Sunday, January 29, 2006

Daf Yomi: Pesachim 2a - Naghei vs. Leilei - Based on Location?

The gemara concludes that the difference between naghei and leilei is a dialectal distiction, based on the language of the place of each person, but both Rav Huna and Rav Yehuda meant night.

Firstly, is this a coverup? Perhaps Rav Huna actually meant "day," and is simply wrong, or meant "day" and was correct, in either case basing himself on sources implying that or meant day? Just because we "prove" that Or in the Mishna means night does not necessarily entail both Amoraim being correct. On occassion, in case of dispute, an Amora is found to be wrong.

Perhaps one might answer that here, because Or meaning night is so obvious (since the third Mishna uses Or Arba'a Asar as opposed to the later Arba'a Asar Shacharit), one could not imagine that Rav Huna got this wrong.

On the other hand, it would help is there was some independent evidence that naghei can mean night.

Indeed, we find this evidence in the statement of Abaye. On Pesachim 4a, we have:

אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק בשעה שבני אדם מצויין בבתיהם ואור הנר יפה לבדיקה
אמר אביי הילכך האי צורבא מרבנן לא לפתח בעידניה באורתא דתליסר דנגהי ארבסר דלמא משכא ליה שמעתיה ואתי לאימנועי ממצוה
To translate Abaye: Therefore a Torah scholar should not begin his regular learning seder at oreta (evening) of the 13th which is the naghei (night) of the 14th, lest his learning draw him in and he come to neglect the precept (of searching for chametz).

There seems to be a distinction between oreta and naghei, such that one belongs to the 13th and the other to the 14th, which is worthy of discussion in a separate post. (Which might mean a major difference between the girsa of Or Arba'a Asar vs. Or leArba'a Asar, and furthermore might turn the Rav Huna and Rav Yehuda into actual disputants! But this is for the separate post.)

But see! Abaye uses naghei specifically to mean the night of the 14th - that is, since Hebrew calendar days begin at night, the night of the 14th is the naghei of the 14th. Rashi helpfully translates this as the leil of the 14th.

So there is no coverup.

However. And it is a big however.

There seems to be a major problem saying mar ki atrei umar ki atrei, that each spoke based on the language of his place.

First, as I advanced in the previous post, Rav Yehuda is not just explaining it using the language of his place, but is echoing the words of the academy of Shmuel. Since each learned under Shmuel, it is likely that they are both repeating his explanation. Indeed, the academy at Pumpedita, founded by Rav Yosef, was a replacement for Shmuel's academy at Nehardea, which was destroyed, and thus this a continuation of the tradition.

Second, and most importantly, we must know a bit about these people and where they live. Many of these were the heads of academies.

Abaye, who said naghei, was the Rosh Yeshiva of Pumpedita.
Rav Yehuda, who said leilei, founded the yeshiva of Pumpedita. Though two years prior to his death, he headed both Sura and Pumpedita.
The academy of Shmuel, which said leilei, was in Nehardea.
Rav Huna, who said naghei, succeeded Rav as the Resh Mesivta at Sura. (Rav had founded this.)

If this was all a dialectal difference based on location, then Abaye contradicts Rav Yehuda. Both were in Pumpedita, yet one said leilei and one said naghei.

Perhaps one can say that it is not based on the dialect where they were when they said it, but based on the dialect with which they grew up, which makes more sense. However, I am not sure if we have this sort of information available.

Alternatively, we might say that in Nehardea they said leilei, while in both Sura and Pumpedita they said leilei. Rav Yehuda, as founder of Pumpedita, was continuing the tradition of the academy at Nehardea, and thus says leilei, while Abaye, operating a bit later, uses the local dialect.

Daf Yomi: Pesachim 2a - Naghei vs. Leilei

Why does Rav Huna use naghei while Rav Yehuda use leilei. One might say that Rav Huna chose naghei for the same reason the gemara says the Tanna of the Mishna used Or - it is a more refined language. But the gemara answers that this was the dialect in their respective locations.

Two points:

1) For Rav Yehuda, there is a better reason than this being his dialect. As we read in the gemara,

תא שמע דתני דבי שמואל לילי ארבעה עשר בודקין את החמץ לאור הנר אלמא אור אורתא הוא

Thus, in the academy of Shmuel, rather than teaching the Mishna as we have it, with the word Or, they taught it with the word leilei in its place. (And there is reason to think they taught this explanation as part of the Mishna, rather than as a brayta.) Thus, the next step in the gemara, after concluding that this is merely a dialectal difference, is to question why the Tanna in our Mishna did not say likewise.

Now recall, the gemara begins:

מאי אור רב הונא אמר נגהי ורב יהודה אמר לילי

Thus, it is Rav Yehuda who says leilei. Rav Yehuda (bar Yechezkel) was one of the best students of Rav and Shmuel, and on quite a number of occassions, cites statements in their names. Both Rav Yehuda and Rav Huna come to explain the Mishna, and Rav Yehuda's choice of words to explain the Mishna parallel that of the academy of Shmuel. Most likely, Rav Yehuda was repeating Shmuel's teaching.

This, of course, assumes that our girsa in the printed edition, which attributes this to the academy of Shmuel. Because דבי שמואל is similar to רבי ישמאל, because yuds are small, and because ends of words are often abbreviated with an apostrophe, often the two are confused. The JTS manuscript and Vatican Ebr. 109 have like our girsa. But the London manuscript has תנא דבי ר' ישמעאל.

I would assume that our girsa is correct, and the reasons for confusion listed above, plus the fact that תנא דבי ר' ישמעאל is more common, worked together to produce the wrong girsa in the London manuscript.

Thus, Rav Yehuda is likely using the same terminology as the academy of Shmuel because both heard it from Shmuel.

Daf Yomi: Pesachim 2a - Leilei Leilei Mamash

The gemara in Pesachim begins (2a):
מאי אור רב הונא אמר נגהי ורב יהודה אמר לילי קא סלקא דעתך דמאן דאמר נגהי נגהי ממש ומאן דאמר לילי לילי ממש
Rashi dislikes this girsa. While דמאן דאמר נגהי נגהי ממש is perfectly fine, for it bears meaning -- that when Rav Huna says naghei, he means "day" -- the phrase ומאן דאמר לילי לילי ממש is unneccessary. Of course leilei means literally "night." This is so in the gemara's initial assumption, as well as in the conclusion. The only confusion is about the word naghei. Therefore, Rashi recommends striking out the phrase ומאן דאמר לילי לילי ממש.

My reaction is that such emendation is unnecessary. Even if the phrase adds nothing because the question is only about naghei, the echoing of the phrase for the other opinion, leilei, creates balance that has a rhetorical effect. It is that same as saying: "We initially thought to take both words literally."

Does Rashi propose to emend the text based on any manuscript that has his proposed girsa. Not that I know of, and the impression I got is that his suggestion is based on logic, suggesting that this text was added erroneously on the basis of דמאן דאמר נגהי נגהי ממש.

Vatican Ebr. 134 has essentially the same text as our printed edition, except in the phrase ומאן דאמר לילי לילי ממש, it omits the word ממש.

London and Vatican Ebr. 109 have the same as our printed text.

The JTS manuscript has the interesting girsa. Firstly, instead of naghei, it has a vav - noghei. This is incorrect, and based on the Hebrew nogah, but is interesting nonethess. Further, rather than דעתך it has אדעתין. But the most relevant, rather than דמאן דאמר נגהי נגהי ממש ומאן דאמר לילי לילי ממש, in which נגהי and לילי are merely repeated with the addition of the word ממש, the JTS manuscript has explanations/translations of the words, and no word ממש

דמאן דאמר נוגהי צפרא
"that the one who says noghei means morning (tzafra)"

ומאן דאמר לילי אורתא
"and the one who says leilei means evening (`oreta)"

I would imagine that Rashi would not have felt the compulsion to correct the girsa has he had the JTS manuscript before him. After all, now each phrase is not just said to mean literally what it states, but is useful in that it gives a translation of each. The word ממש, "literally," is not there, so no one is saying a chiddush that this word is to be taken literally. Indeed, one can read this as a contrast: The one who says noghei means morning while the one who says leilei means evening.

Which girsa was the original, I do not know.

Friday, January 27, 2006

parshat Va`era: The Avot Did Not Know Shem Hashem?!

Parshat Va`era begins (Shemot 6):

ב וַיְדַבֵּר אֱלֹקִים, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה; וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, אֲנִי ה. 2 And God spoke unto Moses, and said unto him: 'I am the LORD;
ג וָאֵרָא, אֶל-אַבְרָהָם אֶל-יִצְחָק וְאֶל-יַעֲקֹב--בְּאֵל שַׁדָּי; וּשְׁמִי ה, לֹא נוֹדַעְתִּי לָהֶם. 3 and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name YKVK I made Me not known to them.
How could this be? Many times throughout Bereishit Hashem (YKVK) appears to the Avot and speaks to them? If one were to accept the Documentary Hypothesis, there would be an obvious solution. However, for those of us who do not, there are a number of other possible solutions. The meforshim all address this issue, as it is an obvious one. One can make grammatical distinctions (e.g. Ibn Ezra), or talk about the difference between נוֹדַעְתִּי and hoda'ti, where the latter would have meant simply telling them the name (Rashi). I'm not going to go through all the various opinions here.

