Friday, July 22, 2016

Balak: Bilaam's transition from sorcerer to prophet

Alternate Title: Hashem is consistent

A sorcerer manipulates spiritual forces, and thinks he can manipulate God as just another spiritual force. A prophet is the mouthpiece of God and the conduit of his will.

A surface reading of parshat Balak is confusing. Hashem seems inconsistent. Hashem tells Bilaam not to go. Then, He tells him that he may go. Then, Hashem sends an angel to stop (or kill) Bilaam for going. Then, the angel tells him that he may go? Is this not an inconsistency or repeated reversal? It all seems quite confusing.

The answer, to my mind, is that Hashem is entirely consistent, but what we are seeing is character development. The messengers ask Bilaam (22:6) to curse them, for they know that whoever he curses is cursed. That is, he has the role of sorcerer, able to manipulate spiritual forces.

Bilaam tells them he will sleep and ask Hashem. Hashem has at least some role in this. Hashem tells him not to go, and furthermore, that he shouldn't curse them, for they are blessed. And, as Bilaam relates to the messengers, Hashem refused to let him go with them (22:13).

This initial refusal establishes two things. First, it clearly reveals Hashem's desire to Bilaam. Hashem does not want Bilaam to go, and doesn't want Bilaam to curse. Any action / intention by Bilaam to curse them would violate what Hashem wants, and is therefore at least quasi-sinful. Furthermore, it is likely a theological rejection of (2:6), that the power to curse lies entirely in Bilaam's hand. Rather, this people is objectively blessed, and so a curse should not / will not happen.

Bilaam tells the messengers this. Other messengers from Balak come and repeat the request. He seems pious and says to them he cannot act except as Hashem instructs, and acts as a conduit to relate Hashem's request.

However, the subtext here is that he does indeed wish to go, given that Balak has promised honor and riches. Yet Bilaam already knows the will of Hashem. Hashem's prior response made it absolutel clear that Hashem did not wish Bilaam to curse them, and that they are blessed, such that he should not curse. Bilaam should have simply held to the prior rejection.

That he does not shows that (1) he is hoping for permission to act in a way which will bring him honor and riches, even though he knows that this is contrary to Hashem's desires, and (2) he still thinks that there is power in his words, and that he will be able to manipulate spiritual forces to curse those who are blessed.

Hashem tells him to go with the men, but that he will do that which Hashem tells him, he should do. While on a surface level, this seems like clear authorization to go. But it is really a passive-aggressive answer. It is also a test. Will Bilaam go, now that he has official permission? He already knows that going and cursing is against Hashem's desire. And Bilaam still thinks that he will somehow succeed in eventually cursing. He is acting as sorcerer.

When Bilaam goes, Hashem's wrath flares (22:22). This is not inconsistent. The angel is not, however, sent to kill, but to deliver a message. The donkey, three times, sees an angel standing in his path, and veers to the side. The dumb donkey understands Hashem's will (represented by the angel), and diverts from his intended action, and direction from his human master, in order to fulfill Hashem's will. So too, Bilaam should have understood (from his first interaction with Hashem; perhaps also from the repeated strange veering to the side by his donkey) that this mission is contrary to Hashem's true desire, and should have diverted from his intended action, and direction from his human master Balak, in order to fulfill Hashem's will.

His own words rebuking the donkey, first beating it, and saying it was deserving of death for going against his will, such that if he had a sword, he would kill it, is a condemnation of himself, who went against his own Master's desire. He then sees the angel, with a sword parallel to the sword he just mentioned.

When the donkey speaks, and Bilaam sees the angel with sword drawn, Bilaam understands that Hashem is upset with him, for his attitude and sin - for his wanting to accomplish something he knew was contrary to Hashem's desire, and for his belief that he would somehow be able to manipulate the spiritual forces contrary to how Hashem was running the world.

Bilaam states his willingness to return, since this has displeased Hashem (22:34). This is a (partial, at least) transformation, in that he will only act in accordance with Hashem's pleasure or displeasure. Hashem tells Bilaam to go, but that he will speak only what Hashem instructs him (22:35).

At this point, Bilaam is no longer sinning. It is Hashem's will that he go. Hashem's intention here is to make public, to the nation of Moav, that Hashem is in control of the course of human events, and of who is cursed or blessed. Bilaam is playing the role of the donkey. Just as the Hashem opened the donkey's mouth and it said the words Hashem placed in its mouth, so too Bilaam. And the three times diversion from human master's direction because of Hashem's direction will parallel the three times Bilaam will veer from Balak's direction.

When greeting Balak, he doesn't say that he can only act as Hashem wants him to act, which is the earlier pious statement. He declares that he has no power to say anything (22:38). This is contrary to what the messengers first said (22:6), that the power to curse was with Bilaam. He further tells Balak (22:38) that he is a mere mouthpiece, and only says that which Hashem puts into his mouth. This is new. This is the lesson he learned on the road, from the donkey and the angel. This is what Hashem said in 22:35, that he will (not just should) speak only that which Hashem gives him to speak.

