Monday, October 17, 2011

The Ohr HaChaim's kamatz in רָקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם

Summary: He makes a grammatical distinction based on a kametz under the resh, which places it in absolute rather than construct form. Alas, that kametz does not exist.

Post: Here is an incidentally interesting Ohr Hachaim. First, two pesukim:

בראשית פרק א
  • פסוק כ: וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים--יִשְׁרְצוּ הַמַּיִם, שֶׁרֶץ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה; וְעוֹף יְעוֹפֵף עַל-הָאָרֶץ, עַל-פְּנֵי רְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם
פסוק י"ז: וַיִּתֵּן אֹתָם אֱלֹהִים, בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם, לְהָאִיר, עַל-הָאָרֶץ. 

The Ohr HaChaim writes, on pasuk 20:

To explain it as far as I understand it, within pasuk 20, he understands רְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם to mean the rakia which is the shamayim. Meanwhile, elsewhere, such as in pasuk 17, Chazal understand it to refer to the rekia of the shamayim, implying the existence of two heavens.

And then he distinguishes the two cases on the basis of nikkud. For, in pasuk 17, there is a sheva under the resh, clearly marking it as the construct form, בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם, in the rekia of shamayim. Meanwhile, in pasuk 20, it states רָקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם, with a kamatz under the resh. That means that it is the absolute form, not the construct form, and so means the rakia which is the shamayim.

The "problem" with this is that, in fact, there is NOT a kametz under the resh. As we can readily observe in our Chumashim, there is a sheva under the resh in both instances.

Some supercommentators of the Ohr HaChaim notice and discuss this. They suggest that what he meant was that in pasuk 20, since there is a sheva na, one can pronounce it "as if" there were a kamatz, or a chataf kamatz, under the resh. Meanwhile, in בִּרְקִיעַ, because of the chirik under the bet, the sheva under the resh is a sheva nach. (Though, I would add, some would assert that it is a sheva merachef and pronounce it.)

This seems forced to me. Even if one could pronounce it that way, that is not על פי נקודות. The nekudos would not be any testimony towards this distinction, for a grammatical analysis would remain that the sheva is still a sheva, such that it is the construct rather than absolute form.

Rather, even though these supercommentators -- and I -- could not find a Chumash which has this kamatz, the Ohr HaChaim must have looked into a chumash which did have it. This is not uncommon, for there to be errors or divergences of this sort. Not that I think that the kamatz should be there, but that he relied on a faulty text.

I wonder, though, if one can assert this if the Ohr HaChaim wrote his commentary on Chumash with ruach hakodesh. How could he not know that the text was faulty?


yaak said...

I wonder, though, if one can assert this if the Ohr HaChaim wrote his commentary on Chumash with ruach hakodesh. How could he not know that the text was faulty?

Why call it "faulty" when you admitted yourself that there could be a different Mesora? The fact that you didn't find it doesn't make it non-existant.

And furthermore, Ru'ah Hakodesh is not an attribute of perfection. Moshe Rabbeinu had the highest level of Nevuah, and yet he erred at Mei Meriva.

joshwaxman said...

It certainly exists, at least in one chumash. But had it existed in absolute form like this before certain Rishonim, I would have expected them to make a comment, analyzing it and either explaining it or explaining it away. (As such, I doubt it stood before Ibn Ezra or Ibn Caspi, for instance.) Minchas Shai and Ohr Torah did not have it, because they certainly had Chumashim with the sheva, and make no comment about the kamatz. And it is not in the Leningrad Codex.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of variants which arise from scribal errors among careless printers of Chumashim. Simple examination of chumashim from this time reveals this. It is quite probable that it is just a rather late typo, rather than a very old variant masorah.

"And furthermore, Ru'ah Hakodesh is not an attribute of perfection."
That is what you and I say. But see the words of the Divrei Chaim, who attributes ruach hakodesh to Ohr HaChaim despite Ohr HaChaim saying that such does not exist in his days. The Divrei Chaim goes on to argue that because of this sort of ruach hakodesh, a posek is not permitted to argue against what is written in Shulchan Aruch, since it was written beruach hakodesh.

And in my experience, modern-day Lubavitchers take it similarly, that since Rashi was written beruach hakodesh, he is always right. (The other rishonim perhaps didn't realize this.) And since Rashi said in his commentary that he comes only to say peshat, by definition, Rashi is peshat, and peshat is Rashi.


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