Friday, January 23, 2009

Did the Egyptians Dig, Or Did They Dig For Water?

Shadal takes on the Baal HaTeamim in parshat Vaera, saying a peshat at odds with the trup and explaining how the trup would differ according to his peshat.

The pasuk in question is in Shemot 7:24:
כד וַיַּחְפְּרוּ כָל-מִצְרַיִם סְבִיבֹת הַיְאֹר, מַיִם לִשְׁתּוֹת: כִּי לֹא יָכְלוּ לִשְׁתֹּת, מִמֵּימֵי הַיְאֹר. 24 And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river.
The pasuk, with the trup, is pictured to the right. Noteworthy is that the tipcha trup is on the word hay`or. Shadal writes:
כד] ויחפרו וכו ' מים : חמרו והוציאו מים וכיוצא בזה ויחפרוהו ממטמונים ( איוב ג' כ"א ) ; ולפי זה היה ראוי הטפחא תחת מים (ויחפרו כל-מצרים סביבות היאור מים לשתות, ובעל הטעמים פירש ויחפרו לשתות מים.
Thus, he says he argues with the meaning intended by the baal hateamim and would put the tipcha trup on the word mayim.

What is happening here? Well, tipcha divides in half the phrase ending in etnachta. So we begin with:
וַיַּחְפְּרוּ כָל-מִצְרַיִם סְבִיבֹת הַיְאֹר מַיִם לִשְׁתּוֹת
which is divided into
וַיַּחְפְּרוּ כָל-מִצְרַיִם סְבִיבֹת הַיְאֹר
מַיִם לִשְׁתּוֹת

according to our trup. Meanwhile, Shadal would divide
וַיַּחְפְּרוּ כָל-מִצְרַיִם סְבִיבֹת הַיְאֹר מַיִם לִשְׁתּוֹת
וַיַּחְפְּרוּ כָל-מִצְרַיִם סְבִיבֹת הַיְאֹר מַיִם

His point, based on Iyov 3:21:
כא הַמְחַכִּים לַמָּוֶת וְאֵינֶנּוּ; וַיַּחְפְּרֻהוּ, מִמַּטְמוֹנִים. 21 Who long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures;
would appear to be that חפר is a word which applies to a definite object. Lemashal, and this is not an exact parallel, we can say:
"He grew."
and we can say
"He grew tomatoes."
So when we say that "The Egyptians dug around the river...," can one simply dig, or does one dig for something? The example in Iyyov has the word וַיַּחְפְּרֻהוּ, where the uhu ending shows that one is digging for something. Perhaps other examples can show digging not for something, but I am too lazy to look now. Or perhaps there are no counter-examples.

At any rate, if one must dig for something, and the prepositional phrase "around the river" only specifies location, and not the object of the digging, we need to supply it.

That is what Shadal means when he writes ויחפרו וכו ' מים, with the וכו' ש serving as an ellipses, to show that mayim is the direct object of the verb. Thus, they dug for water.

The trup we have, then, would divide it incorrectly, for by chopping of mayim lishtot as a unit, it forces them together. (I would interject that perhaps the baal hateamim could take it as Shadal, as a direct object, but that the direct object is "water to drink," or "drinking water.") Shadal says they dug for water, in order to be able to drink. But our trup (if I understand Shadal correctly) would say that they simply dug, and it was "in order to drink water," almost as if mayim lishtot is to be reversed as lishtot mayim.

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