Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I updated the korech discussion below.

Now on to making up some questions for an intro to comp sci test for tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

An important definition:

חמירא = leaven (שאור)
חמיעא = chametz (the ayin in Aramaic = the tzadi in Hebrew)

So, Kol Chamira VaChami'a = All leaven and chametz.

A look at various websites on the Internet, and I think the Artcroll Siddur as well, has the two reversed.
1) "Kol Chamira v'Chamiya - All chametz and leaven which is in my possession, which I have not seen or removed, or of which I am unaware, is hereby nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth."

2) "כל חמירא וחמיעא דאיכא ברשותי דלא חמיתיה ולדא ביערתיה, ליבטל וליהוי כעפרא דארעא". בעברית: "כל חמץ ושאור שיש ברשותי, שלא ראיתיו ושלא ביערתיו, יבטל ויהיה כעפר הארץ".

Monday, March 29, 2004

Ruminating upon Chad Gadya:

Chad Gadya is an Aramaic song sung at the end of the seder. Yet many of the pronunciations of the verbs are incorrect for Aramaic. This is liekely due to the fact that most people don't speak Aramaic.

examples: DiZabin Abba BiTrei Zuzei.
Zabein = sold. Zevein = bought. That father bought for two zuzim = Dizvein Abba BiTrei Zuzei

Also, VeAta. Vav Sheva Aleph Kametz Suf kametz Aleph. That would mean "and comes," present tense. We want past tense, so there should be a patach under the Vav, a chataf patach under the aleph. In general there is a tendency to impose Hebrew past tense verb forms to the Aramaic words.

One exception is the nouns, which are consistently in Aramaic. Gadya, Shunra, Kalba, Chutra, Nura, Maya, Tora.
Then, Shochet, Malach HaMavet, HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
I'm not sure about shochet (it also breaks the pattern and perhaps should be Tabecha), but the latter two are in Hebrew, not Aramaic. The definite article (the) in Hebrew is Ha, in Aramaic is kametz Aleph at the end of the word. So We would expect perhaps something along the lines of malacha demavet, or demaveta. And certainly it should be Kudsha Brich Hu, rather than HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

Three possibilities: 1) It was originally composed like this, perhaps early on for some odd reason, or late, by an author who did not know his Aramaic so well. 2) It was originally in Aramaic and for some odd reason the last few stanzas had the additional nouns in Hebrew. 3) The song originally did not have HaKadosh Baruch Hu, or the Angel of Death, and perhaps not the shochet. This is a song to keep the kids awake to the end of the seder, and was perhaps not religious in origin. Perhaps it ended with the cow, or will the man at the top of the food cycle, but was made religious with the addition of the extra stanzas.

Just ruminations. Please let me know in the comments if you can shed further light on this. Thanks.

Update: Add to that another stylistic change. Every stanza from the first part introduces a new, interesting verb. Bought, Ate, Bit, Hit, Burned, Extinguished, Drank. The last 3 stanzas are repetitive and thus unimaginative in their verb: Shechted = slaughtered.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Pesach: Matza: Maror

Tzav is a somewhat dry parsha. The midrash rabba on this week's parsha notes that (in the days the midrash was written) they would start teaching the youngsters Torah with vayikra (torat kohanim), because young children are holy and the korbanot are holy.
You have to wonder though how the material could hold a young child's attention.
The Haftarot though are much more colorful, as are the midrashim.

At any rate, Pesach is coming up, and I feel like posting Pesach oriented material. The shiur kosot is a bit technical, and I don't really have a firm enough grasp on it yet, so perhaps some other material.

In terms of a separate maror/matzah/korech:
Hillel held that that was the way to fulfill the mitzvah. From a machloket in yerushalmi, it seems that there was a machloket, with others arguing on Hillel. They felt since there were three materials, the paschal lamb, the bitter herbs, and the matzah, each one would combine with the second and nullify the third. The other side to the dispute would be that mitzvot cannot be nullified.

Rabbi Yochanan would maintain that each two would nullify the third. Yet, the gemara records, he would do korech. The answer is that he was post the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash, and so even according to this opinion there were only two entities in the sandwich, and so there was no problem.

Thus, Rabbi Yochanan did zecher limikdash kiHillel. And it was a question how he could then fulfill the mitzvah. We see that this was the *only* way he did this mitzvah, and he was from the opposing camp. So he did not first do matza and maror and then korech, but would just do korech. And not as a zecher but a way of actually fulfilling the mitzvah.
So, why do we have 3 separate actions at our seder? Perhaps we should not.

The rationale though, probably, is that matza/maror are done separately, and as a nice, unrequired thing, to make a zecher to what Hillel did, we will do a korech.

Update: The Bavli in Psachim, daf קטו, has a different take on it, and why korech would be no good. Basically, the maror is dirabanan nowadays and the matza is doorayta, and somehow the maror will nullify the matzah. Rabbi Yochanan also says something interesting, as does the Rashbam. I hope to get back to this later.

Update: That gemara, Psachim 115a:

אמר רבינא אמר לי רב משרשיא בריה דרב נתן הכי אמר הלל משמיה דגמרא לא ניכרוך איניש מצה ומרור בהדי הדדי וניכול משום דסבירא לן מצה בזמן הזה דאורייתא ומרור דרבנן ואתי מרור דרבנן ומבטיל ליה למצה דאורייתא ואפילו למאן דאמר מצות אין מבטלות זו את זו ה"מ דאורייתא בדאורייתא או דרבנן בדרבנן אבל דאורייתא ודרבנן אתי דרבנן ומבטיל ליה לדאוריית' מאן תנא דשמעת לי' מצות אין מבטלות זו את זו הלל היא דתניא אמרו עליו על הלל שהיה כורכן בבת אחת ואוכלן שנאמר (במדבר ט) על מצות ומרורים יאכלוהו אמר רבי יוחנן חולקין עליו חביריו על הלל דתניא יכול יהא כורכן בבת אחת ואוכלן כדרך שהלל אוכלן תלמוד לומר על מצות ומרורים יאכלוהו אפילו זה בפני עצמו וזה בפני עצמו מתקיף לה רב אשי אי הכי מאי אפילו אלא אמר רב אשי האי תנא הכי קתני יכול לא יצא בהו ידי חובתו אא"כ כורכן בבת אחת ואוכלן כדרך שהלל אוכלן תלמוד לומר על מצות ומרורים יאכלוהו אפילו זה בפני עצמו וזה בפני עצמו השתא דלא איתמר הלכתא לא כהלל ולא כרבנן מברך על אכילת מצה ואכיל והדר מברך על אכילת מרור ואכיל והדר אכיל מצה וחסא בהדי הדדי בלא ברכה זכר למקדש כהלל

The key to the final halacha was the last statement, which perhaps is a stama digemara:

השתא דלא איתמר הלכתא לא כהלל ולא כרבנן מברך על אכילת מצה ואכיל והדר מברך על אכילת מרור ואכיל והדר אכיל מצה וחסא בהדי הדדי בלא ברכה זכר למקדש כהלל

Since there is no definitive statement lihalacha like Hillel and not like the Rabanan, you make the blessing "on eating matza" and eat, and then "on eating maror and eat it, and then eat matza and lettuce together with no blessing, as a zecher limikdash kiHillel.

Parsing the gemara: There are several phases in the gemara"

Ravina: everyone, even Hillel, would say you shouldn't do korech, since they hold maror is dirabanan nowadaysand matza is diorayta and the maror would nullify the matzah, so even according to the opinion that mitvot don't nullify each other out, here it would.

stama digmara: Ravina mentioned an opinion which held mitzvot do not nullify each other. Who is this? brings a brayta to answer this.

