Thursday, October 29, 2009

How many words are Kedarlaomer? the masorah vs. an explicit gemara

In a recent post, I discussed an apparent contradiction between our masorah about the Biblical text, on the one hand, and Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai in Zohar, on the other, about whether there was a weird kri on the word lemasaav. This did not perturb me, but depending on what believes about the date of authorship of the Zohar, this could be more or less perturbing.

However, there is a stronger problem in that our masoretic notes, and subsequently our texts, appear to be in direct contradiction to a gemara, about how to spell Kedarlaomer. First, the gemara in Chullin 64b-65aa:

אלא כתיב היענה וכתיב בת היענה ושאני הכא דפסק ספרא לשתי תיבות ומדפסיק להו ספרא
בתרתי תיבות ש"מ תרי שמות נינהו אלא מעתה (בראשית יד) את כדר לעומר דפסק להו ספרא בתרי הכי נמי דתרתי שמי נינהו אמרי התם בשתי תיבות פסיק להו בשני שיטין לא פסיק להו אבל הכא אפי' בשני שיטין נמי פסיק להו:

Thus, roughly, it contrasts Bat Hayaanah as a bird, and Kedar Laomer as king. The former it wants to say are two things, as they are two words. But then the gemara objects that Kedar Laomer is two words, with a separation, so they should be two names. And the answer is that they may be separated by a space, but they may not be on separate lines.

In modern terms, the answer is that the space in between Kedar and Laomer is a non-breaking space. This is a character you can insert into Microsoft Word, and something you can put into HTML as  

What this means is that one should put a space there, but though word-wrapping will typically choose to break to the next line if required at that point, this should not occur in this instance. Rather, keep them on the same line, and perform the line break before or after the set of words. So they should be regarded as one name.

Despite this, there is already a gemara in which our girsa has it as a single word with no space in between. In Shabbat 11a:

דכתיב (בראשית יד) שתים עשרה שנה עבדו את כדרלעומר ושלש עשרה שנה מרדו ובארבע עשרה שנה וגו'

I don't know if this reflects something original, or reflects a copyist's error, "correcting" the text to accord with what we see in chumash, in the text of a gemara that does not make particular use of that space. Perhaps looking at manuscript evidence could help resolve this.

As an aside, Kedar Laomer is at the least broken up into two words in the correct space. Kedar means "servant of" while Lagomer was an Elamite deity.

While the setama de-gemara states that there is a break between these two words, Kedar Laomer, throughout Chumash it is always written as one word. For example, from Lech Lecha:

א וַיְהִי, בִּימֵי אַמְרָפֶל מֶלֶךְ-שִׁנְעָר, אַרְיוֹךְ, מֶלֶךְ אֶלָּסָר; כְּדָרְלָעֹמֶר מֶלֶךְ עֵילָם, וְתִדְעָל מֶלֶךְ גּוֹיִם.1 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim,

And indeed, the Leningrad Codex has it this way as well, as a single word.

Minchas Shai mentions this contradiction. He says that the gemara has it as two words. And that he has seen this as well in a few sefarim, and so too cited in the name of the Tikkun of Rabbenu Tam, that they are two words, on the same line.

However, in precise manuscripts, it is a single word, and the masorah upon it is milah chada ketiv, that it is written as a single word. And so writes Rama explicitly:

כררלעמר כדרלעמר מלך עילם• חדא מלה כתיב
וחסר דחסר וכולהון כתיב כן

and this is his language: kedarlaomer is written as a single word, and is written chaser {without a cholam malei in omer}, and the masoret upon it is that it is written as a single word. And so is implied in masechet Chullin. End quote.

I {=Josh} don't see the reference to masechet Chullin in Masoret Seyag LaTorah, so maybe there is another masoretic work by Rama where he makes these additional statements? I am not sure. But this is rather irregular, as the gemara in Chullin appears to contradict the masorah.

Then Minchas Shai cites Ohr Torah who discusses this at length. My rough summary follows, though placed in blockquote.

He writes that those printers who print it as two words are erring, even though they are connecting them with a makef (dash), for in manuscripts, it is a single word, and so is the masoret, that it is written as a single word, and so writes Rama. And also the Meiri writes so. That is why the resh gets a sheva {nach, rather than nothing under it}, and with no makef, and immediately juxtaposed to the lamed. And the daled has a kamatz only. And so too all instances of Kedarlaomer. And he is astounded at the printers, for if they are two words, why should there be nikkud {of sheva nach} for the resh? And if it is one word, why should there be a makef? And he notes two sefarim, manuscripts, which have it as two words, and he labels this an error.

Ohr Torah then cites the Rama, and how it is mashma from the gemara in Chullin like this. And Ohr Torah finds it extremely perplexing, as the gemara appears to be against it. Then Ohr Torah cites Rabbi Avraham of Motpeslir {Montpelier; =~Lunel} in his chiddushim, as well as the Ran, that the gemara means that it is two words.

In order to "fix" things, he is going to ask incisive questions on the gemara and come up with a better peshat in it as a result. From my {=Josh's} own perspective, even if the questions are rather good questions, it may simply be that they are good questions, rather than that we should reinterpret the gemara in an extremely farfetched and forced way. But anyway, his questions:

1. That it is extremely difficult that all our masorah, current sefarim, differs from the apparent meaning of the gemara.

2. Why did the gemara ask from Kedar Laomer -- it should have asked from Bat Sheva, which is similar to Bat Hayaanah. {J: The ready difference is that perhaps Bat Sheva was not her name, but it means that she was the daughter of someone named Sheva.} Or Beer Sheva or Baal Chanan. {Likewise, these are cases of semichut, the construct form, and one can pull them apart and say correctly that it was named that because it is the well of sheva. Kedarlaomer is surely one individual's name, despite being divided.}

3. If it is indeed two words, why not separate it by having it on separate lines? And if not on two lines, why can we have a space between those words? Compare to the instructions in Yerushalmi Megillah. {J: I would say that the point the setama digmara is making here is that they are two words that make up a single phrase. And Kedar Laomer would, e.g. write his name in two words, and so would people write to him. But since it is a single entity, that just weirdly for Biblical style is spelled in two words, one should not really separate the parts of the phrase overmuch, by line breaking at that point. I don't see this as a strong question.}

He continues that in order to escape all these questions, and also to establish the truth in its proper place, he will explain the gemara. In some places it says hayaana and in others bat hayaanah. That is that sometimes that call this bird one thing and sometimes another. And so too is the girsa of the gemara explicitly in one manuscript: "they call it this and they call it that." And it is different here because they make a break in it into two words. And if you say, since this bird indeed has this name, bnot yaanah, how could Chizkiyah have said that bat yaanah is its egg? And they answer that it is different, because they divide it into two words. That is, that if the intent here were on the species of bird itself, it would have said Yaanah. Since it said Bat Hayaanah, the intent was on its egg. For the definite article, the heh hayidia, in the middle indicates this, and demonstrates that they are two words.

But then, continues the gemara, consider Kedar Laomer, where the Lamed serves this function, is that, too, to be two words? Isn't it only one word?

And the answer it that there, where there are two words, there is a break in it. That is to say that in terms of pronunciation, and the reading, certainly KedarLaomer appears as two words, but in terms of writing it, it is only written as one word, which is not the case by Bat Ha-Yaanah, which is written as two words. And therefore, the Heh inside it breaks it up, which is not the case by the Lamed of KedarLaomer.

Thus, with this explanation, all the questions are answered up, and we also made the Rama correct, when he said that the gemara in Chullin supports the idea that it is one word; as well as established the Truth which is found in the sefarim. And even though it is a but forced to say that where the gemara stated "in two lines," the intent was to writing, while when it stated "in two words," its intent was the reading, it is preferable to sustain a slight amount of farfetchedness than to remain with grievous questions, and to cast the Truth to the ground, forfend.

And if you say, why do I rejoice in establishing the words of the Rama and Meiri? Does this not, via this, nullify the words of Rav Avraham and the Ran? And what do you see that this one's blood is redder? Perhaps this one's blood is redder?

There are two answers to the matter. One, that the words of the Rama and Meiri agree with the Truth {/reality} found in the sefarim, and therefore it is fitting to rejoice in the establishing of their words, etc.

