Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ibn Caspi, and the dots over Aharon; also, a Torah Codes connection!

Summary: Ibn Caspi's note that plural and singular of pakad and pakdu would both be acceptable verbs might shed light on just how the variant of משה vs. משה ואהרן came about. Also, how Aharon's absence would mess up the Torah codes.

Post: In parashat Bamidbar, there is a pasuk with dots over the words Aharon. As I discussed in a previous post, a midrash explains that this indicates that Ezra haSofer was unsure about whether a word should be present, based on different textual witnesses which stood before him, and so, to satisfy both in an halachically acceptable manner, he wrote the word in the sefer Torah but put dots over it, where dots are typically a scribal convention for noting that a word should be removed. I further noted in that post that indeed, the Samaritans are missing the word Aharon on that verse. (Septuagint and Peshita have it, however.) In a follow-up post, I noted the implications, in terms of the eighth principle of faith of the Rambam as well as the antiquity of trup.

I will add to this the connection to Torah codes. Let us say a Torah code passes through this pasuk. If the word should not be there, for it was not in fact part of the Torah that Hashem transmitted to Moshe in the Midbar, then five letters are missing. If so, if we have a skip of say 50, and the previous letter was before this pasuk and the next was after this pasuk, then we would be identifying the wrong letter. And so for many many codes, and many words discovered within the code.

The other day, I saw an interesting comment in the commentary of Rabbi Yosef Ibn Caspi on a related pasuk, in the first rather than third perek. That pasuk:

מד  אֵלֶּה הַפְּקֻדִים אֲשֶׁר פָּקַד מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, וּנְשִׂיאֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר, אִישׁ:  אִישׁ-אֶחָד לְבֵית-אֲבֹתָיו, הָיוּ.44 These are those that were numbered, which Moses and Aaron numbered, and the princes of Israel, being twelve men; they were each one for his fathers' house.

Ibn Caspi writes:

אלו אמר אשר  פקדו היה נכון ג״כ
"Had it stated which they {pakdu} numbered it would also have been correct."

His point is that when you have a list of people, and an action, the verb could be in the singular or the plural form, and both are acceptable. (We could say, perhaps, that the verb is distributing across all actors. Or that the close binding selects the number and gender, but it still applies to all actors.) Compare with ותדבר מרים ואהרן במשה על אֹדות האשה הכֻּשית אשר לקח כי אשה כֻשית לקח, where vatedabeir is singular and feminine, even though another, male, actor is present.

I was thinking that perhaps this is related to the pasuk under consideration. Our pasuk reads:

לט  כָּל-פְּקוּדֵי הַלְוִיִּם אֲשֶׁר פָּקַד מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, עַל-פִּי יְהוָה--לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם:  כָּל-זָכָר מִבֶּן-חֹדֶשׁ וָמַעְלָה, שְׁנַיִם וְעֶשְׂרִים אָלֶף.  {ס}39 All that were numbered of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of the LORD, by their families, all the males from a month old and upward, were twenty and two thousand. {S}

Perhaps that there are two actors, Moshe and Aharon, yet a singular verb, pakud, made some scribe second guess the presence of Aharon. Since on the surface, it looks wrong, but on careful consideration, it is legitimate, the principle of lectio difficilior applies -- the more 'difficult' word or phrasing is more likely original. Even so, Ezra HaSofer considered both readings as eminently plausible, and we should keep that in mind as well.


Devorah said...

Is that the only word in the Torah with those dots?

joshwaxman said...

there are actually ten places in the Torah with dots over the letters. One other famous one is וישקהו, where Esav kisses Yaakov.

Cheski said...

In this case it may really mean that 'beAharon' should be deleted since in pasuk 14 Hashem commands only Moshe and not Aharon to count. Later on, Aharon is mentioned as well, including the words 'al pi Hashem', which appears to be a mistake since G'd did not command Aharon to do so.


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