Friday, July 04, 2008

Sefer Milchamot Hashem

Towards the end of Chukas (Bemidbar 21:14) we see reference to an extrabiblical work known as " the book of the Wars of the LORD."
יג מִשָּׁם, נָסָעוּ, וַיַּחֲנוּ מֵעֵבֶר אַרְנוֹן אֲשֶׁר בַּמִּדְבָּר, הַיֹּצֵא מִגְּבֻל הָאֱמֹרִי: כִּי אַרְנוֹן גְּבוּל מוֹאָב, בֵּין מוֹאָב וּבֵין הָאֱמֹרִי. 13 From thence they journeyed, and pitched on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the wilderness, that cometh out of the border of the Amorites.--For Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites;
יד עַל-כֵּן, יֵאָמַר, בְּסֵפֶר, מִלְחֲמֹת יְהוָה: אֶת-וָהֵב בְּסוּפָה, וְאֶת-הַנְּחָלִים אַרְנוֹן. 14 wherefore it is said in the book of the Wars of the LORD: Vaheb in Suphah, and the valleys of Arnon,
טו וְאֶשֶׁד, הַנְּחָלִים, אֲשֶׁר נָטָה, לְשֶׁבֶת עָר; וְנִשְׁעַן, לִגְבוּל מוֹאָב. 15 And the slope of the valleys that inclineth toward the seat of Ar, and leaneth upon the border of Moab.--
טז וּמִשָּׁם, בְּאֵרָה: הִוא הַבְּאֵר, אֲשֶׁר אָמַר יְהוָה לְמֹשֶׁה, אֱסֹף אֶת-הָעָם, וְאֶתְּנָה לָהֶם מָיִם. {ס 16 And from thence to Beer; that is the well whereof the LORD said unto Moses: 'Gather the people together, and I will give them water.' {S}
יז אָז יָשִׁיר יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶת-הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת: עֲלִי בְאֵר, עֱנוּ-לָהּ. 17 Then sang Israel this song: Spring up, O well--sing ye unto it--
יח בְּאֵר חֲפָרוּהָ שָׂרִים, כָּרוּהָ נְדִיבֵי הָעָם, בִּמְחֹקֵק, בְּמִשְׁעֲנֹתָם; וּמִמִּדְבָּר, מַתָּנָה. 18 The well, which the princes digged, which the nobles of the people delved, with the sceptre, and with their staves. And from the wilderness to Mattanah;
יט וּמִמַּתָּנָה, נַחֲלִיאֵל; וּמִנַּחֲלִיאֵל, בָּמוֹת. 19 and from Mattanah to Nahaliel; and from Nahaliel to Bamoth;
כ וּמִבָּמוֹת, הַגַּיְא אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׂדֵה מוֹאָב--רֹאשׁ, הַפִּסְגָּה; וְנִשְׁקָפָה, עַל-פְּנֵי הַיְשִׁימֹן. {פ} 20 and from Bamoth to the valley that is in the field of Moab, by the top of Pisgah, which looketh down upon the desert. {P}

What is the book, and what is the point of mentioning it? Many commentators take on this issue. You may wish to click on the image to see it larger.

One interesting opinion is that of Or HaChaim, that this is a "book" which is before Hashem, in which is written which nation will prevail and take what land from what other nation.

I am not sure what to make of Targum Yonatan. Any suggestions?

Shadal has a nice summary, and comes to a conclusion I am not sure I agree with.