However, I would point out the approach that takes the making known of a name as not just informing someone that X is the name. Names of God represent ways in which He interacts with humanity. We see this almost overtly in the previous parsha, Shemot, in which Moshe's asks which name of God he should present to the Israelites. Shemot 3:13-15:
יג וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-הָאֱלֹהִים, הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי בָא אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָמַרְתִּי לָהֶם, אֱלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵיכֶם שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם; וְאָמְרוּ-לִי מַה-שְּׁמוֹ, מָה אֹמַר אֲלֵהֶם. 13 And Moses said unto God: 'Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them: The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me: What is His name? what shall I say unto them?'
יד וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה; וַיֹּאמֶר, כֹּה תֹאמַר לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶהְיֶה, שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם. 14 And God said unto Moses: 'I AM THAT I AM'; and He said: 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: I AM hath sent me unto you.'
טו וַיֹּאמֶר עוֹד אֱלֹהִים אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, כֹּה-תֹאמַר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֵיכֶם אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אֱלֹהֵי יִצְחָק וֵאלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב, שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם; זֶה-שְּׁמִי לְעֹלָם, וְזֶה זִכְרִי לְדֹר דֹּר. 15 And God said moreover unto Moses: 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you; this is My name for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations.
The Israelites should know the name of the God of their forefathers. There seems more to the question, and indeed the answer is about God's delivery of His promise. Here as well, the specific name has import, and so one can say that while the forefathers knew of the name, they did not experience the import of the name, whatever that import might be. Indeed, following this cryptic statement that He did not reveal to them YKVK, the next verse is how He will fulfill his covenant with them. Context strongly suggests that the name is not just a name but carries meaning of fulfilling His Promise.

Two specific explanations of the verse that I enjoyed, because I like reparsing of pesukim. See Tg. Yonatan:

While we have the etnachta right before the word shemi, Tg Yonatan appears to read the verse:

"and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty, and by My name YKVK. However, I made Me not known to them."

Thus, by both names does Hashem appear to the forefathers. The end of the verse states that he did not "make Himself known," which Tg Yonatan explains as that He did not appear face to face with them, panim el panim, as he is currently appearing to Moshe. Moshe, after all, was the greatest of the prophets.

Rashbam, also in the text pictured above, says something quite similar, if I read him right. (I am not so sure that I am.) Regarding וּשְׁמִי ה, he says vezeh kefel lashon. Thus, "I appeared to them as El Shaddai, and my primary name is YKVK." Still, I did not reveal myself to them by the primary name but rather by El Shaddai, where reveal means fulfilling the various promises. Thus ushemi is connected above but not below. He then channels Rashi, highlighting the difference between noda'ti and hoda'ti, and states that had it said hoda'ti, then shemi would connect to phrase that follows, but since it states noda'ti, is is connected to the phrase above.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Daf Yomi Pesachim 2a/3a: The Ambiguous אור

The first Mishna in Pesachim begins אור לארבעה עשר (or, according to the girsa that Rashi rejected, אור לארבעה עשר). As the gemara itself asks, מאי טעמא לא קתני לילי?

Now, the gemara of course answers
לישנא מעליא הוא דנקט. But לילי was the Aramaic - מאי אור? רב הונא אמר נגהי ורב יהודה אמר לילי. Perhaps ליל would work.

But the question to address first is: is
אור truly ambiguous?

I do not think that any Amora could truly be confused and think that אור in this context means morning. After all, even if one is momentarily confused and thinks that אור here means day, he will soon see the error of his ways when he encounters the third Mishna (on 10b), which states that if he did not search on אור of the 14th, he searches at the 14 in the morning:

ר' יהודה אומר בודקין אור י"ד ובי"ד שחרית ובשעת הביעור וחכ"א לא בדק אור י"ד יבדוק בי"ד לא בדק בי"ד יבדוק בתוך המועד לא בדק בתוך המועד יבדוק לאחר המועד ומה שמשייר יניחנו בצינעא כדי שלא יהא צריך בדיקה אחרי

Indeed, this is in fact the conclusion of the gemara, which decides on this basis (Pesachim 2b) that אור must mean "day." And the Amoraim knew all the relevant Mishnayot. So the word אור, as it is used here, is not truly ambiguous. (Indeed, no Amora really confuses the issue. The entire tangent stems from the ambiguity of Rav Huna, who says naghei, but who truly understands the word to mean "night.")

אור is an fact a fairly common word for night. Even as the setama digemara asks whether it means day or night, it asks whether it means yemama` or `oreta` {/`ureta`}
, saying at points, אלמא אור אורתא הוא. The Aramaic equivalent of אור is אורתא. So it is not truly out of the ordinary for this word to be utilized in Hebrew as well to mean night. We would not expect a discussion of why the gemara chose the word אורתא.

How can the word
אור, which seems to most commonly mean "light," mean "night?"

Jastrow writes:

That is, he claims that the base meaning of אור is in fact "perforate, break through, shine," and from there we get אור as light, but also as break. Thus, break of day. And thus, break of night = twilight, evening. Rosh Hashana 22b and Sanhedrin 70b are additional examples of אור used in this way. Jastrow's gives some examples of this base meaning of אור. Yeshaya 58:8:
ח אָז יִבָּקַע כַּשַּׁחַר אוֹרֶךָ, וַאֲרֻכָתְךָ מְהֵרָה תִצְמָח; וְהָלַךְ לְפָנֶיךָ צִדְקֶךָ, כְּבוֹד יְהוָה יַאַסְפֶךָ. 8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy healing shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee, the glory of the LORD shall be thy rearward.
and Berachot 22a:

תניא ר' יהודה בן בתירא היה אומר אין דברי תורה מקבלין טומאה מעשה בתלמיד אחד שהיה מגמגם למעלה מרבי יהודה בן בתירא אמר ליה בני פתח פיך ויאירו דבריך שאין דברי תורה מקבלין טומאה שנאמר (ירמיהו כג) הלא כה דברי כאש נאם ה' מה אש אינו מקבל טומאה אף דברי תורה אינן מקבלין טומאה

It has been taught: R. Judah b. Bathyra used to say: Words of Torah are not susceptible of uncleanness. Once a certain disciple was mumbling over against R. Judah b. Bathyra. He said to him: My son, open thy mouth and let thy words be clear, for words of Torah are not susceptible to uncleanness, as it says, Is not My word like as fire. Just as fire is not susceptible of uncleanness, so words of Torah are not susceptible of uncleanness. (Soncino translation)
which Jastrow translates as "and let thy words come forth" = speak boldly.

One could also posit that the basis for Or meaning night is lashon sagi nahor, lit. "language of much light." This is euphemistic language in which a blind person, who sees no light, is called a sagi nahor, one with much light. Here, "light" would be used to refer to the absence of light, at night. And as the gemara suggests, this is לישנא מעליא הוא דנקט.

Similarly, Rav Huna's definition as naghei, Aramaic equivalent of nogah, "light," would also be euphemistic usage, in the particular speech in his location. Alternatively, Jastrow assigns a similar base definition of breaking through for nogah.

David G. at adafaday notes that Hasagot HaRaavad suggests that it is called Or because it is the beginning of the night when it is still light. Would he say the same for each occurrence of the Aramaic word אורתא? David G. also notes that the Ran claims that this word is used because it is the beginnng of the masechta, a suggestion the Raavad dislikes because the word is used elsewhere, not only in the beginning of the masechta.

The Raavad and Jastrow share in common that one might say that the very beginning of night is intended. After all, Jastrow writes about the "break" of night, and translates it as either evening of twilight. They come atit from different approaches, of course.

I might also say that this is not the break of night but rather, "as the 14th breaks," and since days in the Hebrew calendar begin at night, this is when the 14th breaks. The idea would be to do it as soon as possible when the 14th comes in, because of zerizut or so as not to forget and then neglect.

Another Reason To Filter Water?

Forget copepods. There are carp in the water. At least in Southeast Asia. Tiny fish, distant relatives of carp, transparent and skinny. They found a mature female just 7.9 millimeters long. Of course, they might just be kosher - they are relatives of carp and have (some sort of) fins, after all. Don't know about scales.

AP's article.

News in Science coverage:
The record-busting newcomer, Paedocypris progenetica, is skinny and transparent, and a distant cousin of the carp, the researchers say.

The elusive fish lives in highly acid peat swamps on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and in the Malaysian part of Borneo that are threatened by forestry and agriculture.

The scientists needed a special stereoscopic microscope to accurately measure the fish.

The smallest adult specimen they netted was a mature female, found in Sumatra, that came to just 7.9 millimetres from nose to tail.

This makes her not only the world's smallest fish but also the world's smallest vertebrate.

Both articles have nice photos.
And an article in New Scientist:
The male fish also has an interesting feature, according to New Scientist:
Projecting downward from about midway along the underside of the male's body, the fin has unique anatomical features which probably help it grip females during mating. Just in front of the fin is a large group of muscles that form a kind of "gripper" ...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

It has been a while since I've blogged

I've had a busy week. Busy doing work, schoolwork, baby watching, and preparing for the coming semester, which starts next week on Sunday. I hope I'll have time to put something up about the parsha or about Pesachim. I have material I want to discuss, but might not have the time to put it down.

