Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Is One An Apikores For Thinking That Kohelet 2:8 Does Not Refer To Demons?

As a quick followup to an earlier post on parshablog, how can one deny the reality of sheidim and still not be an apikores? After all, the gemara understands from Kohelet 2:8 that there were demons in play, which Shlomo haMelech apparently used to construct the Beis HaMikdash?

One possible answer is that that midrash was intended allegorically, or intended to teach moral lessons rather than literal history. Indeed, I have learned through that particular midrash, and I think this is more than plausible. Another possible answer is that whether Kohelet 2:8 refers to sheidim as demons is actually a matter of dispute among Chazal, between the sages in Bavel and the sages in Eretz Yisrael.

The pasuk in question reads:
ח כָּנַסְתִּי לִי גַּם-כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב, וּסְגֻלַּת מְלָכִים וְהַמְּדִינוֹת; עָשִׂיתִי לִי שָׁרִים וְשָׁרוֹת, וְתַעֲנֻגוֹת בְּנֵי הָאָדָם--שִׁדָּה וְשִׁדּוֹת. 8 I gathered me also silver and gold, and treasure such as kings and the provinces have as their own; I got me men-singers and women-singers, and the delights of the sons of men, women very many.
To cite Gittin 68a:

קוהלת ב) עשיתי לי שרים ושרות ותענוגות בני האדם שדה ושדות שרים ושרות אלו מיני זמר ותענוגות בני האדם אלו בריכות ומרחצאות
שדה ושדות הכא תרגימו שידה ושידתין
במערבא אמרי שידתא
אמר רבי יוחנן שלש מאות מיני שדים היו בשיחין ושידה עצמה איני יודע מה היא
Thus, there is a difference between the way they translated it in Bavel (hacha) and in Eretz Yisrael (be-Maarava). Looking at Rashi on the daf, in Bavel, it refers to male and female demons. While again according to Rashi on the daf, in Eretz Yisrael, they explained it as wagons, to convey women and sarim {?or perhaps sharim, given the context?}.

Now perhaps one can say one is on the level of pshat and the other on the level of drash, but the way it is being cast is as a machloket between targumim. (Rabbi Yochanan, of Eretz Yisrael, talks about demons, but does not know who Shidah is, strongly implying he understands this pasuk akin to his colleagues in Bavel.)

So how does Rashi decide to present it in his perush on Kohelet? He writes:
wagons and coaches Heb. שִּׁדָה וְשִּׁדוֹת beautiful coaches, covered wagons, and in the Gemara, [we find] a coach (שִּׁדָה) , a chest, and a closet.
Is he an apikores for reading the pasuk as referring to coaches rather than to demons? I would hope not!

How about Rabbi Yeshaya di Trani? How does he explain the pasuk? He writes that according to pshat, they are musical instruments. Thus:
ח. שרים ושרות: מיני זמר, שידה ושידות: גם אלו הן מיני כלי-זמר, לפי הפשט;
Since he labels it pshat, he is allowing room for the midrash to still stand in place.

And Rashbam? He says like Rashi, that it means a coach.

Seforno writes וכמו כן עשיתי מהם שדה לסגלת מלכים: ושדות. לזהב ולכסף. He is clearly not taking it as referring to demons. See inside.

The Targum refers to מרזבין דשדין מיא פשורי מרזבין דשדין מיא חמימי, thus pipes and not demons.

Alshich indeed explains it as referring to demons, but he is a darshan rather than a pashtan, and he, among some notable others, hold that one is not allowed to divert from derashot of Chazal on aggadah as well -- something up for dispute (see e.g. Shmuel haNagid for a contrary position).

So we need not say that the pasuk in Kohelet must be translated as meaning demons, thus reinforcing a particular aggada which we then insist on taking absolutely literally.

3 comments:

Fan said...

For anyone interested here is Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRaMBaM's prescription for how to approach Aggada.

zb said...

Is it an Appikoris if you do not agree with a literal understanding of Rashi that Rivka was three years old? See VIN article by R' Billet

http://www.vosizneias.com/22719/2008/11/19/new-york-parshat-chayei-sarah-the-age-of-rivkah-at-her-wedding-3-years/

Well I was pretty bored today so I went thru all the comments on the post and counted 56 people disagreeing with R’ Billet with 9 posts claiming him to be an Apikoris and 28 posts saying in essence “who are you to argue on Rashi”. There were 30 commenters who agreed with R’ Billet, and 16 neutral posts. Even though some of the comments were nuts, still we must give credit for VIN for putting a more open minded post on their blog. I took out some of the more incendiary comments and posted my response to them, as I have no patience to respond to them in VIN as they obviously do not care to utilize any of their critical thinking faculties, so what is the point. It is obvious the majority of commenters lack simple critical reading comprehension abilities as they keep mentioning that R’ Billet was “laughing” at Rashi which he never was. His critic was on HOW we teach Chumash today, how drash and pshat get mixed up, and how we limit what peirushim we teach.

