Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why does Yaakov privately refer to Esav as his master?

The Brisker Rov,
Rabbi Yitzchok Zev
HaLevi Soloveitchik
The Brisker Rov has an interesting analysis of Yaakov's instructions to his servants / address to Esav, where Yaakov says כֹּה תֹאמְרוּן לַאדֹנִי לְעֵשָׂו. This analysis differs, but falls in line, with something I heard from Dr. Steiner about the role of this phrase.










We begin with the pasuk in Vayishlach, in Bereishit 32:5:

 And he commanded them, saying, "So shall you say to my master to Esau, 'Thus said your servant Jacob, "I have sojourned with Laban, and I have tarried until now. ה. וַיְצַו אֹתָם לֵאמֹר כֹּה תֹאמְרוּן לַאדֹנִי לְעֵשָׂו כֹּה אָמַר עַבְדְּךָ יַעֲקֹב עִם לָבָן גַּרְתִּי וָאֵחַר עַד עָתָּה:

Yaakov not only refers to himself as a servant within this text to be quoted to Esav. He also, in speaking to his own messengers, refers to Esav as his master. This is not something for Esav's ears, and yet he places Esav as his master.

The Brisker Rov writes, in Chiddushei HaGriz:



"וַיְצַו אֹתָם לֵאמֹר כֹּה תֹאמְרוּן לַאדֹנִי לְעֵשָׂו כֹּה אָמַר עַבְדְּךָ יַעֲקֹב -- And this requires explanation, why it states כֹּה תֹאמְרוּן לַאדֹנִי לְעֵשָׂו. This was, after all, what he said to his messengers, so why should he say "to my master?!" And what seems is that the word לֵאמֹר requires further explanation, for its meaning it "say to them", and if so, why should any further כֹּה תֹאמְרוּן etc. be necessary?! Didn't he already say 'say to him', when he said לֵאמֹר? And the conclusion compelled by this analysis is that they need to say to Esav as well the words "כֹּה תֹאמְרוּן etc.", that he said to them that they should say to Esav. For so did he say to them "כֹּה תֹאמְרוּן לַאדֹנִי לְעֵשָׂו". And therefore he said לַאדֹנִי, since they said this to Esav, as I wrote."
This is a nice analysis, whose conclusion -- that לַאדֹנִי לְעֵשָׂו was part of the message related to Esav -- I have encountered elsewhere with some very good backup. I'll get to that in a minute.

However, I am not sure I agree with the details of the Brisker Rov's analysis. Specifically, I would argue that לֵאמֹר actually means "as follows", not (a command) "to say". It is true that Chazal often take לֵאמֹר -- perhaps midrashically -- to mean a command to say to others. (See e.g. Rashi on Vayikra 1:1) Thus, the famous vayomer Hashem el Moshe leimor is a command by Hashem that Moshe should say to others. And thus, when that is followed by a further command to say, then it is sometimes cause for midrashic discussion.

But while that is an established way of interpreting leimor, I would argue that it means "as follows". If so, וַיְצַו אֹתָם לֵאמֹר means that Yaakov instructed the messengers as follows, and there is no repetition! If so, כֹּה תֹאמְרוּן can readily be his instruction to his servants, rather than a quoted phrase to repeat to Esav. As to why Yaakov would use the term "my master" to his servants, we could answer that he was indeed assuming a subservient role in his placation of Esav, and this was getting into character; or a way of impressing this idea upon the messengers who were to believe and deliver the message.

However, in Dr. Richard Steiner's class -- I think it was in Galilean Aramaic, where we saw the Bereishit Rabba in question -- he presented us with a solution to this, along similar lines. That is, that לַאדֹנִי לְעֵשָׂו was part of the words quoted to Esav. I wrote this up in greater detail here, and used it to react to a claim by Speiser that this idea was against the trup and Chazal.

The idea is that there is a "routine epistolary formula", such as in Akkadian: to my lord X say, thus (speaks) your servant Y. And we see an instance of this in Ezra 4:11:

יא דְּנָה֙ פַּרְשֶׁ֣גֶן אִגַּרְתָּ֔א דִּ֚י שְׁלַ֣חוּ עֲל֔וֹהִי עַל־אַרְתַּחְשַׁ֖שְׂתְּא מַלְכָּ֑א עבדיך (עַבְדָ֛ךְ) אֱנָ֥שׁ עֲבַֽר־נַהֲרָ֖ה וּכְעֶֽנֶת׃

And that this in Vayishlach was an epistolary formula was known to Yehuda Nesia, as the following Midrash Rabba makes clear (for those read the midrash and who also recognize the epistolary formula from elsewhere):
מדרש רבה פרשה ע"ה

ה וַיְצַו אֹתָם, לֵאמֹר, כֹּה תֹאמְרוּן, לַאדֹנִי לְעֵשָׂו
רבינו אמר לרבי אפס
כתוב חד אגרא מן שמי למרן מלכא אנטונינוס
קם וכתב
מן יהודה נשיאה למרן מלכא אנטונינוס
נסבה וקרייה וקרעיה
אמר ליה כתוב
מן עבדך יהודה למרן מלכא אנטונינוס
אמר ליה רבי מפני מה אתה מבזה על כבודך?
אמר ליה מה אנא טב מן סבי?!
לא כך אמר
כֹּה אָמַר, עַבְדְּךָ יַעֲקֹב
'And he commanded them saying, so say to my lord Esav'
Rabbenu said to Rabbi Apas:
'Write a letter from me (lit. from my name) to my master the king Antoninus.'
He (R Apas) got up and wrote: From Yehuda Nesia (the Prince) to our master the king Antoninus.
He (Yehuda Nesia) got up and read it and tore it up.
He (Yehuda Nesia) said 'Write: From your servant Yehuda to our master the king Antoninus.'
He (R Apas) said, 'Rebbi, for what cause do you degrade your honor?'
He (Yehuda Nesia) said to him, 'What, am I better than my ancestor?! Does it not say: So says your servant Yaakov?'