Brayta: Hillel differed with his colleages, in that he held (bizman bet hamikdash) that you should be korech, based on the pasuk "על מצות ומרורים יאכלוהו. {J: this parallels the idea in yerushalmi that the difference between Hillel and his colleagues was nullification. But it does not bring in the idea that with only two items, one will not nullify the other.}

R Yochanan (with interp of R Ashi): Says Rabanan argue on Hillel, and say that the Rabanan darshen "על מצות ומרורים יאכלוהו" to be that you can even do each by itself.

Rashbam makes a strange statement regarding the difference of opinion that led to this final "halacha limaaseh" of doing all three: that according to the brayta, there is nothing to hint that the Rabanan would hold korech is not good but according to Rabbi Yochanan, the Rabanan argue on Hillel and therefore say it was not good. So this doing all three things is based on Rabbi Yochanan's Rabanan.

I have several problems with this perhaps I will resolve. Sure, according to the brayta the Rabanan don't have a problem with Hillel. Firstly, it only states it from Hillel's perspective, so we don;t know how strong the Rabanan argue or do not with him. Secondly, the brayta was dealing specifically with korech bizman hamikdash, so we don't really know what they would say bizman hezeh. Except that the entire brayta was cited as regards to *Ravina's statement*, which implied that surely Rabanan and now even Hillel would say korech is not good bizman hazeh.
Thirdly, how would the Rabanan argue on Hillel saying it is NO good according to Rabbi Yochanan. According to his version, the Rabanan objected to the idea that if you did NOT do korech you did not fulfill the mitzvah. They had a drasha that EVEN (AFILU) if you ate each by itself you still fulfilled the requirement. Everything about Rabbi Yochanan's statement implies the Rabanan would AGREE to korech, and not the opposite. Finally, we see in Yerushalmi that Rabbi Yochanan would do korech, (it seems to me) as the ONLY way of fulfilling matza and maror. And that was supposed to be even according to the Rabanan. So it is unlikely that R Yochanan would be a source for saying Rabanan would not do korech.

If there is any source of argument prompting this final (stama?) halachic statement, it seems to me it should be the machloket according to Ravina. The problem with that is that according to Ravina, even Hillel would say do not do korech. So perhaps you could say (like the gemara says) that it is a zecher to what Hillel did in the time of the bet hamikdash.
But there is still a problem (which presumably prompted Rashbam to assign the machloket-blame to R Yochanan's view of the machloket Hillel and Rabanan) since the (stamaitic?) statement says that because we do not pasken explicitly like either *Hillel or Rabanan* (as opposed to, say, R Yochanan or Ravina), we do both. According to Ravina, we should not consider korech a possibility at all. And according to R Yochanan, there should be no problem doing korech.

So as regards to which Amora is the final statement of the gemara referring? It seems from the final statement that this is supposed to be a compromise, to be able to fulfill both shitot. So this cannot be Ravina, according to whom you do not gain anything from doing korech, so it is not according to him. And according to R Yochanan, you should do korech.

I currently entertain 3 possibilities.
1) I am entirely misunderstanding this gemara (and R Yochanan's opinion) and should go back to the drawing board.
2) It is really a compromise between Ravina and R Yochanan, on option only awkwardly supported by the text. That we say: Rabanan are firm according to Ravina that korech is no good. Hillel is firm according to R Yochanan that korech must be done. Since there is no statement lihalacha, between Hillel and Rabanan from the two different viewpoints, we compromise and do them all. (but then say Ravina and R Yochanan, and why say zecher?)
3) this last statement is a stamaitic statement from a stama who did not see R Yochanan's opinion in Yerushalmi (who held like the Rabanan he cited but nevertheless fulfilled the basic mitzvah through korech) and read R Yochanan's statement for some reason as a full machloket, between Rabanan and Hillel, and in the absence of a definitive halachic ruling, suggested a compromise to do both. Or, was noting existing custom and attempting to reconcole it with the gemara.

But, I've proved myself embarrassingly wrong in the past. I may be missing something obvious. And obviously, please don't rely on this discussion halacha limaaseh. Must ruminate upon this some more.

Update: Note that in Tos' discussion of the matter, and why we do not, for example do matzah and then immediately korech (because now matza is a reshut and would nullify the maror) seems to assume a Ravina basis.

Update: Another issue. Here R Yochanan, according to my reading (as opposed to that of Rashbam), would have Rabanan agree that korech is OK, because it is a matter of drashot of the pasuk. They would only possibly have said this with respect to korech during the bet hamikdash (because that is when the dispute took place). Yet in Yerushalmi (Shabbos) R Yochanan, at least according to the conclusion of the gemara, holds that Rabanan argue on Hillel bizman hamikdash (with a problem of nullification). R Yochanan's eating via korech is attributed to the fact that there are only two elements present rather than 3, so bittul does not take place. So there seems a machloket Bavli/Yerushalmi in which cases (bizman hamikdash and bizman hazeh) Rabanan would agree to Hillel, and furthermore in the reason R Yochanan would hold korech is OK according to the Rabanan. It is time to return to the yerushalmi I think.

Tzav #1:

The Haftara for this week's parsha begins in Yirmiyahu perek 7. There, Yirmiya refers to the valley of Ben Hinnom, the Gei Ben Hinnom, which gives rise to a Hebrew word referring to Hell, Gehenom (Gehenna). Yirmiyahu writes (7:30-31)

כִּי-עָשׂוּ בְנֵי-יְהוּדָה הָרַע בְּעֵינַי, נְאֻם-ה: שָׂמוּ שִׁקּוּצֵיהֶם, בַּבַּיִת אֲשֶׁר-נִקְרָא-שְׁמִי עָלָיו--לְטַמְּאוֹ.

וּבָנוּ בָּמוֹת הַתֹּפֶת, אֲשֶׁר בְּגֵיא בֶן-הִנֹּם, לִשְׂרֹף אֶת-בְּנֵיהֶם וְאֶת-בְּנֹתֵיהֶם, בָּאֵשׁ--אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוִּיתִי, וְלֹא עָלְתָה עַל-לִבִּי.

"For the children of Judah have done that which is evil in My sight, saith the LORD; they have set their detestable things in the house whereon My name is called, to defile it.
And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded not, neither came it into My mind."

What is being referred to here is the worship of Molech, a form of idolatry which often involved human sacrifice. A man would sacrifice his child, often his firstborn, to the fires of Molech.

Hashem does not command nor desire this type of sacrifice for Himself. As the pasuk states, "לֹא צִוִּיתִי, וְלֹא עָלְתָה עַל-לִבִּי", "which I commanded not, neither came it into My mind."

Indeed, the mind turns at the horror of sending one's child into the flames, (or into the burning hot metal arms of the idol), and the hardheartedness it takes to send one's child to his death. Indeed such a place is worthy of being the namesake of Hell.

Judaism does not beleive in human sacrifices. Avraham was an exception - it was a test of commitment that was never going to be followed through, since Hashem does not want such sacrifices. It was a defining moment at the beginning of a religion, showing that Hashem does not actually want such sacrifices. Yes, firstborn are dedicated to Hashem, as the original priestly caste, as acquired by Hashem via his sparing of the firstborn Jewish sons during the 10th plague, with a requirement to redeem the firstborn son, but if no redemption is made, the son is not killed. Hashem does not want human sacrifice and we see some of this distaste in the Haftara.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

1 More!

Hadran Alach Mi Shehaya Tameh! (9th perek yerushalmi pesachim)

Continuing the discussion below about the aleph in Vayikra being small.
I neglected to mention another letter that can serve at the end of a word with a kemetz following it - ה.

I mentioned the dots over letters as a notation to remove those letters, and a midrash explaining that Ezra placed dots over some letters/words that he was unsure should be in the text.