My pet peeve, the (scholarly) use of the h to mean chet in ambiguous situations, was further bolstered today. After reading this comment for the 15th time, I finally understood it:
You don't have to take everything that every aharon says as fact-even if he is a zaddiq and talmid hakham.
This was a response to a statement cited from the Tosefot Yom Tov. I was unaware that Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller was a kohen, or why one would think that one should listen to someone just because he is a Kohen.

Then I realized that what she meant was acharon. Oops!

I am also involved in a parsha-related discussion on soc.culture.jewish.moderated here. There is still one post pending approval by moderators. Might be of interest.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Singles Event At Cong. Etz Chaim - An Interactive Murder Mystery

I'm posting this to help with publicity for this event:

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Daf Yomi Pesachim 2a: What Girsa Does Rashi Reject In The Mishna?

Please note: for some reason, the manuscript links do not show up in Firefox. If you want to see the manuscripts inside, open the links in an Internet Explorer window.

The first Mishna in Pesachim (on Pesachim 2a) begins אור לארבעה עשר. The first Rashi has an interesting comment: אור לארבעה עשר גרסינן. That is, he is stating that the correct girsa is אור לארבעה עשר. The implication of this is that there is at least one other competing girsa which Rashi marked as incorrect. I'll see if I can get access to a Dikdukei Soferim to see what variants there are (or if someone has access to it and can post in the comments, I'd appreciate it.)

Based on online resources, I have:

Ktav Yad Kaufman and Parma, of Mishna, and Ktav Yad Vatican (Ehr. 109 and 134) all have אור לארבעה עשר, which is Rashi's girsa.

Ktav Tad London, a manuscript of Talmud Bavli, has the very entertaining and euphonious אור לאורבעה עשר, with a vav in לאורבעה. The dot above and below may indicate even the sofer knew this was mistaken. (The mistake would stem from the sofer beginning another word which begins with aleph, and inserting a vav before the resh just as he did the previous word.) But this seems unlikely to be a variant that Rashi feels compelled to tell us is incorrect.

JTS's manuscript is most likely the one Rashi is rejecting. There, the lamed is missing, and the Mishna begins אור ארבעה עשר. This fits in well with language in the third Mishna:

רבי יהודה אומר, בודקין אור ארבעה עשר, ובארבעה עשר בשחרית, ובשעת הביעור. וחכמים אומרים, אם לא בדק אור ארבעה עשר, יבדוק בארבעה עשר; אם לא בדק בארבעה עשר, יבדוק בתוך המועד; לא בדק בתוך המועד, יבדוק לאחר המועד. ומה שהוא משייר--יניחנו בצנעה, כדי שלא יהא צריך בדיקה אחריו.

One other possibility: Perhaps because of the entire dispute (which was a non-dispute) regarding the word Or, some manuscript omitted it and just began ארבעה עשר בודקין את החמץ לאור הנר. Indeed, on the side of our page of gemara, in Rabbenu Chananel has exactly this, but the words אור ל are inserted in parentheses. Such a real girsa in the Mishna would render the subsequent discussion about the different meanings of אור by the setama incomprehensible (which is cited by Rabbenu Chananel immediately thereafter), but one could just say the setama had Rashi's girsa. Rav Huna and Rav Yehuda, we might say, were commenting on the third Mishna, which certainly has it אור ארבעה עשר.

(Another possibility which occurred to me but which I could not find in any online manuscript is a mistake in gender in the number. This could sometimes occur, particularly if in an intermediate step, the number had been abbreviated as לי"ד.)

In conclusion, the most likely candidate for Rashi's rejection is the JTS manuscript, which omits the ל and thus matches the language of a subsequent Mishna.

I'll end with another plug for the Alfasi blog, where Rif Yomi on Pesachim starts today.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Interesting Article On Fe-Mohels

Available here. An excerpt:
Weiss-Ishai is one of just a few female mohels in the United States. There are about 35 Reform female mohels, and just four trained by the U.S. Conservative movement, as well as a handful who learned outside the United States.

It's not surprising that throughout Jewish history, mohels have been men. Circumcision is, after all, a guy thing. Beyond the obvious anatomical requirements, it's something the Torah commands a father, not a mother, to do for his son on the eighth day of life.

What is surprising, however, is that while half of all new non-Orthodox rabbis and cantors in this country are women, few women are choosing to become mohels.

Yet unlike rabbis and cantors, there is no halachic prohibition against female mohels. Every Orthodox authority consulted for this story agreed on that point, though most asked not to be quoted. Jewish law states only that if a Jewish male is present, it's preferable that he do the brit milah.
You already know the drill -- discussions on parshablog are never halacha limaaseh. This issue, of whether a woman may circumcise, is a dispute attributed (by the setama) to Rav and Rabbi Yochanan in Avodah Zarah 27a. And yes, the fact that Tzippora circumcised her son comes up, and an answer on behalf of Rav (who disallows) is advanced, that Moshe finished the circumcision.

{Update: Which makes it a good post for this parsha, Shemot, since the pasuk describing this circumcision by Tzippora occurs in it, in Shemot 4:25:

כה וַתִּקַּח צִפֹּרָה צֹר, וַתִּכְרֹת אֶת-עָרְלַת בְּנָהּ, וַתַּגַּע, לְרַגְלָיו; וַתֹּאמֶר, כִּי חֲתַן-דָּמִים אַתָּה לִי. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet; and she said: 'Surely a bridegroom of blood art thou to me.'

The Rif on Shabbat (Rif daf 56a) cites this gemara and rules that a woman may circumcise:
And a gentile is forbidden to circumcise, for we learn in tractate Avoda Zara {Avoda Zara 27b}: How do we know that circumcision via a gentile that it is invalid?
Daru bar Papa cited Rav: As it is written {in Bereishit 17:9}:

ט וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹקִים אֶל-אַבְרָהָם, וְאַתָּה אֶת-בְּרִיתִי תִשְׁמֹר --אַתָּה וְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ, לְדֹרֹתָם. 9 And God said unto Abraham: 'And as for thee, thou shalt keep My covenant, thou, and thy seed after thee throughout their generations.
Rabbi Yochanan said: {Bereishit 17:13}:
יג הִמּוֹל יִמּוֹל יְלִיד בֵּיתְךָ, וּמִקְנַת כַּסְפֶּךָ; וְהָיְתָה בְרִיתִי בִּבְשַׂרְכֶם, לִבְרִית עוֹלָם 13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised; and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
HaMal {without the cholam} Yimol it is read. {that is, one who is circumcised does the circumcision}.

What is the difference between them? This is the difference: A woman.
To Rav, who says וְאַתָּה אֶת-בְּרִיתִי תִשְׁמֹר - "And as for thee, thou shalt keep My covenant" - a woman, since she is not in the covenant {or circumcision} she may not circumcise.
To Rabbi Yochanan, who says הִמּוֹל יִמּוֹל - since he is an Israelite -- and even the uncircumcised {male Israelite} are like the circumcised. So too a woman is within the category of Israelite and may circumcise.

And if there is a Jewish woman who knows how to circumcise, and circumcises, it is fine, for the halacha is like Rabbi Yochanan, for it is established for us that {in a dispute between} Rav and Rabbi Yochanan, the halacha is like Rabbi Yochanan.
So from a straightforward reading of the Rif, this would be permitted, and more importantly, the circumcision would be valid.

However, this only considers the question on the purely halachic grounds of this specific question of whether circumcision by a woman is valid. There may well be meta-halachic considerations which would argue against doing this in practice, which may well depend on the current social climate, which is different than it was in the days of the Rif. There is a consideration of not doing as other sects do. There is a consideration of how an Orthodox initiative (if one were to arise) to do this may fit in with larger feminist efforts which may be contrary to the spirit of halacha.

And the public nature of bris, done in shul, may well violate meta-halachic (or perhaps, rather, halachic) considerations of the public role of women, where skilled men who can circumcise are available. (Though I would imagine that a bris was a public event in the days of the Rif, as well.) Indeed, this was a point of controversy a while back in terms of a statement that while on a halachic level, it was entirely valid for a woman (or a monkey, or a parrot, or a text-to-speech computer program) to read the ketuba under the chuppa, since the halachic requirement is to create a hefsek (interlude) between kiddushin and nisuin, it still should not be done because it is a public role, which clashes with ideals of modesty. Perhaps one might argue with this. But lest anyone claim that this is a recent innovation which finds no source in Jewish law, see an example in the Sifrei on Ki Teitzei:
ואמר אבי הנערה אל הזקנים. מכאן שאין רשות לאשה לדבר במקום האיש
All this is why one should not automatically pasken straight from the gemara, or here the Rif, on matters such as this. And presumably why few wished to be quoted on this. And perhaps why the article mentioned a preference stated in Jewish law for the Jewish male, if present, to do the milah. (I haven't look too deeply into this, so perhaps there is a different basis.)

Also, the radical academic Talmudist in me wants to point out that neither Rav nor Rabbi Yochanan explicitly state that a woman may or may not circumcise. (See the gemara here.) This is all the setama digemara. Rav and Rabbi Yochanan merely give sources for why if gentile circumcises, the circumcision is not valid. The setama digemara tries a few times to answer a question it itself poses: מאי בינייהו? In the end, the distinction of a woman circumcising is posed, and is left unchallenged. But perhaps there was in fact no distinction intended in terms of actual halacha, and the "dispute" between Rav and Rabbi Yochanan was merely which verse to use to derive the law. One might even say, according to Rabbi Yochanan, that a circumcision performed by a woman is invalid, since HaMal Yimol, and she is not, and cannot, be circumcised (as defined by Jewish law).