One could perhaps argue whether כֹּה תֹאמְרוּן should be placed as part of the quote or not, but certainly לַאדֹנִי לְעֵשָׂו should.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Derech eretz for Avraham and Bilaam

In Taama deKra on Vayera, Rav Chaim Kanievsky points out an interesting discrepancy between Rashi on Vayera and Rashi on Balak:
That is, the pasuk and Rashi in Vayera (Bereishit 22:3) read:

And Abraham arose early in the morning, and he saddled his donkey, and he took his two young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for a burnt offering, and he arose and went to the place of which God had told him.ג. וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר וַיַּחֲבשׁ אֶת חֲמֹרוֹ וַיִּקַּח אֶת שְׁנֵי נְעָרָיו אִתּוֹ וְאֵת יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ וַיְבַקַּע עֲצֵי עֹלָה וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלֶךְ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אָמַר לוֹ הָאֱלֹהִים:

his two young men: Ishmael and Eliezer, for a person of esteem is not permitted to go out on the road without two men, so that if one must ease himself and move to a distance, the second one will remain with him. — [from Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 31; Gen. Rabbah ad loc., Tan. Balak 8]את שני נעריו: ישמעאל ואליעזר, שאין אדם חשוב רשאי לצאת לדרך בלא שני אנשים, שאם יצטרך האחד לנקביו ויתרחק יהיה השני עמו:

while the pasuk and Rashi in Balak (Bemidbar 22:22) read:

God's wrath flared because he was going, and an angel of the Lord stationed himself on the road to thwart him, and he was riding on his she-donkey, and his two servants were with him.כב. וַיִּחַר אַף אֱלֹהִים כִּי הוֹלֵךְ הוּא וַיִּתְיַצֵּב מַלְאַךְ יְהֹוָה בַּדֶּרֶךְ לְשָׂטָן לוֹ וְהוּא רֹכֵב עַל אֲתֹנוֹ וּשְׁנֵי נְעָרָיו עִמּוֹ:

and his two servants were with him: From here we learn that a distinguished person who embarks on a journey should take two people with him to attend him, and then they can attend each other [so that when one is occupied, the other takes his place]. — [Mid. Tanchuma Balak 8, Num. Rabbah 20:13]ושני נעריו עמו: מכאן לאדם חשוב היוצא לדרך יוליך עמו שני אנשים לשמשו וחוזרים ומשמשים זה את זה:


In both cases, Rashi states that this is derech eretz to have two men to attend him. However, in Vayera, Rashi states explicitly that it so that if one attendant needs to defecate, which requires moving to a distance, the other can remain with him. Meanwhile, in Balak, Rashi appears to say that besides attending him, they are attending each other. [The bracketed text in English in the second Rashi is an attempted harmonization, rather than something explicit in Rashi.] This seems to indeed be a discrepancy.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky offers a rather clever resolution. He points to Sanhedrin 104b [the citation in the text which has 105b is in error] which states:

Our Rabbis taught: It once happened that two men [Jews] were taken captive on Mount Carmel, and their captor was walking behind them. One of them said to the other, 'The camel walking in front of us is blind in one eye, and is laden with two barrels, one of wine, and the other of oil, and of the two men leading it, one is a Jew, and the other a heathen.' Their captor said to them, 'Ye stiff-necked people, whence do ye know this?' They replied, 'Because the camel is eating of the herbs before it only on the side where it can see, but not on the other, where it cannot see.1  It is laden with two barrels, one of wine and the other of oil: because wine drips and is absorbed [into the earth], whilst oil drips and rests2  [on the surface].3  And of the two men leading it, one is a Jew, and the other a heathen: because a heathen obeys the call of Nature in the roadway, whilst a Jew turns aside.' He hastened after them, and found that it was as they had said.4  So he went and kissed them on the head,5  brought them into his house, and prepared a great feast for them. He danced [with joy] before them and exclaimed 'Blessed be He who made choice of Abraham's seed and imparted to them of His wisdom, and wherever they go they become princes to their masters!' Then he liberated them, and they went home in peace.
The relevant portion of this tale is that the captive Jews reasoned that ahead of them on the road was one Jew and one gentile, 'because a heathen obeys the call of Nature in the roadway, whilst a Jew turns aside'. If so, for Avraham and his servants, the explanation of turning aside works. Meanwhile, from Bilaam and his servants, the explanation of turning aside does not work.

This is a rather neat resolution. I suspect that, besides a bekius in Shas, the connection was aided by the proximity of Sanhedrin 104b, with this tale, to Sanhedrin 105a, which discusses midrashim about Bilaam, in reference to the events of parashat Balak.

Still, I don't think that this resolution is correct. Here are a few objections:

_____

1) Avraham went with Eliezer and Yishmael, and Bilaam went with two servants. The ones who would distance themselves in this scenario would be Eliezer, Yishmael and [not] the two servants. If so, the contrast is not between Avraham and Bilaam, but of their attendants. Still, this particular objection can be readily dismissed. Eliezer (as an eved kenaani) and Yishmael (as son of Avraham) would be expected to conduct themselves appropriately, distancing themselves when relieving themselves.

2) More to the point, when these Rashis speak of derech eretz for an adam chashuv, the idea is that this is conduct with dignity. Both Avraham and Bilaam momentarily abandoned that dignity, Avraham for zerizut for the mitzvah and Bilaam for hatred (see the Rashis in proximity). Yet here, in taking two attendants, they are conducting themselves with dignity.

When the gemara in Sanhedrin speaks, in the tale, of the difference between Jews and heathens, in that Jews will turn aside while the heathens will defecate in the middle of the road, the point of distinction is that the Jews are conducting themselves with dignity. Bilaam, conducting himself as an adam chashuv, would not defecate in the middle of the road. What of the attendants? Do you really think it dignified for Bilaam to be attended upon by a servant while the servant defecates next to him on the road?

3) The wording of Rashi (drawn from Midrash Tanchuma) is מכאן לאדם חשוב היוצא לדרך יוליך עמו שני אנשים לשמשו וחוזרים ומשמשים זה את זה. That is, we, who are Jewish people, are supposed to derive a lesson of proper conduct for a Jewish adam chashuv from this. Would the midrash really, then, substitute a weaker reason (of them attending one another) which only is relevant to non-Jews?

____

Some commentators note this discrepancy in Rashi and attempt to harmonize. For instance, see Siftei Chachamim on the Rashi in Balak, where the "attending on one another" is that one does the attending that the other would do, when one of them excuses himself to use the bathroom.


Etz Yosef on the Midrash Tanchuma in Balak says likewise. This is a plausible harmonization, though one needs to force it into the words a bit. The simpler meaning is that the attendants attend one another. The man is so chashuv that even his attendants have attendants!

I would rather not focus (for now at least) on the meaning of these two statements. Maybe one should harmonize, and Tanchuma means the same as what Rashi said in Vayera, and maybe one should not harmonize.

However, I would guess that the reason for the difference in Rashi stems from a difference in wording from Rashi's sources. That is, Rashi does not typically make things up, based on sevara, but rather channels midrashim. We saw Rashi's sources cited above. Let us repeat them. In Vayera:

And Abraham arose early in the morning, and he saddled his donkey, and he took his two young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for a burnt offering, and he arose and went to the place of which God had told him.ג. וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר וַיַּחֲבשׁ אֶת חֲמֹרוֹ וַיִּקַּח אֶת שְׁנֵי נְעָרָיו אִתּוֹ וְאֵת יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ וַיְבַקַּע עֲצֵי עֹלָה וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלֶךְ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אָמַר לוֹ הָאֱלֹהִים:

his two young men: Ishmael and Eliezer, for a person of esteem is not permitted to go out on the road without two men, so that if one must ease himself and move to a distance, the second one will remain with him. — [from Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 31; Gen. Rabbah ad loc., Tan. Balak 8]את שני נעריו: ישמעאל ואליעזר, שאין אדם חשוב רשאי לצאת לדרך בלא שני אנשים, שאם יצטרך האחד לנקביו ויתרחק יהיה השני עמו:


I've looked at Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, perek 31, and saw no reference to adam chashuv. I think they are simply sourcing the identification of these two young men as Yishmael and Eliezer. This identification indeed appears in Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer. See line 23-24:


Bereishit Rabba 55:7 has this source for Rashi:
ויקח את שני נעריו אתו. 
אמר רבי אבהו:שני בני אדם נהגו בדרך ארץ: אברהם ושאול. 
אברהם, שנאמר: ויקח את שני נעריו. 
שאול, (ש"א כ"ח) וילך הוא ושני אנשים עמו. 
"And he took his two young men with him. Rabbi Abahu said: two people conducted themselves with derech eretz, namely Avraham and Shaul. Avraham, as it is said 'And he took his two young men with him'. Shaul, (I Shmuel 28) 'And he went, and two men with him'."
Note that Rabbi Abahu here does not reckon Bilaam as one who conducted himself with derech eretz. Bilaam is not on the radar.

Neither of these two sources speak specifically about the reason for two attendants. Perhaps Rashi supplemented this himself. Perhaps he looked to the distance, and was indeed interpreting Tanchuma on Balak. I still would not leap to say that he drew this from Balak. Perhaps there is still some other midrashic source which states this explicitly.

The pasuk and Rashi in Balak were:

God's wrath flared because he was going, and an angel of the Lord stationed himself on the road to thwart him, and he was riding on his she-donkey, and his two servants were with him.כב. וַיִּחַר אַף אֱלֹהִים כִּי הוֹלֵךְ הוּא וַיִּתְיַצֵּב מַלְאַךְ יְהֹוָה בַּדֶּרֶךְ לְשָׂטָן לוֹ וְהוּא רֹכֵב עַל אֲתֹנוֹ וּשְׁנֵי נְעָרָיו עִמּוֹ:

and his two servants were with him: From here we learn that a distinguished person who embarks on a journey should take two people with him to attend him, and then they can attend each other [so that when one is occupied, the other takes his place]. — [Mid. Tanchuma Balak 8, Num. Rabbah 20:13]ושני נעריו עמו: מכאן לאדם חשוב היוצא לדרך יוליך עמו שני אנשים לשמשו וחוזרים ומשמשים זה את זה:


We can safely ignore Bamidbar Rabba, which is likely post-Rashi and does not serve as Rashi's source (and which says the same as Tanchuma anyway). Rashi got this from Tanchuma Balak, which states:
ושני נעריו עמו זה דרך ארץ, אדם חשוב היוצא לדרך, צריך שנים לשמשו, וחוזרין ומשמשין זה לזה. 
Note that Tanchuma on parashat Vayera takes no note of Avraham taking along two attendants.

The picture I am trying to draw here is of two midrashim which operate in parallel, which do not know of each other. Rabbi Abahu in Bereishit Rabba only knows of Avraham and Shaul and does not know of Bilaam. Midrash Tanchuma only knows of Bilaam and does not know of Bilaam. If so, the reasoning within these two midrashic traditions also do not need to match. (To return to the topic of whether one should harmonize, this might help strip our impetus to harmonize the Rashis.)

And don't complain to Rashi about discrepancies. Rashi in Balak did not say the explanation of an attendant distancing himself to defecate because he was citing Midrash Tanchuma verbatim. He would not have changed the midrash without cause. Perhaps one could complain to Rashi about his explanation in Vayera, but then, we don't necessarily have Rashi's source.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Sarah laughed with her relatives

Here is an interesting Torah Temimah on Vayera:


The pasuk is Bereishit 18:12:

וַתִּצְחַ֥ק שָׂרָ֖ה בְּקִרְבָּ֣הּ לֵאמֹ֑ר אַֽחֲרֵ֤י בְלֹתִי֙ הָֽיְתָה־לִּ֣י עֶדְנָ֔ה וַֽאדֹנִ֖י זָקֵֽן׃

"And Sarah laughed within herself, saying: 'After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?'"