Balak still operates on the assumption that Bilaam will be able to curse - will be able to channel and manipulate spiritual forces, via kesamim (which were in the hands of the messengers). The sacrifices are initiated, at first, by Balak (22:40), unless this is part of simply honoring Bilaam.

At any rate, sacrifices (and IIRC, drinking the blood of sacrifices) are a mantic method, a means of inducing a prophetic altered state. Thus, seven altars with seven bulls and seven rams, and the hope that Hashem will appear to Bilaam, this time in the daytime rather than in a dream. This is ritualistic, and means of manipulating spiritual forces. Yet Bilaam states that Hashem will show him something that he can tell Balak (23:3).

Now, he acts as prophet, rather than sorcerer. He rejects, to Bilaam, to Moav, to the reader of the sidra, the idea that he will have any power to curse or invoke wrath if this is not Hashem's desire in the world (23:8). And then proceeds to bless Israel.

Balak is upset with Bilaam, because he does not regard Bilaam as prophetic conduit, but someone who can control spiritual forces, so Bilaam tells him otherwise, that he must say that which Hashem puts in his mouth (23:12). Balak persists, the scene repeats, with similar result, with the same idea that it is Hashem who puts the words in his mouth (23:26), such that even positive words he will not / cannot suppress. Balak still thinks Hashem is manipulable, such that a different location and further sacrifices will induce Hashem to act in contrary manner to His expressed desire (23:27).

Then, there is a further positive development in Bilaam's attitude. He sees what Hashem's desire is, and doesn't go through any or his sorcerer actions. He sees Hashem's will to bless Israel, and doesn't go in search of omens as before, in a feeble / fake / ultimately ineffective way to attempt to manipulate the result (24:1). And then speaks poetically and prophetically, blessing the nation of Israel. This might even be of Bilaam's own accord and invention!

Contrary to all I have written is perhaps Bilaam's claim (24:12) that this is the original statement to the second messengers (22:18). But this might well be cast as spin, and we can see a slight difference in language (acting contrary to His will, which is the piety of a sorcerer vs. ability to effect anything with speech, since Hashem is giving him the words, which is the capability of a prophet). 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Chukat: Understanding Moshe's Reaction

Something struck me while learning this week's parsha (Chukas).

Moshe had just* experienced a deep personal tragedy, the death of his sister. And he didn't get a moment's pause. The people rose up with the same, tired*, complaint*. One could perhaps understand why Moshe overreacted* in the manner that he did in this one uncharacteristic instance. Yet he still was punished.

Footnotes and Caveats:

* just: assuming the juxtaposition of events indicates that one followed the other in close proximity, as does the midrash. They were actually in that location for a long time.

* tired: they similarly complained about lack of water early in their wilderness tour, in parashat Beshalach.

* complaint: Sure, they were human and needed water, but they accompanied their request with a complaint and rebellion, and how it would be better had they had died previously.

* overreacted: Assuming that there was something wrong with either striking the rock or with 'hear now, ye rebels'. It is possible that this was not the problem, and it was just a failure of instilling emunah, such that they had the same attitude in the later year as they had in the earlier year.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Perils of Expounding on Lashon Hara

A disturbing Shmuz this past week, on Behaalotecha. The author in all likelihood didn't mean it this way, but this goes to show how you must be careful when instructing people about lashon hara.

The pretext for the Shmuz is this pasuk and Rashi at the end of Behaalotecha:

1Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses regarding the Cushite woman he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman.אוַתְּדַבֵּר מִרְיָם וְאַהֲרֹן בְּמשֶׁה עַל אֹדוֹת הָאִשָּׁה הַכֻּשִׁית אֲשֶׁר לָקָח כִּי אִשָּׁה כֻשִׁית לָקָח:

Miriam and Aaron spoke: She spoke first. Therefore, Scripture mentions her first. How did she know that Moses had separated from his wife? [See below] R. Nathan says: Miriam was beside Zipporah when Moses was told that Eldad and Medad were prophesying in the camp. When Zipporah heard this, she said,“Woe to their wives if they are required to prophesy, for they will separate from their wives just my husband separated from me.” From this, Miriam knew [about it] and told Aaron. Now if Miriam, who did not intend to disparage him [Moses] was punished, all the more so someone who [intentionally] disparages his fellow. — [Tanchuma Tzav 13]ותדבר מרים ואהרן: היא פתחה בדבור תחילה, לפיכך הקדימה הכתוב תחלה, ומנין היתה יודעת מרים שפרש משה מן האשה, רבי נתן אומר, מרים היתה בצד צפורה בשעה שנאמר למשה אלדד ומידד מתנבאים במחנה, כיון ששמעה צפורה, אמרה אוי לנשותיהן של אלו אם הם נזקקים לנבואה שיהיו פורשין מנשותיהן כדרך שפרש בעלי ממני, ומשם ידעה מרים והגידה לאהרן. ומה מרים שלא נתכוונה לגנותו, כך נענשה, קל וחומר למספר בגנותו של חבירו:

It is hard to understand what the Midrash Tanchuma (and by extension, Rashi) means by saying that she didn't mean to disparage Moshe, and yet was punished. One could struggle with this and come up with various real (non-shmuzy) answers. For instance, reading the Tanchuma inside, I think it might be possible that she was wondering whether she and Aharon were supposed to follow suit, since it was not only Moshe with whom Hashem spoke. Alternatively, she was acting out of concern that Moshe act properly in accordance with what was supposed to be done, or to aid in his marital harmony with Tzippora. Regardless, the message intended by both Tanchuma and Rashi is NOT the first clause of the kal vachomer (that is, the kal), but rather the second clause of the kal vachomer (namely, the chomer). It is dangerous to puff up the first clause and then hold everyone to that puffed-up standard, as we shall see.

Rabbi Shafier titles the essay, "If You’re Wrong It’s Lashon Harah". He then writes:
This Rashi is difficult to understand. What was Miriam’s transgression? She witnessed her brother doing something that in her estimation was wrong. She didn’t go blabbing the news all over town. She went directly to [a] spiritual giant, the Kohain Gadol, Moshe’s brother Aaron, to ask for his advice. If she was correct and Moshe was acting improperly, then Aaron would validate her assessment. If she was wrong, he would correct her. What was her transgression? Her intentions were pure. Her actions were discreet. Where is her wrongdoing?  
The answer to this question is based on understanding what the Torah considers slander. The Rambam explains that the definition of lashon harah is, “Words that hurt, words that damage.” Whether damaging a man’s reputation, harming his career, or spoiling his standing in the community – they are words that that cause harm.
The problem here is that, in our present society, incorrect concerns of lashon hara and mesira are what allowed and allow sexual abuse of children to thrive. Some rabbis (correctly) say that one should report directly to police. The Agudah, in contrast, has said that there must be raglayim ladavar, and that one should consult a rabbi to determine this, writing:
There may be times when an individual may feel that a report or evidence he has seen rises to the level of raglayim la’davar; and times when he may feel otherwise. Because the question of reporting has serious implications for all parties, and raises sensitive halachic issues, the individual should not rely exclusively on his own judgment to determine the presence or absence of raglayim la’davar. Rather, he should present the facts of the case to a rabbi who is expert in halacha and who also has experience in the area of abuse and molestation – someone who is fully sensitive both to the gravity of the halachic considerations and the urgent need to protect children.
Now this Shmuz comes along, where Miriam consulted with an halachic authority (the Kohain Gadol, a spiritual giant) to ask for advice, and was punished, because she was wrong, and if you're wrong, even this is lashon hara! Is it really a good to convince people that asking a shayla has problems, real or potential, of lashon hara?!

That isn't what the Shmuz necessarily intends to concludes. Later on, the author writes:
That was Miriam’s’ transgression — not judging her brother properly. She miscalculated. Everything she did after that was correct, but it was all based on her error. Her mistake was in her initial assessment, which then led to her to slander her brother unintentionally. But unintentional slander is slander nevertheless.
In other words, it was her earlier mistake in not judging Moshe favorably, that was her transgression, and other actions were correct had she been right. However, effectively, he is saying that consulting a rabbi for a halachic question is slander nevertheless, for which one is punished, in the case that one is wrong.

To his credit, he declares that sometimes it is a mitzvah to speak out. But he casts it as only where there is a no room for error.
There are, however, times when lashon harah is permitted. If someone speaks for a constructive purpose and that speech meets exact Torah guidelines, then it is a mitzvah. In that case, the report isn’t considered disparaging. Quite the opposite, since we are obligated to protect our fellow Jews from harm, sometimes we must inform others of what we know. But that is the point: Torah law defines what constitutes slander and what is a mitzvah. The line between the two is often very thin. 
The Chofetz Chaim writes that to permit the telling of disparaging information, a person must have first-hand knowledge of the facts, and there can be no room for misinterpretation. No room for error. If there is another possible explanation which shows the act in a different light, then he is forbidden to speak.
(In general, I am not in favor of Chofetz Chaim-based lashon hara guidelines (as her propounds in this essay), for several reasons. People over-apply them. They are formulated in a way biased to prevent possible slander, more than concerned for protecting potential victims. They took what had, until this point, been a mostly hashkafic and good-middot matter, and transformed them into halacha. And while some contemporaries disagreed with him, for lashon hara, unlike the rest of his halachic work, we don't have an Aruch HaShulchan disputant to give contrast to his Mishna Berurah.)

There is also this bit, about giving the benefit of the doubt to a holy man, at least where that holy man is Moshe:
This seems to be the answer to Rashi. HASHEM rebuked Miriam and Aaron both, saying, “Why did you suspect my servant, Moshe? Moshe was on such a lofty level that you should have realized that what he did was justified and proper. You should have judged him favorably. Because you judged him incorrectly, you mistook his intentions and determined his actions to be improper. You were wrong, and you should have recognized that. He is my servant, loyal and obedient, pure and untainted, an angel walking in the form of a man. You should have realized that he is in a different league than any other man, and you should have judged him favorably.”
Several of the recent rabbinic sexual abuse perpetrators are also, or at least presented themselves, as holy men. Is it really a good idea to give a shmuz to reinforce the idea that, in cases of doubt, one must assume that men of a lofty level have acted appropriately, and therefore, one should not speak out?

Consider the case of Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who was accused of various sexual crimes and is on the run from the Israeli authorities. I've seen two types of defense. The first is exemplified here, that he is a holy person, does miracles, is vouched for by various prominent rabbinical figures, and is therefore innocent. We must therefore know that he is totally innocent of the changes. He is being framed by the evil secular government, plus he righteously accepted this suffering and oppression on behalf of klal Yisrael.

The second type of defense is here (machine-translated here), from the son-in-law (?) of Rav Berland, that indeed he did those actions, but because he is a tzaddik, those actions are appropriate!

בספר מרחיב חתנו של הרב ברלנד ומבהיר שמה שנחשבת כעבירה אצל המון העם, אצל הצדיק היא מצווה ואף חובה לעבור עליה. לדבריו, אם הצדיק אומר לאדם דבר הנראה נגד התורה והמצוות והאדם מסתפק אם לעשותו, זה גרוע כי הדבר פוגם באמונת חכמים. לטענת מתנגדי הרב ברלנד, הספר הגיע לשולחנם של גדולי ישראל והללו נבהלו ואמרו כי מדובר בשבתאות ואפיקורסות ממש.
"... he explains that that which is considered an aveira for the common folk, for a tzaddik it is a mitzvah and indeed a chovah [obligation] to transgress it. According to his words, if a tzaddik says to someone something which seems against the Torah and mitzvot, and the person is unsure if to do it, this is a bad thing, because it is a deficiency in emunat chachamim."
While the approach in this book has been criticized as Sabbateanism or heresy, this is also a potential outgrowth of the attitude propounded by this particular Shmuz. After all, Miriam should have given Moshe the benefit of the doubt, and understood that while, for the hamon am or other common prophets, this separating from one's spouse was bad and improper, Moshe was a tzaddik, in a different league, an angel walking in the form of a man, and his actions are therefore to be understood or assumed to be proper...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Targum on Yevarechecha

In Naso, in my Mikraos Gedolos, I noticed the following discrepancy between the Targum Onkelos and the Targum (Pseudo-) Yonatan on three famous pesukim in Naso. The Targum Onkelos reads:

That is, it is a translation into Aramaic. Meanwhile, the Targum Yonatan reads:

having first the Biblical Hebrew and only afterwards an expansive Targum into Aramaic.

Looking to Shadal in Ohev Ger, we get a clue as to what is going on:

247. יְבָרֶכְךָ, יָאֵר, יִשָּׂא, these three pesukim do not have Targum (מא”ד, and Savyonita). And so is correct according to the halacha, that Birkat Kohanim is read and not translated. Also, the author of the sefer יא”ר, even though he writes at length about the Targum of אָמוֹר לָהֶם [which are the words immediately preceding יְבָרֶכְךָ], writes not a matter or half a matter regarding Birkat Kohanim. It appears from his silence that his girsa was without a Targum on it.

So while my Mikraos Gedolos had a Targum Onkelos on these pesukim, dfus Savyonita does not. This Chumash with Onkelos, which Shadal often refers to, has the nice feature of trup on the Targum Onkelos. Here is what appears there. The Chumash:

and the Targum, on the facing page:

At Mechon Mamre as well, they note that in the early Yemenite manuscripts, there is no Targum on these three pesukim, even as they give one:

ו,כג דַּבֵּר אֶל-אַהֲרֹן וְאֶל-בָּנָיו לֵאמֹר, כֹּה תְבָרְכוּ אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:  אָמוֹר, לָהֶם.  {ס}
מַלֵּיל עִם אַהֲרוֹן וְעִם בְּנוֹהִי לְמֵימַר, כְּדֵין תְּבָרְכוּן יָת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:  כַּד תֵּימְרוּן, לְהוֹן.  {ס}  (בכתבי יד תימן עתיקים אין ברכת כוהנים בתרגום אונקלוס:
ו,כד יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ.  {ס}
יְבָרְכִנָּךְ יְיָ, וְיִטְּרִנָּךְ.  {ס}
ו,כה יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ.  {ס}
יַנְהַר יְיָ שְׁכִינְתֵיהּ לְוָתָךְ, וִירַחֵים יָתָךְ.  {ס}
ו,כו יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם.  {ס}
יִסַּב יְיָ אַפּוֹהִי לְוָתָךְ, וִישַׁוֵּי לָךְ שְׁלָם.  {ס}  )

Interesting that Targum Yonatan has both the Hebrew and the Aramaic, thus also fulfilling having and not having a Targum. If Targum Yonatan was ever read aloud in shul as the Targum, this would make sense.

What does Shadal mean that Bikrat Kohanim is read but not translated? This is a reference to Megillah 25b:

ברכת כהנים נקרין ולא מתרגמין מ"ט משום דכתיב (במדבר ו, כו) ישא:

There is an interesting contrast to what seems to be the text of the Mishna (on the previous amud) there, that it isn’t read either:

מתני' מעשה ראובן נקרא ולא מתרגם מעשה תמר נקרא ומתרגם מעשה עגל הראשון נקרא ומתרגם והשני נקרא ולא מתרגם ברכת כהנים מעשה דוד ואמנון נקראין ולא מתרגמין אין מפטירין במרכבה ורבי יהודה מתיר ר' אליעזר אומר אין מפטירין (יחזקאל טז, ב) בהודע את ירושלם:

See Dikdukei Soferim on this:

As well as this interesting discussion in Hebrew Wikipedia:
במשנה במסכת מגילה נאמר שברכת כהנים אינה נקראת בקריאת התורה. אמירה זאת נחשבה תמוהה והביאה לפירושים רבים. על פי התלמוד, הכוונה היא שלא מתרגמים את פסוקי ברכת כהנים לארמית בעת הקריאה בציבור. על פי פירושו של חנוך אלבק, בעת קריאת התורה, היה הקורא מפסיק לקרוא והכהנים היו עומדים ומברכים את העם במקומו. יוסף היינמן כתב שאמירה זאת לא כוונה לקריאה בתורה אלא לכך שבעת קיום נשיאת כפיים הכהנים הורשו לומר את הפסוקים בעל פה. רחמים שר שלום[9] טוען שהאיסור על קריאת ברכת כהנים התקיים בעת שהקריאה בתורה לא נעשתה על הסדר, ונועדה למנוע מצב בו כולם קוראים את ברכת כהנים בגלל הפופולריות של הפסוקים.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Why Emor?

Why Emor?

This sidra is called Emor, because it is the first unique word to occur. We don’t call it parshas Vayomer, and we don’t call other parshiyos Vayedabar. I’ve heard it referred to as parshas Emor el HaKohanim, but really, Emor suffices.

Why the strange language of Emor? In the Biur, by the Baal Nesivos Hashalom (that oisvorf*), we see the following explanation:

“(1) Vayomer Hashem El Moshe: We explained above (parasha 1:1) [where the pasuk contains both דבור and אמירה, since it reads וַיִּקְרָא, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה; וַיְדַבֵּר ה אֵלָיו, מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר] that אמירה encompasses broad matters and short [precise] matters, while דבור always pertains to broad matters.And when אמירה is juxtaposed to דבור this teaches that He spoke [דבר] broadly, and also commanded him [Moshe] to speak [לאמר] to the nation in the [specific] language which follows in the section. And so too here, Vayomer Hashem el Moshe, according to the language written in the section. So too Emor el Hakohanim Benei Aharon [the next phrase in the pasuk], with that specific language which I tell [אומר] you.

And the reason that both דבור and אמירה are not stated here as well, while without doubt He spoke [דבר] with him and instructed him all of the halachot [broadly, even those not stated in the section] prophetically, I will explain with the help of Hashem (in pasuk 24).”

Emor starts in perek 21, and pasuk 24 is the last pasuk of that perek. There are two sections in this perek. The first (pasuk 1-15)  is an instruction from Moshe to the Kohanim the sons of Aharon specifically, as we see above in pasuk 21:1. The contents of that instruction pertain to defilement, conduct, and marriage. The second section (starting at Sheni, after a setuma break, pasuk 16 - 23) is an instruction from Moshe to Aharon, and discusses blemishes:

Finally, at the end of the perek stands pasuk 24. The instruction of Vaydabar has to relate to what is above, because what follows in Vayikra 22:1 is most certainly a brand new section.

Here, in pasuk 24, we are told that Moshe spoke to three groups - Aharon, Aharon’s sons, and the Bnei Yisrael.

The Beur explains:

“(24) Vaydaber Moshe el Aharon etc.: I think this refers back to the two preceding sections. For in the first [1-15] Aharon and Yisrael are not mentioned, and in the second, his [Aharon’s] sons and the Bnei Yisrael are not mentioned. And further, in the first דבור is not mentioned, that he explained for them the matters in with a clear, comprehensive explanation [באר היטב]. Therefore, it closes with this pasuk in which is stated דבור, and in which is mentioned Aharon, his sons, and all of Yisrael, so distribute what is written in one to the other.