I happened across a Mishna and gemara that related to this in the 9th perek of yerushalmi pesachim, halacha bet:

ואיזהו דרך רחוקה מן המודיעית ולחוץ וכמידתה לכל רוח דברי ר' עקיבה ר' אליעזר אומר מאסקופת עזרה ולחוץ א"ר יוסי לפיכך נקוד על ה"א לומר לך מפני שהיא רחוקה ודאי אלא מאסקופת העזרה ולחוץ

There is a dispute as to the definition of a "derech rechoka" a faraway path, where one who does not bring the korban pesach brings one on Pesach Sheni. R Akiva gives names a place 5 mil from Yerushalayim, and the same distance in all directions. R Eliezer gives a much closer distance - right outside the Azara.

R Yose provides a textual justification for R Eliezer's opinion: That in Bemidbar 9:10 the pasuk states:

דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר: אִישׁ אִישׁ כִּי-יִהְיֶה-טָמֵא לָנֶפֶשׁ אוֹ בְדֶרֶךְ רְחֹקָה לָכֶם, אוֹ לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם, וְעָשָׂה פֶסַח, לַה.

and there is a dot over the heh in רְחֹקָה , which would imply that it should be read as if the heh were not there.

The gemara elaborates, with a dispute. Jumping into the middle:

ורבנן אמרי בשעה שהכתב רבה על הנקודות את דורש את הכתב ומסלק את הנקודה ובשעה שהנקודה רבה על הכתב את דורש את הנקודה ומסלק את הכתב. א"ר אע"פ שאין שם אלא נקודה אחת מלמעלן את דורש את הנקודה ומסלק את הכתב. ה"א שברחוקה נקוד איש רחוק ואין דרך רחוקה

I'm not going to explain this drasha now because the explanation I've seen seems slightly forced and yet the what I think the meaning is would require switching the shitot.

But, the Rabanan say that if a word has dots on some letters, to compare the amount of letters with dots and those without dots.

if lettersWithDots < lettersWithoutDots then
darshen the plain letters and remove the dotted letters // note 1
else if lettersWithDots > lettersWithoutDots then
darshen the dotted letter and remove the plain letters // note 2

Note 1: this is the case with Rechoka. I see it as the Korban HaEda elaborates. Remove the heh and you are left with Rachok.
Note 2: An example of this is ויאמרו אליו איה שרה אשתך in Bereishit 18:9, with dots on the word אליו on all letters but the lamed. Then the derasha is based on reading the word as if it were just lamed.

Rabbi disagrees and says even in the instance of a single dotted letter, such that lettersWithDots < lettersWithoutDots, you still darshen the dotted letter and ignore in that drasha the plain letters. Thus, Rechoka would just become a heh.

The gemara ends:

ה"א שברחוקה נקוד איש רחוק ואין דרך רחוקה:

This is where it gets a bit hairy. I would say that this entire statement is in accordance with the Rabanan - the heh of rechoka is dotted, so we remove it and get Rachok, and make the derasha that the man is distant, not the way. This deresha would then support the opinion of R Eliezer in the Mishna, that the man is not able to come, even if the way is not far, that he is right outside the azara. I'm not sure though that this works out in context.

Gotta go eat some dinner. Will leave with the following: there are 15 dotted words in Tanach, 10 in Torah, 4 in Neviim, 1 in Ketuvim. Here's a web page detailing them.

Four more!

Hadran Alach prakim 5-8 of yerushalmi psachim.

The shiur for 4 cups of wine

I'm learning through the gemaras, and trying to figure out how (and if) the halacha came to be a reviit per cup nowadays, rather than 1/4 of a reviit of actual wine per cup, mixed with enough water to make it taste ok.

Update: I learned the sugyot some more, and updated the web page, going through all the sugyot and showing how it is possible to learn them retaining the idea of a minimum total shiur of a reviit per cup. Still more to be looked at. Not to be relied upon halacha limaaseh.

Update: It is down for now while I make a number of major additions and structural changes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Vayikra #1: A funny thing happened to me on the way to the Tent of Meeting

Parshat Vayikra begins with the statement (Vayikra 1:1):

וַיִּקְרָא, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה; וַיְדַבֵּר ה אֵלָיו, מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר.
"The LORD called unto Moses, and spoke unto him out of the tent of meeting, saying:"

The translation is a bit off - literally, it is "He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him out of the tent of meeting saying."

An interesting thing about the first word, וַיִּקְרָא, is that the aleph is written small. The Baal HaTurim explains that Moshe, being humble, did not wish to write Vayikra, implying that Hashem called to him. Rather he wanted to write Vayekar, implying a chance occurrence. As a compromise, the aleph was written small.

A few parshiyot ago, in Ki Tisa, we read about how Moshe came down from Har Sinai and had a keren or, light emanating from his forehead.

Shemot 34:30,:
וַיַּרְא אַהֲרֹן וְכָל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶת-מֹשֶׁה, וְהִנֵּה קָרַן, עוֹר פָּנָיו; וַיִּירְאוּ, מִגֶּשֶׁת אֵלָיו.
וַיִּקְרָא אֲלֵהֶם מֹשֶׁה, וַיָּשֻׁבוּ אֵלָיו אַהֲרֹן וְכָל-הַנְּשִׂאִים בָּעֵדָה; וַיְדַבֵּר מֹשֶׁה, אֲלֵהֶם.
וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן נִגְּשׁוּ, כָּל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל; וַיְצַוֵּם--אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר ה אִתּוֹ, בְּהַר סִינָי.
וַיְכַל מֹשֶׁה, מִדַּבֵּר אִתָּם; וַיִּתֵּן עַל-פָּנָיו, מַסְוֶה.
וּבְבֹא מֹשֶׁה לִפְנֵי ה, לְדַבֵּר אִתּוֹ, יָסִיר אֶת-הַמַּסְוֶה, עַד-צֵאתוֹ; וְיָצָא, וְדִבֶּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֵת, אֲשֶׁר יְצֻוֶּה.
וְרָאוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶת-פְּנֵי מֹשֶׁה, כִּי קָרַן, עוֹר פְּנֵי מֹשֶׁה; וְהֵשִׁיב מֹשֶׁה אֶת-הַמַּסְוֶה עַל-פָּנָיו, עַד-בֹּאוֹ לְדַבֵּר אִתּוֹ.

"And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face sent forth beams; and they were afraid to come nigh him.
And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him; and Moses spoke to them.
And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh, and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai.
And when Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.
But when Moses went in before the LORD that He might speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out; and he came out; and spoke unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.
And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face sent forth beams; and Moses put the veil back upon his face, until he went in to speak with Him."

The midrash tells us that there was leftover ink in the writing of the Torah which Hashem smeared on Moshe's forehead, which was the source of this light.

Where did this extra ink come from? I would suggest from the smaller aleph, which was rooted in Moshe's humility. Baruch shekivanti - I see others have made the same suggestion.

I searched on the web and found a similar idea from the Or Hachayim. In parshat Bahaalotecha, Hashem defends Moshe saying he is an anav. The word anav is written chaser, without the yud. The Or Hachayim says this was because Moshe could not bring himself to write the full pasuk describing himself as such (the Rosh says the same). This extra ink from the yud was what shone from Moshe's head. This adds the extra twist that the humility was in not wanting to describe himself as humble, and so he gets accorded all this honor.

Without resorting to midrash, perhaps we might say that the aleph was written small to reflect a disagreement, not between Moshe and Hashem, but between variant texts, as to whether the aleph should be present or not. Elsewhere in Torah there are letters with dots over them reflecting Ezra the scribe's dilemma when unsure whether a letter or word should be in there. He wrote the words/letters and put dots over them. If they should be in there, they are in there, and if not, fear not, there are dots over them.