My responses (in bold) follow the quotes (in italics) that I cut out of the VIN comment page


- Thinking that 3 is to young is because of secularism (In one word WOW!!! If that is secular influence maybe secularism is not all bad after all…but in actuality, this line of thinking is not secularism but what I believe some rishonim would call “natural morality” In other words the yetzer hatov that is ingrained in all humans, and is developed in a moral and just society, that tells you that getting married to a three year old is not right.)

- Rashi can never be wrong because he had ruach hakodesh, we are mere mortals (Obviously assuming that rashi was talking historically and not midrashically, and what no other commentators had ruach hakodesh – how does he know that)


- “small minded” if you dare believe that 3 year old makes less sense then 14 year old (are these people even thinking when they write this? Would they really have no problem if their 3 year old got married)

- Not borderline apikoris but “DEFINITE” apikoris and shame on VIN…(Well I don’t remember seeing this as one of the 13 Ikkorim, I could be wrong, but being uncomfortable with what a great rishon like Rashi and more comfortable with another rishon is probably not in the same level of heresy as atheism, DH, anthropomorphism, Karaism…)
- The Torah is eternal, and it would be more appropriate to leave it un-understandable then to try to make sense of it. (So I guess Tamai Hamitzvos is out…This goes to show that we do not teach our children a rational approach to mitzvos and avodas hashem. Also since when is midrashim taken literally, especially when it goes against human logic and nature. The whole POINT of midroshim is to understand it in a deeper “drush” level. The medrash is not pshat, and taking it historically is completely defeating its purpose)

- For example, the Rambam writes there that the reason for karbonos was because G-D was jealous of the other G-D's whose followers were offered sacrifices. (WHAT!!!! AFAIK the Rambam wrote the reason for korbonas was because of the ancient Jews, being a product of their time, needed sacrifice (like the cultures around them) in order to connect to G-d better. I guess if the Rambam was around today, we would have the same simpletons shouting kefira against the Rambam)


- However, when you start asking questions that say that what Rashi is saying is against common sense or even more that kids are meant to be cute, that's apikorses. You're laughing at Rashi rather then asking a valid question based on the laws of how to learn torah, and one of them is not to ask how is it possible. (Nobody is laughing at anybody here. Rabbi Billet says it untenable to say Rifka was 3 years old based on meforshim and our idea of natural morality. Rashi might have said 3 for many reasons, but that doesn’t mean Rivka was actually 3 or that Rashi himself felt he was talking historically and not midrashically. BTW the fallacy of many of the commentators is that by arguing against the 3 year age of Rivka is making fun of Rashi or the medresh. I can as easily argue that by taking Rashi literally you are in the present day of age ridiculing rashi which is would then make that heresy.)

- If you believe 14 year old Rivka then Rashi is wrong, the next step is rishonim would be wrong, and the third step is the Gemora is wrong. (This is the flow of logic of this commentator based on taking issue with a Rashi)


- "Rabbi" Billet, did you ever wonder why the (mature?) Yidden accepted the Torah "blindly" & said Naaseh V'nishma before they knew what the Torah says? Or would you not take this Midrash at face value either? (First of all Naasheh V’nishma is not a medrish, and also all the commentators who are taking ”Rabbi” Billet to task have this idea that that Judaism have no concept of NISHMA, and if you try to do any nishma (ie chakira – understanding taamei hamitzvos etc…) this by its nature is at best lacking of emunah peshuta and at worst is treading on apikorsus. This is a result of the lack of critical thinking that we are educating our children in schools. We are so focused in the “naaseh” and we completely ignore (and at times scorn) any attempts at “nishma”.

