Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Censored Baal HaTurim on Vayera

I was looking through Baal HaTurim on JNUL, and decided to check out Vayera. I can across a text towards the beginning of Vayeira that is crossed out. It is pictured to the right. This text is available at JNUL, in this Baal HaTurim, page 7. According to JNUL, this is from ויניציאה : (דפוס זואני די פארי ואחיו ע"י אדילקינד), ש"ד. That is, from Venice, in the year 1544.

The text is obviously censored, but what is written there that would require censoring. So I checked out another Baal HaTurim, also from JNUL, page 7, which is uncensored. This one is from קושטנטינא : דפוס ש' נחמיאש, ב'ר'"ן' י'ח'"ד' [רע"ד].
ש
Thus, it is from Constantina (Constantinople), in the year 1514. It reads:

The text in question is:
וזה הוא שאמרו חכמים ז"ל שאברהם יושב על פתח גיהנם ואינו מניח למי שנימול ליכנס שם חוץ ממי שבא על הגויה שנמשכה ערלתו ואינו מכירו

It is obvious why the censor would see fit to censor this text. Funnily enough, though, the censor neglected to censor the subsequent text, on the same page: אבל איש בושת פירוש שבא על הגויה שאין לך בושת גדול ממי שבא על הגויה

A point we will draw out in a later post is that while gematria spices things up in Baal HaTurim, this is not necessarily the primary mechanism of his Biblical exegesis -- as Baal HaTurim says himself in his hakdama. Here, he cites a midrash Chazal, and reads it into a pasuk elsewhere of kechom hayom about Ish Boshet, where a close hyperliteral reading of that verse yields this. Especially when we consider all 4 instances of kechom in Scriptures. I am not certain that in the end I agree with his etiology of this midrash, but it is clearly insightful, and makes good use of a mastery of Tanach as well as his creative faculties. And yes, he brings a gematria -- that כחום היום in gematria is זהו בגיהנם, as well as the gematria of dam milah. But looking over the perush, this is not really the primary point. It does reflect the underlying themes he is trying to develop and bring out.

My own take on this midrash, at this moment, entirely aside from anything Baal HaTurim says:
1) The idea of brit milah, from the previous parsha (perek 17), was a covenant not just with Avraham but with all his descendants. And circumcision is something which keeps an Israelite under this covenant. Thus:
ז וַהֲקִמֹתִי אֶת-בְּרִיתִי בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ, וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ לְדֹרֹתָם--לִבְרִית עוֹלָם: לִהְיוֹת לְךָ לֵאלֹהִים, וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ. 7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.
ח וְנָתַתִּי לְךָ וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ אֵת אֶרֶץ מְגֻרֶיךָ, אֵת כָּל-אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, לַאֲחֻזַּת, עוֹלָם; וְהָיִיתִי לָהֶם, לֵאלֹהִים. 8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.'
ט וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל-אַבְרָהָם, וְאַתָּה אֶת-בְּרִיתִי תִשְׁמֹר--אַתָּה וְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ, לְדֹרֹתָם. 9 And God said unto Abraham: 'And as for thee, thou shalt keep My covenant, thou, and thy seed after thee throughout their generations.
י זֹאת בְּרִיתִי אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְרוּ, בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם, וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ, אַחֲרֶיךָ: הִמּוֹל לָכֶם, כָּל-זָכָר. 10 This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised.
Now, kol Yisrael yesh lahem chelek leOlam haba. And this idea of special protection by virtue of this covenant, when this shows that Hashem is their God, to save them from Hell, is not such a stretch.

Nor is the idea that Avraham officiates at this. Not literally, but figuratively, he is certainly an appropriate figure.

Not keeping the covenant of brit milah will lead to being cut off, and going to gehinnom. We can almost see this explicitly in this pasuk:
יד וְעָרֵל זָכָר, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יִמּוֹל אֶת-בְּשַׂר עָרְלָתוֹ--וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא, מֵעַמֶּיהָ: אֶת-בְּרִיתִי, הֵפַר. {ס} 14 And the uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken My covenant.' {S}
Thus, the soul being cut off from "the people" for violation of the covenant.

What about one who has intercourse with a gentile woman? Two possibilities. The first, which I will propose but do not consider the better of the two -- we can cast milah as some kind of sanctification of the ever, with the act this one did as undoing this sanctification.

The second, that all sorts of people are subject to brit, as miknat kesef or yelid bayit, and those regularly born. And the child from such a union would not be Israelite-born and subject to milah. And pasuk 10 again read:
י זֹאת בְּרִיתִי אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְרוּ, בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם, וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ, אַחֲרֶיךָ: הִמּוֹל לָכֶם, כָּל-זָכָר. 10 This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised.
tishmeru is plural, so already speaks to the Israelites, as does בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם. But וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ, אַחֲרֶיךָ is not possible for the aforementioned union. And thus, the one who produces such offspring is not fulfilling the part of the covenant of וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ. Avraham does not recognize him, and he is subject to the cutting off mentioned later.

3 comments:

Chaim said...

"I was looking through Baal HaTurim on JNUL, and decided to check out Vayeshev. I can across a text towards the beginning of Vayeshev that is crossed out".

You probably meant to write "Vayera"!

joshwaxman said...

yes. thank you.

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

The Maharil explains that the reason why Avrohom doesn't pull out people who had relations with gentile women from Hell is because such a man recognizes that the woman would rather him be uncut because then she would derive greater pleasure from the act of intercourse, so he imagines himself as if he doesn't have a bris milah. Since he fantasizes about not having a bris, he is considered as if he doesn't have a bris and thus avraham doesn't take him out of hell.

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin