Friday, September 16, 2011

For who is able to argue and say this its meaning is אבוד אתה? Well, Onkelos, for one...

Summary: Further analysis of Mizrachi on Arami Oved Avi, and on עַד אָבְדֶךָ.

Post: In the past, I discussed Arami Oved Avi, the Sifrei's explanation of the phrase ('an Aramean tried to destroy my father') which is midrashic but may also be peshat, Ibn Ezra's explanation of the phrase ('my father was an Aramean pauper'), and Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi's objection to Ibn Ezra.

I can summarize Mizrachi's objections as follows:

  1. Ibn Ezra and Radak assert that אובד never appears as a transitive verb (פועל יוצא) which rules out the midrashic explanation. But we don't know all there is to know about Biblical Hebrew, as Radak himself says in his introduction.
  2. Furthermore, a pasuk later in Ki Savo is clearly a transitive verb. Thus, in Devarim 28:

20. The Lord will send the curse of shortages, confusion, and turmoil upon you, in every one of your endeavors which you undertake, until it destroys you and until you quickly vanish, because of your evil deeds in forsaking Me.כ. יְשַׁלַּח ה בְּךָ אֶת הַמְּאֵרָה אֶת הַמְּהוּמָה וְאֶת הַמִּגְעֶרֶת בְּכָל מִשְׁלַח יָדְךָ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה עַד הִשָּׁמֶדְךָ וְעַד אֲבָדְךָ מַהֵר מִפְּנֵי רֹעַ מַעֲלָלֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר עֲזַבְתָּנִי:

or, two pesukim later, which is the verse Mizrachi cites, with a slightly different pattern:

22. The Lord will strike you with consumption, fever, illnesses with burning fevers, a disease which causes unquenchable thirst, with the sword, with blast, and with yellowing, and they will pursue you until you perish.כב. יַכְּכָה יְ־הֹוָ־ה בַּשַּׁחֶפֶת וּבַקַּדַּחַת וּבַדַּלֶּקֶת וּבַחַרְחֻר וּבַחֶרֶב וּבַשִּׁדָּפוֹן וּבַיֵּרָקוֹן וּרְדָפוּךָ עַד אָבְדֶךָ:

(This is better, since the kametz under the aleph would represent a reduced cholam.)

To quickly define a transitive verb, it is one in which an actor does something to something else. For instance:
"He grew tomatoes."

The actor is 'he'; the verb is 'grew'; and the object grown is 'tomatoes'.

Contrast this to the intransitive verb:

"He grew."

In this case, it means that he became larger. The question is whether אובד is a transitive verb. Can one person אובד another person? If yes, then the Arami can be the subject and Avi can be the object. If no, then that interpretation is ruled out.

I will present here Mizrachi's words, as cited and then discussed by R' Bentzion Berkowitz in Simlas Ger, a commentary on Onkelos. (In the earlier post, I only summarized Mizrachi.) I will begin in the middle of Simlas Ger's words, picking up from a relevant portion.

"And this is the language of the Mizrachi: 
But Chazal recorded, via their tradition, man from the mouth of man until Moshe Rabbenu a"h from the mouth of the Almighty, that Arami is Lavan, and that Oved is a transitive verb. And even though all kal patterns {J: we have evidence of} within this root are בודד {isolated -- perhaps meaning intransitive?}, there are verbs which function as both transitive and intransitive, such as the word שב and the word נשל. And though in all of Scriptures, none are found transitive from this root. And behold, their tradition is sufficient to say that it is isolated {?}.
And further, he {=Mizrachi} brings from the language of the Radak in his introduction to the section of dikduk that we, since the primary roots of the holy tongue have been lost to us, the words of the Mishnah we have are like holy Scriptures, since the Sages of the Mishnah received man from man from those who saw the otiginal sefarim, which were before our exile, and were lost from us. And not only between בודד and עובר {intransitive and transitive}, for also on a new root which is not found in Scriptures its like, we rely upon their language. Such as in the root תרס. And so, how can we not rely upon their language regarding a root which is found, in the matter of intransitive and transitive? 
And further, behold we find וּרְדָפוּךָ עַד אָבְדֶךָ, whose meaning is עד אבוד אותך, 'until they destroy you' which is a kal transitive. For who is able to argue and say this its meaning is אבוד אתה, 'you are destroyed'?
{J: At this point, R' Berkowitz breaks in with a response to this last point.}

(And this is perplexing, for the metargem {=Onkelos}, who translates there

כח,כב יַכְּכָה יְהוָה בַּשַּׁחֶפֶת וּבַקַּדַּחַת וּבַדַּלֶּקֶת, וּבַחַרְחֻר וּבַחֶרֶב, וּבַשִּׁדָּפוֹן, וּבַיֵּרָקוֹן; וּרְדָפוּךָ, עַד אָבְדֶךָ.יִמְחֵינָךְ יְיָ בְּשַׁחַפְתָּא וּבְקַדַּחְתָּא וּבִדְלֵיקְתָא, וּבְחַרְחוּרָא וּבְחַרְבָּא, וּבְשַׁדְפָנָא, וּבְיַרְקָנָא; וְיִרְדְּפוּנָּךְ, עַד דְּתֵיבַד.

We see that he argues on it.

{J: To explain, the ת in תיבד demonstrates that the actor/subject is 'you', second person. Otherwise, we would have some suffix, indicating 'you' as object. Thus, 'until you are destroyed'. Onkelos says precisely that which Mizrachi asks "For who is able to argue and say this its meaning is אבוד אתה, 'you are destroyed'?"}

And Rashi, za'l, brings this down and explains it.

