Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Gazelle and the Deer

In Nature and Man in the Bible, page 271, Dr. Yehuda Feliks explains how the common identification people make of the Biblical tzvi and ayal is reversed.



Chazal had their identities correct (as we can see from details in the gemara, Chullin 59a), but it was confused in the time of the Rishonim. To cite a post (/letter) from Rabbi Slifkin:
This is no different from how the Rishonim in Ashkenaz mistakenly thought that the tzvi is the deer, and were therefore confounded by the Gemara which states that the horns of a tzvi are not branched. The reason was that that they were unfamiliar with the gazelle, which does not live in Europe, and so transposed the name tzvi to the deer. Only Rav Saadiah Gaon, who was familiar with the animal life of the Middle East, correctly identified the tzvi as the gazelle and the ayal as the deer.
And in another post (/letter):
Europe has very different animals from those of Eretz Yisrael, and the names of animals in Tanach were transposed to local equivalents. For example, the gazelle of Israel perfectly matches all Scriptural, Talmudic and Midrashic descriptions of the tzvi. While Jews in north Africa, which also has gazelles, had a (correct) tradition that the tzvi is the gazelle (and that the deer is the ayal), there were no gazelles in Europe. As a result, the name tzvi in Europe was transposed to the deer (hirsch). This led Rashi, in his commentary to Chullin 59b, to note that the creature traditionally called tzvi in Europe (i.e. the deer) is not the tzvi described by Chazal. Thus, Rashi himself observes that European traditions regarding the identities of animals mentioned in the Torah are not accurate."
I would like to look in this post specifically at what Saadia Gaon says, but we should not forget this point, that "the gazelle of Israel perfectly matches all Scriptural, Talmudic and Midrashic descriptions of the tzvi." And that reversing the identification introduces a mismatch with these descriptions.

From Saadia Gaon's Tafsir on parashat Reeh:



Thus, the Biblical Hebrew word ha-tzevi is translated into the Arabic al-tzabi. And Biblical Hebrew word ha-`ayal is translated into the Arabic wal-`iyal.

In other words, Saadia Gaon is translating these Hebrew words into their Arabic cognates.

In other words, it is not merely Saadia Gaon operating in a place which has both animals transmitting the masorah by identifying these species by their (completely unrelated) Arabic names. There is an even stronger linguistic connection present in this identification, in that people living in the Middle East used the very same names, or their cognates, for these species. And we would expect less linguistic shift in the same area of the Torah and of Chazal. And Saadia endorses that linguistic connection.

On the other hand, this raises the possibility that Saadia Gaon is not really translating at all. Sure, he is writing in Judeo-Arabic, and explicitly identifying Hebrew species by their Judeo-Arabic equivalents, where these were indeed Judeo-Arabic words. (And if the species were indeed reversed, a conscientious translator would make sure to reverse them, as al-`iyal and al-tzabi.) But at the same time, since these are cognates, perhaps he was simply rendering the definite article ha as al and writing the existing Arabic word which was the cognate. Not necessarily as a masorah, but just assuming that word X == equivalent word Y. Just as in Onkelos, tabya is a cognate, because Aramaic letter tet corresponds to Hebrew letter tzadi; and ayla is obviously the Aramaic cognate of ayal.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Moed Katan 2: Damage from failing to irrigate

Today we began Moed Katan in Daf Yomi. The Mishna (on 2a) begins with the idea that on Chol HaMoed, one can irrigate his field which required irrigation.

מתני' משקין בית השלחין במועד  
MISHNAH. AN IRRIGATED FIELD MAY BE WATERED DURING THE FESTIVAL [WEEK].
Not watering an irrigated field will cause damage, as the gemara explains:
מאן תנא דפסידא אין הרווחה לא
Who may be the [unnamed] Tanna who maintains that [work to prevent] loss is allowed, but [to augment] profit is not allowed?
How is not watering an irrigated field a case of loss? It is the loss of profit, sure, because that time that you didn't water it, it won't improve. But how exactly is this loss?

Fortuitously, just today, the blog Overlawyered linked to this article at Economics 21, which illustrates the loss quite nicely. Look at the two sentences I have bolded:
The proposed regulation, stemming from the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, would limit E. coli levels in irrigation water for any foods that could be consumed raw. This sounds like a justified reason for government action since E. coli outbreaks have the potential to sicken consumers. Just one problem, onions are not subject to E. coli contamination from irrigation. 
According to a thorough field study led by Oregon State University Agricultural Professor Clinton Shock, there is absolutely no risk of E. coli contamination from irrigation water, regardless of method used and bacteria levels in the water. This confirms what farmers and their customers have long known.
Complying with this regulation would have substantial financial consequences for farmers. Their irrigation water would need to be tested weekly and they would have to stop watering if E. coli levels were found to be too high. Onions are finicky and even a small break in irrigation could drastically reduce crop yields. 
Currently, most onion farmers would not be in compliance with the proposal. Yet there are no outbreaks of E. coli from onions. Why does FDA insist on meddling where there is clearly no problem?
So we can see that a break in irrigation can cause tremendous loss.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Baruch sheAmar: Is it בפי עמו or בפה עמו?

In the tefillah of Baruch sheAmar, there are two variant nuschaot to convey the idea that Hashem is "lauded by the mouth of His people". One is הַמְהֻלָל בְּפִי עַמּוֹ and the other is הַמְהֻלָל בְּפֶה עַמּוֹ. On the level of pure dikduk, the obvious choice is בְּפִי עַמּוֹ. After all, Hebrew nouns come in two flavors, absolute and construct. Peh is the absolute form and means simply "mouth", which Pi is the construct form, and means "mouth of". Since the blessing refers to the mouth of Amo, "His people", it is the construct form, and so Pi is the grammatically correct selection.

Siddur Shiloh, the siddur I grew up with, has it as בְּפִי.



Artscroll, following several halachic and kabbalistic sources, has it as בְּפֶה.





As they explain in the footnote:
בְּפֶה עַמּוֹ -- By the mouth of His people. The Kabbalists comment that בְּפֶה has the numerical value of 87, and alludes to the number of words in this prayer. Magen Avraham and Mishnah Berurah (51:1) favor the usage of this word. Nevertheless, some commentators feel that the word בְּפִי, which has the same meaning, is the preferred grammatical form.
They could have done a better job in explaining the awkwardness of בְּפֶה, rather than just saying it has the same meaning but is the preferred grammatical form. It might have also been nice to point out which commentators say that בְּפִי is preferred.

