Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Why כי עקרה הוא is correct

Summary: and how the Samaritan correction is a correction, rather than original.

Post: In the very beginning of parashat Toledot, we encounter the following variant between the Samaritan text and the Masoretic text:

The text on the left is the Samaritan while the text on the write is the Masoretic text. In terms of el Hashem vs. laHashem, note how changing la to el simplifies the text slightly, given that lamed in the immediately following lenochach ishto. That could well be the reason for change.

But what about the הוא changing to היא? This seems like a clear case where the Samaritan text is correct. After all, the previous word is עקרה, which would indicate a female!

Minchas Shai notes the strangeness of הוא and cites a derasha:

כי עקרה הוא • הוא
כתיב מלמד שהיו שניהם עקורים כדאיתא בסוף פרק הבא
על יבמתו

Thus, that both of them were infertile. This is the derasha from Rabbi Yitzchak in Yevamot daf 64a, though his prooftext is different:
אמר רבי יצחק יצחק אבינו עקור היה שנאמר (בראשית כה, כא) ויעתר יצחק לה' לנכח אשתו על אשתו לא נאמר אלא לנוכח מלמד ששניהם עקורים היו
R. Isaac stated: Our father Isaac was barren; for it is said, And Isaac entreated the Lord opposite22  his wife.23  It does not say 'for his wife' but opposite. This teaches that both were barren.24
Thus, it is derived from the word לנכח, rather from the spelling of הוא. But once it is in place, I suppose it forms a nice support.

Is there any reason to suppose the Masoretic text is correct? I would argue that there is strong reason to believe this.

We are used to regularized spelling. but even English was not always this way. It was up to the writer to choose, and even the same writer did not always choose to spell a word the same way.

So too with Hebrew. When vowel letters (vav, yud, heh, aleph) began being used, not for their consonantal sound, but to indicate the presence of a vowel, there was considerable latitude. This is why we occasionally see a krei / ketiv in Bereishit 39:10 of:

kri - קרי
ktiv - כתיב

and in 49:11 of:

kri - קרי
ktiv - כתיב

and in 49:12 of:

kri - קרי
ktiv - כתיב

and in 39:20 of:

kri - קרי
ktiv - כתיב

It is not that there were multiple pronunciations which are being indicated by the krei and ketiv, but that the heh could stand in to represent that final vowel, or medial vowel. Eventually, which vowel letter stood in for each sound became standardized. But still, in our Masoretic texts, there are a number (11?) of instances in which hi is spelled with the middle vav rather than yud. {Update: I messed it up. As Yeedle writes in the comment section, most are written with the vav, and the number of exceptions are 18; [actually, yaak points out that 11 was right]. I reversed the one which is more and less common. My point, though, stands. I would add that as a commonly occurring word, it increases the likelihood that it would not get its spelling updated.}

The Samaritan scribes, in their effort to simplify and harmonize, would have good cause to fix the spelling to the more apparent, and modern spelling. But, that does not mean that the original was wrong. Indeed, this is a case of lectio difficilior, that the more difficult text is more likely the original.

By the way, as another example in close proximity, see the word goyim, meaning nations (that of Israel and Edom), spelled גיים, which we pronounce, and which the Samaritans spell as גוים. But more on that in a subsequent post.


yaak said...

I heard when I was a kid (I don't recall the source) that הוא has the gematria of 12. Since a woman can possibly conceive starting at the age of 11 (the recent 10-yr-old from Spain notwithstanding), Rivka who got married at 3 (acc. to some opinions) and gave birth at age 23 was barren for 12 years.

Yeedle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yeedle said...

It is interesting to note that the spelling הוא is used almost always even when referring to a female.

Gen. 3, 20
וַיִּקְרָא הָאָדָם שֵׁם אִשְׁתּוֹ חַוָּה כִּי הִוא הָיְתָה אֵם כָּל חָי

Gen. 7, 2
וּמִן הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא טְהֹרָה הִוא

Gen 12, 14
וַיְהִי כְּבוֹא אַבְרָם מִצְרָיְמָה וַיִּרְאוּ הַמִּצְרִים אֶת הָאִשָּׁה כִּי יָפָה הִוא מְאֹד

ibid 18-19
וַיִּקְרָא פַרְעֹה לְאַבְרָם וַיֹּאמֶר מַה זֹּאת עָשִׂיתָ לִּי לָמָּה לֹא הִגַּדְתָּ לִּי כִּי אִשְׁתְּךָ הִוא: {יט} לָמָה אָמַרְתָּ אֲחֹתִי הִוא וָאֶקַּח אֹתָהּ לִי לְאִשָּׁה

Gen. 17, 14
וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מֵעַמֶּיהָ

Gen 18, 10
וְשָׂרָה שֹׁמַעַת פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל וְהוּא אַחֲרָיו

Gen. 19, 38
וְהַצְּעִירָה גַם הִוא יָלְדָה בֵּן וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ בֶּן עַמִּי

I can go on and on :)

The spelling היא is actually used in the Mesoratic text only 18 times.

joshwaxman said...

ah. that's likely what i recalled, but was too lazy to look up, when I wrote "(11?)" in the post. I saw in some blurry source what looked like yud-aleph as a listing of exceptions, but it was really yud-ches. since i didn't look it up, i reversed which way it manifested.

thanks. i'll fix it in my post.

Yankel said...

It *is* 11 exceptions. See Masorah.

joshwaxman said...

teaches me to correct without double-checking. thanks. i'll fix it further.

Yeedle said...

The mesorah shows 18 places where היא with a yud appears. The number "11" is of where היא appears regarding a person or an animal, but does not count the instances where it appears in reference of an object or a city (I italicized them). (The reason might be because objects aren't really feminine or masculine, and referring to one as such is only semantical.) But overall the word היא used in a feminine referral, appears 18 times.

1)Gen. 14,2: וּמֶלֶךְ בֶּלַע הִיא צֹעַר

2)Gen. 18,20: הִנֵּה נָא הָעִיר הַזֹּאת קְרֹבָה לָנוּס שָׁמָּה וְהִיא מִצְעָר

3)Gen. 20,5: הֲלֹא הוּא אָמַר לִי אֲחֹתִי הִוא וְהִיא גַם הִוא אָמְרָה אָחִי הוּא

4)Gen. 26,7: כִּי טוֹבַת מַרְאֶה הִיא

5)Gen. 38,25: הִוא מוּצֵאת וְהִיא שָׁלְחָה אֶל חָמִיהָ לֵאמֹר

6)Gen. 40,10: וּבַגֶּפֶן שְׁלֹשָׁה שָׂרִיגִם וְהִיא כְפֹרַחַת

7)Exodus 1,16: וְאִם בַּת הִיא וָחָיָה

8)Lev. 5,11: כִּי חַטָּאת הִיא

9)Lev. 11,39: וְכִי יָמוּת מִן הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר הִיא לָכֶם לְאָכְלָה

10)Lev. 13,6: מִסְפַּחַת הִיא

11)Lev. 13,10: וְהִיא הָפְכָה שֵׂעָר לָבָן

12)Lev. 13,21: וְהִיא כֵהָה

13)Lev. 15,31: שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן הִיא

14)Lev. 20,17: וְהִיא תִרְאֶה אֶת עֶרְוָתוֹ

15)Lev. 20,18: וְהִיא גִּלְּתָה אֶת מְקוֹר דָּמֶיהָ

16)Lev. 21,9: אֶת אָבִיהָ הִיא מְחַלֶּלֶת

17)Num. 5,13: וְהִיא נִטְמָאָה

18)Num. 5,14: וְהִיא לֹא נִטְמָאָה

Josh, even double-checking won't do :)

joshwaxman said...

when i search snunit, this is what i get.
for hi, 4:
בראשית פרק יד
פסוק ב: עָשׂוּ מִלְחָמָה, אֶת-בֶּרַע מֶלֶךְ סְדֹם, וְאֶת-בִּרְשַׁע, מֶלֶךְ עֲמֹרָה; שִׁנְאָב מֶלֶךְ אַדְמָה, וְשֶׁמְאֵבֶר מֶלֶךְ צְבֹיִים, וּמֶלֶךְ בֶּלַע, הִיא-צֹעַר.
ויקרא פרק יא
פסוק ל"ט: וְכִי יָמוּת מִן-הַבְּהֵמָה, אֲשֶׁר-הִיא לָכֶם לְאָכְלָה--הַנֹּגֵעַ בְּנִבְלָתָהּ, יִטְמָא עַד-הָעָרֶב.
ויקרא פרק טז
פסוק ל"א: שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן הִיא לָכֶם, וְעִנִּיתֶם אֶת-נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם--חֻקַּת, עוֹלָם.
ויקרא פרק כא
פסוק ט: וּבַת אִישׁ כֹּהֵן, כִּי תֵחֵל לִזְנוֹת--אֶת-אָבִיהָ הִיא מְחַלֶּלֶת, בָּאֵשׁ תִּשָּׂרֵף.

for vehi, 7 pesukim:
בראשית פרק כ
פסוק ה: הֲלֹא הוּא אָמַר-לִי אֲחֹתִי הִוא, וְהִיא-גַם-הִוא אָמְרָה אָחִי הוּא; בְּתָם-לְבָבִי וּבְנִקְיֹן כַּפַּי, עָשִׂיתִי זֹאת.
בראשית פרק לח
פסוק כ"ה: הִוא מוּצֵאת, וְהִיא שָׁלְחָה אֶל-חָמִיהָ לֵאמֹר, לְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-אֵלֶּה לּוֹ, אָנֹכִי הָרָה; וַתֹּאמֶר, הַכֶּר-נָא--לְמִי הַחֹתֶמֶת וְהַפְּתִילִים וְהַמַּטֶּה, הָאֵלֶּה.
ויקרא פרק יג
פסוק י: וְרָאָה הַכֹּהֵן, וְהִנֵּה שְׂאֵת-לְבָנָה בָּעוֹר, וְהִיא, הָפְכָה שֵׂעָר לָבָן; וּמִחְיַת בָּשָׂר חַי, בַּשְׂאֵת.
פסוק כ"א: וְאִם יִרְאֶנָּה הַכֹּהֵן, וְהִנֵּה אֵין-בָּהּ שֵׂעָר לָבָן, וּשְׁפָלָה אֵינֶנָּה מִן-הָעוֹר, וְהִיא כֵהָה--וְהִסְגִּירוֹ הַכֹּהֵן, שִׁבְעַת יָמִים.
ויקרא פרק כ
פסוק י"ז: וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-יִקַּח אֶת-אֲחֹתוֹ בַּת-אָבִיו אוֹ בַת-אִמּוֹ וְרָאָה אֶת-עֶרְוָתָהּ וְהִיא-תִרְאֶה אֶת-עֶרְוָתוֹ, חֶסֶד הוּא--וְנִכְרְתוּ, לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי עַמָּם; עֶרְוַת אֲחֹתוֹ גִּלָּה, עֲו‍ֹנוֹ יִשָּׂא.
במדבר פרק ה
פסוק י"ג: וְשָׁכַב אִישׁ אֹתָהּ, שִׁכְבַת-זֶרַע, וְנֶעְלַם מֵעֵינֵי אִישָׁהּ, וְנִסְתְּרָה וְהִיא נִטְמָאָה; וְעֵד אֵין בָּהּ, וְהִוא לֹא נִתְפָּשָׂה.
פסוק י"ד: וְעָבַר עָלָיו רוּחַ-קִנְאָה וְקִנֵּא אֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ, וְהִוא נִטְמָאָה; אוֹ-עָבַר עָלָיו רוּחַ-קִנְאָה וְקִנֵּא אֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ, וְהִיא לֹא נִטְמָאָה.


certain examples you list, such as lev 20:18, snunit has with a vav, rather than a yud. thus:
וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-יִשְׁכַּב אֶת-אִשָּׁה דָּוָה, וְגִלָּה אֶת-עֶרְוָתָהּ אֶת-מְקֹרָהּ הֶעֱרָה, וְהִוא, גִּלְּתָה אֶת-מְקוֹר דָּמֶיהָ--וְנִכְרְתוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם, מִקֶּרֶב עַמָּם.

so, rather than the difference being semantic, this might be a difference in masorah between the text you are using and the text Minchas Shai refers to.

kol tuv,


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