Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Dangers of Mispredicting the Ketz, Follow-up

Addressing the question of why exactly the Bnei Ephraim left 30 years early, according to some midrashim. (E.g. see Targum Yonatan on the first pasuk in Beshalach.) In the previous post, I noted that 30 years early worked out to 400 years, which was the promise to Avraham. But there were different ways of calculating it, whether it was rounding, or starting from a different year in the count. To quote myself:
Thus, the Bnei Ephraim thought they had reached the ketz, and with good reason. They had an explicit pasuk after all, and a promise God Himself made to Avraham. But even so, it is subject to interpretation, and their intepretation was not correct.
On this Lakewood Falling Down asks a good question in the comment section of that post:
Josh, I can understand that they may have had a mesorah for 400 years, but your assumption says they had a passuk to rely on (if I understand you correctly). Many individual Tzaddikim may have in fact kept the entire Torah, but IMHO, the benei Efraim before matan Torah did not have that Pasuk to rely on, hence their fatal error.
What, in fact, did they have to rely upon? Did they indeed do a miscalculation of 400 years? I was working with the implicit message in that particular midrashic account, for the choice of precisely 30 years earlier was surely no accident?

My assumption is not in fact that they had a pasuk to rely upon. It would be the same if they had a tradition to rely upon. When I said
"and with good reason. They had an explicit pasuk after all, and a promise God Himself made to Avraham."
it was really for rhetorical effect. They had the promise God made to Avraham, and we have a pasuk backing them up. We therefore do not have to get into whole issues of whether they knew all of Torah or not.

Besides the precisely 30-year difference strongly suggesting they misunderstood the promise of the ketz, we have sefer haYashar also explicitly claiming that this was based on the misunderstanding of the promise made to Avraham at the bris bein habesarim. Thus, we have the text pictured to the right.

Did they have this in some written form, or just as some tradition the elders had, like Pakod Pakadeti?

Well, we do have Shemos Rabba which had these predictions of eventual geulah on scrolls, megillot:

כי נרפים הם
אמר רבי שמעון בן יוחאי:
התחיל מחרק עליהם שיניו ואומר: נרפים אתם, לשון טינוף הוא ישתחקו עצמותיו קדושים הם.
על כן הם צועקים לאמר וגו' תכבד העבודה על האנשים
מלמד שהיו בידם מגילות שהיו משתעשעין בהם משבת לשבת לומר שהקדוש ברוך הוא גואלן לפי שהיו נוחין בשבת.
אמר להן פרעה: תכבד העבודה על האנשים ויעשו בה ואל ישעו וגו' אל יהו משתעשעין ואל יהו נפישין ביום השבת.

I read somewhere that Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky suggested that these scrolls might have been Tehillim 92, Mizmor Shir LeYom HaShabbat, which is not about Shabbat, but e.g. about the righteous getting their reward.

While I am in a fun, speculative mood, I will mention my own neo-midrash on this topic. Of course they had the pasuk before them! The pasuk in the beginning of Beshalach says that the Israelites left Egypt while chamushim. And there is dispute of how to interpret it. But the correct interpretation is "do not read chamushim but chumashim!" Thus, they left Egypt with chumashim. Obviously, this could not be chumash Shemos, Vayikra, Bamidbar, or Devarim, since these events had not yet happened. So they left with chumash Bereishit, which they similarly brought down with them. And so of course they had the pasuk! ;)

An anonymous commenter asks why Avraham was told the 400 years. Perhaps so that they would not lose hope, and know there was an established ketz. And so that when the eventually were redeemed, by God's hand, they would look back and understand that it was a fulfillment of that which was foretold and promised. And anyway, Avraham was not the one waiting. He also asked why Daniel was rewarded for calculating the ketz based on Yirmeyahu's prophecies -- see Daniel 9. But when Daniel calculated, his response was not to then claim absolute knowledge and then act, or proclaim this to the public. His response was to privately turn to Hashem and pray, and wait for a response from on high. This is very different from the ketz-ism displayed today, in which people repeatedly and publicly mispredict the ketz with great confidence, getting the public all riled up, only to get their hopes dashed when the ketz passes without incident. And in the process they do damage to the meaning of the texts they kvetch. And while we have an obligation to hope for mashiach, this is a far cry from knowing, incorrectly, that Day X is the day of mashiach's arrival, and when that passes without incident, knowing that Day Y is the day of mashiach's arrival, and so on and so forth.

The cases of Avraham and Daniel are part of the Biblical narrative. And Chazal knew the Biblical narrative far better that I know it or you know it. And yet in Sanhedrin 97 they take a firm stand against ketz-ism. And they contrast it with achakeh lo bechol yom sheyavo:
R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: Blasted be18 the bones of those who calculate the end.19 For they would say, since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come. But [even so], wait for him, as it is written, Though he tarry, wait for him.
Note this idea of failed predictions causing deflation of hopes, something I touched on in previous hopes. This is a danger of mispredicting the ketz.

They must interpret the Biblical narratives in a way that does not contradict this. And so the particular interpretation they happen to grant it does not matter

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin