Thursday, July 24, 2008

Matos: Did Ibn Ezra Have Chalutz With A Kametz?

So suggests Rabbi Shmuel Motot the Sefaradi, in his supercommentary on Ibn Ezra, titled Megillat Setarim. The pasuk, in Bemidbar 32:27:
כז וַעֲבָדֶיךָ יַעַבְרוּ כָּל-חֲלוּץ צָבָא, לִפְנֵי ה--לַמִּלְחָמָה: כַּאֲשֶׁר אֲדֹנִי, דֹּבֵר. 27 but thy servants will pass over, every man that is armed for war, before the LORD to battle, as my lord saith.'
Ibn Ezra comments what he comments, namely that it is like ha`aron haberit, הָאָרוֹן הַבְּרִית {as in Yehoshua 3:14}.

So this supercommentary is bothered by "what is bothering Ibn Ezra?" He notes the example, of ha`aron haberit, is an example of juxtaposition to create the construct form, but it does not actually use the construct form, for there is a kamatz under the aleph. Therefore, this supercommentator makes the conjecture that the same must have been true in the manuscript before Ibn Ezra, that in חֲלוּץ צָבָא, it was in the absolute form, with a kametz under the chet. However, he notes that in our seforim, it has a chataf patach, so there is no question.

I believe that this supercommentary is incorrect in this instance. It just presumes an alternate girsa in Chumash in order to explain a cryptic Ibn Ezra. Show me evidence of such a girsa and I will be more persuaded. Ibn Ezra is often cryptic.

In this instance, there are two keys to correctly understanding Ibn Ezra. The first is that the word חלוץ is repeated. Here, to the right, is Ibn Ezra again. Thus, he says vehataam kol chalutz chalutz tzavah. The second key is that with the words haaron haberit, he is targeting a specific pasuk in sefer Yehoshua, as mentioned above. Together, these two keys will yield the answer.

What is "bothering" Ibn Ezra? Nothing in this pasuk. Rather, at issue is the previous occurence of chalutz, in the same perek. In pasuk 21:
כא וְעָבַר לָכֶם כָּל-חָלוּץ אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, עַד הוֹרִישׁוֹ אֶת-אֹיְבָיו, מִפָּנָיו. 21 and every armed man of you will pass over the Jordan before the LORD, until He hath driven out His enemies from before Him,
What is a chalutz? Ibn Ezra answers: vehattam "kol chalutz" is chalutz tzava. Thus, there is a long phrase, chalutz tzavah, and a short version of it, which is just chalutz, and they mean the same thing -- someone who is armed for war. And this was the first key.

Now for the second key. Ibn Ezra is saying that haaron haberit is identical. What in the world does this mean? We have to look in sefer Yehoshua to find this out. In Yehoshua 3:14, we read:
יד וַיְהִי, בִּנְסֹעַ הָעָם מֵאָהֳלֵיהֶם, לַעֲבֹר, אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן; וְהַכֹּהֲנִים, נֹשְׂאֵי הָאָרוֹן הַבְּרִית--לִפְנֵי הָעָם. 14 And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over the Jordan, the priests that bore the ark of the covenant being before the people;
On this pasuk, Radak has a strange comment, but at this point it is not so strange. He says that "haberit" is chaser, missing, and the explanation of ha`aron is aron haberit. But on this pasuk, it is not chaser. Rather, it explicitly states הָאָרוֹן הַבְּרִית. The answer is that in the very next pasuk, it states
טו וּכְבוֹא נֹשְׂאֵי הָאָרוֹן, עַד-הַיַּרְדֵּן, וְרַגְלֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים נֹשְׂאֵי הָאָרוֹן, נִטְבְּלוּ בִּקְצֵה הַמָּיִם; וְהַיַּרְדֵּן, מָלֵא עַל-כָּל-גְּדוֹתָיו, כֹּל, יְמֵי קָצִיר. 15 and when they that bore the ark were come unto the Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bore the ark were dipped in the brink of the water--for the Jordan overfloweth all its banks all the time of harvest--
where it only has haAron, without habrit. And yet it is as if it was not deficient. And furthermore, I might suggest, the context of verse 14 allows us to omit it in verse 15, just as the context provided by chalutz tzava allows us elsewhere (earlier) to just say chalutz.

And if so, this was what Ibn Ezra meant by the comparison to haAron haBerit, and it is not the case that he had a different girsa in the manuscript of Chumash before him, with a kamatz rather than a chataf patach.

At least, this is my best guess as to the meaning of Ibn Ezra's comment.

However, the supercommentary was at the very least useful in identifying a cryptic Ibn Ezra and getting us thinking about it.

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