And Rashi za”l explains [the newly introduced here in pasuk 24] el Bnei Yisrael, that the [Israelite] Beit Din should warn the kohanim. And so it is in Torat Kohanim.”


* added at yaak's request.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Kiddushin 2a - Why say נקנית?

(Cross posted to Daf Yummy.)

We recently started Kiddushin in Daf Yomi. Here are a few thoughts about the opening gemara.

The Mishna (Kiddushin 2a):

האשה נקנית בשלוש דרכים, וקונה את עצמה בשתי דרכים.
נקנית: בכסף, בשטר ובביאה.

The gemara (2a):

האשה נקנית - מאי שנא הכא דתני "האשה נקנית" ומ"ש התם דתני "האיש מקדש"? משום דקא בעי למתני כסף

That is, why use the word נקנית here, where it is a language of kinyan, rather than mekadesh as it appears in the Mishna in the beginning of the second perek in Kiddushin 41a:

האיש מקדש בו ובשלוחו האשה מתקדשת בה ובשלוחה האיש מקדש את בתו כשהיא נערה בו ובשלוחו:

Or, to refine the gemara’s question somewhat, since we focused only on the question of swapping out shorashim, why not say האשה מתקדשת in our Mishna?

And the answer the gemara gives is that since kesef is one of the three methods, the language of kinyan is appropriate here.

I would run with the gemara’s question and give a different answer. If we learn through all the Mishnayot in the first perek first, we see a pattern and a structure emerge:

האשה נקנית בשלוש דרכים…
היבמה נקנית בביאה....
עבד עברי נקנה בכסף ובשטר...
הנרצע נקנה ברציעה...
עבד כנעני נקנה בכסף ובשטר ובחזקה…
בהמה גסה נקנית במסירה והדקה בהגבהה…
נכסים שיש להם אחריות נקנין בכסף ובשטר ובחזקה שאין להם אחריות אין נקנין אלא במשיכה

The answer to the question is then obvious. The point is to go through a whole bunch of different kinyanim, formal binding acquisitions. These differ depending on what it is being “acquired”. And so, it is appropriate to use the word נקנית or נקנה throughout. If we would use האשה מתקדשת, then we wouldn’t be able to carry through this language throughout the perek. Possibly we could continue it for yevama, but no further. We also couldn’t use the words וקונה את עצמה (or the equivalent by yevama or eved) as a simple flip of the expression.

The gemara, elsewhere, analyzes other bits of language. For instance, why not use נקנית in the second perek? Why use derachim. Be’ezrat Hashem, these questions are for follow-up posts.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Beshalach: The Five Midrashim Rashi Doesn’t Want You To Know

(Number Three Will Amaze You!)

At the start of parashat Beshalach, Rashi tells us that there are midrashic explanations of a certain pasuk, but that he isn’t going to tell them to us:

17It came to pass when Pharaoh let the people go, that God did not lead them [by] way of the land of the Philistines for it was near, because God said, Lest the people reconsider when they see war and return to Egypt
יז וַיְהִי בְּשַׁלַּח פַּרְעֹה אֶת הָעָם וְלֹא נָחָם אֱלֹהִים דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים כִּי קָרוֹב הוּא כִּי | אָמַר אֱלֹהִים פֶּן יִנָּחֵם הָעָם בִּרְאֹתָם מִלְחָמָה וְשָׁבוּ מִצְרָיְמָה:

for it was near: and it was easy to return by that road to Egypt. There are also many aggadic midrashim [regarding this].
כי קרוב הוא: ונוח לשוב באותו הדרך למצרים. ומדרשי אגדה יש הרבה:

It is unclear whether this is a recommendation and referral -- “There are many midreshei aggadah explaining karov, so check them out” -- or a dismissal -- “There are many midreshei aggadah explaining this, but our concern here is peshat and a certain kind of midrash, and those midrashim are not peshat oriented.”

I am of the opinion that it is more the latter. He is saying that these midrashim are outside the scope and concern of his own commentary. You can go to those midrashim if you want to see those midrashim, but here, the focus is on peshat and a certain kind of midrash. Note how he employs the word הרבה (many) regarding those midrashim he does not bring.