- well then where do you stop? At the shilchon Aruch, why? At Rambam, why there? Lets go one step ahead untill we reach the age of the talmid, mazal tov you just became a reform jew. (Again the same shody logic. Disagreement and difficultly with Rashi should be suppressed because somebody might come to be a Reform Jew. Did this commentator ever think that by not having a more rationalist approach to midrash and the chumash, there will be many frum Jews who would c”v stop being believers)


- "The tragedy of our dor" is putting ourselves on the same level as the holy Rashi, while our morals and values are probably more appropriate to the time of the Flood. Just like you can't imagine Rivka Imenu at 3, you cannot fathom who Rashi was. If you don't understand Rashi, that doesn't mean he's wrong. Whoever doesn’t believe that Rashi wrote everything with ruach hakodesh is an apikorus! (WOW! I never knew that Rashi writing down everything with Ruach Hakodesh was an Ikkorai Imunah, well good to know. (I see you also mentioned this same point in comment 53) Also while there are many problems with our generation, I think part of the problems the frum community have is exaggerating the moral decline of our generation compared to previous generations. In the holy quest of ridiculing everything “western” or “non-Jewish”, we have loss sight of the many wonderful things the modern world has brought to us. This includes that the severe poverty and destitution that was commonplace in pre-modern times has all but been eradicated in non-3rd world countries. And this is a direct result of modern thinking and technology, that the scientific method has led us to. We now have medicine, education, and the plethora of yeshivas and seminaries that ALL previous generations did not have. Yes, our generation isn’t perfect, but to compare it to the “dor hamabul” in which Hashem destroyed the world is IMHO a product of a yeshiva system that engrains its talmidim to deprecate anything that isn’t frum and from us.

- well if the torah says thats what happened then thats what happened.... and because YOU THINK that even in those days its not possible then continue "CRYING WOLF" bec thats the only thing you seem to be good at (  Well I can let you answer this commenter, but again we see here the lack of understanding what is pshat and what is drash. Conflating midrashim with Torah and saying they are the same thing is essentially what is getting a lot of these people into trouble )


- ITS A CHILLEL HASHEM EVEN TO POST SUCH A ARTICALE (Well difference of opinion has never been a strong suit of the right wing charaidi community, but the lack of “eilue v’eilu notwithstanding, to call this article a “chilul hashem” is a bit strong for a article that prefers one rishon over another.)
- how about is it physically possible to go without any sleep for 14 YEARS yes YEARS not seconds or minutes or hrs or days or weeks or months........ well this is what we got to accept and believe because thats our mesorah so who ever doesnt like it there are other religions that mike make more sense to you little brains (Again the same problem these people are having, taking midroshim literally!!! Sheesh. Also this poster diagrams the severe lack of educating our youth that there is a legitimate path in yiddishkeit called Rational Judaism™ ala the Rambam)

- yes you are an apikoras, because you are laughing at Rash, you think he was out dated…I also would like to point out that Aachronim do not usually disgaree with Rishonim, just makes no sense, they were closer to Matan Torah and also tended to have greater minds then us. That's why we have no Rambam or R' Akiva Eiger in our generation. Do you realize that they wrote their commentery before there was a computer around or for that sake even a simple light bulb. The Ramabam was constently on the run and a working doctor. (Interesting, so you do give value to the modern mind that was able to invent computers and light bulbs. So maybe our current value system in which a three year old getting married with an adult is abhorrent is not because its anti-Torah but perhaps we have a certain sensitivity that the ancients did not have, because of their society. Also a universal natural morality (separate from the Torah, which is based on revelation) is not something to attack, because it doesn’t fit YOUR value system, plenty rishonim understood a concept of natural law or natural morality that is ingrained in the human psyche. Also perhaps we have no Rambam or R’ Akiva Eiger because our educational does not value independent critical thinkers. Is there any way possible a genius like the Rambam could have been produced in today’s charaidi culture. And if somehow he did develop, would he not be put to cherem by all these folks who are attacking R’ Billet.)

- shame on you how dare you speak like this about rashi which was writteb in ruach hakodesh do you think your on the same level as hin or bring him dowm like just another commentary I'm shaking while reading this article ...you are to fly to rashi's kever with a minyan and ask mechila. (I believe going to a cemetery and speaking to a meis is a lot worse of an issue then disagreeing with a shita that they once had. Also again with this ruach hakodes bit. What about “Torah Lo B’shamoyim”, how does anybody know definitely that Rashi had ruach hakodesh. What about Ibn Ezra and Tosfos did not have. Claiming ruach hakodesh is just trying to argue from authority and shut doing the debate. And even if theoretically Rashi wrote this peirush b’ruach hakodesh, it is not the same thing as prophecy. 3 years of age could still be understood in some allegorical fashion that Rashi received n’ruach hakodesh, it still does not need to be taken literally.)