Interestingly, the Targum Onkelos on this is

וְחַיֵּיכַת שָׂרָה, בִּמְעַהָא לְמֵימַר:  בָּתַר דְּסֵיבִית תְּהֵי לִי עוּלֵימוּ, וְרִבּוֹנִי סִיב. 

The word בִּמְעַהָא, in her innards, can be quite literal and anatomical. Maybe she is laughing about her innards, about the state of her womb. Compare to parashat Toledot, where it translates both the Hebrew bikirbah (as here), and means womb:
כה,כב וַיִּתְרֹצְצוּ הַבָּנִים, בְּקִרְבָּהּ, וַתֹּאמֶר אִם-כֵּן, לָמָּה זֶּה אָנֹכִי; וַתֵּלֶךְ, לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה.וְדָחֲקִין בְּנַיָּא, בִּמְעַהָא, וַאֲמַרַת אִם כֵּין, לְמָא דְּנָן אֲנָא; וַאֲזַלַת, לְמִתְבַּע אֻלְפָן מִן קֳדָם יְיָ.
as well as a few pesukim later where it serves as a translation for bivitnah:

כה,כד וַיִּמְלְאוּ יָמֶיהָ, לָלֶדֶת; וְהִנֵּה תוֹמִם, בְּבִטְנָהּ.וּשְׁלִימוּ יוֹמַהָא, לְמֵילַד; וְהָא תְּיוֹמִין, בִּמְעַהָא.

At any rate, Torah Temimah directs our attention to a gemara in Megillah 9a, where Ptolemy compelled 70 Jewish Sages to translate the Torah to Greek:
מעשה בתלמי המלך שכינס שבעים ושנים זקנים והכניסן בשבעים ושנים בתים ולא גילה להם על מה כינסן ונכנס אצל כל אחד ואחד ואמר להם כתבו לי תורת משה רבכם נתן הקב"ה בלב כל אחד ואחד עצה והסכימו כולן לדעת אחת וכתבו לו (בראשית א, כז) אלהים ברא בראשית (בראשית א, א) אעשה אדם בצלם ובדמות (בראשית א, כו) ויכל ביום הששי וישבות ביום השביעי (בראשית ה, ב) זכר ונקבה בראו ולא כתבו בראם (בראשית יא, ז) הבה ארדה ואבלה שם שפתם (בראשית יח, יב) ותצחק שרה בקרוביה (בראשית מט, ו) כי באפם הרגו שור וברצונם עקרו אבוס (שמות ד, כ) ויקח משה את אשתו ואת בניו וירכיבם על נושא בני אדם (שמות יב, מ) ומושב בני ישראל אשר ישבו במצרים ובשאר ארצות ארבע מאות שנה (שמות כד, ה) וישלח את זאטוטי בני ישראל (שמות כד, יא) ואל זאטוטי בני ישראל לא שלח ידו (במדבר טז, טו) לא חמוד אחד מהם נשאתי (דברים ד, יט) אשר חלק ה' אלהיך אתם להאיר לכל העמים (דברים יז, ג) וילך ויעבוד אלהים אחרים אשר לא צויתי לעובדם וכתבו לו את צעירת הרגלים ולא כתבו לו (ויקרא יא, ו) את הארנבת מפני שאשתו של תלמי ארנבת שמה שלא יאמר שחקו בי היהודים והטילו שם אשתי בתורה:
Within this list is ותצחק שרה בקרוביה, that she laughed with her relatives. This looks like a slight misspelling of בקרבה, just as לא חמוד אחד מהם נשאתי (a desirous thing, rather than donkey) looks like a slight misspelling of לא חמור אחד מהם נשאתי, yet is, according to this midrash, a deliberate change, even as the target translation was Greek, where such close spellings seem irrelevant. I would point out that ואמר להם כתבו לי תורת משה רבכם does not imply any translation. Perhaps Ptolemy was demanding a mere transcription of the Hebrew text, rather than a translation?

Rashi on Megillah 9a explains the reasoning for this change, regarding Sarah laughing, as follows:

בקרוביה - שלא יאמר על אברהם לא הקפיד דכתיב ויצחק ועל שרה הקפיד לפיכך כתבו בקרוביה לומר אברהם בלבו והיא אמרה בקרוביה:
"That he should not say that about Avraham He was not strict, as is written [Bereishit 17:17 when Avraham fell on his face and laughed on hearing the news, in Lech Lecha] 'he laughed', while upon Sarah he was strict. Therefore they wrote בקרוביה, to say that Avraham was [laughing] in his heart while she said it among her relatives. [And therefore He was strict..]"

After citing Rashi, Torah Temimah continues:
"And if not for his words, once could suggest that they [the elders] changed this language because, in truth, it is difficult. For since she laughed internally, why should the verse state at all that she laughed? And in truth, in Midrash Rabba [?? I don't see it there], they sensed this, and said that with ruach hakodesh he [the malach?] knew that she laughed. And therefore they worried that Ptolmey would ask how they knew that, and the derasha of the Midrash Rabba that it was known via ruach hakodesh he would not have accepted. Therefore they wrote for him בקרוביה, such that she laughed in public..."
Interestingly enough, in what we call the Septuagint today, many of these emendations are missing. The change of חמוד for חמור is there, as I discuss in a different parshablog post. But here is what we have on this pasuk in Vayera:

12 And Sarrha laughed in herself, saying, The thing has not as yet happened to me, even until now, and my lord is old.

12 ἐγέλασεν δὲ Σαρρα ἐν ἑαυτῇ λέγουσα Οὔπω μέν μοι γέγονεν ἕως τοῦ νῦν, ὁ δὲ κύριός μου πρεσβύτερος.

So the change is missing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Did Hashem finish Creation on the sixth or the seventh?

Chazal noted the anomaly in Hashem finishing Creation on the seventh day, when there was no described work performed on that day. As Rashi writes, channeling Bereishit Rabba:

And God completed on the seventh day His work that He did, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work that He did.ב. וַיְכַל אֱלֹהִים בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וַיִּשְׁבֹּת בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִכָּל מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה:
And God completed on the seventh day: Rabbi Shimon said: [A human being of] flesh and blood, who cannot [exactly] know his times and his moments, must add from the profane to the holy [i.e., he must add some time to the Sabbath.] The Holy One, blessed be He, Who knows His times and His moments [exactly], entered it [the Sabbath] within a hairbreadth, and it therefore appeared as if He completed it [His work] on that day. Another explanation: What was the world lacking? Rest. The Sabbath came, and so came rest. The work was completed and finished. — [from Gen. Rabbah 10:9]ויכל אלהים ביום השביעי: רבי שמעון אומר בשר ודם שאינו יודע עתיו ורגעיו צריך להוסיף מחול על הקודש, הקב"ה שיודע עתיו ורגעיו נכנס בו כחוט השערה ונראה כאלו כלה בו ביום. דבר אחר מה היה העולם חסר, מנוחה, באת שבת באת מנוחה, כלתה ונגמרה המלאכה:

That is a midrashic take on the textual anomaly. A peshat explanation might be something along the lines of that the work, and the world, was declared finished on that day, since there was no more to be created on that day. (This is something like Rashi's second explanation.) Or it is a pluperfect, or past perfect, that it had been completed. (Simple perfect: he walked. Pluperfect: he had walked.) Or else וַיְכַל has some alternate sense of stoppage.

In Vetus Testamentum, we find that the Samaritans have an interesting variant text for Bereishit 2:2. The Masoretic text is on the right, and differences in the Samaritan text are on the left:


Thus, the Samaritans state that Elokim finished on the sixth day the work that he did, and rested on the seventh day.

The same appears in the Septuagint:
2 καὶ συνετέλεσεν ὁ θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ ἕκτῃ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ, ἃ ἐποίησεν, καὶ κατέπαυσεν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ ἑβδόμῃ ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν ἔργων αὐτοῦ, ὧν ἐποίησεν.
2 And God finished on the sixth day his works which he made, and he ceased on the seventh day from all his works which he made. 
In the sectarian work, the pseudepigraphic Book of Jubilees, 2:16, we see a similar idea expressed:
  1. And He finished all his work on the sixth day - all that is in the heavens and on the earth, and in the seas and in the abysses, and in the light and in the darkness, and in everything.
[Update: HT AryehS.

Also, the Peshitta, a Syriac translation, has the sixth day:


]

However, we should treat this variant with caution, because it is just too perfect. Rabbi Shmuel David Luzzatto (Shadal), in his commentary on this verse, schools us in the idea of lectio difficilior, the rule of the more difficult word being the more likely original, particularly as it pertains to the Samaritan text. (The idea, as I would explain it, is that if a word choice is in truth justifiable, but it seems difficult to the average reader, then that is the more likely original reading, because a scribe will illegitimately emend the text towards the easier reading. When and where to apply this rule requires a careful, judicious approach.)

Shadal writes:


"וַיְכַל אֱלֹהִים -- This is connected with the end of the pasuk -- since on the seventh day all His work had already finished (kila), therefore He rested on the seventh day.

And behold, וַיְכַל is a past tense verb that was already completed [=pluperfect, see above], and there are many like it.

And in the Targum attributed to the 70 [Jewish] elders [the Septuagint], and so too in the sefer Torah of the Cutheans [Samaritans] it is written 'on the sixth day'.  And Clericus already saw that this is nothing but an emendation and a scribal 'fixing', and this is as they said in the Talmud (Megillah 9a) [regarding the idea that the 70 elders made 'fixes' to the text so that the non-Jewish reader would not get confused]. For behold, if it was such that it was written initially 'and God [had] completed on the sixth day', there is no reason it would enter a person's mind to emend [the text to read] ויכל בשביעי. And conversely, if it was initially written בשביעי, it it quite understandable that this language would be difficult to the masses, and they [the authors of Septuagint, and perhaps he intends Samaritans as well] arose and emended it to בששי. And this is an important principle about the matter of variants which are found in the book of the Cutheans [Samaritans], that all the emendations which their scholars emended was due to the smallness and lightness of their understanding and thoughts. And this is as the scholar [Wilhelm] Gesenius explained, with good discernment and knowledge, in his book De Pentateuchi Samaritani origine et indole et auctoritate, Halae 1815. Also the scholar [Johannes Bernardus / Giovanni Battista de Rossi] De-Rossi, though at times is seduced towards the Samaritan nusach, and he doesn't understand all that Gesenius understood, still already wrote, as a general matter, like these words, saying:
Quaelibet lingua et aetas suas habet anomalias et enallages; nec omnes nec semper grammatice scripserunt sacri auctores. Unde non temere rejicienda lectio anomala. Immo anomala lectio plerumque verior. Facillimum namque est anomalis analoga a scribis substitui, analogis anamola difficillimum (Variae lectiones, Vol I. Proleg. par II, §§ 38, 39).
[Josh: My rough translation:] Every age has its own language and anomalies and alteration; nor are all nor is it always the scholar who wrote, of the sacred authors. Hence one should not rashly reject an anomalous reading. Indeed, the anomalous choice is generally truer. It is very easy for scribes to replace an anomalous reading [with an easier one], but substituting an anomalous reading is more difficult."
End quote from Shadal.

(The page from De Rossi's work, Variae Lectiones Veteris Testamenti: Ex Immensa Mss. Editorumque, here:

)

I will, however, present a counterargument. It is true that, as a matter of deliberate scribal emendation, because the scribe (falsely) believed there was an error in the text in need of correction, or because the scribe saw his role as "improving" the clarity of the text, this application of lectio difficilior makes sense.

