Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is a mamzer a bastard, or a member of a certain nation?

In Devarim 23, a bunch of instructions of who may not enter into the congregation of the Lord:
א לֹא-יִקַּח אִישׁ, אֶת-אֵשֶׁת אָבִיו; וְלֹא יְגַלֶּה, כְּנַף אָבִיו. {ס}1 A man shall not take his father's wife, and shall not uncover his father's skirt. {S}
ב לֹא-יָבֹא פְצוּעַ-דַּכָּא וּכְרוּת שָׁפְכָה, בִּקְהַל ה'. {ס}2 He that is crushed or maimed in his privy parts shall not enter into the assembly of the LORD. {S}
ג לֹא-יָבֹא מַמְזֵר, בִּקְהַל ה': גַּם דּוֹר עֲשִׂירִי, לֹא-יָבֹא לוֹ בִּקְהַל ה'. {ס}3 A bastard shall not enter into the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation shall none of his enter into the assembly of the LORD. {S}
ד לֹא-יָבֹא עַמּוֹנִי וּמוֹאָבִי, בִּקְהַל ה': גַּם דּוֹר עֲשִׂירִי, לֹא-יָבֹא לָהֶם בִּקְהַל ה' עַד-עוֹלָם.4 An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation shall none of them enter into the assembly of the LORD for ever;
and later on, it continues with the Edomi. But what is a "mamzer"? If we did not know the meaning of the word, but had to figure it out from immediate context, there would be two possibilities. The preceding context has to do intercourse. One should not have illicit relations with his father's wife -- or likely, marry her. And also various people, who are already presumably Israelites, who because of problems with their procreative organ, cannot marry into the kehal Hashem. A mamzer could then be of a similar sort, an Israelite, but with some pegam that renders him unfit.

The other possibility is that a mamzer is a person of a nation called Mamzer. After all, compare the 10th generation bit from one to the other. And all these nations are being given in the succeeding context. On the other hand, all of the members of those nations end with an iy sound -- Mitzri, Ammoni, Edomi. It does not say Mamzeri!

At any rate, Ibn Ezra actually offers both as possibilities. Thus, he writes:
ממזר. אחז״ל הבא מן העריות והשנים ממי״ן נוספין כממיין, נהרסו ממגורות (יואל א יז) ואחרים אמרו כי הוא שם גוי , וישב ממזר באשדוד (זכריה ט ו) כי רחוק הוא שיקרא שם ישראל , ואף כי בעת הישועה בשם גנאי, והמתרגם תפש דרך קצרה ודרש
Thus, he gives the possibility, as per Chazal, that it is a "bastard," and that it is based on the root זר with two additional mems, giving another example of this phenomenon. And that others say that it is the name of a nation. He points us to Zecharia 9:6:
ו וְיָשַׁב מַמְזֵר, בְּאַשְׁדּוֹד; וְהִכְרַתִּי, גְּאוֹן פְּלִשְׁתִּים.6 And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.
and that since this for the future time, at the time of redemption, it is not fitting that even those children from illicit relations would be called by a derogatory name such as Mamzer. Rather, it refers there to the nation called Mamzer.

It is somewhat unclear what Ibn Ezra means by והמתרגם תפש דרך קצרה ודרש. This confounds Mechokekei Yehuda, Ibn Ezra's supercommentator, who writes:

ולא ידעתי אל מי מהמתרגמים יכוון, כי או״ת
ממזירא , ואם נחשוב שכבר היה לפני הראב״ע
תרגום המיוחס ליונתן, מדוע יאמר דרך קצרה
ויונתן הרחיב הדברים, כאשר יראה המעיין שם, אם לא נאמר
שאמר הרב זה בדרך התול כדרכו (המעמר) ולפי גירסת המקור חיים
שהבאתי ביהל אור סרה קושית המעמר

That is, he does not know which of the Targumists Ibn Ezra intended. For Onkelos merely renders it Mamzera; and if we think that there was already before the Ibn Ezra the targum (incorrectly) attributed to Yonatan ben Uziel, why should he say "in a brief way" when Yonatan expands on the words, as one who looks will discover -- unless one says that Ibn Ezra said this in jest, in his manner (the position of the Maamer, Rav Meir Wolf). And according to the girsa of the Mekor Chaim cited in Yahel Or, the question of the Maamer goes away.