Conversely, one could nicely emphasize the idea that this makes the prayer self-referential. That is, הַמְהֻלָל בְּפֶה עַמּוֹ means that He is praised by the 87 of his people, meaning by this Baruch sheAmar blessing we are saying right now, rather than being a reference to pesukei deZimra, the selections of praises upon which this blessing was indeed instituted.

To make the emphasis on the gematria of 87 more understandable, one could point to sefer Heichalot, cited by the Tur ad loc.



(As background, I would point out that there is a problem in that one cannot establish a post-Talmudic blessing, yet this is precisely what Baruch SheAmar is. The following origin story neatly resolves the issue.) Sefer Heichalot states that prayer was actually composed by the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah, and at the right time, a petek (slip of paper) descended from On High with the 87 words written on it. This corresponds to (Shir HaShirim 5:11) רֹאשׁוֹ כֶּתֶם פָּז, "his head is as the most fine gold". (And recall that this is the head of pesukei deZimra.) And indeed, the Tur states, in the Ashkenazic version, notes the Tur, there are precisely 87 words.

From the wording of the Tur, we can infer that in the non-Ashkenazic version, there were not 87 words, such that the reference to  רֹאשׁוֹ כֶּתֶם פָּז would not work. And, if the text somehow said הַמְהֻלָל בְּפֶה עַמּוֹ, it would not make any meaningful allusion to the prayer itself. Also, the strange, not-so-grammatical wording of הַמְהֻלָל בְּפֶה עַמּוֹ would have been something we would fully expect the Tur, Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher (Cologne, 1270 - Toledo c.1340) to have noted, because its grammatical awkwardness stands out and it is relevant connection with these 87 words. This suggests to me that even in his days, the Ashkenazic text had בְּפִי.

The Abudraham (1350) also has בְּפִי.


In the Rambam's (1138-1204) version of Baruch SheAmar, in Seder Hatefillah, as well, it is בפי:

בָּרוּךְ שֶׁאָמַר וְהָיָה הָעוֹלָם, בָּרוּךְ הוּא.  בָּרוּךְ אוֹמֵר וְעוֹשֶׂה, בָּרוּךְ גּוֹזֵר וּמְקַיֵּם; בָּרוּךְ מְרַחֵם עַל הָאָרֶץ, בָּרוּךְ מְרַחֵם עַל הַבְּרִיּוֹת; בָּרוּךְ מַעֲבִיר אֲפֵלָה וּמֵבִיא אוֹרָה, בָּרוּךְ מְשַׁלֵּם שָׂכָר טוֹב לִירֵאָיו.  בָּרוּךְ שְׁאֵין לְפָנָיו, לֹא עַוְלָה וְלֹא שִׁכְחָה, לֹא כָזָב וְלֹא מִרְמָה, לֹא מַשּׂוֹא פָנִים וְלֹא מִקַּח שֹׁחַד.  בָּרוּךְ אֵל חַי לָעַד, וְקַיָּם לָנֶצַח.  בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הָאֵל הַמְהֻלָּל בְּפִי עַמּוֹ, מְשֻׁבָּח וּמְפֹאָר בִּלְשׁוֹן כָּל חֲסִידָיו וַעֲבָדָיו; וּבְשִׁירֵי דָוִיד בֶּן יִשַׁי עַבְדְּךָ מְשִׁיחֶךָ, נְהַלֶּלְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ בִּשְׁבָחוֹ וּבְזִמְרוֹ, נוֹדָךְ נְשַׁבְּחָךְ נְפָאֲרָךְ נַמְלִיכָךְ, נַזְכִּיר שְׁמָךְ מַלְכֵּנוּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ יַחַד.  יָחִיד, חֵי הָעוֹלָמִים, מְשֻׁבָּח וּמְפֹאָר, עֲדֵי עַד שְׁמוֹ.  בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהוָה, מֶלֶךְ מְהֻלָּל בַּתֻּשְׁבָּחוֹת.
There are also 103 words, rather than 87.

See Magen Avraham, who says it is בפה, here. Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, in Aruch HaShulchan, Orach Chaim 51:2, writes similarly.
ואומרים בפה עמו ולא בפי 
The standard assumption is that there are kabbalistic reasons behind this version with בפה. As yaak wrote in a comment on an earlier post of mine on this subject:
The Nusah of "בפה עמו" is Kabbalistic. The Ben Ish Hai mentions it (in אות ז), quoting the ספר הכונות, which is synonymous with the פרי עץ חיים, which I found here (see ד"ה אך יש).
So, the Arizal (1534-1572) and Rav Chaim Vital (1543-1620) may be behind establishing this changed nusach, at this late date. Alternatively, it preexisted them and existed for kabbalistic reasons or non-kabbalistic reasons.

With this background in mind, let me introduce an eye-opening Minchas Shai (R' Yedidya Norzi, 1560-1626) on parshat Ekev. The pasuk in question is Devarim 8:3:

ג  וַיְעַנְּךָ, וַיַּרְעִבֶךָ, וַיַּאֲכִלְךָ אֶת-הַמָּן אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדַעְתָּ, וְלֹא יָדְעוּן אֲבֹתֶיךָ:  לְמַעַן הוֹדִיעֲךָ, כִּי לֹא עַל-הַלֶּחֶם לְבַדּוֹ יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם--כִּי עַל-כָּל-מוֹצָא פִי-ה, יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם.3 And He afflicted thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every thing that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

Note the words motza fi Hashem. There is no dagesh in the letter פ of פי. Even though in general, the letters beged kefet at the start of a word gets a dagesh, if the previous word ends in an open syllable, meaning that it ends in a vowel rather than a consonant, and the trup on that previous word is the joining kind of trup (as in this case, a mercha) rather than the dividing kind, then the beged kefet does not get a dagesh.

Minchas Shai writes about this:



"מוֹצָא פִי-ה -- 'every beged kefet which follows the letters yud heh vav or aleph [that is, an open syllable] is fricative [without a dagesh], except for the exceptions. And many of them have a dagesh for the improvement of reading, such as this one, for it is not possible to say fi immediately prior to the [Divine] Name, for it is a disparaging language in French, and [Heaven] forfend to apply this to Hashem Yitbarach.' End quote, that which I have found.
And I have heard that in French, fi, the meaning is null and nothing. And in all the sefarim [Minchas Shai has seen] the פ is fricative, according to the rule. And we should not worry about the Grench language, because we do not cancel the operation of the Holy Tongue [Hebrew] because of other languages. And I have found as well, in Michah 4:4:
ד  וְיָשְׁבוּ, אִישׁ תַּחַת גַּפְנוֹ וְתַחַת תְּאֵנָתוֹ--וְאֵין מַחֲרִיד:  כִּי-פִי ה צְבָאוֹת, דִּבֵּר.4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken.

where it is a fricative."