Monday, January 16, 2006

parshat Shemot: Finally Arriving in Egypt

The sefer of Shemot begins:
א וְאֵלֶּה, שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, הַבָּאִים, מִצְרָיְמָה: אֵת יַעֲקֹב, אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ בָּאוּ. 1 Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, who came into Egypt with Jacob; every man came with his household:
ב רְאוּבֵן שִׁמְעוֹן, לֵוִי וִיהוּדָה. 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah;
ג יִשָּׂשכָר זְבוּלֻן, וּבִנְיָמִן. 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin;
ד דָּן וְנַפְתָּלִי, גָּד וְאָשֵׁר. 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher.
ה וַיְהִי, כָּל-נֶפֶשׁ יֹצְאֵי יֶרֶךְ-יַעֲקֹב--שִׁבְעִים נָפֶשׁ; וְיוֹסֵף, הָיָה בְמִצְרָיִם. 5 And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls; and Joseph was in Egypt already.
ו וַיָּמָת יוֹסֵף וְכָל-אֶחָיו, וְכֹל הַדּוֹר הַהוּא. 6 And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.
ז וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, פָּרוּ וַיִּשְׁרְצוּ וַיִּרְבּוּ וַיַּעַצְמוּ--בִּמְאֹד מְאֹד; וַתִּמָּלֵא הָאָרֶץ, אֹתָם.
7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.
Now, this sefer continues where sefer Bereishit left off. And, at the end of Bereishit, the Israelites have already lived in Egypt for many years, Yaakov blessed his sons, and Yosef died. If so, how could the pasuk say that they are coming to Egypt now?

On a peshat level, this is no question. The sefer begins by reiterating that Yaakov came to Egypt with relatively few (12 sons, seventy souls), a count that occurred earlier in parshat Vayigash. Since the sefer is about the Exodus from Egypt, stylistically it makes sense to reiterate their entrance. Further, the stress is on how few their were (70 souls) in order to lead into the Israelites increasing abundantly, which prompts the Egyptian reaction. Thus, one can claim that there is no claim that the Israelites are entering Egypt now.

One can explain this question on a midrashic level, though -- and it is a midrashic question, raised in Midrash Rabba. The word הַבָּאִים is present tense - who are coming. Of course, Hebrew does not really have a present tense - just a neutral tense, and so the JPS translation is perfectly fine rendering it as "who came into Egypt." A midrash will take this at its most hyperliteral level, and thus can assume that it means they are coming now. Further, this sefer immediately follows Bereishit, and while saying that the Torah does not follow chronological order is acceptable, it is not the default. Thus, again operating hyperliterally, the pasuk seems to say that at this point in the narrative, the sons of Israel are entering Egypt.

Midrash Rabba answers that indeed, they are now, at this stage in the narrative, considered as if they are entering Egypt. Until this point, they felt no oppression, because of Yosef's influence. Only now does the oppression start, and thus their stay in Egypt can be considered to have begun.

Besides being a cute teretz, this midrash, like many a midrash, is based on a sensitivity to theme. Indeed, the account of the names and number of Yaakov's family is immediately followed by:
ו וַיָּמָת יוֹסֵף וְכָל-אֶחָיו, וְכֹל הַדּוֹר הַהוּא. 6 And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.
ז וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, פָּרוּ וַיִּשְׁרְצוּ וַיִּרְבּוּ וַיַּעַצְמוּ--בִּמְאֹד מְאֹד; וַתִּמָּלֵא הָאָרֶץ, אֹתָם. {פ} 7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. {P}
ח וַיָּקָם מֶלֶךְ-חָדָשׁ, עַל-מִצְרָיִם, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדַע, אֶת-יוֹסֵף. 8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph.
and so it is clear that a new era has begun in which the Israelites are oppressed, and they are oppressed because of the loss of Yosef's influence. Further, the pasuk immediately preceding those of sefer Shemot, in Bereishit 50:26, is:

כו וַיָּמָת יוֹסֵף, בֶּן-מֵאָה וָעֶשֶׂר שָׁנִים; וַיַּחַנְטוּ אֹתוֹ, וַיִּישֶׂם בָּאָרוֹן בְּמִצְרָיִם. 26 So Joseph died, being a hundred and ten years old. And they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
Thus Yosef's death brackets this repetition. And, as I mentioned above, the purpose of this repetition of their coming to Egypt is that the beginning of sefer Shemot is all about the oppression in Egypt and the Exodus from said oppression, and the genealogy is repeated here as a start to this story. Thus, they could be said to only now have truly entered Egypt. Thus, while the question and answer are undoubtedly midrashic, it responds to and emphasizes themes and details which are clearly present in the text and deserve highlighting.

While on the subject, note that the midrash is perfectly fine taking a genealogy and count which is described as הַבָּאִים מִצְרָיְמָה as one which occurs much later, at Yosef's death, taking the הַבָּאִים מִצְרָיְמָה somewhat figuratively as a result of taking other elements of pesukim hyper-literally. As I commented earlier on parshat Vayigash, there are many peshat reasons to take even the count in sefer Bereishit not of those physically entering Egypt at the time of initially entering Egypt, but rather of the Israelites at a later time, say Yaakov's death or Yosef's death. הַבָּאִים מִצְרָיְמָה would not refer to the act of entering Egypt but rather acts as an adjective, giving the count of the Israelites in the generation/approximate time period of the entrance to Egypt, as opposed to the Israelites who left Egypt, numbering 600,000. Thus, the conclusions of this midrash may well be true even on a peshat level.

(In addition to the evidence in the aforementioned post (on Vayigash) which implies that the count was not from the moment of entering Egypt but rather of some later point (and is a count of the generation which entered Egypt), I would add the following, which occurred to me last week. Ephraim and Menashe are part of the count of 70 (see Bereishit 46:27). Yaakov lived in Egypt for 17 years (see Bereishit 47:28). Yet when they are blessed, Ephraim and Menashe seem to be little children. They are called nearim (although Yosef too, one may argue, is called a naar at 17). The feel from the stroy is that they are much younger. The midrash (Rabba and Tanchuma) makes Menashe somewhat old at the time of the entrance into Egypt, for it is he who strikes Shimon, puts him in prison and in fetters. Add 17 years to this and he must be in his twenties. Peshat is probably that Ephraim and Menashe are fairly young when they receive Yaakov's blessings in parshat Vayechi, and thus the genealogical list should be of a later date than the entrance into Egypt.)
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Introducing Tanach Linkify 1.4

I got an email yesterday stating that the latest version of my Firefox extension, Tanach Linkify, has been approved. It does exactly the same thing as Tanach Linkify 1.3, except it works with Firefox 1.5. It may be downloaded from the Firefox Extensions site or from its page on parshablog.

What it does:
  • Replaces plaintext references to psukim (Biblical verses) to the mechon mamre link (which has the pasuk and translation).
  • Replaces plaintext references to pages in Talmud with an e-daf link (which has an image of the page).
Thus, for example, Pesachim 3b would show up as Pesachim 3b, and Shemot 12:3 would show up as Shemot 12:3.

It uses variant spellings for names of seforim and show should catch the majority of occurrences.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Moving On To Pesachim

In a few days Daf Yomi will finish masechet Eruvin and move on to masechet Pesachim. This is a good time to join the Daf Yomi cycle, for Pesachim is a lot less technical than Eruvin.

To plug my other blog - Rif Yomi on the Alfasi blog will continue through Pesachim. You can learn the Rif instead of, or as a supplement to Daf Yomi. Rif is shorter because he strips out much aggada and many opinions and discussions which are not lehalacha, and also adds in explanations of how to pasken and why.

Also, I have updated the Rif Index by Daf to include all of Eruvin, so that it now encompasses Berachot, Shabbat, and Eruvin.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

parshat Vayechi: The Count of Pesukim in Sefer Bereishit

In shul today I noticed a masoretic note at the end of sefer Bereishit that gave the total number of pesukim. It stated there were תקל"ד אלףpesukim, and a mnemonic for this is אך לד. Now, אלף תקל"ד is 1534 pesukim, so how is this אך לד? This is an extended form of gematria (which I last saw in Bereishit Rabbati) than many are used to, in which the sofits, the final letters, continue where ת left off.

ת = 400
ך = 500
ם = 600
ן = 700
ף = 800
ץ = 900

To explain אך לד, the א, aleph at the start signifies eleph, 1000, especially since it is written before ך, which is a higher number than 1. The ך is 500. And לד is 34.

Typically, a mnemonic is a common phrase, or a known pasuk. My best guess for the meaning of אך לד' ש is "only to/for Hashem," where ד' ש stands for the Shem Hashem. Comments/ suggestions welcome. If so, this is an interesting case of daledh rather than heh standing in for shem haShem. I wonder how early this masoretic note is.

We could also transform the daledh into a heh because, by all rights, there should be an additional pasuk in sefer Bereishit. As I've mentioned several times on the pasuk regarding Reuven and Bilhah, what we have as one pasuk was originally two, and even has an optional appropriate trup for the two individual pesukim.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

parshat Vayechi: Yaakov Avinu Didn't Die

There is a joke going around the internet:
A defense attorney, cross-examining a pathologist, asked, "Before you signed the death certificate, had you taken the pulse?"

"Pathologist: 'No.'

