Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Targum on וְלֹא בְּיָד חֲזָקָה

Summary: What was Rashi's original girsa of the Targum on Shemot 3:19?

Post: In Shemot 3:1, we read:

יט  וַאֲנִי יָדַעְתִּי--כִּי לֹא-יִתֵּן אֶתְכֶם מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם, לַהֲלֹךְ:  וְלֹא, בְּיָד חֲזָקָה.19 And I know that the king of Egypt will not give you leave to go, except by a mighty hand.
כ  וְשָׁלַחְתִּי אֶת-יָדִי, וְהִכֵּיתִי אֶת-מִצְרַיִם, בְּכֹל נִפְלְאֹתַי, אֲשֶׁר אֶעֱשֶׂה בְּקִרְבּוֹ; וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן, יְשַׁלַּח אֶתְכֶם.20 And I will put forth My hand, and smite Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in the midst thereof. And after that he will let you go.

velo would seem to mean, most literally, "and not". Yet, the JPS translation above renders it "except".

So too Judaica Press:

19. However, I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except through a mighty hand.יט. וַאֲנִי יָדַעְתִּי כִּי לֹא יִתֵּן אֶתְכֶם מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם לַהֲלֹךְ וְלֹא בְּיָד חֲזָקָה:

Onkelos appears to render it as "and not".

ג,יט וַאֲנִי יָדַעְתִּי--כִּי לֹא-יִתֵּן אֶתְכֶם מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם, לַהֲלֹךְ:  וְלֹא, בְּיָד חֲזָקָה.וּקְדָמַי גְּלֵי--אֲרֵי לָא יִשְׁבּוֹק יָתְכוֹן מַלְכָּא דְּמִצְרַיִם, לְמֵיזַל:  וְלָא, מִן קֳדָם דְּחֵילֵיהּ תַּקִּיף.

This is a close, literal translation. How can this work? Doesn't Hashem indeed put forth his strong outstretched hand such that Pharaoh lets them go, as the very next pasuk states? The key would appear to be the pronominal suffix in דְּחֵילֵיהּ. Take the daled as a prefix meaning "that", and it becomes, "and it is not because his [=Pharaoh's] power is strong.

This is made more explicit in Targum Pseudo-Yonatan:

"And I, before Me it is revealed, that the king of Egypt will not let you leave, and this is not because his power is strong, but rather because it is in my command to chastise him with evil plagues."

So too Ibn Ezra:
 כי על כן לא נתתיך לנגוע אליה. ולא בעבור יד החזקה שיש לו.

והגאון אמר:
ולא ביד חזקה בפעם אחת:

that it is Pharaoh's hand the pasuk is referring to. Though he cites Rav Saadia Gaon that it is Hashem's yad chazaka, but the point is that it will not be all at once.

In Ohev Ger, Shadal writes as follows:

Thus, first he notes the existence of variants which have דְּחֵילָא  rather than decheileih. I would note that this would match the lack of pronominal suffix in the Hebrew בְּיָד, but would make the terutz above attributing the hand to Pharaoh more difficult. Further, Shadal assesses the daled sheva of decheila not as a prefix meaning "that", but as a root letter. The word thus would mean "fear", in the phrase "great fear". I would note that it seems strange that yad chazaka would be translated as the equivalent of mora chazaka, but on the other hand, we do find yad chazaka and mora gadol in proximity. Maybe they can mean equivalent things. I still prefer cheil meaning force / power as a translation of yad.

Shadal then cites Rashi, who gives two different explanations of the pasuk. Thus, Rashi writes:
(יט) לא יתן אתכם מלך מצרים להלך - 

אם אין אני מראה לו ידי החזקה, כלומר כל עוד שאין אני מודיעו ידי החזקה

 לא יתן אתכם להלוך:
לא יתן - לא ישבוק, כמו:
(בראשית כ ו) על כן לא נתתיך.
(שם לא ז) ולא נתנו אלוהים להרע עמדי.
וכולן לשון נתינה הם.

ויש מפרשים: 
ולא ביד חזקה ולא בשביל שידו חזקה, כי מאז אשלח את ידי והכיתי את מצרים וגו', ומתרגמין אותו: ולא מן קדם דחיליה תקיף.
משמו של רבי יעקב ברבי מנחם נאמר לי:

According to Rashi's first reading, it means "except". According to the second reading, it means "not because his [=Pharaoh's] power is mighty." And they translate it, metargemin oto as ולא מן קדם דחיליה תקיף. Shadal points out that they have this targum, with the implication that Rashi did not have this Targum. If so, can we reconstruct Rashi's targum?

I think that one could take a conservative approach and base ourselves only on the variant Shadal already mentioned. Namely, is it the typical kamatz aleph suffix for both the absolute and definite article of Babylonian Aramaic? Or is it the eih pronominal suffix indicating that it is Pharaoh's hand.

However, Shadal finds something even more interesting in certain manuscripts. He assumes that since Rashi explains this velo as "except", or "if I don't" -- אם אין אני מראה לו ידי החזקה. He would thus like to find support for this in Rashi's variant of Targum Onkelos. That is, velo should be translated as the equivalent of ela.

Shadal thus suggests that the girsa of Onkelos was:
אֶלָא, מִן קֳדָם דְּחֵילָא תַּקִּיף.

That is, both the דְּחֵילָא variant and a variant of אֶלָא instead of וְלָא. And the scribes erroneously "corrected" Onkelos so as to make it parallel to the Hebrew. Indeed, he finds such a printing (from Anvirsa?), which has the word elahein rather than vela, paired with decheila rather than decheileih! And in a chumash he dubs 171 (meaning codex 1411) it has the same, but leads with vela elahein, an admixture of the two nuschaot, where the nakdan put the nikkud in on vela but not on elahein, for the nakdan believed that vela was primary. Shadal, in contrast, believes that the elahein is primary.

While this might well have been the correct original text of Onkelos which stood before Rashi, I wonder if we really need this. After all, both Onkelos and Rashi were able to understand the velo in Hebrew as functioning as this "except". Indeed, I would assert that this is a function of the repetition of the negative. The pasuk begins with כִּי לֹא-יִתֵּן  and ends with וְלֹא, בְּיָד חֲזָקָה. And in fact Rashi takes care to juxtapose these two in the beginning of his comment on the pasuk. It then becomes something like "and not X without Y". If we could say this for the Hebrew, perhaps we could say the same for the Aramaic as well.

Now for a word about Masorah. Our Masorah is very clearly with the word velo in place. There are clearly variants in Onkelos, but even if those variants in Onkelos (mentioned by Shadal) are true, that does not mean that the underlying Hebrew text, which stood as a basis for Onkelos' translation, was different. So too, our Masorah clearly has beyad chazaka, even though many variants of Onkelos have the pronominal suffix, as decheileih. This is a matter of interpretation, which every good translator must do.

Consider the Peshitta, which is an early Christian Targum which most often hews closely to the Masoretic text. They don't have a Hebrew text, so we would need to reconstruct the Hebrew Ur-text from their Syriac (=Aramaic) translation. It has:

Thus, they have both vela and elahein, and the nakdan decided to put vowel points on vela. This is precisely identical to Onkelos in Codex 1411, as mentioned by Shadal above.

Consider the Septuagint:
19 ἐγὼ δὲ οἶδα ὅτι οὐ προήσεται ὑμᾶς Φαραὼ βασιλεὺς Αἰγύπτου πορευθῆναι, ἐὰν μὴ μετὰ χειρὸς κραταιᾶς.
19 But I know that Pharao king of Egypt will not let you go, save with a mighty hand;

This is translating it as "except". We don't have the Hebrew Ur-text of the Septuagint, but I don't believe that we should reconstruct it as ela, or whatever the Hebrew equivalent of ela would be. This is translation, and sometimes a translator should not be slavishly literal.

And here is where it gets complicated. Consider, now, the Samaritan Torah and the Samaritan Targum.

They change the word velo into halo. And in translation, they insert a hala both before the la and as translation of halo. This appears to be a sort of conditional not, like "is it not". Thus, is it not that Pharaoh will not give permission to leave? Is not the powerful Hand required? This is not the same as ela (as far as I can tell), but we might start to think that this sort of variant actually exists in original Hebrew texts. But do not lose sight of the fact that this is a difficult verse to parse, and Samaritan scribes regularly "fix" the Hebrew text to eliminate difficulties. They could simply see the awkwardness of the original, decide how to parse it, and make the function of the lo's clearer by changing the Hebrew text. They are not bound by any religious imperative to act otherwise. So this should not color our views of Onkelos, Targum Yonatan, Peshitta, or Septuagint. And this should perhaps serve as a model for other instances which are not so clear, that this sort of deviation for the sake of translation clarity can and does happen.

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