In both instances, the word will surely be Vayikra. The question is merely whether this Vayikra has the "em kriya" (mother of reading) letter aleph to denote the kametz sound.

We know from elsewhere that a kametz ָcan occur without a letter following it at the end of a word. For example, a Chuf Sofit, ך, can have a shva written under it to denote that it is the final sound, or else it can have a kametz. The letter tav, ת, at the end of a word, can have a kametz under it. This "ta" suffix frequently occurs in the perfect (past) masculine 2nd person singular verb. Occuasionally we find a nun sofit, ן, with a kametz written after it.

And here is the secret. We often find a resh at the end of a word with a kametz written under it. Specifically, the word נער, which is read נערה, naarah, young girl. In context where we find it it is clear that a young girl is referred to and not a young boy, a naar. Over and over we have a krei and ktiv notation, that the written consonantal text diverges from the text as it is read. But this can be seen as a matter of convention to convey this information, but in reality there is no dispute, just an archaic way to write resh kametz at the end of the word, and so the word according to both krei and ktiv is naarah.

Here as well, Vayikra has a resh at the end, followed by a kametz. Since the aleph serves as an "em hakriya" to denote the vowel sound, it is not pronounced, and so can elide in the written text as well. On the other hand the aleph is also there for historical reasons, being a root letter of the Hebrew word to call, kr`, קרא. Thus we can have a textual dispute in which the pronunciation is never in doubt.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

A short response to The Passion

Nope. I haven't watched it, though I've heard of one wince-inducing mistake - the consistent use of the word meshiacha to refer to the main character, which is not correct Hebrew or Aramaic. Hebrew has the patach ganuv before the chet, making the word Mashiach, while in Aramaic the kametz alef ending would have eliminated the patach ganuv, making the word Meshicha, rather than Meshiacha.

At any rate, I've received several spam emails offering me the book that inspired the movie, by Anna Catherine Emmerich, for only $19.95 (plus shipping and handling).

I figured that this book was probably available for free on Project Gutenberg, and so it is. Follow the link to read The Dolorous Passion...

When I first read it, I thought I would post my response in time for Purim, because it is somewhat amusing. But then I thought to dwell on it a while, to better formulate my response.

Basically, much of the gore, and anti-semitic content, of Gibson's movie is derived from this book. It purports to be an eye-witness account of the events leading up to and including the crucifixion, through the eyes of Sister Anna Catherine Emmerich, who had visions. While there are problems with the gospel accounts, I don't care to address them here.

However, the mistakes Sister Emmerich makes are obvious and somewhat funny. I feel compelled to point them out because they are trying to beatify her, which would grant more credence to her tale. Further, some folk's reaction to criticism of Gibson's movie is that it is based entirely on the gospels, so who are you to criticise our religious texts and tell us what to believe? It is important to point out that much of the details come from Emmerich's book, which is not the gospels, and should not be accepted.

Two awful mistakes. First, she describes the eating of the Paschal lamb:

All this time they remained standing, only leaning slightly on
the backs of their seats.

Most Jews would read this and remain puzzled. This is not an accurate description of how one would eat the korban pesach. From where did Emmerich get this? Then I gave it some thought and laughed.

One of the four questions asked at the Seder is: On all other nights we eat whether sitting or reclining, but on this night, we all recline.

"SheBechol HaLelot Anu Ochlin, Ben Yoshvin UVen Mesubin, HaLayla HaZeh, Kulanu Mesubin."

One would read this and think there is a choice between sitting and reclining. To recline thus entails not sitting. And if they were not sitting they must be standing.

In sooth, reclining (Heseba) is a much more relaxed posture than sitting. It means reclining on a couch. For example, one statement in Talmud Yerushalmi describes the position one must be in for Birchat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) {note: to not rely on this for actual practice}:

If one eats while walking, he should stand in place while saying Birchat HaMazon.
If one eats while standing, he should sit while saying Birchat HaMazon.
If one eats while sitting, he should recline while saying Birchat HaMazon.
If one eats while reclining, he should wrap himself {in a talit} while saying Birchat HaMazon.

Each one is a greater level of permanance (kviut). This is but an example. It is clear from all sources that reclining is not standing while leaning on the back of the chair, but it seems just as clear how Emmerich made the mistake. And she made this mistake based on misreading sources, not based on something she saw in a vision.

(The reason I found this extremely funny at first at this was that I imagined they were standing leaning on the backs of their chairs - that is the front part of their chair backs, which would have them contorting in a manner worthy of Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks. But it is also possible she meant the backs of the backs of their chairs. In which case the mental image is not as funny, but it is still based on a misunderstanding of sources.)

The second silly mistake is in her description of the sop, as a meant of identifying Judas as the betrayer:

He leaned then
on his breast and said: 'Lord, who is it?' I did not see Jesus say to him
with his lips: 'He it is to whom I shall reach bread dipped.' I do not know
whether he whispered it to him, but John knew it, when Jesus having
dipped the bread, which was covered with lettuce, gave it tenderly to
Judas, who also asked: 'Is it I, Lord?' Jesus looked at him with love, and
answered him in general terms. Among the Jews, to give bread dipped was
a mark of friendship and confidence; Jesus on this occasion gave Judas
the morsel, in order thus to warn him, without making known his guilt
to the others.

She clearly knows about dipping the lettuce, and the knows about a matzo and lettuce combination. However, this combination of *only* matzo and lettuce is a post-Temple invention, practiced for example by the Amora Rabbi Yochanan. In Temple times, those who did this (for example Hillel) made a sandwich of lamb, matzo, and maror (=lettuce). She is thus missing an essential ingredient of the sandwich. Further, the lettuce was not wrapped around the matzo!

Further, why does she assume the matzo is being dipped at all? And further, she makes up this nonsense: "Among the Jews, to give bread dipped was
a mark of friendship and confidence." This is just silly. So why does she do this?

In part, she is trying to describe the story in accordance with the traditional Christian understanding. In John 13:25-26 the verses state:

"He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?
Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon."

Now, the word "sop" (or whatever the word is in Greek) means "that which is dipped." Christian scholars, unfamiliar with Jewish practice, did not realize that this referred to "Karpas," which Jews dip at the seder. All they had to give them a definition was the rest of the Bible. They found Ruth 2:14:

וַיֹּאמֶר לָה בֹעַז לְעֵת הָאֹכֶל, גֹּשִׁי הֲלֹם וְאָכַלְתְּ מִן-הַלֶּחֶם, וְטָבַלְתְּ פִּתֵּךְ, בַּחֹמֶץ; וַתֵּשֶׁב, מִצַּד הַקֹּצְרִים, וַיִּצְבָּט-לָהּ קָלִי, וַתֹּאכַל וַתִּשְׂבַּע וַתֹּתַר
"And Boaz said unto her at meal-time: 'Come hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar.' And she sat beside the reapers; and they reached her parched corn, and she did eat and was satisfied, and left thereof."

Thus bread is something that is dipped, and so Jesus must have dipped bread - or matza in this case. In what did he dip it? They thought in a maror (bitter herb) sauce.

The sister is trying to harmonize traditional Christian understandings with other things she has learned about how Jews conduct a seder, and so she still has the matzo dipped, but it is dipped while inside a peice of lettuce.

Poor Planning...

The first Passion-related violence, though he apparently did not watch the movie:

Via OpinionJournal's Best of The Web via the Press Herald:

A Hartland man was treated at a Pittsfield hospital after he nailed himself to a cross. The 23-year-old man apparently was trying to commit suicide Thursday evening in his living room, the Bangor Daily News reported.


