Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Age of Trup -- part xvii

Shadal continues his Vikuach Al Chochmat Hakabbalah. Here he continues the age of masorah, bringing a third witness. He talks about the definition of baalei masorah, and then the definition of yesh em lamikra and yesh em lamesorah. (See previous segment.)

And he said to me: And now take for me the first chelek of the sefer Mishneh Torah of the Rambam, and hear a third witness.

And I took the sefer, and he found written in it, in the law of sefer Torah, perek 8:
"And because I saw a great mix-up in all the sefarim {=sifrei Torah} that I saw in these matters, and also the baalei haMasoret, who write and author to inform of the petuchot and setumot {gaps}, are divided in these matters just as is the dispute in the sefarim upon which they rely, I have seen {fit} to write here all of the parshiyot in the Torah, the setumot and the petuchot, and the form of the songs {how they are formatted}, in order to fix based upon them all the sefarim and to correct from them. And the sefer that we have relied upon in these matters is the sefer known in Egpyt, which encompasses the 24 books {of Tanach}, which was in Yerushalayim for many years to correct sefarim from it, and upon it all are reliant, for Ben Asher corrected it and was precise in it for many years, and made many corrections, as they are encoded of old {?}, and upon it I based myself in the Torah I wrote in accordance with its halacha.

And the man said to me: Here to you it is clear that the baalei haMasoret did not arise under after the closing of the Talmud, and also after Ben Asher.

The author: See, your words are good and correct (*) but the Sages of the Talmud many times mentioned the masoret, and Rabbi Akiva said that the masoret is a fence to the Torah.

(*) It appears to me now that the Rambam is not referring to the masorah, for in the masora they do not encode the petuchot and setumot. But rather he is speaking about a few of the later people {"acharonim"} who are writing about these matters. However, the author of the Chovot haLevavot mentions Ibn Janach first, because of his stature, and there is no doubt that the Baalei haMesorah preceded Rabbi Yonah Ibn Janach and all of the grammarians.

The guest: You have not reached to the depths of their intent, for masoret that they mentioned is like its name -- something given over from one mouth to the next, and not like the Masorah we have which is written; and that which they taught orally, and which they called by the name masoret, was only to know which word was spelled plene and which deficient, as they said "the mikra is determinant; the masoret is determinant." The mikra is the way of reading, such as besukkot, while masoret is the way of writing, such as besukkat {for there is no vav in the word} (**); However the masoret of the early ones does not touch at all on the matter of the vowels {nekudot} and trup. And with a clear speech the Tosafot and the Rosh said in Nedarim 37 that the masoret is the plene and deficient spellings; if they had a masorah such as we have with us today they would not have doubts or disputes, this one with the other in the reading of some of the words.

(**) The Rif already asked why did they say yesh em and not yesh av, as they say {elsewhere} bana av. And he answered well, and I come after him and complement his words. For the mishpacha {family} of the father is called family, but not the family of the mother, and the mother is called to her {immediate} children, but the father is called father also to the descendants of his descendants after they are divided into families.

And behold a binyan av, and so to avuhon dechulhu dam, the intent is that it teaches many matters which are not similar, one to the other, like brothers, but rather they are of different types, and it is as if they are of different families.

But yesh em lamikra is a different matter, and the word em has as its meaning "source" (as they say {in Bechorot 4:4}: עד שחותכין את (האום שלה, בשביל שלא תלד and the intent is to say that the reading which one pronounces has a trustworthy source, and this is the main meaning according to a few, and according to the opinion of others the masoret has a trustworthy source, and it is the primary meaning.

And Rabbi Wolf Heidenheim in Moda' LaBinah {a Chumash with Rashi and the author's supercommentary on Rashi} at the end of the book of Devarim explains "em" from the language of imot hakeriah (matres lectiones), and this is a nickname common in the mouths of gentile grammarians, and they call this to resting letters, and before them Radak (not the author of sefer Yetzira {?} called them imot hasippur.

And Rabbi Wolf Heidenheim said that yesh em lamikra's implication is that the letters which are called mothers are for the completion of the reading, that is to say that it is only to draw out the pronunciation of the vowel, and one should not bother oneself if the "mother" is absent; and the meaning of yesh em lamesoret is that the mothers are also for the completion of the masorah, that is to say the completion of the writing of the word, aside from what they teach about the reading, and therefore where they are absent (such as in besukkat {that is, without the vav}, the word needs to be darshened.

And I say that even if it is accept (that upon which there is no proof) that the early ones {kadmonim} called "mothers" to resting letters, still this explanation does not rest well with the language yesh em.

For behold, to the words of Rabbi Wolf Heidenheim, yesh em la... its meaning is: The "mothers" are only for such and such.

And what will Rabbi Wolf Heidenheim say and one who says that yesh mazal leYisrael means that the constellations {? mazalot} were only created for Israel? And behold, just as "there is mazal to Yisrael" and "mazalot are for Yisrael" are two statements which are extremely different from one another, so to "yesh em lamikra" and "the mothers are for mikra" are not the same thing.

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