Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The evolution of a derash: from ulay vs. pen to ailay vs. ulay

An interesting development, and movement of a derasha from one pasuk to another. In parashas Chayei Sarah, Avraham's servant worries that the woman will not come back with him. This is related twice, first by the Biblical Narrator and second by Avraham's servant.

The first time,

ה וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, הָעֶבֶד, אוּלַי לֹא-תֹאבֶה הָאִשָּׁה, לָלֶכֶת אַחֲרַי אֶל-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת; הֶהָשֵׁב אָשִׁיב אֶת-בִּנְךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-יָצָאתָ מִשָּׁם.5 And the servant said unto him: 'Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land; must I needs bring thy son back unto the land from whence thou camest?'

and the second time,

לט וָאֹמַר, אֶל-אֲדֹנִי: אֻלַי לֹא-תֵלֵךְ הָאִשָּׁה, אַחֲרָי.39 And I said unto my master: Peradventure the woman will not follow me.
מ וַיֹּאמֶר, אֵלָי: ה' אֲשֶׁר-הִתְהַלַּכְתִּי לְפָנָיו, יִשְׁלַח מַלְאָכוֹ אִתָּךְ וְהִצְלִיחַ דַּרְכֶּךָ, וְלָקַחְתָּ אִשָּׁה לִבְנִי, מִמִּשְׁפַּחְתִּי וּמִבֵּית אָבִי.40 And he said unto me: The LORD, before whom I walk, will send His angel with thee, and prosper thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred, and of my father's house;

We know of the derasha in Bereishit Rabba 59:9:
ט [אין ארור מתדבק בברוך]ש

ויאמר אליו העבד
הה"ד: (הושע יב) כנען בידו מאזני מרמה לעשוק אהב
כנען,זה אליעזר.
בידו מאזני מרמה,שהיה יושב ומשקיל את בתו, ראויה היא, או אינה ראויה.
לעשוק אהב,לעשוק אהובו של עולם, זה יצחק.
אמר: אולי לא תאבה ואתן לו את בתי?
אמר לו: אתה ארור, ובני ברוך, ואין ארור מתדבק בברוך:

Eliezer is hoping that his daughter would be an alternative, if the Rivkah plain fails. And Avraham rejects the match.

Based upon the placement in the broader Midrash Rabba, as well as the pesukim cited, it seems fairly clear that the midrash is rooted on the first pesukim, when Eliezer is in fact discussing this with Avraham, rather than the second pesukim, when Eliezer is telling this over.

I would guess that a good part of it is just as I learned in elementary school, that there are two words in Hebrew which mean "perhaps". One is פן and one is אולי. Pen is typically used as "lest," discussing something that it best avoided. Ulay typically is used for something one hopes will happen.

All the examples of Ulay from Torah (not Nach):

בראשית פרק טז
  • פסוק ב: וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרַי אֶל-אַבְרָם, הִנֵּה-נָא עֲצָרַנִי יְהוָה מִלֶּדֶת--בֹּא-נָא אֶל-שִׁפְחָתִי, אוּלַי אִבָּנֶה מִמֶּנָּה; וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָם, לְקוֹל שָׂרָי.
בראשית פרק יח
  • פסוק כד: אוּלַי יֵשׁ חֲמִשִּׁים צַדִּיקִם, בְּתוֹךְ הָעִיר; הַאַף תִּסְפֶּה וְלֹא-תִשָּׂא לַמָּקוֹם, לְמַעַן חֲמִשִּׁים הַצַּדִּיקִם אֲשֶׁר בְּקִרְבָּהּ.
  • פסוק כח: אוּלַי יַחְסְרוּן חֲמִשִּׁים הַצַּדִּיקִם, חֲמִשָּׁה--הֲתַשְׁחִית בַּחֲמִשָּׁה, אֶת-כָּל-הָעִיר; וַיֹּאמֶר, לֹא אַשְׁחִית, אִם-אֶמְצָא שָׁם, אַרְבָּעִים וַחֲמִשָּׁה.
  • פסוק כט: וַיֹּסֶף עוֹד לְדַבֵּר אֵלָיו, וַיֹּאמַר, אוּלַי יִמָּצְאוּן שָׁם, אַרְבָּעִים; וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא אֶעֱשֶׂה, בַּעֲבוּר הָאַרְבָּעִים.
  • פסוק ל: וַיֹּאמֶר אַל-נָא יִחַר לַאדֹנָי, וַאֲדַבֵּרָה--אוּלַי יִמָּצְאוּן שָׁם, שְׁלֹשִׁים; וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא אֶעֱשֶׂה, אִם-אֶמְצָא שָׁם שְׁלֹשִׁים.
  • פסוק לא: וַיֹּאמֶר, הִנֵּה-נָא הוֹאַלְתִּי לְדַבֵּר אֶל-אֲדֹנָי--אוּלַי יִמָּצְאוּן שָׁם, עֶשְׂרִים; וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא אַשְׁחִית, בַּעֲבוּר הָעֶשְׂרִים.
  • פסוק לב: וַיֹּאמֶר אַל-נָא יִחַר לַאדֹנָי, וַאֲדַבְּרָה אַךְ-הַפַּעַם--אוּלַי יִמָּצְאוּן שָׁם, עֲשָׂרָה; וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא אַשְׁחִית, בַּעֲבוּר הָעֲשָׂרָה.
בראשית פרק כד
  • פסוק ה: וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, הָעֶבֶד, אוּלַי לֹא-תֹאבֶה הָאִשָּׁה, לָלֶכֶת אַחֲרַי אֶל-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת; הֶהָשֵׁב אָשִׁיב אֶת-בִּנְךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-יָצָאתָ מִשָּׁם.
בראשית פרק כז
  • פסוק יב: אוּלַי יְמֻשֵּׁנִי אָבִי, וְהָיִיתִי בְעֵינָיו כִּמְתַעְתֵּעַ; וְהֵבֵאתִי עָלַי קְלָלָה, וְלֹא בְרָכָה.
בראשית פרק לב
  • פסוק כא: וַאֲמַרְתֶּם--גַּם הִנֵּה עַבְדְּךָ יַעֲקֹב, אַחֲרֵינוּ: כִּי-אָמַר אֲכַפְּרָה פָנָיו, בַּמִּנְחָה הַהֹלֶכֶת לְפָנָי, וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן אֶרְאֶה פָנָיו, אוּלַי יִשָּׂא פָנָי.
בראשית פרק מג
  • פסוק יב: וְכֶסֶף מִשְׁנֶה, קְחוּ בְיֶדְכֶם; וְאֶת-הַכֶּסֶף הַמּוּשָׁב בְּפִי אַמְתְּחֹתֵיכֶם, תָּשִׁיבוּ בְיֶדְכֶם--אוּלַי מִשְׁגֶּה, הוּא.
שמות פרק לב
  • פסוק ל: וַיְהִי, מִמָּחֳרָת, וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-הָעָם, אַתֶּם חֲטָאתֶם חֲטָאָה גְדֹלָה; וְעַתָּה אֶעֱלֶה אֶל-יְהוָה, אוּלַי אֲכַפְּרָה בְּעַד חַטַּאתְכֶם.
במדבר פרק כב
  • פסוק ו: וְעַתָּה לְכָה-נָּא אָרָה-לִּי אֶת-הָעָם הַזֶּה, כִּי-עָצוּם הוּא מִמֶּנִּי--אוּלַי אוּכַל נַכֶּה-בּוֹ, וַאֲגָרְשֶׁנּוּ מִן-הָאָרֶץ: כִּי יָדַעְתִּי, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-תְּבָרֵךְ מְבֹרָךְ, וַאֲשֶׁר תָּאֹר, יוּאָר.
  • פסוק יא: הִנֵּה הָעָם הַיֹּצֵא מִמִּצְרַיִם, וַיְכַס אֶת-עֵין הָאָרֶץ; עַתָּה, לְכָה קָבָה-לִּי אֹתוֹ--אוּלַי אוּכַל לְהִלָּחֶם בּוֹ, וְגֵרַשְׁתִּיו.
  • פסוק לג: וַתִּרְאַנִי, הָאָתוֹן, וַתֵּט לְפָנַי, זֶה שָׁלֹשׁ רְגָלִים; אוּלַי נָטְתָה מִפָּנַי, כִּי עַתָּה גַּם-אֹתְכָה הָרַגְתִּי וְאוֹתָהּ הֶחֱיֵיתִי.
במדבר פרק כג
  • פסוק ג: וַיֹּאמֶר בִּלְעָם לְבָלָק, הִתְיַצֵּב עַל-עֹלָתֶךָ, וְאֵלְכָה אוּלַי יִקָּרֵה יְהוָה לִקְרָאתִי, וּדְבַר מַה-יַּרְאֵנִי וְהִגַּדְתִּי לָךְ; וַיֵּלֶךְ, שֶׁפִי.
  • פסוק כז: וַיֹּאמֶר בָּלָק, אֶל-בִּלְעָם, לְכָה-נָּא אֶקָּחֲךָ, אֶל-מָקוֹם אַחֵר; אוּלַי יִישַׁר בְּעֵינֵי הָאֱלֹהִים, וְקַבֹּתוֹ לִי מִשָּׁם.
Of course, we would need to say that Yaakov didn't want to be successful in fooling his father, and thus hoped for discovery. And we would perhaps need to argue that it continued throughout Nach. But in general, Ulay does seem to be a hope for a positive. Meanwhile, Pen is fear of something lest it happen. Or at least, we can say that this is how Chazal views it.