{J: See here in Rashi:

Citing the translation at Tachash:
 meaning until the annihilation of you, until you are annihilated of yourself.146
with the footnote text:  But not "until they annihilate you." (G.A.)

GA is presumably Gur Aryeh.

This Rashi is missing in Judaica Press' Rashi, for some reason that may be relevant. Also, the footnote ב is Berliner telling us to check Mizrachi.}

And he {=Mizrachi} as well says that R"A argues on the opinion of the Targum in this, and see what I say there.)

And see what I say there further, in resolving the first question. And in my opinion, that which is simplest is that from the language of וירד מצרימה Chazal proved that Lavan sought to uproot Yaakov Avinu. For if this were not so, it would have been fitting at the time of his affliction because of of famine to send his sons there, for they were members of his family, to seek out food. And so too based on the position of Rashi {on that pasuk}, who adds 'and also others came upon us', it is possible that his intent was that which was written when he returned from Charan, {regarding Esav, in Bereshit 32:6} וְגַם הֹלֵךְ לִקְרָאתְךָ וְאַרְבַּע־מֵאֹות אִישׁ עִמֹּו."

This ends my presentation of this quote from Simlas Ger on this pasuk of ארמי אובד אבי. Here is what he says on pasuk 22, on the word אבדך.

"וּרְדָפוּךָ עַד אָבְדֶךָ -- {in Onkelos:} עַד דְּתֵיבַד. And Rashi za"l brings the words of the Metargem {=Onkelos} and explains it: 'That is to say, until the annihilation of you, until you are annihilated of your own accord.' And since Rashi kept this to explain his words

until now, and did not explain his words earlier {in pasuk 20}, in יְשַׁלַּח ה בְּךָ אֶת הַמְּאֵרָה ... עַד הִשָּׁמֶדְךָ וְעַד אֲבָדְךָ, where the Targum there as well was עַד דְּתִשְׁתֵּיצֵי וְעַד דְּתֵיבַד, it appears that from the language וּרְדָפוּךָ {in pasuk 22} which rests upon the plagues, it is difficult for him to explain the language of אבדך, for it implies that all of these are required for this. But did it not say 'at one moment I will ascend in your midsts and destroy you', and as its Targum there. And therefore they said here that the meaning of אבדך is not on the actors, but rather that in general all these plagues shall pursue you until your are destroyed of your own accord, in order to increase the sufferings for you, which is not the case by the first verse where the word מהר appeared after it."

I would have guessed that it was, rather, the different vowel pattern under the verb that caused Rashi to seek an explanation, and he found Onkelos. While עַד דְּתֵיבַד does indeed appear in Onkelos earlier, there is a chataf patach under the aleph in אֲבָדְךָ. Indeed, one could argue that Rashi argues with Onkelos in that earlier verse, pasuk 20. For the full phrase is עַד הִשָּׁמֶדְךָ וְעַד אֲבָדְךָ. Maybe there he would even take it as transitive. And only when the word is אָבְדֶךָ, with a kametz under the aleph, which looks like it might be a noun form, would Rashi need to explain it as 'your destruction'. Or even with a different interpretation of אֲבָדְךָ with a chataf patach, we can say that this did not trouble Rashi so much as the noun form.

Mizrachi explains that later Rashi, and notes the use of אותך rather then אתה, which supports him. But he notes the difficulty in this. Thus:

"עד אבוד אותך -- not עד אבוד אתה {until you are destroyed}, for וּרְדָפוּךָ informs that they are the ones destroying. But Onkelos translates עַד דְּתֵיבַד, whose explanation is 'until you are destroyed'. And Rashi's explanation argues upon him. But I don't know how to resolve what he writes first, עַד אָבְדֶךָ, עַד דְּתֵיבַד and concludes with עד אבוד אותך, which implies that this is the explanation of עַד דְּתֵיבַד. And further that he writes after this 'that you are obliterated of your own accord', and this is only according to Onkelos."

Given these cues Mizrachi mentions, my guess is that one of three things is true:

  1. a corruption of the text of Rashi, with אתה turning into אותך, perhaps via an intermediate את'ק shorthand.
  2. Rashi was not careful with his dikduk or language.
  3. There is some parsing of עד אבוד אותך which yields the intransitive.
In terms of (3), here is the parsing I, Josh, would give. 'Until they (=the plagues) destroy you (transitive, אבוד with a chataf patach) such that you are obliterated of your own accord.' In other words, because of וּרְדָפוּךָ, and the content of the verse is the plagues destroying, this is the mechanism by which 'you will perish'. But the actual meaning of the phrase עַד אָבְדֶךָ is that 'you will perish' of your own accord, as an intransitive verb. So Rashi employs a transitive verb in the course of explaining how we arrive at the conclusion of the intransitive verb.

I would favor explanation (3).

As I noted, Judaica Press (linked above at Chabad) skips this Rashi entirely. This seems to suggest that some manuscripts do not have it. 

Rashi, Ktav Yad Rome, 1470, has the Rashi in full, as described above:

So too Ktav Yad Munich, 1233:

and so to this Ktav Yad (Cod Hebr 3),

In this Torah with Rashi, Ktav Yad Weimar, 1250-1350, we read:

It looks like it is repeating, and rendering it in all sorts of different ways. This hints at some girsological variation, I think. All Yosef Daas says is a note about the word תרגום missing in Rashi. Tzarich iyun, to see if there is any other interesting manuscript evidence.

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