Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Ibn Ezra on Tehillim and Moshe's Sin

We now turn to Ibn Ezra. He is annoyingly vague in his explanation local to parshas Chukas, though it seems that broadly he holds that the sin was changing from God's command, namely by hitting the rock when speech was commanded. And possibly, giving a bit to the simple peshat in Tehillim, changing from God's command by speaking to the people before the miracle was complete. Such that they did not cause a kiddush hashem and cause the Israelites to believe (heemantem) in God.

In his perush local to Chukas, he even discusses the pesukim in Tehillim as slight length, in terms of what they seem to imply and then how he would interpret them so that they do not say that. (I would claim he is optimizing the local peshat in Chukas at the expense of the local peshat in Tehillim.)

The JPS translation of the pesukim in Tehillim are:
לב וַיַּקְצִיפוּ, עַל-מֵי מְרִיבָה; וַיֵּרַע לְמֹשֶׁה, בַּעֲבוּרָם. 32 They angered Him also at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses because of them;
לג כִּי-הִמְרוּ אֶת-רוּחוֹ; וַיְבַטֵּא, בִּשְׂפָתָיו. 33 For they embittered his spirit, and he spoke rashly with his lips.
First, Ibn Ezra on Tehillim: כִּי-הִמְרוּ אֶת-רוּחוֹ refers to Hashem, and it is like {Yeshaya 63:10}
י וְהֵמָּה מָרוּ וְעִצְּבוּ, אֶת-רוּחַ קָדְשׁוֹ; וַיֵּהָפֵךְ לָהֶם לְאוֹיֵב, הוּא נִלְחַם-בָּם. 10 But they rebelled, and grieved His holy spirit; therefore He was turned to be their enemy, Himself fought against them.
{I will interject here: The word ועצבו in Yeshaya makes it seem that Ibn Ezra, too, is treating the root as mrh, as parallel to mrr, making bitter, rather than meri, rebellion. For the words include וְעִצְּבוּ אֶת-רוּחַ קָדְשׁוֹ, which might then parallel what we see in Rabbi Yosef Chayyun (and Radak). Though the pasuk also has וְהֵמָּה מָרוּ, so one could argue that he is relating it only to that (for the purpose of saying Hashem can be the target), and that there in sefer Yeshayahu it means rebellion. But he does not indicate later any change in meaning when he discusses Moshe's ruach below.}

And the meaning of וַיְבַטֵּא בִּשְׂפָתָיו is referring {once again} to Hashem, they He decreed upon Moshe that he would not enter the land. And the error {shegaga} was from Moshe because of his anger {an anger unmentioned in this verse, Josh might add}, as I {=Ibn Ezra} explained in its place {in Chukas}. And it is possible that rucho refers to the spirit of Moshe, and he {=Moshe} spoke, in that he said to Israel "rebels," and he forgot to speak and {instead} hit, and it the proper thing would have been that no speech would have left his mouth until he fulfilled the command of Hashem.
Thus, it is unclear that he suggests here that himru would mean rebellion, as opposed to bitterness. And even his perush on the pasuk in Yeshaya brought as prooftext is insufficient in this regard. There, he writes the commentary pictured to the right. This might imply bitterness and thus making sad. Though note that Rashi their explains maru as הקניטו, to tease and mock, and thus to provoke, if I am understanding this correctly. Thus, Rashi at least would seem to take this as making bitter. And if Ibn Ezra argues with Rashi on this point, we would expect him to make it clear.

Rashi makes reference to Devarim 9:24, though the JPS translation of that verse takes it as rebellious:
כד מַמְרִים הֱיִיתֶם, עִם-יְהוָה, מִיּוֹם, דַּעְתִּי אֶתְכֶם. 24 Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.--
Note Rashi makes no local comment on that pasuk, and that Judaica Press, which tries to translate consistent with Rashi, translates it:
You have been rebelling against the Lord since the day I became acquainted with you.
though that may be because they were unaware of this Rashi on Yeshaya, or else would read it differently than me.

As we will see in his commentary local to Chukas, he will take himru es rucho as referring to the Spirit of Hashem, and after citing the prooftext of Yeshaya, will say that this is the explanation of וַיַּקְצִיפוּ עַל-מֵי מְרִיבָה, that they angered him, namely Hashem. This strongly suggests that Ibn Ezra, too, reads this as made bitter rather than rebelled. But one might be able to get out of this conclusion, by saying that they rebelled against Hashem, contended with Hashem, angered Him, etc.

Other than that point, since Ibn Ezra seems to subscribe to the idea of the sin being hitting the rock, he reads the identities as: The Israelites {so it seems, paralleling וַיַּקְצִיפוּ} made Hashem bitter and sad, and Hashem swore. Or alternatively, the Israelites made Moshe bitter, and he spoke when he should not have, though part of the sin was still hitting the rock.

We can see this local to Chukas as well, where he rejects the proof from Tehillim and gives his own interpretation.

We should pay particular attention to the sections with the yellow background.

Ibn Ezra cites Rabbi Moshe haKohen za"l {note that he had no problem using za"l to refer to a deceased tzaddik} haSefaradi that some signs are performed with just speech and some are performed with speech accompanied by action, and he gives an example. And Hashem here wanted both speech and action, both talking and hitting the rock. Because Israel angered Moshe, he said to them "can we indeed bring water from the rock?" His intent was that he and Aharon could not, for it was not within their power, but rather it was in the power of Hashem. However, he did not explain his words well, and people thought in their hearts that the intent of his speech was that Hashem was not able to bring water from the rock. And this is the intent of "and you did not sanctify me." And he brings a proof from the Psalmist {"missing out" is very happy with Ibn Ezra} who said כִּי-הִמְרוּ אֶת-רוּחוֹ; וַיְבַטֵּא, בִּשְׂפָתָיו. And thus behold the sin was with his {=Moshe's} speech, and not with the striking. {Thus, he interprets this as Bnei Yisrael embittering Moshe and Moshe sinning with a rash utterance, as is the understanding of the JPS translation.}

This, too, says Ibn Ezra, is incorrect, for local reasons: Moshe spoke, so why was Aharon punished; and there is no indication of this locally.

And the proof from Tehillim is no proof. For כִּי-הִמְרוּ אֶת-רוּחוֹ refers to the spirit of Hashem. And this is the meaning of וַיַּקְצִיפוּ עַל-מֵי מְרִיבָה, and the meaning it that they angered Hashem.

{Note: this would seem to indicate a translation of bitterness rather than rebellion. His intent here, though, is to argue that the direct object of himru is Hashem rather than Moshe.}

And also it states {local to chukas, in Bemidbar 20} הֵמָּה מֵי מְרִיבָה, אֲשֶׁר-רָבוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-ה. {where the intent is contended with.}
And then the idea is that "and it went ill with Moshe because of them," because himru et ruach Hashem, and He decreed on Moshe that he would not enter the land {thus translating וַיְבַטֵּא בִּשְׂפָתָיו}.

In the second segment I marked out in yellow, Ibn Ezra notes a second possibility in explaining וַיְבַטֵּא בִּשְׂפָתָיו: That one is able to explain וַיְבַטֵּא בִּשְׂפָתָיו as referring to an action of Moshe, for this is why he was punished. For it would have been proper not to have spoken a word until he fulfilled the mission of Hashem. And Ibn Ezra relates this to Chazal's identification of "shim'u na hamorim" as problematic.

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