Sunday, July 05, 2009

A defense of Rabbi Eleazer HaKallir from Ibn Ezra's criticisms, pt ii

(See part i here.) Another piyut which Ibn Ezra criticizes is Shoshan Emek Ayuma, which we say on Mussaf Yom Kippur. The image to the right compiled from parts of Artscroll's Yom Kippur Machzor. Shoshan Emek Ayuma means "fearful rose of the valley," which they expand to mean God-fearing rose, and make explicit the nimshal which is Knesset Yisrael. In the footnote, they note that it is drawn from Shir Hashirim 2:1, where the woman there is regularly understood to mean Knesset Yisrael. Thus:
שיר השירים פרק ב
  • פסוק א: אֲנִי חֲבַצֶּלֶת הַשָּׁרוֹן, שׁוֹשַׁנַּת הָעֲמָקִים.
Ibn Ezra objects to the Kallir's choice of language. Thus,

ועוד כי לשון הקודש ביד רבי אליעזר נ"ע עיר פרוצה אין חומה, שיעשה מן הזכרים נקבות והפך הדבר ואמר "שושן עמק אויימה", וידוע כי ה"א שושנה לשון נקבה וישוב הה"א תי"ו כשיהיה סמוך שושנת העמקים, ובסור הה"א או התי"ו יהיה לשון זכר כמו צדקה וצדק. ואיך יאמר על שושן אויימה, ולמה ברח מן הפסוק ולא אמר שושנת עמק אויימה. ועוד מה ענין לשושנה שיתארנה באימה, התפחד השושנה? ואין תואר השושנה כי אם קטופה או רעננה או יבשה.

אמר אחד מחכמי הדור, הוצרך לומר אויימה, בעבור שתהיה חרוזתו עשירה. השיבותי אם זאת חרוזה עשירה, הנה יש בפיוטיו חרוזים עניים ואביונים מחזרים על הפתחים, שחיבר הר עם נבחר.

Ibn Ezra's complaint appears to be two-fold. Firstly, the pasuk from which it is drawn has shoshanat, rather than shoshan. This is because a shoshanah is a feminine noun, and so in the contruct form the heh is replaced with a tav. Yet here the paytan makes it a masculine noun, and uses the contruct form of that! Secondly, why add this "fearful" aspect? It does not work on the level of mashal, for how can a flower be fearful?

Rabbi Zechariah Mendel answers on Rabbi Eleazar Hakallir's behalf. He does not respond on the shift from feminine to masculine, but does address how one can have a fearful flower.

You see, in the days of Ibn Ezra the Zohar was not yet discovered. But in the introduction to the Zohar, we have a discussion of Knesset Yisrael as a flower, where Klal Yisrael is is in danger from all sides, and is protected, just as the alin of the flower protect it. And there is no question for Ibn Ezra why the flower is fearful, since it needs protection.

My take: It is possible that this was R' Eleazar Hakallir's intent. But since Zohar was written much later, it seems likely that this Zohar took it from the piyut rather than vice versa. At any rate, the Zohar itself does not ascribe this trait of fearfulness in the mashal. See Artscroll's footnote which mentions the vulnerability of an exposed flower. This might be the poet's intent, or else it might be a conflating of the levels of mashal and nimshal, such that he ascribes a property to the flower which should really only apply to the Knesset Yisrael.

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