Sunday, May 01, 2011

The meaning of שנאמרה פרשה זו בהקהל

Summary: Somewhat obstinately, I insist on a strange yet straightforward meaning of this phrase. How can we square this with contrary halacha and with the text of the pesukim?

Post: At the beginning of the sidra of Kedoshim, we read:

1. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,א. וַיְדַבֵּר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר:
2. Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.ב. דַּבֵּר אֶל כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם:
דבר אל כל עדת בני ישראל: מלמד שנאמרה פרשה זו בהקהל, מפני שרוב גופי תורה תלויין בה:

What is meant by the statement that נאמרה פרשה זו בהקהל, that this parasha was stated in 'Hakhel'? Perhaps an ignorant, but straightforward interpretation, is that this parasha was said regularly on Succot after Shemita,  recited by the king.

There are two glaring problems with such an interpretation. First, this is not one of the things recited by the king at Hakhel:

The reading consisted of the following sections from the Book of Deuteronomy:
  1. From the beginning of the book through Shema Yisrael (6:4);
  2. The second paragraph of the Shema (11:13-21);
  3. "You shall surely tithe" (14:22-27);
  4. "When you have finish tithing" (26:12-15);
  5. The section about appointing a king (17:14-20);
  6. The blessings and curses (28:1-69).
Second, this seems a derasha on the word כָּל in כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, such that we understand that there is a different audience than Moshe's regular audience. Still, it would seem rather clear that it is still Moshe Rabbenu who is delivering this message. How would we deduce that that there would be a recurring audience at Hakhel from this, when nothing in the pesukim would seem to indicate this?

I think that because of these two glaring problems, the meforshei Rashi, in general, are guided to explain this in other ways. Thus, Mizrachi explains it as follows:

It is a hakhala, a massive gathering of the people. He contrasts it to the typical method of Moshe's delivering Divine missives, mentioned, for example, by Rashi at the end of parashat Ki Tisa {Shemot 34}:

31. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the princes of the community returned to him, and Moses would speak to them.לא. וַיִּקְרָא אֲלֵהֶם מֹשֶׁה וַיָּשֻׁבוּ אֵלָיו אַהֲרֹן וְכָל הַנְּשִׂאִים בָּעֵדָה וַיְדַבֵּר מֹשֶׁה אֲלֵהֶם:
הנשאים בעדה: כמו נשיאי העדה:
וידבר משה אליהם: שליחותו של מקום, ולשון הווה הוא כל הענין הזה:
32. Afterwards all the children of Israel would draw near, and he would command them everything that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.לב. וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן נִגְּשׁוּ כָּל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיְצַוֵּם אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אִתּוֹ בְּהַר סִינָי:
ואחרי כן נגשו: אחר שלמד לזקנים, חוזר ומלמד הפרשה או ההלכה לישראל. תנו רבנן כיצד סדר המשנה, משה היה לומד מפי הגבורה, נכנס אהרן, שנה לו משה פרקו, נסתלק אהרן וישב לו לשמאל משה, נכנסו בניו, שנה להם משה פרקם, נסתלקו הם, ישב אלעזר לימין משה ואיתמר לשמאל אהרן, נכנסו זקנים, שנה להם משה פרקם, נסתלקו זקנים ישבו לצדדין, נכנסו כל העם שנה להם משה פרקם, נמצא ביד כל העם אחד, ביד הזקנים שנים, ביד בני אהרן שלשה, ביד אהרן ארבעה וכו' כדאיתא בעירובין (נד ב):

The problem with this is that the typical method of Moshe delivering it to the people is more elaborate and repetitive than this gathering, Hakhel, in parashat Kedoshim. Why then, this specific divergent method. The answer that מפני שרוב גופי תורה תלויין בה does not seem to make sense. They would learn it better in the typical manner. My father suggested that this would be the psychological impact of having an elaborate gathering. I've seen meforshim suggest that this way, there could be no contradiction between different traditions of what people heard from Moshe. None of this do I find very convincing, but maybe these are indeed good answers, or maybe there is a better answer I haven't encountered.

Also, Mizrachi's answer that all the nation, in general, came kat achar kat, one group after another, does not appear to work with Rashi's citation of the midrash in Ki Tisa. Because it ends, there:
נסתלקו זקנים ישבו לצדדין, נכנסו כל העם שנה להם משה פרקם, נמצא ביד כל העם אחד, ביד הזקנים שנים
If the zekeinim were on the side when Moshe taught the am, and they came in group after group, then the zekeinim would have heard it many, many times, not just two!

And so, I would like to revert to my first, perhaps ignorant reading, that it actually means that it was to be said specifically during Hakhel, by the king.

Rashi appears to be directly encoding the words of the Sifra:

He leaves it just as ambiguous as the original, so I don't know that it is possible to know for certain how Rashi understands this.

Chizkuni, I think, clearly sees this possibility and takes steps to protect the reader against it. Thus:

Why change behakhel to be-kinus, thus modifying the words of the midrash? I think it is to clarify matters, so that we should not, chas veshalom, think that it means during Hakhel.

I am not sure how Ramban interprets this. For Ramban writes:
אל כל עדת בני ישראל - כבר אמרו רבותינו (תו"כ ריש הפרשה): שהפרשה הזו נאמרה בהקהל מפני שרוב גופי תורה תלויין  בה. וזה טעם"אל כל עדת בני ישראל". אבל הוזכרה כאן בתורת הכוהנים מפני שידבר בה על קורבן התודה, ומפני שיזכיר בה המשפט שיצווה לעשות בעושי התועבות הנזכרות והעריות, והתועבות הוזכרו בספר הזה מפני הטעם שכתבנו בתחילת הספר.
By Toras Kohanim, Ramban means sefer Vayikra. And by Toras Kohanim in parentheses, whoever pointed us there means the Sifra, the midrashic commentary on sefer Vayikra. Ramban thinks that this is out of place because it was said beHakhel, and then needs to justify its present place. Perhaps he means some place that Moshe addressed the entire congregation. Or maybe he understands it as something the king should say, yet it is not placed in sefer Devarim along with the rest of the material the king would say during Hakhel. (Looking now at the Virtual Bet Midrash, I see that Rav Menachem Kasher in Torah Shleima makes the same diyuk in the Ramban. Baruch Shekivanti!)

An examination of other sources might reinforce this reading. Thus, this statement does not only appear in the Sifra but in Vayikra Rabba as well:
תני, ר' חייא: 
פרשה זו נאמרה בהקהל מפני שרוב גופי תורה תלויין בה.

ר' לוי אמר:
מפני שעשרת הדברות כלולין בתוכה.

אנכי ה' אלהיך וכתיב: הכא: אני ה' אלהיכם.
לא יהיה לך
וכתיב הכא: ואלהי מסכה לא תעשו לכם.
לא תשא וכתיב הכא:
ולא תשבעו בשמי.
זכור את יום השבת. וכתיב הכא: את שבתתי תשמורו. כבד את אביך ואת אמך.
וכתיב הכא: איש אמו ואביו תיראו. לא תרצח. וכתיב הכא: לא תעמוד על דם רעך. 
לא תנאף

וכתיב הכא: מות יומת הנואף והנואפת.

לא תגנוב 
וכתיב הכא: לא תגנובו. 

לא תענה
וכתיב הכא: לא תלך רכיל. לא תחמוד וכתיב הכא: ואהבת לרעך כמוך. 
Consider the two reasons advanced in this midrash for saying this parasha beHakhel. If it actually means during Hakhel, then it is a rather strong reason. People come from all over Eretz Yisrael to get their Torah reinforced, at these regular seven-year intervals. Rabbi Chiyya is stressing how important these ideas are, that they bear being repeated: מפני שרוב גופי תורה תלויין בה. Rabbi Levi is stressing how it is a reenactment of Har Sinai. Indeed, even modern Biblical scholars point out that a regular feature of treaties in the Ancient Near East was that they had to be taken out and repeated at regular intervals. This was likely the function of Hakhel, a regular reenactment and repetition of maamid Har Sinai. And so everyone gathered together for this. And so, this theme (mentioned by Chizkuni and Ibn Ezra as well) that this is a restatement of key themes in the Aseres Hadibros.

Yet, as I pointed out at first, there were at least two glaring issues I mentioned above. Those were:
  • It is not among the things the king recites during Hakhel!
  • How are we to read this into the pesukim?!
In terms of the first issue, this is by no means the first instance in which the Sifra contradicts the gemara, and the derashot in the gemara. We can simply say that it is a machlokes, just like the many other times we have seen.

In terms of the second issue, I would indeed read this directly into the pesukim. Those pesukim, again, were:

1. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
א. וַיְדַבֵּר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר:
2. Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.
ב. דַּבֵּר אֶל כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם:

When we have the pattern of vaydaber Hashem el Moshe leimor, we find two manifestations. One is found, for example, in Shemot 13:1:
א וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר.  ב קַדֶּשׁ-לִי כָל-בְּכוֹר פֶּטֶר כָּל-רֶחֶם, בִּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--בָּאָדָם, וּבַבְּהֵמָה:  לִי, הוּא.

We have the statement that "Hashem said to Moshe, saying", followed immediately by the actual instruction of what people are to do to fulfill the command.

The second manifestation appears, for example, in Shemot 14:1:

א וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר.  ב דַּבֵּר, אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיָשֻׁבוּ וְיַחֲנוּ לִפְנֵי פִּי הַחִירֹת, בֵּין מִגְדֹּל וּבֵין הַיָּם:  לִפְנֵי בַּעַל צְפֹן, נִכְחוֹ תַחֲנוּ עַל-הַיָּם.

Here, it is not followed by the actual instructions to the Bnei Yisrael of what to do, but is rather followed with the instruction to דַּבֵּר, אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. Only then do we have the actual command of what they are to do.

At first glance, parashat Kedoshim would appear to be the second sort of manifestation of Vaydaber Hashem el Moshe leimor. Yet, it deviates, and instead of simply speaking to Bnei Yisrael, it is אֶל כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. I would suggest that this is a cue for the midrash to reinterpret this as the first type of manifestation.

Thus, Hashem spoke to Moshe saying. What did he say? The command that Bnei Yisrael were to do. What was that command for Bnei Yisrael to fulfill? דַּבֵּר אֶל כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. Thus, the command, ledoros, was to say the following to the Bnei Yisrael. Then, link to the fact that it is kol adas benei yisrael, and you have a part of Hakhel. The derasha of the midrash is then reinforced, and is twice as strong. And the second glaring difficulty has been resolved.

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