Thursday, August 13, 2009

Chizkuni on Rashi, and "You are not *able* to eat"

In parshat Re'ei, a commandment that we must eat certain foods only in Yerushalayim. Devarim 12:17:

יז לֹא-תוּכַל לֶאֱכֹל בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ, מַעְשַׂר דְּגָנְךָ וְתִירֹשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶךָ, וּבְכֹרֹת בְּקָרְךָ, וְצֹאנֶךָ; וְכָל-נְדָרֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר תִּדֹּר, וְנִדְבֹתֶיךָ וּתְרוּמַת יָדֶךָ.17 Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thine oil, or the firstlings of thy herd or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill-offerings, nor the offering of thy hand;
Upon this, Rashi writes:

You may not eat within your cities the tithe of your grain]:Scripture comes to attach a negative commandment to this matter [i.e., eating the firstborn, tithes, etc., outside the walls of Jerusalem, in addition to the positive command (stated in verse 6)].

You may not [eat]: [Heb. לֹא תוּכַל lit., “you cannot eat.”] Rabbi Joshua the son of Korchah said: You are able, but you are not permitted [to do so]. Similar to this, in the verse “As to the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out” (Josh. 15:63), they were [physically] able to do so but they were not so permitted, since Abraham had made a [non-aggression] treaty with them when he bought the cave of Machpelah from them. [In fact,] they were not Jebusites [of the Jebusite nation] but Hittites. They were, however, called Jebusites after the city, named Jebus. So it is explained in Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer (chapter 36). And this is what is stated [when David was about to drive out the Jebusites. They said to him], “Unless you take away the blind and the lame [you shall not come in here]” (II Sam. 5:6), [referring to] the images [that stood at the gates] upon which the oath [that Abraham had taken regarding the Jebusites] was written.

לא תוכל: בא הכתוב ליתן לא תעשה על הדבר.

רבי יהושע בן קרחה אומר יכול אתה, אבל אינך רשאי, כיוצא בו (יהושע טו, סג) ואת היבוסי יושבי ירושלים לא יכלו בני יהודה להורישם, יכולים היו, אלא שאינן רשאין, לפי שכרת להם אברהם ברית כשלקח מהם מערת המכפלה. ולא יבוסים היו אלא חתיים היו, אלא על שם העיר ששמה יבוס [נקראים יבוסים]. כך מפורש בפרקי דרבי אליעזר. והוא שנאמר (שמואל ב' ה, ו) כי אם הסירך העורים והפסחים, צלמים שכתבו עליהם את השבועה:

Chizkuni points out a contradiction in Rashi. If we look in II Shmuel 5:6, Rashi says that the Yevusites were descendants of Avimelech, rather than the descendants of the Chitti with whom he made a treaty upon the purchase of the mearat hamachpela. Chizkuni explains that this is not in accordance with Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha.

To expand on this just a bit, in sefer Yehoshua, we are told that they were not able to conquer the Yevusi. And later on, in II Melachim 5:6, King David conquers the Yevusi:
ו וַיֵּלֶךְ הַמֶּלֶךְ וַאֲנָשָׁיו יְרוּשָׁלִַם, אֶל-הַיְבֻסִי יוֹשֵׁב הָאָרֶץ; וַיֹּאמֶר לְדָוִד לֵאמֹר, לֹא-תָבוֹא הֵנָּה, כִּי אִם-הֱסִירְךָ הַעִוְרִים וְהַפִּסְחִים לֵאמֹר, לֹא-יָבוֹא דָוִד הֵנָּה.6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke unto David, saying: 'Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither'; thinking: 'David cannot come in hither.'
ז וַיִּלְכֹּד דָּוִד, אֵת מְצֻדַת צִיּוֹן--הִיא, עִיר דָּוִד.7 Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion; the same is the city of David.
ח וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, כָּל-מַכֵּה יְבֻסִי וְיִגַּע בַּצִּנּוֹר, וְאֶת-הַפִּסְחִים וְאֶת-הַעִוְרִים, שנאו (שְׂנוּאֵי) נֶפֶשׁ דָּוִד; עַל-כֵּן, יֹאמְרוּ, עִוֵּר וּפִסֵּחַ, לֹא יָבוֹא אֶל-הַבָּיִת.8 And David said on that day: 'Whosoever smiteth the Jebusites, and getteth up to the gutter, and [taketh away] the lame and the blind, that are hated of David's soul--.' Wherefore they say: 'There are the blind and the lame; he cannot come into the house.'

On this, Rashi explains that:
to the Jebusites: Mezudath Zion is called Jebus. Now they (the inhabitants of the area) were of the seed of Abimelech, and they were in possession of two statues, one blind and the other lame, symbolizing Isaac (who was blind in his latter years. See Gen. 22:1) and Jacob (who turned lame as a result of his bout with the angel. See Gen. 32:26), and in their mouths was the oath that Abraham had sworn to Abimelech (Gen. 22:23). For this reason they (the Israelites who had conquered the land) did not drive them out, for when they took Jerusalem they failed to take the stronghold, as it is stated: “And the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the people of Judah were unable, etc.” (Josh. 15:63) - it was learned: R. Joshua b. Levi said: They were indeed able but were not permitted.
and he spoke to David: the one who spoke
the blind and the lame: these were their idols.

