Gender Awareness on Shabbat

The Avodah list has been deliberating about gender awareness in reference to Shabbat and R. Micha Berger has raised the issue of text variants in Talmud and Rishonim on Shabbat 119a.
Firstly, whenever dealing with variant readings, one should be aware that it's usually not relevant to differentiate between 'aleph' and 'hei' at the end of a word, because the scribes themselves are more often than not unaware of the difference and thus cannot be counted upon for accuracy[1]. This also might explain why some text witnesses display מלכתא in Aramaic, even though the rest of the sentence is in Hebrew, in order to make a point, differentiating between masculine and feminine, whereas in Hebrew it's practically indiscernible.
Having said this, here are the readings on Shabbat 119 and Bava Qama 32a (thanks to Yisrael Dubitsky for looking them up): (In general, with web-accessibility of both Leiberman Institute transcripts and original manuscript images in Otzar Kitvey Yad, there's no excuse for leaving nusach questions to speculation).
In Shabbat 119, Shabbat Hamalka appears in ms Munich Oxford and Soncino print 1489+ just as it does in Vilna. But in Bava Qama 32a, because there's a lishnah ahrina, there's a range of variants: Escorial G-I-3 (Provencal script, 15-16th cens):
דאמ' ר' חנינא בואו ונצא לקראת כלה [מלכתה] ואמרי לה לקראת שבת כלה מלכא
Firenze - Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Magl. II-I-8 (Ashkenazic script, 1177)
דאמ' ר' חנינא באו ונצא לקראת מלכה (כלה) ואמרי לה לקראת שבת כלה מלכה
Munich 95 (Ashkenazic script, 1342):
בוא ונצא לקראת כלה מלכ' ואמרי לה לקראת שבת כלה מלכה
Vatican 116 (Ashkenazic script, 14th cen):
בא ונצא לקראת שבת מלכה ואמרי לה לקראת שבת [?] כלה
Soncino Family print (1490 or later):
בואו ונצא לקראת כלה מלכתא ואמרי לה לקראת שבת כלה מלכתא
Vilna: בואו ונצא לקראת כלה מלכתא ואמרי לה לקראת שבת כלה מלכתא
I will point out that all the known manuscript copies of Rif (Shabbat 44a), read:
שבת מלכא
What's interesting, and probably more important, is what's behind the nusah of the Talmud most likely to have been available to Rif- which can be found recorded in Rah BQ 32a. In the printed version, copied from ms BL 408 of European origin לקראת כלה, ואמרי לה לקראת מלכה both feminine . Yet in the version of Rah found in Geniza (Cambridge T-S AS 87.156- Sephardic or N. African hand):
שבת מלכא, ואמרי לה[...].
as in Rif (the second lishna is missing in the torn side of the page).
This passage in Rah, when copied in R. Zekhariah Aghmati's "Ner (Siraj)" anthology BQ (ms BL Or. 10013- orient, late 12th-early 13nth), reads:
'לקראת מלכא ואמ' לה לקראת כלה מלכה'
Probably the reading in Rah, ms Genizah Cambridge T-S NS 310. 37e-f (see Rah BQ ed. Dubovick 2011). Perhaps the feminine reading in Rosh (ms 539 Shabbat 16:5) etc. and the European copy of Rah, is influenced by Kabbalic perception. Even before the diffusion of the Zohar, feminine erev shabbat was well known to anyone familiar with Bahir, such as Ramban on Ex. 20:7. 7 (s.v. ובמדרשו של רבי נחוניא בן הקנה) The division line is clear: The Fatamid (Andalus and N. Africa) texts (Genizah Rah, Rif, Rambam) refer to shabbat in the masculine; the European texts: (BQ ms Florence, Rah ms BL, Rosh, Raavyah, Or Zarua- are all feminine. This correlates perfectly with the dissemination of Bahir. The exception to the rule is the Ashkenazi Raavan, who explains:
'כן הלכה כר' חנינא דאמר בואו ונצא למהר להכין לקראת שבת כלה ומלכא, ולהכי אמר כלה ומלכא דחייב אדם לצאת לקראת כלה ולקראת המלך וכ"ש לקראת שתיהן כאחת, ושבת היא כלה לישראל כדאמרינן באגדה זכור את יום השבת אמר הקב"ה לישראל זכור מה שאמרתי לשבת כשאמר לפני שכל הימים יש להם בן זוג והוא אין לו בן זוג ואמרתי לו ישראל שאין להם זוג שנקראו גוי אחד הן יהיו בני זוגך, ומלכא על שם שהוא כמלך שאין בו לא עצב ולא מלאכה'.
Interesting how the Kabbalic perception reached the rest of Ashkenaz but seems to have passed over the Raavan, who is focusing on Rah.
With this said, check out the reading in Talmud ms Hamburg 165 fol. 18b (BQ 32b). This ms often reflects Genizah readings in the European frame (so SY Friedman, Talmud Aruch 1997, Nusach pp. 25, 39), It was used in Catalonia at the end of the 12th century:
בא[ו] ונצא לקראת שבת מלכ(ה)[ת'] ואמרי לה לקראת שבת מלכ(ה)[ת'] כלה
That is, the original Andalusian copy read Malka, but the heh at the end of both Malkas was altered to Malkhta, possibly during the Geronian (HaMaor, Ramban) usage of this ms, it attained the European Kabbalic Aramiac term. Only in this Kabbalic circle would the difference be significant. This (if our two layer reading is correct) is astounding! We knew the Geronian Bet Midrash had Bahir awareness, but this awareness charged them with such significance that they're changing their gemarot to suit it! [1] SY Friedman, Sinai 110 (1992).
Here's another example of the same phenomena: In the Seder Tefillah at the end of Rambam,  Sefer Ahava, in the closest copy to the source, Oxford Hunt. 80 fol. 175 (image here), the central brakha in the Amidah for Shabbat night reads: שבתות קדשך וינוחו בם, plural, as in the siddurim of his predecessors- RaSaG and RaShbaN (In the other Amidot for Shabbat the nusach at this end isn't spelled out, indicating that they're identical). The Mishneh Torah manuscript HUC Acc 216, despite being a clearly Sephardic hand, generally presents a reading surprisingly close to Oxford. In the Seder Tefillah, where the common printed version strays from the reading in Oxford, HUC scores a 7:2 ratio in favor of Oxford.  Yet here too the reading of this brakha has been altered to the feminine: שבת קדשך וינוחו בה.
gmb 024

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