Thursday, January 01, 2009

Anshei Chayil: Warriors or Capable Men?

What I would consider a contradiction in Rashi. Except that I don't consider contradictions in Rashi so problematic, as he draws from many midrashic sources, such that a contradiction may be unintentional, or besides the point.

That pasuk (in perek 47) reads:
ב וּמִקְצֵה אֶחָיו, לָקַח חֲמִשָּׁה אֲנָשִׁים; וַיַּצִּגֵם, לִפְנֵי פַרְעֹה. 2 And from among his brethren he took five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh.
And upon that, Rashi says:
ב) ומקצה אחיו -
מן הפחותים שבהם לגבורה שאין נראים גיבורים, שאם יראה אותם גיבורים יעשה אותם אנשי מלחמתו. ואלה הם ראובן שמעון לוי יששכר ובנימין, אותם שלא כפל משה שמותם כשברכם,
אבל שמות הגיבורים כפל.
(דברים לג ז) וזאת ליהודה שמע ה' קול יהודה,
(דברים לג כ) ולגד אמר ברוך מרחיב גד,
(שם כג) ולנפתלי אמר נפתלי,
(שם כב) ולדן אמר דן,
(שם יח) וכן לזבולן,
(שם כד) וכן לאשר.
זהו לשון בראשית רבה (צה ד) שהיא אגדת ארץ ישראל

אבל בתלמוד בבלית שלנו מצינו שאותם שכפל משה שמותם הם החלשים ואותן הביא לפני פרעה, ויהודה שהוכפל שמו לא הוכפל משום חלשות, אלא טעם יש בדבר כדאיתא בבבא קמא (צב א), ובברייתא דספרי שנינו בה בוזאת הברכה (ספרי שנד) כמו תלמוד שלנו:
Or in English:
And from among his brothers From the most inferior of them in regards to physical strength, [i.e., those] who did not appear strong, for if he [Pharaoh] recognized them as being strong, he would make them his warriors. They are the following: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, and Benjamin, those whose names Moses did not double when he blessed them (Deut. 33), but the names of the strong ones he doubled, [as follows:] “And this is for Judah…Hear, O Lord, the voice of Judah” (Deut. 33:7). “And regarding Gad he said, ‘Blessed be He Who granted space to Gad’ ” (ibid. 20). “And regarding Naphtali he said, ‘Naphtali’s wishes shall be well satisfied’ ” (ibid. 23). “And regarding Dan, he said, ‘Dan is a young lion’ ” (ibid. 22). And so on for Zebulun (ibid. 18), and for Asher (ibid. 24). This is a quotation from Genesis Rabbah (95:4), which is the Aggadah of Eretz Israel. In our Babylonian Talmud, however, we find that those whose names Moses doubled were the weak ones, and it was they whom he brought before Pharaoh. As for Judah (the sixth one), whose name was doubled, however, it was not doubled because of weakness, but there is a[nother] reason for it, as is stated in Baba Kamma (92a). In the Baraitha of Sifrei , in “Vezoth Haberachah” (354) we learn as in our Talmud. [I.e., the Sifrei identifies the five brothers as does the Talmud, namely that the five brothers were Gad, Naphtali, Dan, Zebulun, and Asher.]
So what did Pharaoh want his brothers for? To repeat:
for if he [Pharaoh] recognized them as being strong, he would make them his warriors.
A bit later, we see what qualities Pharaoh is looking for:
ו אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, לְפָנֶיךָ הִוא--בְּמֵיטַב הָאָרֶץ, הוֹשֵׁב אֶת-אָבִיךָ וְאֶת-אַחֶיךָ: יֵשְׁבוּ, בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן--וְאִם-יָדַעְתָּ וְיֶשׁ-בָּם אַנְשֵׁי-חַיִל, וְשַׂמְתָּם שָׂרֵי מִקְנֶה עַל-אֲשֶׁר-לִי. 6 the land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and thy brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell. And if thou knowest any able men among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.'
What is meant by anshei chayil? Anshei chayil can mean warriors, or men of valour. (Though it need not mean that -- see Chizkuni.) Rashi explains, in his very next comment:
ו) אנשי חיל -
בקיאין באומנותן לרעות צאן:
על אשר לי -
על צאן שלי:
capable men Skillful in their occupation of pasturing sheep.
over what is mine Over my flocks.
{On a peshat level, perhaps sarei mikneh need not necessarily mean shepherds, just as sar hatabachim need not mean butcher but in charge of the army.}

So he takes anshei chayil to mean shepherds, which is probably true on a peshat level, as capable people. But this undermines, IMHO, that detail in the above midrash that Pharaoh was seeking warriors. Because almost every detail in midrash, from my perspective, derives from some interpretation of a pasuk, either local or distant.

Though Rashi might not be focused on how that detail was deduced in that midrash he cited; and he may have been focused on the "weird" word miktzeh, and the detail of why he only chose a few of the brothers. And that detail he would not edit out of the midrash, regardless. Or he could disagree of how "warriors" came about in the midrash (unlikely, IMHO).

I would add that Chizkuni picks up on the cue of anshei Chayil. On the pasuk in the previous perek:
לב וְהָאֲנָשִׁים רֹעֵי צֹאן, כִּי-אַנְשֵׁי מִקְנֶה הָיוּ; וְצֹאנָם וּבְקָרָם וְכָל-אֲשֶׁר לָהֶם, הֵבִיאוּ. 32 and the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of cattle; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have.
he writes that "they need to watch their sheep, and they do not have available time to be anshei chayil." Such that he understands anshei chayil to mean warriors. Yet on the actual pasuk, he endorses Rashi that anshei chayil here is not kemashmao, but rather means capable of watching sheep.

Update: See Rashbam:
פסוק ו
אנשי חיל -
ראויים לגבורה ולשררה כמו: אשת חיל את.
ואני הצעיר מצאתי תרגום, שרי מקנה רבני חילא כפירוש רבינו.

1 comment:

b said...

Well, if you look at the midrash on which rashi is based.You'll see that yosef wanted to make sure that they become sheperds not warriors so it makes for a smooth pshat sailing,to say his plan worked.


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