End quote of Minchas Shai.

What we see from here is that there was an opinion that one should modify this and other instances of fi to avoid disparaging Hashem when reading the Torah. And Minchas Shai disagreed with that approach.

Looking at the etymological dictionary for the English word fie, we see this entry:
fie (interj.) Look up fie at Dictionary.com
late 13c., possibly from Old French fi, exclamation of disapproval, and reinforced by a Scandinavian form (compare Old Norse fy); it's a general sound of disgust that seems to have developed independently in many languages.
This would then explain the development of the variant text of הַמְהֻלָל בְּפֶה עַמּוֹ in an utterly non-kabbalistic manner. That is, how could one possibly say that Hashem was praised by the fi of his nation? Fi is a term of disparagement! And so, just as certain Jews did this even for certain instances in reading the Torah, they did so as well for the places it occurred in prayer. Except rather that putting the dagesh in the letter פ, they simply changed it from construct form פי to absolute form פה.

What of the fact that there is a kabbalistic basis, and the tie-in to the gematria corresponding the number of words? I would answer that there are two different types of kabbalistic explanations for nusach and practice. One is an origin. Some practice was established by kabbalists, for kabbalistic reasons. The other is an explanation for existing practice. In such a case, the practice already exists, for practical or halachic reasons, and a kabbalist looks at it through the lens of kabbalah and shows how it is significant and meaningful. I would suggest that we are dealing here with the second kind of explanation.

After writing this theory in that other post, Menachem Mendel commented and called my attention to an article in a book by Dr. Naftali Weider:
Naftali Weider discussed fi/fe in his article on influences of non-Hebrew words on the liturgy. The bibliographic details are here. I don't have a scan of it so I can't send it to you, although a summary of his conclusions can be found here.
That summary is:

The article is titled תיקונים בנוסח התפילה בהשפעת לשונות לועזיות, and it is possible to see a summary and possibly even view that article here.

So indeed, the changed nusach preceded the Arizal, and extended across more of the liturgy, all instances of befi, including in the piyut of Keil Adon we say on Shabbat, which begins אל אדון על כל המעשים, ברוך ומבורך בפי כל הנשמה.

In terms of practice, how should one conduct oneself? I would say as follows. I am not a kabbalist, such that I would change from the grammatically correct, or preferred, for kabbalistic reasons. Maybe one can justify the kvetch in grammar by saying that on occasion, Hebrew will use mere apposition to express the construct form, but why go there? Further, as yaak pointed out, the changed nusach is actually counterproductive. In Yiddish, and in English as a derivative, it is "Feh!" that is a note of disgust or contempt, while the grammatical Fi (with a chirik) has no such connotation. It makes sense to prefer בפי. And since I grew up on Siddur Shiloh, and have always been somewhat ambivalent of which one to use, I would say בפי.

On the other hand, בפה is your existing custom, there might be issues with changing it. Consult your local Orthodox rabbi.

At the end of the day, though, it doesn't really matter. רחמנא ליבא בעי. It is our hearts, and intent, which Hashem wants. If you said something which was ultimately ungrammatical but justified by halachic works and by minhag, and you meant "the mouth of His people", then it is not the end of the world. You davened in a legitimate manner, and Hashem is not a pedantic grammarian who will reject your tefillot because of this.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Ibn Caspi: Has Elokim essayed to take Him a nation

There is a nice ambiguous set of pesukim in the beginning of vaEtchanan, in Devarim 4:34. A small selection:

לב  כִּי שְׁאַל-נָא לְיָמִים רִאשֹׁנִים אֲשֶׁר-הָיוּ לְפָנֶיךָ, לְמִן-הַיּוֹם אֲשֶׁר בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אָדָם עַל-הָאָרֶץ, וּלְמִקְצֵה הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְעַד-קְצֵה הַשָּׁמָיִם:  הֲנִהְיָה, כַּדָּבָר הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה, אוֹ, הֲנִשְׁמַע כָּמֹהוּ.32 For ask now of the days past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and from the one end of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?
לג  הֲשָׁמַע עָם קוֹל אֱלֹהִים מְדַבֵּר מִתּוֹךְ-הָאֵשׁ, כַּאֲשֶׁר-שָׁמַעְתָּ אַתָּה--וַיֶּחִי.33 Did ever a people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?
לד  אוֹ הֲנִסָּה אֱלֹהִים, לָבוֹא לָקַחַת לוֹ גוֹי מִקֶּרֶב גּוֹי, בְּמַסֹּת בְּאֹתֹת וּבְמוֹפְתִים וּבְמִלְחָמָה וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה, וּבְמוֹרָאִים גְּדֹלִים:  כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לָכֶם ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, בְּמִצְרַיִם--לְעֵינֶיךָ.34 Or hath God assayed to go and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before thine eyes?
לה  אַתָּה הָרְאֵתָ לָדַעַת, כִּי ה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים:  אֵין עוֹד, מִלְּבַדּוֹ.35 Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightest know that the LORD, He is God; there is none else beside Him.

The concluding words are Ain Od Milvado. There is only one deity. This is YKVK, mentioned in pasuk 35 as the only Elokim.

If so, what are we to make of  אוֹ הֲנִסָּה אֱלֹהִים? Are we asking whether God with a capital G did this for any other nation? This is possible, if the purpose is to show how unique we are. Hashem did this for us -- unto thee it was shown -- so that we might know this.

But on the other hand, other nations have their own national deities. For instance, Moav had Kemosh. If so, אוֹ הֲנִסָּה אֱלֹהִים might be profane, meaning a god with a lowercase g. No other deity has done this, because those deities do not exist. Hashem took these elaborate steps in order to demonstrate that he does exist.

If the latter is the meaning, then the pasuk is temporarily ascribing existence to those other gods purely in order to dismiss them from existence. They are hypothetical until they are ultimately dismissed. And in the duration, they are discussed as if they exist, but their non-action is noted. This would be from the perspective of the idolatrous other nations, or from the perspective of the Israelites before they have been shown the light.

