Monday, May 04, 2009

Where is the kohen's wife mentioned?

On a peshat level, I do not believe she is... but reasonable people disagree.

The beginning of Emor lists the relatives a kohen may become impure for. Why should we assume the kohen's wife is included? Besides on a human level, that we should expect this, for who else will bury her, there are two textual cues. In pasuk 3:
ג וְלַאֲחֹתוֹ הַבְּתוּלָה הַקְּרוֹבָה אֵלָיו, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-הָיְתָה לְאִישׁ--לָהּ, יִטַּמָּא.3 and for his sister a virgin, that is near unto him, that hath had no husband, for her may he defile himself.
Specifying the unmarried, virgin sister, thus excluding the married sister, naturally the question arises of what is to happen to the woman who marries a husband, especially if she married a kohen, when "wife" is not listed in the pasuk earlier.

Secondly, in pasuk 4, the word baal is used, and this sometimes means husband.
ד לֹא יִטַּמָּא, בַּעַל בְּעַמָּיו--לְהֵחַלּוֹ.4 He shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself.
If so, the plain meaning could be read as that a husband should not make himself ritually impure to bury his wife. But then who buries her? Not that this reading is necessarily correct, or is an answer, but that these two pesukim bring up the topic in the mind of the reader.

One possibility is that a wife is indeed listed as one of the relatives to whom a kohen may make himself ritually impure in order to bury. Thus, Rashi on the opening pesukim:
א וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אֱמֹר אֶל-הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן; וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם, לְנֶפֶשׁ לֹא-יִטַּמָּא בְּעַמָּיו.1 And the LORD said unto Moses: Speak unto the priests the sons of Aaron, and say unto them: There shall none defile himself for the dead among his people;
ב כִּי, אִם-לִשְׁאֵרוֹ, הַקָּרֹב, אֵלָיו: לְאִמּוֹ וּלְאָבִיו, וְלִבְנוֹ וּלְבִתּוֹ וּלְאָחִיו.2 except for his kin, that is near unto him, for his mother, and for his father, and for his son, and for his daughter, and for his brother;
writes:
ב) כי אם לשארו -
אין שארו אלא אשתו:
except for his relative: [The expression שְׁאֵרוֹ] “his relative” refers only [here] to his wife. — [Torath Kohanim 21:5; Yev. . 22b]
This is derived from a midrash, something Rashi often does. This does not necessarily mean that he does not consider this peshat. But it might be on the level of midrash only.

I would claim that this is a reparsing of the pasuk. In the standard parse, כִּי אִם-לִשְׁאֵרוֹ הַקָּרֹב אֵלָיו is a general description of the relatives, the kelal, and the perat goes on to specify just who is considered close relatives. And so, the etnachta is a colon. In the new parse, she'eiro hakarov elav is one of the list. This is then his relative who is close(st) to him, which would be his wife; or his flesh who is a relative of him, which would be his wife.

Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite reacts against sheiar meaning wife, feeling that the lack of the vav in the word leImo which follows prevents this reading/parsing. I think such a reading is still possible, but I do not believe it is peshat.

What is the meaning of shei'ar? Literally, it means flesh, as in meat. Thus, in Tehillim 78:
כז וַיַּמְטֵר עֲלֵיהֶם כֶּעָפָר שְׁאֵר; וּכְחוֹל יַמִּים, עוֹף כָּנָף. 27 He caused flesh also to rain upon them as the dust, and winged fowl as the sand of the seas;
and in Michah 3:
א וָאֹמַר, שִׁמְעוּ-נָא רָאשֵׁי יַעֲקֹב, וּקְצִינֵי, בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל: הֲלוֹא לָכֶם, לָדַעַת אֶת-הַמִּשְׁפָּט. 1 And I said: Hear, I pray you, ye heads of Jacob, and rulers of the house of Israel: is it not for you to know justice?
ב שֹׂנְאֵי טוֹב, וְאֹהֲבֵי רעה (רָע); גֹּזְלֵי עוֹרָם מֵעֲלֵיהֶם, וּשְׁאֵרָם מֵעַל עַצְמוֹתָם. 2 Who hate the good, and love the evil; who rob their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones;
ג וַאֲשֶׁר אָכְלוּ, שְׁאֵר עַמִּי, וְעוֹרָם מֵעֲלֵיהֶם הִפְשִׁיטוּ, וְאֶת-עַצְמֹתֵיהֶם פִּצֵּחוּ; וּפָרְשׂוּ כַּאֲשֶׁר בַּסִּיר, וּכְבָשָׂר בְּתוֹךְ קַלָּחַת. 3 Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones; yea, they chop them in pieces, as that which is in the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.
by extension, it means relatives. Thus, in Vayikra 18, in various places in the perek:
ו אִישׁ אִישׁ אֶל-כָּל-שְׁאֵר בְּשָׂרוֹ, לֹא תִקְרְבוּ לְגַלּוֹת עֶרְוָה: אֲנִי, יְהוָה. {ס} 6 None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness. I am the LORD. {S}
"The meat of your flesh," and thus "relative."

Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite reacts against a prooftext from Mishlei 11:17:
יז גֹּמֵל נַפְשׁוֹ, אִישׁ חָסֶד; וְעֹכֵר שְׁאֵרוֹ, אַכְזָרִי. 17 The merciful man doeth good to his own soul; but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.
Apparently some read this she'eiro as referring to his wife. Aharon ben Yosef notes Biblical parallelism and the nafsho in the first portion, and thus it means gufo. I don't consider this conclusive proof, either. It is quite possible that the mashal is intending to refer to relatives, who should be to him like his own soul. And ishto kegufo. Regardless, while local to Vayikra it is a good midrashic derivation, I do not think it is a valid derivation on a peshat level.

What about pasuk 4? Does that refer to a husband, and rule out a husband burying his wife? Actually, Rashi uses this as a derivation of a husband indeed burying his wife, and takes pains to label this as peshat!
ד) לא יטמא בעל בעמיו להחלו -
לא יטמא לאשתו פסולה שהוא מחולל בה בעודה עמו.
וכן פשוטו של מקרא לא יטמא בעל בשארו בעוד שהוא בתוך עמיו, שיש לה קוברין, שאינה מת מצווה.
ובאיזה שאר אמרתי?
באותו שהוא להחלו, להתחלל הוא מכהונתו
[But] a husband shall not defile himself for [a wife who causes] his desecration, [while she is] among his people:He may not defile himself for his [deceased] wife who was unfit for him, and by whom he was desecrated [from his status,] while she was with him. — [Torath Kohanim 21:10; Yev.. 22b] And this is the simple meaning of the verse: “A husband shall not defile himself” for his relative [i.e., his wife], while she is still “among his people,” i.e., while she has [non- kohen] relatives who can attend to her burial, for she is therefore not under the category of an unattended deceased. And which relative [i.e., wife] are we dealing with here? [With a wife] “through whom he becomes desecrated (לְהֵחַלּוֹ),” i.e., [because she was unfit to marry him,] he subsequently becomes desecrated from his kehunah [and is unfit to perform the Holy Service].
Thus, it does refer to a husband, but with a twist in the parse, it is only amav leheichalo, a relative {=wife} through whom he has become desecrated by marrying. But any other wife, namely a regular wife, of course he would become impure in order to bury her.

As with the previous post on Emor, I believe that the truth is with Ramban. He writes:
ד): וטעם בעל בעמיו -
כמו מבעלי יהודה (ש"ב ו ב), בעלי גויים (ישעיה טז ח), הנכבדים בהם, או האדונים, מלשון בעליו אין עמו (שמות כב יג), בעל הבית (שם פסוק ז), כי הנכבדים יקראו אדונים. יאמר, לא יטמא נכבד בעמיו להחל את כבודו, יפרש הכתוב כי למעלת הכהן בעבור שהוא ראוי להיות הגדול והנכבד בעמיו יזהירנו שלא יחלל מעלתו בטומאת המתים.

ויתכוון הכתוב בזה, שלא יעלה על דעתנו לומר שאין האזהרה אלא בבואם אל אהל מועד לשרת בקדש. וכן בכל הפרשה יזהיר כי הכל למעלתם, את אביה היא מחללת (פסוק ט), ולא יחלל זרעו (פסוק טו).
וכן תרגומו של אונקלוס:
לא יסתאב רבא בעמיה לאחלותיה.
ובת"כ (אמור פרשה א טו):
נדרש בבעל באשתו, כמו שכתב רש"י.
Thus, it means one who is honored. And it refers to the general kohen, who is rauy to be nichbad. This is then a general summary on what was before. And so says Onkelos, as (correctly, IMHO) interpreted by Ramban. He politely described Rashi as citing the Torat Kohanim, which is correct, but Rashi does not mean this only as derash; rather, he explicitly labels it peshat.
Ibn Ezra gives two explanations, one that it is forbidding a husband becoming ritually impure for his wife, and the second, which nullifies the first, as Ramban above.
וטעם בעל בעמיו
שלא יטמא הבעל באשתו וכאשר ראינו שהעתיקו רבותינו כי יטמא לאשתו ושמו לשארו, כדרך אסמכתא כאשר פירשתי במלת לעם נכרי.
ואמרו: כי פירוש בעל גדול שהעם ברשותו, כמו: בעליו אין עמו בטל הפירוש הראשון.
Rashbam writes as with the first peshat in Ibn Ezra, that it forbids every kohen husband on his wife, though he notes how Chazal distinguish:
לא יטמא בעל בעמיו -
שום בעל בעם הכהנים לא יטמא לאשתו.

