Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The psik in נֹסְעִים | אֲנַחְנוּ, and whether gierim had to hoof it

Summary: Birkas Avraham darshens another pesik.

Post: People darshening trup always gets my attention, even when I disagree with it. In Bemidbar 10:29, Birkas Avraham darshens the pesik between nose'im and anachnu:

He writes:

Of course, this is no pesik, but rather a munach legarmeih, and I am of the position that such should not call out to be darshened in the same way (as I wrote, for example, here in parashat Bemidbar Sinai). Repeating this again and again adds nothing, so just consider the above sentence my pro forma objection.

He writes:
"In the verse {Bemidbar 10:29}, 

29. Then Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses's father-in-law, We are traveling to the place about which the Lord said, I will give it to you. Come with us and we will be good to you, for the Lord has spoken of good fortune for Israel.
כט. וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה לְחֹבָב בֶּן רְעוּאֵל הַמִּדְיָנִי חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה נֹסְעִים  |   אֲנַחְנוּ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אָמַר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֹתוֹ אֶתֵּן לָכֶם לְכָה אִתָּנוּ וְהֵטַבְנוּ לָךְ כִּי ה דִּבֶּר טוֹב עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל:

[נסעים is written, chaser, and there is to say that they were ניסעים with the cloud.] And there is the trup symbol of pesik (a vertical bar) before the word אֲנַחְנוּ. And this is explained via what is written in sefer Sifsei Kohen that Chovav, who is Yisro, was not carried via the cloud like all of Israel, since he was a convert. [And converts were outside the cloud, as it stated in Sefer HaZohar HaKadosh that we bring down later.] And so he had to travel by footm and therefore Moshe told him 'travel with us' {לך}, with your legs and not carried by the cloud. And if so, this is what the pesik is hinting at, for he was not encompassed among the נוסעים {J: where נסע has the implication, especially in modern Hebrew, of travel by vehicle rather than on foot}. And it is understood why he needed cajoling. And in the end of the verse, כִּי ה דִּבֶּר טוֹב עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל, in Targum Yonasan ben Uziel [sic] it is stated ארום ה' מליל לאוטבא לגיורא על ישראל. And it would seem that his intent is to explain that Moshe Rabbenu informed him that Israel was commanded to make it good with the converts more than to an Israelite, and these indeed are words of appeasement and promise of good that would be for him among them, and the explanation is that they were commanded to make it good for him with the converts.

And therefore, in the commentary of the Or HaChaim zal, he wrote: 
"And he said to him, וְהֵטַבְנוּ לָךְ, here he explains the measure of the making good, that the portion of the descendants of Chovav were choicer and better from any portion of the nation of the children of Israel, for to them was given the choicest portion; and so did our Sages say (in Sifrei) that they were given the exceptionally fertile ground of Jericho."
(And see in our words in a bit, upon the verse in Bemidbar 24:21, vayar et hakini, that Bilaam saw Yisro outside the cloud.)
You can see the sefer Siftei Kohen here, though you would need the appropriate djvu plugin:

And the relevant Zohar, from parashat Ki Tisa:

67. Come and behold: all the clouds of glory that traveled in the wilderness covered the children of Yisrael alone. And that precious cloud about which it is written, "And Hashem went before them by day," went before them, but the mixed multitude and cattle and sheep and animals were traveling outside the camp, in the rear. Come and behold: all those forty years that Yisrael traveled in the wilderness, there was no dirt or dust within the place where the clouds were. Therefore, the sheep and cattle that ate grass were outside with all those who guarded them.

 68. Rabbi Elazar said: Father, if so then the mixed multitude did not eat of the manna. He said to him: Certainly it is so, except what Yisrael gave them as one gives to his servant. And what did they eat? They ate the leftovers, whatever was left behind the millstones, the inferior quality. The Torah proclaims and says: "And the children of Yisrael did eat the manna (Heb. mah) for forty years" (Shemot 16:35), the children of Yisrael and no other. "And when the children of Yisrael saw it, they said... 'What (Heb. man) is it?'" (Ibid. 15), but not the mixed multitude, or the sheep and cattle that were among them.

69. Until this time the mixed multitude was subdued, but now they arose and searched for an action to strengthen the Other Side. They said: Either we are all one nation, and we will be included AMONG YISRAEL with you, or let us have someone to go before us just as your Elohim goes before you. Aaron said: Heaven forbid that they should be part of the holy people, so all would be united into one. The Holy Nation should not mingle with these people into a whole. It is better to separate them from the Holy Nation until Moses comes.

and you can continue to read in Birkas Avraham, the next section, of how this all works together, in terms of those attacked by Amalek from shevet Dan, and so on and so forth.

At the end of the day, a very creative darshening of the trup, to fit into this elaborate and consistent theory of Israelite history in the midbar.

Yet, besides disagreeing with the specific darshening of trup here in this manner, I find that I recoil a bit at this midrashic explanation. No, I do not think that this is the meaning of Targum Yonasan, such that we are compelled to say that ארום ה' מליל לאוטבא לגיורא על ישראל refers to Hashem's command that the Bnei Yisrael make it good for geirim, rather than that Hashem said that He would be better to geirim over that of the Bnei Yisrael {as it seems from peirush Yonatan}. Maybe interpret Targum Yonasan it one way, or maybe the other, but I would not reject the peirush Yonatan out of hand.

Also, this all seems like pretty lousy treatment for the geirim who decided to join klal Yisrael under the kanfei haShechina. To twist a Talmudic statement, אם קבלה היא לא נקבל, even if it is kabbalah, I do not accept it. I'm not mekabel such motzi shem ra about Hakadosh Baruch Hu. I mean, I guess the ananei hakavod still worked to protect them from snakes and scorpions before them, and making it a straight path, as per the Tosefta. But still, being exposed to those elements, and having to hoof it for forty years, and having to be subject to others for their daily manna, of the inferior quality... If they complained, it seems to me that they were more than a bit justified in this complaint! (And just what sort of attitude does it foster towards modern-day geirim?) No, I don't think this is the position of Targum Yonatan, or the position of Chazal.

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