Further, because the Rama and Meiri come specifically to do this, and this is their profession, to "fix" the Torah and to investigate and delve and inspect early sefarim to determine the truth, and therefore, an error in their words is something quite uncommon, for the assumption is that they were precise. And in particular, the Rama, who was a great rav muvhak, such that Ramban would ask him his doubts, and called him Nasi Nesiei Halevi. But R'A Mhrr {=Rabbi Avraham, as above}, and Ran did not come for this, and this was not their profession, but by way of traveling, as they explained masechet chullin, they reached this language and wrote upon it what seemed at first correct. And therefore, if their words do not stand, it is not something confounding.

And according to our way, we have learned how much one needs to delve and answer before he casts forth his hand to fix a sefer. For behold, two geonei olam, R"A and the Ran totter in judgment in the word Kedar Laomer.

Also from this you will understand the multitude of variants which are found in our times in many words of the Torah. For who will see two giants of the world say that Kedar Laomer is two words and not immediately go and correct his sefer Torah; in particular after seeing the language of the gemara that does indeed appear to imply this. Therefore I say to be conservative and patient.
I think it is telling that Minchas Shai still left it as a tzarich iyun.

And I would say that finding correct peshat in the gemara is the profession of the two geonei olam, who develop a sense of what is dochak and what is compelling peshat. And seeing manuscript evidence one way can sometimes be misleading, for you feel driven to interpret the gemara in accord with reality and not undermine your masorah. I am not persuaded by Ohr Torah's intepretation of this gemara; nor am I positive that this is what Ramah intended.

(Also, the lamed in kedarlaomer is not one of shimush; it is part of the Elamite deity's name.)

On the other hand, I certainly grant his point that sometimes specialized knowledge can grant one insights into the meaning of a gemara. Sometimes that can be knowledge of the actual manifested data in our Torah scrolls, as in this instance; sometimes it can be understanding what Chazal meant because of a knowledge of anatomy, or phonology, or Persian history. As Rabbi Yochanan said jokingly, Resh Lakish given his history would know about knives! But it is certainly true that specialized knowledge can give one an edge up, even upon the most expert learners, in understanding a sugya.

Even so, in this instance, I would choose to understand the setama digemara kipshuto. It is written with a gap, but it is also written as a single word, in that the space is a non-breaking space. If pressed on the contradiction, I would admit it was difficult; but that even in the time of Chazal, there was variants in the Masoretic text. For example, asher tziva hashem elokeinu etchem vs. otanu, between Bavli and Yerushalmi. So perhaps the author of the setamaitic statement had it in two words, but still maintained their integrity as a unit such that they should not be split.

Indeed, perhaps this was the genesis of the masoretic note. Stating it is written as one word may be meaningful in terms of whether one can line break. Is there a similar statement that Avraham is one word, or that Amraphel is one word? And then, a misinterpretation of the masoretic note could yield this standard girsa. Alternatively, it was an old dispute, and that the setammaist who wrote that statement was relying on an incorrect variant, and the masoretic note is intended to counteract that gemara.

Regardless, I most certainly agree with him in encouraging conservatism in emending Torah scrolls based on interpretations of gemaras. I just disagree with him in his approach before that, which was to harmonize a gemara against its plain meaning, because of playing favorites with rabbinic figures and the masorah. The true meaning of the gemara should rule the day, even if it causes difficulties. We then should cope with the consequences, whatever they may be. At least, that is what I prefer to believe is my own derech halimud.

In the next post, a difficult Rashi interacts with a contrary masorah.


yaak said...

Since we know it as one word, I would prefer to transliterate it as "Kedorla'omer" as it is a hataf-kametz (aka kamatz katan).

Shlomo said...

Actually, in the Leningrad Codex it is spelled once as two words. Check chapter 15, verse 17.

Shlomo said...

Sorry! Check chapter 14 (not 15), verse 17.

msh210 said...

You translate Rama's "וחסר דחסר" as "nd is written chaser {without a cholam malei in omer}". Usually "וחסר דחסר" means it is chaser in two respects; perhaps he means that the kamatz katan is not a cholam male?? Did he perhaps have it as a cholam chaser??

joshwaxman said...

yes, you are most certainly right. (of the two options you offer, I would favor the former, but i don't know.)



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