Lt. Pierre Boucher said the man took two pieces of wood, nailed them together in the form of a cross and placed them on the floor. He attached a suicide sign to the wood and then proceeded to nail one of his hands to the makeshift cross using a 14-penny nail and a hammer.

"When he realized that he was unable to nail his other hand to the board, he called 911," Boucher said.

It was unclear whether the man was seeking assistance for his injury or help in nailing down his other hand.


I was looking at the beginning of this week's parsha, and saw something interesting regarding the laws of Shabbos.

The parsha begins with the statement (Shemot 35:1):
וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה, אֶת-כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם: אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה ה, לַעֲשֹׂת אֹתָם.
"And Moses assembled all the congregation of the children of Israel, and said unto them: 'These are the words which the LORD hath commanded, that ye should do them."

What things were they to do? Moshe commands them in the next few psukim about the laws of Shabbos, specifically what they are *not* to do. This seems more like a command *to do* something. (Although probably we should do a search to see how often this phrase occurs before a prohibition.)

Further, to nitpick some more, why the plural אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים? Work during the week but not on Shabbos, and specifically don't light fires on Shabbos? What justifies the plural?

The parsha continues:
שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים, תֵּעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי יִהְיֶה לָכֶם קֹדֶשׁ שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן, לַה; כָּל-הָעֹשֶׂה בוֹ מְלָאכָה, יוּמָת.
"Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of solemn rest to the LORD; whosoever doeth any work therein shall be put to death."

Is this a commandment to do work during the 6 days? It is interesting that the pasuk does not say "you shall do work," taaseh, but rather "work shall be done," teaseh. Is there a concern here that specific work shall be done.

Moshe then tells them to collect the materials for building the Mishkan: (35:4-5 etc.)
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה, אֶל-כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר: זֶה הַדָּבָר, אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה ה לֵאמֹר.
קְחוּ מֵאִתְּכֶם תְּרוּמָה, לַיהוָה, כֹּל נְדִיב לִבּוֹ, יְבִיאֶהָ אֵת תְּרוּמַת ה: זָהָב וָכֶסֶף, וּנְחֹשֶׁת.
"And Moses spoke unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: 'This is the thing which the LORD commanded, saying
Take ye from among you an offering unto the LORD, whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, the LORD'S offering: gold, and silver, and brass;"

And finally, after this instruction, (pasuk 20)
וַיֵּצְאוּ כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מִלִּפְנֵי מֹשֶׁה.
"And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses."

So these two sets of instructions, that of Shabbos and that of building the Mishkan, were both told by Moshe when the people were gathered in front of him. It is a bit strange to lump these two commandments together.

After the people bring the materials, specifically, the materials for all the work (לְכָל-הַמְּלָאכָה - pasuk 29) Hashem tells Moshe that he has called by name Betzalel (pasuk 30), and they take the material and start doing the work. Consistently, this work is referred to as melacha, which is the same word used above for acts of work on Shabbos: תֵּעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה.

My suggestion is that the reason the two statements are linked, and not just linked in terms of regular juxtaposition of parshiyot (smuchim) but actually were the two things Moshe said together, is that the item is really one.

Moshe is outlining to them the materials and work necessary for the construction of the Mishkan, and prefaces this with a statement that this assemboing of the Mishkan does not push off Shabbos. Thus, the use of the passive. Six days the work of the construction of the Mishkan shall be done - not necessarily by any individual, but the contruction is something that should be ongoing. Except, during Shabbos, construction should stop, with capital punishment for any who continue working.

Chazal (or some of Chazal at least) say something almost the same - that from the juxtaposition of the two parshiyot, we learn that the prohibited acts on Shabbos are those used in the construction of the Mishkan.

I can see this as pashut pshat. On Shabbos, there is a general prohibition of work, as we see elsewhere. Here, we learn that this prohibition encompasses the work required to construct the Mishkan. So those are acts which are prohibited. And if these acts are forbidden even in order to create the Mishkan, they will certainly be forbidden if one does them for his own purposes.

Two more!

Hadran Alach VeElu Ovrin! Hadran Alach Makom SheNahagu! (3rd, 4rd perek yerushalmi psachim)

Friday, March 12, 2004

Another perek!

Hadran Alach Perek Kol Sha'ah! (2nd perek yerushalmi psachim)

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Parshat Ki Tisa

Jonathan refers to an interesting possible "Al Tikra" in Shemot 32:5, in parashat Ki Tisa, so I thought I'd have a crack at it. The pasuk describes Aharon's decision to go along with the populace and contruct for them an altar to worship the golden calf:

וַיַּרְא אַהֲרֹן, וַיִּבֶן מִזְבֵּחַ לְפָנָיו; וַיִּקְרָא אַהֲרֹן וַיֹּאמַר, חַג לַה מָחָר
"And when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said: 'To-morrow shall be a feast to the LORD.'"

Now, the midrash Shemot Rabba (parsha 51:7) discusses this pasuk. It states:
The Rabanan said: The Satan found his hand{grip} at that time, {that he showed an apparition} that Moshe appeared suspended between heaven and earth, and they saw him suspended in the middle, and they said "Ki Ze Moshe HaIsh."

Slight interjection here: This is from the first pasuk in the perek, Shemot 32:1:

וַיַּרְא הָעָם, כִּי-בֹשֵׁשׁ מֹשֶׁה לָרֶדֶת מִן-הָהָר; וַיִּקָּהֵל הָעָם עַל-אַהֲרֹן, וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו קוּם עֲשֵׂה-לָנוּ אֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר יֵלְכוּ לְפָנֵינוּ--כִּי-זֶה מֹשֶׁה הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלָנוּ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, לֹא יָדַעְנוּ מֶה-הָיָה לוֹ.
"And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him: 'Up, make us a god who shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him.'"

The drasha is on "כִּי-זֶה מֹשֶׁה הָאִישׁ" or more specifically on the word Zeh, for whenever Ze appears, Chazal can take it as pointing out something that is before them. (Thus for example people developed the custom to point at the Torah while saying VeZot HaTorah.) Thus Moshe was before them and this somehow compelled them to made the golden calf. Back to the midrash.

At that time, Chur stood up to them and said to them, Cut-Necks {that is, people running around in a frenzy as if your heads were lopped off}, do you not recall what miracles God did for you? Immediately they arose upon him and killed him. They entered unto Aharon as it states "וַיִּקָּהֵל הָעָם עַל-אַהֲרֹן," they gathered unto Aharon (earlier in pasuk 1). And they told him, just as we have done to this one, so we shall do to you {if you do not comply. Now I will switch briefly to Hebrew and then translate.}

כיון שראה אהרון כך נתירא שנאמר וַיַּרְא אַהֲרֹן, וַיִּבֶן מִזְבֵּחַ לְפָנָיו - מהו מִזְבֵּחַ? מן הזבוח שלפניו

Once Aharon saw this he feared, as it states "And when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it;" What is meant by {mizbeach} "altar?" From {min} the one who was slaughtered {zavuach} who was before him.

Now, an analysis. In this last verse, there are several reinterpretations going on. First is the dual rendition of וַיַּרְא as "saw" and "feared." The Midrash writes once he "saw" he "feared." This choice of language is most probably deliberate. Second, no explicit here, but put in *parentheses* in Rashi, which means Rashi probably did not write it but rather some commentator (Rashi btw is citing Vayikra Rabba according to my chumash.) is וַיִּבֶן from the word Binah - to understand. This is nice but not necessary. Next, מִזְבֵּחַ. This refers to Chur who was just executed. Finally, לְפָנָיו in the plain meaning of the verse means "before the golden calf." Now it is being reinterpreted to mean "before Aharon."