However, we might also consider the possibility of accidental scribal emendation. Recall that השישי and השביעי begin with the same two letters, הש. So if we were to posit that הששי were original, a scribe might have been copying ביום הששי and lost track after writing ביום הש. Then, "dittography" comes into play. This is the accidental repetition of a letter, syllable, word, or phrase. Realize that ביום השביעי occurs legitimately two times following, first at the end of this pasuk, וַיִּשְׁבֹּת בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי, and next, without the leading ב in the next pasuk, וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי. If so, perhaps the scribe accidentally duplicated ביום השביעי here, and that error served as the basis for our masoretic text. (Though note one could argue in the opposite direction, that this is dittography due to יום הששי of the two pesukim earlier.)

Despite this vector of accidental scribal emendation, the fact that the Samaritan text has it makes me strongly suspect that this is a deliberate scribal emendation to make the text read more cleanly. This is indeed characteristic of the Samaritan text. And then, just as we see some midrashim relying on the "easier" Samaritan text of certain pesukim, presumably spread in vulgar (non-checked) texts, this Hebrew version of the pasuk stood as the basis for the Greek translation in the Septuagint.

[Update: Regarding the Peshitta, here is what Rabbi Chaim Heller has to say:
"Footnote 1) See what I wrote in this in my essay on the Targum Yerushlami on the Torah (page 13). Yet it is quite possible that the basis of this variant came about via error, that the copying scribe erred and switched the word השביעי with the word הששי which was written above, close by, and he copied it here. See the introduction, note 3. " 
In that introduction, note 3, where he discusses transcription error and transferring text from related matters close by.

In his sefer, Al HaTargum Hayerushalmi LaTorah, Rabbi Heller writes as follows:


]

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Posts so far for parshat Bereishit


2014

1. Minchas Shai introduces us to Ben Asher and Ben Naftali, who have their very first difference on Bereishit 1:3. Plus, why he calls the munach a galgal.

2. At Girsology, an attempt at a Mikraot Gedolot Chadashot. Link goes to Bereishit 1:1, but just change the last number. At the time of this writing, it goes to Bereishit 1:6, but hope to have the first perek up in its entirety soon.

2013

1. Did Saadia Gaon have a masorah on shafan as al-wabrAccording to Ibn Ezra, Saadia Gaon sometimes made things up, for the honor of Torah. Even so...

2. Ish and Isha, and dikduk. The derivation given in the Torah for Isha seems to contradict the grammatical analysis...



2012

1. Bereishit sources, 2012 edition. I've added biographical information to many of the meforshim, as well as images and discussions of their general approach. Also, sorted now in chronological order, so you can look at Geonim, Rishonim, 19th century Acharonim, and so on.

2. Running commentary on parashat Bereishit, part one.

3. YUTorah on parshat Bereishit

4. Is evolution and an old earth mentioned in Chagiga? I don't think so.



2011
  1. All the king's horse -- on a post on Beshalach, I write:
    Even though Rashi to Bereishit 3:8 says "ואני לא באתי אלא לפשוטו של מקרא ולאגדה המיישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אופניו", people overapply it. I am not at all convinced he meant it as people take it. How precisely to take it is another story, but it does NOT mean that Rashi always imagines that he is saying peshat. I've heard some Rashi scholars say that he only meant it in that instance. I would say that he is rejecting a specific type of midrash. 
    .
    See there for my analysis of that Rashi.
    .
  2. The Or Hachaim, that we no longer have ruach hakodesh -- While the Divrei Chaim said someone was an apikores for saying that the Or HaChayim did not write with ruach kakodesh, and dismisses reports of Gedolim who say there is no ruach hakodesh nowadays, this is what Or Hachaim himself says. (Credit to David Guttman at Believing is Knowing, who credits in turn Professor David Assaf.)
    .
  3. The talking snake vs. the talking donkey -- I discuss a short shiur which discusses Abrabanel's distinction.
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  4. Bereishit sources -- In 2008, links to the appropriate page in an online Mikraot Gedolot, by aliyah and by perek.  In 2009, expanded to more than 100 meforshim. In 2010, further improved. In 2011, added many more more meforshim to several categories. For a small set of examples, Rav Chaim Kanievsky to general meforshimmeforshei Rashi and kitvei yad to the Rashi section, and Targumna to the Targum section.
    .
  5. Did Rav Saadia Gaon dream that Pishon was the NileThis is what Ibn Ezra alleges. It is possible, though far-reaching. I try to give a sevarah, at the end.
    .
  6. Adnei HaSadeh and Earth Mouse in parashat Bereishit -- According to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, one can make adiyuk in two pesukim in parashat Bereishit to refer to the creation of the adnei hasadeh and the earth-mouse. The adnei hasadeh is a humanoid creature connected by an umbilical cord to the ground, and the earth mouth is one that is in the process of spontaneously generating, and so is still half made of earth.
    .
  7. Of Tree-Geese and Mandrakes -- According to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, an additional reason for the repetition of the creation of bird and wild animals is that certain birds and wild animals indeed needed to be recreated for the purpose, since they could not be transported. For instance, the tree-goose, which is grows from a tree and is attached by its nose (beak?) to the tree, and the adnei hasadeh, which (as it seems is a humanoid creature attached to the ground by an umbilical cord.
    .
  8. The Ohr HaChaim's kamatz in רָקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם -- He makes a grammatical distinction based on a kametz under the resh, which places it in absolute rather than construct form. Alas, that kametz does not exist.
    .
  9. Of the Sambatyon River, and the Fish who keeps Shabbos -- Radak explains the sanctification of Shabbos in part that there are elements of creation which testify to the chiddush haOlam. Namely, the River Sambatyon and the Shabtai fish, both which rest on Shabbos. I consider each. And Birkas Avraham expands upon the features of the Shabtai fish, and relates it to the mitzvah of eating fish on Shabbos.
    .
  10. Does Sifsei Chachamim know about time zonesAnd that it can be night in one country while it is day in another? I think he can. Rav Chaim Kanievsky points out a difficulty in Sifsei Chachamim, in that it does not seem to work with a round earth. He answers that the division away from ערבוביא was only during the days of Creation. I suggest another resolution.
    .
  11. What parsing of זאת הפעם does Ibn Caspi reject, based on trup I don't think it is the one mentioned in the footnote, namely the traditional parse of 'this time a bone of a bone', rejected in favor of 'Adam said this time'. This does not work with Ibn Caspi's wording. Rather, I think that he is rejecting Shadal's parse of זאת referring to the אשה, in favor of the traditional parse.
    .
  12. YU Torah on parashat Bereishit
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  13. Peshita on Bereshit perek one and two, three, four, five, six.
    .
  14. The revii on דשא -- Minchas Shai and Shadal weigh the merits of a zakef or a revia on the word דֶשֶׁא, in parashat Bereishit. Shadal gives some good evidence
    .
  15. Is it וַחֲשׁוֹכָא פְרִישׂ עַל אַפֵּי תְּהוֹמָא in the very second verse of the TorahAlready in the second pasuk of Bereshit, Shadal notes and endorses a girsological variant in Onkelos.
    .
  16. Is יְעוֹפֵף a command, or an adjectiveTwo girsaot in Onkelos, reflecting a machlokes Chazal. Plus, the trup appears to indicate one way over another.
    .
  17. Ramban, the perfect encoding of Torah, and hidden messages such as Torah codes -- Torah Codes are based, in part, on this kabbalistic concept. The text of the Torah in its present form is perfect and can be used to discover hidden meanings. But if one disagrees with this assertion -- and there is strong reason to do so -- then all Torah codes are thrown off.
2009
  1. Introducing Absolut Genesis, 2009 edition. From the same folks who brought you the Absolut Haggadah. See my review of Absolut Genesis here, and download Absolut Genesis here.