- Appearantly you have a reading issue. Most if not all posts have said they are taking exception to Rabbi Billets artice only because of the underlying reason why he disagrees with Rashi no with the fact that he disagrees. We all know that there are machlokes in Rishonim and we can choose whichever one we like when learning Gemarah or Chimush. It's what's bothering him that is Apikorses. (So according to you; to have a moral problem with marrying a three year old (and therefore holding of a different rishon) is on par with denying c”v one of the 13 ikkorim ! *Speechless*)

- I guess you don't say the Ani Maamins. So let me write it for you. Ani Maamin #8 "I believe with perfect faith that the entire Torah that we now have is that which was given to Moses". What Rashi wrote is toras emes and if you don't believe your an apikores according to the Rambam. (I wish for those who constantly quote the Rambam when it suits them, should maybe take some time of their day from learning a Ktzos or a R’ Akiva Eiger and open up a Mishna Torah or (gasp) a Moreh Nevuchim. The Rambam himself clearly wrote that people who take aggadata (which goes against common sense – of which a three year old rivka clearly is) literally, and do not reinterpret it, is motzi laz on chaza”l. Its kind of hard for you to argue that the Rambam would hold something is apikoris on something he himself held! R’ Billet never makes fun of Rashi c”v he just says that a literal historical understanding of Rivka is untenable. Perhaps Rashi himself wasn’t talking historically either, or perhaps Rashi was talking about three at the age of kidushin not nissuin. But what R’ Billet was having difficulty was the shita that held that Rashi is talking about literally 3 year of age marriage. I would guess a holding a literal 3 year old Rivka in today’s culture would be what the Rambam would hold is motzi laaz on Chaza”l.)

- Yes, even Toras Habaal Shem is Toras emes and if you dont believe that your an apikores according to the Rambam. In regards to you adding to the Torah, if you mechadesh a Torah or say a pshat in a gemora and you do it lshem shomayim than according to the Rambam it is part of Toras Moshe that was given on Har Sinai. (WHAT! If I disagree with somebody who made up a vort (lshem shomayim of course) that is considered kefira according to the Rambam!!!!! Where? I for some odd reason do not think the Rambam would agree with that. Remember the Rambam held that people (even big Rabbi’s) who thought that G-d had anthropomorphic properties was a kofer. These people were obviously saying pshat leshaim shomayim, yet that doesn’t stop the Rambam from disagreeing with them vehemently!)


- These rishonim are malochim we have no 'hasogo' what Rashi and Tosfos were but the mesora handed down through all the generations from the Rishonim on is that Rash's pshat is the accepted version…these rishonim are like malochim in human clothing they do not make mistakes it is us who are like chamorim who make the mistakes we do not understand what these rishonim are saying. (I’m not sure how one can say a human being cannot make a mistake. This idea would is theologically problematic (We are not Catholics – we do not believe in “papal” infability to the best of my knowledge), IMHO this idea of human infability is much more difficult then disagreeing with Rashi and being more comfortable (based on natural morality and textual reading of the chumash), with the opinions of Tosfos and the Ibn Ezra. Also what is the source that our mesora states that Rashi’s pshat is ALWAYS the accepted version, how can this even be a mesora, the revelation at Har Sinai occurred way before Rashi. Just because Rashi is the preferred peirush in chumash doesn’t mean that we have to say he is the last word on every textual ambiguity or historical conundrum. Also how can we even “pasken” on a historical fact, either Rivka was 3, 14, or some other age when she married Yitzchok. Halacha we can have more then one opinion and they both can be right. Even Hashkafah, there can be more then one opinion and as long as they fall within the accepted parameters of our mesora they both are correct, but historical and scientific facts are either true or not. If chaza”l or rishonim had a argument on these issues, it means one of them was not correct, and being comfortable with one of the opinions based on historical, scientific, and even natural morality does not in any shape make you a kofer.)

- the chillul hashem that billet caaused here could have major ramifications and bring a midas hadin we must all stand up for hashem and his torah and denounce the bizayon hatorah and chilull shem shamayim. (And I would say the chilul hashem of all the commentors of VIN who ridicule a talmid chochum is much more likely to cause bizayon hatorah and is michallel shem shomayim. A chilul hashem is not somebody who disagrees with you shares his opinion, a chilul hashem is when people use the Torah and act like meandering simpletons in a public accessed website. Also the chilul hashem of people who comment on blogs and sound quite arrogant, narrow-minded, and demeaning of others is probably a great way in keep people away from seeing the beauty of Orthodox Judaism and the Torah.)

zb said...

It seems like the bold and italics didn't work. My comments are always in parenthesis following the comments I took from VIN

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