Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The three sevirin וְלֹא

A) At the start of parshas Shofetim, we read (Devarim 16:19):

יט  לֹא-תַטֶּה מִשְׁפָּט, לֹא תַכִּיר פָּנִים; וְלֹא-תִקַּח שֹׁחַד--כִּי הַשֹּׁחַד יְעַוֵּר עֵינֵי חֲכָמִים, וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִם.19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons; neither shalt thou take a gift; for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.

Note that there are three instructions:

  • לֹא-תַטֶּה מִשְׁפָּט
  • לֹא תַכִּיר פָּנִים
  • וְלֹא-תִקַּח שֹׁחַד

It is more common, in such a list, for the second item to be introduced by a vav hachibbur, a connecting vav. But it is not an error for it to be missing.

Upon this pasuk, Minchas Shai explains just that:



"לֹא תַכִּיר פָּנִים -- there are three [such instances of לא] which are sevirin [has the meaning of such that we would expect it to be] ולא, as I wrote in parshas Mishpatim, perek 23 [pasuk 13], regarding לֹ֥א יִשָּׁמַ֖ע עַל־פִּֽיךָ."
B) Looking to parshas Mishpatim, we see the following pasuk [Shemos 23:13]:
יג  וּבְכֹל אֲשֶׁר-אָמַרְתִּי אֲלֵיכֶם, תִּשָּׁמֵרוּ; וְשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים לֹא תַזְכִּירוּ, לֹא יִשָּׁמַע עַל-פִּיךָ.13 And in all things that I have said unto you take ye heed; and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.

There, Minchas Shai says the following:

"לֹא יִשָּׁמַע עַל-פִּיךָ -- in the commentary of Ibn Ezra it is written: and this is לֹא יִשָּׁמַע עַל-פִּיךָ etc.. [Note: this is likely a typographical error in Minchas Shai, and he meant to cite Ibn Ezra as saying ולא.] And the Aruch, entry מטר [Note: couldn't find this] that until recent generations to now, they would mess up and read ולא ישמע על פיך, and the soferim taught not to read with a vav, end quote. Furthermore, in the masoret, three one would expect ולא and they are לא, and the mnemonic of לא תשימון עליו נשך, and לא ישמע על פיך, and לא תכיר פנים."

Because there seems to be a typographical error in Minchas Shai in a critical place, I will show the first printing as well.


Interestingly, in the linked Ibn Ezra at Daat, it has a vav:
[כג, יג]
ובכל אשר -
עתה הזכיר עבודת כוכבים, והטעם כל מה שאמרתי הם מצותי ומשפטי. ולא כן. משפטי אלוהים אחרים. 
ואמר: לא תזכירו - שלא תזכירו שמותם להישבע בהם גם שלא ישביעו בהם עובדיה. וזה ולא ישמע על פיך שתשביע בו אחרים. שלא תאמר לעובד כוכבים השבע לי באלהיך.

As well, in the printing in Mechokekei Yehuda
, he has Ibn Ezra's lengthy commentary which cites it as ולא, while in Ibn Ezra's short commentary,  he cites it as simply לא.

At first, I was unsure of Minchas Shai's purpose in citing Ibn Ezra here. (At this point, I assumed that he was citing him saying לא.) To establish the correct girsa of Ibn Ezra's commentary? To bring it as further evidence, from a Rishon, that this is the correct text? Perhaps the key is the word וזה, by which he shows how this phrase of לֹא יִשָּׁמַע עַל-פִּיךָ is a restatement of the immediately preceding idea, of וְשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים לֹא תַזְכִּירוּ. In this manner, we can understand why the connecting vav is not due here.

But in fact, I think there was a typographical error at a critical juncture here -- that Minchas Shai wished to cite a bad girsa in Ibn Ezra, but it was somehow encoded in accordance with the correct girsa.

Christian David Ginsberg also records this as לא with סביר of ולא. But he makes another interesting observation:


He writes: savir ולא, and in some other sefarim [ס"א is defined at the start of his work as "MSS. collated by C. D. G."] it is ולא as a krei and ketiv.

This seems to me like an encoding, in the MSS., of the practice Minchas Shai deemed erroneous.

 Naturally, the Samaritan Pentateuch (as it appears in Vetus Testamentum) adds the vav, in order to make the text smoother:



And in the bottom of that page, in lists many Hebrew Biblical texts that similarly have ולא.

C) The third instance is actually a bit earlier in Mishpatim, namely Shemos 22:24:

כד  אִם-כֶּסֶף תַּלְוֶה אֶת-עַמִּי, אֶת-הֶעָנִי עִמָּךְ--לֹא-תִהְיֶה לוֹ, כְּנֹשֶׁה; לֹא-תְשִׂימוּן עָלָיו, נֶשֶׁךְ.24 If thou lend money to any of My people, even to the poor with thee, thou shalt not be to him as a creditor; neither shall ye lay upon him interest.

Upon which, Minchas Shai says:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The deficient צַדִּיקִם

(Cross-posted to Girsology.)

There is a girsological error in parshat Shofetim in my Mikraos Gedolos, in the second pasuk of the parsha. The pasuk (Devarim 16:19) reads:


While this reads צַדִּיקִים, it should read צַדִּיקִם, without the second yud. The reason I say this is the following comment from Minchas Shai:
"צַדִּיקִם -- In He'etek Hilleli and in all the precise sefarim it is missing the second yud. And so too in the Masores: In the entire Torah, it [the word צַדִּיקִם] is deficient in the second yud, except for one case, which is plene and plene [in that both yuds are present], namely וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִים of parshat Mishpatim, [Shemos 23:8
You shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe will blind the clear sighted and corrupt words that are right.ח. וְשֹׁחַד לֹא תִקָּח כִּי הַשֹּׁחַד יְעַוֵּר פִּקְחִים וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִים:
]
as I wrote in parshas vaEschanan."
It is understandable how the yud was introduced here as a typographical error, rather than relying on a Masorah from one of the not-so-precise sefarim. The more common spelling of all masculine plurals in Biblical Hebrew is with the yud in the ים suffix. While there are plenty of words which are chaser [deficient] yud or vav, it is not so common in the morphological endings. Also, the very phrase in question, וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִים, appears elsewhere malei [plene].

Since we have access to Codex Hilleli (pg 475), we can see this very spelling of צַדִּיקִם, and this very Masoretic note, as a Masoreh Ketanah:

As far as I can tell, the full text of the masoretic note does not appear as stated by Minchas Shai, at least here. I think it reads:
כל אורייתא חסר בר מן א' מלא 
"The entire Torah has it [the second yud] deficient, except for one which is plene." 
So too the Lisbon Codex (pg 368):


And an identical Masoretic note.

The Leningrad Codex has identical deficient spelling:


Namely, on pg 223:


So too the Teimanim. To cite Mechon-Mamreh:

טז,יט לֹֽא־תַטֶּ֣ה מִשְׁפָּ֔ט לֹ֥א תַכִּ֖יר פָּנִ֑ים וְלֹֽא־תִקַּ֣ח שֹׁ֔חַד כִּ֣י הַשֹּׁ֗חַד יְעַוֵּר֙ עֵינֵ֣י חֲכָמִ֔ים וִֽיסַלֵּ֖ף דִּבְרֵ֥י צַדִּיקִֽם׃לָא תַּצְלֵי דִּין, לָא תִּשְׁתְּמוֹדַע אַפִּין; וְלָא תְּקַבֵּיל שֻׁחְדָּא--אֲרֵי שֻׁחְדָּא מְעַוַּר עֵינֵי חַכִּימִין, וּמְקַלְקֵיל פִּתְגָמִין תְּרִיצִין.

Rabbi Meir Abulafia (1170-1244), the Rama, wrote about this phenomenon in the sefer Masores Seyag Lachochma:

"צַדִּיקִם -- the first yud is plene and the last yud is written deficient. And all צַדִּיקִם and הַצַּדִּיקִם in the Torah are like it, except for one which is plene and plene, with two yuds, and this is וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִים."
The marginal note mentions that this is in "Mishpatim there", meaning Shemos 23:8. (But I wonder if these marginal note, referring to the specific parsha, were from the Rama or from the one who brought the manuscript to print, Rabbi Yaakov HaLevi of Polonia:


The note itself, which only highlights the phrase וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִים, is ambiguous, in that perhaps it refers to the phrase in Mishpatim, perhaps in Shofetim, or perhaps in both. But assuming it is from the Rama himself, then it is unambiguous.)

Looking at Vetus Testamentum (pg 217) to see what the Samaritans have, we should not be surprised that they have both yuds. This is characteristic of the Samaritan text, to eliminate any awkward and unregularized spelling. The Samaritan text is on the left:


On the bottom of the page is a listing of variant manuscripts. Interestingly enough, there appear some Samaritan manuscripts in which the first yud is missing, as צדקים! For the Hebrew (meaning Jewish, rather than Samaritan), there is only one such צדקים, and a large number of instances of צדיקים:


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Are the kosher signs of wild animals Biblical?

Note: This is the work of one evening, rather than something thought out over months. There may be sources of which I am embarrassingly unaware. I haven't looked at other gemaras to see if this works out consistently, or at midreshei halacha such as Sifra, and so on. Rather, this is a way of playing with the text, on the basis of a discovered variant text. So this likely requires more thought, and certainly should not be the basis for any changes in practice.

(Initially posted at Girsology, but at present, few people visit that site. So now cross-posted here.)

0. Table of contents
1. The variant texts and their implications
2. Evidence from piskaot
3. Evidence from the gemara's question
4. The straightforward implication of the Tosefta
5. A possible nafka mina

1. The variant texts and their implications

If one examines the Munich manuscript of the Talmud, Chullin 59a, one would discover a fascinating variant version of the Mishna:


It reads:
סימני בהמהנאמרו מן התורה וסימני העוף לאנאמרו
However, on that first line, there is a marginal gloss, adding in the word וחיה.

This brings it in line with the Mishna we have in our printed editions of Chullin 59a:
מתני' סימני בהמה וחיה נאמרו מן התורה וסימני העוף לא נאמרו אבל אמרו חכמים כל עוף הדורס טמא כל שיש לו אצבע יתירה וזפק וקורקבנו נקלף טהור ר' אלעזר בר' צדוק אומר כל עוף החולק את רגליו טמא ובחגבים כל שיש לו ארבע רגלים וארבע כנפים וקרצולים וכנפיו חופין את רובו רבי יוסי אומר ושמו חגב ובדגים כל שיש לו סנפיר וקשקשת רבי יהודה אומר שני קשקשין וסנפיר אחד ואלו הן קשקשין הקבועין בו וסנפירים הפורח בהן:
What would the implications be of the word וחיה being absent from the Mishna? This omission might well be a scribal error, which was corrected by the same or some other scribe, but we should still consider what the implications would be of its omission, as this could help us decide if it is a mere error or something significant. Further, if the word וחיה was indeed originally absent, what would drive a scribe to add it?

The difference between these two girsaot is that, with the word וחיה present, the Mishna definitively and explicitly states that the signs of kosher wild animals are Biblical, and written in the Torah text. These signs would then be identical to the signs of kosher domesticated animals. As Rashi notes, in explaining a question of the gemara:
חיה בכלל בהמה היא לסימנין - קושיא היא דהא כתיב זאת החיה כו' וכתיב סימנין בתריה:
That is, there is an explicit pasuk, in Vayikra 11:

ב  דַּבְּרוּ אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר:  זֹאת הַחַיָּה אֲשֶׁר תֹּאכְלוּ, מִכָּל-הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר עַל-הָאָרֶץ.2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: These are the living things which ye may eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.
ג  כֹּל מַפְרֶסֶת פַּרְסָה, וְשֹׁסַעַת שֶׁסַע פְּרָסֹת, מַעֲלַת גֵּרָה, בַּבְּהֵמָה--אֹתָהּ, תֹּאכֵלוּ.3 Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is wholly cloven-footed, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that may ye eat.

The pasuk begins with זֹאת הַחַיָּה and afterwards lists the signs of split hoof and rumination. Thus, chayot, wild animals, are included in this topic of signs for kosher animals.

If one wanted, though, one could argue that as a matter of peshat, זֹאת הַחַיָּה need not refer to wild animals in particular. The word חַיָּה simply means "living creature", rather than the particular halachic connotation it often takes of wild animal. For instance, in the first perek of Bereishit

כד  וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, תּוֹצֵא הָאָרֶץ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה לְמִינָהּ, בְּהֵמָה וָרֶמֶשׂ וְחַיְתוֹ-אֶרֶץ, לְמִינָהּ; וַיְהִי-כֵן.24 And God said: 'Let the earth bring forth the living creature after its kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after its kind.' And it was so.
...
ל  וּלְכָל-חַיַּת הָאָרֶץ וּלְכָל-עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּלְכֹל רוֹמֵשׂ עַל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה, אֶת-כָּל-יֶרֶק עֵשֶׂב, לְאָכְלָה; וַיְהִי-כֵן.30 and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul, [I have given] every green herb for food.' And it was so.

It means "living creature" in general. If so, when the pasuk states זֹאת הַחַיָּה, it could be referring to the living creatures within the specified subgroup of מִכָּל-הַבְּהֵמָה. Instead of saying זֹאת אֲשֶׁר תֹּאכְלוּ, מִכָּל-הַבְּהֵמָה, the pasuk was a little more expansive and added the general and appropriate selector of הַחַיָּה.

Then, if we take בְּהֵמָה in its halachic sense of domesticated animal in particular, to the exclusion of wild animals. This is a sort of klal and prat, and we should only consider those within the prat.

And if so, the Mishna can be read as deliberately agnostic as to whether wild animals, chayot, are explicitly Biblical. Thus,
סימני בהמהנאמרו מן התורה וסימני העוף לאנאמרו
בהמה is written in the Torah, עוף is not written in the Torah, and the חיה is left as an exercise to the reader.

Those are the two girsaot. Let us consider if we can harness evidence towards one reading of the Mishna or the other.

2. Evidence from piskaot

There is a piska in the gemara which begins the discussion of the signs of kosher domesticated animals. A piska is typically a quote from the Mishna, separated by space, or two dots. This piska reads:

סימני בהמה
In our printed gemaras, this text does not occur. This is because it is unnecessary. Recall that in manuscript gemaras, the Mishna appeared separately, and so piskaot were required to identify what part of the Mishna the gemara was going on. However, in our printed gemara, the text of the gemara which immediately follows this piska, namely, תנו רבנן אלו הן סימני בהמה, is printed right after the Mishna. If so, there is no need for a piska, and it is omitted. This is a pity, since we lose out on Talmudic text.

Perhaps the fact that the piska states סימני בהמה and does not continue with the word וחיה should be taken as evidence that the Mishna itself did not continue with that word. However, an obvious rejoinder is that the topic at hand in the gemara is specifically the signs of the בהמה, and that חיה is going to be discussed in the very next sugya. As such, it makes sense to cut off the citation of the Mishna right at this point. Also, we should note that the piskaot were composed by the Geonim (or later), and so might only shed light as to the text of the Mishna at a later stage.

However, there is a later piska, starting off the next sugya:


This one does appear in our printed text:
סימני חיה:
ת"ר אלו הן סימני חיה חיה בכלל בהמה היא לסימנין אמר רבי זירא

If so, this would indicate that the word חיה does appear in our Mishna.
However, we should consider the following counterpoints.

a. This piska dates from the Geonim, and cannot be taken as definitive proof.

b. The Mishna, as we have it, states סימני בהמה וחיה נאמרו מן התורה. Note how the word וחיה has a connective vav, while the piska does not. Note how the preceding word in the Mishna as we have it is בהמה, while the piska has סימני. To try to make this a valid quote of the Mishna, we would need to emend the Mishnaic text to סימני בהמה וסימני חיה נאמרו מן התורה. But even that would not work, because the piska has no vav before the word סימני.

We can salvage this piska by stating that it is a selective citation of the Mishna. That is, imagine an ellipses. The word סימני was important to quote. But the word בהמה would be misleading and distracting from the main topic, namely the signs of חיה. And so בהמה ו was removed from the quote.

Alternatively, we can suggest that the authors of the piskaot were working off of the Tosefta 3:7 for their quotations. If so, the quote in the first piska would have nothing to do with whether the signs of בהמה were Biblical. Rather, these are quotes from the braytot which immediately follow, put in as signposts for the beginning of new sugyot.

3. Evidence from the gemara's question
Perhaps we can harness the gemara's question to prove the correct text of the Mishna. The gemara (59a-b) asks:

סימני חיה:
ת"ר אלו הן סימני חיה 
חיה בכלל בהמה היא לסימנין 
אמר רבי זירא להתיר חלבה 
והכי קאמר אלו הן סימני חיה שחלבה מותר כל שיש לה קרנים וטלפים
The brayta begins to list the signs of the חיה, namely horns and hooves. The setama degemara fills in the question underlying Rabbi Zera's explanation of that brayta. The signs which make a chaya kosher are the same as those which make a beheima kosher. If so, what is the significance of these signs? That is why Rabbi Zera assumes that the brayta here deals with the signs of a chaya as separate from a beheima, such that its fats are permitted.

Thus, Rabbi Zera, and the setama degemara, understand this brayta to refer to signs which make a kosher animal a chaya as opposed to a beheima.

Rashi's proof to this is from an interpretation of a pasuk, rather than the explicit Mishna, which is interesting. But that does not necessarily mean that Rashi didn't have the word חיה in the Mishna. Perhaps a conflict between a brayta and a Mishna could be read as a Tannaitic conflict, while an appeal to a pasuk is unambiguous, and the author of the brayta would have to accept this.

4. The straightforward implication of the Tosefta
Looking at the Tosefta, the straightforward explanation seems to be that the סימני חיה are signs of kosher status, rather than signs of chaya status. Consider the structure formed in the Tosefta:

ג,ז  אלו הן סימני בהמה (ויקרא יא) לכל הבהמה אשר היא מפרסת פרסה ושוסעת שסע פרסות מעלת גרה בבהמה אותה תאכלו כל מעלת גרה אין לה שינים שלמעלה איזה שור שקדמו קרניו לטלפיו זה פרו של אדם הראשון שנא' (תהילים סד) ותיטב לה' משור פר מקרין מפריס. 
These are simanei kashrut. Also note that only simanei beheima are mentioned, not simanei beheima vechaya, which we might have expected if it encompassed chaya as well. The quote is from Vayikra 11:3, such that it only mentioned beheima, and skipped over the passing and ambiguous reference to chaya in Vayikra 11:2. (Though it starts at 11:3 because that where the Biblical text lists the signs.)

The Tosefta continues:
אלו הן סימני חיה כל שיש לה קרנים וטלפים ר' דוסא אומר יש לה קרנים אי אתה צריך לשאול על הטלפים אע"פ שאין ראיה לדבר זכר לדבר ותיטב לה' משור פר מקרין מפריס
Simply by context, we would expect these to also be simanei kashrut. There is also the zecher to Rabbi Dosa's opinion, based on Tehillim 69:
לב  וְתִיטַב לַה', מִשּׁוֹר פָּר;    מַקְרִן מַפְרִיס.32 And it shall please the LORD better than a bullock that hath horns and hoofs.

I think this means that if an animal is makrin -- has horns, then it is also mafris -- has split hooves, or telafim. (I don't see explicitly that the טלפים are split, but maybe that is definitional.)

There is also the analysis made by Tosafot on our daf (Chullin 59a):
אלו הן סימני חיה כל שיש לה קרנים וטלפים. קרנים אתי לאפוקי מבהמה דכיון דיש לה קרנים חרוקות וכרוכות כדלקמן אם כן לאו בהמה היא אבל אכתי איכא לספוקי בחיה טמאה לכך בעינן טלפים פרסות הסדוקות דהשתא ליכא לספוקי לא בחיה טמאה ולא בבהמה טהורה וחלבה מותר רבי דוסא אומר כל שיש לה קרנים קרני חיה אי אתה צריך לחזור על הטלפים דסבר דחיה טמאה אין לה קרנים
That is, the purpose of horns is to distinguish chaya from beheima, and the purpose of (split) hooves is to distinguish kosher from non-kosher chaya. And Rabbi Dosa holds that no kosher wild animal has horns. If so, kashrut is at least part of the equation.

Kashrut could then also be all of it, though. If these two, or this one, is sufficient to identify it as a wild animal and to exclude non-kosher wild animals, then it is kosher! And so, why would one need to appeal to the signs for the beheima?

The Tosefta continues:
רשב"ג אומר כל שיש לו אצבע יתירה בעוף טהור כל העוף הדורס טמא רשב"א אומר כל הקולט באויר ואין קרקבנו נקלף ר"א בר צדוק אומר כל הנותן על גבי משיחה החולק שתים לפניו ושתים לאחריו טמא אחרים אומרים השוכן בין הטמאין ודומה לטמאין טמא השוכן בין הטהורים ודומה לטהורין טהור.  אנשי איש כפר תמרתא שביהודה היו אוכלין את הזרזירין מפני שיש להן זפק.  אנשי שוק העליון שבירושלים היו אוכלין את סינוניא לבנה מפני שקרקבנה נקלף.
These are the simanei kashrut of birds.

The Tosefta continues:
ג,ח  ובביצים כל שכודרת ועגולגלת בידוע של עוף טמא וכל שאינה כודרת ועגולגלת בידוע של עוף טהור הוא.  לוקחין ביצים מ"מ ואין חוששין שמא של נבלות ושל טרפות הן אין מוכרין ביצים של נבלות של טרפות לעובדי כוכבים אא"כ היו נקופות לקערה לפיכך אמרו אין לוקחין מן העובדי כוכבים ביצים נקופות לקערה.
These are the simanei kashrut of eggs.

Next, the Tosefta states:
ג,ט  אלו סימני חגבים כל שיש לו ד' רגלים וד' סנפירים וקרסוליו וכנפיו חופין את רובו ר' יוסי אומר ושמו חגב ולא כנצרין שיש בהן סימנין הללו סומכוס אומר אף המורד ר"א בר"י אומר אין לו עכשיו ועתיד לגדל לאחר זמן כגון החולחזה כשר 
These are the simanei kashrut of locusts.

Finally, the Tosefta states:
אלו הן סימני דגים כל שיש לו סנפיר וקשקשת יש לו קשקשת אי אתה צריך לשאול על סנפיר יש לו סנפיר ואין לו קשקשת טמא אלו הן קשקשין שמלובש בהן וסנפירין ששט בהן וכמה קשקשין יהיה בו אפילו אחת תחת לחיו ואחת תחת זנבו ואחת תחת סנפיר שלו ר' יהודה אומר שני קשקשת אין לו עכשיו אבל עתיד לגדל לאחר זמן כגון הסולתנית ונפיא כשר יש לו עכשיו אבל עתיד להשירם כשעולה מן הים כגון הקוליוס והפילמיס הספיתאים ואנתינוס.  ר"י בן דורמסקא אומר לויתן דג טהור הוא שנאמר (איוב מא) גאוה אפיקי מגינים סגור חותם צר אחד באחד יגשו וגו' תחתיו חדודי חרס וגו' גאוה אפיקי מגינים אלו קשקשין שלו תחתיו חדודי חרס אלו סנפירין של
These are the simanei kashrut of fish.

If so, it is extremely out of the ordinary for the סימני חיה alone to be for the permissibility of the cheilev. Yes, this is dealing with whether one is allowed to eat the cheilev or not, but still, it is unlike the topic of domesticated animals, of birds, of eggs, of locusts, and of fish. If the topic were only the status of the cheilev, this is something that perhaps should have been stated explicitly.

Perhaps Rabbi Zera is explaining how this is practical and useful. Even though the brayta spoke of kashrut is general, we would know its kashrut status anyway based on the signs of beheima. And so, this second set of signs are useful for this other purpose.

5. A possible nafka mina
Can one rely on these signs of horns and hooves if one cannot determine rumination? (Similar to Rav Chisda earlier in the gemara)? What if the animal does not ruminate, but does have horns and hooves?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Gazelle and the Deer

In Nature and Man in the Bible, page 271, Dr. Yehuda Feliks explains how the common identification people make of the Biblical tzvi and ayal is reversed.



Chazal had their identities correct (as we can see from details in the gemara, Chullin 59a), but it was confused in the time of the Rishonim. To cite a post (/letter) from Rabbi Slifkin:
This is no different from how the Rishonim in Ashkenaz mistakenly thought that the tzvi is the deer, and were therefore confounded by the Gemara which states that the horns of a tzvi are not branched. The reason was that that they were unfamiliar with the gazelle, which does not live in Europe, and so transposed the name tzvi to the deer. Only Rav Saadiah Gaon, who was familiar with the animal life of the Middle East, correctly identified the tzvi as the gazelle and the ayal as the deer.
And in another post (/letter):
Europe has very different animals from those of Eretz Yisrael, and the names of animals in Tanach were transposed to local equivalents. For example, the gazelle of Israel perfectly matches all Scriptural, Talmudic and Midrashic descriptions of the tzvi. While Jews in north Africa, which also has gazelles, had a (correct) tradition that the tzvi is the gazelle (and that the deer is the ayal), there were no gazelles in Europe. As a result, the name tzvi in Europe was transposed to the deer (hirsch). This led Rashi, in his commentary to Chullin 59b, to note that the creature traditionally called tzvi in Europe (i.e. the deer) is not the tzvi described by Chazal. Thus, Rashi himself observes that European traditions regarding the identities of animals mentioned in the Torah are not accurate."
I would like to look in this post specifically at what Saadia Gaon says, but we should not forget this point, that "the gazelle of Israel perfectly matches all Scriptural, Talmudic and Midrashic descriptions of the tzvi." And that reversing the identification introduces a mismatch with these descriptions.

From Saadia Gaon's Tafsir on parashat Reeh:



Thus, the Biblical Hebrew word ha-tzevi is translated into the Arabic al-tzabi. And Biblical Hebrew word ha-`ayal is translated into the Arabic wal-`iyal.

In other words, Saadia Gaon is translating these Hebrew words into their Arabic cognates.

In other words, it is not merely Saadia Gaon operating in a place which has both animals transmitting the masorah by identifying these species by their (completely unrelated) Arabic names. There is an even stronger linguistic connection present in this identification, in that people living in the Middle East used the very same names, or their cognates, for these species. And we would expect less linguistic shift in the same area of the Torah and of Chazal. And Saadia endorses that linguistic connection.

On the other hand, this raises the possibility that Saadia Gaon is not really translating at all. Sure, he is writing in Judeo-Arabic, and explicitly identifying Hebrew species by their Judeo-Arabic equivalents, where these were indeed Judeo-Arabic words. (And if the species were indeed reversed, a conscientious translator would make sure to reverse them, as al-`iyal and al-tzabi.) But at the same time, since these are cognates, perhaps he was simply rendering the definite article ha as al and writing the existing Arabic word which was the cognate. Not necessarily as a masorah, but just assuming that word X == equivalent word Y. Just as in Onkelos, tabya is a cognate, because Aramaic letter tet corresponds to Hebrew letter tzadi; and ayla is obviously the Aramaic cognate of ayal.

Update:

A bit later in parashat Re'eh, in Devarim 14:5, we again have the tzvi and the ayal, in a list of five kosher wild animals. For the sake of completeness, we should see how Saadia Gaon renders this as well:


Once again, we have the Hebrew ayal rendered into Judeo-Arabic as wal-`iyal and the Hebrew utzevi rendered into the Judeo-Arabic wal-tzabbi.

We also see how many cognates there are in these lists of animals. For instance, Hebrew veyachmur in wal-yachmur in Judeo-Arabic. For the Hebrew ve`ako, we have wal-we'il, which does not match, but notice that the Aramaic in Onkelos is veya'la (note that yud and vav switch off). The other animals listed in this pasuk are not cognates. But see the previous pasuk and the cognates there, for behemah and tochelu, and for bakar, tzon, and ez.

So for some of these creatures, such as the giraffe for zemer, Saadia Gaon clearly is performing an identification and translation. And cognates will be present just because the two languages are closely related. Still, the ambiguity discussed above is present: that these are cognates lends strength to the identification, since these are approximately the same names in approximately the same area. On the other hand, these are easy to assume and fall back upon.

Update:

Also, in the Tafsir on Shir HaShirim 2:9, Saadia Gaon translates tzvi and ayal the same way:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Moed Katan 2: Damage from failing to irrigate

Today we began Moed Katan in Daf Yomi. The Mishna (on 2a) begins with the idea that on Chol HaMoed, one can irrigate his field which required irrigation.

מתני' משקין בית השלחין במועד  
MISHNAH. AN IRRIGATED FIELD MAY BE WATERED DURING THE FESTIVAL [WEEK].
Not watering an irrigated field will cause damage, as the gemara explains:
מאן תנא דפסידא אין הרווחה לא
Who may be the [unnamed] Tanna who maintains that [work to prevent] loss is allowed, but [to augment] profit is not allowed?
How is not watering an irrigated field a case of loss? It is the loss of profit, sure, because that time that you didn't water it, it won't improve. But how exactly is this loss?

Fortuitously, just today, the blog Overlawyered linked to this article at Economics 21, which illustrates the loss quite nicely. Look at the two sentences I have bolded:
The proposed regulation, stemming from the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, would limit E. coli levels in irrigation water for any foods that could be consumed raw. This sounds like a justified reason for government action since E. coli outbreaks have the potential to sicken consumers. Just one problem, onions are not subject to E. coli contamination from irrigation. 
According to a thorough field study led by Oregon State University Agricultural Professor Clinton Shock, there is absolutely no risk of E. coli contamination from irrigation water, regardless of method used and bacteria levels in the water. This confirms what farmers and their customers have long known.
Complying with this regulation would have substantial financial consequences for farmers. Their irrigation water would need to be tested weekly and they would have to stop watering if E. coli levels were found to be too high. Onions are finicky and even a small break in irrigation could drastically reduce crop yields. 
Currently, most onion farmers would not be in compliance with the proposal. Yet there are no outbreaks of E. coli from onions. Why does FDA insist on meddling where there is clearly no problem?
So we can see that a break in irrigation can cause tremendous loss.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Baruch sheAmar: Is it בפי עמו or בפה עמו?

In the tefillah of Baruch sheAmar, there are two variant nuschaot to convey the idea that Hashem is "lauded by the mouth of His people". One is הַמְהֻלָל בְּפִי עַמּוֹ and the other is הַמְהֻלָל בְּפֶה עַמּוֹ. On the level of pure dikduk, the obvious choice is בְּפִי עַמּוֹ. After all, Hebrew nouns come in two flavors, absolute and construct. Peh is the absolute form and means simply "mouth", which Pi is the construct form, and means "mouth of". Since the blessing refers to the mouth of Amo, "His people", it is the construct form, and so Pi is the grammatically correct selection.

Siddur Shiloh, the siddur I grew up with, has it as בְּפִי.



Artscroll, following several halachic and kabbalistic sources, has it as בְּפֶה.





As they explain in the footnote:
בְּפֶה עַמּוֹ -- By the mouth of His people. The Kabbalists comment that בְּפֶה has the numerical value of 87, and alludes to the number of words in this prayer. Magen Avraham and Mishnah Berurah (51:1) favor the usage of this word. Nevertheless, some commentators feel that the word בְּפִי, which has the same meaning, is the preferred grammatical form.
They could have done a better job in explaining the awkwardness of בְּפֶה, rather than just saying it has the same meaning but is the preferred grammatical form. It might have also been nice to point out which commentators say that בְּפִי is preferred.

Conversely, one could nicely emphasize the idea that this makes the prayer self-referential. That is, הַמְהֻלָל בְּפֶה עַמּוֹ means that He is praised by the 87 of his people, meaning by this Baruch sheAmar blessing we are saying right now, rather than being a reference to pesukei deZimra, the selections of praises upon which this blessing was indeed instituted.

To make the emphasis on the gematria of 87 more understandable, one could point to sefer Heichalot, cited by the Tur ad loc.



(As background, I would point out that there is a problem in that one cannot establish a post-Talmudic blessing, yet this is precisely what Baruch SheAmar is. The following origin story neatly resolves the issue.) Sefer Heichalot states that prayer was actually composed by the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah, and at the right time, a petek (slip of paper) descended from On High with the 87 words written on it. This corresponds to (Shir HaShirim 5:11) רֹאשׁוֹ כֶּתֶם פָּז, "his head is as the most fine gold". (And recall that this is the head of pesukei deZimra.) And indeed, the Tur states, in the Ashkenazic version, notes the Tur, there are precisely 87 words.

From the wording of the Tur, we can infer that in the non-Ashkenazic version, there were not 87 words, such that the reference to  רֹאשׁוֹ כֶּתֶם פָּז would not work. And, if the text somehow said הַמְהֻלָל בְּפֶה עַמּוֹ, it would not make any meaningful allusion to the prayer itself. Also, the strange, not-so-grammatical wording of הַמְהֻלָל בְּפֶה עַמּוֹ would have been something we would fully expect the Tur, Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher (Cologne, 1270 - Toledo c.1340) to have noted, because its grammatical awkwardness stands out and it is relevant connection with these 87 words. This suggests to me that even in his days, the Ashkenazic text had בְּפִי.

The Abudraham (1350) also has בְּפִי.


In the Rambam's (1138-1204) version of Baruch SheAmar, in Seder Hatefillah, as well, it is בפי:

בָּרוּךְ שֶׁאָמַר וְהָיָה הָעוֹלָם, בָּרוּךְ הוּא.  בָּרוּךְ אוֹמֵר וְעוֹשֶׂה, בָּרוּךְ גּוֹזֵר וּמְקַיֵּם; בָּרוּךְ מְרַחֵם עַל הָאָרֶץ, בָּרוּךְ מְרַחֵם עַל הַבְּרִיּוֹת; בָּרוּךְ מַעֲבִיר אֲפֵלָה וּמֵבִיא אוֹרָה, בָּרוּךְ מְשַׁלֵּם שָׂכָר טוֹב לִירֵאָיו.  בָּרוּךְ שְׁאֵין לְפָנָיו, לֹא עַוְלָה וְלֹא שִׁכְחָה, לֹא כָזָב וְלֹא מִרְמָה, לֹא מַשּׂוֹא פָנִים וְלֹא מִקַּח שֹׁחַד.  בָּרוּךְ אֵל חַי לָעַד, וְקַיָּם לָנֶצַח.  בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הָאֵל הַמְהֻלָּל בְּפִי עַמּוֹ, מְשֻׁבָּח וּמְפֹאָר בִּלְשׁוֹן כָּל חֲסִידָיו וַעֲבָדָיו; וּבְשִׁירֵי דָוִיד בֶּן יִשַׁי עַבְדְּךָ מְשִׁיחֶךָ, נְהַלֶּלְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ בִּשְׁבָחוֹ וּבְזִמְרוֹ, נוֹדָךְ נְשַׁבְּחָךְ נְפָאֲרָךְ נַמְלִיכָךְ, נַזְכִּיר שְׁמָךְ מַלְכֵּנוּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ יַחַד.  יָחִיד, חֵי הָעוֹלָמִים, מְשֻׁבָּח וּמְפֹאָר, עֲדֵי עַד שְׁמוֹ.  בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהוָה, מֶלֶךְ מְהֻלָּל בַּתֻּשְׁבָּחוֹת.
There are also 103 words, rather than 87.

See Magen Avraham, who says it is בפה, here. Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, in Aruch HaShulchan, Orach Chaim 51:2, writes similarly.
ואומרים בפה עמו ולא בפי 
The standard assumption is that there are kabbalistic reasons behind this version with בפה. As yaak wrote in a comment on an earlier post of mine on this subject:
The Nusah of "בפה עמו" is Kabbalistic. The Ben Ish Hai mentions it (in אות ז), quoting the ספר הכונות, which is synonymous with the פרי עץ חיים, which I found here (see ד"ה אך יש).
So, the Arizal (1534-1572) and Rav Chaim Vital (1543-1620) may be behind establishing this changed nusach, at this late date. Alternatively, it preexisted them and existed for kabbalistic reasons or non-kabbalistic reasons.

With this background in mind, let me introduce an eye-opening Minchas Shai (R' Yedidya Norzi, 1560-1626) on parshat Ekev. The pasuk in question is Devarim 8:3:

ג  וַיְעַנְּךָ, וַיַּרְעִבֶךָ, וַיַּאֲכִלְךָ אֶת-הַמָּן אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדַעְתָּ, וְלֹא יָדְעוּן אֲבֹתֶיךָ:  לְמַעַן הוֹדִיעֲךָ, כִּי לֹא עַל-הַלֶּחֶם לְבַדּוֹ יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם--כִּי עַל-כָּל-מוֹצָא פִי-ה, יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם.3 And He afflicted thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every thing that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

Note the words motza fi Hashem. There is no dagesh in the letter פ of פי. Even though in general, the letters beged kefet at the start of a word gets a dagesh, if the previous word ends in an open syllable, meaning that it ends in a vowel rather than a consonant, and the trup on that previous word is the joining kind of trup (as in this case, a mercha) rather than the dividing kind, then the beged kefet does not get a dagesh.

Minchas Shai writes about this:



"מוֹצָא פִי-ה -- 'every beged kefet which follows the letters yud heh vav or aleph [that is, an open syllable] is fricative [without a dagesh], except for the exceptions. And many of them have a dagesh for the improvement of reading, such as this one, for it is not possible to say fi immediately prior to the [Divine] Name, for it is a disparaging language in French, and [Heaven] forfend to apply this to Hashem Yitbarach.' End quote, that which I have found.
And I have heard that in French, fi, the meaning is null and nothing. And in all the sefarim [Minchas Shai has seen] the פ is fricative, according to the rule. And we should not worry about the Grench language, because we do not cancel the operation of the Holy Tongue [Hebrew] because of other languages. And I have found as well, in Michah 4:4:
ד  וְיָשְׁבוּ, אִישׁ תַּחַת גַּפְנוֹ וְתַחַת תְּאֵנָתוֹ--וְאֵין מַחֲרִיד:  כִּי-פִי ה צְבָאוֹת, דִּבֵּר.4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken.

where it is a fricative."

End quote of Minchas Shai.

What we see from here is that there was an opinion that one should modify this and other instances of fi to avoid disparaging Hashem when reading the Torah. And Minchas Shai disagreed with that approach.

Looking at the etymological dictionary for the English word fie, we see this entry:
fie (interj.) Look up fie at Dictionary.com
late 13c., possibly from Old French fi, exclamation of disapproval, and reinforced by a Scandinavian form (compare Old Norse fy); it's a general sound of disgust that seems to have developed independently in many languages.
This would then explain the development of the variant text of הַמְהֻלָל בְּפֶה עַמּוֹ in an utterly non-kabbalistic manner. That is, how could one possibly say that Hashem was praised by the fi of his nation? Fi is a term of disparagement! And so, just as certain Jews did this even for certain instances in reading the Torah, they did so as well for the places it occurred in prayer. Except rather that putting the dagesh in the letter פ, they simply changed it from construct form פי to absolute form פה.

What of the fact that there is a kabbalistic basis, and the tie-in to the gematria corresponding the number of words? I would answer that there are two different types of kabbalistic explanations for nusach and practice. One is an origin. Some practice was established by kabbalists, for kabbalistic reasons. The other is an explanation for existing practice. In such a case, the practice already exists, for practical or halachic reasons, and a kabbalist looks at it through the lens of kabbalah and shows how it is significant and meaningful. I would suggest that we are dealing here with the second kind of explanation.

After writing this theory in that other post, Menachem Mendel commented and called my attention to an article in a book by Dr. Naftali Weider:
Naftali Weider discussed fi/fe in his article on influences of non-Hebrew words on the liturgy. The bibliographic details are here. I don't have a scan of it so I can't send it to you, although a summary of his conclusions can be found here.
That summary is:

The article is titled תיקונים בנוסח התפילה בהשפעת לשונות לועזיות, and it is possible to see a summary and possibly even view that article here.

So indeed, the changed nusach preceded the Arizal, and extended across more of the liturgy, all instances of befi, including in the piyut of Keil Adon we say on Shabbat, which begins אל אדון על כל המעשים, ברוך ומבורך בפי כל הנשמה.

In terms of practice, how should one conduct oneself? I would say as follows. I am not a kabbalist, such that I would change from the grammatically correct, or preferred, for kabbalistic reasons. Maybe one can justify the kvetch in grammar by saying that on occasion, Hebrew will use mere apposition to express the construct form, but why go there? Further, as yaak pointed out, the changed nusach is actually counterproductive. In Yiddish, and in English as a derivative, it is "Feh!" that is a note of disgust or contempt, while the grammatical Fi (with a chirik) has no such connotation. It makes sense to prefer בפי. And since I grew up on Siddur Shiloh, and have always been somewhat ambivalent of which one to use, I would say בפי.

On the other hand, בפה is your existing custom, there might be issues with changing it. Consult your local Orthodox rabbi.

At the end of the day, though, it doesn't really matter. רחמנא ליבא בעי. It is our hearts, and intent, which Hashem wants. If you said something which was ultimately ungrammatical but justified by halachic works and by minhag, and you meant "the mouth of His people", then it is not the end of the world. You davened in a legitimate manner, and Hashem is not a pedantic grammarian who will reject your tefillot because of this.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Ibn Caspi: Has Elokim essayed to take Him a nation

There is a nice ambiguous set of pesukim in the beginning of vaEtchanan, in Devarim 4:34. A small selection:

לב  כִּי שְׁאַל-נָא לְיָמִים רִאשֹׁנִים אֲשֶׁר-הָיוּ לְפָנֶיךָ, לְמִן-הַיּוֹם אֲשֶׁר בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אָדָם עַל-הָאָרֶץ, וּלְמִקְצֵה הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְעַד-קְצֵה הַשָּׁמָיִם:  הֲנִהְיָה, כַּדָּבָר הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה, אוֹ, הֲנִשְׁמַע כָּמֹהוּ.32 For ask now of the days past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and from the one end of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?
לג  הֲשָׁמַע עָם קוֹל אֱלֹהִים מְדַבֵּר מִתּוֹךְ-הָאֵשׁ, כַּאֲשֶׁר-שָׁמַעְתָּ אַתָּה--וַיֶּחִי.33 Did ever a people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?
לד  אוֹ הֲנִסָּה אֱלֹהִים, לָבוֹא לָקַחַת לוֹ גוֹי מִקֶּרֶב גּוֹי, בְּמַסֹּת בְּאֹתֹת וּבְמוֹפְתִים וּבְמִלְחָמָה וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה, וּבְמוֹרָאִים גְּדֹלִים:  כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לָכֶם ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, בְּמִצְרַיִם--לְעֵינֶיךָ.34 Or hath God assayed to go and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before thine eyes?
לה  אַתָּה הָרְאֵתָ לָדַעַת, כִּי ה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים:  אֵין עוֹד, מִלְּבַדּוֹ.35 Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightest know that the LORD, He is God; there is none else beside Him.