He writes:

יד] על כן יאמר בספר מלחמות ה' " : כתב רמבמ"ן, שמשה מביא כאן מה שהיה כתוב בספר ההוא להיות זה לעדות לישראל, שלא נכנסו בגבול מואב; ולא אמר כלום, שהרי לדעתו הס' ההוא היה מלאכת איש יהודי, והיה כתוב בו "היא הבאר אשר אמר ה' למשה", גם שם הס' (ספר מלחמות ה') מורה שהוא מלאכת איש יהודי, כי שם בן ארבע אותיות הוא מיוחד לאלהי ישראל, וא"כ מה ראיה מדברי הס' ההוא? והנכון שאין זה (כדעת ראב"ע) ספר בפני עצמו, אבל "ספר" הוא כאן (כדעת רש"י ורשב"ם וקלעריקוס) שם הפעולה, כמו ספור או ספירה ומזה נקראו כן הספרים, מפני שהם כוללים ספור דברים או ספירת דברים. והנה משה אומר כי אחר מלחמת סיחון ועוג, כשהיו ישראל מספרים דרך שיר ומשל ומליצה את מלחמות ה', היו מזכירים כי ה' עבר בסופה ובסערה את המקום הנקרא והב והנחלים והגיאיות הסמוכות לארנון, הלא הם הנחלים הסמוכים לער, כי הכל לקחו ישראל במלחמה, ונשען ה' ועמד בגבול מואב, שלא רצה ה' לעבור משם והלאה לכבוש ארץ מואב. השירים היו לשם ולתהילה בקרב ישראל, והתורה אוהבת להזכירם בעבור עצמם, ולא לתכלית אחרת, וכן ( בראשית ד' כ"ג) ויאמר למך לנשיו, וכן למטה ( פסוק כ"ז) על כן יאמרו המושלים

That is, he first cites Mendelssohn, that the purpose of this reference is as a testimony to Israel that they did not enter into the border of Moav. Shadal rejects this because, according to his position, the name of the sefer testifies that it is of Jewish origin, and the contents do as well, stating "this is the well about which Hashem said to Moshe, etc." The name YKVK is used. So what kind of proof can one bring from this?

Therefore, he rejects the idea, stated by Ibn Ezra, that this is a book.

Rather, sefer is an action, that of relating something over. This is the position of Rashi, Rashbam, and Clericus. Songs/poetry were for renown and glory within Israel, and the Torah loves to make mention of them. It is for this reason and no other purpose that such mention is made. He gives other such examples.

I wonder what the extent of the quote is. That is, Shadal notes that the citation includes היא הבאר אשר אמר ה' למשה, which means he does not end the quote at מִשָּׁם בְּאֵרָה. Does it also include the song that Israel sang in pesukim 17-20, or is that separate?

I think one can read this as an allusion to an extra-biblical text, even without it having to be done as "proof" of the account given in the Torah. Moshe, the biblical author, knew that this book was being kept, or recorded these feats in this book himself. Or Yehoshua, a later redactor, knew that this book was in existence. So he gave a hyperlink and an explanation of the meaning of that text. Such hyperlinks are appreciated by readers, and help place one work in the context provided by other works. Not every instance of halo hem ketuvim... is being compelled by a need to prove oneself.

2 comments:

Joe in Australia said...

I am not sure what to make of Targum Yonatan. Any suggestions?

You need an edition with footnotes, because it's pretty much the story in Berachot 54a-b. Two lepers named Et and Hev were in the rear of the Jewish camp. They informed the Jews that Moab was concealed, lying in wait to ambush the Jews. When the Jews spied their hiding place they attacked, and the Moabite blood flowed down gullies to (the river?) Arnon.

I guess the idea that Et and Hev were lepers is because they were in the "sofo" (rear). They also appear in the Berachot version, but there the Moabites are killed by the miraculous power of the Aron flattening the mountains.

joshwaxman said...

thanks. perhaps the idea of lepers playing a role, besides any derivation from the text (in the rear makes sense), is borrowed from Melachim Beis, perek 7.

My difficulty, though, was much simpler, pertaining to the part of Targum Yonatan quoted above. Namely,על כן יתאמר בספר אורייתא דתמן כתיבין.

Sefer Oraysa usually would refer to a sefer Torah. Is this pasuk / translation saying that megillah megillah nitneis and they wrote it down, and then encoded it into our Torah? Or into a separate sefer?

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