Monday, July 28, 2008

Masei: "And Moshe Wrote"

Parshat Masei begins:
א אֵלֶּה מַסְעֵי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר יָצְאוּ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם--לְצִבְאֹתָם: בְּיַד-מֹשֶׁה, וְאַהֲרֹן. 1 These are the stages of the children of Israel, by which they went forth out of the land of Egypt by their hosts under the hand of Moses and Aaron.
ב וַיִּכְתֹּב מֹשֶׁה אֶת-מוֹצָאֵיהֶם, לְמַסְעֵיהֶם--עַל-פִּי ה; וְאֵלֶּה מַסְעֵיהֶם, לְמוֹצָאֵיהֶם. 2 And Moses wrote their goings forth, stage by stage, by the commandment of the LORD; and these are their stages at their goings forth.
And pasuk 2 seems somewhat repetitious of pasuk 1. There are indeed two new pieces of information -- that Moshe wrote their goings forth, and that something was by the commandment of the LORD. Still, it seems a bit awkward, and seems to backtrack a bit.

Indeed, this seems like an addendum to sefer Bemidar, and an index of sorts to their various travels in the desert. It gives us a quick overview of their itenerary. That, together with pasuk 2, suggests that this was a separate source, written by Moshe, and incorporated into the Torah at the end of this sefer.

If so, pasuk 2 could be read as a "defense" by the sadran (even saying it is Moshe or Yehoshua) for why this material should be included in the Torah -- that Moshe Rabbenu wrote the following information, which was then incorporated; and furthermore, this writing was עַל-פִּי ה, by the commandment of the LORD, such that it has the same sanctity.

It is actually a machlokes as to the meaning of עַל-פִּי ה, and to what words it binds.

Ibn Ezra writes:
על פי ה' -
דבק עם למסעיהם.
such that their travels were al pi hashem. He is most likely influenced by the earlier pasuk in Bemidbar 9:20, which states על פי ה' יחנו ועל פי ה' יסעו.

Ramban argues on Ibn Ezra and says that עַל-פִּי ה refers to the writing which Moshe did:
והנה מכתב המסעות מצוות השם היא מן הטעמים הנזכרים, או מזולתן עניין לא נתגלה לנו סודו, כי "על פי ה'" דבק עם "ויכתוב משה", לא כדברי ר"א שאמר שהוא דבק עם "למסעיהם", שכבר הודיענו זה (לעיל ט כ): על פי ה' יחנו ועל פי ה' יסעו
and (as I read it) he takes that earlier pasuk as a reason not to think that this is what it means locally.

Meanwhile, Baal HaTurim claims that the reversal in the second pasuk, of first saying אֶת-מוֹצָאֵיהֶם לְמַסְעֵיהֶם, followed by מַסְעֵיהֶם לְמוֹצָאֵיהֶם, is to show that both מַסְעֵיהֶם and מוֹצָאֵיהֶם were עַל-פִּי ה. I don't agree that this is true on a peshat level, nor am I entirely convinced this is valid on a midrashic level. Still, it appears to demonstrate that he understands עַל-פִּי ה in accordance with Ibn Ezra and not in accordance with Ramban.

1 comment:

Lion of Zion said...

simha kogut uses this as an example of how ibn ezra does not always follow the trop, despite his insistence that this is necessary


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