This latter interpretation is something that might be too difficult for some to allow into the Biblical text. Or, there might be other reasons for disregarding the interpretation. I would like to present Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and finally Ibn Caspi. Because Ibn Ezra and Ibn Caspi sometimes speak cryptically, I cannot say definitively that I have entirely understood their intent. But I present it nonetheless.

Rashi writes that it is profane. Thus:


Or has any god performed miracles to come and take him a nation from the midst of a[nother] nation, with trials, with signs, and with wonders, and with war and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great awesome deeds, as all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? לד. אוֹ | הֲנִסָּה אֱלֹהִים לָבוֹא לָקַחַת לוֹ גוֹי מִקֶּרֶב גּוֹי בְּמַסֹּת בְּאֹתֹת וּבְמוֹפְתִים וּבְמִלְחָמָה וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה וּבְמוֹרָאִים גְּדֹלִים כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לָכֶם יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם בְּמִצְרַיִם לְעֵינֶיךָ:
Or has any god performed miracles: Heb. הֲנִסָּה אלֹהִים. Has any god performed miracles (נִסִּים) ? הנסה אלהים: הכי עשה נסים שום אלוה:


Onkelos takes it as holy:

ד,לד אוֹ הֲנִסָּה אֱלֹהִים, לָבוֹא לָקַחַת לוֹ גוֹי מִקֶּרֶב גּוֹי, בְּמַסֹּת בְּאֹתֹת וּבְמוֹפְתִים וּבְמִלְחָמָה וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה, וּבְמוֹרָאִים גְּדֹלִים:  כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לָכֶם יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, בְּמִצְרַיִם--לְעֵינֶיךָ.אוֹ נִסִּין עֲבַד יְיָ, לְאִתְגְּלָאָה לְמִפְרַק לֵיהּ עַם מִגּוֹ עַם, בְּנִסִּין בְּאָתִין וּבְמוֹפְתִין וּבִקְרָבָא וּבְיַד תַּקִּיפָא וּבִדְרָעָא מְרָמְמָא, וּבְחֶזְוָנִין רַבְרְבִין:  כְּכֹל דַּעֲבַד לְכוֹן יְיָ אֱלָהֲכוֹן, בְּמִצְרַיִם--לְעֵינֵיכוֹן.

Ibn Ezra says it is kodesh, and chas veshalom that it is profane!

[ד, לד]
או הנסה אלהים -
יש אומרים:
 
שהוא לשון חול וחלילה חלילה, רק לשון קדושה.

הנסה -כדרך בני אדם, כדי שיבינו השומעים.

"Or has Elokim tried: Some say that it is profane, and forfend! Rather it is holy.
Tried: In the way of people, so that the hearers may understand."

This is a facet which is new and interesting. That is (maybe), one might object to it being holy, referring to Hashem, based on HaNisa. Or maybe the point is orthogonal to the previous. There is no effort involved in Hashem performing anything, so why use the word HaNisa? The answer is a sort of dibra Torah kilshon benei Adam. Just as people try to do something, or set out to do something. One can thus use this idiom about a possible action of Hashem. And it a useful idiom, for the sake of the audience understanding. But we, who know better, understand that this is just an idiom, and would not ascribe an 'attempted action' to God.

This makes sense to me, even though I would prefer the interpretation of Rashi.

Ibn Caspi writes:

"Did [Elokim] Attempt: the Torah speaks in the language of people. And Elokim is holy [meaning a reference to Hashem, rather than profane, to idols]. Because He is the first Actor, and there are many 'elohim' below him, Yisbarach, working from him."
This is somewhat cryptic, but I think that learning through Ibn Ezra first can help clarify, at least a little bit. This is true in general, that it is important to get a sense of the intellectual climate in which a commentator writes.

I might have thought that when Ibn Caspi wrote "the Torah speaks in the language of people", he was explaining that this refers to their belief in the existence of other gods, which would then (at first) be in contrast with his immediately following statement that Elokim in kodesh, but not in contrast with the last statement (of God being the first Actor atop other Elohim beneath).

But now that I've seen Ibn Ezra, I think that when Ibn Caspi said upon Hanisa that "the Torah speaks in the language of people", he means that the concept and idiom of "attempted action" ascribed to God is the language of people. Further, that Elokim is kodesh, just as Ibn Ezra and Onkelos said.

But then a refinement, possibly motivated by theology or possibly motivated by peshat concerns, I think he is harmonizing this with Rashi. Suddenly, those actors, the אֱלֹהִים, in all those pesukim are actually not entirely God with a capital G. They are the lower actors, secondary causes without free will, all propelled by Hashem who is the First Cause. And that is peshat in all these pesukim. So indeed, chalila that the pesukim would even temporarily posit the existence of other gods, but rather, these do exist, but are part of, an extension of Hashem.

What then to make of the closing line,  אַתָּה הָרְאֵתָ לָדַעַת, כִּי ה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים:  אֵין עוֹד, מִלְּבַדּוֹ? Isn't the function of this to deny those other beings existence?

No. The purpose is to say that Hashem is the overlord and first cause of those other powers, which are just extensions of His Divine Will. Hashem is those Elohim. There is none beside Him. Those others are not true gods.

Maybe. This is what Ibn Caspi says on that pasuk, 35:



Me too!

From a parsha sheet for Pinchas:


"HaRav Ben Zion would always flee from honor. Every Shabbat after Mincha, he would deliver a Shiur. In his great humility, he was bothered by the fact that everyone stood up for him when he entered the Shul. In order to avoid this, HaRav Ben Zion decided to enter the Shul when they will open the Aron Kodesh to take out the Sefer Torah. That way, everyone would stand up anyway, not purposely for him."
I do this to, only for Shachris.

;)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rav Ovadia Seforno and the balance of opposites

Note: I am trying a gentler approach to my critiques. I am trying to first praise for what is good and then suggest areas for improvement.

I read through the Chazaq parsha package this Shabbos and came across an interesting devar Torah from Rabbi Bentzion Shafier. You can read it here in the Shmuz.

Rabbi Shafier encounters a Seforno which is difficult to reconcile with modern science. And -- kudos! -- he asks the question! Others would have just accepted it without question. He could have done better in his approach. His assumption appears to be that Seforno must be correct. (After all, Seforno is a late Rishon.) And if so, we must look to modern science to justify the Seforno's position. And then, when finding something which can be kvetched to support Seforno's idea, we accept this as Seforno's meaning. Finally, we marvel at how Seforno was 500 years ahead of his time -- a sure sign of ruach hakodesh -- and draw important life lessons of how to conduct ourselves.

