Saturday, January 14, 2006

parshat Vayechi: The Count of Pesukim in Sefer Bereishit

In shul today I noticed a masoretic note at the end of sefer Bereishit that gave the total number of pesukim. It stated there were תקל"ד אלףpesukim, and a mnemonic for this is אך לד. Now, אלף תקל"ד is 1534 pesukim, so how is this אך לד? This is an extended form of gematria (which I last saw in Bereishit Rabbati) than many are used to, in which the sofits, the final letters, continue where ת left off.

Thus:
ת = 400
ך = 500
ם = 600
ן = 700
ף = 800
ץ = 900

To explain אך לד, the א, aleph at the start signifies eleph, 1000, especially since it is written before ך, which is a higher number than 1. The ך is 500. And לד is 34.

Typically, a mnemonic is a common phrase, or a known pasuk. My best guess for the meaning of אך לד' ש is "only to/for Hashem," where ד' ש stands for the Shem Hashem. Comments/ suggestions welcome. If so, this is an interesting case of daledh rather than heh standing in for shem haShem. I wonder how early this masoretic note is.

We could also transform the daledh into a heh because, by all rights, there should be an additional pasuk in sefer Bereishit. As I've mentioned several times on the pasuk regarding Reuven and Bilhah, what we have as one pasuk was originally two, and even has an optional appropriate trup for the two individual pesukim.

4 comments:

Ephraim said...

My chumash lists the siman as
'אך לד with the apostrophe. Is your chumash missing the apostrophe?

The masoretic notes for the amount of psukim in a sefer differ in style than that for the end of a parsha, and a distinct pattern is evident:

Shemos: 1209= ארט
Vayikra: 859=נטף
Bamidbar: 1288=אפרח
Devarim: 955=הנץ

In all cases, there is no elaborate gematria as the minimal needed amount of letters are used. There's only one letter for the 1's ,10's, 100's and where applicable, a single Aleph for 1000. The only room for variation is the choice of permutation. The permutations are limited since the א always comes first and the sofits must appear last in a word. For Bereishis, these rules only provide one permutated siman that seems meaningful....

joshwaxman said...

Thanks.
Mine *does* have the apostrophe, but the use of ד for Shem Hashem seemed strange, since I assumed this to be a fairly recent innovation, and so I wasn't sure that this was not a printer's decision/interpretation on how to handle לד.

(The inconsistency in the post is due to the irregularity that ' following Hebrew appears to the right rather than to the left - the two times it occurs correctly I had to put in an invisible ש to get it to work - and once I decided to do that, I should have done it consistently.)

Your comment makes the pattern, and how it differs from other simanim, clearer. Thanks again.

Ephraim said...

"but the use of ד for Shem Hashem seemed strange, since I assumed this to be a fairly recent innovation"

Interesting. Most places use a ה instead of a ד. I checked some old seforim on seforimonline.org, and indeed the older works (16th-17th centuries) use the double-י - seemingly exclusively (I didn't check thoroughly!). Only in later works do I see it replaced by the ה. In (the possibly Sabbatean) Eishel Avraham of 1701, both forms can bee seen. When did people start using a ד as well? Another question: why does the use of the double-י persist only in siddurim and (some) chumashim but can't be found in other seforim (where the ה is used) today?

Anonymous said...

א"ך ל"ד במספר קטן = 1234

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