Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Binyamin with three yuds!

The pasuk in the parsha:

יב לְבִנְיָמִן אָמַר--יְדִיד ה', יִשְׁכֹּן לָבֶטַח עָלָיו; חֹפֵף עָלָיו כָּל-הַיּוֹם, וּבֵין כְּתֵפָיו שָׁכֵן. {ס}12 Of Benjamin he said: The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by Him; He covereth him all the day, and He dwelleth between his shoulders. {S}

and Minchas Shai has a fascinating and lengthy comment on this:

In all the printed texts and in manuscripts, it is written "deficiently" {with only one yud, rather than two -- no yud after the mem}. And so too in the masoretic notes, that there are 17 plene Binyamins {with a second yud, after the mem} in all of Scriptures, and they are enumerated in the Masorah Gedolah on parshat Vayishlach and in other places, and this one {here in Zos Habracha} is not among them.

And I have seen a masorah in a manuscript which lists the 17 Binyamins as plene in the same manner as our masoret, and there is written at the end of it "and there is one which is written plene with three yuds, namely לבינימין אמר ידיד." {That is, plene with a yud for each chirik.}

And this masorah is wondrous in our eyes, and it casts aspersions on all of our sefarim, for there is not in any of them which has more than one yud. {For since it was not one of the 17, it was written as deficient.}


And previously, I heard from Rabbi Netanel Traboto, may his Rock keep him and give him life, that he saw in the teshuva of his ancestor Rabbi Azriel Traboto za"l that such was found in the {?} scripture of one sefer Torah written by the kabbalist Rabbi Rakanti, zatza"l, and they did not send forth a hand against it. And behold, I further was astonished at this wonder.

And I asked about this to the scholar, the author of Or Torah, and he spoke harsh words on this hypothesis, and said that those who did not send forth a hand upon that sefer made unrighteousness dwell in their tents {the opposite of Iyov 22:23}. For perhaps the one who first said it said it by way of riddle, and hinted to a certain secret. For is it not concealed {juxtaposed with} three yuds? For the beginning of the {subsequent} words are: Yedid YKVK Yishkon. End quote.

And the nistarot {concealed matters} are to Hashem our God.

After I wrote all this, I found in a sefer of kabbalah called Shaar Hashamayim, where he speaks about the 72 names which are combined from {the pesukim by Kriat Yam Suf,} Vayisa Vayavo Vayet {which all contain 72 letters, and where we choose one letter from each and combine them to form three-letter names of Hashem}, in the 20th name that
it consists of three yuds. And when you calculate the calculation of the name which is the 26th {??}, you connect with it the number of its letters, such that in total it is 30. And its secret is -- to Hashem {?} and his name, YYY, and this is why we write the name with three Yuds. And the secret to לבינימין אמר, and the discerning shall understand. End quote.
And in Sotah perek Elu Neemarim {36b}, in the counting of the letters of the Choshen, they said:
[It was stated above that on the stones of the ephod] were fifty letters; but there were fifty less one! — R. Isaac said: One letter was added to the name of Joseph, as it is said: He appointed it in Joseph for a testimony, when he went out over the land of Egypt. R. Nahman b. Isaac objected: We require according to their birth! — But [the correct explanation is] that throughout the whole Torah Benjamin's name is spelt without the letter yod [before the final letter], but here [on the ephod] it was spelt complete with yod; as it is written: But his father called him Benjamin.
{That is, in Vayeitzei, at Binyamin's birth:

יח וַיְהִי בְּצֵאת נַפְשָׁהּ, כִּי מֵתָה, וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, בֶּן-אוֹנִי; וְאָבִיו, קָרָא-לוֹ בִנְיָמִין.18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing--for she died--that she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.

The implication is that only here in Vayeitzei is it spelled plene, with two yuds.

}
And this was also wondrous in my eyes, for there are 7 Binyamins written plene in the Torah, and so did the Rama za"l write!