And Eliezer, by using ulay in this strange manner, is conveying this hope, that he will be able to marry his daughter off to the tzaddik.

Of course, it is also rooted in the pasuk in Hoshea. That pasuk reads:

ח כְּנַעַן, בְּיָדוֹ מֹאזְנֵי מִרְמָה--לַעֲשֹׁק אָהֵב.8 As for the trafficker, the balances of deceit are in his hand. He loveth to oppress.

Kenaan means a merchant/trafficker, rather than the nation of Canaan. But this is a trend of taking a non-local pasuk and interpreting it in a way that it refers to the local story in some way, filling in some details. Thus, Kenaan is a reference to Eliezer, who is a descendant of Kenaan, and he is weighing his daughter in the hopes she will be worthy of marrying the aheiv, who is the tzaddik Yitzchak, if the plan to marry one of Avraham's relatives fails. But it is rejected by Avraham.

Alternatively, once we see Kenaan assume this meaning of Eliezer, based on Hoshea, the bnos Kenaan locally assumes the meaning of daughter of Eliezer.

Either way, this is a combination of reinterpretation of a foreign pasuk and close readings of a local pasuk, to create this midrash.

Alternatively, it is entirely based on the pasuk on Hoshea, and there is nothing askew in Chayei Sarah.

In the thirteenth century, a collection of Midrashim arranged on all of Tanach came about. This is Yalkut Shimoni. In the Yalkut on Hosheah 12, this is clearly based on a krei / ketiv:
כנען בידו מאזני מרמה לעשוק אהב. כנען זה אליעזר, בידו מאזני מרמה שהיה יושב ומשקל את בתו ראויה היא או איננ ראויה, לעשוק אהב לעשוק אבהובו של עולם זה יצחק, אמר לו אולי לא תאבה האשה ללכת אחרי אלי כתיב אתן לו בתי א"ל אתה ארור ובני ברוך ואין ארור מדבק בברוך, השמר לך פן תשיב את בני שמה:
This would make it based on the second pasuk, and a krei / ketiv. Though it says ulay, the second time, it is written deficiently, and could and midrashically would be read as ailay, "to me".

That Yalkut Shimoni puts it like this is no evidence of an early midrash like this. Yalkut Shimoni might well be basing himself on Rashi al haTorah, who writes on the second instance:

Perhaps the woman will not follow me: It [the word אֻלַי (perhaps)] is written [without a“vav” and may be read] אֵלַי (to me). Eliezer had a daughter, and he was looking for a pretext so that Abraham would tell him, to turn to him, to marry off his daughter to him (Isaac). Abraham said to him,“My son is blessed, and you are cursed [Eliezer was a descendant of Canaan who had been cursed by Noah], and an accursed one cannot unite with a blessed one.”
אלי לא תלך האשה: אלי כתיב, בת היתה לו לאליעזר והיה מחזר למצוא עילה שיאמר לו אברהם לפנות אליו להשיאו בתו, אמר לו אברהם בני ברוך ואתה ארור, ואין ארור מדבק בברוך:

Now maybe Rashi had some source we don't know about that cast it on this later pasuk and the spelling irregularity; or perhaps Rashi was just trying to find a good basis, and the irregular spelling seemed like a good basis, such that he moved the midrash from its "rightful" place to the place he could find a textual derivation.

Also, with this ailay, a possibly very different message in the midrash arises. Originally it was "perhaps, hopefully," she will not want to come. The midrash itself used the word ulay. Now, perhaps on can even parse the pasuk as not to go at all -- "to me, because the woman won't want to go anyway." This is not necessarily what Rashi is saying, but it becomes a possibility.

Then a bunch of supercommentators on Rashi make a big deal as to why the midrash is based on the later pasuk rather than the earlier one; or more accurately, why Torah chose to place the irregular spelling in the latter rather than former case.

Let us begin with Minchas Shai, who notes this. He writes what is pictured to the right. That this spelling of ulay, as chaser, is unique. And that while Midrash Rabba does not make it clear that the derasha is on this, Yalkut Shimoni does make it clear.

And he cites Gur Aryeh, as well as Masoret Habris Hagadol, who give answers on this. Others may well address this question, but since I am following the path set by Minchas Shai, I will consider them first, and only turn to others if I get the chance.

Gur Aryeh writes:
אלי כתיב והא דלא
כתיב׳ פרש׳ של מעלה כשאמר אליעזר
לאברהם מפני שודאי אליעזר אמר אולי ולא
אלי שאיך יאמר לאברהם אני אומר אלי
אלא שכך היתה כוונתו שהיה מחזר למצא
עילה אולי לא תאבה האשד. כדי שיאמר
אברהם ואם כן ישא בתך ואברהם הבין כיונתו
כי למה הוצרך לומר אולי לא תאבה שהיה
לו לילך מיד ויסמוך על זכות אברהם אלא הי׳
מחזר למצא עילה וכר אבל העבד כשהיה
מספר להם חשב שמא לא יהיו מבינים כונתו
במה שאמר אולי לא תאבה לכך פירש להם
כונתו שהיה כונתו אלי ומה שהיה רוצה העבד
שיהיו הם מבינים כונתו שהיה כונתו אליו
כשאמר אולי כדי להגיד להם תשובת אברה׳
כי בנו ברוך ולכך יתנו לו בתם :

A very creative and compelling answer, though I disagree with it because of disagreement with assumptions and methodology. Gur Aryeh says that the irregular spelling was not earlier, because of course Eliezer never said ailay. Rather, by asking ulay, he was trying to find a reason, and so it was "as if" he had said ailay. And Avraham understood his intentions there. But when retelling it to Betuel, Lavan and company, he realized that they might not understand his intention, and so he explained it, by saying there ailay. And the reason for saying it to them was in order to relate Avraham's answer about Yitzchak's blessed state, and thereby convince them to give over to him their daughter Rivkah.

I disagree in so many ways that I find it difficult to even explain. First, this is imposing a completely new level on the midrashic text, in which in the first case it was implicit (to Avraham) and yet explicit to them. Or rather, initially, his question was implicit to Avraham but Avraham's answer explicit, and subsequently, he made even his question explicit. Yet not explicit enough to make it the krei of the pasuk, just the ketiv, so that we could intuit that this particular half was told explicitly only here. This is the type of midrashic building, of adding of details not originally in the midrash, that I consider neo-midrash, rather than likely part of the original intent of the midrash. So it can be a lovely midrash by Maharal, but I am nowhere near convinced that this was the midrashists's intent, or Rashi's intent.

Also, this is all assuming that Rashi is correct in the derivation of the midrash from the krei / ketiv. This is not necessarily true at all. It might well be based on the first pasuk of ulay, in which case the question never begins.

Also, who says placement is at all important? The tale is told over twice, which gives us twice the opportunities for derash, based on divergences between the first and the second tellings, and by having twice the opportunities for irregular spelling. I don't know that location of the derash necessarily matters. This might not have been on the midrashist's mind at all. Of course, Maharal could turn around and say that the midrashist's intent does not matter, for he is revealing deep historical truths, which the Torah itself intended, and so the question of the Torah's choice of placement is important. And therefore an answer explaining this is not some neo-midrash written by Maharal, but rather a deep insight into the midrashic truth which began being told by Chazal. And so it is the meaning of the original midrash, not the meaning innovated by Maharal. I don't know that I agree with this assumption. Rather, all the text, with all its irregularities which are irrelevant on a peshat level, becomes relevant on the derash level, and it does not really matter where in the narrative this ulay spelled deficiently came up.

Further, we could say that only after saying ulay as malei in the actual narrative is the change to chaser more discernible, by way of contrast, and so of course the derasha needs to be made on the second one. If so, no great problem comes up by the derasha being on the second one, and no great and innovative resolution is required.

Another answer, by the way, can be found in Masoret Habris Hagadol. He first asks why the irregularity is on the second relating of the story. The first ulay should be Chaser, not the one where he is relating it to Rivkah's family. And answers that the words of Chazal which Rashi recorded are divrei kabbalah, words of tradition, and they knew the words which passed between Eliezer and Avraham. And since Avraham said "you are cursed, while my son is blessed," the servant gave up hope. But when he came to Aram Naharayim, to the city of Nachor, it was reported to the servant that he had gone out of the realm of cursed, as is stated in the midrash, where he {=Lavan} said "Bo Beruch Hashem" {come, you who are blessed by Hashem}. R' Yossi bar Chama said: Kenaan is Eliezer, and because he served {?} that tzadik in faithfulness, he went from the realm of cursed to the realm of blessed. Therefore, when Eliezer related this to the family of Rivkah, that which transpassed between him and his master, and said to them, "and I said to my master, perhaps the woman will not go after me", in order to hint to them that if they refused to give Rivkah to Yitzchak, he would marry Eliezer's daughter. For the the reason that Avraham gave for not agreeing, that he was cursed, already went away, for behold Eliezer was not blessed.

This, once again, is not anywhere implied in Midrash Rabba or in Rashi. It is neo-midrash which adds many new details -- and indeed contradictory details which undermine -- which could have and should have been mentioned in the original midrash, or by Rashi, were they indeed the true intent.

Rather, I am not even sure it is based on this pasuk. And even if it is, I don't agree with the underlying assumptions which cause these various supercommentators to innovate reasons it is on this pasuk rather than on that pasuk.

2 comments:

MarkSymons said...

An explanation I heard was that the keri ukhtiv meant that he intended to say Ulai, but what came out was Eilai, ie a Freudian slip, indicating his true/unconscious desire (or he thought this to himself). In his original conversation with Avraham he had sufficient control for it not to slip out, but it came out with his later recounting to Betuel and Lavan.

Michael said...

A related question: Why do you think Eliezer suddenly became "baruch" at some point between his departure from Avraham and his arrival in Ir Nachor? What caused this sudden shift, especially since it was on the heels of Avraham pointing out his "arur"ness?

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