Thursday, March 18, 2010

Is the Samaritan spelling of Yimatzei (with an aleph) correct? Do Chazal have the same?

Summary: Chizkuni on Vayikra, while masiach lefi tumo, mentions that ימצא is spelled with an א, and notes how Chazal derive something from it. Our masoretic text meanwhile has ימצה. But the Samaritan text has it with an aleph! This variation in spelling of an em hakeriah is much more innocuous than the possibility of having lost an entire word in the masoretic text, discussed in parashat Vayakhel.

Post: Towards the end of Vayikra {5:9}:

ט  וְהִזָּה מִדַּם הַחַטָּאת, עַל-קִיר הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, וְהַנִּשְׁאָר בַּדָּם, יִמָּצֵה אֶל-יְסוֹד הַמִּזְבֵּחַ; חַטָּאת, הוּא.9 And he shall sprinkle of the blood of the sin-offering upon the side of the altar; and the rest of the blood shall be drained out at the base of the altar; it is a sin-offering.

The word יִמָּצֵה does not have an aleph as a root letter. It is מצה, related to מצצ, to drain/squeeze out. Rashi correctly understands this as mitzui:

He shall sprinkle from the blood of the sin-offering: In the case of a burnt-offering, Scripture requires only מִצּוּי, pressing out the blood (see Lev. 1:15), but for a sin-offering, both הַזָאָה, sprinkling of the blood, and מִצּוּי, pressing out the blood, are required. He grasps the עֹרֶף [or, as in some early editions and mansuscripts: He grasps the bird. See Yosef Hallel] and sprinkles [the blood], and so, the blood spurts out onto the altar. — [Zev. 64b]והזה מדם החטאת: בעולה לא הטעין אלא מצוי, ובחטאת הזאה ומצוי. אוחז בעורף ומתיז, והדם ניתז והולך למזבח:

An interesting variant occurs, however, in the Samaritan Torah:

Note how, instead of ימצה, there is ימצא. 

This is not really surprising. In the vast majority of cases, the Samaritan text represents a smoothed, harmonized text. They bring texts from elsewhere in Torah to harmonize, and add vowel letters. The word ימצא with an aleph is certainly the more common, and so it is quite possible that this is merely an erroneous correction to the more common word and spelling -- even though it is to the wrong word.

The reason we will not leave it as just that is the Chizkuni. Chizkuni writes:

Thus, even though he spells it earlier for the sake of its meaning as ימצה, he notes that it is written in the pasuk as ימצא! This is not in accordance with our Masoretic text, though it is in accordance with the Samaritan text.

Chizkuni goes on that this ימצא spelling implies also the matter of sprinkling, hazaah, that the person squeezes it out against the wall. And he refers us to perek Kodshei Kodoshim in Zevachim, and Rashi's commentary there.

That gemara is in Zevachim 37a:
נפקא ליה מדרבי דתניא רבי אומר  (ויקרא ה, ט) והנשאר בדם ימצה שאין ת"ל בדם ומה ת"ל בדם לפי שלא למדנו אלא לניתנין מתן ד' שטעונין מתן דמים ליסוד שאר דמים מנין ת"ל והנשאר בדם ימצה שאין ת"ל בדם ומה ת"ל בדם לימד על כל הדמים שטעונין מתן דמים ליסוד

A summary of this from Point by Point Summary:
(d) Answer: Our Tana (i.e. of Beraisa #1) learns that as Rebbi does.

1. (Beraisa - Rebbi): The Torah explicitly taught that extra blood of a Chatas is poured on the Yesod;
2. Question: What is the source regarding other Korbanos?
3. Answer: "Veha'Nish'ar *ba'Dam* Yimatze".
Rashi on the daf elaborates:
והנשאר בדם וגו' - בחטאת העוף כתיב והנשאר ימצא הוה ליה למכתב:
As far as I can understand it, Rashi is saying that in citing the pasuk, it is as if it were written ימצא with an aleph, which would convey sprinkling rather than squeezing. (Perhaps, then Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi was darshening a text equivalent to the Samaritan one.)

Note that this is not precisely what Chizkuni attributed to Rashi. Chizkuni made it seem like Rashi was making a derasha on the misspelling, but Rashi pretty clearly has it with a heh, and thus writes that הוה ליה למכתב. And the gemara, at least in the girsa as we have it, still spells the text with a heh. And it is Rashi's supposition that this is part of the mechanism behind the derash. Perhaps this is not the driving force, and the derash is simply less compelling. This is nowhere as strong as the preceding case I discussed, of agil in the Samaritan Torah and as darshened in Shemot Rabba.

I would also add that this is a consistent variant spelling in the Samaritan Torah. Thus, in Vayikra 1:15, in the word ונמצה, the Samaritans spell it ונמצא:

I don't think there is any derasha in Chazal, or anything explicitly mentioned by Rashi, on this basis. On the other hand, Chizkuni does have it spelled in the same consistent manner, as ונמצא, though he does not darshen this particular one:

Minchas Shai notices the Chizkuni about the spelling of ימצה with an aleph. But he does not notice that Chizkuni is consistent, in spelling ונמצה with an aleph. And he is entirely unaware that the Samaritan Torah has both of these words, spelled in this different way.

Minchas Shai takes on Chizkuni's interpretation of the gemara. He notes that elsewhere in that gemara, the nature of the derasha is more explicit -- Is it written ימצה? No, it is written ימצה. And the meaning of that is the vowel pattern, that it is not kal. It is written yimmatzei. He allows for the possibility that Chizkuni had a variant girsa of the gemara, in which it has ימצא ketiv.

Then, Minchas Shai notes a comment of Rama, that makes clear that he has ימצה here written with a heh. End my summary of Minchas Shai.

The slight difficulty in our reading is that the orthography of the vowel points were not introduced until post-Talmudic times. If so, how can we say ketiv about the vowel points? But there are a few scattered other (possibly questionable) examples of it. It is also possible that a sofer corrected the gemara to reflect our version of the pasuk. I am leaning towards thinking that Minchas Shai is correct. However, I keep coming back to how the Chizkuni, operating pretty late, has the spelling of both pesukim (ימצא and ונמצא) consistent with a variant text which was indeed around in the time of Chazal, and which apparently continued in this way from quite a while in Jewish hands. Unless we say that since the spelling with the aleph, while less grammatical, is more common, and so not only did the Samaritans fall into this error, but some Jewish scribe later fell into the same error as well. It is possible.

In sum, I don't think I am going to come to a conclusion at this time.It is pretty clear to me that Rashi had the same text as we have, both in chumash and in the gemara. But it is indeed possible that Rabbi was making his derasha assuming a text equivalent to that of the Samaritans, and that soferim "corrected" the perceived "errors" in the gemara, thus obscuring some of the basis of the derasha. And that Chizkuni has, in two places, like the Samaritans, reinforces this notion. On the other hand, perhaps this was not the basis for the derasha at all, just as Minchas Shai explain.

In terms of which is probably the original, I would have to side with the Masoretic text. ימצה with a heh is an uncommon word, which is correct even though it seems incorrect, and a careless scribe or a scribe who did not know grammar could readily substitute the more common spelling. That makes the direction of change towards the Samaritan text much more straightforward.

Update: I have my hands full (literally) at the moment, but this is astonishing. Check out Ktav Yad Vatikan, which has it spelled with aleph. More later, bli neder:

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