Friday, May 07, 2010

The promise of erect posture

Summary: Considering a Rashi, and midrash, about one of the rewards in parashat Bechukotai. Why Rashi would be "inconsistent" in interpreting an extraneous phrase here vs. in sefer Bereishit, and my guess as to some of the driving force of the local midrash.

Post: If one walks in Hashem's statutes, Hashem responds in a positive manner. As we see:

9. I will turn towards you, and I will make you fruitful and increase you, and I will set up My covenant with you.ט. וּפָנִיתִי אֲלֵיכֶם וְהִפְרֵיתִי אֶתְכֶם וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֶתְכֶם וַהֲקִימֹתִי אֶת בְּרִיתִי אִתְּכֶם:

Regarding the middle two phrases, we see Rashi say:

and I will make you fruitful:  The first part, וְהִפְרֵיתִי אֶתְכֶם, refers to the blessing of] being fruitful and multiplying. — [Torath Kohanim 26:12]
[while the second part,] אֶתְכֶם וְהִרְבֵּיתִי [refers to the blessing of having]dignity of stature [(הִתְרַבְרְבוּת) i.e., being able to hold one’s head up high due to dignity]. — [Mizrachi ; Torath Kohanim 26:12]
והפריתי אתכם: בפריה ורביה:
והרביתי אתכם: בקומה זקופה:

I modified Judaica Press' translation slightly, by editing out some additional commentary. But both these comments, and the ones preceding and following, are drawn from Toras Kohanim. See inside, towards the end of the second perek.

The Taz asks a question regarding this Rashi:

ט) והרביתי אתכם, בקומה זקופה
זה מוכח מכח
כפל לשון דגם והפריתי מורה על
הרביו שיהיו, אלא דמורה פל ההתרברבות
שיהיה ממנו בקומה זקופה. וקשה דהא
גם בישמעאל כתיב ולישמעאל שמעתיך
וברכתי אותו והפריתי אוחו והרביתי
אותו ומ"ט לא הוקשה לו שם, והיה,

לו לתרץ גם שם דקאי על קומה זקופה .
וי״ל ד ש ם א״א לפרש על קומה זקופה
דהא כתיב בתריה במאד מאד שנים
עשר נשיאים יוליד , הרי מפורש על
הרבוי ממש ולא על זקיפת קומה , וע״כ
יש לתרץ הכפל שם דמורה על גודל
הפלגה ברבוי  שלא כשאר ברכות רבוי  ,
רבוי  , משא״כ כאן דאין כאן הפלגה גדולה
ברבוי ושפיר יש לפרש בזקיפת קומה :

That is, he notes that by the blessing to Yishmael, towards the end of Lech Lecha, it is written:

20. And regarding Ishmael, I have heard you; behold I have blessed him, and I will make him fruitful, and I will multiply him exceedingly; he will beget twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation.כ. וּלְיִשְׁמָעֵאל שְׁמַעְתִּיךָ הִנֵּה בֵּרַכְתִּי אֹתוֹ וְהִפְרֵיתִי אֹתוֹ וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֹתוֹ בִּמְאֹד מְאֹד שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר נְשִׂיאִם יוֹלִיד וּנְתַתִּיו לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל:
twelve princes: Heb. נְשִׂיאִים. They will disappear like clouds, as (Prov. 25:14): Clouds (נְשִׂיאִים) and wind. — [from Gen. Rabbah 47:5]שנים עשר נשיאם: כעננים יכלו, כמו (משלי כה יד) נשיאים ורוח:

and Rashi makes no interpretation of the phrase וְהִפְרֵיתִי אֹתוֹ וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֹתוֹ. Indeed, Siftei Chachamim (citing Maharai) assumes that local to Bechukosai, that which causes the derasha is the separation of peru from revu with etchem. But we can note that here in Lech Lecha, we also have separation by the word oto! Taz assumes that it is simply the case of kefel lashon which sparks the derasha, for once you have the peru, the revu of progeny is known, and so this teaches something different, which is the koma zekufa. But then, notes Taz, why does Rashi not darshen the same when it occurs in Lech Lecha?

Taz's answer is that the continuation of the verse makes it clear that the subject is (still) the increase of progeny, and since this is an exceedingly great increase, we can understand the kefel lashon in Lech Lecha as just that. But there is no basis for doing this in Bechukosai, and so Rashi interprets it as komah zekufah.

