Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Was the kiss on the mouth, or elsewhere?

Ibn Ezra makes an interesting comment about two types of Biblical kiss. One is a kiss on the mouth, and the other is a kiss on the hand or cheek. Thus, when we have the kiss between Yaakov and Yitzchak:

כו וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, יִצְחָק אָבִיו: גְּשָׁה-נָּא וּשְׁקָה-לִּי, בְּנִי.26 And his father Isaac said unto him: 'Come near now, and kiss me, my son.'
כז וַיִּגַּשׁ, וַיִּשַּׁק-לוֹ, וַיָּרַח אֶת-רֵיחַ בְּגָדָיו, וַיְבָרְכֵהוּ; וַיֹּאמֶר, רְאֵה רֵיחַ בְּנִי, כְּרֵיחַ שָׂדֶה, אֲשֶׁר בֵּרְכוֹ יְהוָה.27 And he came near, and kissed him. And he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said: See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed.

Ibn Ezra writes:
כז, כו]
נשיקה -
עם למ"ד ביד או בכתף או בצואר, ובלי למ"ד בפה.
This admittedly seems somewhat random, and some supercommentators call him on it. They wonder where in the world he gets this. I would suggest that whether or not he is correct, he is not making it up out of thin air, but draws his conclusion from a study of all Biblical instances of neshika, and what he might deduce from the context of each of those cases. Furthermore, if he is assuming that there is a distinction made in Biblical Hebrew between the two types of kiss, then the lamed, as the preposition "to", makes more sense as the more distant type of kiss. He either kissed X, or else he gave a kiss to X.

Mechokekei Yehuda on this pasuk, local to Toldos, writes in Yahel Or:

וכאשר היה מסופק ע״י הקול ע"כ
רצה לנשק אותו על היד או על הצואר

I think his idea here is that earlier, Yaakov expressed worry that his father would feel him and discover him.

יא וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב, אֶל-רִבְקָה אִמּוֹ: הֵן עֵשָׂו אָחִי אִישׁ שָׂעִר, וְאָנֹכִי אִישׁ חָלָק.11 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother: 'Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man.
יב אוּלַי יְמֻשֵּׁנִי אָבִי, וְהָיִיתִי בְעֵינָיו כִּמְתַעְתֵּעַ; וְהֵבֵאתִי עָלַי קְלָלָה, וְלֹא בְרָכָה.12 My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a mocker; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing.'

That was the setup. Then the follow-through was:

כא וַיֹּאמֶר יִצְחָק אֶל-יַעֲקֹב, גְּשָׁה-נָּא וַאֲמֻשְׁךָ בְּנִי: הַאַתָּה זֶה בְּנִי עֵשָׂו, אִם-לֹא.21 And Isaac said unto Jacob: 'Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not.'
כב וַיִּגַּשׁ יַעֲקֹב אֶל-יִצְחָק אָבִיו, וַיְמֻשֵּׁהוּ; וַיֹּאמֶר, הַקֹּל קוֹל יַעֲקֹב, וְהַיָּדַיִם, יְדֵי עֵשָׂו.22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said: 'The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.'
כג וְלֹא הִכִּירוֹ--כִּי-הָיוּ יָדָיו כִּידֵי עֵשָׂו אָחִיו, שְׂעִרֹת; וַיְבָרְכֵהוּ.23 And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau's hands; so he blessed him.

But then there was another request to come near, and a request for a kiss:

כו וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, יִצְחָק אָבִיו: גְּשָׁה-נָּא וּשְׁקָה-לִּי, בְּנִי.26 And his father Isaac said unto him: 'Come near now, and kiss me, my son.'
כז וַיִּגַּשׁ, וַיִּשַּׁק-לוֹ, וַיָּרַח אֶת-רֵיחַ בְּגָדָיו, וַיְבָרְכֵהוּ; וַיֹּאמֶר, רְאֵה רֵיחַ בְּנִי, כְּרֵיחַ שָׂדֶה, אֲשֶׁר בֵּרְכוֹ ה'.27 And he came near, and kissed him. And he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said: See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed.

While one can read this merely as the prelude to the blessing, one can also read it as a further test. After all, he smelled the smell of his clothing. But it wasn't his clothing. The clothing was Esav's, and were there to fool him, just as the hairy goatskins were there to fool him earlier. As we read earlier,

טו וַתִּקַּח רִבְקָה אֶת-בִּגְדֵי עֵשָׂו בְּנָהּ הַגָּדֹל, הַחֲמֻדֹת, אֲשֶׁר אִתָּהּ, בַּבָּיִת; וַתַּלְבֵּשׁ אֶת-יַעֲקֹב, בְּנָהּ הַקָּטָן.15 And Rebekah took the choicest garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son.
טז וְאֵת, עֹרֹת גְּדָיֵי הָעִזִּים, הִלְבִּישָׁה, עַל-יָדָיו--וְעַל, חֶלְקַת צַוָּארָיו.16 And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck.

