Friday, October 30, 2009

Posts so far for parshat Lech Lecha

  1. Lech Lecha sources -- by perek and aliyah in a Mikraos Gedolos, plus more than 100 meforshim on the parsha and haftorah.

  2. His journey(s) -- when the masorah opposes the Zohar. Ohr Torah has a somewhat dubious resolution (IMHO) in which the Zohar darshens the text as if it was written chaser. I think it is a genuine machlokes.

  3. How many words are Kedarlaomer? The masorah vs. the gemara. Once again, Ohr Torah has a resolution. And once again, I lean towards thinking that there is a genuine machlokes here.

  4. Did Rashi darshen a non-existent chaser? Minchas Shai has a pretty strong answer, that this is not the correct girsa of Rashi. Quite plausible, though I am not entirely convinced.

  1. Lech Lecha sources -- by perek and aliyah, in an online Mikraos Gedolos.

  2. The Duplication in Sarah-As-Sister stories -- because this was a standing practice, in many places they went, including a great many that passed without incident.

  3. Brit Milah as Adopted, Adapted, and Directed Practice Taken from the Egyptians -- Shadal addresses the question that if the Egyptians also practice circumcision, how can it be a sign / covenant for the Israelites? And also deals with a Pheonician myth about Cronus and Uranus, child sacrifice and circumcision, and says this developed from the story about Avraham and Yitzchak.

  4. As a followup to this 2004 post on vehakenaani az baaretz, this 2008 post about Avraham pursuing as far as Dan, when the area of Dan was not named this until sefer Shofetim. Shadal rejects the idea that this a later addition to chumash; rather, this was another place called Dan. This same concern likely motivates Rashi to say that it was called this via ruach hakodesh.

  5. What was the name of Lot's wife? And why should we care? First, various answers as to her name. Where does it come from? Is it an extra-Biblical tradition, derived via midrashic methods from the Biblical text, made up in order to convey some message, or to put more focus on a previously minor character? I trace through various sources which discuss her name. Also, whether Lot's wife really turned into a pillar of salt.

    This last one really is rooted in Vayera, but Lot's decision to move to Sodom in the first place takes place in Lech Lecha, and comes into play here.
  • "And I Will Make Your Name Great"
    • What is meant by "name?" Explores possibility that it literally means making the name larger by adding the letter heh, and the implications of that interpretation. On a pshat level, it most likely means "renown." Turn to another example, by yibum, where it means "title" to land/inheritance, proved by evidence internal to the text (Rut names her son Oved) and via lexical comparison to a similar phrase by Ephraim and Menashe. Discuss the idea of ain mikra yotzei midei peshuto, and how a gezera shava here uproots the pshat meaning entirely, with an eye to the meaning of the statement in general. Finally, apply this meaning of "name" to a pasuk in Haazinu.
  • Avraham's Sacrifice
    • Explores when the command to leave his homeland was made, and why the poetic repetition. Compare with the command to bind Yitzchak, and we see Biblical poetry and repetition used to highlight the drama and the difficulty of the request.
  • Is the Code of Hammurabi the Dina Demalchuta of Avraham?
    • Cross-listed for Vayera, this begins in parshat Lech Lecha.
      If so, a way in which Avraham kept the Torah, or the Torah of Shem and Ever. Yet the incident in which Sarah offers her maidservant; her insistence of Hagar's demotion back to maidservant despite bearing Avraham a son; and the recognizing of such a child vs. casting out of the house, all have basis in the Code of Hammurabi.
  • Avraham's Refusal to the King of Sodom - somewhat political
    • Had Avraham taken the gifts, the king of Sodom might have thought he was only in it for the money
  • Suggested KedorLaOmer etymology
    • as servant of the deity Gomer
  • Kings Goofus and Gallant, and the MIGGEN Avraham
    • In which Avraham *receives* 10% of the spoils from Malkitzedek, rather than *giving* it to him. If so, we have a contrast to his conduct with the King of Sodom. And an explanation is respective attitudes, a la Goofus and Gallant.
      Further, in the aftermath, Hashem is not saying that he will be a shield, but rather a gatherer of wealth. See the post inside.
to be continued...

Does Rashi darshen a non-existent chaser? The masorah on chanichav

This week, we have been focusing on apparent disputes between Rabbinic texts and the masoretic notes. We focused on an apparent contradiction with Zohar, and with a gemara in Chullin. Now, a contradiction with Rashi.

The pasuk {Bereshit 14:14} states:

יד וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָם, כִּי נִשְׁבָּה אָחִיו; וַיָּרֶק אֶת-חֲנִיכָיו יְלִידֵי בֵיתוֹ, שְׁמֹנָה עָשָׂר וּשְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת, וַיִּרְדֹּף, עַד-דָּן.14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued as far as Dan.


his trained men: Heb. חִנִיכָיו It is written חִנִיכוֹ [in the singular], his trained man, (other editions: It is read). This is Eliezer, whom he had trained to [perform the] commandments, and it [חִנִיכָיו] is an expression of the initiation (lit. the beginning of the entrance) of a person or a utensil to the craft with which he [or it] is destined to remain, and similarly (Prov. 22: 6):“Train (חִנ‏ֹ) a child ;” (Num. 7:10):“the dedication of (חֲנֻכַּת) the altar ;” (Ps. 30:1):“the dedication of of (חֲנֻכַּת) the Temple,” and in Old French it is called enseigner [to instruct, train]. חניכיו: חנכו כתיב זה אליעזר שחנכו למצות והוא לשון התחלת כניסת האדם או כלי לאומנות שהוא עתיד לעמוד בה, וכן (משלי כב ו) חנוך לנער, (במדבר ז יא) חנכת המזבח, (תהלים ל א) חנכת הבית ובלע"ז קורין לו איניציי"ר [לחנוך]:

But of course, it is not written chaser. Of course, other texts have that it is read as chanicho. But of course, we have no tradition to do this in terms of krei and ketiv, that we know of. And it is not a typical al tikrei X ela Y because the vowel pattern does not really support such a revocalization. My unsupported guess is that someone tried to fix the ketiv by making it say krei, which at least does not impugn the integrity of the Masoretic text.

Minchas Shai considers this issue.
He cites Rashi in our versions that chanicho is written, but there is one sefer of Rashi in which it states "chanichav is written". {perhaps with the implication that chanicho would then be the krei.} And he finishes citing Rashi.

These are extremely confounding words, for he does not see any midrash as basis of it; nor is the word found in any sefer he has seen, new or old -- only with two yuds, one before the kaf and one after it. And the Rama writes that it is malei with two yuds, one before the kaf and one written after it.

And Minchas Shai endeavored to find in an early manuscript of Rashi for many years, and in one of them he found the following:
chanichav: baalei chanichato {those trained by him}, and their names were Avraham just like his name, because they were converts.

And this is from Midrash Rabba parasha 43. {This is a precise citation from Bereshit Rabba:
חניכיו, בעלי חניכתו. שמם אברם, כשמו.

And from other manuscripts, it is written chanichav, that he instructed {שחינך} them to the precepts. And also in the commentary of Rashi printed in Isbona, in the year 251, it is written chanichav, that he instructed them to the precepts.

And these variant texts are have good quality in his eyes, and a consistent line of approach to them, in which does not occur the language in our sefarim. And whoever adds detracts.

And also the Rav Mizrachi and those like him, the supercommentators of Rashi did not write anything about this. It is thus apparent that this language was not written in their sefarim. And from the content, we can learn its extraneousness. For behold, Rashi writes after this that:

three hundred and eighteen: Our Sages said (Gen. Rabbah 43:2, Ned. 32a): It was Eliezer alone, and it [the number 318] is the numerical value of his name. שמונה עשר ושלש מאות: רבותינו אמרו אליעזר לבדו היה, והוא מנין גימטריא של שמו:

We deduce from here that until here no part of this topic had been broached.
He makes a persuasive argument. Of course, I could point out counterarguments. For example, this might be a point that Rashi is developing, reading into the pesukim. So first, read it into chanicho, and then when encountering the matter which would seem to contradict it, show how Chazal read this in as well. If there is no midrash, Rashi may have discovered this krei / ketiv as an additional basis to the Midrash that it was Eliezer alone.

And under lectio difficilior, it is possible that people grappling with this Rashi, at odds with the masorah of our verse, would have substituted another explanation of the word, and gravitated towards the one in midrash rabba. (A similar process, I would guess, more likely caused that chanichav ketiv variant.)

Also, the argument from silence is not so persuasive. It is an argument from silence. The question is whether they would necessarily have noticed and commented on it. Though perhaps they would have.

I don't find my own counterarguments entirely convincing either. And it is a lot easier to attribute the erroneous girsa to Rashi rather than to the Biblical text, especially where we actually have reports of those variant girsaot.

The source for not using a fork

In a comment or two on my previous post about eating herring with your hands, frequent commenter Yosef Greenberg writes:
Dr. Segal was right, it seems.

See here from the Munkatcher Rebbe.

You weren't serious in your imaginings, I hope. They do use forks in other occasions. Regardless, would it have been such an issue the Church was mechaven to the same thing?
Whoops. He does write there that the Rebbe never used a fork.

He didn't use a spoon in this case either, though.

What Dr. Segal had cited was the old-timers in a particular shul, explaining why they are fish with their hands on the basis of וּבְכָל-דְּגֵי הַיָּם, בְּיֶדְכֶם נִתָּנוּ. As Yosef Greenberg points out, it states in Darkei Chaim veShalom that:

והי׳ מדקדק לאכול את
העין וגם מהראש של הדגים. ולא אכלן ע״י כף (וע״י מזלג שקורין גאפי״ל
לא השתמש בשום מאכל ) רק באצבעותיו. ואמר הרמז שנאמר וכל דגי הים
״בידכם״ נתנו.. לאכול דייקא בהידים ולא ע״י דבר אחר
And he was medakdek to eat the eye as well as from the head of the fish. And he did not eat them via a spoon (and via a fork, which they call a guppel, he never made use of it for any food) but rather with his fingers. And he said that the remez to it is that is stated "and all the fish of the sea I have given over in your hands. To eat specifically with the hands and not via another implement.
Did I mean the church parallel seriously? Half-seriously. Simple practices can become encoded as minhag.

And newfangled utensils could be regarded as a change from tradition.

