Saturday, March 05, 2011

Betzalel did all that Hashem commanded Moshe, pt ii

Summary: Into the fray! Looking at the Levush Ha'Orah, who takes other meforshei Rashi to task.

Post: In the previous post, I discussed how it is likely that Rashi only actually wrote the first half of the following Rashi at the start of Pekudei (translation my own):

22. Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, had made all that the Lord had commanded Moses.
כב. וּבְצַלְאֵל בֶּן אוּרִי בֶן חוּר לְמַטֵּה יְהוּדָה עָשָׂה אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶת מֹשֶׁה:

And Betzalel ben Uri... made all that Hashem commanded Moshe: "
that Moshe commanded" is not written here, but rather "that Hashem commanded Moshe". Even those things which his master {Moshe} did not say to him, his opinion coincided which that which was stated to Moshe on Sinai, for Moshe commanded Betzalel to first make the vessels and afterwards the Mishkan. Betzalel said to him, the custom of the world is to first make the house and afterwards place the vessels within it. He said to him, "so did I hear from the mouth of Hashem." Moshe said to him, "you were in the shadow of God", for certainly so did Hashem command me. And so did he first make the Mishkan and afterwards make the vessels.
ובצלאל בן אורי וגו' עשה את כל אשר צוה ה' את משה: אשר צוה משה אין כתיב כאן, אלא כל אשר צוה ה' את משה, אפילו דברים שלא אמר לו רבו, הסכימה דעתו למה שנאמר למשה בסיני, כי משה צוה לבצלאל לעשות תחלה כלים ואחר כך משכן, אמר לו בצלאל מנהג עולם לעשות תחלה בית ואחר כך משים כלים בתוכו. אמר לו כך שמעתי מפי הקב"ה. אמר לו משה בצל אל היית, כי בוודאי כך צוה לי הקב"ה, וכן עשה המשכן תחלה ואחר כך עשה הכלים:

Namely, based on manuscript evidence, Rashi only wrote up to, but not including, the words כי משה צוה לבצלאל לעשות תחלה. That is, he cited the Yerusalmi Peah but not the gemara in Berachot. This is important, because the juxtaposition of the two midrashim paints a very different picture. Independently, it is simple omission which Betzalel supplies; and implication by ordering of the statements. Put together, it seems to be an error of commission on Moshe's part, which Betzalel corrected.

The Levush HaOrah believes the text of Rashi to be inclusive of both midrashim, and must grapple with this. But he takes many other meforshei Rashi to task for how they interpret this Rashi. This is a lengthy piece, so perhaps I'll analyze only after presenting his words. I certainly can identify with his sentiment about meforshei Rashi who explain Rashi in ways that Rashi never intended.

First he cites the pasuk and Rashi. Then, he writes:

"Since I have seen the meforshim of the words of Rashi corrupting the words of Rashi with ideas which never entered his mind. And they explain that which is written, כך שמעתי מפי הקב"ה, that it means that Moshe said to Betzalel that 'this, namely that which I spoke to you to make the vessels first {was what Hashem indeed commanded me}'; and afterwards, he said to him, 'but you, Betzalel, were in the shade of God, that you said to make the Mishkan first, and only afterwards the vessels.' And they attempt to bolster their words with many weak and corrupt reasons -- see their words. But I read upon them {the verse Tehillim 82:5} -- לֹא יָדְעוּ, וְלֹא יָבִינוּ בַּחֲשֵׁכָה יִתְהַלָּכוּ -- "They know not, neither do they understand; they go about in darkness..." for they do not even see the words of Rashi at the start of this statement, that he wrote אפילו דברים שלא אמר לו רבו, הסכימה דעתו למה שנאמר למשה בסיני, that "even matters that his master did not tell him, his opinion coincided which that which was stated to Moshe on Sinai." Thus, explicitly, Rashi za"l wrote that so was said to Moshe on Sinai, that the Mishkan should be made first, and afterwards the vessels. 

And furthermore, if it were like their words, that so indeed did Hashem say to Moshe, the vessels first and afterwards the Mishkan, how could it enter their minds that even Betzalel, forfend, would change the words of Hashem; even if they had ideas and reasons from their own thoughts to make the Mishkan first, forfend for them to actually act it out in practice, to change from the words of Hashem, if not with inquiry from Hashem, just as was done by the impure men, that he {=Moshe} said 'stand here, and I will listen what Hashem commands..." For perhaps such was the decree of the King, to make the vessels first, and Hashem would not concern himself with the reason of Betzalel or Moshe, for it is a statute from before Him to be so! 

And furthermore, even the simple reading of the verse these men {=commentators} did not see, for behold it is an explicit pasuk in Vayakhel {Shemot 35}:

ד  וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה, אֶל-כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר:  זֶה הַדָּבָר, אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה ה לֵאמֹר.4 And Moses spoke unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: 'This is the thing which the LORD commanded, saying:
ה  קְחוּ מֵאִתְּכֶם ...5 Take ye from among you ...

and then 

י  וְכָל-חֲכַם-לֵב, בָּכֶם, יָבֹאוּ וְיַעֲשׂוּ, אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה.10 And let every wise-hearted man among you come, and make all that the LORD hath commanded:
יא  אֶת-הַמִּשְׁכָּן--אֶת-אָהֳלוֹ, וְאֶת-מִכְסֵהוּ; אֶת-קְרָסָיו, וְאֶת-קְרָשָׁיו, אֶת-בְּרִיחָו, אֶת-עַמֻּדָיו וְאֶת-אֲדָנָיו.11 the tabernacle, its tent, and its covering, its clasps, and its boards, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets;
יב  אֶת-הָאָרֹן וְאֶת-בַּדָּיו, אֶת-הַכַּפֹּרֶת; וְאֵת, פָּרֹכֶת הַמָּסָךְ.12 the ark, and the staves thereof, the ark-cover, and the veil of the screen;

{and thus the Mishkan is listed to be constructed first, in Moshe's command!}

and this parasha was said to Israel immediately after Yom Kippur, when Moshe descended from the mountain, as Rashi explains there. And behold, Moshe there explicitly precedes Mishkan to the vessels, as was said to him on Sinai! And so how could these men {=meforshim} say here that Moshe said to Betzalel, "so did I hear just as I said, the vessels first and afterwards the Mishkan"?! And the essence of what they entered into this forced interpretation and these errors was only because of a difficulty that troubled them, according to their error -- how could it enter one's mind that Moshe erred and said to Israel the opposite of what he heard from Hashem? This would be a lack in the bosom of the master of the prophets, forfend. Therefore, they said what they said, and so corrupted, in order to fix this. But they fell into a great distortion, even greater than this, as I have shown you.

And Gur Aryeh wrote here words which are not fit for any intelligent person to say, even upon the smallest of the prophets, all the more so regarding Moshe Rabbenu, peace be upon him {or, eved Hashem, servant of Hashem}, the father of the prophets and wise men. For he wrote that Moshe forgot the command of Hashem, who commanded him to make the Mishkan first. Forfend, forfend that Moshe forgot the words of Hashem! And just the opposite, he {=Gur Aryeh} forgot parashat Vayakhel, for there Moshe explicitly commanded regarding the Mishkan first. 

Therefore, I will relate to you the sketch, in true writing, that which is with my heart, regarding the true meaning of the words of Rashi za"l. And I say upon the verses of the Torah that which was taught to me from Heaven {?}, that certainly Moshe did not reverse the words of Hashem, nor did he forget them, forfend. Rather, immediately after his descent from the mountain, he gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel, etc. And without a doubt, Betzalel and all the wise-hearted men were also among that congregation.

and Moshe said to them there all of the parasha of Vayakhel, to inform you in a general way that which Hashem commanded regarding the work of the Mishkan, in order to atone for the sin of the Calf. And he said to them all of it in order, just as he heard on Sinai from the mouth of Hashem, the Mishkan first and afterwards the vessels, in a general way {?} so that Israel would know what to donate for the sake of the work. But the details of the word, its dimensions, measurements,  amounts and weights, he did not relate to them just then, until he learned with them parashat Terumah, for there are written all the details of the work. And afterwards, when he learned with them parshat Terumah, and he began with them the ark, the table and the candelabrum, and afterwards the Mishkan, Betzalel was uncertain which order Moshe was instructing him in to do first, whether the order of parashat Vayakhel or the order of parashat Terumah. For certainly the former was said to him deliberately, and that which he changed one time, he had some purpose to it. And therefore, at that time, Betzalel said to Moshe, "which order did you hear first, that of Vayakhel or that of Terumah?" And he finished his words by saying, 'But logic would offer that the order of parashat Vayakhel was said to you first, for the custom of the world is such, to first make the house and afterwards the vessels within it.' And Moshe said to him, 'so indeed did I hear from the mouth of Hashem on Sinai just as you are saying, the Mishkan first and afterwards the vessels, as I ordered it in parashat Vayakhel. And afterwards, he began to praise him; and Moshe said to Betzalel, 'You were in the shade of God, for you arrived by yourself at the truth, that which Hashem said to me on Sinai. For certainly so did He command me, etc. And that which I began now in parashat Terumah with the work on the vessels, and began with the ark first, there is to me in it a certain reason I heard,' which was in his mind to reveal to them orally afterwards. 

And the intent, it appears to me, which is reveals and obvious, is that since the immediately preceding parasha before the construction of the aron ended with 'and construct for me a Mikdash and I will dwell among them, etc.,' this is to inform them the purpose of Hashem in the construction of the Mishkan, in order that He will dwell among them, etc., is it necessary to tell them immediately the primary place of the Divine Presence, what place its Glory would rest, and this is that it would be upon the aron, just as it concludes there in the parasha of the aron, 'and I will make Myself known to you and I will speak with you, etc.' And since he began with the aron, which was one vessel of the vessels of the Mishkan, he finished afterwards the construction of all the vessels, one after another.

And he learned with them the construction of the table, and afterwards the construction of the candelabrum. And afterwards he began to learn with them the construction of the Mishkan proper. And this was so {?}, even though it was revealed and apparent, even so, Betzalel was precise about it, to ask, since he was appointed over all the craftsmen, with great thought are care, lest, forfend, he would err in the construction and violate the word of Hashem. For he thought that perhaps it was a statute from the Mouth of Hashem just as Moshe said to him now, to make the aron first, and that that which he said to him beforehand in parashat Vayakhel to make the Mishkan first, perhaps Moshe said so because the custom of the world was such. Therefore, he did not wish to do anything of his own accord, and to depend upon his own intellect and thought-process, and so he asked the mouth of Moshe his teacher, and said to him, "which of the parshiot did you hear first from the Mouth of Hashem on Sinai?" And he revealed to him his thought in the course of asking the question, like a student who asks his teacher. And he said to Him, "Moshe my teacher, my thoughts incline to that you heard parashat Vayakhel on Sinai, for the custom of the words is such, to make the house first and afterwards to place vessles within it, and that that which you are beginning now in the parasha of the aron, you have an intent of some sort." And I say that the intent was as I wrote, and that Betzalel as well knew, and asked it to him. Or perhaps there are many other intents, for there are seventy faces to the Torah. And Moshe answered him that certainly so, as he said, and he concluded his words and he said to him, 'So did I hear on Sinai, the Mishkan first, etc.' And afterwards he began to praise him upon this and said 'Your name informs about your intellect, and your name is fitting to you, for your name is Betzalel and in the ShadowOfGod you were.' So it appears to me it the true explanation of Rashi."

So ends the explanation of the Levush HaOrah on this Rashi. And now, for my reaction and analysis. First, as I wrote at the start, if Rashi did NOT actually discuss the gemara in Berachot, then it is a game-changer, for the juxtaposition of the midrashim is what sparks much of the difficulty here. Taken by itself, the first midrash is just Betzalel intuiting details Moshe heard but did not (yet) inform him. And taken by itself, the second midrash is about a changed order, but that the laws are presented in one order does not necessarily mean that the order of actual construction must be the same; yet Betzalel saw that one might understand it that way, asked about it to Moshe, and Moshe told him that indeed the correct order, which Hashem told him on Sinai, was the Mishkan first. The juxtaposition creates a different impression, and one which is reinforced by "Rashi's" words כי משה צוה לבצלאל לעשות תחלה כלים ואחר כך משכן.

In terms of Levush HaOrah's explanation, I absolutely agree with him as to the motivation of these unnamed commentators, that how could we have Moshe mess up Hashem's command? And I agree with him in rejecting this explanation from these unnamed commentators. I like his proof from the beginning of Rashi, that it is an omission, rather than an entirely accurate rendition of what Hashem commanded him. I don't like the proof from Vayakhel as much, because this would not necessarily be in the sights of the author of the midrash or in Rashi's sights. Midrash sometimes focuses on one pasuk to the exclusion of others which could clarify or contradict.

I disagree with him that Gur Aryeh offers a bad peshat in Rashi here. Certainly, the earlier implication is that Moshe omitted something, and that he admits that indeed so did Hashem speak to him. It would not be the end of the world for Moshe to forget this. And Moshe forgot halachot elsewhere due to anger. And it seems to be the simple peshat in "Rashi's" words,  כי משה צוה לבצלאל לעשות תחלה כלים ואחר כך משכן. What seems blasphemous to me and you might not be blasphemous to Rashi, or whoever wrote these words which were incorporated in Rashi. And if one takes great offense at the blasphemy, one is less willing to honestly consider the explanation as a possibility.

We can take the sentence  כי משה צוה לבצלאל לעשות תחלה כלים ואחר כך משכן in a slightly more forced way, by transposing in our imagination the word techila and laasot. Then, it would read 'for Moshe commanded first to Betzalel to make the vessels and afterwards the Mishkan', rather than 'for Moshe commanded to Betzalel to first to make the vessels and [only] afterwards the Mishkan.' One way is the order of issuing the commands, while the other is the issuing a command as to the order.

Levush HaOrah obviously understands the sentence in the way I mentally reordered it. But besides being more forced, he must introduce a lot of theory and calculations into Moshe and Betzalel's discussion. Namely, he must introduce Betzalel's awareness of two competing orderings, something not mentioned at all by the midrash; and he must introduce that Betzalel assumed that whichever order (that of Terumah or that of Vayakhel) was said first on Sinai was the correct order, something with no basis and with no mention in the midrash; and he must introduce that Betzalel's reason was a reason for preferring one mentioned order over another mentioned order; and he wants to introduce a reason for the changed order in Terumah, as part of the proceedings. We end up with a more intricate and elaborate midrash, which in my assessment, takes us further from the true peshat in the midrash.

Therefore, my assessment is that Rashi didn't say it; but whoever did say it, it seems likely that the intent was like that given by Gur Aryeh.

[Another interesting point in this Rashi, but I don't want to make a whole other post for it. Bet Natan is gores "kach shamaTA," as a question, rather than "kach shamaTI" as a statement, on the basis of the gemara where Moshe asks if he was on Har Sinai. This might be sparked by, and certainly could resolve, some of the above problems.]

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