Friday, January 04, 2008

The Age of Trup -- part v

Continuing Shadal's Viukach Al Chochmat HaKabbalah. In past segments, we discussed the approach of several commentators in terms of whether trup and nikkud were binding. We covered Rashi, Rashbam, Ibn Ezra, and Ramban. (Also, see the next segment, about Abarbanel and Radak.) We now turn to Rabbenu Bachya ben Asher:

And Rabbenu Bachya {ben Asher}, upon {Bemidbar 11:15}:
טו וְאִם-כָּכָה אַתְּ-עֹשֶׂה לִּי, הָרְגֵנִי נָא הָרֹג--אִם-מָצָאתִי חֵן, בְּעֵינֶיךָ; וְאַל-אֶרְאֶה, בְּרָעָתִי. {פ} 15 And if Thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray Thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in Thy sight; and let me not look upon my wretchedness.' {P}
wrote that the implication of each and every word is according to the vowel points, and with all this, he explains {Devarim 32, in parshat Haazinu}:
ה שִׁחֵת לוֹ לֹא, בָּנָיו מוּמָם: {ס} דּוֹר עִקֵּשׁ, וּפְתַלְתֹּל. {ר} 5 Is corruption His? No; His children's is the blemish; a generation crooked and perverse.
as referring to Adam HaRishon {the first Man}, and דּוֹר עִקֵּשׁ, וּפְתַלְתֹּל he explains as referring to Israel, and it is attached to הַ לְיְהוָה, תִּגְמְלוּ-זֹאת {in the next pasuk}, even though there is a sof pasuk between them.

{Note: This ends my citation of Shadal within this post. I must speak up here and note that this is not really an entirely fair categorization of Rabbenu Bachya ben Asher's position on nikkud, in parshat Behaalotecha. The full quote is actually as follows (taken from JNUL):

וְאִם-כָּכָה אַתְּ-עֹשֶׂה לִּי -- the word את is a nickname for the Attribute of Judgment {and thus, if the Attribute of Din does this to me}. And so too it mentions {in pasuk 10, same perek:}
י וַיִּשְׁמַע מֹשֶׁה אֶת-הָעָם, בֹּכֶה לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָיו--אִישׁ, לְפֶתַח אָהֳלוֹ; וַיִּחַר-אַף ה מְאֹד, וּבְעֵינֵי מֹשֶׁה רָע. 10 And Moses heard the people weeping, family by family, every man at the door of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; and Moses was displeased.
{also with the implication of the Attribute of Judgment.}
And it is like {in VaEtchanan, in Devarim 5:23,}:
כג קְרַב אַתָּה וּשְׁמָע, אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר יֹאמַר ה אֱלֹהֵינוּ; וְאַתְּ תְּדַבֵּר אֵלֵינוּ, אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ אֵלֶיךָ--וְשָׁמַעְנוּ וְעָשִׂינוּ. 23 Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God may say; and thou shalt speak unto us all that the LORD our God may speak unto thee; and we will hear it and do it.'
and {Yechezkel 28:14}
יד אַתְּ-כְּרוּב--מִמְשַׁח, הַסּוֹכֵךְ; וּנְתַתִּיךָ, בְּהַר קֹדֶשׁ אֱלֹהִים הָיִיתָ--בְּתוֹךְ אַבְנֵי-אֵשׁ, הִתְהַלָּכְתָּ. 14 Thou wast the far-covering cherub; and I set thee, so that thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of stones of fire.
which is a nickname to the second cherub, which is called Kavod {Honor}. For the two cherubim are Kavod and Tiferet, and as I explained in seder Vayikchu Li Teruma. Forin a sefer Torah, when it does not have vowel points, a person is able to read וְאִם-כָּכָה אַתְּ-עֹשָה לִּי, with a kametz under the letter sin {of עֹשָה}. For the letters, when they are unvocalized, can carry many different intentions, and are divided into many sparks. And because of this, we were commanded not to vocalize a sefer Torah, for the implication of each and every word is according to its vowels {what Shadal reads as its traditional vowel points, but that is not what he is saying}, and there is only a single possible explanation where it has specific vowel points, but where it lacks vowel points, a person is able to understand in it a great many wonderful matters. And understand this, you need it in many places.

Such as {in parshat Vayera, Bereishit 22:12}:
יב וַיֹּאמֶר, אַל-תִּשְׁלַח יָדְךָ אֶל-הַנַּעַר, וְאַל-תַּעַשׂ לוֹ, מְאוּמָה: כִּי עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי-יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים אַתָּה, וְלֹא חָשַׂכְתָּ אֶת-בִּנְךָ אֶת-יְחִידְךָ, מִמֶּנִּי. 12 And he said: 'Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; for now I know that thou art a God-fearing man, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me.'
for one is able to read עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי with a chirik under the yud, and the dalet with a dagesh {chazak, thus the piel form}. And its meaning is: "now I will make known in the world this commandment I commanded you, and which you stood by {=the Binding of Isaac}, for you are a God-fearing man."

And so too {Shemot 2}:
ה וַתֵּרֶד בַּת-פַּרְעֹה לִרְחֹץ עַל-הַיְאֹר, וְנַעֲרֹתֶיהָ הֹלְכֹת עַל-יַד הַיְאֹר; וַתֵּרֶא אֶת-הַתֵּבָה בְּתוֹךְ הַסּוּף, וַתִּשְׁלַח אֶת-אֲמָתָהּ וַתִּקָּחֶהָ. 5 And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe in the river; and her maidens walked along by the river-side; and she saw the ark among the flags, and sent her handmaid to fetch it.
which has the implication of maidservant, and we are able to read it ammata {with a full patach and a dagesh chazak in the mem} from the language of beAmat Ish {=the arm-length of man}. And so did our Rabbis, z"l understand it in their midrash, for they said that it stretched out and extended. And there are many similar to them.
End quote from Rabbenu Bachya.

Thus, with this partial quote, Shadal accidentally reversed the implication entirely on its face. Rabbenu Bachya's intent here is not that we are bound by the nikkud, but rather as follows: The text in the Torah is unvocalized, and this is to preserve ambiguity. For all sorts of possible explanations exist in this form. Whenever we assign it any vocalization, that fixes it. And so the traditional vocalization -- any by extension, we may say, trup -- gives only one particular meaning / parse. But we should not be bound by that in giving explanations, for there are many different explanations which are true simultaneously. Thus, the fact that he gives an explanation on Haazinu which bridges a sof pasuk is not at odds with this rule Rabbenu Bachya laid down. But it should also not be cast as the only explanation. It is quite possible that he would allow the parse given by the trup as another, simultaneous explanation.

Still perhaps Shadal is just taking away from this that an assignment to vowel points fixes an interpretation

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