STAM 101: Maleh & Chaser

In their traditional written form, the 24 books of Tanach contain only consonants (the vowels are part of the oral tradition). Occasional exceptions to this rule are two letters – vav and yud – which can sometimes act as vowels (“o” and “ee”, respectively). Because of this peculiarity of the Hebrew language, words containing these vowels can sometimes be written maleh (“full” – with the vav or yud) or chaser (“missing” – without the vav or yud). The correct spelling of each occurrence of these words was codified by the Ba’alei Hamesora. By way of example, the word “mezuzos” appears in Tanach five times. According to the masora, it is sometimes spelled מזזות, sometimes מזוזת, and sometimes מזוזות – depending on the exact verse in which it appears. These different spellings do not change the meaning of the word in any way, but STAM with any of the words spelled incorrectly is pasul.

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