Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why does Rashi discuss עד בכור השבי in a pasuk that does not state it?

Summary: It is not evidence that Rashi had a different girsa in the pasuk. I think it is just bringing in a related derasha, where it is apprpriate in context. What various meforshim suggest.

Post: Consider the following pasuk and Rashi from parashat Bo, in 11:5:

5. and every firstborn in the land of Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the slave woman who is behind the millstones, and every firstborn animal.ה. וּמֵת כָּל בְּכוֹר בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבְּכוֹר פַּרְעֹה הַיֹּשֵׁב עַל כִּסְאוֹ עַד בְּכוֹר הַשִּׁפְחָה אֲשֶׁר אַחַר הָרֵחָיִם וְכֹל בְּכוֹר בְּהֵמָה:
to the firstborn of the captive: Why were the captives smitten? So that they would not say, “Our deity has demanded [vengeance] for their [our] degradation, and brought retribution upon Egypt.” -[from Mechilta, Bo, on Exod. 12:29]עד בכור השבי: (שמות יב כט) למה לקו השבויים, כדי שלא יאמרו, יראתם תבעה עלבונם והביאה פורענות על מצרים:

There is a seeming mismatch between the pasuk and the dibbur hamatchil. The pasuk says עַד בְּכוֹר הַשִּׁפְחָה while the dibbur hamatchil is עד בכור השבי. That phrase only occurs in Shemot 12:29, and indeed, the Mechilta is drawn from there.

The commentary Chelek Hadikduk in this PDF presenting R' Saadia Gaon's Tafsir, page 80, writes:
So is it in all printings, though in this pasuk is not written עד בכור השבי, but rather in Shemot 12:29.
So that it where I first saw this issue.

I would note that the very next Rashi does cite words from the pasuk, and a derasha, appropriate to the local pasuk:

from the firstborn of Pharaoh… to the firstborn of the slave womanAll those inferior to the Pharaoh’s firstborn and superior to the slave woman’s firstborn were included. Why were the sons of the slave women smitten? Because they too were enslaving them [the Israelites] and were happy about their misfortune. — [from Pesikta Rabbathi, ch. 17]מבכור פרעה עד בכור השפחהכל הפחותים מבכור פרעה וחשובים מבכור השפחה היו בכלל. ולמה לקו בני השפחות, שאף הם היו משעבדים בהם ושמחים בצרתם:

So certainly before suggesting that Rashi had a different text in his sefer Torah, we should carefully explore other options. Because the temptation might be to note that 11:15 and 12:29 are quite similar, and השבי begins similarly to השפחה, such that this is an error in Rashi's sefer Torah (or worse, our sifrei Torah).

Here is a manuscript from Rome, 1470, which has both Rashis, in the order presented above. And here is another from Munich, 1233 -- see the second column. And here is another, from Cod Hebr 3 -- see the middle of the first column. So too, early printings.

The Septuagint has hashifcha, just like our Masoretic text. And the Samaritan text has hashifcha. Vetus Testamentum mentions only one Jewish text that has השבי here, which is undoubtedly the result of an error, from some scribe recollecting the wrong pasuk at the wrong time.

It would seem that Rashi, or some later scribe, simply placed this midrash here, since it is akin to the local midrash. Perhaps he would equate שבי with שפחה, since conquered people became slaves, or because the two midrashim are addressing similar points. And the dibbur hamatchil would be placed here, despite it being of a foreign pasuk, to make clear that the midrash was not really going on the local pasuk.


Rabbi Chaim Hirschenson, in Nimukei Rashi, cites this Rashi and then writes:

"According to this nusach which is before us in Rashi, with first the designation מבכור השבי [sic] and then the designation מבכור פרעה עד בכור השפחה, it appears as if there was before Rashi this nusach in Scriptures:  מבכור פרעה עד בכור השפחה עד בכור השבי.


And chas veShalom to think this!


And IMHO, there was omitted from the language of Rashi za"l a statement, and one should say, and designate:


'מבכור פרעה, and to Israel he said later עד בכור השבי. And why were the captives smitten? So that they would not say, “Our deity has demanded [vengeance] for their [our] degradation, and brought retribution upon Egypt מבכור פרעה עד בכור השפחה.” All who were less than the firstborn of Pharaoh and more important that the firstborn of the maidservant were encompassed.'


That is to say, so would the captives say, who were not encompassed, that only those who were lesser than the firstborn of Pharaoh and more important than the firstborn of the maidservant, but those who were less than the firstborn of the maidservant, who were the captives, were not encompassed, for the main portion of the plague came upon Egypt, in their opinion, because their deity demanded vengeance for their degradation. Therefore, Moshe said to Israel that also the firstborn of the captives would die, and in the warning he said 'until the firstborn of the maidservant' because he warned all of the enslavers. 'For even the maidservant was of the enslavers.' "

This seems rather unlikely for a number of reasons, but I am not going to go into that here.

Mizrachi writes:

"Though בכור השבי isn't written here, but rather בכור השפחה, Rashi wishes to resolve the difficulty of the verses. For in the implementation is written 'and Hashem smote all firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne until the firstborn of the captives.' And this implies that the firstborn of the captives was also smitten. And in the warning is written 'until the firstborn of the maidservant', which implies 'and not the firstborn of the captives', which is lesser than the firstborn of the maidservant, as the Rav [=Rashi] writes himself. And he says that that which the verse states by the inplementation עד בכור השבי is to say that even the בכור השבי were smitten, despite not subjugating Israel, since they were also subjugated like Israel, so that they should not say that their deity brought retribution for their degradation, and that this plague came upon the Egyptians not because of Israel.


And that which the verse states by the warning עד בכור השפחה, such that the בכור השבי is not encompassed within it, this is because the primary force of this plague only came because they were subjugating Israel, and those who were subjugating them were only until the firstborn of the maidservant, for since their fathers were Egyptians they had dominion over Israel, and subjugated them. But the בכור השבי, who did not subjugate Israel, since they were themselves subjugated like Israel, they were only smitten so that they should not say that their deity brought retribution for their degradation, they were not encompassed in the warning. For the warning was only for the sake of Israel, and they were not encompassed.


And now it is no question at all, for in the warning it speaks of those who were subjugating Israel, and in the actual implementation it was speaking about all those who were smitten. And the happiness at their [=the Israelites'] suffering which is stated by the sons of the maidservants is כדי נסבה {?}, for they were not liable for smiting because of this had they not also subjugated Israel, for if they were liable also for this [alone], also the captives who were happy in their [=Israel's] misfortune, as Rashi wrote, they would be liable to be smitten. And if so, also the firstborn of the captives would be encompassed, just like the firstborn of the maidservant, and so why were the firstborn of the captives not encompassed in the warning."

There is a lot more to this sugya, but this seems just about sufficient. I'll just close with a reference to the discussion about why this midrash on that non-local pasuk is brought here. To cite Yosef Daas:

2 comments:

Eliyahu said...

Gotta love the retrofitting of IMHO. Any ideas on the appropriate parallels of ROFL and WTF in lashon chachamim?

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

I spoke about this last year at an אסיפה at Springwell Manor about this Rashi. In short the following sources discuss this Rashi:
שו"ת מהר"ם אל אשקר ס' ס"ה
פ' מהרי"ק עה"ת
רע"ב (עמר נקא)

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