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 הִוא / הוא / היא / inconsistent nikkud in traditional Hebrew texts

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Hebrew, what a language! In Hebrew, she is hee, he is hoo, and who is mee...

Now, how would you read this word?


That's a standard Hebrew word הוא (meaning "he"), but it's vocalized like the word היא (which means "she".) You can find it in the biblical texts all over the place.

To answer this question, I've taken three approaches: logical, practical, and one of scholars.

1. The logic says: since either Vav or Yod are not "vowels" themselves, but rather point on a presense of vowels, then the pronunciation should follow the vocalization. The Vav would be only Mater Lectionis in this case, and therefore, doesn't have a sound of itself. In this case the proper reading would be like the word היא.

2. I've been asking some orthodox Jewish friends of mine, and just some people both in Israel and the US (thanks God, we have Internet nowadays), who regularly pray and read these texts. It looks like nobody had ever heard about any other reading but היא.

3. Also, I've asked a very talented guy from Israel, who learns toward being a rabbi, I believe. He's given me the following references (all approving the היא reading):

  • The primary reference recommended was מנחת שי (Minchat Shai) by R' Yedidia Shlomo Rafael ben Avraham Nortzi (1560 - 1626), which brings a commentary on Bereshit 4,22:
    הוא כתוב בוא"ו וקרי היא ביו"ד
  • Sifri (ספרי), on "וזאת הברכה", talking about the word מעונה, and saying "של היא היא".
  • מסכת סופרים, chapter 6.

Frankly speaking, I didn't look into the books myself, so if you find the above statements wrong - just let me know!

הִיא = הִוא

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