Friday, February 26, 2010

What was bothering Ibn Caspi?

Summary: Continuing the conversation on a post in Mishpatim. How Rashbam differing from Chazal is not the same as Rashi differing from Chazal. And considering how Ibn Caspi on egrof would potentially argue with the conclusions of Chazal.

Post: On Terumah and Tetzaveh, Ibn Caspi makes one short comment:

לא אחדש דבר באלו
שתי הפרשיות ואין ענינם הכרחי, ודי במה שקדמוני רש־י וא״ע:

That is, "no comment". I am not sure that his reason for lack of commenting here is precisely the same as in Mishpatim, but it seems possible. I would, however, like to consider what was bothering Ibn Caspi on some of those "no comment" statements in Mishpatim.

First, though, I'd like to take note of one or two comments on the previous post about this. I noted how Rashbam was willing to argue, on a peshat level, with midreshei aggadah, while Ibn Ezra's general approach was to explain how to arrive at Chazal's position via a peshat approach. And where Ibn Ezra differed, it did not practically contradict Chazal. One could still maintain the halacha, treating it as a rabbinic institution of expansion. עיין שם. Ibn Caspi, meanwhile, tells us to check out Ibn Ezra, Rashi, and the Gemara, but that he is afraid to comment, because his linguistically grounded peshat approach would cause the invention of new halacha, chas veshalom.

In a comment on that post, Jeremy noted a useful paradigm from Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Cohen:
Rabbi M. Cohen, one of the great Tanach teachers in YU, always explained the difference between Ibn Ezra (Spanish)'s pshat and Rashbam (France)'s pshat as having this Nafka Mina.

For Rashbam, who understands that there is a Rashi, who gives the midrashic interpretation, he can feel free to give his pshat-based commentary, and even contradict the halakhic drashot of chazal, because he knows that there are two levels. He's talking about pshat in the pasuk, while the halakhot are derived from the drash.

But for Ibn Ezra, there's only one level on meaning in the text, and that's the pshat (midrashim may stem from the text, but cannot be seen as a true interpretation of it). Therefore, if this pshat would contradict an explanation we know to be true (namely, the halakhic interpretations of Chazal), he sees that as problematic.
Lurker wonders about the following:
Why look to Rashbam for an example of a medieval parshan who offers pshat interpretations as alternatives to midrashei halakha of Haza"l? (Or at least, why look to him as a prime example?) After all, Rashi himself does exactly that, and in this very parsha:

On Shemot 23:2, Rashi cites the drash-based interpretations of Haza"l from TB Sanhedrin, and openly faults those interpretations as being inconsistent with the actual intent of the text:

יש במקרא זה מדרשי חכמי ישראל, אבל אין לשון המקרא מיושב בהן על אופניו.

After detailing Haza"l's opinion (which he has already criticized as being irreconcilable with the words of the verse), Rashi goes on to say that in his own opinion, the verse should instead be interpreted in a manner consistent with its intent, according to the verse's plain meaning:

ואני אומר ליישבו על אופניו כפשוטו.

Whereupon Rashi then proceeds to offer his own, alternative, pshat-based interpretation.

This raises an interesting question about Ibn Caspi's approach: Obviously, Ibn Caspi knew this Rashi, so I cannot help but wonder why he was so reticent about offering pshat-based interpretations of halakhot. After all, Ibn Caspi openly endorses Rashi explanations of the halakhot in Mishpatim (in the passage that you cited). So if Rashi was unafraid to give pshat-oriented explanations of halakhot -- even when those explantions were different from the drash-based interpretations of Haza"l -- then why should Ibn Caspi have been unwilling to do the same?
I don't think I agree with that assessment of Rashi. The pasuk, and Rashi, are:

2. You shall not follow the majority for evil, and you shall not respond concerning a lawsuit to follow many to pervert [justice].ב. לֹא תִהְיֶה אַחֲרֵי רַבִּים לְרָעֹת וְלֹא תַעֲנֶה עַל רִב לִנְטֹת אַחֲרֵי רַבִּים לְהַטֹּת:
You shall not follow the majority for evil: There are [halachic] interpretations for this verse given by the Sages of Israel, but the language of the verse does not fit its context according to them. From here they [the Sages] expounded that we may not decide unfavorably [for the defendant] by a majority created by one judge. They interpreted the end of the verse: אַחִרֵי רַבִּים לְהַטֹת, “after the majority to decide,” [to mean] that if those [judges] voting [that the defendant is] guilty outnumber those voting [that the defendant is] innocent by two, the verdict is to be decided unfavorably according to their [the majority’s] opinion. The text speaks of capital cases [i.e., in regard to the death penalty] (Sanh. 2a). [Note that in monetary cases, the court requires a majority of only one judge in order to convict someone.] The middle of the verse וְלֹא-תַעִנֶה עַל-רִב, they [the Rabbis] interpreted like וְלֹא-תַעִנֶה עַל-רַב [and you shall not speak up against a master], meaning that we may not differ with the greatest of the court. Therefore, in capital cases they [the judges] commence [the roll call] from the side, meaning that they first ask the smallest [least esteemed] of them to express his opinion (Sanh. 32a). According to the words of our Sages, this is the interpretation of the verse:לא תהיה אחרי רבים לרעת: יש במקרא זה מדרשי חכמי ישראל, אבל אין לשון המקרא מיושב בהן על אופניו. מכאן דרשו שאין מטין לחובה בהכרעת דיין אחד, וסוף המקרא דרשו אחרי רבים להטות, שאם יש שנים במחייבין יותר על המזכין, הטה הדין על פיהם לחובה ובדיני נפשות הכתוב מדבר, ואמצע המקרא דרשו ולא תענה על ריב, על רב, שאין חולקין על מופלא שבבית דין, לפיכך מתחילין בדיני נפשות מן הצד, לקטנים שבהן שואלין תחלה, שיאמרו את דעתם. לפי דברי רבותינו כך פתרון המקרא לא תהיה אחרי רבים לרעות לחייב מיתה בשביל דיין אחד, שירבו המחייבין על המזכין ולא תענה על הרב לנטות מדבריו, ולפי שהוא חסר יו"ד דרשו בו כן. אחרי רבים להטת ויש רבים שאתה נוטה אחריהם, ואימתי, בזמן שהן שנים המכריעין במחייבין יותר מן המזכין, וממשמע שנאמר לא תהיה אחרי רבים לרעות שומע אני אבל היה עמהם לטובה, מכאן אמרו דיני נפשות מטין על פי אחד לזכות ועל פי שנים לחובה. ואונקלוס תרגם לא תתמנע מלאלפא מה דבעינך על דינא, ולשון העברי, לפי התרגום, כך הוא נדרש לא תענה על ריב לנטת אם ישאלך דבר למשפט, לא תענה לנטות לצד אחד ולסלק עצמך מן הריב, אלא הוי דן אותו לאמיתו. ואני אומר ליישבו על אופניו כפשוטו, כך פתרונו:
You shall not follow the majority for evil: to condemn [a person] to death because of one judge, by whom those who declare [the defendant] guilty outnumber those who declare [him] innocent.לא תהיה אחרי רבים לרעת: אם ראית רשעים מטין משפט, לא תאמר הואיל ורבים הם, הנני נוטה אחריהם:
And you shall not speak up against a master: to deviate from his words. Because the “yud” [of רִיב, meaning quarrel] is missing, they interpreted it (רִב) in this manner [i.e., like (רַב)].ולא תענה על ריב לנטת וגו': ואם ישאל הנדון על אותו המשפט אל תעננו על הריב דבר הנוטה אחרי אותן רבים להטות את המשפט מאמתו אלא אמור את המשפט כאשר הוא, וקולר יהא תלוי בצואר הרבים:
After the majority to decide: [signifies that] there is, however, a majority after whom you do decide [the verdict]. When? If those [judges] who declare [the defendant] guilty outnumber by two those who declare him innocent. And since it says: “You shall not follow the majority for evil,” I deduce that you shall follow them [the majority] for good. From here they [the Rabbis] deduced that in capital cases, we decide through [a majority of] one for an acquittal and through [a majority of] two for a conviction. Onkelos renders [this verse]: Do not refrain from teaching what appears to you concerning a judgment. The Hebrew wording according to the Targum is interpreted as follows: And you shall not respond concerning a quarrel by turning away. If someone asks you something concerning the law, do not answer by turning aside and distancing yourself from the quarrel, but judge it honestly. I, however, say, [differing from the Rabbis and Onkelos] that it [the verse] should be according to its context. This is its interpretation::
You shall not follow the majority for evil: If you see wicked people perverting justice, do not say, “Since they are many, I will follow them.”:
and you shall not respond concerning a lawsuit to follow, etc.: And if the litigant asks you about that [corrupted] judgment, do not answer him concerning the lawsuit with an answer that follows those many to pervert the judgment from its true ruling But tell the judgment as it is, and let the neck iron hang on the neck of the many. [I.e., let the many bear the punishment for their perversion of justice.]:

Rashi's interpretation is another level of interpretation; but nothing in his interpretation contradicts the derasha. Indeed, though he does say ואני אומר ליישבו על אופניו כפשוטו, this reflects his general purpose in his commentary, namely ואני לא באתי אלא לפשוטו של מקרא ולאגדה המישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אפניו. That is not to discard those midrashim which are not מישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אפניו. But his focus is not on that, and so he does not pay them as much attention. In this instance, Rashi does not reject the midrash as untrue. Rather, he gives an interpretation which works on the peshat level.

Contrast that with the commentary of Rashbam on Mishpatim, discussed in this other post. The Rashbam writes, regarding bringing to the deles or the mezuzah,
הדלת או אל המזוזה - לעין כל רוצע אזנו לסימן עבדות. ומזוזה אפילו בבית אבנים של עץ הם, ויכול לרצוע באזנו ובדלת

This is against the midrash halacha, which makes it only the door, and not the doorpost. The midrash and Rashbam's peshat cannot simultaneously be true. And that is why we must look to Rashbam, and not to Rashi.

In Terumah and Tetzaveh, we cannot really know what was bothering Ibn Caspi, because he simply says that he will not comment. Only when he makes note, on a particular verse, that he is not commenting, can we start to guess just what he is tempted to comment, based on his regular peshat methodology.

Thus, for example:

And when a man sells his daughter -- 

If I had to guess, he is tempted to say -- like the Gra later said -- that this is a sale not of a maidservant, but of a sort of pilegesh -- a servant wife. Think along the lines of Hagar. And we see this idea in certain ancient Mesopotamian documents.

Another example. On:

יח  וְכִי-יְרִיבֻן אֲנָשִׁים--וְהִכָּה-אִישׁ אֶת-רֵעֵהוּ, בְּאֶבֶן אוֹ בְאֶגְרֹף; וְלֹא יָמוּת, וְנָפַל לְמִשְׁכָּב.18 And if men contend, and one smite the other with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keep his bed;

Ibn Caspi writes:

באגרף . הוא היד הכפופה, ולא אוכל לפרש עוד בזה
להיותי נוגע במצות

There are two possibilities here. The first is that he is conveying doubt as to whether egrof really means a fist. As Baal Haturim points out, some point to Yoel 1:

יז  עָבְשׁוּ פְרֻדוֹת, תַּחַת מֶגְרְפֹתֵיהֶם--נָשַׁמּוּ אֹצָרוֹת, נֶהֶרְסוּ מַמְּגֻרוֹת:  כִּי הֹבִישׁ, דָּגָן.17 The grains shrivel under their hoes; the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.

and conclude that egrof means a clod of earth, which is similar to a rock; or, we may otherwise say, a tool of some sort. And if so, the pasuk is restricting this penalty for damage, or perhaps manslaughter on lack of recovery, to vicious malicious intent where the attack was performed with a tool. But a mere fist would not be included. If so, this would go against the midrashic understanding.

Another possibility is that Ibn Caspi's concern is אִם-יָקוּם וְהִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּחוּץ, עַל-מִשְׁעַנְתּוֹ. See some of the complexity involved with this phrase in this post.

Perhaps more at a later date.

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin