Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hashem is *your* God. Does this make Moshe a heretic?

Summary: Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz asks a question based on a non-existent pesik, darshened in a particular manner. Does this derasha then make Moshe a heretic, as bad as Yeravam ben Navat?

Post: In the third pasuk of Vayelech, we read:

Note the munach under the word hu and the vertical bar after it. This is a munach legarmeih, a disjunctive accent which precedes a revii, in this case the revii which appears over the word lefanecha. Alas, some have mistaken the vertical bar associated with munach legarmeih for a pesik, which is a lighter separating accent, which divides words in special (often semantically motivated) cases, where the typical division of trup would otherwise fail.

In Tiferes Yehonasan on Vayelech, after citing this pasuk, Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz writes:

"And there is written after the word hu as pesik, which informs that the word hu is associated to that which precedes it, namely Hashem Elokecha."

To interject, what I think he means is that this then forms a sentence "Hashem, Elokecha Hu" -- "Hashem is your God." This, to the exclusion of my {=Moshe Rabbenu's} God. This would be a somewhat heretical statement. He continues:

"It seems that one should explain. For apparently, there is to analyze. For behold, Yeravam sinned in this, that he said "Hashem your God", which was like being kofer be'ikkar, chas veshalom."

To interject once again, Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz is referring to I Melachim 13:6. A prophet predicts the destruction of Yeravam's alter at Bethel 300 years from then by King Yoshiyahu. King Yeravam puts forth his hand to command the seizure of the prophet, and his hand was frozen. He asks the prophet to pray on his behalf:

ו  וַיַּעַן הַמֶּלֶךְ וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל-אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים, חַל-נָא אֶת-פְּנֵי ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְהִתְפַּלֵּל בַּעֲדִי, וְתָשֹׁב יָדִי, אֵלָי; וַיְחַל אִישׁ-הָאֱלֹהִים, אֶת-פְּנֵי ה, וַתָּשָׁב יַד-הַמֶּלֶךְ אֵלָיו, וַתְּהִי כְּבָרִאשֹׁנָה.6 And the king answered and said unto the man of God: 'Entreat now the favour of the LORD thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me.' And the man of God entreated the LORD, and the king's hand was restored him, and became as it was before.

In asking for this prayer, he refers to Hashem as "your God", meaning the God of the prophet, but not his own God. Thus, this is heresy. Is Moshe saying the same thing? Rav Eibeshitz continues:

"And would Moshe, the faithful shepherd, speak such words?! Rather, in a simple way we are able to answer that the Shechina was speaking from within Moshe's throat. And if the Shechina was speaking, it is perfectly fine to say 'Hashem your God'.

But, in another way, it seems to me that according to the first answer, it is difficult to fit with Rashi's commentary, who {on the second pasuk in Vayelech:

2. He said to them, "Today I am one hundred and twenty years old. I can no longer go or come, and the Lord said to me, "You shall not cross this Jordan."ב. וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם בֶּן מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה אָנֹכִי הַיּוֹם לֹא אוּכַל עוֹד לָצֵאת וְלָבוֹא וַי־הֹוָ־ה אָמַר אֵלַי לֹא תַעֲבֹר אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה:

on לֹא אוּכַל עוֹד לָצֵאת וְלָבוֹא, in saying
דבר אחר, לצאת ולבא בדברי תורה, מלמד שנסתמו ממנו מסורות ומעינות החכמה:
, }

said that the wellsprings of wisdom were closed to him. And if so, prophecy was taken from him. {And so, the first answer is difficult, for it could not have been Hashem speaking from his throat.}

Rather, it appears such, that it is stated in the gemara that whoever dwells outside the land of Israel is compared to one who has no God. And here, the nation of Israel is traveling to Eretz Yisrael, while he did not go. Thus, he is like one who has no God. And therefore he said, "Hashem is your God".

This ends my citation of Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz.

While I interspersed my comments throughout, I'll put a bit more analysis here. I am reluctant to grant each of the assumptions along the way. (a) First, this is not a pesik. It is a munach legarmeih. (b) Even if it were a pesik, it would not serve to join hu to the previous phrase. Rather, it would introduce a pause into the new phrase, starting with hu. In other words, in hu over lefanecha, it would perhaps bring greater distance between the action and the Actor, with a capital A. (c) Indeed, if we lop off hu to fit with the preceding, then the following statement, over lefanecha, does not work grammatically. In the present tense, Biblical Hebrew does not drop pronouns. (d) While Yeravam does say "Hashem Elokecha", this is in context of his having made an idolatrous altar and opposing a prophet of Hashem. And Yeravam does not say specifically "Hashem Elokecha Hu". Moshe uses the word "Hashem Elokecha" many many times throughout Chumash, albeit without "Hu". We can find an innocuous implication to "Hashem Elokecha Hu", which needs not be heretical.

Granting all these assumptions, though, there are clever and nice answers.

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