Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Vayigash #2: The Three Approaches

As I mentioned in the preceding post, Chazal read Yehudah's statements to Yosef in three ways - as prayer, as appeasement, and as threat. I suggested this might be patterned after the three steps Yaakov took when faced with the approaching threat of Esav.

To elaborate a bit on these three approaches, Chazal look to how the word Vayigash is used throughout Tanach. midrash rabba, parasha 93, siman 6:
ד"א וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה
ר' יהודה ר' נחמיה ורבנן
ר' יהודה אומר הגשה למלחמה
היך מד"א (שמואל ב י) וַיִּגַּשׁ יוֹאָב, וְהָעָם אֲשֶׁר עִמּוֹ, לַמִּלְחָמָה
רבי נחמיה אומר הגשה לפיוס
המד"א (יהושע יד) וַיִּגְּשׁוּ בְנֵי-יְהוּדָה אֶל-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ לפייסו
רבנן אמרי הגשה לתפלה
(מלכים א יח) וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלִיָּהוּ הַנָּבִיא וַיֹּאמַר, ה' אֱלֹקֵי וגו'
ר"א אמר פשט להון אם למלחמה אני בא אם לפיוס אני בא אם לתפלה אני בא
Another explanation: וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה - "Then Judah came near unto him"
[A dispute of] Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Nechemiah, and Rabanan.
Rabbi Yehudah says "coming near" to battle.
Just as it states in 2 Shmuel 10:13:
יג וַיִּגַּשׁ יוֹאָב, וְהָעָם אֲשֶׁר עִמּוֹ, לַמִּלְחָמָה, בַּאֲרָם; וַיָּנֻסוּ, מִפָּנָיו. 13 So Joab and the people that were with him drew nigh unto the battle against the Arameans; and they fled before him.
Rabbi Nechemiah says, "drawing near" appease
Just at it states in Yehoshua 14:6:
ו וַיִּגְּשׁוּ בְנֵי-יְהוּדָה אֶל-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, בַּגִּלְגָּל, וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, כָּלֵב בֶּן-יְפֻנֶּה הַקְּנִזִּי: אַתָּה יָדַעְתָּ אֶת-הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה אִישׁ-הָאֱלֹהִים, עַל אֹדוֹתַי וְעַל אֹדוֹתֶיךָ--בְּקָדֵשׁ בַּרְנֵעַ. 6 Then the children of Judah drew nigh unto Joshua in Gilgal; and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said unto him: 'Thou knowest the thing that the LORD spoke unto Moses the man of God concerning me and concerning thee in Kadesh-barnea.
to appease him.
Rabanan say "drawing near" {means} prayer.
1 Kings 18:36:


לו וַיְהִי בַּעֲלוֹת הַמִּנְחָה, וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלִיָּהוּ הַנָּבִיא וַיֹּאמַר, ה' אֱלֹקֵי אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיִשְׂרָאֵל, הַיּוֹם יִוָּדַע כִּי-אַתָּה אֱלֹקִים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וַאֲנִי עַבְדֶּךָ; ובדבריך (וּבִדְבָרְךָ) עָשִׂיתִי, אֵת כָּל-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה. 36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening offering, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said: 'O LORD, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word.
לז עֲנֵנִי ה, עֲנֵנִי, וְיֵדְעוּ הָעָם הַזֶּה, כִּי-אַתָּה ה הָאֱלֹקִים; וְאַתָּה הֲסִבֹּתָ אֶת-לִבָּם, אֲחֹרַנִּית. 37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that Thou, LORD, art God, for Thou didst turn their heart backward.'
Rabbi Elazar made it a non-dispute. "Whether to war I am coming or to appease I am coming or to pray I am coming {I am ready}."
Thus we have the three possible interpretations of Yehudah's drawing near.

1 comment:

Nachman said...

The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that Rashi explains “VaYigash Avraham” (Bereishis 18:22) [to argue for Sedom] as for prayer, appeasement, or argument [war], and not as “approach” (Onkelos: “Ukariv”), precisely because the previous pasuk says: “VeAvraham Odenu Omeid Lifnei HaShem”. So“Vayigash” there cannot have the sense of “approach” and we must search out the other places in Tanach were it does NOT mean to approach, thus: “Vayigash Yoav” (II Shmuel 10:13) [War], Vayigash Yehudah [appasement!] and Vayigash Eliyahu [prayer] (Eliyah was already standing before the mizbeach) and thus Vayigash tell us Avraham initially “approached” HaShem with the intention of using any or all of these three senses.

Thus we would add that in the case of “Vayigash Yehudah”, it is already established five pesukim before, as of 44:13, that "YEHUDAH and his brothers" were at Yosef’s feet (Vehu Odenu sham, Vayiplu lefanav artzah: (fascinatingly this repeats “Odenu/Vayigash”: I don’t know what to make of this)). Here too VaYigash CANNOT mean to approach, and Rashi (in 18:22) reads it as appeasement (in the Peshat context here.) What is cool about Bereishis Rabah 93 is how it REVERSES the sense here of “appeasement” by giving it the properties of the OTHER Vayigash instances, including the sense of war (=Vayigash Yoav). (Rashi finds the the hostile SUBTEXT here in“al Yichar”, which may in fact have helped to trigger the Midrash’s reading.)

Nachman Levine

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