Illustration Credit: Elad Lifshitz, Dov Abramson Studio

Pausal Forms

A word is a word is a word, right? Not so fast! In the Torah, we find words that actually change how they sound depending on where they appear in the sentence. We have a whole bunch of examples in this week’s Torah reading.

When the parashah sums up the amount of silver that was donated to build the mishkan, it says there were 301,775 shekel:
וְכֶ֛סֶף פְּקוּדֵ֥י הָעֵדָ֖ה מְאַ֣ת כִּכָּ֑ר וְאֶ֩לֶף֩ וּשְׁבַ֨ע מֵא֜וֹת וַחֲמִשָּׁ֧ה וְשִׁבְעִ֛ים שֶׁ֖קֶל בְּשֶׁ֥קֶל הַקֹּֽדֶשׁ׃
The silver of those of the community who were recorded came to 100 talents and 1,775 shekels by the sanctuary weight:

But when it talks about the donated copper, it says there were 212,400 shakel:

וּנְחֹ֥שֶׁת הַתְּנוּפָ֖ה שִׁבְעִ֣ים כִּכָּ֑ר וְאַלְפַּ֥יִם וְאַרְבַּע־מֵא֖וֹת שָֽׁקֶל׃
The copper from the elevation offering came to 70 talents and 2,400 shekels.
Why the switch from shekel to shakel? Well, what is the note on the word shakel? A sof pasuk, our friend from last week!
Some words change their vowels when they are on a note that is a major pause, like an etnahta or a sof pasuk. This is called the pausal form of the word. Usually, it happens to words like shekel, where both of the vowel sounds are “eh,” and the first one switches to “ah.” Once you know this, you can start looking for other examples.
Can you find the pausal form of the word אֶדֶן (eden, socket) in our parashah?
There are also some names that change in this way, like in Bereishit 5:15-16. Go look it up!