Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Some thoughts on the Tam

At last, we arrive at the "hero" of the Seder, the Tam:

Yes, Tam is often translated as the simple son, and so we might think of a simpleton. But his question is the question hoped for by the Mishna, and the response is the one discussed in great detail by various Sages. The Tam actually asks a question about what is going on at the Seder, because he notices that things are askew. We saw in the gemara Pesachim that Abaye asked why they moved the (small) table, if the meal was not yet over, and the response of Rabba was that he had thus exempted them from saying Mah Nishtana. Surely Abaye, whom Rabba praised elsewhere (regarding a response to the question of where God was) as someone who would grow up to be a great Sage, was no Simpleton. The popular understanding of Mah Nishtana, that the son asks it, is the same question as the Tam -- "what is this?" 

And the answer to the Tam is the answer everyone grapples with. The Chacham gets a lecture about the dry halachot of Pesach. The Rasha gets a polemic. The Aino Yodea Lishol is instructed without a question, and is perhaps prompted just how the night is different, before the Sippur. But he is on an even lower level than the Tam. It is the Tam who asks a question, and to whom the response is Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim! When Rav and Shmuel argue about the genus and shevach are, this is geared towards the Sippur, told to the Tam.

Yet I do think that is the case that in this rendition, and this version of the Four Sons, the Tam is not regarded as the optimal case. He is a tam compared to the Chacham. And the Chacham asks a question about the laws -- mah ha'edot vehachukim, and the response is the hilchos haPesach. The Tam asks a simple question -- just mah zot -- and its simplicity is perhaps meant to reflect upon his simplicity; and the response to the Tam is a sippur yetziat Mitzrayim.

As I discussed in my post about the Chacham, there are two opinions about the optimal discussion material for the Seder night. The Tosefta Pesachim puts it as the hilchot haPesach. Thus, in the last Tosefta of Pesachim:
חייב אדם [לעסוק בהלכות הפסח] כל הלילה אפילו בינו לבין בנו אפילו בינו לבין עצמו אפילו בינו לבין תלמידו מעשה ברבן גמליאל וזקנים שהיו מסובין בבית ביתוס בן זונין בלוד והיו [עסוקין בהלכות הפסח] כל הלילה עד קרות הגבר הגביהו מלפניהם ונועדו והלכו [להן] לבית המדרש

There is such an obligation, and we see that this is how Rabban Gamliel and the Zekeinim conducted themselves.

Meanwhile, as we cite in our haggadah, even if everyone present is a chacham, navon, zaken, yodea et haTorah, he is obligated lesaper biytziat mitzrayim, and whoever increases, all the better. And then we get a list of Sages who did just that and engaged in sippur all that night until their students told them that the time for Shema had arrived. Thus, sippur is the optimal topic.

In the Mechilta, Rabbi Eliezer makes a distinction between a chacham and one who is not a chacham:

דבר אחר:
מה העדות - ר' אליעזר אומר:

מנין אתה אומר שאם היתה חבורה של חכמים או של תלמידים שצריכים לעסוק בהלכות פסח עד חצות?
לכך נאמר: מה העדות וגו': 

Only if it is a chabura of Chachamim should they engage in hilchot haPesach. Presumably, those who are not Chachamim would engage in sippur. This certainly runs counter to the statement in the haggada that afilu kulanu chachamim...

But our haggadah's version of the Four Sons, which distinguishes between Tam and Chacham in topic for discussion, seems to be like Rabbi Eliezer's statement in the Mechilta. If they are capable of engaging in hilchot haPesach, then they should.

(In terms of why engage in hilchot haPesach, I would suggest that this is the halachot of the Korban Pesach, and that this was enacted post-Churban as a substitute for the actual Paschal offering.)

The Yerushalmi has a version of the Four Sons which is much more insulting to the Tam. It calls him Tipesh, a fool, rather than Tam, Simple. Thus:

תני ר' חייה כנגד ארבעה בנים דיברה תורה בן חכם בן רשע בן טיפש בן שאינו יודע לשאול.  בן חכם מהו אומר (דברים ו) מה העדות והחקים והמשפטים אשר צוה ה' אלהינו אותנו אף אתה אמור לו (שמות יג) בחזק יד הוציאנו ה' ממצרים מבית עבדים.  בן רשע מהו אומר (שמות יב) מה העבודה הזאת לכם מה הטורח הזה שאתם מטריחין עלינו בכל שנה ושנה מכיון שהוציא את עצמו מן הכלל אף אתה אמור לו (שמות יב) בעבור זה עשה ה' לי לי עשה לאותו האיש לא עשה.  אילו היה אותו האיש במצרים לא היה ראוי להגאל משם לעולם.  טיפש מה אומר (שמות יב) מה זאת אף את למדו הלכות הפסח שאין מפטירין אחר הפסח אפיקומן שלא יהא עומד מחבורה זו ונכנס לחבורה אחרת.  בן שאינו יודע לשאול את פתח לו תחילה א"ר יוסה מתניתא אמרה כן אם אין דעת בבן אביו מלמדו

But I do not believe that it is really targeting at the Tam / Tipesh. Rather, it is targeted at the practice of discussing hilchos haPesach. After all, it is not just the Tam whose answer is changed. The Tam gets the answer for the Chacham, and the Chacham gets the answer from the Tam. Thus, to the Chacham, we respond with a sippur. To the Tipesh, we respond with hilchos haPesach. And the added reason for telling the Tipesh the halachos is that otherwise he will mess up. That is the only conceivable reason for discussing hilchos haPesach, rather than sippur, on this night.

There are several reasons I believe the Yerushalmi's version to be a polemical adaptation of the Four Sons, while the text in the haggadah is more or less original. First, the Chacham asks about the eidos vehachukim. Even though, given the response in context in the pesukim, on a peshat level this is not a query about the details of the laws, but rather their import, if we consider that there is a response about the details of the Pesach, then the hilchos haPesach is the better response to mah ha'eidos. Furthermore, Tipesh is a loaded term, more so than Tam. Further, Tipesh in Yerushalmi breaks the pattern. It is ben Chacham, ben Rasha, ben she'einu yodea lish'ol. Yet it is Tipesh, not ben Tipesh. This might indicate editing from an original, which read ben Tam. So too mah omer rather than mahu omer


Hillel said...

R' Waxman,
I agree there is a philosophical dispute between the Haggadah and the Yerushalmi about whether the primary mitzvah at the seder is intellectual or emotional. This explains Tam vs. Tipesh and their respective answers, and the story of R' Gamliel and the z'keinim (learning hilchot pesach) vs. the story of the 5 chachamim in b'nei b'rak (being marbeh in sippur yetziat mitrayim). It also explains "lir'ot" vs. "l'har'ot".

In this vein, I think their might be some proof towards your reading of the Yerushalmi as a polemical response to the haggadah in its changing the text of the verse for the chacham's question (!) from "etchem" to "otanu". This strikes me as a lectio difficilior type of change, designed to address the obvious problem of the chacham using the same exclusionary language as the rasha.

Note: This raises some interesting questions about the extent to which the gemara is willing to change around the order or even content of p'sukim (e.g., "v'Arav lo v'Kam alav") in order to support drashic points, not just aggadically but even halachically. Any thought you have on the subject would be very much appreciated.

Cheers, and thanks,

joshwaxman said...

thanks. you raise some insightful points.

see what I wrote about this subject in my post on the Chacham. I found a fairly early Haggadah which has otanu even within our own text! and i suspect that this was indeed original to the derasha.

I've been posting a lot recently about Chazal darshening non-masoretic texts. for example, a midrash rabba that darshens the five items given to the mishkan, when there are only four in the pasuk. or yesterday, the spelling of a certain word as chaser rather than malei. over and over, it seems that Chazal darshened non-masoretic texts. and in many instances, we actually find sifrei Torah which have this text. it could be in a Samaritan sefer Torah. or it could be in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Or it could be from the Septuagint.

In terms of otanu, it is not just the yerushalmi. It it this old haggadah with our version. It is in the Septuagint. And IIRC (maybe not; my memory is faulty on this count), it is also in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Perhaps they changed the pasuk for reasons of the derasha. But perhaps it was simply divergent in the first place, by simple scribal error. I do agree that etchem is better under lectio difficilior, such that in terms of determining the original, I would prefer the masoretic text in this instance. Also, in terms of whether the question of conflict with the Rasha is really problematic, my inclination is that the question is not such a great question in the first place. It is a derasha, and derashot place emphasis on different points in a phrase, for different effect.

(Your suggestion that they change around the words for the sake of the derasha is quite similar to a suggestion of Minchas Shai, especially in terms of derashot made in Zohar which differ from our masoretic texts.)

kol tuv,


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