Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chukat: What is bothering Rashi about וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ?

Summary: The standard meforshei Rashi discuss what is bothering Rashi about the words וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ regarding the parah adumah and why the same words did not bother him regarding the shemen zayis. I explain why I differ from the methodologically, but then explain why indeed the instance by shemen zayis is irrelevant, in a way that I think provides the key to the entire derasha.

Post: Parashat Chukat begins with the laws of Parah Adumah:

1. The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying:א. וַיְדַבֵּר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶל מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר:
2. This is the statute of the Torah which the Lord commanded, saying, Speak to the children of Israel and have them take for you a perfectly red unblemished cow, upon which no yoke was laid.ב. זֹאת חֻקַּת הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְ־הֹוָ־ה לֵאמֹר דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ פָרָה אֲדֻמָּה תְּמִימָה אֲשֶׁר אֵין בָּהּ מוּם אֲשֶׁר לֹא עָלָה עָלֶיהָ עֹל:
On this, Rashi writes:

and have them take for you: It will always be called on your name; 'the cow which Moses prepared in the desert.’- [Mid. Tanchuma Chukath 8, see Etz Yosef]ויקחו אליך: לעולם היא נקראת על שמך, פרה שעשה משה במדבר:

His source is perhaps a midrash Tanchuma, which reads:
אמר רבי יוסי בר חנינא: 
רמזו שכל הפרות בטלות, ושלך קיימת. 

This is not precisely the same thing, but it is the closest I can find. You can begin reading the Etz Yosef's commentary here -- it is on the bottom, and goes on to the next page.

Many of the meforshei Rashi take issue with this. Rashi is saying peshat, so something must be "difficult" to him here that he is resolving. What is this difficulty, and why is this not difficult when the identical phrase is used in the discussion of shemen zayis? That is, in Vayikra 24, we are told:

2. Command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle the lamps continually.ב. צַו אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד:

and Rashi makes no such diyuk! So what is the difference? This is a question addressed by several meforshei Rashi, including Mizrachi, Gur Aryeh, and Levush HaOrah. To take Gur Aryeh as an example approach to this issue:
לעולם היא נקראת על שמך• דאם לא
כן, ׳׳אליך׳׳ למה לי, הוי למכתב ׳ויקחו להם
פרה אדומה׳. והא דכתיב בפרשת אמור(ויקרא כד, ב) ש
׳׳ויקחו אליך שמן זית׳׳, לא קשיא
דהתם כך פירושו, שיקחו הם שמן זית לך,
והם אינם צריכים לעשות שום דבר, רק
שיקחו שמן זית, ואתה תהיה גומר את מצותו
ליתן אותו לאהרן הכהן, ולצוות לו שיערוך
אותו אהרון (שם שם ג). אבל כאן דכתיב בתריה
ש(פסוק ג) ׳׳ונתתם אותה אל אלעזר הכהן׳׳, אם
כן היו ישראל מתעסקין בנתינה לאלעזר, אם
כן למה כתב ׳׳ויקחו אליך׳׳, והרי אלעזר
שליח ישראל היה, כדכתיב ׳׳ונתתם אותה
לאלעזר הכהן״ , ולמה כתב ״אליך׳׳:

That is, why should they take "to you", rather than to themselves. That influences Rashi's interpretation (which is either peshat or derash). And the same phrase as it occurs in Vayikra 24:2 is not difficult, for there it means that they should take it to you, Moshe, and then they do nothing, but Moshe completes the action by giving it to Aharon and to command him to set up up. But here, since it says after this "and you (plural) shall give it to Eleazar the Kohen", if Israel (in plural) are involved in it in giving it to Eleazar, why should it say "and they should take to you (Moshe)?!" It is Eleazar who is the agent of Israel. Thus, the eilecha is difficult.

Levush HaOrah discusses how probably ונתתם refers to Moshe and Aharon, who were mentioned in pasuk 1 (and perhaps were the eilecha). And then, what is the basis for the distinction between this pasuk and the one in Vayikra? See inside for a discussion.

First, on methodological grounds, I will note that I disagree with the very approach of "What is bothering Rashi?" There need not be some catastrophic difficulty in the pasuk which sparks Rashi's comment. Rather, Rashi's intent is to give a traditional rabbinic interpretation of Chumash, which hews fairly close to peshat. But the vast majority of his material comes from midrash. The Midrash Tanchuma offers a two explanations of  וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ, the first being that it is not a chok (unexplained law) to Moshe, but just to the Israelite population. The second in Tanchuma is this one, that even while all other Parah Adumos will be nullified, Moshe's will still last. Of these two, Rashi selects and slightly modifies the second, which is a bit closer to peshat, and says that this will always by known by Moshe's name, the parah adumah of Moshe.

If Rashi is simply selecting and channeling existing midrash, then it is an unfair question to ask why he did not introduce a similar derasha in Vayikra 24 regarding the lights of the neiros. If Chazal did not darshen it, who is Rashi to innovate a derasha?! And perhaps the same midrashic author who made the derasha here also made a derasha there, but the derasha was not recorded. Or perhaps the midrashic author did not strive for comprehension and consistency -- Shimon HaAmsuni attempted to darshen every es in the Torah, but he was likely the exception that proved the rule. And considering the context in Tanchuma, it seems likely that this derash is somewhat homiletic in nature. So, I would not make much of the fact that we have no parallel derasha in Vayikra 24:2.

Also, there is a plausible fixed target of this derasha in Chukas. Namely, there was a special role to this parah adumah ashes of Moshe. Prior to preparing a new parah adumah mixture (of the 10 throughout history) the kohen would purify himself via Moshe Rabbenu's parah adumah sprinkling. (See Parah 3:5 and Mishnah Acharonah.) Since it has this everlasting role, it can be a good target for a derasha. But there does not seem to be an existing target for a derasha about the shemen zayis for the menorah.

However, indeed, I think there is something motivating this particular midrash on Chukas, which is absent in the pasuk about shemen. And a big hint to it is how the first midrashic explanation in Midrash Tanchuma played both on chok of "Chukas"and וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ.

"Chok" can mean a statute; an incomprehensible law. Or, it can mean an everlasting law -- chukas olam. Indeed, in pasuk 10 in Chukas, we are told  וְהָיְתָה לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּתוֹכָם לְחֻקַּת עוֹלָם.

If chukat haTorah means an established general everlasting ordinance, then we should expect that the Torah should speak generically, about kohanim and so on. We should not expect particular details of implementation in the time of Moshe Rabbeinu!

But that is just what we have:
זֹאת חֻקַּת הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה לֵאמֹר 
which implies that these are the rules for all generations. And this is immediately followed by:
דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ פָרָה אֲדֻמָּה
where the general rule is to bring it to Moshe!

The answer is that indeed, ledoros, they made initial use of the Para Aduma which Moshe made. And they would refer to it forever, in the laws, as פרה שעשה משה במדבר.

What about the instance of וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ in sefer Vayikra? There, nothing is strange at all. It starts with the particular commandment for the dor Hamidbar: צַו אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד. There is no mention at this point that it is ledoros. Only at the end are we told to extrapolate and apply this rule ledorot. Thus:

2. Command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle the lamps continually.ב. צַו אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד:
3. Outside the dividing curtain of the testimony in the Tent of Meeting, Aaron shall set it up before the Lord from evening to morning continually. [This shall be] an eternal statute for your generations.ג. מִחוּץ לְפָרֹכֶת הָעֵדֻת בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד יַעֲרֹךְ אֹתוֹ אַהֲרֹן מֵעֶרֶב עַד בֹּקֶר לִפְנֵי ה תָּמִיד חֻקַּת עוֹלָם לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם:

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