We see this idea in the very same sefer, about eating fish:
שצד . (א) וכדי להשביע צחצחות את הנפש המתחקה אחר שורשן ומנהגן של
צדיקים איך שדקדקו בכל דבר כחוט השערה אפי׳ בהקדמת מאכלא׳
לחבירו לא אמנע פרי עטי לכתוב מה שסיפר רבינו ז״ל מעשה שהי׳ אחרי
הסתלקות אביהן ורבן של ישראל בעל דברי חיים מצאנז זי״ע שחי׳יו שב בראש
אדמו״ר הגה״ק בעל דברי יחזקאל משינאווע זי״ע והקדים לאכול סתם דגים
ואח״כ אכל דגים חמוצים ועמד אחיו הגה״ק הר״ב מגארליץ זי״ע וצווח ואמר
איך בשבת הראשון כבר אתה משנה מנהג אבינו רועינו אשר דרכו בקודש
לאכול מקודם הדגים חמוצים ואח״כ הסתם דגים. והשיב אחיו מרן משינאווא
והדים קולו ואמר רבותיי כתיב והייתם נקיים מה' ומישראל ויען כי אחי אמר
עלי שאני משנה מנהג אבי ע״כ אגיד לכם למען תדעו כי אבי הקדוש כשהי ׳ רב
בדודניק ושם לא הי' דגים מצויים ודאג כל השבוע שיהי' לו דגים על שב"ק
ובתחלת השבוע כשנזדמן בביתו דגים קנו אותן מידו כדי שלא יתקלקלו החמיצו
אותן שיוכלו לעמוד על ש״ק מבלי הפיג טעמם . ואח״כ סמוך לשבת ובעש״ק
כשנזדמנו דגים חיים לקנות קנו והכינו ובישלו אותן לכבוד ש״ק בלי חימוץ
וממילא כשהי' לפניו שני מיני דגים הללו הקדים לאכול את החמוצים מטעם
שהי' תדיר אצלו ותדיר קוד ם ואח״כ כשנעשה רב בצאנז . שכאן הדגים מצויים
ולא הוצרכו להכין באיזה ימים מקודם דגים חמוצים לצורך שבת רק עשו
הדגים חמוצים ג״כ בעש״ק אך עכ״פ כיון שהי' נהוג מאז לאכול הדגים חמוצים
בראשונה לא רצה גם בצאנז לשנות מנהגו להקדים הדגים חמוצים באכילתן
תמיד . משא״כ אנכי (סיים הגה״ק משינאווא ) מעולם לא באתי לידי כך שיהיו
הדגים חמוצים אצלי תדיר. ורגיל יותר כי על כן אין זה שינוי ח״ו רק הדגים
פשוטים הם חשובים וחביבים אצלי ביותר ועדיף להקדים אכילתן . ע״כ .

It is strange to apply tadir kodem to this. Regardless, simple actions such as having pickled fish were encoded as minhag even though the original reason (possible unavailability of the fish) no longer applied. And people got extremely upset over something as trivial as changing the order of the courses, until a reason was given explaining that he was applying halachic principles to the metzius just as the father would have done in a different situation.

So is it so surprising that forks, or spoons for fish, could be avoided for similar reasons. That is, to cite Wikipedia about the spread of forks:

The fork's adoption in northern Europe was slower. Its use was first described in English by Thomas Coryat in a volume of writings on his Italian travels (1611), but for many years it was viewed as an unmanly Italian affectation. Some writers of the Roman Catholic Church expressly disapproved of its use, seeing it as "excessive delicacy": "God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks — his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to Him to substitute artificial metallic forks for them when eating." [5][6] It was not until the 18th century that the fork became commonly used in Great Britain, although some sources say forks were common in France, England and Sweden already by the early 1600s.[7][8]

It seems quite plausible to me that forks were not in use by the early rebbes, and a people so punctilious about table conduct, who ritualize every aspect of it, even those dictated by practical concerns, would view the introduction of a fork as a great heresy. Even as it spread in the general public, they would maintain their fork-free meals.

Of course, what is being dealt with here is a spoon. Perhaps if one does not eat with a fork, eating with a spoon is unwieldy. Or it was prepared in a way that no spoons were initially required. And that became encoded as minhag.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

That 25% figure -- Orthodox Jews in secular colleges

Recently, there was a big debate over the meaning of a study quoted in an article in the Jewish Star, which stated that 25% of Orthodox Jews attending secular colleges subsequently identified as Conservative Jews. According to the article, secular college is thus a dangerous place, and it is better to send one's kids to Touro or YU. And this was also debated on various blogs.

One commenter, Hillel, makes some insightful points, and actually read the original study. I'm going to give prominence to his words by placing them in the main text of this post.

He writes:
Re the article by Rabbi Spotler:
This is a pretty bad twisting of the data - and did any of the responders read the actual study?

The study just says 25% of those who self-identified as Orthodox (this is self-identification and has nothing to do with actual shmirat mitzvot) "changed their denominational identity while in college". That in no way demonstrates whether people became more or less observant, just how they defined themselves. As a strong hint, the study said half of them became Conservative. In all my years in secular colleges and universities, not once did I see someone who went to minyan regularly or keep strict kosher 'decide' to become Conservative. It just isn't a common occurrence - yet the survey says it happens all the time! The obvious conclusion is that the 'Orthodox' students identified in the survey are not your typical shomer shabbat/kashrut/year in Israel MO Jews, as Rabbi Spotler at least implies.

There is, however, a section of the survey dealing explicitly with observance, which Rabbi Spotler entirely neglected. That showed that overwhelmingly, students engaged in Jewish activities - student leaders - became MORE observant (55% became more observant, 21% less), while students who were 'unengaged' overwhelmingly became less observant (50% less observant, 9% more).

In other words, the lesson of the study is, if your child has a strong foundation and is engaged in Judaism, college is extremely likely to make them a better Jew
The study is available at:

The relevant points are on pages 17-18 of the survey (24-25 of the pdf file).

B'kitzur, it says kids who don't know enough about religion going into college become less religious, kids who don't know much about Israel develop pro-palestinian sympathies, etc. There ain't much by way of chiddush, but it's nice to have some (relatively) hard data.
And from another blog:
This article, blog post and the comments they have engendered have been quite an eye-opening experience.

Specifically, I have learned that a surprising number of people will make incredibly broad statements about statistics contained in a study, when they have obviously not read the study and apparently know little or nothing about statistics.

The following are a few highlights of the myriad problems with many, many of the statements made (including, incidentally, the original article):

1) What is the sample size? If the study (of over 4000 students, over 2000 Jewish students) contained responses from 8 Orthodox students, 2 of whom stopped being Orthodox, the sample size is too small to make any determination at all. If anyone had read the survey, they would see that, at most, 8% of the respondents were shomer basic hilchot shabbat. I took the liberty of contacting Drs. Sales and Saxe, and they informed me the true number of Orthodox students was likely far less than that. If we are talking about 1 or 2% of the population of the survey (and again -we have no data) this broad indictment of all secular colleges may be based on the actions of five or ten students (out of 4000 surveyed) who may or may not have been shomer halacha in the first place.

2) 25% compared to what? The original article (and many of the posts in this thread) have not been comparing apples to oranges, they have been comparing apples to nothing! We have no data as to the 'attrition rate' (however one would wish to define the term) from YU or any other institution, however religious the reputation. I'm sure people would love to think whatever they want about the identities and practices of students who attended Yeshiva X or Y, but absent hard data - and there are none - any such comparisons are useless and invalid - and intellectually dishonest. This also shows the flaw in the approach taken in the above post, since nearly all institutions have some people go 'off the derech.' Let's say at frum yeshiva X, 1% of talmidim go off the derech. Shall we tell everyone not to go there since it's like playing roulette with a 1% chance of catching a bullet?

3) What percentage of the self-identified 'Orthodox' were shomer halacha? This comment has been touched upon by R' Willig and others, but the data provide a clue. According to the survey, over 50% of students involved in Jewish life (such as attending services and eating kosher food) became MORE observant over their college career, and only 21% became less observant (33%of those 'engaged' in Jewish life became less religious, 31% more religious). By definition, anyone who is shomer halacha must be considered at least engaged, and probably a leader, under the terms of the study. However, if 25% of Orthodox Jews changed denominations (half became Conservative, the other half something else, see point 4), that would mean close to 100% overlap between denomination change and lessening observance! In other words, under that interpretation of the data, Orthodox Jews who go to secular college either become more observant or stop being Orthodox, and almost never become somewhat less observant but still consider themselves Orthodox. This is technically possible, but seems counterintuitive. A far more logical explanation is that a certain percentage of students who self-identify as Orthodox do so because of family background or because they attended an orthodox shul 3 days a year or had an Orthodox bar/bat mitzvah, but were not engaged in Jewish life or shomer halacha. Is it any surprise that after a few years at college spending time with Conservative and Reform Jews, they would feel more comfortable with that identification? And yet, their practices may well not have changed at all.

4) What does 'denomination change' mean? It is important to note that the survey never says what the change in denomination means. Half the students became Conservative - what of the rest? Did they become Reform? Reconstructionist? Buddhist? Haredi/Ultra-Orthodox? Did they retain their practices but simply reject the denominational system? I certainly agree that the most likely result is that the students became identified with a less observant denomination, but there are no data to prove this, and when we may well be dealing with a very small sample size (see point 1), the actions of just 1 or 2 students could have a huge impact.

In conclusion - read the study, learn some stats, then reach you own conclusions. But doggone it if many of the statements made in the article and these posts haven't been made without regard to the data.

One additional point about the misuse of stats in the article and this blog post:

The assumption (again, with no data) of uniform distribution. This would be remarkably unlikely.

In other words, even if the sample of Orthodox students were large enough to be significant (and there's no data supporting that) AND assuming those who self-identified as Orthodox actually practiced halacha (again, no data) AND assuming their change in denominational identity meant becoming less observant (intuitive, but again no data), in that case... we would STILL not be able to say anything about 'the effect of secular college on Orthodox Jews.'

The reason is simple - distribution was not accounted for. What if substantially all those who lost their Orthodox identity went to small liberal arts colleges in cities with small or no Orthodox populations? What if they all came from single-gender schools and were suddenly thrust into a co-ed environment, or went to a school with strict doctrines and were suddenly confronted by seminars filled with people and professors who found their opinions about dinosaurs or sacred text downright comical?

The data would still tell us nothing about the effect of 'secular college' on 'Orthodox students', but we might learn something valuable about the effect of certain specific environments on certain types of students.

It's kind of sad that this survey, which could have served as the basis for a call to study the effects of all those factors on different types of students was instead perverted into an unsupported, blunderbuss attack on all 'secular colleges. Sigh.

One final (I think), intriguing thought.

What's the 'net loss' (or gain) in terms of Orthodox Jewry on campus?

Remember, according to the survey, some 30% of students change denomination, and Reform and Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews made up at least 92%, and probably more, of the >2000 students surveyed. If even a paltry 10% changed their identity to Orthodox (and remember that over 50% of leaders and over 30% of Jewish-ly engaged students became more observant over their college careers), then a total of some 60 students became Orthodox, while substantially fewer Orthodox students lost their denomination. (The exact number depends on the unknown number of Orthodox students, which in practice could not exceed 8%)

So, a system which loses some Orthodox students and gains many more - good thing or bad?

No doubt it's a complex question, but before deciding, remember this - we already have such a system, it's called kiruv. Every year an unknown number of non-Orthodox become observant thanks to kiruv work and an unknown (but non-zero) number of Orthodox kiruv workers go off the derech. To my knowledge there is no hard data on this subject and I am quite skeptical that there ever will be. Indeed, some authorities are opposed to the kiruv system for this very reason, but many other support it. I see no reason why secular college, which appears to have a similar effect, should be treated any differently.

How many words are Kedarlaomer? the masorah vs. an explicit gemara

In a recent post, I discussed an apparent contradiction between our masorah about the Biblical text, on the one hand, and Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai in Zohar, on the other, about whether there was a weird kri on the word lemasaav. This did not perturb me, but depending on what believes about the date of authorship of the Zohar, this could be more or less perturbing.

However, there is a stronger problem in that our masoretic notes, and subsequently our texts, appear to be in direct contradiction to a gemara, about how to spell Kedarlaomer. First, the gemara in Chullin 64b-65aa:

אלא כתיב היענה וכתיב בת היענה ושאני הכא דפסק ספרא לשתי תיבות ומדפסיק להו ספרא
בתרתי תיבות ש"מ תרי שמות נינהו אלא מעתה (בראשית יד) את כדר לעומר דפסק להו ספרא בתרי הכי נמי דתרתי שמי נינהו אמרי התם בשתי תיבות פסיק להו בשני שיטין לא פסיק להו אבל הכא אפי' בשני שיטין נמי פסיק להו:

Thus, roughly, it contrasts Bat Hayaanah as a bird, and Kedar Laomer as king. The former it wants to say are two things, as they are two words. But then the gemara objects that Kedar Laomer is two words, with a separation, so they should be two names. And the answer is that they may be separated by a space, but they may not be on separate lines.

In modern terms, the answer is that the space in between Kedar and Laomer is a non-breaking space. This is a character you can insert into Microsoft Word, and something you can put into HTML as  

What this means is that one should put a space there, but though word-wrapping will typically choose to break to the next line if required at that point, this should not occur in this instance. Rather, keep them on the same line, and perform the line break before or after the set of words. So they should be regarded as one name.

Despite this, there is already a gemara in which our girsa has it as a single word with no space in between. In Shabbat 11a:

דכתיב (בראשית יד) שתים עשרה שנה עבדו את כדרלעומר ושלש עשרה שנה מרדו ובארבע עשרה שנה וגו'

I don't know if this reflects something original, or reflects a copyist's error, "correcting" the text to accord with what we see in chumash, in the text of a gemara that does not make particular use of that space. Perhaps looking at manuscript evidence could help resolve this.

As an aside, Kedar Laomer is at the least broken up into two words in the correct space. Kedar means "servant of" while Lagomer was an Elamite deity.

While the setama de-gemara states that there is a break between these two words, Kedar Laomer, throughout Chumash it is always written as one word. For example, from Lech Lecha:

א וַיְהִי, בִּימֵי אַמְרָפֶל מֶלֶךְ-שִׁנְעָר, אַרְיוֹךְ, מֶלֶךְ אֶלָּסָר; כְּדָרְלָעֹמֶר מֶלֶךְ עֵילָם, וְתִדְעָל מֶלֶךְ גּוֹיִם.1 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim,

And indeed, the Leningrad Codex has it this way as well, as a single word.

Minchas Shai mentions this contradiction. He says that the gemara has it as two words. And that he has seen this as well in a few sefarim, and so too cited in the name of the Tikkun of Rabbenu Tam, that they are two words, on the same line.

However, in precise manuscripts, it is a single word, and the masorah upon it is milah chada ketiv, that it is written as a single word. And so writes Rama explicitly:

כררלעמר כדרלעמר מלך עילם• חדא מלה כתיב
וחסר דחסר וכולהון כתיב כן

and this is his language: kedarlaomer is written as a single word, and is written chaser {without a cholam malei in omer}, and the masoret upon it is that it is written as a single word. And so is implied in masechet Chullin. End quote.

I {=Josh} don't see the reference to masechet Chullin in Masoret Seyag LaTorah, so maybe there is another masoretic work by Rama where he makes these additional statements? I am not sure. But this is rather irregular, as the gemara in Chullin appears to contradict the masorah.

Then Minchas Shai cites Ohr Torah who discusses this at length. My rough summary follows, though placed in blockquote.

He writes that those printers who print it as two words are erring, even though they are connecting them with a makef (dash), for in manuscripts, it is a single word, and so is the masoret, that it is written as a single word, and so writes Rama. And also the Meiri writes so. That is why the resh gets a sheva {nach, rather than nothing under it}, and with no makef, and immediately juxtaposed to the lamed. And the daled has a kamatz only. And so too all instances of Kedarlaomer. And he is astounded at the printers, for if they are two words, why should there be nikkud {of sheva nach} for the resh? And if it is one word, why should there be a makef? And he notes two sefarim, manuscripts, which have it as two words, and he labels this an error.

Ohr Torah then cites the Rama, and how it is mashma from the gemara in Chullin like this. And Ohr Torah finds it extremely perplexing, as the gemara appears to be against it. Then Ohr Torah cites Rabbi Avraham of Motpeslir {Montpelier; =~Lunel} in his chiddushim, as well as the Ran, that the gemara means that it is two words.

In order to "fix" things, he is going to ask incisive questions on the gemara and come up with a better peshat in it as a result. From my {=Josh's} own perspective, even if the questions are rather good questions, it may simply be that they are good questions, rather than that we should reinterpret the gemara in an extremely farfetched and forced way. But anyway, his questions:

1. That it is extremely difficult that all our masorah, current sefarim, differs from the apparent meaning of the gemara.