Thus, if Yitzchak's purpose was to further test him, this might not be the type of kiss on the mouth. In Yahel Or, he writes further:

וכן פי׳
הח׳ ז״ל (ש"ה א ב) ״כל נשיקה שהיא בלא למ"ד היא
בפה ר״ל בפניו כמו וישקהו (למטה לג ד, ש״א א) ועם
הלמ״ד ביד או בכתף או בלחי על פי מנהג המדינות
כמו ״ושקה לי- ״וישק לו״ וכן ,וישק יעקב לרחל״(למטה
כט יא)״
More on this, perhaps, later. He also notes, in Karnei Or, how others (Rashi and Radak) argue with Ibn Ezra:
ודעת רש"י ז"ל לא כן בפי' (למטה
כט יג), וכן ישיג הרש״ד על הח' ז"ל וכתכ ולח ידעתי מנין
לו זה וכמדומה ,מהוראת הכתובים שמנהנם היה שכל נשיקה
תהיה בפה, כי מצאנו הלמיד שתשמש במקום את, כמו
״הרגו לאבנר" (ש"ב ג ל) וכן מנה הרד"ק במכלל (ד׳ קטן
. דף נז ע"א וע"ב) ענין הנשיקה עם למיד בין אותן
המשמשות במקים את,' וגם בשרשים שרש "נשק" לא חילק
ביניהם ועיין למטה (כט יב הערה ד)ש

As noted above, Ibn Ezra makes the parallel comment on Shir Hashirim 1:2:

ב יִשָּׁקֵנִי מִנְּשִׁיקוֹת פִּיהוּ, כִּי-טוֹבִים דֹּדֶיךָ מִיָּיִן.2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth--for thy love is better than wine.

Where Ibn Ezra wrote:
״כל נשיקה שהיא בלא למ"ד היא
בפה ר״ל בפניו כמו וישקהו (למטה לג ד, ש״א א) ועם
הלמ״ד ביד או בכתף או בלחי על פי מנהג המדינות
כמו ״ושקה לי- ״וישק לו״ וכן ,וישק יעקב לרחל״(למטה
כט יא)״

At this point, I'll explain just what I think Ibn Ezra is getting at. The kisses in Shir Hashirim, where the woman desires the kisses of her lover, which are better than wine. This is a kiss conveying deep emotion. On the other hand, there are certain kisses which seem to be mere formalities, as in customary greetings. Ibn Ezra states that those are "in accordance with the minhag of the particular country." If one clusters the pesukim about kissing, one sees them fall into those two groups of with the lamed and without, and whether it is an emotional kiss or a greeting kiss.

Let us examine a few of these kisses. Shir Hashirim is an obvious one, that it is an emotional kiss, and it lacks the lamed. What about by Rachel and Yaakov, in parshat Vayeitzei?

יא וַיִּשַּׁק יַעֲקֹב, לְרָחֵל; וַיִּשָּׂא אֶת-קֹלוֹ, וַיֵּבְךְּ.11 And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.
יב וַיַּגֵּד יַעֲקֹב לְרָחֵל, כִּי אֲחִי אָבִיהָ הוּא, וְכִי בֶן-רִבְקָה, הוּא; וַתָּרָץ, וַתַּגֵּד לְאָבִיהָ.12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son; and she ran and told her father.

I think this is debatable, particularly because of the weeping which follows. But he had never met Rachel, and this is a meeting and greeting kiss. Similarly in the following pasuk, when Lavan greets him with a kiss:

יג וַיְהִי כִשְׁמֹעַ לָבָן אֶת-שֵׁמַע יַעֲקֹב בֶּן-אֲחֹתוֹ, וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתוֹ וַיְחַבֶּק-לוֹ וַיְנַשֶּׁק-לוֹ, וַיְבִיאֵהוּ, אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ; וַיְסַפֵּר לְלָבָן, אֵת כָּל-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה.13 And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister's son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things.

This would similarly be a customary greeting kiss. Meanwhile, by Esav, in Vayishlach:

ד וַיָּרָץ עֵשָׂו לִקְרָאתוֹ וַיְחַבְּקֵהוּ, וַיִּפֹּל עַל-צַוָּארָו וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ; וַיִּבְכּוּ.4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him; and they wept.

this is clearly an emotional reunion between the two brothers. It makes sense that this is the emotion kiss, rather than the mere greeting kiss. (Though it might be both.) And that sort of kiss is on the mouth. After comprehensively examining all the examples in Tanach, Ibn Ezra might have come to this distinction and conclusion. And therefore, at this first instance of kissing, where Yitzchak instructs Yaakov to do this, Ibn Ezra sets up this rule. And so this was not necessarily a display of extreme emotion, but was the formal type of kiss on the cheek or neck.

This is the way I would understand Ibn Ezra, at least.

Avi Ezer, a supercommentator on Ibn Ezra, complains against him. He asserts that Ibn Ezra's words here are not based on dikduk of language, nor based on seichel. Rather, perhaps he received this as tradition from his fathers. But look at Rashi on parshat Vayeitzei, dibbur hamatchil וינשק לו, where Lavan kisses Yaakov in order to determine whether Yaakov brought pearls which were in his mouth. And all of Rashi's words are taken from midrashim, and the words of Ibn Ezra are nullified opposite them.

As I suggested above, surely this is not a "tradition" that Ibn Ezra has received. Whether or not he is correct, he is likely basing himself on dikduk (the distance afforded by the preposition "to") as well as sechel, by analyzing the distribution of these two forms, where one group regularly is used to connote extreme affection while the other is used as a formal sort of greeting and homage. And Ibn Ezra surely knows that he is going against a midrash or two in saying this, and doesn't really care. If the midrash did not get it from tradition, and might be doing what midrash typically does, making gray characters either black or white, in order to stress certain themes already existent in the text, then that the author of the midrash happens to assume it is a mouth-to-mouth kiss, in order to highlight Lavan's lack of genuine affection for Yaakov and his trying to get wealth from Yaakov even at this early stage, then so be it. But that should not block a pashtan from suggesting otherwise.

That said, I am nowhere near convinced that Ibn Ezra is correct here. As a pashtan, he tries to deduce this distinction based on different word forms, but it is quite possible that he is making a diyuk here that should not be made, and that the Torah means the same thing in either case; or else indeed sometimes means a kiss on the mouth, and other times a kiss on the cheek or hand, but does not differentiate between the two on the basis of different words, or prepositions. Indeed, I don't think that the two different types of kissing divide along the lines of the differing language.

I'd like to close with two midrashim from parshat Vayeitzei. It is not just the kissing with Lavan, but the kissing with Rachel as well. By Lavan, Rashi writes:

and he kissed him: He said,“Perhaps he has brought pearls, and they are in his mouth.” [from Gen. Rabbah 70:13] וינשק לו: אמר שמא מרגליות הביא והם בפיו:

By Rachel, Yaakov kissed her and then cried. Several reasons are given for his weeping, but one of them is (Bereshit Rabba):

דבר אחר:
למה בכה?
שראה האנשים מלחשים אלו לאלו מפני שנשקה, מה בא זה לחדש לנו דבר ערוה, שמשעה שלקה העולם בדור המבול, עמדו אומות העולם וגדרו עצמן מן הערוה. הדא אמרת: שאנשי מזרח גדורים מן הערוה.
That is, the people of place were whispering to one another, suspecting him of a devar erva. It reads better if we assume that Chazal's assumption was that this was a kiss on the mouth, rather than a kiss on the cheek or hand.

However, Chazal certainly do distinguish between the purpose for various types of kisses. From that same section in Midrash Rabba:
וישק יעקב לרחל
כל נשיקה לתפלות, בר מן תלת.
נשיקה של גדולה.
נשיקה של פרקים.
נשיקה של פרישות.

נשיקה של גדולה, (ש"א י) ויקח שמואל את פך השמן ויצוק על ראשו וישקהו.
נשיקה של פרקים, (שמות ד) וילך ויפגשהו בהר האלהים וישק לו.
נשיקה של פרישות, (רות א) ותשק ערפה לחמותה ורות דבקה בה.

רבי תנחומא אמר:
אף נשיקה של קריבות, שנאמר: וישק יעקב לרחל, שהיתה קרובתו.
Thus, by Rachel, this is a special kiss of relatives. And perhaps that with Lavan would be of a similar type. Without this new category from Rabbi Tanchuma, perhaps we could label it as one of perakim, despite never having seen her before. But the idea is one of greeting of someone you haven't seen in a long time, perhaps never before.

What Ibn Ezra might be adding is that these different types of kissing might also be distinguished by the particular form -- whether on the mouth, or on the hand or cheek, depending on the particular custom of the area.

But what Ibn Ezra might be missing is that this customary greeting might include kissing on the mouth. While this might not have been practice in his particular time and place, perhaps a mouth-to-mouth kiss was the customary greeting kiss in Biblical times. Indeed, this seems to be the practice nowadays in South Africa. And in early modern Europe, a vassal and lord would engage in a mouth-to-mouth kiss.

And so, perhaps we can maintain Ibn Ezra's distinction about the purposes of the kisses, while maintaining like the midrashim that these were mouth-to-mouth kisses.

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