In Yahel Or, the Mechokekei Yehuda writes:

והמקו"ח גרס ,"תפס דרך דרש" ר"ל שתרגם יונתן בן עוזיאל שם "ויתיבין ישראל באשדוד דהוו בה כנוכראין" הוא דרך דרש ולא פשט ועיין קרני אור

That is, while Pseudo-Yonatan on Torah might well not have been before Ibn Ezra, Targum Yonatan on Neviim certainly was. And there, it goes on at length, as you can see here. In which case, derech ketzara was either a jest, or else should be eliminated from the girsa of Ibn Ezra's commentary. You can see the Mekor Chaim here, note 58, though I don't see his change of girsa.

This lengthy translation of Yonatan of the pasuk in Zechariah is that these were Israelites in Ashdod, who were nevertheless strange to it. And we see Rashi say it there, as well as Mahari Kara. Metzudat David considers that they might be actual bastards, or if not, as per Rashi said. Radak gives all three possibilities.

And Ibn Ezra there expands on his perush, and lets us know who came up with the idea of Mamzer being a nation, as well as if he agrees with it! He writes what is pictured to the right. Thus, it is a 10th century Spanish parshan, Yehuda ben Rabbi Shmuel Ibn Balaam, HaSefaradi, who likely wrote this in Judeo-Arabic. I am not sure whether on the pasuk in Zecharia, on the pasuk in Ki Teitzei, or on both.

But Ibn Ezra asserts that his own position is that it is, here in Zecharia, the mamzer of arayot, illicit relations, who dwelled by themselves close to Yerushalayim, and thus the import of the verse is to the degraded and lowly people in Israel would dwell by themselves in the cities of the Philistines, and not be reckoned among those of valid lineage.

Is this a reversal of Ibn Ezra, or not? In Zecharia, he clearly decides in accordance with Chazal, more or less -- mamzer refers to children from illicit relations. In Ki Teizei, he gives both positions, and he labels what the Targumist translates to be derech ketzara uderash. But maybe only derech derash. Or maybe both, but the ketzarah bit was a jest. And we don't know which Targumist he meant, and whether the Targum on Ki Teitzei or Zechariah. Depending on how you choose to interpret Ibn Ezra, he either can remain consistent or else he reverses himself.

I would assert that if Ibn Ezra was referring to the pasuk in Zechariah, then he either spoke in jest or else we must emend to match the girsa of the Mekor Chaim. And then Ibn Ezra is entirely consistent, because Targum Yonatan there is somewhat midrashic, understanding mamzer not in its classic sense but as regular Israelites who are zarim.

But if Ibn Ezra refers to the pasuk in Ki Teitzei, then I assert that there is no problem. The Targumist is the classic Targumist, Onkelos. And By translating it as mamzeira, Onkelos is not translating. He is letting us stay with our perceptions of mamzer, as defined for us by Chazal. And it is much shorter to say that than to say "the nation of Mamzer." This is what Ibn Ezra means by derech ketzara. And the derash would be following Chazal's interpretation of mamzer as opposed to Ibn Bilaam's definition. If so, Ibn Ezra would be reversing himself, and an interesting question would then be which perush he authored first.

Even so, I think the former possibility is the most likely. He is bringing a prooftext from Zechariah, but he has a "weird" interpretation of that prooftext, not in accord with the Targum, as he spells out. And so Ibn Ezra preempts a question by explaining that the Targum there is not peshat, so his proof is a valid proof to the meaning of mamzer. To say that it is Onkelos locally could work, but it comes out of left field -- Ibn Ezra does not need to justify translating a pasuk differently from Onkelos, and we would not expect that Onkelos's translation local to Ki Teitzei is particularly midrashic; and finally, it is not good to create a dispute between Ibn Ezra and himself unnecessarily.

Now, Ibn Ezra does not contradict himself. While the Targum on Zechariah is surely midrashic, that does not mean that Ibn Balaam's explanation is the true explanation. Rather, in both places, Ibn Ezra ends up holding that mamzer means bastard.

Some if this might be clarified if we could just look at Ibn Bilaam's perush.

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