Drawing inspirational life lessons from the words of great Biblical commentators is nice. And it is also nice that people walk away with great respect for Torah and its interpreters. On the other hand, it is unfortunate that people walk away with a flawed understanding of what Rav Ovadia Seforno actually meant. I think that Seforno would have preferred that we understand his actual meaning, even if we ultimately disagreed with him.

Rav Ovadia Seforno was a physician. He was born in 1475 and died in 1550. If he is bringing science to bear on a question, it makes sense that he would be using the science of his day. Let us see the pasuk and comment in question.

 ספר במדבר פרק כה
יא) פינחס בן אלעזר בן אהרן הכהן השיב את חמתי מעל בני ישראל בקנאו 
 :את קנאתי בתוכם ולא כליתי את בני ישראל בקנאתי
 :יב) לכן אמר הנני נתן לו את בריתי שלום
 ספורנו עה"ת ספר במדבר פרק כה פסוק יב
יב) את בריתי שלום. ממלאך המות, כענין עושה שלום במרומיו כי אמנם 
ההפסד לא יקרה אלא בסבת התנגדות ההפכים. וזה אמנם נתקיים בפינחס 
שהאריך ימים הרבה מאד מכל שאר אנשי דורו, עד שהיה הוא משמש במשכן 
שילה בזמן פלגש בגבעה, שהיה בלי ספק אחרי מות יהושע ושאר הזקנים 
אשר האריכו ימים אחרי יהושע וכל שכן אם היה בזמן יפתח שכתב למלך בני 
עמון בשבת בני ישראל בחשבון ובבנותיה כו' שלש מאות שנה וכבר סיפרו ז"ל 
שפינחס לא רצה ללכת אז אל יפתח להתיר נדרו. וכל שכן לדברי האומר 
 אליהו זה פנחס, והוא עדין חי וקיים


Rabbi Shafier explains:
Pinchas was zealous in defending the honor of HASHEM; therefore, he
was granted a Bris of Shalom. The Siforno explains that because of
this covenant of peace, Pinchas lived to an extraordinary age -- far
longer than was expected in his times. However, the Siforno points out,
the reason for his longevity wasn’t supernatural, but rather because he
was granted this Bris. Since he was given Shalom, he was at peace with
himself, and as a result, he didn’t suffer the normal internal conflict
that causes damage to our bodies. He therefore lived to an extremely
old age.

The Siforno explains: all degeneration happens to the body because of
conflict of the opposites
. In other words, all disease, infirmity, and
weakening with age, only occurs because of internal conflicts. Since
Pinchas was granted peace, he had no internal battles; therefore, his
body didn’t age, and so he lived hundreds of years. 
The way he explains the degeneration because of conflict of opposites, it seems like this is a psychological conflict, "internal conflicts", "internal battles", which Pinchas lacked because he now was granted peace.

However, to understand Seforno, we must understand the science of his day. This was the theory of humours. Here is a good summary of the theory:

Based on the theory that natural matter comprised four basic elements, the Greek philosophers came up with the idea that the human body consisted of the four humours, which had to be kept in balance. This theory survived until after AD 1700.
Then, derived from his study of mathematics, the Greek philosopher Pythagoras came up with the idea of the balance of opposites. This gave Greek doctors their idea of the underlying cause of disease. We can read about this in the 70 books ascribed to the Greek doctor Hippocrates, who thought that disease occurred when the humours of the body fell out of balance.
So, when Seforno says כי אמנם ההפסד לא יקרה אלא בסבת התנגדות ההפכים, all degeneration happens to the body because of conflict of the opposites, he is speaking as a medieval physician, and the opposites are the opposing humours in the body. Part of this gift of shalom was that these opposites were in balance, and so Pinchas was immune to disease.

That is a true explanation of Seforno. It is emes, which is a great virtue. By knowing a bit about the science of the day, we can get to the bottom of what Seforno meant. However, if we don't study the history of science, and cannot entertain the possibility that Seforno could be basing himself on faulty science, then we end up with a flawed understanding of Seforno's intent. Such as, e.g., that he was speaking from psychological perspective, and that he intuitively, or via ruach hakodesh, knew all of modern science.

Let us see how this plays out. Rabbi Shafier continues:
The body was made to last only so long… 
The difficulty with this understanding of the Siforno is that it negates
our basic understanding of health. The reality is that humans age. The
heart, the liver, the pancreas were designed to function only for a given
length of time, and then they break down. Infirmities and weakness
come naturally with old age; arthritis, high blood pressure, and the
thickening of the arteries are a part of life. While the heart may be a
remarkable living pump, the valves start to weaken with time, the
muscle tissue begins to break down, and the health of the heart
deteriorates with age. The body was made to last only so long; then it
just wears out. 
The Chazaq sheet (but not the Shmuz) then ends with this question:
So how can the Sifrno [sic] argue with our accepted understanding by stating "All deterioration happens to the body because of conflict of the opposites.[sic]"
The answer to this question, from our perspective is straightforward. Of course the Seforno can argue with our accepted understanding. Seforno is based on Aristotelian science. Our accepted understanding is based on modern science. There are a great many differences between the two. And Rishonim have often based themselves on Galenic or Aristotelian science.

Rabbi Shafier offers the following answer, based on modern science:
Mind / body relationship 
The answer to this question is based on 20th century medical findings.
Herbert Benson, MD, PHD, was professor of medicine in Harvard
University in the 1960’s when he stumbled upon an unusual
phenomenon. He found that when a patient’s blood pressure was taken
in his office, invariably it was higher than then when taken at home.
His patients would regularly report blood pressure levels significantly
lower than what was found in his office.

After careful study, he concluded that anxiety contributes to high blood
pressure. Being examined by a doctor was causing his patients to be
nervous, and that was contributing to the rise in their blood pressure.

While it may seem obvious to us today, at the time it wasn’t clear at all
that there was a correlation between stress and high blood pressure. For
decades, it was assumed that a person’s mental condition
had no affect on his physical condition. Any reported affects of stress
and anxiety on health were taken as psychosomatic or imagined.

His discovery led him to firmly establish the correlation between stress
and high blood pressure, and he became a pioneer in a new field of
medicine: the relationship between mind and body. Since those times,
it has now become accepted in the medical community that stress causes
a marked deterioration to a person’s health. Stress can bring about heart
disease, gastrointestinal disorders, pain, insomnia, asthma, allergies…
It is now accepted medical opinion that along with diet and exercise, the
lowering of stress levels is a major contributor to a person’s overall
health. 
This answer unfortunately takes us further in the wrong direction. It continues in the incorrect assumption that Seforno's conflict of opposites" is mental and psychological. And it finds some relatively recent discovery. I don't know that Herbert Benson was the first to come up with the idea that emotional state can have an effect on physical health, and that the idea did not exist at all prior to the 1960's. However, let us grant that, for the sake of argument. It is still the case that according to modern science, absence of mental stress will not ensure a lifespan of hundreds of years, which is what Seforno is speaking about. See Seforno's words! Does all degeneration happen as a result of mental stress? Scientists in the 20th century will tell you that there is still the effect of aging, of physical stresses to the body from daily living, the effect of diet, and attacks by microbes. A really mellow person will still not live forever, or for hundreds of years!

Rabbi Shafier continues:
This is something that the Siforno taught us over 500 years ago. What
he was saying was the Pinchas naturally lived for hundreds of years
because the normal cause of deteriorating health didn’t apply to him. He
wasn’t in conflict; he was at peace with himself, and as such, his body
was healthier and able to live to a remarkably advanced age
Here we are supposed to be awed at Seforno's knowledge of present science. 500 years ago, he already knew this. And scientists are just catching up!

It is more likely that, rather than the kvetch that doesn't actually resolve the problem, Seforno was basing himself on what was known 500 years ago.

The rest of the Shmuz is how to apply this deep lesson to our own lives. Thus:
The ultimate cause of distress – the voice inside 
This concept has major ramifications in our lives. When HASHEM
created man, He implanted into each of us an inner sense of right and
wrong, a Voice Inside that allows us to know the correct course of
behavior for each situation. More than simply a moral compass, this
Voice Inside acts as our guide to self-perfection.

When a person listens to that voice, he lives a fulfilling, meaningful life
-- as his Creator intended -- and he is at peace with himself. If he
chooses to ignore that voice, not only doesn't he grow to the heights for
which he was destined, he lives in
And so on.

OK, so I disagree with the Shmuz as far as methodology and conclusions go. But should we be so harsh? Here I explain why it is not such a big deal.

What is the purpose of a Shmuz? Is it Talmud Torah? Is it deep study of Biblical commentators in order to understand their intent and perhaps the meaning of the Biblical text?

Or, is the purpose to inspire? If so, getting to the true meaning of Seforno's words may not be as important.  Consider that this might be what happens in a lot of midrash: rather than considering the pasuk as text, the midrashist treats it as pretext, a means of getting a specific homiletic message across while tying it to the Torah text.  And so the highlighted textual difficulty need not be truly as difficult as presented.  It is a specific genre of midrash.  So too here, a Shmuz is a specific genre of dvar Torah, and so perhaps we need not be so insistent that Seforno be understood correctly.

Still, this was a missed opportunity to teach how to understand Chazal,  Rishonim,  and Acharonim -- on their own terms,  based on the science of their day.  And a missed opportunity to promote Torah Umaddah -- since Seforno thought to explain pesukim based on science,  something which is only entirely evident when the science is wrong.  (Otherwise people attribute it to ruach hakodesh, as seems to be the case here in this Shmuz;  or else drawn from the text itself,  with science learned from pesukim,  as perhaps is being suggested here. ) And of course, it is better to draw inspiration from interpretations of pesukim and meforshim when the interpretation is actually true...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

When the fast of the 17th of Tammuz ends, 2014

This is for Flushing, New York. Please consult other sources if you live elsewhere, because the end time does indeed change.

From the Etz Chaim bulletin: Fast of Tammuz 17 - Begins 4:25 AM, Ends 9:07 PM.

From MyZmanim:
Fast ends
R' Tukaccinsky  
  • The fast ends no later than the
    emergence of ג' כוכבים בינונים at -
  •  9:01 PM
       
    R' Moshe Feinstein  
  • One who finds fasting difficult may eat at -
  •  9:05 PM
  • One who does not find fasting difficult
    should wait until the time for מוצאי שבת at -
  •  9:14 PM

    מהיכא תיתי

    From Chabad:
    Fast Ends: 8:58 PM
    As is usual, MyZmanim R' Tukaccinsky time is 3 minutes later than given at Chabad. See here for an explanation.

    Monday, July 14, 2014

    posts so far for parshat Matot




    2012

    1. Matos sources -- now organized chronologically.

    2. YUTorah on Matot

    3. Hataras Nedarim, suspended in air

    2011

    1. The mercha kfula in parshas Shmini -- How shall we account for it? There is one in Matos as well.
      .
    2. Matos sources -- further expanded. For instance, many more meforshei Rashi.
      .
    3. Why is Moshe's death after the war against MidianLast year, I presented one reason from Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz. Here is another one, having to do with the laws of ritual purity.
      .
    4. YU Torah on parashat Matos.
      .
    5. Is there any Targum Onkelos on Atarot v'DivonNot according to Rashi and Tosafot. So why do we have it in our Mikraos Gedolos?
      .
    6. Why is וְכִבַּסְתֶּם translated as וּתְחַוְּרוּן?  Onkelos strays from his usual path. Is this a violation of the rule laid down by Rashi in parshat Tazria?
      .
    7. Matos / Masei as the last sidra in the Torah --  Yes, I know there is a whole sefer in front of us, sefer Devarim, but that is Mishneh Torah. We should still consider the first four sefarim as a unit, such that we should expect some closure to the Torah.

      That, I think, is peshat in the instruction to Moshe about fighting Midyan...
    2010

    1. Matos sources -- revamped,  with more than 100 meforshim, organized into categories.
      a
    2. Pinchas took the aron to battle, to the exclusion of the tzitz -- What Ibn Ezra tells us by omission, when he says that they took the aron to war.
      a
    3. What is the allegorical meaning of the midrash of Pinchas the flying kohenThis is one midrash I suspect was indeed intended allegorically, despite the thrilling details which we would like to picture happening on the peshat level.
      .
    4. What was Bilaam doing in Midian? Bilaam shouldn't have been there, since he 'returned to his place'. So why was he killed in the battle against Midian? The midrash has an answer; Ibn Caspi does not, and is firm in not having an answer. Also, Rav Saadia Gaon, and another suggested resolution.

    2009
    1. Matot sources -- links by perek and aliyah to an online Mikraos Gedolos, plus many, many meforshim on the parsha and haftarah.

    2. To whom did Moshe speak in the beginning of Matot? To the leaders, to the people, to the leaders of the people, etc. Different opinions, and how it may work into trup.
    3. Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz considers why the war with Midian was to be specifically waged in Moshe's lifetime.
    2008
    1. The Trup on Vekamu nedareha -- and Shadal's suggestion that the revii should really be a zakef, analyzed.
      .
    2. Yachel meaning Forgive, Profane, Or Delay? as per the discussion of various meforshim.
      .
    3. Did Ibn Ezra have "chalutz" with a kametz? I doubt it.
    2007
    1. The Vengeance of the Lord -- Moshe takes immediate action, as opposed to what Yehoshua does. There is also a change from the vengeance of the Israelites, in Hashem's statement, to the vengeance of Hashem, in Moshe's statement. Perhaps this is Hashem's vengeance on behalf of the Israelites.
    2006
    • No Punishment For Cursing? And Excusing The Woman Who Vows -- A post on Emor, about the blasphemer, in which I digress to discuss the laws in Matot, and how a husband may nullify his wife's vows. I suggest that וְנָשָׂא אֶת-עֲו‍ֹנָהּ may be read not only as "he (=her husband) shall bear her sin," but also "He (=Hashem) shall bear her sin," or "her sin shall be borne." An analysis by considering the various sections in the parsha.
    • Bilaam the Flying Soothsayer -- 
      • the derivation of the midrash that Bilaam flew and that Pinchas used the tzitz to bring Bilaam back to earth.
    • Pinchas the Flying Priest
      • in which Pinchas also flies. the midrashic derivation of that, as well as the derivation of an extended Arami Oved Avi midrash in Tg Yonatan, where Bilaam's misdeeds are more numerous.
    2005
    • Did Pinchas Act On His Own Initiative? (related to parshat Balak and Pinchas as well)
      • First, dismiss as anachronistic and silly the idea that the brit shalom that Pinchas received was a cure for fanaticism, and that Hashem disliked Pinchas' action, by noting that in this incident, Hashem killed 24,000 in a plague, that Moshe called for the execution of the leaders of those who had joined Baal Peor, and that in a subsequent episode, Pinchas is called upon to join battle with the Midianites.
        However, if one desires to mitigate the zealousness, one can point out that according to the traditional, midrashic interpretation (advanced by Rashi), Moshe and the judges were unsure of how to act in Zimri's case, Pinchas recalled the halacha, reminded Moshe, and Moshe told him to carry it out. And so, Pinchas executed a command from the leader of the Israelites, and did not simply act on his own (though the halacha he recalled was that zealots may act on their own in such a case.)
        From a pshat perspective, one might posit that Pinchas did not act on his own at all. The previous verse contains a command to kill the leaders of those who had joined Baal Peor, and we know from earlier and elsewhere that the harlotry led into joining Baal Peor, and so Zimri fit this command. Further, Pinchas' action stops Hashem's anger (manifested in the plague), and Hashem told Moshe the killing of those involved would turn aside His anger.
    • Midianites or Moabites? (related to parshat Balak and Pinchas as well)
      • Considers that the beginning of the Baal Peor episode involved daughters of Moab, while subsequently, Kozbi was a Midianite, they are told to take revenge on the Midianites, and in parshat Matot, they fight a war against Midianites, and Moshe is upset that they did not kill the Midianite women who enticed them in the first place.
        Notes the Midianite role in consulting with Bilaam in the first place, in parshat Balak; notes that Midian at points seemed to hold land of Moav; notes Balak himself may have been a prince of Moav. Suggests that the elite of the Israelites slept with the nobles of the area, who were Midianites, while commoners slept with the commoners, who were Moabites; that it was Moabite land under rule of Midian; that there were both Moabites and Midianites present; and that Moav was protected as the result of Divine command.
    • First to the Leaders
      • The first pasuk is taken midrashically to mean that first the leaders and then the general populace were informed of the command. Explains how this is evident in a particular parsing of the verse (advanced by Mizrachi): "And Moses spoke unto the heads of the tribes and to {rather than of} the children of Israel, saying..." and demonstrates how the trup is consistent with this reading, and not with the typical pshat reading.
    • Haftarat Matot = Yirmiyahu 1:
      • Yerushalmi Gittin #1: Jewish Geography?
        • Which way is Bavel? The gemara says East, but Yirmiyahu appears to say North, an issue which bothered the meforshim. An attempted resolution - perhaps Yirmiyahu is talking about a failed attack which we know happened shortly after his prophecy, and his prophecy explicitly makes mention of the fact that it will fail.
      • Yirmiyahu: Baby-Faced Prophet?
        • In which I consider a possible neo-midrashic interpretation of הִנֵּה לֹא-יָדַעְתִּי, דַּבֵּר כִּי-נַעַר, אָנֹכִי as Yirmiyahu literally being unable to speak because he is an infant. Speculations that this was used as a basis for Jesus and, in turn, for Ben Sira and Merlin.
    2004
    • Tevilat Kelim
      • A novel analysis of the psukim, the gemara, Ramban, and Rashi, on the subject of immersing certain acquired vessels. This post defies easy summary, so check it out inside!
    • More On Tevilat Kelim
      • Heh. Check out this post, which shows that not only Jews practice tevilat keilim.
    2003
    • Halachic Ramifications of the Number of Israelite Warriors
      • A discussion in Eruvin about the minimum size of an encampment of Jewish soldiers, in which five normal halachic obligations are waived. One suggestion, 12,000, is based on the size of the force which attacked Midian in parshat Matot.
    to be continued...

    Thursday, July 10, 2014

    Why we don't know Yocheved's mother's name

    In parshat Pinchas, we read of Yocheved's birth {Bemidbar 26:59}:

    נט  וְשֵׁם אֵשֶׁת עַמְרָם, יוֹכֶבֶד בַּת-לֵוִי, אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה אֹתָהּ לְלֵוִי, בְּמִצְרָיִם; וַתֵּלֶד לְעַמְרָם, אֶת-אַהֲרֹן וְאֶת-מֹשֶׁה, וְאֵת, מִרְיָם אֲחֹתָם.59 And the name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and she bore unto Amram Aaron and Moses, and Miriam their sister.

    There is a slight awkwardness in אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה אֹתָהּ לְלֵוִי. The translation above seems to take it as the passive. Is this possible? We would expect yudela. But this is just nikkud, vocalization, and perhaps
    it can even be an instance of the elusive kal passive. However, would a passive have אֹתָהּ, her, after it?

