Thursday, June 28, 2007

Daf Yomi Yevamot 65b, parshat Vayechi: An Open Canon Approach vs. Changing the Truth

Citing from a translation not yet posted on my Rif blog:
{Yevamot 65b}
אמר רבי אלעא משום רבי יהודה בר' שמעון מותר לשנות בדברי שלום שנאמר כה תאמרו ליוסף וגו
Rabbi Illa'a cited Rabbi Yehuda son of Rabbi Shimon: It is permissible to change {a statement} for the purposes of peace, for it is stated {Bereishit 50:17}:

טז וַיְצַוּוּ, אֶל-יוֹסֵף לֵאמֹר: אָבִיךָ צִוָּה, לִפְנֵי מוֹתוֹ לֵאמֹר. 16 And they sent a message unto Joseph, saying: 'Thy father did command before he died, saying:
יז כֹּה-תֹאמְרוּ לְיוֹסֵף, אָנָּא שָׂא נָא פֶּשַׁע אַחֶיךָ וְחַטָּאתָם כִּי-רָעָה גְמָלוּךָ, וְעַתָּה שָׂא נָא, לְפֶשַׁע עַבְדֵי אֱלֹהֵי אָבִיךָ; וַיֵּבְךְּ יוֹסֵף, בְּדַבְּרָם אֵלָיו. 17 So shall ye say unto Joseph: Forgive, I pray thee now, the transgression of thy brethren, and their sin, for that they did unto thee evil. And now, we pray thee, forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of thy father.' And Joseph wept when they spoke unto him.
Did Yaakov really not command them to tell this to Yosef. In large part, the answer to this question feeds into the question of whether Yaakov ever knew of the brothers' sale of Yosef, and at what point he knew. Clearly, someone who is of the opinion that Yosef never told his father, and Yitzchak never told, and the brothers never told, is more likely to assume that Yaakov never found out. If so, this command would need to be fictional.

However, a closed-canon approach to the text (that everything pertaining to the text is in the text) also feeds into this stance that Yaakov never commanded this. For we saw, in the immediately preceding perek, exactly what Yaakov blessed and then commanded, and this command to say this Yosef in not present there. Looking there, we see {Bereishit 49:29}:
כט וַיְצַו אוֹתָם, וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם אֲנִי נֶאֱסָף אֶל-עַמִּי--קִבְרוּ אֹתִי, אֶל-אֲבֹתָי: אֶל-הַמְּעָרָה--אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׂדֵה, עֶפְרוֹן הַחִתִּי. 29 And he charged them, and said unto them: 'I am to be gathered unto my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,
ל בַּמְּעָרָה אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׂדֵה הַמַּכְפֵּלָה, אֲשֶׁר עַל-פְּנֵי-מַמְרֵא--בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן: אֲשֶׁר קָנָה אַבְרָהָם אֶת-הַשָּׂדֶה, מֵאֵת עֶפְרֹן הַחִתִּי--לַאֲחֻזַּת-קָבֶר. 30 in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a burying-place.
לא שָׁמָּה קָבְרוּ אֶת-אַבְרָהָם, וְאֵת שָׂרָה אִשְׁתּוֹ, שָׁמָּה קָבְרוּ אֶת-יִצְחָק, וְאֵת רִבְקָה אִשְׁתּוֹ; וְשָׁמָּה קָבַרְתִּי, אֶת-לֵאָה. 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.
לב מִקְנֵה הַשָּׂדֶה וְהַמְּעָרָה אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ, מֵאֵת בְּנֵי-חֵת. 32 The field and the cave that is therein, which was purchased from the children of Heth.'
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.
Thus, this is what he charged them with. If they speak now of a different charge, how come this was not mentioned previously? Thus, a strict closed-canon approach will gravitate towards the position that Yaakov did not command this.

On the other hand (adopting a slightly looser, open-canon approach), who is to say that Yaakov did not also charge his sons with other commands. For example, did he only specify his burial? Might he also not have specified other instructions, such as how to conduct themselves, how to deal with various business interests if any, how to disperse his property? It states וַיְכַל יַעֲקֹב לְצַוֹּת אֶת-בָּנָיו, "and when Jacob made an end of charging his sons," which we might take to refer to other commands, of which the preceding was merely an excerpt worthy of note. And even without this diyuk, we could state the same thing.

Indeed, other times in Tanach things happen without note, though sometimes care is taken to refer to the fact that it had happened. Thus, in Yonah 1:10:
י וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה, וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו מַה-זֹּאת עָשִׂיתָ: כִּי-יָדְעוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים, כִּי-מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה הוּא בֹרֵחַ--כִּי הִגִּיד, לָהֶם. 10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him: 'What is this that thou hast done?' For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.
the pasuk informs us that Yonah had told them he had fled from Hashem, because it is so jarring to see them refer to it when it appeared nowhere before. But it may be in general that facts may be presented when relevant and nowhere before. This might be a more peshat-oriented approach.

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