"Attorney: 'Did you listen to the heart?'

"Pathologist: 'No.'

"Attorney:'Did you check for breathing?'


"Attorney: 'So, when you signed the death certificate you weren't sure the man was dead, were you?'

"Pathologist: 'Well, let me put it this way: The man's brain was sitting in a jar on my desk. But I guess it's possible he could be practicing law somewhere.'
There is a famous midrash, made famous by Rashi's citation of it, that our forefather Yaakov did not die.

If so, what Yosef did next was extremely cruel, and probably a violation of kubud av. Bereishit 50:2:
ב וַיְצַו יוֹסֵף אֶת-עֲבָדָיו אֶת-הָרֹפְאִים, לַחֲנֹט אֶת-אָבִיו; וַיַּחַנְטוּ הָרֹפְאִים, אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל. 2 And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. And the physicians embalmed Israel.
ג וַיִּמְלְאוּ-לוֹ אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם, כִּי כֵּן יִמְלְאוּ יְמֵי הַחֲנֻטִים; וַיִּבְכּוּ אֹתוֹ מִצְרַיִם, שִׁבְעִים יוֹם. 3 And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him threescore and ten days.
Mummification ("embalming") in Ancient Egypt involved removing the brain through the nostrils and placing it in a jar, certainly not a pleasant experience for one who is alive. Is Yaakov Avinu practicing law somewhere?

Similarly, why should the Egyptians have mourned him?

Yaakov's sons also buried him, an unneccessary and possibly also unpleasant experience:
יג וַיִּשְׂאוּ אֹתוֹ בָנָיו, אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן, וַיִּקְבְּרוּ אֹתוֹ, בִּמְעָרַת שְׂדֵה הַמַּכְפֵּלָה: אֲשֶׁר קָנָה אַבְרָהָם אֶת-הַשָּׂדֶה לַאֲחֻזַּת-קֶבֶר, מֵאֵת עֶפְרֹן הַחִתִּי--עַל-פְּנֵי מַמְרֵא. 13 For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field, for a possession of a burying-place, of Ephron the Hittite, in front of Mamre.
Also, the pasuk seems to say that Yaakov died:

Bereishit 49:33:
לג וַיְכַל יַעֲקֹב לְצַוֹּת אֶת-בָּנָיו, וַיֶּאֱסֹף רַגְלָיו אֶל-הַמִּטָּה; וַיִּגְוַע, וַיֵּאָסֶף אֶל-עַמָּיו. 33 And when Jacob made an end of charging his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and expired, and was gathered unto his people.
Perhaps one might deduce something from the fact that it uses the expression וַיִּגְוַע and וַיֵּאָסֶף אֶל-עַמָּיו but does not state vayamat. In constrast, by Avraham, three expressions are used. Bereishit 25:7-8:
ז וְאֵלֶּה, יְמֵי שְׁנֵי-חַיֵּי אַבְרָהָם--אֲשֶׁר-חָי: מְאַת שָׁנָה וְשִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה, וְחָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים. 7 And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, a hundred threescore and fifteen years.
ח וַיִּגְוַע וַיָּמָת אַבְרָהָם בְּשֵׂיבָה טוֹבָה, זָקֵן וְשָׂבֵעַ; וַיֵּאָסֶף, אֶל-עַמָּיו. 8 And Abraham expired, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.
Similarly by Yitzchak's death, three expressions are used: Bereishit 35:28-29:

כח וַיִּהְיוּ, יְמֵי יִצְחָק--מְאַת שָׁנָה, וּשְׁמֹנִים שָׁנָה. 28 And the days of Isaac were a hundred and fourscore years.
כט וַיִּגְוַע יִצְחָק וַיָּמָת וַיֵּאָסֶף אֶל-עַמָּיו, זָקֵן וּשְׂבַע יָמִים; וַיִּקְבְּרוּ אֹתוֹ, עֵשָׂו וְיַעֲקֹב בָּנָיו
29 And Isaac expired, and died, and was gathered unto his people, old and full of days; and Esau and Jacob his sons buried him.
It is to this type of detail that midrash pays attention. Still, the actual derivation that Yaakov didn't die (or perhaps "isn't dead") is from a pasuk in Yirmiyahu, which we will treat later.

I would also note that a pasuk seems to explicitly say that Yaakov is dead. In Vayechi, in Bereishit 50:15:
יד וַיָּשָׁב יוֹסֵף מִצְרַיְמָה הוּא וְאֶחָיו, וְכָל-הָעֹלִים אִתּוֹ לִקְבֹּר אֶת-אָבִיו, אַחֲרֵי, קָבְרוֹ אֶת-אָבִיו. 14 And Joseph returned into Egypt, he, and his brethren, and all that went up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father.
טו וַיִּרְאוּ אֲחֵי-יוֹסֵף, כִּי-מֵת אֲבִיהֶם, וַיֹּאמְרוּ, לוּ יִשְׂטְמֵנוּ יוֹסֵף; וְהָשֵׁב יָשִׁיב, לָנוּ, אֵת כָּל-הָרָעָה, אֲשֶׁר גָּמַלְנוּ אֹתוֹ. 15 And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said: 'It may be that Joseph will hate us, and will fully requite us all the evil which we did unto him.'

The objection that Yaakov was mummified, mourned, and buried, is one that is brought up in the actual text describing the midrash:
(Taanit 5b):

רב נחמן ור' יצחק הוו יתבי בסעודתא א"ל רב נחמן לר' יצחק לימא מר מילתא א"ל הכי א"ר יוחנן אין מסיחין בסעודה שמא יקדים קנה לושט ויבא לידי סכנה בתר דסעוד א"ל הכי א"ר יוחנן יעקב אבינו לא מת א"ל וכי בכדי ספדו ספדנייא וחנטו חנטייא וקברו קברייא א"ל מקרא אני דורש שנאמר (ירמיהו ל) ואתה אל תירא עבדי יעקב נאם ה' ואל תחת ישראל כי הנני מושיעך מרחוק ואת זרעך מארץ שבים מקיש הוא לזרעו מה זרעו בחיים אף הוא בחיים

And a translation from a website called Beis Moshiach :)
Rav Nachman and Rav Yitzchok, two sages of the Talmud, sat together at a feast. Rav Nachman said to Rav Yitzchok, "Master, say a few words, if you would."

Rav Yitzchok responded: "So says Rebbi Yochanan: ‘there should be no talk at meals, lest food enter the windpipe instead of the esophagus, leading to mortal danger.’"

At the end of the meal, Rav Yitzchok continued: "So says Rebbi Yochanan: ‘Yaakov Avinu did not die.’"

Rav Nachman objected, "was it then in vain that the eulogizers eulogized and the embalmers embalmed and the gravediggers buried?!" [as the Torah describes].

Rav Yitzchok answered: "I derive this from Scripture, as it is said: ‘And you, my servant Yaakov, do not fear,’ says the L-rd, ‘and do not be dismayed, Yisroel, for you I will save from afar, and your offspring [I will save] from the land of their captivity.’ This verse associates Yaakov to his progeny to teach us that just as his offspring are alive, so is he alive."

One think that should immediately be noted is that Rav Nachman protested. He did lay aside critical thinking and just accept it, for it seemed quite strange, and further seemed to contradict the plain text of the Chumash. Alas, nowadays people are ready to accept much stranger midrashim without thinking about them and considering them in light of the text and common sensibilities. He also did not dismiss it as being "silly midrash" anyway so we might as well let it go, which alas is another common reaction nowadays.

How exactly Rav Yitzchak's response is a valid response is another, non-trivial question, to which I may not have a satisfactory answer.

One possibility which should be immediately considered is that he was aiming for a spit-take, "a comedic technique in which someone spits a beverage out of his or her mouth when he or she reacts to a statement."

After all, we must not ignore context, and context here is that they were in the course of a meal when Rav Nachman requested a dvar Torah. Rav Yitzchak replied that talking during the meal might lead to choking. After the meal, he offered the type of dvar Torah which could easily have led to choking.

On the other hand, both statements were cited from Rabbi Yochanan, so we must also consider that Rabbi Yochanan most likely did not state this in this context.

Others take this midrash, like many midrashim, to be non-literal, but rather reflecting some homiletic, symbolic, spiritual, or religious truth. Which perhaps is the meaning of the clarification that he was hemeneutically deducing this midrashically, from a verse in Yirmiyahu.

I would add, perhaps this is a local derasha to Yirmiyahu, telling us something there. Perhaps as midrash we should not care that it contradicts verses elsewhere, since midrash sometimes gives significance to close local reading at the expense of less narrow context. Also, perhaps what is meant is that Yaakov Avinu is not dead, now, in the time of Yirmiyahu to the present, even though he did in fact die in the past. See how JPS translates כִּי-מֵת אֲבִיהֶם above, as "that their father was dead." Similarly, Yaakov Avinu Lo Meit can mean that he is not dead, but not that in the past he didn't die. Perhaps some sort of resurrection? (Indeed, the previous pasuk is understood by some in Chazal to refer to King David's ressurrection and future reign.) Indeed, the derasha is that מקיש הוא לזרעו מה זרעו בחיים אף הוא בחיים, and is thus about being alive, and not about not having died.

Or perhaps the fact that there is a derasha supercedes simple peshat.