    Rashi - perhaps, depending on the girsa - says the actor here was Levi's unnamed wife. Ibn Ezra says that Yocheved was mentioned as a point in her honor but her mother's name was omitted as a way of writing briefly. Shadal agrees, giving a Biblical parallel of ילדה, of a woman giving birth to someone, where the actor's name is not mentioned:
    לא חש להזכיר שם אמה של יוכבד, כמו ואותו ילדה אחרי אבשלום ( מ"א א' ו').א
    Others suggest we are told her mother's name in this pasuk -- it is Otah. Meanwhile, the book of Jubilees mentions that her name is Milkah.

    However, we can suggest that the reason the pasuk does not tell us Yocheved's mother's name is this: the post-Mosaic author of the pasuk did not know her name, or did not dare to insert information into the Torah that he could not draw from another pasuk,

    That is, just like the last 12 pesukim of the Torah and other scattered pesukim (as per Ibn Ezra), this is an editorial insertion. Either as an interjection in Yocheved's honor, or the entire assembled genealogical section. And since no other pasuk standing before the editor mentions Levi's wife, the editor was not going to insert this information.

    Looking at this as an editorial insertion clarifies some other matters. Foremost is the claim in this pasuk that Yocheved was the daughter of Levi. This is very hard to make work with chronology. Assuming 210 years in Egypt rather than 400, she would have to be very old when she gave birth to Moshe. The Rishonim grapple with this. Rashi has her born just as they enter Egypt (which also resolved questions of the count of the 70 souls entering Egypt, assuming one takes that number as precise). But then, with 210 years in Egypt and Moshe leading the Israelites out at age 80, Yocheved must be 210 - 80 = 130 years old when she gives birth to Moshe. This is an even greater miracle than what happened to Sarah and yet the Torah does not mention it explicitly! On this basis, Ibn Ezra rejects this. Ramban responds to Ibn Ezra as to why the Torah would not mention the miracle. But one should realize that it is a tug of war. Any years taken off of Yocheved needs to be added to Levi when he fathered her, though it is easier for a man to father children in old age than for a woman to birth children in old age. You can work out the chronology yourself -- I dislike chronological calculations as means of discovering peshat.

    However, this all assumes that Yocheved was Levi's daughter. And the pasuk here could not be clearer on this point. She was "Yocheved bat Levi". So too another pasuk is rather clear on this point -- in parashat Va'era, in Shemot 16:

    20. Amram took Jochebed, his aunt, as his wife, and she bore him Aaron and Moses, and the years of Amram's life were one hundred thirty seven years.כ. וַיִּקַּח עַמְרָם אֶת יוֹכֶבֶד דֹּדָתוֹ לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה וַתֵּלֶד לוֹ אֶת אַהֲרֹן וְאֶת מֹשֶׁה וּשְׁנֵי חַיֵּי עַמְרָם שֶׁבַע וּשְׁלֹשִׁים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה:

    She is the aunt of Amram, and Amram was grandson of Levi, so Yocheved is the literal daughter of Levi. Though see how the Septuagint and Rav Saadia Gaon deal with that.

    But if these two pesukim -- in Vaera and in Pinchas -- are the work of an editor who is interpreting other pesukim, then the source of this assertion can be understood. From Shemot 2:

    א  וַיֵּלֶךְ אִישׁ, מִבֵּית לֵוִי; וַיִּקַּח, אֶת-בַּת-לֵוִי.1 And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.

    The true peshat in that pasuk is that just as אִישׁ מִבֵּית לֵוִי refers to a Levite, in this case Amram, so does בַּת-לֵוִי refer to a female Levite, in this case Yocheved. But all it means is an unnamed female Levite. Indeed, the very purpose and theme of the narrative there has these as anonymous people. Moshe is not named, Yocheved is not named. Moshe is only named at the end, but until then, he is מִיַּלְדֵי הָעִבְרִים זֶה. From this, he rose to prominence. But the editor took  בַּת-לֵוִי to refer to the actual direct-line daughter of Levi. And in this way, an assumption and interpretation was encoded in the Biblical text.

    We should perhaps then keep this idea in mind when considering other pesukim in this genealogical section. For example, in parshat Korach, there is ambiguity as to just how Korach died -- by fire, by being swallowed up, or in both manners. It depends on how one interprets the pesukim there. And there are pesukim in Tehillim that can be brought to bear as evidence. But those pesukim in Tehillim reflect that (inspired) Biblical author's interpretation of the pesukim in Korach. And if my discussion above it correct, then the same might be said about the discussion in parashat Pinchas of Korach's death -- important to mention because Korach's lineage continued, as his sons did not die:

    ט  וּבְנֵי אֱלִיאָב, נְמוּאֵל וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם:  הוּא-דָתָן וַאֲבִירָם קרואי (קְרִיאֵי) הָעֵדָה, אֲשֶׁר הִצּוּ עַל-מֹשֶׁה וְעַל-אַהֲרֹן בַּעֲדַת-קֹרַח, בְּהַצֹּתָם, עַל-יְהוָה.9 And the sons of Eliab: Nemuel, and Dathan, and Abiram. These are that Dathan and Abiram, the elect of the congregation, who strove against Moses and against Aaron in the company of Korah, when they strove against the LORD;
    י  וַתִּפְתַּח הָאָרֶץ אֶת-פִּיהָ, וַתִּבְלַע אֹתָם וְאֶת-קֹרַח--בְּמוֹת הָעֵדָה:  בַּאֲכֹל הָאֵשׁ, אֵת חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתַיִם אִישׁ, וַיִּהְיוּ, לְנֵס.10 and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died; what time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men, and they became a sign.
    יא  וּבְנֵי-קֹרַח, לֹא-מֵתוּ.  {ס}11 Notwithstanding the sons of Korah died not. {S}

    See my analysis of how to parse pasuk 10, and how trup factors in. And see how the Samaritans resolve it. Perhaps this is deliberate obscurity as to Korach's death. But if we say that the pasuk in Pinchas is asserting that Korach is swallowed, then this does not compel us to (a) interpret the pasuk in Korach likewise, or (b) assert that the author in Pinchas was "unaware" of the text in Korach, should we choose a different interpretation. Rather, "all" we need to do is recognize that this editor, like the Biblical author of the pesukim in Tehillim, was engaging in interpretation.

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