Sunday, June 15, 2008

Behaaloscha: Their Prophecy Did Not Cease

In parshas Behaalosecha, the seventy elders receive prophecy:

כד וַיֵּצֵא מֹשֶׁה--וַיְדַבֵּר אֶל-הָעָם, אֵת דִּבְרֵי ה; וַיֶּאֱסֹף שִׁבְעִים אִישׁ, מִזִּקְנֵי הָעָם, וַיַּעֲמֵד אֹתָם, סְבִיבֹת הָאֹהֶל. 24 And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the Tent.
כה וַיֵּרֶד ה בֶּעָנָן, וַיְדַבֵּר אֵלָיו, וַיָּאצֶל מִן-הָרוּחַ אֲשֶׁר עָלָיו, וַיִּתֵּן עַל-שִׁבְעִים אִישׁ הַזְּקֵנִים; וַיְהִי, כְּנוֹחַ עֲלֵיהֶם הָרוּחַ, וַיִּתְנַבְּאוּ, וְלֹא יָסָפוּ. 25 And the LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and put it upon the seventy elders; and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, but they did so no more.
כו וַיִּשָּׁאֲרוּ שְׁנֵי-אֲנָשִׁים בַּמַּחֲנֶה שֵׁם הָאֶחָד אֶלְדָּד וְשֵׁם הַשֵּׁנִי מֵידָד וַתָּנַח עֲלֵהֶם הָרוּחַ, וְהֵמָּה בַּכְּתֻבִים, וְלֹא יָצְאוּ, הָאֹהֱלָה; וַיִּתְנַבְּאוּ, בַּמַּחֲנֶה. 26 But there remained two men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad; and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were recorded, but had not gone out unto the Tent; and they prophesied in the camp.
Was this gift of prophecy permanent, or just a temporary effect of the spirit of Hashem resting upon them in this instance? Rashi cites both possibilities, but I think favors the position that it was a one-time-only deal.
but they did not continue They prophesied on that day only-Thus it is stated in Sifrei (Beha’alothecha 1:42:21). The Targum renders “and they did not cease” [meaning] that their prophetic powers remained.
I could see how both are readable into the text on a peshat level. Certainly וַיְהִי כְּנוֹחַ עֲלֵיהֶם הָרוּחַ could carry the implication that it was only then, when this spirit of Hashem rested on them. But it could be read otherwise. Similarly, Moshe's reaction to Yehoshua a bit later might, but need not necessarily, be read as stating that these are more permanent prophets.

I am not going to get into this into detail here, because this is not the point of this post.

Rather, I had a fleeting thought which may well be nonsensical, but I wanted to record it here so that I could look back at it later to reconsider. Namely, how about placing the sof pasuk in pasuk 25 on the word וַיִּתְנַבְּאוּ? If so, the next pasuk would begin with וְלֹא יָסָפוּ. Then, it would refer to Eldad and Medad who were not gathered and thus remained in the camp. And thus they prophesied in the camp, for the spirit of Hashem rested upon them while they were still in the camp. Then, יָסָפוּ would not mean cease and would not mean continue. It would mean gather, just as the several instances in the immediate context, e.g. וַיֶּאֱסֹף in pasuk 24, וַיֵּאָסֵף in pasuk 30, and the examples in the next incident of the slav as well.

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