Note also that to show Yaakov Avinu is not dead (or didn't die), Rav Yitzchak needs to bolster his case with a pasuk. In the absence of such a derasha, such a wild statement would not have been accepted. Therefore, it would be difficult to extrapolate from this one case of Yaakov to others who have died but whose followers claim that he did not (such as Shabbetai Tzevi and other messianic figures).

We should consider exactly what is being deduced from Yirmiyahu 30:10:
י וְאַתָּה אַל-תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב נְאֻם-ה, וְאַל-תֵּחַת יִשְׂרָאֵל--כִּי הִנְנִי מוֹשִׁיעֲךָ מֵרָחוֹק, וְאֶת-זַרְעֲךָ מֵאֶרֶץ שִׁבְיָם; וְשָׁב יַעֲקֹב וְשָׁקַט וְשַׁאֲנַן, וְאֵין מַחֲרִיד. 10 Therefore fear thou not, O Jacob My servant, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel; for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall again be quiet and at ease, and none shall make him afraid.
Interestingly, this whole section is somewhat messianic. At any rate, why should the derasha be "just as his offspring are alive, so is he alive." Where was aliveness mentioned anywhere in the pasuk? This seems somewhat random. We could as easily have said: just as his descendants wear red suspenders, so too he wears red suspenders. Or: just as they wear a yarmulke, so too Yaakov wears a yarmulke (which we have independent proof from the derasha on (Vayeitzei Yaakov" :) ).

I believe the answer is to be found in the context in that perek. Earlier we have:
ד וְאֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר ה אֶל-יִשְׂרָאֵל--וְאֶל-יְהוּדָה. 4 And these are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and concerning Judah.
ז הוֹי, כִּי גָדוֹל הַיּוֹם הַהוּא--מֵאַיִן כָּמֹהוּ; וְעֵת-צָרָה הִיא לְיַעֲקֹב, וּמִמֶּנָּה יִוָּשֵׁעַ. 7 Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is a time of trouble unto Jacob, but out of it shall he be saved.
The terms Yisrael and Yehuda seem to be used not about the Biblical personalities, but about the descendants, the nations of Israel and Yehuda, which split off from one another. Similarly, in verse 7, Yaakov is used presumably for the nation of Yisrael, or perhaps for both.

However, the address is to the singular Yaakov. Presumably the Biblical personality is being utilized, and addressed, as representative of his descendants.

On the peshat level, verse 10 is written in the style of other Biblical poetry, in that parallelism is used:

י וְאַתָּה אַל-תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב נְאֻם-ה, וְאַל-תֵּחַת יִשְׂרָאֵל--כִּי הִנְנִי מוֹשִׁיעֲךָ מֵרָחוֹק, וְאֶת-זַרְעֲךָ מֵאֶרֶץ שִׁבְיָם; וְשָׁב יַעֲקֹב וְשָׁקַט וְשַׁאֲנַן, וְאֵין מַחֲרִיד. 10 Therefore fear thou not, O Jacob My servant, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel; for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall again be quiet and at ease, and none shall make him afraid.

אַל-תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב
וְאַל-תֵּחַת יִשְׂרָאֵל

So אַל matches וְאַל
יַעֲקֹב matches יִשְׂרָאֵל.

The word עַבְדִּי only occurs in the first but distributes to the other. This is called a ballast variant.

כִּי הִנְנִי מוֹשִׁיעֲךָ מֵרָחוֹק
means I will save you from afar
וְאֶת-זַרְעֲךָ מֵאֶרֶץ שִׁבְיָם
and while saving is not mentioned here, it distributes, and so I will save "your descendants" from the land of their captivity.

מֵרָחוֹק matches מֵאֶרֶץ שִׁבְיָם.

The end of the verse also displays Biblical parallelism. To this end, Yaakov is paired with, and matches, his descendants. On a peshat level, this is two ways of saying the same thing, the first using the Biblical figure of Yaakov symbolically, and the second unravelling the symbolism and making clear that this is addressed to the Benei Yisrael, Yaakov's descendants.

See what the midrash is noting. We would have thought that Yaakov is dead and is only being addressed symbolically. But on a midrashic level, poetic repetition is not an answer. Poetic repetition, or keifel inyan bemilim shonot, goes against the concept of omnisignificance, in which every word has meaning. Thus, there is a distiction to be made between Yaakov and his descendants. The first portion is addressed to Yaakov as an individual and the second portion to his descendants.

If this is truly being addressed to the Biblical person of Yaakov, then it is actually Yaakov, not the nation, who is to be saved from afar. That is, just as the descendants are live people to whom Yirmiyahu's words are being addressed, so too Yaakov is being used as an actual living person (and not a symbol) to whom Yirmiyahu is speaking.

This is the point of Rabbi Yochanan's derasha. I would even venture to say that he is not addressing parshat Vayechi at all, but rather just locally addressing Yirmiyahu perek 30. He probably would not say Yaakov Avinu Lo Met. This quote is attributed to him, but Rabbi Yochanan might have merely said "ואתה אל תירא עבדי יעקב נאם ה' ואל תחת ישראל כי הנני מושיעך מרחוק ואת זרעך מארץ שבים מקיש הוא לזרעו מה זרעו בחיים אף הוא בחיים."

Rav Yitzchak then might have reformulated this to increase the shock-value of the statement, perhaps to demonstrate why one should not talk during a meal. His answer of mikra ani doresh, I am darshening Scripture, followed by the specific derash, is an answer of the true statement of Rabbi Yochanan.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Ask OU Mesorah Conference II - The Pareve Mesorahs

From their website:

Mesorah Conference II
The Pareve Mesorahs

A Halachic and Historical Perspective of Fish, Plants and Color

Sunday, February 19, 2006 • 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM

Lander College, 75-31 150th Street,
Kew Gardens Hills, NY

Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky

Rabbi Chaim Goldberg

Dr. Ari Greenspan

Rabbi Menachem Genack

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky

Dr. Ari Greenspan and Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky

Rabbi Hershel Schachter

Rabbi Dr. Seth Mandel

Dr. Shalom Kelman

Rabbi Ami Cohen

Looks interesting.

The Coelacanth And The Absence of Evidence

Another one for the "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" files, matching my earlier noting of the non-extinct storm petrel, the coelacanth, a dinosaur-era fish from 400 million years ago, was thought to be extinct, until one was caught in 1938.

Alas, now it is in danger of actually becoming extinct.
The appearance of these creatures off the Tanzanian coast is a dramatic and as yet unfinished chapter in the extraordinary story of the coelacanth, an ancient fish that was 'rediscovered'. The coelacanth evolved 400 million years ago - by contrast Homo sapiens has been around for less than 200,000 years - and was believed to have gone the way of the dinosaurs until one was caught off the coast of South Africa in 1938.


The world waited another 14 years before the second coelacanth was 'discovered' in the Comoros, off the East African coast. Then several more were found and it was photographed for the first time in its natural habitat. But it is the appearance of the coelacanth off Tanzania that has raised real worries about its future.

It was in August 2004 that the local fisheries authority first received a phone call saying fishermen in Kigombe had caught a 'strange' fish. Officials went to check and to their amazement found two specimens of Latimira chalumnae - the coelacanth. Over the next five months 19 more were netted - weighing between 25kg and 80kg. Another appeared last January, then there was a gap until the fish again turned up as The Observer visited.

Read the whole thing.

(Note: Image borrowed from here.)

The article ends with a great quote:

'Why should they save this fish?' he demanded. 'This is not a good fish. It's oily and you cannot eat this, and it's a smelly fish.' Fixing me with a puzzled look, he concluded: 'It's a bad fish.'


parshat Vayigash: When Was Yosef Sold?

This post puts together ideas developed in other posts.

1) While the traditional understanding is that Yosef was sold after Rachel's death, I would suggest that in fact he was sold before Rachel's death.

2) If Rachel died before Yosef was sold, then Binyamin would be at least 23 when he the brothers stood before Yosef. Yosef was sold at 17, stood [before Pharaoh when he was 30, and the brothers] stood before him when he was 39 [30 -- edits as per David's comment. It was a typographical error on my part -- Binyamin would still be at least 23, as per my initial calculation]. Rachel died in birthing Binyamin. Thus Binyamin would be at least 23. Yet the brothers describe him several times as extremely young, such that they fear for his death were he to travel to Egypt.

3) How can this be? After all, Rachel died on the way back from Padan Aram on the way home. Yet Vayeishev, which describes the selling of Yosef, begins that Yaakov settled in the land of his father's sojournings. The answer is that this first pasuk is unrelated to the narrative that follows. This first pasuk really belongs to the previous parsha, and is there to match the statement that Esav settled in Seir.

4) If Binyamin is so young, how could he have 10 children (see 46:21) who came down to Egypt (listed among the 70)? It is difficult enough if he is between 22 and 30, but now he is a mere youngster?

Even without making Binyamin younger and redefining the chronology, it is difficult for Binyamin to have had all these children in such a short time span.

The same is true for Yehuda's children and grandchildren. Wer have a relatively short timespan (even if we make Yehuda leave his brothers and marry his first wife Bet Shua before Yosef is sold). In that short timespan, Yehuda needs to marry his first wife, have three children, have them grow up sufficiently for the first two to marry Tamar and die, for Yehuda to sleep with Tamar and have the twins, and also for Peretz, one of the two, to grow up sufficiently to marry and have two children, Chetzron and Chamul (see 46:12), grandchildren of Yehuda who are listed among those coming down to Egpyt.

There is also the difficulty of Reuven's children, who seem to be tribbles, in that they double suddenly. If promising Binyamin's safe return, Reuven tries to put up the lives of his two children. Yet in (46:9) Reuven has four children: Chanoch, Pallu, Chetzron and Karmi.

I'll put forth another question. How could Ephraim and Menashe be among the count of 70 that came down to Egypt, when the same verse states they were born in Egypt (46:27)?

5) My answer to this is that in (46:27), the phrase כָּל-הַנֶּפֶשׁ לְבֵית-יַעֲקֹב הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה and in the previous verse, the phrase כָּל-הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַבָּאָה לְיַעֲקֹב מִצְרַיְמָה, does not mean that they physically entered the gates of Egypt (Ephraim and Menashe being the best proof of this).

Rather, there was a generation that entered Egypt. As opposed to the generation that left Egypt. But this does not mean they physically passed through Egypt's gates. Rather, this first generation, the founding generation in Egypt, deserves a census at some point. This could have been taken much later, say at the time of Yaakov's death.

If so, Binyamin, Yehuda's sons, and Reuven have plenty of time to have more sons. And so Binyamin can indeed be very young.

6) Because Meir was asking me to read to him Curious George Goes to the Beach once again, I neglected to mention some of the more interesting evidence.

The brothers envy their father's love for Yosef, which is due to Yosef's being a ben zekunim. No mention is made of Binyamin, who is even more of a ben zekunim, and who is referred to by Yehuda later as a yeled zekunim.

The brothers are grazing in Shechem, and we know that the incident involving Dinah in Shechem took place before Rachel's death.

Yaakov says to Yosef's second dream, "shall I, your mother, and your brothers..." The midrash takes off on this, saying that Yaakov is saying that the dream is impossible because Rachel is dead, not knowing that Bilhah was being referred to. On a peshat level, it would seem that Rachel is still alive when Yaakov says this.

That Yosef sees 11 stars - this might be taken to refer to Dinah, at least is unremarked upon in the story, even if it eventually turns out to be Binyamin. Yaakov just says "your brothers," not "your 11 brothers."

Yes, it involves some level of ain muqdam ume`uchar batorah, but this is necessary in the case of stories that extend past a long timespan, and genealogical details such as Rachel's death and Binyamin's birth are exactly where we this stepping out of the bounds of straightforward chronology (see my other posts about this).

Monday, January 09, 2006

parshat Vayigash/Vayechi: Issi ben Yehuda's Five (And Rav Chisda's One) As Disambiguated by Trup

In this post on Vayigash, I discussed Ibn Ezra's suggestion that the ambiguous verse in Bereishit 44:22 be listed among Issi ben Yehuda's five miqra`ot she`ein lahem hekhreia'. I can list this as a post on Vayechi since this is when I am posting this, and the fourth example occurs in the parsha. As I wrote on that post:
What we can note of Issi ben Yehuda's five is that in each the ambiguity is of the same type. The words of the pasuk are:
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p
which form two distinct phrases. There is a middle word, say, g, which might be part of the first phrase or part of the second phrase. That is, either
[a b c d e f g] [h i j k l m n o p]
[a b c d e f] [g h i j k l m n o p]
Thus, the ambiguity is one where to make a pause, and to which of two phrases the middle word belongs. The ambiguity of meaning follows from the ambiguity of to which phrase the middle word belongs.
Once again, to identify Issi ben Yehuda's five, listed in Yoma 52b:

I would like to go through each of the five verses and see how the trup disambiguates. For the purpose of trup is to syntactically subdivide the verse, and so it forms a commentary whose very purpose is to deal with this type of issue.

1) The first of the list occurs in parshat Bereishit. In Bereishit 4:7:
ו וַיֹּאמֶר ה, אֶל-קָיִן: לָמָּה חָרָה לָךְ, וְלָמָּה נָפְלוּ פָנֶיךָ. 6 And the LORD said unto Cain: 'Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
ז הֲלוֹא אִם-תֵּיטִיב, שְׂאֵת, וְאִם לֹא תֵיטִיב, לַפֶּתַח חַטָּאת רֹבֵץ; וְאֵלֶיךָ, תְּשׁוּקָתוֹ, וְאַתָּה, תִּמְשָׁל-בּוֹ. 7 If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door; and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it.'
Rashi explains the ambiguity of the word שְׂאֵת in that it can either join the expression before or after:

הֲלוֹא אִם-תֵּיטִיב שְׂאֵת
שְׂאֵת אִם לֹא תֵיטִיב

If the former, it connotes pardon - lifting up; if the latter, it connotes bearing of one's sin. Indeed, we see a similar dual usage of שְׂאֵת, where the butler and the baker both had their heads "lifted up" - the butler had his head lifter to his former glory and the baker had his head lifted off his shoulders.

On this verse in Chumash, Rashi decides in favor of the former, explaining that its interpretation follows its Targum, which renders this as pardon.

But what of the latter interpretation? Interestingly, Rashi appears to emend the text in his interpretation in Yoma. He writes, as I wrote above, שְׂאֵת אִם לֹא תֵיטִיב, "you will bear if you do not repent," removing the vav from וְאִם. Indeed, with the vav there, it is hard to see how the verse can be ambiguous - the vav appears to present an almost insurmountable obstacle. Did Rashi emend the text in order to show more or less what the verse would mean, or did he actually have a variant text of the verse? Rashi does not cite the verse in his commentary on the verse, but the Targum to which he refers does have the vav in place. Still, it would be interesting to see what sort of variant manuscripts exist on this verse, such that Issi ben Yehuda might have had.

Even with the joining of שְׂאֵת to אִם לֹא תֵיטִיב, it seems hard to make sense of the verse. Without שְׂאֵת, what do we make of הֲלוֹא אִם-תֵּיטִיב? Perhaps: shouldn't you do well?

In terms of trup, we can decide in favor of Rashi and Targum:

ז הֲל֤וֹא אִם־תֵּיטִיב֙ שְׂאֵ֔ת וְאִם֙ לֹ֣א תֵיטִ֔יב לַפֶּ֖תַח חַטָּ֣את רֹבֵ֑ץ וְאֵלֶ֨יךָ֙ תְּשׁ֣וּקָת֔וֹ וְאַתָּ֖ה תִּמְשָׁל־בּֽוֹ׃

The etnachta on רֹבֵ֑ץ subdivides the verse. That is subdivided first by the zakef on שְׂאֵ֔ת, then the second half of that again by the zakef on תֵיטִ֔יב, and then finally by the tipcha on לַפֶּ֖תַח. Thus, the first half of the verse is divided into:
הֲל֤וֹא אִם־תֵּיטִיב֙ שְׂאֵ֔ת
וְאִם֙ לֹ֣א תֵיטִ֔יב לַפֶּ֖תַח חַטָּ֣את רֹבֵ֑ץ

If we had chosen the latter interpretation, the zakef should have been on אִם-תֵּיטִיב.

2) The second of the list occurs in parshat Teruma, in Shemot 25:34. (And the same in Shemot 37:20.)

לד וּבַמְּנֹרָה, אַרְבָּעָה גְבִעִים: מְשֻׁקָּדִים--כַּפְתֹּרֶיהָ, וּפְרָחֶיהָ. 34 And in the candlestick four cups made like almond-blossoms, the knops thereof, and the flowers thereof.
Ignore the misleading translation "made like almond-blossoms." Rashi again renders keTargumo, that is מצירין, which is a specific type of some form of metalwork, modelling, as they do on gold and silver vessels, called nellier in Old French. (See Rashi on previous verse.)

Here, Rashi notes that this is one of Issi ben Yehuda's five, and that it is ambiguous, as either אַרְבָּעָה גְבִעִים מְשֻׁקָּדִים - four cups which are meshuqadim, or מְשֻׁקָּדִים כַּפְתֹּרֶיהָ וּפְרָחֶיהָ - that the knops and flowers were meshuqadim.

What about the trup?

לד וּבַמְּנֹרָ֖ה אַרְבָּעָ֣ה גְבִעִ֑ים מְשֻׁ֨קָּדִ֔ים כַּפְתֹּרֶ֖יהָ וּפְרָחֶֽיהָ

The etnachta is on גְבִעִ֑ים. Thus the verse is divided into:
וּבַמְּנֹרָ֖ה אַרְבָּעָ֣ה גְבִעִ֑ים
מְשֻׁ֨קָּדִ֔ים כַּפְתֹּרֶ֖יהָ וּפְרָחֶֽיהָ

If so, the trup seems to suggest that it is the knops and flowers which are meshuqadim.

(On the other hand, I am confused about the zakef on מְשֻׁ֨קָּדִ֔ים, which divides it off from כַּפְתֹּרֶ֖יהָ וּפְרָחֶֽיהָ. Perhaps the second half of the verse describes features of the cups. So perhaps - they (= the cups) are meshaqadim, and with knops and flowers. Based on Wickes' rules for syntactic division, I am not sure that we would have expected a disjunctive accent here - I suspet we should have had a servus such as mercha. So I will leave this as a teiku until such time as I can resolve this.)

