes for the Ishaei Yisrael siddur edition according to the Nusach HaGra.

I sincerely hope this clarifies the question, somewhat.

3)  The word ata is meeli'ail only in the winter months when Geshem is recalled so that it is sort of a nasog achor.  I believe this is sourced in R' Yaakov Kaminetzky, Z'tl.

4)  Re ata: 1. The siddur Tefilas Kol Peh--unlike ArtScroll--has the stress on the second syllable.  2) Even if we conclude that the stress properly belongs on the first syllable, that will be because it's at a comma at the end of a thought. Cf. Gen. 3:19 & 22:12 (and there are many more examples). But you'll ask that at a comma the word becomes ota with a kametz?! The answer is that it depends on how strong the comma is: if it's a strong comma like a sof pasuk or like an esnachta, then it becomes ota with a kametz.  If, however, it is a minor comma like a zakef or even like a tipcha or a pashta, it stays ata with a patach but the stress moves up one syllable. I would venture to conclude that according to the Tefilas Kol Peh, it's a run-on without a comma or perhaps a very minor comma so the stress stays at the end, while according to the ArtScroll siddur, it's a minor comma, so the pronunciation remains ata with a patach, but the stress moves up one syllable.

5)  I thought the reason was grammatical, similar to an accent shift for a Biblical word graced with an esnachta or a sof-pasuq.  By the way, this phenomenon also occurs for Ashk'nazic shlichei tzibbur during Q'dushah, just prior to the b'rachah.

6)  With regard to "Ata" by Mechaya HaMeisim, look at Emes L'Yakov (Rav Yakov on Chumash) in Parshas Breishis by "Afar Atah."

7)  a)  "Ata" is mil'el whenever it is at the end of the pasuk or at the end of a phrase. See bracha of Re'eh and Refoeinu.
b)  See Breishis 3:11, "Ata" is at an esnachta, it is therefore mile'el.  Three pesukim later, 3:14, it is in the middle of the pasuk, hence milra.  If the question is why one mil'el has a pasach and the other a komatz, since at the end of a phrase it usually changes from pasach to komatz, that I believe has to do with the level of end of a phrase.  Esnachta and sof psuk are strong, others are weaker.

c)  See Breishis 22:12, "Ata" is mil'el but with a pasach. The trop is a koton, which is a maphsik, but lighter than esnachta or sof posuk which, in addition to being milel, would change it to a komatz, as well.