Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Does the Zohar have mishpatai instead of mitzvotai in the first pasuk of Bechukotai?

Summary: Maybe it is a careless error. That would be my guess. But there are other resolutions.

Post: The first pasuk of parashat Bechukotai reads:

ג  אִם-בְּחֻקֹּתַי, תֵּלֵכוּ; וְאֶת-מִצְו‍ֹתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם.3 If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them;

Meanwhile, we encounter the following in the Zohar on parashat Bechukosai:

 16. "If you walk in My statutes" (Vayikra 26:3). "My statutes," is the place upon which the decrees of the Torah depend, NAMELY MALCHUT, as is written: "and keep My statutes" (Vayikra 18:4). MALCHUT is called 'a statute', and the decrees of the Torah are comprised in it. "And keep My laws" (Vayikra 25:18). Law is another high place, ZEIR ANPIN, to which the statute, MALCHUT, cleaves, and the upper and lower cleave to each other. All the precepts of the Torah, the decrees of the Torah, and the sanctities of the Torah cleave to ZEIR ANPIN AND MALCHUT, since they are the Written Torah, ZEIR ANPIN, and the Oral Torah, MALCHUT.

 17. Hence, "My statutes," are all those decrees and judgments, punishments, and commandments, which pertain to the place called the Oral Torah; NAMELY MALCHUT CALLED 'statute'. "And keep My laws," NAMELY in the place called the Written Torah, ZEIR ANPIN, as is written: "a law of the Elohim of Jacob" (Tehilim 81:5), WHICH IS ZEIR ANPIN CALLED 'JACOB'. They are attached to each other, and all is one, the whole of the Holy Name, NAMELY THE UNION OF ZEIR ANPIN AND MALCHUT. He who transgresses the words of the Torah is as if he renders defective the Holy Name, since a statute and a law is the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He. Therefore, "If you walk in My statutes," is the Oral Torah; and, "and keep my Laws," is the Written Torah. This is the totality of the Holy Name.

18. "And do them" (Vayikra 26:3). HE ASKS: What is the meaning of "and do them"? It already says "walk," and, "keep." Why ADD, "and do them"? HE ANSWERS: He who observes the precepts of the Torah and walks in His paths is as if He made Him above. The Holy One, blessed be He, says, 'as if he made Me.' This has been explained. Therefore, "and do them," THE STATUTE AND THE LAW, ZEIR ANPIN AND MALCHUT. Indeed it says, "and do them," since through being roused by you they join each other, so that the Holy Name will properly prevail. Indeed, you "do them."

It seems pretty straightforward that the Zohar is darshening the pasuk in order. Thus, first 'If ye walk in My statutes'; then, 'and keep My commandments'; and finally, 'and do them'. This is clear from the last cited paragraph. And the first two paragraphs darshen each phrase and contrast the two.

But the problem is that the Zohar cites, and darshens, the wrong words! Instead of  וְאֶת-מִצְו‍ֹתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ, it has וְאֶת-מִשְׁפָּטַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ. What could cause this?

Well, this is certainly not the first time the Zohar darshens pesukim which differ from our Masorah. Minchas Shai and Or Torah comment on this phenomenon the many, many times that it occurs. In this particular instance, it seems that this error was due to Rav Moshe de Leon, forger of the Zohar, either misremembering the pasuk when he made his derasha or else relying upon a faulty Torah manuscript. Why would mishpatei be inserted in this place, instead of mitzvotai? Well, mishpat vs. chok is the common alternation, and the common derasha. Plus, this phrase of ve'et mishpatay tishmeru appears in parashat Behar, in Vayikra 25:18:

יח  וַעֲשִׂיתֶם, אֶת-חֻקֹּתַי, וְאֶת-מִשְׁפָּטַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם--וִישַׁבְתֶּם עַל-הָאָרֶץ, לָבֶטַח.18 Wherefore ye shall do My statutes, and keep Mine ordinances and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety.

I would note that Vetus Testamentum gives this as an alternate text in certain Jewish Masoretic texts. Thus:

texts #80, 300, 653, and I think 14, have it. I would then guess that either Rav Moshe de Leon happened across one of these texts, or one related to them, or else the same force which impels his error also impelled errors in these other Torah texts. (One might argue that it is more likely for a random Rishon, Rav Moshe de Leon, to make such an error, just as he often does in the Zohar, more than it would be likely for a Tanna such as, say, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.)

(The pasuk et chukotai toshmoru is not a question, by the way, because it is cited as a foreign prooftext proving something for the local sugya, as is clear from the flow.)

Minchas Shai notes this shifted text in the Zohar,

and discusses how mitzvotai in this instance means mishpatai.

Birkas Avraham mounts a nice defense of the Zohar. He writes:

"However, in truth, there is no question here, and in the printings of the sefer haZohar which are printed in our times, and in them are marei mekomot for the pesukim, and they point simply that the verse et chukotai toshmoru is earlier, in Acharei Mot (Vayikra 18:4), and the verse ve'et mishpatay tishmeru is earlier, in parashat Behar (Vayikra 25:18). And all comes to its place in peace, and they are the derashot of the Sefer HaZohar to explain the difference between chok and mishpat, see there.

And I have further seen in the glosses of Rabbi Chaim Vital, za"l, upon the sefer HaZohar here, (in the Vilna printing), that he sensed all of this, and he wrote, and this is his language: 'so are we gores: et chukotai tishmeru without a vav,' and he points out that the verse ve'et mishpatai tishmoru which is brought in the Zohar, this verse is in parashat Behar Sinai, and is written here in error. And earlier, in that pasuk is darshened this derasha: et chukotai taasu ve'et mishpatay tishmeru, end quote.  
And apparently, even in his words one needs to correct, and one needs to write (Vayikra 25:18) va'asitem et chukotai ve'et mishpatay tishmeru."
By this last, it seems that Birkas Avraham means that it needs to be corrected because Rav Chaim Vital seems to have quoted this other pasuk in Behar incorrectly. I would suggest that really Rav Chaim Vital got it wrong, but was perhaps thinking of a different pasuk, in Vayikra 18:4:
 אֶת-מִשְׁפָּטַי תַּעֲשׂוּ וְאֶת-חֻקֹּתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ, לָלֶכֶת בָּהֶם:  אֲנִי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם.
This happens when one works from memory. But this is the same pasuk Birkas Avraham quoted earlier, from Acharei Mos. It works out nicely because in this way, it is a steady digression to darshening this other pasuk in Acharei Mos, rather than picking and choosing random pesukim from Acharei Mos and Behar.

This seems possible, but I am not certain I am willing to give the Zohar the benefit of the doubt here. Perhaps if it were the only derasha differing from the masorah, but as it stands, it rather seems like Rav Moshe de Leon was generally careless about quoting and darshening pesukim. Further, the flow of the text in the Zohar in the first paragraph, and reinforced by the third paragraph, really seems this way.

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