3) The third example is in Beshalach, in Shemot 17:9:
ח וַיָּבֹא, עֲמָלֵק; וַיִּלָּחֶם עִם-יִשְׂרָאֵל, בִּרְפִידִם. 8 Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.
ט וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בְּחַר-לָנוּ אֲנָשִׁים, וְצֵא הִלָּחֵם בַּעֲמָלֵק; מָחָר, אָנֹכִי נִצָּב עַל-רֹאשׁ הַגִּבְעָה, וּמַטֵּה הָאֱלֹהִים, בְּיָדִי. 9 And Moses said unto Joshua: 'Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.'
The word מָחָר could either join וְצֵא הִלָּחֵם בַּעֲמָלֵק מָחָר, or מָחָר אָנֹכִי נִצָּב עַל-רֹאשׁ הַגִּבְעָה. Rashi decides in favor of the latter: Tomorrow, I will stand.

Indeed, the trup decides likewise:

ט וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֤ה אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁ֨עַ֙ בְּחַר־לָ֣נוּ אֲנָשִׁ֔ים וְצֵ֖א הִלָּחֵ֣ם בַּֽעֲמָלֵ֑ק מָחָ֗ר אָֽנֹכִ֤י נִצָּב֙ עַל־רֹ֣אשׁ הַגִּבְעָ֔ה וּמַטֵּ֥ה הָֽאֱלֹהִ֖ים בְּיָדִֽי׃

There is an etnachta on בַּֽעֲמָלֵ֑ק subdividing the verse there, such that it cannot join מָחָ֗ר.

4) In Yaakov's blessings to his sons, in parshat Vayechi, he addresses Shimon and Levi. Bereishit 49:6-7:
ה שִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי, אַחִים--כְּלֵי חָמָס, מְכֵרֹתֵיהֶם. 5 Simeon and Levi are brethren; weapons of violence their kinship.
ו בְּסֹדָם אַל-תָּבֹא נַפְשִׁי, בִּקְהָלָם אַל-תֵּחַד כְּבֹדִי: כִּי בְאַפָּם הָרְגוּ אִישׁ, וּבִרְצֹנָם עִקְּרוּ-שׁוֹר. 6 Let my soul not come into their council; unto their assembly let my glory not be united; for in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they houghed oxen.
ז אָרוּר אַפָּם כִּי עָז, וְעֶבְרָתָם כִּי קָשָׁתָה; אֲחַלְּקֵם בְּיַעֲקֹב, וַאֲפִיצֵם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל. {פ} 7 Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce, and their wrath, for it was cruel; I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.
This is one of the more interesting ones, for it spans a pasuk boundary. The word in question is אָרוּר. Perhaps אָרוּר belongs to the previous verse, in which case we have:

וּבִרְצֹנָם עִקְּרוּ-שׁוֹר אָרוּר = "and in their self-will they houghed a cursed ox." This would be a reference to Shechem.
Then, the next verse would be אַפָּם כִּי עָז, וְעֶבְרָתָם כִּי קָשָׁתָה, with כִּי being the asseverative כִּי, denoting intensity, rather than causality. Thus, Yaakov is not cursing them, but stating how strong and fierce their anger and wrath.

Alternatively, אָרוּר joins אָרוּר אַפָּם כִּי עָז, in which case he is cursing their anger.

Obviously, here the verse division, as denoted by the trup of silluq, decides in favor of the latter. Did Issi ben Yehuda disagree with the verse divisions? Were they not solid in his day. Or is he pointing out ambiguity in the text were it not for the tradition of how verses should be divided?

The setama raises one ambiguous verse of Rav Chisda, and concludes that Issi ben Yehuda did not list it because he was sure about how one should read that verse. The implication is that for the others he was not sure. So if we can believe the setama, then he did not know the proper verse division.

I think a nice explanation would be that these are five instances in which, since we may harness the power of derash, the verse may be usefully interpreted with the word joining the preceding of following phrase.

At any rate, perhaps there is a better explanation of why Issi ben Yehuda did not include Rav Chisda's query in his reckoning. See (6).

5) In parshat Vayelech, Devarim 31:16:
טז וַיֹּאמֶר ה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, הִנְּךָ שֹׁכֵב עִם-אֲבֹתֶיךָ; וְקָם הָעָם הַזֶּה וְזָנָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵי נֵכַר-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר הוּא בָא-שָׁמָּה בְּקִרְבּוֹ, וַעֲזָבַנִי, וְהֵפֵר אֶת-בְּרִיתִי אֲשֶׁר כָּרַתִּי אִתּוֹ. 16 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Behold, thou art about to sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go astray after the foreign gods of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake Me, and break My covenant which I have made with them.
the word וְקָם could either work with the preceding phrase:
הִנְּךָ שֹׁכֵב עִם-אֲבֹתֶיךָ וְקָם - behold, you will sleep with your fathers and rise up - a reference to resurrection of the dead.
or with the following phrase:
וְקָם הָעָם הַזֶּה - and this people will rise up.

Here, we have etnachta on avotecha:
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה הִנְּךָ֥ שֹׁכֵ֖ב עִם־אֲבֹתֶ֑יךָ וְקָם֩ הָעָ֨ם הַזֶּ֜ה וְזָנָ֣ה ׀ אַֽחֲרֵ֣י ׀ אֱלֹהֵ֣י נֵֽכַר־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר ה֤וּא בָא־שָׁ֨מָּה֙ בְּקִרְבּ֔וֹ וַֽעֲזָבַ֕נִי וְהֵפֵר֙ אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר כָּרַ֖תִּי אִתּֽוֹ׃

6) Rav Chisda had one which the gemara discusses. In Shemot 24:5:
ה וַיִּשְׁלַח, אֶת-נַעֲרֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וַיַּעֲלוּ, עֹלֹת; וַיִּזְבְּחוּ זְבָחִים שְׁלָמִים, לַה--פָּרִים. 5 And he sent the young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt-offerings, and sacrificed peace-offerings of oxen unto the LORD.
Does "oxen" at the end describe only the peace-offerings, while the burnt-offerings were sheep?
Or does it describe both peace-offerings and burnt offerings?

To distinguish between the two - do we pause after עֹלֹת, in which case פָּרִים would not describe it, or do we not pause on it, and join it to וַיִּזְבְּחוּ זְבָחִים, such that פָּרִים would describe it.

Interestingly, Rashi notes here, because this is an historical question and so should make no halachic difference, that the nafka mina would be determining the proper trup, which we have been using in all these examples to disambiguate. Should the word עֹלֹת get an etnachta or a geresh. The trup:

ה וַיִּשְׁלַ֗ח אֶֽת־נַעֲרֵי֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיַּֽעֲל֖וּ עֹלֹ֑ת וַֽיִּזְבְּח֞וּ זְבָחִ֧ים שְׁלָמִ֛ים לַֽיהוָ֖ה פָּרִֽים

As you can see, we have an etnachta.

This Rashi raises an interesting more general question. If I know the rules of trup, and I know that we read a certain narrative or a certain halacha in a certain way which turns out to be against the trup, should I change the trup. Since Rashi explains Rav Chisda's nafka mina as just this, it would seem that we should. Or perhaps this was only when trup was not yet solidified, but now we keep to the masora even where it contradicts our understanding of halacha?

Rav Chisda's example is different from Issi ben Yehuda's, which is presumably why he did not include it. While it certainly is an example of uncertainty of pause, and together with that, whether a certain phrase joins with the preceding or not, this can be cast as a question of distribution of פָּרִֽים. We are not taking a single word and radically reinterpreting a phrase or phrases based on whether it joins before or after it. Compare with the other examples. And the ambiguity of joining is on a much later word. But, צ"ע

7) The midrash rabba discusses another case which is of the Issi ben Yehuda type, which I discussed on parshat Vayishlach:
In midrash rabba, someone suggests that a pasuk from Vayishlach should be added to a list of four pesukim with ambiguous parsing.

In Bereishit 34:7 we read:

ז וּבְנֵי יַעֲקֹב בָּאוּ מִן-הַשָּׂדֶה, כְּשָׁמְעָם, וַיִּתְעַצְּבוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים, וַיִּחַר לָהֶם מְאֹד: כִּי-נְבָלָה עָשָׂה בְיִשְׂרָאֵל, לִשְׁכַּב אֶת-בַּת-יַעֲקֹב, וְכֵן, לֹא יֵעָשֶׂה.
7 And the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought a vile deed in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter; which thing ought not to be done.
At issue is whether the word כְּשָׁמְעָם, "when they heard it" associates with the pasuk up to this point - they came as soon as they heard - or if is associates with the next part of the pasuk - so that they came, and when they heard, they were grieved and very wroth. The English translation above already disambiguates the parsing issue in favor of the former parsing of the pasuk. It also accords with the trup on the pasuk:

Bereishit 34:7:
ז וּבְנֵ֨י יַֽעֲקֹ֜ב בָּ֤אוּ מִן־הַשָּׂדֶה֙ כְּשָׁמְעָ֔ם וַיִּֽתְעַצְּבוּ֙ הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים וַיִּ֥חַר לָהֶ֖ם מְאֹ֑ד כִּֽי־נְבָלָ֞ה עָשָׂ֣ה בְיִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל לִשְׁכַּב֙ אֶת־בַּֽת־יַעֲקֹ֔ב וְכֵ֖ן לֹ֥א יֵֽעָשֶֽׂה׃

Here, the disjunctive accent, in the form of a zaqef katon on the word כְּשָׁמְעָם, separates the pasuk such that the word belongs to the first half.


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