This calls to mind his wording in parashat Bereishit, where he wrote:

8And they heard the voice of the Lord God going in the garden to the direction of the sun, and the man and his wife hid from before the Lord God in the midst of the trees of the garden.
חוַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶת קוֹל יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהִים מִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּגָּן לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם וַיִּתְחַבֵּא הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ מִפְּנֵי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהִים בְּתוֹךְ עֵץ הַגָּן:
And they heard: There are many Aggadic midrashim, and our Sages already arranged them in their proper order in Genesis Rabbah and in other midrashim, but I have come only [to teach] the simple meaning of the Scripture and such Aggadah that clarifies the words of the verses, each word in its proper way.
וישמעו: יש מדרשי אגדה רבים וכבר סדרום רבותינו על מכונם בבראשית רבה (יט ו) ובשאר מדרשות ואני לא באתי אלא לפשוטו של מקרא ולאגדה המישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אופניו:

There as well, he said that there were many midrashim, which you can look to in Bereishit Rabba and elsewhere, but that isn’t the focus of his commentary. He will certainly bring midrashim -- I would estimate that 80% or more of Rashi is selected from midrashim. But he will bring only a certain type of midrash. And so, it pays to investigate what those midrashim were. By seeing what sorts of midrash he won’t bring down, we might get a better sense of what he sees in the midrashim he does bring down, and from there, his overall aim in producing his commentary. (See what I wrote briefly about those midrashim in Bereishit.)

We can see these midrashim in the Mechilta:

דרך ארץ פלשתים כי קרוב הוא -
הוא הדבר שאמר הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה: בהוציאך את העם ממצרים תעבדון האלהים על ההר הזה.

כי קרוב הוא -
קרוב הדרך לשוב למצרים, שנאמר: דרך שלשת ימים נלך במדבר.

דבר אחר:
כי קרוב הוא -
קרובה השבועה שנשבע אברהם לאבימלך: השבעה לי באלהים אם תשקור לי ולניני ולנכדי, ועדיין נכדו קיים.

דבר אחר:
כי קרוב הוא -
קרובה השבועה, מלחמה ראשונה לשניה.

דבר אחר:
כי קרוב הוא -
בקרוב ירשו כנעניים את הארץ, שנאמר: ודור רביעי ישובו הנה.

ולמה לא הביאן הכתוב דרך פשוטה לארץ ישראל אלא דרך המדבר?
אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא: אם אני מביא עכשו את ישראל לארץ, מיד מחזיקים אדם בשדהו ואדם בכרמו. והן בטלים מן התורה, אלא אקיפם במדבר ארבעים שנה שיהיו אוכלים מן ושותים מי הבאר. והתורה נבללת בגופן.

מכאן היה ר' שמעון אומר:
לא ניתנה התורה לדרוש אלא לאוכלי המן. ושווין להם אוכלי תרומה.

דבר אחר:
כי קרוב הוא -
לא הביאן המקום בפישוטן, אלא כיון ששמעו כנעניים שישראל נכנסו עמדו ושרפו כל הזרעים וקבצו כל האילנות וסתרו את הבניינים וסתמו את המעיינות.
אמר הקב"ה: לא הבטחתים לאבותם שאכניסן לארץ חריבה אלא מלאה כל טוב, שנאמר: ובתים מלאים כל טוב, אלא הריני מקיפן במדבר ארבעים שנה עד שיעמדו כנעניים ויתקנו מה שקלקלו.

“By way of the land of the Philistines, for it is near [karov] -- This is what Hashem said to Moshe (Shemot 3:12 [by the burning bush, that the sign would be]), בְּהוֹצִיאֲךָ אֶת-הָעָם, מִמִּצְרַיִם, תַּעַבְדוּן אֶת-הָאֱלֹהִים, עַל הָהָר הַזֶּה, “when thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.”
[Josh: Thus, because the mountain is karov.]

For it is near [karov] - the path is near to return to Egypt, as is stated (Shemot 8:23) דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים, נֵלֵךְ בַּמִּדְבָּר, “We will go three days' journey into the wilderness.”

Another explanation, for it is near [karov] -- the oath which Avraham swore to Avimelech is near. (Bereishit 21:23) הִשָּׁבְעָה לִּי בֵאלֹהִים הֵנָּה, אִם-תִּשְׁקֹר לִי, וּלְנִינִי וּלְנֶכְדִּי, “swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son”. And his grandson was still alive.
[Josh: nearness as in proximity or applicability of the oath. Alternatively, perhaps ‘he is a karov’ as ‘he is a relative’.]

Another explanation: For it is near: The oath [sic] first battle is too close to the second one.
[Josh: The first war is properly that between the Philistines and the Children of Ephraim who left Egypt early. The Children of Ephraim were all slain. The second war is this second war which would likely occur if Hashem directed them דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים, and which is therefore being avoided.]

Another explanation: For it is near: [Only] recently, the Canaanites inherited the land, for it is written (Bereishit 15:16) [וְדוֹר רְבִיעִי, יָשׁוּבוּ הֵנָּה: [כִּי לֹא-שָׁלֵם עֲו‍ֹן הָאֱמֹרִי, עַד-הֵנָּה, And in the fourth generation they shall come back hither [for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full].

