Thursday, January 29, 2004

Bo #4: A simple count

Shmot 12:40 states:
וּמוֹשַׁב בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר יָשְׁבוּ בְּמִצְרָיִם--שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה, וְאַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה.
"Now the time that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years."

Now Chazal take this as starting from the time of Yitzchak. The real count is: Yocheved was born as they entered Egypt, birthed Moshe at 130. Moshe took the Jews out of Egypt at 80. So that is 130 + 80 = 210 years.

Is 430 possible, though?

Shemot 6:14-20 gives the lineage of Moshe.
Levi lived to 137. Kehoth 133. Amram 137. And Moshe was 80 when he took the Jews from Egypt.
The sum total is 487. Now, Yosef was 30 when standing before Pharoah. The assumption (see my earlier posts on the subject) is that he was 39 when the Jews came to Egypt, but if the years of plenty had already commenced when he interpreted Pharoah's dream, he might be more like 34. Levi was older than Yosef, so he could be 36 or so. Otherwise, Levi would be at least 40, probably older when he came to Egypt. Say 40. That leaves 447 years left. Now the entire settlement in Egypt was 430, so if each man had his son at a late age, it is possible. There are 17 years left to overlap, possibly more if Yosef and therefore Levi were younger.

Why not assume this? First, Shemot 6:20 states:
וַיִּקַּח עַמְרָם אֶת-יוֹכֶבֶד דֹּדָתוֹ, לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה, וַתֵּלֶד לוֹ, אֶת-אַהֲרֹן וְאֶת-מֹשֶׁה; וּשְׁנֵי חַיֵּי עַמְרָם, שֶׁבַע וּשְׁלֹשִׁים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה.
"And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses. And the years of the life of Amram were a hundred and thirty and seven years."

If Amram was the son of Kehat son of Levi, then Yocheved was the daughter of Levi. Earlier in Shemot 2:1
וַיֵּלֶךְ אִישׁ, מִבֵּית לֵוִי; וַיִּקַּח, אֶת-בַּת-לֵוִי.
"And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi."

The pasuk in perek 2 ambiguously states Amram and Yocheved's identity. Amram is a "man from the house of Levi." אֶת-בַּת-לֵוִי could be the actual daughter of Levi, or a woman from the house of Levi. Taking it to be the actual daughter of Levi makes the reckoning difficult.

Why? Chazal say she was 130 when she gave birth to Moshe and was born upon entering Egypt. Moshe was 80. This makes the timespan in Egypt 210, not 430. Some want to make her younger so that Moshe's birth was not an unmentioned miracle. If so, by other accounts Levi would have to have fathered her very late.

However, let us assign the maximum. Levi fathered her at 137. She birthed Moshe at 130. Moshe redeemed the Jews at 80. The sum total is 397, which is not 430. And Levi only came to Egypt after several decades in Canaan.

The other possiblity is that Yocheved is a daughter of the tribe of Levi, not the person Levi. Then she can be much younger, and we can revert to the earlier calculation for 430 years in Egypt.

However, the pasuk in perek 6 is problematic.
וַיִּקַּח עַמְרָם אֶת-יוֹכֶבֶד דֹּדָתוֹ, לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה, וַתֵּלֶד לוֹ, אֶת-אַהֲרֹן וְאֶת-מֹשֶׁה; וּשְׁנֵי חַיֵּי עַמְרָם, שֶׁבַע וּשְׁלֹשִׁים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה

What does דֹּדָתוֹ mean? It could mean beloved. (Tg Yonatan says חביבתיה which literally means beloved but is Aramaic for the same concept as דֹּדָתוֹ and is documented to mean aunt in many a location, so Tg Yonatan actually supports the aunt theory.) It possibly might designate a relative or some relation, but we are not sure what exactly - we would need to be native speakers of Biblical Hebrew. {Note to self: we have similar problems by the two Tzidkiyahus, I recall.}

Possibly, we could answer that the pasuk in perek 6 is derivitive of the pasuk in perek 2. That is, perek 2 was ambiguous, and perek 6 took a specific intepretation when trying to calculate the chronology/geneology. That is, those specific psukim could be the work of a sadran, a redactor (from say, Anshe Kenesset HaGedolah) basing himself on the original text and providing helpful parenthetical notes. This would account for the verses like עד היום הזה when referring to events by Moshe's death which should date to the authorship of the text but would then be meaningless, and so there must be some time differential. Thus the pasuk in perek 6 would be a mistaken disambiguation of perek 2.

What got me thinking about this potential was Dr. Richard C. Steiner's article, "A Jewish Theory of Biblical Redaction from Byzantium: Its Rabbinic Roots, Its Diffusion and Its Encounter with the Muslim Doctrine of Falsification". A good read.

Update: This would mean, of course, that we are off 220 years from the actual date, assuming all other date calculations are correct. Which makes it good that we write on documents like a ketuba "Liminyan SheAnu Monin Kaan."

Also, to pick up on the potential that דֹּדָתוֹ does not mean aunt but beloved, I think I can claim that Chazal agree with me. Chazal are not monolithic - there is room for debate amidst aggada aside from halacha. Chazal certainly say she was the aunt. However, elsewhere (see Mechilta at the beginning of VaEra for example) Chazal say that Amram fooled the Egyptians and thus managed to save Moshe's life.

How? When Moshe was conceived, Amram divorced his wife, and all of Israel followed suit. Three months later he remarried Yocheved his wife, and the Egyptians counted from that time. When they reckoned 6 months, Moshe had had 9 months to develop and was then born. They then were able to hide him for 3 months before the Egyptians could suspect.

Where is this midrash located in the Mechilta? In VaEra, after a midrash about the first few psukim. Thus it is perfectly situated to be a midrash about the דֹּדָתוֹ pasuk in perek 6. All we need say is that דֹּדָתוֹ means beloved. This is then the source for the midrash. He took his beloved - that is his wife whom he loved, as a wife.

Why would Amram need to do that? He must have divorced her. Why? Then we can look at the context of the drowning of the Jewish children in the Nile and the fact that Moshe escaped this fate.

Thus, at least some members of Chazal took דֹּדָתוֹ as beloved, not aunt. If so, the counting I did above can work out.

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