{These seven:
בראשית פרק לה
  • פסוק יח: וַיְהִי בְּצֵאת נַפְשָׁהּ, כִּי מֵתָה, וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, בֶּן-אוֹנִי; וְאָבִיו, קָרָא-לוֹ בִנְיָמִין.
בראשית פרק מב
  • פסוק ד: וְאֶת-בִּנְיָמִין אֲחִי יוֹסֵף, לֹא-שָׁלַח יַעֲקֹב אֶת-אֶחָיו: כִּי אָמַר, פֶּן-יִקְרָאֶנּוּ אָסוֹן.
בראשית פרק מג
  • פסוק יד: וְאֵל שַׁדַּי, יִתֵּן לָכֶם רַחֲמִים לִפְנֵי הָאִישׁ, וְשִׁלַּח לָכֶם אֶת-אֲחִיכֶם אַחֵר, וְאֶת-בִּנְיָמִין; וַאֲנִי, כַּאֲשֶׁר שָׁכֹלְתִּי שָׁכָלְתִּי.
  • פסוק טז: וַיַּרְא יוֹסֵף אִתָּם, אֶת-בִּנְיָמִין, וַיֹּאמֶר לַאֲשֶׁר עַל-בֵּיתוֹ, הָבֵא אֶת-הָאֲנָשִׁים הַבָּיְתָה; וּטְבֹחַ טֶבַח וְהָכֵן, כִּי אִתִּי יֹאכְלוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים בַּצָּהֳרָיִם.
  • פסוק כט: וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא אֶת-בִּנְיָמִין אָחִיו בֶּן-אִמּוֹ, וַיֹּאמֶר הֲזֶה אֲחִיכֶם הַקָּטֹן, אֲשֶׁר אֲמַרְתֶּם אֵלָי; וַיֹּאמַר, אֱלֹהִים יָחְנְךָ בְּנִי.
בראשית פרק מה
  • פסוק יב: וְהִנֵּה עֵינֵיכֶם רֹאוֹת, וְעֵינֵי אָחִי בִנְיָמִין: כִּי-פִי, הַמְדַבֵּר אֲלֵיכֶם.
בראשית פרק מט
  • פסוק כז: בִּנְיָמִין זְאֵב יִטְרָף, בַּבֹּקֶר יֹאכַל עַד; וְלָעֶרֶב, יְחַלֵּק שָׁלָל.
}

And I asked the aforementioned scholar, and he answered me that that which Razal said "throughout the entire Torah is Binyamin {deficient} written" was not absolutely literal, but rather the import is upon the majority, for the majority is like all of it. End quote.

But in the Yerushalmi, it is much easier, for it is stated there {Yerushalmi Sotah 31b}:

אית תניי תני כשם שהן חלוקין כאן כך הן חלוקין באבני אפוד. במלואותם. כדי שיהיו עשרים וחמשה מיכן ועשרים וחמשה מיכן. והלא אינן אלא ארבעים ותשעה. אמר רבי יוחנן בנימין דותולדותם מלא.


"And are there not only 49? Rabbi Yochanan said: The Binyamin of vetoldotam is plene." End quote. {Which means there is no assertion that in all cases other than that it is chaser.}

To explain, since there {by the Ephod} it is written ketoldotam, we require like the names which there father called them. And there it is written "and his father called him Binyamin {spelled malei}.

And the author of יפה מראה in his explanation of the Yerushalmi took the wording of the Bavli, that even though in the entirety of Torah, Binyamin is chaser, etc., and he did not set his heart to this.

He who acts wondrously should perform for us for good a sign, and should hurry the end of the wonders {?}, and we should see from his Torah niflaos, Amen.
Thus ends the Minchas Shai.

As I said, fascinating. Just some scattered thoughts on the matter. First, there is a general rule, also stated by Yerushalmi, that texts spelled chaser are two be preferred over texts spelled malei, as the chaser is more likely to be original. The key word is likely, but any individual case could readily be an exception to the rule.

The masoretic note was constructed in a way that does not explicitly contradict the other masoretic notes. That is, they just list the 17 malei. But this one is not one of that list. It differs not be being chaser but by being super-malei. So one can see it not making it onto that list, and people just seeing the list could understand it as chaser.

It is very relevant that the Biblical text written with it super-malei was written by a kabbalist. Kabbalah is well outside my range of expertise, and so I will readily admit that I am not one of the discerning who will understand. However, it is perhaps relevant that when speaking about the three yuds, he spells Binyamin as super-malei.

On the other hand, it could have even started not as the riddle the Or Torah wrote about, but as some kabbalistic secret or hint. That kabbalistic hint might readily have been misunderstood by Rabbi Menachem Rikanti, who wrote it super-malei incorrectly as a result. And the masoretic note could then have been based on this error.

Also, it is kabbalistic. See what Minchas Shai writes about elsewhere, about derashot in Zohar based on small or extra letters, where we do not have these in our texts. He says it is just for the sake of derasha, and perhaps "as if" it is there, but we do not rely on them to establish the masoretic text. While I don't agree with his apologetics, the fact that this weird super-malei word we only have explicitly found in a sefer Torah written by a kabbalist tells me that perhaps we should not heed this, or even give it a second thought.

In terms of the gemara, I agree that the phrase kol haTorah kulah is an idiom, and should not be taken absolutely literally. If it is true in the majority of cases, except for seven places, that indeed should suffice.

I think standard Rabbinic spelling is malei. Do a search and see how Rabbi Binyamin is spelled. The question is how pesukim are typically spelled. In this regard, I don't think that malei and chaser of pesukim as quoted in the gemara are really very relevant. But I will bring it up since Minchas Shai did not. In a few places -- this quoted place in the gemara as well, pesukim with the word Binyamin are cited, and Binyamin is written malei. Perhaps this could be harnessed to show that even the Bavli does not maintain that all except this one instance should be written chaser. But then again, the Bavli, and the scribes in Bavli, are not going to be as exacting about malei and chaser where it is not for the purpose of some derasha local to that gemara, and where malei accords to the way it is pronounced, and where standard Rabbinic spelling is malei.

Thus, it doesn't really matter that in Megillah 16b we have:
שעתיד להיות בחלקו של יוסף ועתיד ליחרב (בראשית מה) והנה עיניכם רואות ועיני אחי בנימין

where the pasuk is written similarly, as malei. This is not absolute evidence.

יב וְהִנֵּה עֵינֵיכֶם רֹאוֹת, וְעֵינֵי אָחִי בִנְיָמִין: כִּי-פִי, הַמְדַבֵּר אֲלֵיכֶם.12 And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you.

Or even that on the same same daf where they said that in "the entire Torah" it was written chaser they cite a pasuk, in Bereishit 46, saying:

ואעפ"כ יצאו מבנימין אחיו וכולן נקראו על שמו שנאמר (בראשית מו) ובני בנימין בלע ובכר ואשבל וגו'

where it is malei! Especially since in our masoretic text, Binyamin is written in this case as chaser:

כא וּבְנֵי בִנְיָמִן, בֶּלַע וָבֶכֶר וְאַשְׁבֵּל, גֵּרָא וְנַעֲמָן, אֵחִי וָרֹאשׁ; מֻפִּים וְחֻפִּים, וָאָרְדְּ.21 And the sons of Benjamin: Bela, and Becher, and Ashbel, Gera, and Naaman, Ehi, and Rosh, Muppim, and Huppim, and Ard.

And similarly, in Bava Batra 17a. I am not going to go through every example. I just don't think that the evidence from pesukim in Bavli are going to be helpful in this regard.

At the end of the day, I think this is interesting, that it is possible that Binyamin was spelled with three yuds, but that it is most likely like Minchas Shai and Ohr Torah, that this is a spurious masoretic note, probably based on some misunderstanding, or else a divergence due to kabbalah, where there are other such divergences.

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