This is thus a slightly different origin. And Chizkuni asserts that what Rashi says in sefer Shmuel, that they were descendants of Avimelech, rather than saying that it was the Chiti, is not like Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha.

I am not convinced that this is so. I don't see any reference to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha in Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer. And on the relevant pasuk in sefer Yehoshua, what appears to be a quote by Rashi from Sifrei seems to put both the inability and the descending from Avimelech in the mouth of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha:
the children of Judah could not drive them out: We learned in Sifrei : Rabbi Joshua the son of Korha says: They really could, but they were not permitted, because of the oath which Abraham had sworn to Abimelech. Now these Jebusites were not of the Jebusite nation, but the Tower of David which was in Jerusalem, was called Jebus, and the inhabitants of that section were of the Philistines. And when the children of Judah conquered Jerusalem, they did not drive out the inhabitants of that section.
So Rashi seems to see this as working well together with Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha's position, whether Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha actually said it or not. I would note that the Sifrei does not actually mention why they were unable, at least in parshat Re'eh:

ל א תוכל לאכול בשעריך • ר׳ יהושע בן קרחת אומר יכול (אני) אבל איני רשאי •
כיוצא בו אתה אומר (יהושע טו) ואת היבוסי יושבי ירושלים לא יכלו להורישם
יכולים היו אבל אינן רשאים :

So it can work either way.

Regardless, if this oath was in place in the time of Yehoshua such that they were unable to conquer, why was David able to conquer? Was he not violating the oath here? Rashi does not give an answer.

But Chizkuni offers it. He notes that there was a restriction on the oath. In Bereishit 21:23:
כג וְעַתָּה, הִשָּׁבְעָה לִּי בֵאלֹהִים הֵנָּה, אִם-תִּשְׁקֹר לִי, וּלְנִינִי וּלְנֶכְדִּי; כַּחֶסֶד אֲשֶׁר-עָשִׂיתִי עִמְּךָ, תַּעֲשֶׂה עִמָּדִי, וְעִם-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-גַּרְתָּה בָּהּ.23 Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son; but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.'
כד וַיֹּאמֶר, אַבְרָהָם, אָנֹכִי, אִשָּׁבֵעַ.24 And Abraham said: 'I will swear.'

{As as aside, I wonder if הִשָּׁבְעָה לִּי בֵאלֹהִים הֵנָּה in Bereishit was the basis for the idea of the oath inscribed on idols, of course paired with the lame and the blind local to sefer Shmuel.}

Chizkuni notes that the oath was to his son and his son's son. But by the time of David, Avimelech's grandchildren were no longer around. If so, why would the Yevusi think they were protected by the lame and the blind, that is the oath? The answer Chizkuni offers is that they were mistaken in their assumption.

I am not certain I agree with this assumption, for those generations should have passed already by the time of Yehoshua. This was made at the end of Avraham's life, and yet the oath was in place. Perhaps one can say that such an oath was conditional, and some condition was violated? Perhaps this is why David wanted to get rid of the statues of the blind and the lame?

Indeed, looking in sefer Shmuel, the assumption seems to be that so long as the statues are present (with the oaths), David is unable. And thus the intent to eliminate them. Citing Rashi there:
Whoever smites the Jebusites and reaches the tower: Whosoever kills the Jebusites and is first to capture the city.
and the lame: and he also smites the lame and the blind and those despised by the soul, etc.
wherefore they say: On (account of) that which they say,
The blind and the lame (etc.: So long as the blind and the lame be here… he shall not, etc.

You can read the Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer online here at, starting at the last line of this page (199) and continuing on to the next pages. Indeed, looking at Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, it is clear that David was also bound by this oath so long as those idols bearing Avraham's oath was there, and that was why he commanded to get rid of those idols.

So I will have to argue with Chizkuni on that count as well.

Of course, on a peshat level, the meaning of the "were not able" in sefer Yehoshua is that they were physically not able. And the lame and the blind in sefer Shmuel, I would guess, are indeed idols, and the Yevusi thought incorrectly that their deities would protect them. And David wished to uproot and destroy idolatry, and that is why he wanted them eliminated.


Anonymous said...

in lekutei sichos vol. 29 the 2nd sicha he discusses this rashi and the rashi in novi etc.

joshwaxman said...

thanks. it can be seen here:

if i understand correctly, he says that the tzivui of Hashem would have cancelled the oath, but there was an issue of chilul hashem in that the Yevusi thought otherwise. this would provide a nice contrast with Chizkuni who uses the passage of time and the fact that the Yevusi *mistakenly* thought the oath was still in effect, but David still acted because he knew better.

in terms of why Rashi preferred that the oath was with the Chiti rather than Avimelech, because otherwise the ownership of the Mearat Hamachpela would be cancelled, i would prefer to say that he is simply adopting what he saw in Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer wholesale, but that he does not really have a preference, given that elsewhere Rashi is willing to say that they are descendants of Avimelech.

i wonder if the two prooftexts arose from different motivations, one to find a long-standing treaty of non-aggression (with Avimelech), and one to find an idea of being a guest rather than rightful owner of the land (such that Avraham admits he needs to purchase specific land in there).

it is interesting how he reinterprets the midrash and asserts that the oath was already nullified, but the Yevusi were under the other impression.

the sicha looks interesting, but of course my yiddish comprehension is lousy. any thoughts on it?

thanks again, and kol tuv,


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