Jonathan refers to Richard Friedman, who says that the verse was probably vowelized incorrectly, and the word should be Vayira, "and he feared." I did not read Friedman inside, but I can try to guess at his intent. Friedman was probably referring to this midrash, and this thus explains the fear - Aharon feared execution. Nor should we say the text is vowelized incorrectly. I referred earlier to the concept of "Al Tikra." This is an exegetical technique in which words are deliberately revowelized. A famous one in midrash rabba for this parsha is explicit - the verse states that the words of the 10 commandments were "Charus," "engraved," upon the two tablets. Chazal pull an "Al Tikra" - don't real, and say Al Tikra Charus Ela Cheirus, "read not Charus (engraved) but Cheirus (freedom)." They do not mean that when one reads the Torah in shul one should read Cherus rather than Charus. Rather, the text in the Torah lacks nikud. In fact our orthographic signs for nikud probably were developed post-Talmudicly. Until that point the vowelization was passed down as oral tradition. As an exegetical device, one could revowelize the consonantal text and get a new meaning.

Our midrash here retains the original vowelization, of seeing, and adds another vowelization, of fear. Could the vowelization have been incorrect? Unlikely, unless the consonants are also wrong. You see, the word "He saw" is written וירא, with a single yud, while "He feared" is written ויירא, with two yuds. So they differ even in their consonants. For an example of "He feared," see for example Bereishit 32:8:

וַיִּירָא יַעֲקֹב מְאֹד, וַיֵּצֶר לוֹ; וַיַּחַץ אֶת-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-אִתּוֹ, וְאֶת-הַצֹּאן וְאֶת-הַבָּקָר וְהַגְּמַלִּים--לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת.
"Then Jacob was greatly afraid and was distressed. And he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and the herds, and the camels, into two camps."

The reason for this difference is that the root "saw" in Hebrew is ראה while the root fear is ירא. The first yud in both words denotes third person masculine singular in the imperfect form. Then, the root follows. This yud would not be dropped in, for it is a root letter, unless it were written quite irregularly. It is fine for an "Al Tikra" derivation though; maintaining the consonants and writing acceptable vowels would put a chirik chaser (short iy sound) under the yud. More correct would be a chirik maleh (full iy sound), which is also quite acceptable as Al Tikras go.

This reminds me of another, similar midrash I saw many years ago in a book "Yalkut Midreshei Teiman" (Anthology of Yemenite Midrashim). The first pasuk in parshat Balak, in Bemidbar 22:2, we read:
וַיַּרְא בָּלָק, בֶּן-צִפּוֹר, אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה יִשְׂרָאֵל, לָאֱמֹרִי.
"And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites."

Here too וַיַּרְא is interpreted as "fear." Balak feared as a result of what Israel had done to the Emorites.
The source of the midrash does not appear (at least at first glance) to be an Al Tikra. Rather, they note that the Alef of וַיַּרְא does not have a mapik, so here it means "feared" as opposed to "saw."

Now, I have asked around and no one ever saw this Yemenite mapik aleph. We certainly have no such creature in our tradition - only a mapik heh. But I think I can explain what this means. A mapik in the letter ה at the end of a word denotes that it is pronounced. Otherwise it is assumed to be an אם קריאה, a letter that helps along pronunciation be denoting a vowel sound. The Imot HaKriah are Aleph, Vav, Heh, and Yud. (Such would be especially useful in the absence of an orthography for vowelization.) So even though ה usually is pronounced h, at the end of a word without a dot it is not pronounced at all.

In terms of aleph, we are used to not pronouncing it at all anywhere, but it really is pronounced as a glottal stop. Sometimes it is pronounced - it the beginning of a word, or where there is a vowel under it, or where there is a shva nach (unpronounced resting shwa) under it in the middle of a word. Other times it is not pronounced.

(Digression: In Birchat HaMazon, in the last paragraph, by the way, is the word Yiru. Most people pronounce it Yir-`u. But, the aleph there is not pronounced. We know this because there is a shva under the yud, which makes the beginning of the next syllable the resh. So then we have Resh Aleph Shuruk. There is no vowel for the aleph, and it really completely elides, so it is "Ru." The pronunciation is therefore Ye-Ru. So this is a nice example of unpronounced Aleph. Undigress.)

In the word וַיַּרְא, there is no vowel that the Aleph at the end should serve as an Em Kriah for. So, it is either historical baggage showing the root but completely unpronounced, or else it is meant to be pronounced. We see other words with such Consonant Clusters at the end. Consider ירד, Yard, with a shva nach (resting shva) under the resh. This would then be VaYar`, with the ` being the glottal stop. How can we distinguish this pronounced Aleph from the Aleph functioning as an em HaKriah? With a mapik, just as we do a heh. Apparently this midrash worked with texts that marked each of these final pronounced alephs with a mapik.

In contrast, if the word were VaYiyra`, וַיִּירָא, the Aleph at the end would probably not be pronounced. While a etymological carry-over, the kametz vowel under the resh needs to be denoted in some way when you do not have vowel marks, so the Aleph would serve as an Em HaKriya.

(You can probably prove that this Aleph was not pronounced. If it were, it would be a closed syllable, which would then perhaps demand a patach rather than a kametz - like Vayigash has a patach rather than kametz. Further, if it is an open syllable it would often (depending on the cantillation) impact the plosiveness/fricativeness of bgdkpt in the next word. We can search to determine if it does so.)

Thus they say the lack of the mapik denotes that it means fear. Whether this was accompanied with the Al Tikra now supported by the Aleph being an Em HaKria, or just by the irregularity of it, we can only guess.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

A perek!

Hadran Alach Or LeArba Asar! (1st perek yerushalmi pesachim)

A response to Naomi Chana's Purim Post

You can read the post in full here. I'm just going to respond to select portions of it:

The most obvious is the not-even-remotely Hebrew name of its heroine: "Esther," the rabbinic tradition claims, comes from a Hebrew word meaning "hiddenness" or "concealment." (And if you buy that, I have a nice ziggurat for sale in Shushan -- but I'm getting to that in a minute.)
Perhaps I might be interested in a timeshare in that ziggurat. While Esther and Mordechai are indeed the names Ishtar and Marduk, that does not (nor should not) preclude the name Esther having Hebrew connotations. It is only if you think that pshat means that a word can have one and only one meaning that you would think it could not have another connotation.

Let me give an example. Say I were writing a story about a creative type and called him Art. It is a perfectly normal American name, but that should not stop someone from analyzing my story and (correctly) concluding that I intended a pun. Similarly, imagine I wrote a story about someone counting ballots in Florida and named him Chad.

There is some compelling evidence that this happens in Tanach. Consider that out of 6 sets of brothers who die prematurely in Tanach, all of 4, Er, Onan, Machlon and Kilyan all have names with connotations of being cut off and killed. (Nadav and Avihu do not.) {Update Feb 2005: While Nadav and Avihu do not, Nadav means "voluntary offering" and Avihu means "I will bring (as an offering) him." These two, besides being Kohanim, died when bringing incense on the altar which was not commanded to be brought.} This is how Chazal see it. Modern scholars will try to give alternate etymologies for the names, but come on! The names might have a true etymologies, but the punning in the name is clearly an intended level inherent in the text.

Let us turn to Esther. The text of Megillat Esther itself informs us that this was not her true, Hebrew name. Her Hebrew name was Hadassah. What role did the name "Esther" play in the sefer? It is Clark Kent for Superman. Esther has an assumed identity. She is told by Mordechai to conceal her Jewish identity, and she does so:

Esther 2:10: Esther had not made known her people nor her kindred; for Mordecai had charged her that she should not tell it.