And why didn’t the Scriptures [sic] bring them in a straight path, but rather by way of the wilderness? Hashem said: If I bring them now to the land of Israel, each person will immediately take hold of his field or vineyard, and they will be disengaged from the Torah. Rather, I will take them around in the wilderness for forty years, while they eat manna and drink the water of the Well [of Miriam], and the Torah will be stirred into their bodies. From here Rabbi Shimon said: the Torah was given to be expounded only for those who ate the manna. And equivalent to them, those who eat Terumah.

Another explanation: For it is near: He did not take them in the straight way. For when the Canaanites heard that Israel was coming, they arose and burnt all the plants, cut down all the trees, broke all the buildings and sealed all the springs. Hashem said: I didn’t promise their forefathers that I would bring them [the descendants] to a barren land, but to a land filled with everything good, as is stated (Devarim 6:11) וּבָתִּים מְלֵאִים כָּל-טוּב, “and houses full of all good things”. Rather, I will take them around in the wilderness for forty years, until the Canaanites arise and fix what they ruined.”

It is possible that Rashi simply thought that these midrashim were too good to miss, and so he referred us to them. But it is also quite possible that he is rejecting these “many” midrashim from his peshat commentary because they don’t fit his criteria.

In general, I believe that Rashi will include a midrash if it solves some peshat problem (where the “problem” is a grammatical or otherwise linguistic irregularity, often paired with something missing or off in the narrative.)

Here, there is a definite linguistic irregularity. Namely, the pasuk stated:

לֹא נָחָם אֱלֹהִים דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים כִּי קָרוֹב הוּא

If translated most literally -- and this entails selecting the most common meaning of each word -- the translation is: “And God did not take them by way of the land of the Philistines, for it was near.”

Rashi does not proffer the following peshat explanation: “And God did not take them by way of the land of the Philistines, though it was near.” This would require taking the word כִּי to mean “though”. Indeed, all of the midrashim take כִּי to mean “for”. In large part, this is because midrash is hyper-literal. Once כִּי means “for”, this introduces a problem. Why should the closeness be a reason to avoid the land of the Philistines? It should be a reason to go that way, rather than to avoid it. Therefore, they consider the various possible meanings, or rather allusions, of the next word, karov. In this way, ki karov is once a reason to avoid that way, and that land.

Rashi often repurposes midrash for his peshat commentary. And he takes כִּי to be for, just like the midrash. Once trapped by that choice, he needs to explain ki karov as a reason to avoid the land. And then from the six midrashim, he selects the one which fits in best with the flow of the narrative, and with the rest of the pasuk. That is, Rashi selects midrash #2:

כי קרוב הוא -
קרוב הדרך לשוב למצרים, שנאמר: דרך שלשת ימים נלך במדבר.
For it is near [karov] - the path is near to return to Egypt, as is stated (Shemot 8:23) דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים, נֵלֵךְ בַּמִּדְבָּר, “We will go three days' journey into the wilderness.”

This midrashic-peshat also works out with the rest of the pasuk, which has a second  כִּי. This second  כִּי  certainly means “for”. Thus, כִּי | אָמַר אֱלֹהִים פֶּן יִנָּחֵם הָעָם בִּרְאֹתָם מִלְחָמָה וְשָׁבוּ מִצְרָיְמָה. Thus, the two reasons are linked. Because it was near, and because Hashem was afraid they would return to Egypt.

In contrast, most of the other midrashic explanations have the first כִּי as a different reason. To give the land time to recoup, to allow the Canaanites their four generations, because the oath to the surviving grandson of Avimelech hadn’t passed, because Hashem wanted them to learn Torah.

I would suggest that when Rashi lists as a criterion (in Bereishit) for including a midrash aggadah, as ולאגדה המישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אופניו, the words דבור על אופניו means that it works out well with the rest of the words in that pasuk, and with the flow of the narrative and the text. And having the two explanations mesh together would then fulfill the criterion.

It is then perhaps surprising that Rashi doesn’t mention the battle waged by the Tribe of Ephraim who fled Egypt early, and were killed by the Philistines. This midrash might be a candidate for inclusion. One battle with the Philistines was too close to another battle with the Philistines. And this, in turn, would be a cause to flee back to Egypt. It fits in nicely with the specific mention of the land of the Philistines. And the milchama would be the milchama with the Philistines. (Or, alternatively, the milchama would be the result of the prior milchama, vis. the corpses of the Ephraimites, as one position in the Mechilta gives it: שלא יראו עצמות אחיהם מושלכין בפלשת ויחזרו להם.) I would answer that indeed, this might have been a selection, but Rashi already selected his one midrash and developed it at quite some length -- in his comment on this phrase as well as in the other phrases in this pasuk. Further, he was already dismissing a bunch of midrashim, and this one went with the bunch. And finally, the one Rashi in fact selected is much more of a peshat-oriented midrash than this one. We don’t have to bring in a whole other story which would be only hinted at / alluded to by a word here or there. Rather, we can make sense of the entire pasuk as a self-contained unit.


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