2. Why did the gemara ask from Kedar Laomer -- it should have asked from Bat Sheva, which is similar to Bat Hayaanah. {J: The ready difference is that perhaps Bat Sheva was not her name, but it means that she was the daughter of someone named Sheva.} Or Beer Sheva or Baal Chanan. {Likewise, these are cases of semichut, the construct form, and one can pull them apart and say correctly that it was named that because it is the well of sheva. Kedarlaomer is surely one individual's name, despite being divided.}

3. If it is indeed two words, why not separate it by having it on separate lines? And if not on two lines, why can we have a space between those words? Compare to the instructions in Yerushalmi Megillah. {J: I would say that the point the setama digmara is making here is that they are two words that make up a single phrase. And Kedar Laomer would, e.g. write his name in two words, and so would people write to him. But since it is a single entity, that just weirdly for Biblical style is spelled in two words, one should not really separate the parts of the phrase overmuch, by line breaking at that point. I don't see this as a strong question.}

He continues that in order to escape all these questions, and also to establish the truth in its proper place, he will explain the gemara. In some places it says hayaana and in others bat hayaanah. That is that sometimes that call this bird one thing and sometimes another. And so too is the girsa of the gemara explicitly in one manuscript: "they call it this and they call it that." And it is different here because they make a break in it into two words. And if you say, since this bird indeed has this name, bnot yaanah, how could Chizkiyah have said that bat yaanah is its egg? And they answer that it is different, because they divide it into two words. That is, that if the intent here were on the species of bird itself, it would have said Yaanah. Since it said Bat Hayaanah, the intent was on its egg. For the definite article, the heh hayidia, in the middle indicates this, and demonstrates that they are two words.

But then, continues the gemara, consider Kedar Laomer, where the Lamed serves this function, is that, too, to be two words? Isn't it only one word?

And the answer it that there, where there are two words, there is a break in it. That is to say that in terms of pronunciation, and the reading, certainly KedarLaomer appears as two words, but in terms of writing it, it is only written as one word, which is not the case by Bat Ha-Yaanah, which is written as two words. And therefore, the Heh inside it breaks it up, which is not the case by the Lamed of KedarLaomer.

Thus, with this explanation, all the questions are answered up, and we also made the Rama correct, when he said that the gemara in Chullin supports the idea that it is one word; as well as established the Truth which is found in the sefarim. And even though it is a but forced to say that where the gemara stated "in two lines," the intent was to writing, while when it stated "in two words," its intent was the reading, it is preferable to sustain a slight amount of farfetchedness than to remain with grievous questions, and to cast the Truth to the ground, forfend.

And if you say, why do I rejoice in establishing the words of the Rama and Meiri? Does this not, via this, nullify the words of Rav Avraham and the Ran? And what do you see that this one's blood is redder? Perhaps this one's blood is redder?

There are two answers to the matter. One, that the words of the Rama and Meiri agree with the Truth {/reality} found in the sefarim, and therefore it is fitting to rejoice in the establishing of their words, etc.

Further, because the Rama and Meiri come specifically to do this, and this is their profession, to "fix" the Torah and to investigate and delve and inspect early sefarim to determine the truth, and therefore, an error in their words is something quite uncommon, for the assumption is that they were precise. And in particular, the Rama, who was a great rav muvhak, such that Ramban would ask him his doubts, and called him Nasi Nesiei Halevi. But R'A Mhrr {=Rabbi Avraham, as above}, and Ran did not come for this, and this was not their profession, but by way of traveling, as they explained masechet chullin, they reached this language and wrote upon it what seemed at first correct. And therefore, if their words do not stand, it is not something confounding.

And according to our way, we have learned how much one needs to delve and answer before he casts forth his hand to fix a sefer. For behold, two geonei olam, R"A and the Ran totter in judgment in the word Kedar Laomer.

Also from this you will understand the multitude of variants which are found in our times in many words of the Torah. For who will see two giants of the world say that Kedar Laomer is two words and not immediately go and correct his sefer Torah; in particular after seeing the language of the gemara that does indeed appear to imply this. Therefore I say to be conservative and patient.
I think it is telling that Minchas Shai still left it as a tzarich iyun.

And I would say that finding correct peshat in the gemara is the profession of the two geonei olam, who develop a sense of what is dochak and what is compelling peshat. And seeing manuscript evidence one way can sometimes be misleading, for you feel driven to interpret the gemara in accord with reality and not undermine your masorah. I am not persuaded by Ohr Torah's intepretation of this gemara; nor am I positive that this is what Ramah intended.

(Also, the lamed in kedarlaomer is not one of shimush; it is part of the Elamite deity's name.)

On the other hand, I certainly grant his point that sometimes specialized knowledge can grant one insights into the meaning of a gemara. Sometimes that can be knowledge of the actual manifested data in our Torah scrolls, as in this instance; sometimes it can be understanding what Chazal meant because of a knowledge of anatomy, or phonology, or Persian history. As Rabbi Yochanan said jokingly, Resh Lakish given his history would know about knives! But it is certainly true that specialized knowledge can give one an edge up, even upon the most expert learners, in understanding a sugya.

Even so, in this instance, I would choose to understand the setama digemara kipshuto. It is written with a gap, but it is also written as a single word, in that the space is a non-breaking space. If pressed on the contradiction, I would admit it was difficult; but that even in the time of Chazal, there was variants in the Masoretic text. For example, asher tziva hashem elokeinu etchem vs. otanu, between Bavli and Yerushalmi. So perhaps the author of the setamaitic statement had it in two words, but still maintained their integrity as a unit such that they should not be split.