A Jewish name like Hadassah would have let everyone know she was a Jewess. Thus, the name that *conceals* her identity is Esther, which in Hebrew would connote hiddenness. And we know from elsewhere that this type of punning, dual etymologies, and multivalence exist, and so I would not dismiss this etymology of Chazal out of hand.

{Update March 2005: Nor is it really clear that Chazal really offer this etymology. Rather, in context, Chazal are seeking hints to Moshe, Haman, Mordechai and Esther in the text of the Chumash - Moshe in Bereishit before Moshe is actually mentioned, or else it would be trivial. The gemara in Bavli Chullin 139b:
משה מן התורה מנין (בראשית ו)
בשגם הוא בשר
המן מן התורה מנין
(בראשית ג) המן העץ
אסתר מן התורה מנין
(דברים לא) ואנכי הסתר אסתיר
מרדכי מן התורה מנין
דכתיב (שמות ל) מר דרור
ומתרגמינן מירא דכיא
Moshe from the Torah, where?
Bereishit 6:3:
ג וַיֹּאמֶר ה, לֹא-יָדוֹן רוּחִי בָאָדָם לְעֹלָם, בְּשַׁגַּם, הוּא בָשָׂר; וְהָיוּ יָמָיו, מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה. 3 And the LORD said: 'My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for that he also is flesh; therefore shall his days be a hundred and twenty years.'
{and as Rashi there explains, בְּשַׁגַּם is the gematria [obtained by adding up the value of the letters] of Moshe, since you already have the shin and mem in both, and bet + gimmel = 2 + 3 = heh = 5. Further, Rashi points out that, as the pasuk continues, Moshe lived to 120 years, as we see in Devarim 34:7:

ז וּמֹשֶׁה, בֶּן-מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה--בְּמֹתוֹ; לֹא-כָהֲתָה עֵינוֹ, וְלֹא-נָס לֵחֹה. 7 And Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.
Haman from the Torah, where?
Bereishit 3:11:

יא וַיֹּאמֶר--מִי הִגִּיד לְךָ, כִּי עֵירֹם אָתָּה; הֲמִן-הָעֵץ, אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִיךָ לְבִלְתִּי אֲכָל-מִמֶּנּוּ--אָכָלְתָּ. 11 And He said: 'Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?'

{so we can revowelize hamin to be Haman. Further, as Rashi points out there, Haman was hung from the etz from which he intended to hang Mordechai.}

Esther from the Torah, where? Devarim 31:18:

יח וְאָנֹכִי, הַסְתֵּר אַסְתִּיר פָּנַי בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, עַל כָּל-הָרָעָה, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה: כִּי פָנָה, אֶל-אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים. 18 And I will surely hide My face in that day for all the evil which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.
{and as Rashi points out there, in the days described in the Megilla, Hashem hid his face.}

Modechai from the Torah, where? {Rashi adds, Mordechai's greatness, from where?}
For it says (in Shemot 30:23)

כג וְאַתָּה קַח-לְךָ, בְּשָׂמִים רֹאשׁ, מָר-דְּרוֹר חֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת, וְקִנְּמָן-בֶּשֶׂם מַחֲצִיתוֹ חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתָיִם; וּקְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם, חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתָיִם. 23 'Take thou also unto thee the chief spices, of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty,
and the Targum for it says Mara Dachya. {=approximately Mordechai, and as Rashi says, this shows Mordechai's greatness, that he was "chief of the spices"}
Now, no one would look at this Gemara and think that it is trying to say that the reason Moshe was called that was because it is a reference to BeSheGam, and since he would live to 120 years. After all, we have an explicit pasuk in parshat Shemot giving the etymology of Moshe's name. Nor would anyone think that Haman was named so because it mean "Did you from?" and the reference to a tree. Rather, the midrash in the gemara is showing how these characters, and something about their natures, are being hinted at in the Torah. It is not trying to pull the wool over our eyes that this was the etymology of Moshe, or Haman, or Mordechai, or Esther. The only way you can think this is if you did not see the gemara inside, but rather heard tell of it from someone else. That is, Chazal do not really have a ziggurat to sell you.
// end update

Then, Naomi Chana writes:
The rabbinic tradition, never at a loss for words, instead opted to make a silk purse out of a (you should excuse the expression) sow's ear. Purim was a hidden miracle, they proclaimed, and that was the whole point. The missing $DEITY was a feature, not a bug. Purim formed a matched set with the "open" miracle of Hanukkah; in the Purim story, God was working from below rather than from above. Esther and Mordechai, of course, knew that God was present all along, but Ahasuerus and Haman and most of the Persian Empire did just fine with the exterior account, the one where the king's gorgeous new wife manipulated him into terminating a trusted advisor and hiring her cousin in his place.
But, it is not the Rabbis who introduce the concept of the hidden role of God. It is present in the megillah itself!
Mordechai says in Esther 4:13-14:
וַיֹּאמֶר מָרְדֳּכַי, לְהָשִׁיב אֶל-אֶסְתֵּר: אַל-תְּדַמִּי בְנַפְשֵׁךְ, לְהִמָּלֵט בֵּית-הַמֶּלֶךְ מִכָּל-הַיְּהוּדִים.
כִּי אִם-הַחֲרֵשׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי, בָּעֵת הַזֹּאת--רֶוַח וְהַצָּלָה יַעֲמוֹד לַיְּהוּדִים מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר, וְאַתְּ וּבֵית-אָבִיךְ תֹּאבֵדוּ; וּמִי יוֹדֵעַ--אִם-לְעֵת כָּזֹאת, הִגַּעַתְּ לַמַּלְכוּת.
"Then Mordecai bade them to return answer unto Esther: 'Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews.
For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father's house will perish; and who knoweth whether thou art not come to royal estate for such a time as this?'"

Why does Mordechai think that salvation will come for the Jews from another place, but she and her father's house will perish? He clearly believes that God is behind the scenes pulling the strings. Esther is one way God can effect salvation, but not necessarily the only one. Further if she does not cooperate, she and her father's house shall perish, in punishment from God for not acting.

Also, he says "and who knoweth whether thou art not come to royal estate for such a time as this?" That is, the *reason* she arose to this position of power may well have been to save the Jews now. That is, God was working behind the scenes to make all this happen, working His mechinations to get Vashti dethroned and Esther in power.

Esther also believes God is running the show, which there is an element of natural law. She is afraid if she comes before the king unannounced she will be executed, but hopes that Hashem will make her find favor in Achashverosh's eyes. Thus, in the next verses, 16-17:
וַתֹּאמֶר אֶסְתֵּר, לְהָשִׁיב אֶל-מָרְדֳּכָי.
לֵךְ כְּנוֹס אֶת-כָּל-הַיְּהוּדִים הַנִּמְצְאִים בְּשׁוּשָׁן, וְצוּמוּ עָלַי וְאַל-תֹּאכְלוּ וְאַל-תִּשְׁתּוּ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים לַיְלָה וָיוֹם--גַּם-אֲנִי וְנַעֲרֹתַי, אָצוּם כֵּן; וּבְכֵן אָבוֹא אֶל-הַמֶּלֶךְ, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-כַדָּת, וְכַאֲשֶׁר אָבַדְתִּי, אָבָדְתִּי.

"Then Esther bade them return answer unto Mordecai.
'Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day; I also and my maidens will fast in like manner; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish."

Thus, she fears for her life, and her solution is that the Jews should fast. How in natural law is this to help? The answer, on a pshat level, is that God might appreciate the Jew's fasting and intervene to make sure that Achashverosh does not kill her.