The concluding words are Ain Od Milvado. There is only one deity. This is YKVK, mentioned in pasuk 35 as the only Elokim.

If so, what are we to make of  אוֹ הֲנִסָּה אֱלֹהִים? Are we asking whether God with a capital G did this for any other nation? This is possible, if the purpose is to show how unique we are. Hashem did this for us -- unto thee it was shown -- so that we might know this.

But on the other hand, other nations have their own national deities. For instance, Moav had Kemosh. If so, אוֹ הֲנִסָּה אֱלֹהִים might be profane, meaning a god with a lowercase g. No other deity has done this, because those deities do not exist. Hashem took these elaborate steps in order to demonstrate that he does exist.

If the latter is the meaning, then the pasuk is temporarily ascribing existence to those other gods purely in order to dismiss them from existence. They are hypothetical until they are ultimately dismissed. And in the duration, they are discussed as if they exist, but their non-action is noted. This would be from the perspective of the idolatrous other nations, or from the perspective of the Israelites before they have been shown the light.

This latter interpretation is something that might be too difficult for some to allow into the Biblical text. Or, there might be other reasons for disregarding the interpretation. I would like to present Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and finally Ibn Caspi. Because Ibn Ezra and Ibn Caspi sometimes speak cryptically, I cannot say definitively that I have entirely understood their intent. But I present it nonetheless.

Rashi writes that it is profane. Thus:


Or has any god performed miracles to come and take him a nation from the midst of a[nother] nation, with trials, with signs, and with wonders, and with war and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great awesome deeds, as all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? לד. אוֹ | הֲנִסָּה אֱלֹהִים לָבוֹא לָקַחַת לוֹ גוֹי מִקֶּרֶב גּוֹי בְּמַסֹּת בְּאֹתֹת וּבְמוֹפְתִים וּבְמִלְחָמָה וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה וּבְמוֹרָאִים גְּדֹלִים כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לָכֶם יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם בְּמִצְרַיִם לְעֵינֶיךָ:
Or has any god performed miracles: Heb. הֲנִסָּה אלֹהִים. Has any god performed miracles (נִסִּים) ? הנסה אלהים: הכי עשה נסים שום אלוה:


Onkelos takes it as holy:

ד,לד אוֹ הֲנִסָּה אֱלֹהִים, לָבוֹא לָקַחַת לוֹ גוֹי מִקֶּרֶב גּוֹי, בְּמַסֹּת בְּאֹתֹת וּבְמוֹפְתִים וּבְמִלְחָמָה וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה, וּבְמוֹרָאִים גְּדֹלִים:  כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לָכֶם יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, בְּמִצְרַיִם--לְעֵינֶיךָ.אוֹ נִסִּין עֲבַד יְיָ, לְאִתְגְּלָאָה לְמִפְרַק לֵיהּ עַם מִגּוֹ עַם, בְּנִסִּין בְּאָתִין וּבְמוֹפְתִין וּבִקְרָבָא וּבְיַד תַּקִּיפָא וּבִדְרָעָא מְרָמְמָא, וּבְחֶזְוָנִין רַבְרְבִין:  כְּכֹל דַּעֲבַד לְכוֹן יְיָ אֱלָהֲכוֹן, בְּמִצְרַיִם--לְעֵינֵיכוֹן.

Ibn Ezra says it is kodesh, and chas veshalom that it is profane!

[ד, לד]
או הנסה אלהים -
יש אומרים:
 
שהוא לשון חול וחלילה חלילה, רק לשון קדושה.

הנסה -כדרך בני אדם, כדי שיבינו השומעים.

"Or has Elokim tried: Some say that it is profane, and forfend! Rather it is holy.
Tried: In the way of people, so that the hearers may understand."

This is a facet which is new and interesting. That is (maybe), one might object to it being holy, referring to Hashem, based on HaNisa. Or maybe the point is orthogonal to the previous. There is no effort involved in Hashem performing anything, so why use the word HaNisa? The answer is a sort of dibra Torah kilshon benei Adam. Just as people try to do something, or set out to do something. One can thus use this idiom about a possible action of Hashem. And it a useful idiom, for the sake of the audience understanding. But we, who know better, understand that this is just an idiom, and would not ascribe an 'attempted action' to God.

This makes sense to me, even though I would prefer the interpretation of Rashi.

Ibn Caspi writes:

"Did [Elokim] Attempt: the Torah speaks in the language of people. And Elokim is holy [meaning a reference to Hashem, rather than profane, to idols]. Because He is the first Actor, and there are many 'elohim' below him, Yisbarach, working from him."
This is somewhat cryptic, but I think that learning through Ibn Ezra first can help clarify, at least a little bit. This is true in general, that it is important to get a sense of the intellectual climate in which a commentator writes.

I might have thought that when Ibn Caspi wrote "the Torah speaks in the language of people", he was explaining that this refers to their belief in the existence of other gods, which would then (at first) be in contrast with his immediately following statement that Elokim in kodesh, but not in contrast with the last statement (of God being the first Actor atop other Elohim beneath).

But now that I've seen Ibn Ezra, I think that when Ibn Caspi said upon Hanisa that "the Torah speaks in the language of people", he means that the concept and idiom of "attempted action" ascribed to God is the language of people. Further, that Elokim is kodesh, just as Ibn Ezra and Onkelos said.

But then a refinement, possibly motivated by theology or possibly motivated by peshat concerns, I think he is harmonizing this with Rashi. Suddenly, those actors, the אֱלֹהִים, in all those pesukim are actually not entirely God with a capital G. They are the lower actors, secondary causes without free will, all propelled by Hashem who is the First Cause. And that is peshat in all these pesukim. So indeed, chalila that the pesukim would even temporarily posit the existence of other gods, but rather, these do exist, but are part of, an extension of Hashem.

What then to make of the closing line,  אַתָּה הָרְאֵתָ לָדַעַת, כִּי ה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים:  אֵין עוֹד, מִלְּבַדּוֹ? Isn't the function of this to deny those other beings existence?

No. The purpose is to say that Hashem is the overlord and first cause of those other powers, which are just extensions of His Divine Will. Hashem is those Elohim. There is none beside Him. Those others are not true gods.

Maybe. This is what Ibn Caspi says on that pasuk, 35:



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