Indeed, perhaps this was the genesis of the masoretic note. Stating it is written as one word may be meaningful in terms of whether one can line break. Is there a similar statement that Avraham is one word, or that Amraphel is one word? And then, a misinterpretation of the masoretic note could yield this standard girsa. Alternatively, it was an old dispute, and that the setammaist who wrote that statement was relying on an incorrect variant, and the masoretic note is intended to counteract that gemara.

Regardless, I most certainly agree with him in encouraging conservatism in emending Torah scrolls based on interpretations of gemaras. I just disagree with him in his approach before that, which was to harmonize a gemara against its plain meaning, because of playing favorites with rabbinic figures and the masorah. The true meaning of the gemara should rule the day, even if it causes difficulties. We then should cope with the consequences, whatever they may be. At least, that is what I prefer to believe is my own derech halimud.

In the next post, a difficult Rashi interacts with a contrary masorah.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Interesting Posts and Articles #227

  1. At BeyondBT, a what to do with an ideological divide with the rebbe of one's child:
    “dinosaurs never lived – the earth wasn’t created back then – what, did they float around in nothing?” And “no one’s seen a dinosaur, their bones were just put into the ground”.
    I last discussed this issue in this parshablog post, about picturing Adam as chassidish.

    See also Emes veEmunah on this.

  2. Does the Obama administration support blasphemy laws?

  3. Rafi G. of Life In Israel has a strange interaction with the police.

  4. The Muqata has a nice roundup of approaches to the rainbow as sign in parshas Noach. And some post-Noach thoughts.

  5. Hirhurim on whether it is Marcheshvan, Cheshvan or Merach Shevan. We've seen this discussion previously, but it is always good to bring it to the fore, in frum websites.

  6. Wolfish Musings on incentives to be irresponsible and not save up money, because of yeshiva tuition and scholarships.

  7. A lengthy comment thread on the aforementioned post at Divrei Chaim, about whether 1/4 of all Orthodox kids sent to secular college become Conservative. And the reaction at the Kallah Magazine blog (here and here).

  8. Shirat Devorah on focusing on the real captives.

  9. DovBear on whether Avraham was tested, and what the possible source for this test was. I would suspect that there are other textual sources for this tradition as well, as midrashic interpretations.

  10. Here at parshablog, sources to prepare parshas Lech Lecha.

His journey(s) -- when the masorah opposes the Zohar

In Lecha Lecha, we have a few instances in which rather old Rabbinic texts indicate something about a pasuk that goes against the masoretic notes as well as all our sefarim. In one instance, it is Zohar against the masorah; in another, the gemara; and in a third, Rashi.

This is interesting in and of itself, but what is also interesting is the way that the moseretic commentators handle this. In this first post, a contradiction between Zohar's version of a pasuk and our own.

ג וַיֵּלֶךְ, לְמַסָּעָיו, מִנֶּגֶב, וְעַד-בֵּית-אֵל--עַד-הַמָּקוֹם, אֲשֶׁר-הָיָה שָׁם אָהֳלֹה בַּתְּחִלָּה, בֵּין בֵּית-אֵל, וּבֵין הָעָי.3 And he went on his journeys from the South even to Beth-el, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Beth-el and Ai;

Now, Zohar on this parsha has:
164. Rabbi Shimon said, Come and behold: The verse, "And he went on his journeys... (Heb. lemasa'av)" (Beresheet 13:3) MEANS that he went to visit his place and his grade. In this verse, lemasa'av IS SPELLED WITHOUT THE LETTER YUD, INDICATING THE SINGULAR FORM. SO HE ASKS: Which journey? AND HE ANSWERS: This is the first grade that was revealed to him. Here, it is written: "masa'av (his journey)"; and in another place thither (Heb. masa): "was built of stone made ready before it was brought" (I Melachim 6:7). As we have already explained, assuredly it was "stone made ready (Heb. shlemah)" WHICH MEANS THAT THE STONE, WHICH IS MALCHUT, BELONGS TO THE KING TO WHOM THE PEACE (HEB. SHALOM) BELONGS. AND KING SOLOMON (HEB. SHLOMO) ALLUDES TO THE KING TO WHOM PEACE BELONGS, NAMELY ZEIR ANPIN. SO BY ANALOGY, IN THE FORMER VERSE AS WELL IT REFERS TO THE NUKVA OF ZEIR ANPIN. "Masa" has already been explained.
Thus, a derasha based on the ketiv being lemasao, but we don't have such a kerei / ketiv on this pasuk, in either new or old sefarim.

Minchas Shai takes note of this: that in new and old sefarim, it is malei, and הללי has malei. And not only that, but in Zohar itself, on Bereishit, it presents a contradictory account of the pasuk.

For Zohar on parshat Bereishit states:
223. Rabbi Shimon then opened a discourse by saying, "And he went on his journeys from the Negev" (Beresheet 13:3). It says "journeys" IN THE PLURAL, where it should have said "journey," IN THE SINGULAR. Why did the scripture say "journeys" IN THE PLURAL? Because there were two journeys, one his own, and the second that of the Shechinah. The dual journey indicates that everyone should be male and female, so that his faith may be strong and the Shechinah may never depart from him.
Thus, the assumption is that that same pasuk is written malei yud -- unless, I would add, what was meant in the derasha in Bereishit is the krei. And Meiri, and Rama have it as malei yud. Finally, Minchas Shai notes that Ohr Torah strives (tarach) to harmonize the two, but he leaves it as a tzarich iyun, implying that he is not really convinced by this.

Or Torah writes about this contradiction between two Zohars. But it is not so, but rather {as I was mechaven} even there Zohar agrees as to how it is written, but is worries about pronunciation, and the kametz under the yud rather than making the vav into a cholam.

But then he considers that it contradicts all the manuscript evidence we have of the pasuk, as well as masoretic commenters, we find that it is malei, and this is indeed how we resolve. If so, what do we make of the Zohar?

He suggests as a possibility that the Zohar actually also maintains that it is malei. And since in Raya Mehemna on Pinchas, the idea is introduced that even though it is written malei, kalot Mosheh, we will darshen it as if it were chaser. And so too, there is a derasha here as if it were chaser.

The reason that this is extremely farfetched is that the example given is a difference in revocalizing a word, as if it were spelled without the imot hakeriah. In terms of another derasha, we have אל תקרי בצלמון אלא בצלמות, thus changing even a letter which is not an em keria.

That is quite different from claiming that the vav isn't there and then making a separate derasha based on its weird absence, as if its absence is meaningful; rather than inspecting the meaning of the word were is spelled and thus revocalized differently. One is classic midrash; the other seems just silliness.

Some suspect that the Zohar was not written by Rav Moshe de Leon by himself, but by a group of mystics led by Rav Moshe de Leon. If so, it might be easier to account for the apparent internal contradiction.

I don't know how to resolve this, but this does not concern me overmuch. After all, that a particular medieval work makes reference to a various girsa in a pasuk, and makes a derasha on it, is not entirely surprising. And this is certainly not the only instance of a difference in malei / chaser between our masorah and Zohar. In this particular instance we follow Zohar, which is good.

More troubling is a seeming dispute between an instruction found in Bavli, and our masorah, regarding Kedarlaomer. Perhaps the next post.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lech Lecha Sources

by aliyah
rishon (Bereishit 12:1)
sheni (12:14)
shlishi (13:5)
revii (14:1)
chamishi (14:21)
shishi (15:7)
shevii (17:7)
maftir (17:24)
haftara (Yeshaya 40:27) -- with Malbim

by perek
perek 12 ; perek 13 ;
perek 14 ; perek 15 ;
perek 16 ; perek 17

Shadal (here and here)
Daat -- with Rashi, Ramban, Seforno, Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, Rabbenu Bachya, Midrash Rabba, Tanchuma+, Gilyonot
Gilyonot Nechama Leibovitz (Hebrew)
Tiferes Yehonasan from Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz
Toldos Yizchak Acharon, repeated from Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz
Even Shleimah -- from Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Ehrenreich
R' Saadia Gaon's Tafsir, Arabic translation of Torah (here and here)
Collected commentary of Saadia Gaon on Torah (Hebrew Tafsir and commentary)
Zohar, with English translation
Baal Haturim (HaAruch)
Imrei Shafer, Rav Shlomo Kluger
Ibn Gabirol -- nothing until Vayeitzei
Sefer Zikaron of Ritva -- not until Vayera

The following meforshim at JNUL:
Ralbag (27)
Shach (13)
Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite (35)

Daat, Rashi In Hebrew (perek 12)
Mizrachi, Mizrachi (22, JNUL)
Gur Aryeh (Maharal of Prague)
Berliner's Beur on Rashi
Commentary on Rashi by Yosef of Krasnitz
R' Yisrael Isserlin (on Rashi, 3, JNUL)
Two supercommentaries on Rashi, by Chasdai Almosnino and Yaakov Kneizel
Rav Natan ben Shishon Shapira Ashkenazi (16th century), (JNUL, pg 10)
Yeriot Shlomo (Maharshal)
Moda L'Bina (Wolf Heidenheim)
Mekorei Rashi (in Mechokekei Yehuda)
Meam Loez -- laazei Rashi
Also see Mikraos Gedolos above, which has Rashi with Sifsei Chachamim

Daat, Ramban in Hebrew (perek 12)
R' Yitzchak Abohav's on Ramban (standalone and in a Tanach opposite Ramban)
Rabbi Meir Abusaula (student of Rashba)

ibn ezra
Daat, Ibn Ezra in Hebrew (perek 12)
Mechokekei Yehudah (Daat)
Mechokekei Yehudah (HebrewBooks)
R' Shmuel Motot (on Ibn Ezra, pg 12, JNUL)
Ibn Kaspi's supercommentary on Ibn Ezra, different from his commentary (here and here)
Also see Mikraos Gedolos above, which has Ibn Ezra with Avi Ezer

Targum Onkelos opposite Torah text
Shadal's Ohev Ger on Targum Onkelos
Avnei Tzion -- two commentaries on Onkelos
Or Hatargum on Onkelos
Commentary on Targum Yonatan and Targum Yerushalmi
Septuagint (Greek, English)

Rama (but based on alphabet, not parsha)

Midrash Rabba at Daat (12)
Midrash Tanchuma at Daat (12)
Bereishit Rabba, with commentaries
Midrash Tanchuma with commentary of Etz Yosef and Anaf Yosef
Commentary on Midrash Rabba by R' Naftali Hirtz b'R' Menachem
Matat-Kah on Midrash Rabba
Nefesh Yehonasan by Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz

haftarah (Yeshaya 40:27)
In a chumash, with perush of Malbim.
In a standalone Mikraos Gedolos, with Targum, Rashi, Mahari Kara, Radak, Ibn Ezra, Metzudat David.
Haftarah in Gutnick Edition
Daat, which includes Yalkut Shimoni, Radak, Gilyonot
Ahavas Yehonatan by Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz
Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite


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