Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Did Moshe really send nesiim as scouts?

Summary: The differing position of Rashbam on this matter, and how it works out with the harmonization with the account in sefer Devarim.

Post: At the start of parashat Shelach, we read:

2. "Send out for yourself men who will scout the Land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel. You shall send one man each for his father's tribe; each one shall be a chieftain in their midst."ב. שְׁלַח לְךָ אֲנָשִׁים וְיָתֻרוּ אֶת אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אִישׁ אֶחָד אִישׁ אֶחָד לְמַטֵּה אֲבֹתָיו תִּשְׁלָחוּ כֹּל נָשִׂיא בָהֶם:
This does not necessarily indicate that each was the nasi of the tribe. Indeed, comparing with the list in parashat Naso of Nesiim, these are not the same individuals. Yet the idea would appear to be that they are men of some importance. Indeed, Rashi understands it this way, not from this pasuk, but from the next:

3. So Moses sent them from the desert of Paran by the word of the Lord. All of them were men of distinction; they were the heads of the children of Israel.ג. וַיִּשְׁלַח אֹתָם מֹשֶׁה מִמִּדְבַּר פָּארָן עַל פִּי יְ־הֹוָ־ה כֻּלָּם אֲנָשִׁים רָאשֵׁי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הֵמָּה:
Rashi writes on the word anashim:

All of them were men of distinction: Whenever [the word] אִנָשִׁים [is used] in Scripture, it denotes importance. At that time, they were virtuous. — [Mid. Tanchuma 4]כלם אנשים: כל אנשים שבמקרא לשון חשיבות, ואותה שעה כשרים היו:

(Though this is chashivut in terms of importance, rather than necessarily position. This is the meaning in Midrash Tanchuma. Yet the idea is one of chashivut.) So too, e.g., Ibn Ezra and Ibn Caspi, so despite it appearing in Midrash Tanchuma, it does have a peshat ring to it.

I would further note the parallel of kol, nasi bahem in pasuk 2 with kulam anashim in pasuk 3. I think it is the same style, with the same meaning, that each was somewhat important. And that each occurrence informs on the meaning of its fellow.

Regardless, we know them to be important, since pasuk 3 explicitly tells us רָאשֵׁי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הֵמָּה.

Rashbam seems to come up with a novel meaning to the word nasi and the phrase nasi bahem. Thus:
פסוק ב 
כל נשיא בהם - עיקר פשוטו כך:
אלה שנים עשר אנשים תקח מאותם שבישראל שנשא אותם לבם ללכת, שתכוין את העם מי האיש שירצה ללכת לרגל את הארץ. ומאותם שיאמרו ללכת תקח ותבחר מהם שנים עשר ולפי שהאנשים גבורים שאינם יראים ורך לבב ראוים ללכת בארץ נכריה וגם להתחזק ולקחת מפרי הארץ, לכך הוצרך להכריז ולא נקבם הקב"ה בשמות, כשם שעשה לנשיאים שמנו את ישראל ובנשיאים שהנחיל את ישראל את הארץ באלה מסעי. שאותם היו נקובי שמות.

כל נשיא בהם - 
הטעם שתחת כל מוכיח פירושו. כל אלה הי"ב הנה יהיה נשיא באותם המתנדבים ללכת, כמו: כל שתה תחת רגליו. 
"Kol Nasi Bahem -- The basic peshat is as follows, that these 12 men you should take from those within Israel whose hearts lifted {nasa} them to go, to request of the nation, 'who is the man who wants to go to scout out the land'. And from those who will say they would go, you should take and choose from them 12. And since the men were giborim {strong men}, who were not afraid and soft of heart, they were fit to go to a strange land and also to strengthen themselves and to take from the fruit of the land. Therefore he needed to announce, and Hashem did not designate them by name, as He did for the Princes who counted Israel and by the Princes who inherited the land in parashat Mas'ei, for those were designated by name.

Kol Nasi Bahem -- the trup under kol proves its meaning. All of these 12, behold they are a nasi, among those who offered to go. Such as... {and then he gives an example of this phenomenon from a pasuk in Tehillim. See my other post discussing this latter part}."

At least, this is how I would translate and understand it. If so, nasi would mean מתנדב, rather than prince / man of importance. Still, they would have to be giborim.

While this is an interesting interpretation of nasi, the weight of other textual evidence (anashim, roshei, the pattern of kol / kulam) makes me lean heavily towards the standard interpretation.

1 comment:

Garnel Ironheart said...

The Malbim, using his grammer specific technique, points up the difference between "latur" and "leragel" in terms of spying vs scouting to explain how the mission started off well and then went south.


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