Monday, September 20, 2010

The Chasam Sofer on the last eight pesukim, or the last twelve pesukim

Summary: Does the Chasam Sofer actually hold like Ibn Ezra on this?!

Post: Two Shabbosim in shul, I was reading through the Chasam Sofer on the Torah, and saw an interesting analysis of Rashi on the last eight pesukim of the Torah.

Rashi wrote as follows, citing a dispute between Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Meir:

5. And Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there, in the land of Moab, by the mouth of the Lord.ה. וַיָּמָת שָׁם מֹשֶׁה עֶבֶד יְ־הֹוָ־ה בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב עַל פִּי יְ־הֹוָ־ה:
And Moses… died there: Is it possible that Moses died, and [then] wrote, “And Moses… died there”? But [the answer is:] Moses wrote up to that juncture, and Joshua wrote from then on. Says Rabbi Meir: But is it possible that the Torah Scroll would be lacking anything at all, and yet Scripture states (Deut. 31:26),“Take this Torah Scroll” [and Moses commanded this to the Levites; so, according to the above opinion, is it possible that the Torah Scroll referred to there was an incomplete one, up to the juncture of Moses’s death? This cannot be!] Rather, [continues Rabbi Meir, we must say that] The Holy One, blessed is He, dictated this [i.e., the verse “And Moses… died there”], and Moses wrote it in tears. — [B.B. 15b, Sifrei 33:34]וימת שם משה: אפשר משה מת וכתב וימת שם משה, אלא עד כאן כתב משה, מכאן ואילך כתב יהושע. ר' מאיר אומר אפשר ספר התורה חסר כלום, והוא אומר (לעיל לא, כו) לקוח את ספר התורה הזה, אלא הקב"ה אומר ומשה כותב בדמע:

The Chasam Sofer cites the first pasuk of the perek, the beginning of the last twelve pesukim of the Torah.

1. And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, [to the] top of the summit facing Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the Land: The Gilead until Dan,א. וַיַּעַל מֹשֶׁה מֵעַרְבֹת מוֹאָב אֶל הַר נְבוֹ רֹאשׁ הַפִּסְגָּה אֲשֶׁר עַל פְּנֵי יְרֵחוֹ וַיַּרְאֵהוּ יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶת כָּל הָאָרֶץ אֶת הַגִּלְעָד עַד דָּן:

וַיַּעַל מֹשֶׁה, ..., וַיַּרְאֵהוּ ה ... וַיָּמָת שָׁם מֹשֶׁה ... Chazal said that from וַיָּמָת שָׁם מֹשֶׁה, Yehoshua wrote, for it was not possible to write  וַיָּמָת שָׁם. But it requires careful consideration {tzarich iyun}, from וַיַּעַל מֹשֶׁה until וַיָּמָת שָׁם מֹשֶׁה, who wrote it? For it is difficult to say that he brought up a sefer Torah with him to the mountain, and after Hashem showed him Eretz Yisrael, he wrote there until וַיָּמָת, and afterwards Israel ascended and found a sefer Torah resting there. For it is implied that he gave over his sefer from his hand to the tribe of Levi, as it is written, "Take this sefer Torah and place it by the side of the ark of the covenant of Hashem." And it requires careful consideration."

I wonder if Rabbi Yehuda Parnes would say that the Chasam Sofer is outside the pale of Orthodox Judaism, and cannot be read. After all, the Chasam Sofer here echoes Chazal in stating that Yehoshua wrote the last eight pesukim, without even giving the alternate position of Rabbi Meir to counteract it. Yes, he asks a question on this position. But it is either asking about the authorship of the twelve pesukim, while accepting Chazal about the 8 pesukim. Alternatively, he is using this to demonstrate a weakness in this middle position of Rabbi Yehuda, similar to the weakness pointed out by BrooklynWolf. (See here, in the comment section, and here.)

I would assume that the Chasam Sofer knows the Ibn Ezra, yet chooses not to explicitly raise it. That Ibn Ezra, on Vayaal Moshe:
[לד, א]
ויעל משה -
לפי דעתי:
 כי מזה הפסוק כתב יהושע, כי אחר שעלה משה לא כתב ובדרך נבואה כתבו.
והעד ויראהו ה' גם: ויאמר ה' אליו גם ויקבור.

Note that the Chasam Sofer also sneaks in another of Ibn Ezra's prooftexts in his citation, that of והעד ויראהו ה. Though maybe this was not intentional. On the whole, though, I would be surprised if he were unaware of this Ibn Ezra, who says that "after Moshe ascended he did not write" and that Yehoshua wrote it while prophetically inspired.

Another possible answer to how he could have written this, taking the sefer Torah with him, which I saw from one of the meforshim, but I forget who: All this assumes that Moshe ascended the mountain and never descended. But consider. The first pasuk states:

1. And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, [to the] top of the summit facing Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the Land: The Gilead until Dan,א. וַיַּעַל מֹשֶׁה מֵעַרְבֹת מוֹאָב אֶל הַר נְבוֹ רֹאשׁ הַפִּסְגָּה אֲשֶׁר עַל פְּנֵי יְרֵחוֹ וַיַּרְאֵהוּה אֶת כָּל הָאָרֶץ אֶת הַגִּלְעָד עַד דָּן:
Thus, he ascended to the summit, to the top of the mountain. Where was he buried? A later pasuk states that:

6. And He buried him in the valley, in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Pe'or. And no person knows the place of his burial, unto this day.ו. וַיִּקְבֹּר אֹתוֹ בַגַּיְ בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב מוּל בֵּית פְּעוֹר וְלֹא יָדַע אִישׁ אֶת קְבֻרָתוֹ עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה:

He was thus buried in the valley, not on the mountain. If so, it strongly implies that he came down from the mountain. If so, what are we to make of the previous pasuk, which states:

5. And Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there, in the land of Moab, by the mouth of the Lord.ה. וַיָּמָת שָׁם מֹשֶׁה עֶבֶד יְ־הֹוָ־ה בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב עַל פִּי ה:

?! The word sham means "there", which would mean at the top of the mountain. The answer may well be that sham just means "in the land of Moav", in arvos Moav, which was mentioned in both pasuk 1 and pasuk 5. Thus, we need not say that Moshe died with his sefer Torah in his hand. Perhaps Rabbi Yehuda could answer this. Of course, the events of giving over the sefer Torah to the Leviim might have occurred before this. But perhaps not. Ain mukdam, and all that.


Chesky said...

 I can’t tell from your quote whether he was making the reference you suggest, but the Chasam Sofer did, in general, have a high opinion of Ibn Ezra; in regards to the zemerLibi Uvesori” the Mattersdorfer Rav quotes the Chasam Sofer has saying the poem proves its author attained ruach hakodesh.

Dov Kramer said...

I think Abarbanel says that Moshe went up and down Mt. Nevo numerous times, in order to explain why the tzivuy to go up back in Sefer Bamidbar. This verse implies that he went up for one final time, and never came down.

As far as being buried in a valley, not atop a mountain, remember that Mt. Nevo is in Reuvain's portion, but the berachos indicate that Moshe was buried in Gad's portion. Chazal tell us that Moshe was carried from where he died to where he was buried, so there's no issue of his having died on a mountain while being buried in a valley.

joshwaxman said...

Thanks. That is quite interesting. I don't know, but it seems to increase the odds that he knew this famous Ibn Ezra and was lending it support.

Thanks. It depends on one's methodology, I think. That is, I would say that the reason "Chazal tell us that Moshe was carried..." is that Chazal also spotted this difficulty, or another one, and resolved it in this manner. (Nothing I see on the peshat level of the brachot indicates burial in Gad's portion.) Same for Abarbanel. This is how he interprets the implication of the pesukim. So yes, it answers the question, but another parshan (not me, but the one I am quoting, whose identity I unfortunately cannot recall! -- it is one from my source post) can still use the difficulty and resolve it in another manner.

See for example R' Eleazar miGermayza who says that this that he was buried in the valley is a mashal, for it cannot be literal, as the second half of the pasuk contradicts it.

But thanks. Those are also good ways of resolving the question.


Dov Kramer said...

See Devarim 33:21, which seems to be saying that Gad chose the east side of the Jordan b/c Moshe woulod be buried there.

(See for my suggestion several years ago.)

joshwaxman said...

right. that is rashi, citing a gemara in Sotah. but ambiguous poetry is interpretable, and Ibn Ezra doesn't regard this as peshat. he writes:
וירא ראשית לו -
הטעם שראה לנפשו ויבקש לו נחלה קודם לישראל.

כי שם חלקת -
כמו חלק

ומחוקק -
הוא הגדול והשליט, כמו: לבי לחוקקי ישראל.

וספון -
כמו: וספון בארז (בתוכם ספונים) [צ"ל בבתיכם ספונים[, שטעמו: שהם ספונים.
וכן: קירות הספון.
והטעם: כי ראה ארמונים ספונים, שהיו חלק גדולי האמורי.


Dov Kramer said...

I just looked at the Chasam Sofer on the beginning of Parashas Emor (not "Toras Moshe," but "Chasam Sofer al HaTorah"), and he quotes Ibn Ezra "as quoted by Ramban" rather than quoting Ibn Ezra directly. I'm not sure if this indicates that he didn't have access to Ibn Ezra's actual commentary on Chumash (so had to rely on the quotes), or if he purposely quoted him that way as a dig.

In any case, I thought it was relevant to this post, so wanted to let you know.

BTW, I covered this issue this past year; you can see it at:

Good Shabbos!



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