Now, this is a very narrow section of the megillah, but the entire megillah was written by one hand. This hand sees the hidden miracle in God's controlling of Fate to bring Esther to power, and the effect of the Jews' fasting. When that hand writes the rest of the megillah, with Vashti thrown out of power, and the parties and what have you, the same intent is present.

Chazal just make it explicit, but the hidden miracle is the pashut pshat of the megillah.

Monday, March 08, 2004

A few more prakim!

Hadran Alach prakim 19-20 of yerushalmi shabbos, and 21-24 of mishnayos shabbos.
On to Pesachim, being as it is 30 days before Pesach. :)

A great quote

from a US Marine responding to a reporter's attempt to spin a story:

Asked how he knew the man killed was a gunman, Gurganus said: "He had a gun, and he was shooting at Marines. That's what I call a gunman."


Thursday, March 04, 2004

More prakim!

Hadran Alach prakim 10-18 of yerushalmi shabbos!

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Tetzaveh #1: A populist midrash

There is a great midrash I saw in Midrash Rabba on Tetzaveh.
It is a drasha attached to the first pasuk of revii in parshat Tetzaveh, Shemot 29:1:
וְזֶה הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר-תַּעֲשֶׂה לָהֶם, לְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתָם--לְכַהֵן לִי: לְקַח פַּר אֶחָד בֶּן-בָּקָר, וְאֵילִם שְׁנַיִם--תְּמִימִם.
"And this is the thing that thou shalt do unto them to hallow them, to minister unto Me in the priest's office: take one young bullock and two rams without blemish"

To summarize the midrash: If we look at Vayikra, 4th perek, Moshe gives the Nasi (prince) who sinned inadvertantly and the annointed Cohen HaGadol (high priest) who sinned accidentally a way to atone, via a sin-offering.

That is, in Vayikra 4:3: אִם הַכֹּהֵן הַמָּשִׁיחַ יֶחֱטָא
and in Vayikra 4:22: אֲשֶׁר נָשִׂיא, יֶחֱטָא

The people protested that the princes and high priest has a method of atonement. What method do we have?

Moshe immediately replied with sacrifices for if the entire people sin:
Vayikra 4:13: וְאִם כָּל-עֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, יִשְׁגּוּ

They replied, "we are poor and we do not have the means to bring sacrifices." Moshe replied (for Hashem) "Devarim- (=things/words) I require of you, as it states in Hoshea 14:3: קְחוּ עִמָּכֶם דְּבָרִים, וְשׁוּבוּ אֶל-ה
"Take with you words, and return unto the LORD"

{Note: often people note the end of the verse for the derivation. The full verse is:
קְחוּ עִמָּכֶם דְּבָרִים, וְשׁוּבוּ אֶל-ה; אִמְרוּ אֵלָיו, כָּל-תִּשָּׂא עָו‍ֹן וְקַח-טוֹב, וּנְשַׁלְּמָה פָרִים, שְׂפָתֵינוּ.
"Take with you words, and return unto the LORD; say unto Him: 'Forgive all iniquity, and accept that which is good; so will we render for bullocks the offering of our lips."

The more famous derivation is from וּנְשַׁלְּמָה פָרִים, שְׂפָתֵינוּ, so will we render for bullocks the offering of our lips.

Further, devarim-words means Torah, states the midrash, as Devarim 1:1 states:
אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּעֵבֶר, הַיַּרְדֵּן: בַּמִּדְבָּר בָּעֲרָבָה מוֹל סוּף בֵּין-פָּארָן וּבֵין-תֹּפֶל, וְלָבָן וַחֲצֵרֹת--וְדִי זָהָב.
"These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel beyond the Jordan; in the wilderness, in the Arabah, over against Suph, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab."

So, that means that learning Torah atones.

They said to Moshe: We do not know Torah.
He replied (Moshe on behalf of Hashem), "Cry and pray before Me, and I shall accept. Your fathers when they were enslaved in Egypt, was it not through prayer that I redeemed them, as it states in Shemot 20: "And the Jews groaned from the work and cried out." In the days of Yehoshua did I not do for them miracles, as it states (Joshua 7): and Yehoshua tore his clothing... {and there he prays}. In the days of the Judges, via crying I heard their cry as it states in Shoftim 6, "and it was when the Jews cried out to Hashem." In the days of Shmuel did I not listen as a result of prayer as it states in 1 Shmuel 7: And Shmuel cried out to Hashem on behalf of the Jews. And so too the men of Yerushalayim although they angered me, because they cried before me I had mercy on them, as it states in Yirmiyahu 31:6 So says Hashem sing with gladness for Jacob. {The reference is probably to how it continues, in verse 8: בִּבְכִי יָבֹאוּ, וּבְתַחֲנוּנִים אוֹבִילֵם - They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them.}

Thus, prayer is offered as an alternative to learning.
This seems to me to be a very populist midrash. We begin with the elite - princes and high priests. The people protest that they should also have a way to repent. Moshe says that they can bring sin-offerings. This is not inclusive enough, for poor people cannot afford offerings. Moshe tells them they can learn Torah, which is accessible to all. However, they protest that the unlearned do not know Torah. He then offers prayer which is available to all.

The midrash then gives a historical precedent for prayer throughout the ages, through the mouth of Moshe, even though he precedes all but one of the examples. I've seen this phenomenon elsewhere in midrash, where an statement is placed in someone's mouth, with an appeal to historical "precedent" which postdates the speaker and listener.

Another interesting thing about this midrash is Moshe's response. He tells the people of the communal sin-offering if ALL the congregation sins inadvertantly. This is strange for two reasons. First, they protest that people who are poor cannot afford this, which does not work out because this is a single offering given by the elders on behalf of the entire community, not by each individual. Also, the giving of the command is BETWEEN that of the sin-offering of the prince and high-priest (see above - it is 4:13, which is between 4:3 and 4:22). So Moshe gave them this law, according to the simple chronology of the verses, before that of the prince. So when could they protest.

The answer might be that the midrash meant to cite verse 27:
וְאִם-נֶפֶשׁ אַחַת תֶּחֱטָא בִשְׁגָגָה, מֵעַם הָאָרֶץ
"And if any one of the common people sin through error"

This follows the law for the high-priest and prince, and involves a sacrifice for each individual, which could then be too expensive for a poor person.

Now, what is the tie-in to the verse? The entire segment begins from that verse in Hoshea, but perhaps it is the word Devarim, paralleling וְזֶה הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר-תַּעֲשֶׂה לָהֶם, "And this is the thing that thou shalt do unto them to hallow them."

Also, that verse describes the offering as one young cow and two rams. Rashi notes this is to atone for the golden calf. The midrash rabba earlier seems to suggest as well that this is to atone for the golden calf, except with the extra twist that they did not worship the golden calf yet, so it was sort of anticipatory (also we usually figure this parsha happened after the golden calf). Neither source says it is a chatas - sin offering, since this is only for unintentional sins, but rather since both were cows, one is coming to atone for the other.

The golden calf would be a communal sin, done by the the high priest, the princes, and the entire populace (so in this respect the communal offering fits better with the context of the golden calf). Except, the offerings in Vayikra were sin offerings for unintentional sins, and the golden calf was intentional, so I find this slightly strange.

Unless we consider the cow for the miluim was a generalized sin-offering (chatas) for the high priest, and this brought up the general issue of sin offerings.

I also found it interesting that Torah is given as an option before prayer as a method of atonement, though this could be a result of the populist theme, moving to things that more people can do.

Monday, March 01, 2004

the set of yerushalmi I got can be seen (and bought) at this web site.

They have put a large portion of it online, and are working on a translation into english, which it seems they also want to put online.
They don't show what pages of it look like inside on that web site, though.

Update: looks like the same site has bavli online. e.g.


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