Once again, I do not consider the question so legitimate in the first place. Rashi, in giving his peshat commentary, channels existing midrashim. And the midrash from Toras Kohanim is an existing midrash, for parashas Bechukosai. That midrash makes no mention of parashas Lech Lecha. Maybe the same midrashic authors who composed the midrash on Bechukosai would the same on Lech Lecha, but Toras Kohanim does not encompass sefer Bereishis, so we don't know. And we should not expect Rashi to come up with his own derashos. He does not regularly invent derashos. He selects and applies already existing derashos. And meanwhile, Bereishis Rabba, which Rashi cites, has a different focus in interpreting those pesukim.

The focus in Lech Lecha seems to be minimizing the glory of Yishmael. While the overt, surface reading of the pesukim seems to be granting him great glory, the midrashim work to minimize it. Thus, while the pasuk promises 12 princes, nesiim, the Midrash Rabba, cited by Rashi on the pasuk, interprets that as clouds, that they will pass, and not be in power for so long.

To get more of a flavor for this motivation in the midrashic interpretation on Lech Lecha, see the midrashic interpretations on what the Taz would like Rashi to interpret -- particularly the first of the two:
ולישמעאל שמעתיךרבי יוחנן בשם רבי יהושע בר חנינא:בן הגבירה למד מבן האמה.
הנה ברכתי אותוזה יצחק.

והפרתי אותו
זה יצחק.

והרבתי אותו
זה יצחק.

ולישמעאל כבר שמעתי אותו על ידי מלאך.

רבי אבא בר כהנא בשם רבי: בירי כאן בן האמה, למד מבן הגבירה.
הנה ברכתי אותו
זה ישמעאל.

והפרתי אותו
זה ישמעאל.

והרבתי אותו
זה ישמעאל.
ק"ו וזאת בריתי אקים את יצחק. 
One final word on the technical motivations and mechanisms of the midrash on Bechukosai. I do not think that it is merely the kefel lashon, or the distinctiveness of the separating word. Although midrash hardly needs an excuse to darshen repetitive elements, the particular direction it takes might well be driven by context.

And so, it seems true that וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֶתְכֶם was interpreted as הִתְרַבְרְבוּת. But that is insufficient. Note the specific terminology of בקומה זקופה. I would assert that there is a look-ahead / look-backwards mechanism in play. The phrase, in context, is וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֶתְכֶם וַהֲקִימֹתִי. Note the correspondence between vehakimosi and bekoma zekufa. Of course, vehakimosi is part of a later derasha, both in Rashi and in Toras Kohanim which Rashi is citing; and vehakimosi is the start of another phrase, but that is often the key to midrash. It is significance-maximalist, paying extreme heed to a word and juxtaposed phrase, and ignoring even somewhat immediate context. (This was a look-ahead mechanism.)

Similarly, see how Toras Kohanim interprets  וַהֲקִימֹתִי אֶת בְּרִיתִי אִתְּכֶם:

and I will set up My covenant with you: a new covenant, not like the first covenant, which you broke, but a new covenant, which will not be broken, as it is said, “I will form a new covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah-not like the covenant [that I formed with their forefathers… that they broke]” (Jer. 31:30-31). - [Torath Kohanim 26:12]

In Hebrew, לא כברית הראשונה שהפרתם אותה. This seems to be a key repeated phrase, and I think there is a look-backwards mechanism, to the phrase וְהִפְרֵיתִי.

Now, if the entire derasha was based on vehakimosi, one could not apply the same to the pesukim in Lech Lecha. While keeping a brit is mentioned, it is specifically in regard to Yitzchak as opposed to Yishmael:  וְאֶת בְּרִיתִי אָקִים אֶת יִצְחָק אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵד לְךָ שָׂרָה לַמּוֹעֵד הַזֶּה בַּשָּׁנָה הָאַחֶרֶת:

Even if that is not the driving context, the following might well be the driving context. Later in the same perek of Bechukosai, we read:

13. I am the Lord, your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt from being slaves to them; and I broke the pegs of your yoke and led you upright.יג. אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִהְיֹת לָהֶם עֲבָדִים וָאֶשְׁבֹּר מֹטֹת עֻלְּכֶם וָאוֹלֵךְ אֶתְכֶם קוֹמְמִיּוּת:

and Rashi comments, citing a derasha from Toras Kohanim:

upright: Erect in stature [due to relief from bondage]. — [Torath Kohanim 26:17]קוממיות: בקומה זקופה:

This is thus already an idea brought into play in this context. But it is simply not the case in Lech Lecha.

I will close by noting that this is often my beef with Rashi's supercommentators. They believe that they are commenting on Rashi, but since Rashi is simply selecting from midrashim, their discussions turn out to be speculations as the the import and driving force behind the midrashim. But if one analyzes those midrashim, one should do so inside, on their own terms. Further, one should not assume Rashi will invent derashot, or that (in assuming his midrashic citations are peshat) he is being bothered by a peshat concern that should therefore be manifest in other places the phrase occurs.

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin