Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The order of Rashi at the start of Vayelech

Summary: Why is it in this particular order? Indeed, some people reorder it.

Post: At the start of 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 וַה' אָמַר אֵלַי לֹא תַעֲבֹר אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה:

Rashi writes:

אנכי היום: היום מלאו ימי ושנותי ביום זה נולדתי וביום זה אמות:
וה' אמר אלי: זהו פירוש לא אוכל עוד לצאת ולבא, לפי שה' אמר אלי:
וילך משה וגו', לא אוכל עוד לצאת ולבא : יכול שתשש כחו, תלמוד לומר (דברים לד, ז) לא כהתה עינו ולא נס לחה. אלא מהו לא אוכל, איני רשאי שנטלה ממני הרשות ונתנה ליהושע. דבר אחר, לצאת ולבא בדברי תורה, מלמד שנסתמו ממנו מסורות ומעינות החכמה:

That is, (A) he explains (in d"h אנכי היום) as being his age, precisely, to the day, such that he will die the same day he was born.

(B) Then he explains (in d"h וה' אמר אלי) that the meaning of לֹא אוּכַל עוֹד לָצֵאת וְלָבוֹא is that he 'cannot' go and come because of this Divine command. That va in vaHashem functions as a 'because'.

(C) Then, (strangely,) there is a new d"h from the first words of the parasha (as if starting over) until לא אוכל עוד לצאת ולבא, where Rashi says that 'I might have thought that his strength was sapped. Therefore it informs us (Devarim 34:7) 'his strength was not weakened, etc.' Rather, 'I am not able' means that I am not permitted, for it was taken from me and given to Yehoshua.'

(D) Then, a דבר אחר, that 'to go and come' means within the realm of Torah, etcetera.

As I read through the Levush HaOrah on Vayelech, I consulted with this (Chabad, based on Judaica Press) Rashi, and was extremely perplexed. The Levush described a purported problem with the ordering of the statements in Rashi, but the problematic order he discussed did not seem to match the order above.

So I looked in a Mikraos Gedolos and saw that these statements are in a different order.

This order is:


This makes a lot of sense. (C), the d"h from the beginning of the parasha until 'I am not able', explaining that it could not be that his strength was actually sapped, but rather implied lack of permission, leading into (B), וה' אמר אלי, showing that this was the cause of his not being able. Then, somewhat strangely, (A), which goes earlier in the pasuk. And then (D), a davar acher, given an entirely different explanation of the not being able.

Quick checking of certain manuscripts seemed like it was in the latter order. But one should check further, to see that basis for the reordering above.

The Levush HaOrah, after citing Rashi, says:

"They ask why Rashi does not explain the דבר אחר (D) immediately above, after he explained (C) 'I am not able, that permission was taken from me [and given to Yehoshua]'; he should have said immediately (D) davar acher, I am unable to come and go in divrei Torah, etc."

To interject, it seems that the objection is to the insertion of (B) and (A) between (C) and (D). He continues:

"And I say that this is not a question. For that which he explained (B) upon וה' אמר אלי is an explanation of 'I am not able, etcetera.' Also, that which he explained (A) upon היום as that today {specifically} my years have been filled, all this goes according to his {first} explanation of 'I am not able', namely that 'permission has been taken from me, etc', and upon this stands וה' אמר אלי, as the explanation of 'I am not able', and it is not some other matter.

Therefore, if the explanation of היום is that today, specifically, my days and years have been filled, this is to say that specifically on the day of his death, 'permission has been taken from me', and not before then, as he explains later on that there is no rulership on the day of dath. And so all this stands as well upon the explanation of 'I am not able' as we explain it, that 'I am not able' means that permission was taken from him, etc.'

However, if the explanation of 'I am not able to go and come' refers to words of Torah, etc., then the explanation of  וה' אמר אלי is like, 'and furthermore, Hashem has said to me, and is not an explanation of 'I am not able, etc.'.

So too, the explanation of היום is not an explanation of היום in particular as the day of death, to say that היום my days and years have been filled, but rather it is possible that it refers to another day, which is a long time before the day of his death, saying that that day the wellsprings of wisdom were closed to him {J: ideas pulled from the davar acher}, and not specifically the day of his death. 

Therefore, after Rashi explained the entire matter based on the commentary of 'I am not able, etc.' that permission was taken from him, etc., he returned to the pasuk {J: text} of 'I am not able to go and come', and explained upon it another explanation, and said davar acher, to go and come in words of Torah, etc."

I agree with most of this. I agree that (B) has a firm place between (C) and (D). But I don't find his explanation about (A) so compelling. Perhaps one could view it instead as two passes through the text. That way, (C) he starts at vayelech until lo uchal, and (B) sets up a consistent shitta. Then he goes for another pass, and so starts at the earlier d"h (A) and works his way to the davar acher (D).

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