    Also, as part of my review, I give several of my own suggestions as to the meaning of the two clothes-giving incidents.

  2. In the beginning, Hashem separated?! Why I don't find this novel interpretation persuasive, or even that novel.
    .
  3. The Torah begins with the letter Bet. Ibn Ezra criticizes a midrash which explains why, and is criticized in turn by his supercommentator, Avi Ezer, who concludes that Ibn Ezra never wrote it, but that it was written by a talmid toeh. This is somewhat reminiscent of goings-on nowadays. I look into Ibn Ezra in Sefer Tzachot and see that the purported contradiction between Ibn Ezra and himself is readily answerable.
    .
  4. Is the second Pru Urvu a blessing or a mitzvah? Ibn Ezra "argues" with the traditional explanation of Chazal that is it a mitzvah, and explains why. Or rather, says that this was a din deRabbanan which Chazal attached to this pasuk as a sort of asmachta. And I defend him from an attack by Avi Ezer, his supercommentary.
    .
  5. From Junior, did Adam HaRishon name the T-Rex? And proof that no one created Hashem. And all about bechira chofshis.
    .
  6. Did Chava speak parseltongue? If not, how was she able to communicate with the snake in Gan Eden?
    .
  7. The unfinished north, like the letter Beis. Which means that in medieval times, some people considered east to be up. Does this mean that the world was flat?
    .
  8. Was Rashi's father an Am HaAretz? Why does Rashi ask such a "silly" question in the beginning of his perush, if not out of respect to his father?
    .
  9. How are the days of man 120 years? We can say that these Benei Elohim are angels, the nefilim of the context which follows. And since the descendants are also flesh, and not just spiritual beings, they shall have a similar lifespan as that of man, namely 120. Someone who is adam cannot have Hashem's spirit abide in them forever, and therefore they are mortal.

    Or alternatively, because of their sinning, their lifespan has been reduced. I still think it is plausible, and don't consider the explicit contradiction we find immediately after, in that Shem and company lived much longer, to be an unassailable contradiction.
    .
  10. The Torah is not a science book! When arguing this out with one another, the Rishonim do not seem to assume that such a question -- we don't see snakes speak -- is by its very nature heretical. Rather, such questions, and grappling with various features of the text, is talmud torah, and is what they are obligated to engage in. Compare with the attitude that some take nowadays.
    .
  11. The gimel / kaf switch, and the talmid toeh -- Or is Ibn Ezra simply reversing himself?
    .
  12. His journey(s) -- when the masorah opposes the Zohar -- Zohar on Bereishit, on a pasuk in Lech Lecha. In Lecha Lecha, we have a few instances in which rather old Rabbinic texts indicate something about a pasuk that goes against the masoretic notes as well as all our sefarim. In one instance, it is Zohar against the masorah; in another, the gemara; and in a third, Rashi.

    This is interesting in and of itself, but what is also interesting is the way that the mosereticcommentators handle this. In this first post, a contradiction between Zohar's version of a pasuk and our own.
2008
  1. The World Was Created in 10 Statements, part i and part ii -- An attempted analysis of this curious declaration, and identification of which statements in Bereishit these may be.

2007
  1. The Snake's punishment: Taking the narrative of the sin in the garden of Eden as metaphor, how are we to understand the snake being punished. What I believe is a plausible explanation, in which the Snake is the evil inclination, and it is not punishment but rather a delineating of the role of the "snake" in terms of its relation to mankind.
    .
  2. Gilgamesh, Utanpishtim, and Gan Eden: cross-listed to Noach. Comparisons and contrasts to the Noach story, and to the Adam story. Such as sleep overtaking Adam, the tree of knowledge perhaps being intercourse, the mouth of the rivers as a place in which eternal life is possessed by those dwelling there. And so on.
    .
  3. Was Chava named for a snake? A response to a DovBear post. I doubt it, and explain why.
    .
  4. The appropriately named Er and Onan: Cross-listed from Vayeshev. But along the lines of the idea that Hevel was not Hevel's true name, but rather was a name chosen as appropriate to his fate.
2006
2005
  • Adam and Eve as Metaphor
    • This post is divided into three parts.
      [A. Motivations] claims that assigning Scripture a metaphorical role where it contradicts modern scientific beliefs is a sign of lack of faith - in which case the claim of metaphor is a means of rendering the text impotent without seeming a heretic; or abundance of faith - in which case one is sure both science and Torah are absolutely true, but this forces one to claim the Torah speaks metaphorically. Either approach is unfair to the text. An example of genesis on the basis of the four elements is given, as is an example of a midrash switching around the order of a verse about rotting manna to accomodate a scientific belief in spontaneous generation. (Before turning for this last, I offer a defense of this midrash.) It is fair to label a text metaphorical if there are features internal to the text that suggest it is metaphor.
      [B. Three Distinct Issues] puts forth that there are three issues that should not be conflated - age of the universe, age of the earth, and age of civilization. It is the last that is really under discussion. Age of the universe is no issue since a proper reading of the first three verses in Genesis, as well as comparison to other creation stories, implies a creation from primordial matter, rather than ex nihilo. The creation ex nihilo may still exist for the primordial matter. Creation and placement of celestial bodies on the fourth day should be understood in the context of the entire described creation, which is a different matter. The solution might lie in the pluperfect, or better, since the creation in 6-days is Earth-centered and the celestial bodies are explicitly placed there to mark time - day, night, years, and seasons - perhaps we might interpret this as the placing of the earth in relation to these celestial bodies - at a certain distance from the Sun, at a certain revolution about it, and at a specific axis and speed of rotation. Age of the Earth is also not necessarily truly an issue. The purpose of retelling the cosmogony, even if absolutely literal, is to show God's relationship with His creation. Thus, for example, He creates and keeps as pets the sea monsters, which in other cultures were the enemies of the pantheon of the gods. Also, actions of the unfathomable God are described, so they must be metaphor on at least some level - God has no arm, but has a zeroa netuya. Similarly, "days" are a tool to allow the human mind to wrap around whatever epoch or grouping (perhaps not even chronological) of God's creative acts. This may be separated by some time from Adam, especially if Adam is metaphor. Age of Civilization is no problem if the tale of the garden is metaphor, and if the genealogical lists with thousand-year old people, like that of the Sumerian king lists, is not meant to record historical fact but serves another purpose. Also, a curiosity about carbon dating and question if a 6000 year dating for civilization is truly problematic.
      [C. Adam and Eve as Metaphor] gets to the meat of the issue. What features of the story suggest it is metaphor. I propose how each story details the relationship of man to God or the world. Thus, Man as created in God's image, Man as dominating nature, man's relation to woman, and man's place in the world, as distinct from that of angels.
      I give reasons why the story seems metaphor. The Man and the Woman are given type names, and referred to with the definite article. Talking snakes and magic trees are not in the normal range of human experience. Disagreement between details of creation in this story vs. that of chapter 1 (accounted for since details of a metaphor may clash with reality or that of another metaphor). Consumption of the fruit changes mankinds nature. The punishment is not personal but establishes the very nature of Man and the natural order.
      I discuss the meaning of the metaphor. Man's eating from the tree was inevitable, and reflects his ability to choose between Good and Evil, a capacity angels lack. The serpent represented Man's yetzer, and the act of diverting from God's will, rather than something intristic in the fruit, actualized Man's ability to choose. This ability is a Good Thing (TM), for it makes choosing Good more valuable, and so there is no fall from Grace but rather a description of how Man is on a higher level than angels. The punishment is no punishment but rather a description of how the world must be to accomodate Man's special nature - life must be finite, rewards must be earned through hard work and pain, and there must be a struggle to overcome and crush the head of temptation. Other metaphors are surely present but this represents a major one.
  • Moshe's Name (cross-posted from Vayikra)
    • This post argues in favor of the Biblically given derivation of Moshe's name, which has many points in its favor over the proposed Egyptian one MSS. It begins with a discussion of how many Biblical derivations do not work out entirely etymologically, but are based on sound similarity. Several examples from parashat Bereishit are discussed: Noach, Kayin, Shet, Isha.
  • Hevel's Hark and the Skipper Too
    • We consider the meaning of kol in the phrase ק֚וֹל דְּמֵ֣י אָחִ֔יךָ צֹֽעֲקִ֥ים אֵלַ֖י מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה, from the perspective of trup. Does it mean hark, or the voice of?
2004
  • Adam and Chava pull a Yeshaya
    • by hiding themselves in a tree, in a neo-drash I just made up. This leads to a discussion of Yeshaya hiding in a tree and being killed by the evil king Menashe, in the gemara and in pseudopigraphic work called The Ascension of Isaiah.
  • Moshe/Kayin parallels, and midrashic vs. peshat narrative (cross-posted from Shemot)
    • Parallels between two murders - of Hevel and of the Egyptian. Both killings take place in solitude, both killers try to pretend the murder did not happen, both go into exile as a result of the murder. In both instances the ground plays a role in covering up the murder. Brothers play a role in both. In both instances focus is made on potential descendants of the deceased.
      Then I highlight and discuss the difference between the two accounts of Moshe's actions, one midrashic, and one literal.
2003
  • Three paths to sin
    • Some homiletics I wrote, for a class in homiletics. From the three possible ways Adam came to sin, the subject of a Rabbinic dispute. 1) Carelessness caused by lack of chavivut for mitzvot; 2) Rationalization; 3) Sympathy and empathy.
  • HaGān, Mashiv HaRuach, And The Pseudo-pausal
    • HaGān, with a kametz appearing even where there is no etnachta or silluq, is good evidence of the pseudo-pausal, such that hatāl should be said even if you say hageshem.

to be continued...

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