Monday, August 15, 2011

Why does Rashi wait until Ekev to explain gedolim va'atzumim?

Summary: The Taz has his explanation of this phenomenon. And I offer my own, based on an analysis of Rashi's sources.

Post: In parashat Ekev, in perek 9, Rashi comments on a pasuk:

1. Hear, O Israel: Today, you are crossing the Jordan to come in to possess nations greater and stronger than you, great cities, fortified up to the heavens.א. שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל אַתָּה עֹבֵר הַיּוֹם אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן לָבֹא לָרֶשֶׁת גּוֹיִם גְּדֹלִים וַעֲצֻמִים מִמֶּךָּ עָרִים גְּדֹלֹת וּבְצֻרֹת בַּשָּׁמָיִם:
גדולים ועצומים ממך: אתה עצום, והם עצומים ממך:

To translate: "You are strong, and they are stronger than you."

Similarly, later in perek 11, in Ekev, Rashi comments on another pasuk:

23. then the Lord will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will possess nations greater and stronger than you.כג. וְהוֹרִישׁ יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶת כָּל הַגּוֹיִם הָאֵלֶּה מִלִּפְנֵיכֶם וִירִשְׁתֶּם גּוֹיִם גְּדֹלִים וַעֲצֻמִים מִכֶּם:
והוריש ה': עשיתם מה שעליכם אף אני אעשה מה שעלי:
ועצמים מכם: אתם גבורים, והם גבורים מכם, שאם לא שישראל גבורים, מה השבח שמשבח את האמוריים לומר ועצומים מכם, אלא אתם גבורים משאר אומות והם גבורים מכם:

To translate: "You are great, and they are greater than you. For if Israel were not great, what is the praise that he praises the Emorites to say 'stronger than you'? Rather, you are mightier than other nations, and they are mightier than you."

However, on the first instance of this phrase gedolim vaatzumim mikem, Rashi makes no such comment. This first instance is in parashat vaEtachanan:

38. to drive out from before you nations greater and stronger than you, to bring you and give you their land for an inheritance, as this day.לח. לְהוֹרִישׁ גּוֹיִם גְּדֹלִים וַעֲצֻמִים מִמְּךָ מִפָּנֶיךָ לַהֲבִיאֲךָ לָתֶת לְךָ אֶת אַרְצָם נַחֲלָה כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה:
ממך מפניך: סרסהו ודרשהו להוריש מפניך גוים גדולים ועצומים ממך:
כיום הזה: כאשר אתה רואה היום:

Rashi's comment is merely: "than you from before you: twist it and interpret it as 'to drive out from before you nations greater and stronger than you." That is, his comment is merely on the order of the words in the verse. And this 'twisting' does not seem to be based on any midrashic source, but is rather a simple peshat comment innovated by Rashi.

The Taz asks why Rashi does not write this derasha of you being mighty, but them being even mightier, in the first instance, in vaEtchanan. I have my answer, but first we should let the Taz pose the question and answer it himself.

The Taz writes, after citing the pasuk and Rashi (my translation):

"In parashat vaEschanan is written as well לְהוֹרִישׁ גּוֹיִם גְּדֹלִים וַעֲצֻמִים מִמְּךָ, and Rashi does not comment this. It appears to answer that above {in VaEschanan}, it is no question, for it is a rebusa {new informative thing} to say that you will drive out a greater and mightier nation than you, even though they don't have, in and of themselves, an elevated status for themselves over that of the other nations. Even so, since at any rate, they are stronger than you, this is a novelty. But here, there is a question, for the Scriptures relates after this what their mightiness is, that it states עָרִים גְּדֹלֹת וּבְצֻרֹת בַּשָּׁמָיִם, 'great cities, fortified up to the heavens'. And {in the next verse} עַם גָּדוֹל וָרָם בְּנֵי עֲנָקִים אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה יָדַעְתָּ וְאַתָּה שָׁמַעְתָּ מִי יִתְיַצֵּב לִפְנֵי בְּנֵי עֲנָק, 'A great and tall people, the children of the 'Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard said, "Who can stand against the children of 'Anak?!"' Thus, the verse contradicts itself, for first it states that they are {merely} stronger than you, which implies that they do not have strength except against you, and not over other nations. And afterwards, it praises them over against all the nations, for it concludes, "Who can stand against the children of 'Anak?!" For this reason, he explains, 'you are strong against all the nations, and even so, they are stronger than you.' And it gives a reason to this, that they have an advantage via their cities, that they are strong, and via their mightiness, that they are the children of Anak. And you, even though you are mightier than the children of Anak, still you do not have an advantage in regards to the cities, for you encamp upon the field. And if so, they have two advantages, and even so, you will drive them out."

This seems a plausible explanation. One could also suggest that the first time, it is a novelty, but the second time, it comes to teach something new.

But I would approach it from a different perspective. Rashi does not invent his own midrashim, and this certainly has a midrashic quality to it. Rashi is actually basing himself, in perek 9 and in perek 11 in Ekev, on the Sifrei in Ekev. This Sifrei is rooted on the pasuk in perek 11. The Sifrei reads:

My translation, based on the emendation of the Gra (see inside): "וִירִשְׁתֶּם גּוֹיִם גְּדֹלִים וַעֲצֻמִים מִכֶּם: gedolim is stature; and atzumim in strength. Even you are tall and strong, but they are taller {gedolim} than you. Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says: one can compare this to a person who says 'the person Ploni is more gibor than this one.' This means that this one as well is a gibor, but that one is stronger than him. Another explanation: 'and stronger than you': why does it say this further? Does it not already state {in Devarim 7:1} that the seven nations are greater and mightier than you? What, then, does it teach further here {presumably in perek 11, not in perek 9}, גּוֹיִם גְּדֹלִים וַעֲצֻמִים מִכֶּם? Rather, it teaches that one of the seven nations is greater and tougher against all of Israel. And so does it state {in Amos 2}, "Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks."

If it is on perek 11, why does Rashi cite it first on perek 9? I would posit that it is because this is the first opportunity in this sidra, where it is relevant. Also, the context, of the power of the Emorites, as Bnei Anak, and as having fortified cities is stronger here in perek 9. Furthermore, there is no Sifrei on perek 9 of Devarim. It skips from the beginning of the sidra directly into perek 11. (This is, perhaps, why the midrash does not occur in the Sifrei on perek 9.) Rashi, much like nature, abhors a vacuum, and so perhaps he draws the midrash from perek 11 into the place where he needs commentary.

Why does Rashi not cite the midrash on perek 4, where it would be relevant? Because this is not the sidra in which the midrash appears, so it might not have struck him to cite it. Plus, he already has an elucidatory comment on the pasuk, and on that set of words, in parashat va'etchanan. Yes, it is a peshat comment, and not the same one he makes here, but there is no such vacuum as there is in perek 9, and thus less of a prompt to pull a comment from a midrash on a foreign verse in a foreign sidra.

As such, I would not resort to Taz's answer.

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