Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why to Kohanim and not Kings?

Summary: Considering a suggestion of Chasam Sofer as to Rashi's choice in bringing one midrash of two. Does Rashi specify that the daughters of the tribe of Asher married kohanim gedolim, rather than kings.

Post: An interesting Rashi, which follows the one covered in the previous post. Same pasuk in parashat veZot haBeracha:

24. And of Asher he said: "May Asher be blessed with sons. He will be pleasing to his brothers, and immerse his foot in oil.כד. וּלְאָשֵׁר אָמַר בָּרוּךְ מִבָּנִים אָשֵׁר יְהִי רְצוּי אֶחָיו וְטֹבֵל בַּשֶּׁמֶן רַגְלוֹ:
Rashi comments:

May Asher be blessed with sons: I saw in Sifrei the following (33:24): “Among all of the tribes, you will not find one that is blessed with sons as Asher was.” But I do not know in which regard.ברוך מבנים אשר: ראיתי בספרי אין לך בכל השבטים שנתברך בבנים כאשר, ואיני יודע כיצד:
He will be pleasing to his brothers: Asher pleased his brothers with “Onpakinon oil” [oil of unripe olives, used for anointing one’s skin] and tasty foods (?), and they please him [by repaying him] with grain. Another explanation of “He will be pleasing to his brothers” : Because the women who came from Asher were beautiful [and were sought after for marriage]. This is the meaning of what is stated in Chronicles (I Chron. 7:31). [when it speaks of Malchiel, Asher’s grandson]“he was the father בִּרְזָיִת [literally, olive-child]” that is to say, his daughters were married to Kohanim Gedolim [and kings], who were anointed with olive oil (זַיִת) . - [Gen. Rabbah 71:10]יהי רצוי אחיו: שהיה מתרצה לאחיו בשמן אנפיקינון ובקפלאות והם מרצין לו בתבואה. דבר אחר יהי רצוי אחיו שהיו בנותיו נאות והוא שנאמר (דברי הימים א' ז, לא) הוא אבי ברזית, שהיו בנותיו נשואות לכהנים גדולים הנמשחים בשמן זית:

In terms of this second Rashi, about "He will be pleasing to his brothers", Rashi offers two explanations. The first is more along the lines of peshat, while the second is derash.

This second explanation, the midrash, fits in well with the theme Rashi is developing, and with a theme in the pasuk. After all, the previous phrase was בָּרוּךְ מִבָּנִים אָשֵׁר. And Rashi had explained that this was some quality about Asher's sons, better than that of other tribes. A natural progression would be to praise Asher's daughters, and so this is  יְהִי רְצוּי אֶחָיו. For the daughters would be wanted by echav, which would refer to the shevatim. The prooftext that they married specifically kohanim gedolim [and / or kings], who are from the tribes of Levi or Yehuda, was a verse in Divrei Hayamim. However, if we wished to look locally, we could look to the next phrase, וְטֹבֵל בַּשֶּׁמֶן רַגְלוֹ.

Rashi did not invent this of whole cloth. He is basing himself on a midrash. It occurs in Bereishit Rabba, 71:10. In analyzing parashat Vayeitzei, and Leah's naming of Asher:
ותאמר לאה באשרי כי אשרוני בנות לומר, אשרי מי שזכה לכך.

אמר רבי לוי:לא לן אשר באכסניא מימיו, ירש גבהי פלטריות, מה שלא ירש יהודה ארצות, הה"ד: (דה"א ז')בני אשר: ימנה, וישוה, וישוי, ובריעה, ושרח אחותם, הוא אבי ברזות.
ר' לוי ור' סימון
ר' לוי אמר:
שהיו בנותיהם נאים והיו נשואות לכהנים, שנמשחו בשמן המשחה, שמן זית.

ר' סימון אמר:שהיו נשואות למלכים, שנמשחו בשמן זית. 

There, banot is explicitly mentioned in the pasuk in Vayeitzei, and there is also the derasha from the pasuk in Divrei Hayamim, of the name ברזות.

Also, on parashat Vayechi, in Midrash Tanchuma, siman 13, a focus on the daughters marrying kings:
מאשר שמנה לחמו שבנותיו נאות, שנאמר: (בראשית ל) באשרי כי אשרוני בנות.
וכן הוא אומר: ברוך מבנים אשר יהי רצוי אחיו (דברים לג), על ידי בנותיו.

והוא יתן מעדני מלך שבנותיו ראויות למלכות.
וכן הוא אומר: המלבישכן שני עם עדנים (שמואל ב ח). 

As well as prooftexts from Vayeitzei, the pasuk under discussing in VeZos HaBerachah, and one from II Shmuel. This would appear to be the midrashic linkage to Zos Habrachah that Rashi is relying upon.

The Chasam Sofer asks an interesting question on Rashi. Why does he choose kohanim gedolim? After all, they also married kings. Shouldn't Rashi have mentioned that. He suggests an answer as follows: It is well known that good looks can cause one to sin. Despite the fact that the daughters of Asher were very pretty, they were still able to marry kohanim gedolim, who have the commandment to specifically marry a virgin. Thus, they stood firm in their faith and their modesty. And the bride who is modest merits to have kohanim gedolim issue forth from her, as Chazal darshened the pasuk of kol kevuda bat melech penima...

My reaction to this diyuk is that it makes for a nice homiletic dvar Torah, which can serve to inspire frum Jewesses to be more tznius. Judged on this basis, it is cute, and a nice combination of sources.

At the same time, I don't think that this accurately reflects Rashi's intent. Here are two of my objections.

First, we see that this is (likely) a dispute between Rabbi Levi and Rabbi Simon. Each interprets the shemen as a different sort of anointing oil. I don't believe that we should say eilu veEilu here, in a matter of metzius, even though it is certainly within our capabilities of saying it, and one does not need to contradict the other. If so, that Rashi chooses one side of the dispute doesn't mean that he is deliberately omitting some true fact.

Second, the specific identity of the tribe to which the daughters of Asher were fit and desirable is more or less irrelevant. Rashi first gave a peshat answer, and then a more midrashic answer. He wants to demonstrate that echav refers to men of a different tribe than Asher. In citing the midrash, either or is what is necessary and sufficient. It is not surprising that Rashi seized the first of the two positions in the argument, and didn't bother to cite the opposing position in a rather tangential detail.

An argument could be made for why this is the identification provided by Rabbi Levi. And we could then think up a reason for Rabbi Simon. But I am not persuaded that this was Rashi's thinking. Not every detail in Rashi should be the basis for a diyuk.

1 comment:

Rabbi Schulz said...

actually, according to many poskim, kohanim today are not real kohanim.



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