By: Rabbi Avrohom Adler
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Rav Yitzchak bar Yosef said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: Rebbe, Rabbi Yehudah ben Roeitz, Beis Shammai, Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Akiva all hold that the way a word is pronounced is determinant in Biblical exposition (yeish eim lamikra).
The Rif was questioned as to why the Gemora uses the word eim, which means mother, and not av, which means father. A similar question would be that the Gemora refers to one of the thirteen principles of Biblical hermeneutics as a binyan av and not a binyan eim.
The Rif initially responded that he never heard anyone shed light on this matter, but then he proceeded to offer a possible explanation. When the purpose of a principle is to teach a concept in a different area, the Gemora uses the term av, whereas if the discussion at hand is regarding relying on a principle, the Gemora uses the word eim.
Shearim Mitzuyanim B’Halacha explains the words of the Rif. The mother is the akeres habayis, the mainstay of the house as it is said every honorable princess dwelling within. For this reason we say yeish eim lemikra or yeish eim lemasores, as the mother is the central figure in the house and it is the mother who everyone is dependant upon. The father, on the other hand, is not usually found in the house, as he leaves the house to seek a livelihood. The principle of a binyan av, however, is that we are building from one location to another, and this is analogous to a father who influences others. (See Rabbeinu Bachye to Devarim 33:8 for further discussion on the differences between the father and mother.)