Thursday, July 29, 2010

Luchat ketiv or Lachat ketiv?

Summary: With the repercussions being which pasuk Rashi is going on. Plus, what exactly is Rashi telling us with this midrash; or what is this midrash telling us?

Post: In the midst of parashat Eikev, we read the following pesukim and Rashi:

10. and the Lord gave me two stone tablets, inscribed by the finger of God, and on them was [inscribed] according to all the words that the Lord spoke with you on the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly.י. וַיִּתֵּן יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֵלַי אֶת שְׁנֵי לוּחֹת הָאֲבָנִים כְּתֻבִים בְּאֶצְבַּע אֱ־לֹהִים וַעֲלֵיהֶם כְּכָל הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְ־הֹוָ־ה עִמָּכֶם בָּהָר מִתּוֹךְ הָאֵשׁ בְּיוֹם הַקָּהָל:
tablets: [This word] is written לוּחֹת [in a singular form, and not, לוּחוֹת, to indicate that] both of them were identical. — [Tanchuma 10]לחת: לחת כתיב, ששתיהם שוות:
11. And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the Lord gave me two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant.יא. וַיְהִי מִקֵּץ אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְאַרְבָּעִים לָיְלָה נָתַן יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֵלַי אֶת שְׁנֵי לֻחֹת הָאֲבָנִים לֻחוֹת הַבְּרִית:

This combination of placement and commentary by Judaica Press is a bit perplexing. Rashi does not tell us upon which pasuk he comments. Rather, we rely on the dibur hamatchil. Yet the dibur hamatchil is לחת, spelled entirely chaser, when there is no such spelling in pasuk 10. And Rashi says לחת כתיב, yet there is no such spelling in pasuk 10. Why, then, do they place Rashi's commentary upon this pasuk?

More than that, in the next pasuk, pasuk 11, we have the fairly unique spelling לחת, entirely chaser. It seems that they should have placed Rashi's comment on pasuk 11.

Indeed, not only do they place Rashi's comment on pasuk 10, but in the translation, they refer to it as written לוחת rather than לוחות. In other words, only that the second vav is missing, not the first one.

I would guess that whoever wrote the commentary and decided on what pasuk to place it was different from the person who put in the Hebrew text of Rashi. And whoever took the Hebrew text of Rashi took it from some other place, without regard to the text chosen in the commentary. And if the author of the Judaica Press Rashi translation had his preference, he would have had initial vavs in לוחת in Rashi as well.

Meanwhile, in the nice Chumash printing with Gur Aryeh, they place this Rashi on pasuk 11, which after all has the word לחת.

Perhaps looking to Rashi's sources can help us resolve this. This was, after all, drawn from midrash Tanchuma. Does Tanchuma spell it לוחת or לחת?

Alas, the version at Daat isn't going to help us! They have:
אמר רבי חנינא:
לוחות כתיב: שלא היו גדולים זה מזה, אלא שניהם שוין, והייתה פסולת שניהם כאחד. 
It is certainly not spelled entirely malei. Besides not according to the spelling in any pasuk in context, we would not be able to make the derasha, which is based on chaser-ness.

This version of Midrash Tanchuma at HebrewBooks spells it entirely chaser, as לחת. This would indicate we should put Rashi as commenting on pasuk 11, since Rashi drew from this midrash. On the other hand, how much stock should we put in the precise spelling in the midrash. Was the scribe entirely careful? Maybe Rashi had a different version. But then point out that Rashi, as well, seems to have לחת, in accordance with this midrash.

But then, I will point out Berliner's printing of Rashi, based on manuscripts. He places it on pasuk 10; and the dibur haMatchil is לוחת, and Rashi says לוחת כתיב. And we can guess, along with this manuscript, that there was similarly a text of Tanchuma with this spelling. And so it makes sense to use this good text of Rashi, and place Rashi on pasuk 10, just as Judaica Press did.

Aside from any of this, maybe we can select the correct text on the basis of content. What recommends לחת is that it is the "strangest". Many of the others in context are spelled לוחת. Thus, two in pasuk 9, one in pasuk 11. The Samaritans indeed fix this one to accord with the rest. There is one הלחת in pasuk 17. Still, we might expect the derasha to be on the "stranger" of the two spellings.

However, if we consider the nature of the derasha, then we see that there is no need for the double-chaser. The idea of the derasha is that despite the kerei being לוחות, plural, it is written as (construct) singular. This singular instead of plural is based on the absence of the second vav, and has nothing to do with the first.

This doesn't mean that it couldn't be based on לחת, but we might as well use it at the earlier opportunity, in pasuk 10.

As an aside, I am not certain what is "bothering" or motivating Rashi. Even if true that the two luchot were so equivalent, why should it really matter? Is this truly something necessary for Rashi to include in his commentary, when he selects from a set of many other midrashim?

Perhaps the idea is to indicate the perfection of these stone tablets, carved out and engraved by God Himself, such that this tells of of Hashem's awesomeness.

In terms of the midrash itself, perhaps it is this idea of perfection. Alternatively, consider the context of this midrash:

שני לוחות אבנים כנגד חתן וכלה,
כנגד שני שושבינין,
כנגד שמים וארץ,
כנגד שני סופרים,
כנגד שתי תורות,
 תורה שבכתב ותורה שבעל פה,
כנגד שני עולמות, העולם הזה והעולם הבא. (שנאמר): שני לוחות. 
אמר רבי חנינא:
לוחות כתיב: שלא היו גדולים זה מזה, אלא שניהם שוין, והייתה פסולת שניהם כאחד. 
Maybe the idea is the equalization of the aspects of each of the two tablets. If one tablet has bein adam laMakom and the other bein adam lachaveiro,  perhaps Rabbi Chanina is promoting equal stress. Or it could be the equality of importance of Oral Torah and Written Torah.

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