להחלו -
שהרי מתחלל מכהונתו (ולפי דברי חכמים, לא מטמא לאשתו פסולה וחללה, אבל מטמא לאשתו כשירה.
Shadal has a different explanation of baal, and interprets Onkelos along those lines, and against Ramban's interpretation of Onkelos:
בעל בעמיו : הכהן הגדול ( אנקלוס ורנ"ה וייזלI
I don't like the sudden shift to just the kohen gadol, a topic which is only picked up once again in pasuk 10. Rather, I would read the pasuk in context, and suggest that this is a bridge, connecting the ritual impurity from above (for all kohanim) as profanation to the theme of profanation for all the other forbidden activities in the pesukim up to pasuk 9. Alternatively, perhaps this is no bridge but an introduction, with יִטַּמָּא being metaphorical, and encompassing the following activities. I prefer the former reading.

Those who say that the pesukim either do not include, or else explicitly exclude, a husband from burying his wife, who buries her? Well, if she is really a meis mitzvah, then anyone. But Shadal makes an interesting point, where the pasuk discusses the sister who is a virgin and unmarried:
ג אשר לא היתה לאיש : שאם בעולה , מסתמא יש לה בנים והם יעסקו בקבורתה , והתורה לא דיברה אלא בהווה , כי רוב הבעולות יש להן בנים ; ואם אין לה בנים , אולי ייטמא לה בעלה כמת מצווה או ישכור קוברים .
If she has had intercourse, she probably has children. If so, the children would bury her, since she falls under imo. Then, if she does not have children, perhaps we can consider he meis mitzvah, or else that he can hire people to bury her.

At the end of the day, I am not even fully convinced that the husband was really excluded, explicitly or implicitly. I would read
ג וְלַאֲחֹתוֹ הַבְּתוּלָה הַקְּרוֹבָה אֵלָיו, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-הָיְתָה לְאִישׁ--לָהּ, יִטַּמָּא.3 and for his sister a virgin, that is near unto him, that hath had no husband, for her may he defile himself.
and say that firstly, this is only for the brother, but the mother and father would still of course bury her, assuming they are still alive; and further, that the reason the brother is excluded is that she has gone out of one reshus into another reshus, and so he does not bury her because she has a husband to bury her. And a wife is implicit. Of course the husband buries her. And she is not considered "relative", because she is not a blood-relative, and was anyway never under discussion.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

וְנֹקֵב שֵׁם יְ־הֹוָ־ה מוֹת יוּמָת רָגוֹם יִרְגְּמוּ בוֹ כָּל הָעֵדָה כַּגֵּר כָּאֶזְרָח בְּנָקְבוֹ שֵׁם יוּמָת:
SEE THE TIFERES OHLOMO YOU MIGHT HAVE SPOKEN ABOUT THIS REFRENCE ONCE BUT iTS ALWAYS AN INTRESTING TOPIC

Michael said...

Unrelated parsha question:

The Chinuch says that a Baal Mum cannot serve because it will lower people's opinion of the avoda. The Kohanim have to look good too.

Q1: Based on this, doesn't the Mekalel have a point when he ridicules the 9 day old bread? Based on the above logic, there should only be fresh bread.

Q2: Whatever happened to "Al tistakel b'kankan ela b'mah sheyesh bo"?

These are questions I had on the parsha. Any thoughts?

Thanks for your help.

joshwaxman said...

great question.
i wanted to address this before. bli neder, i'll try to grapple with this in a post. i have an idea similar to michas chinuch, but slightly different...

kt,
josh

Michael said...

The more I think about it, it's really a question of why the miracle of the lechem hapanim is necessary at all? After all, generally we follow "ein aniyus b'makom ashirus."

Can't wait for your post on the matter.

-Michael-

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