Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Darshening the psik in את שמע | יעקב

Summary: To account for the elaboration in Targum Yonasan. Plus another approach to the trup and targum, and more.

a) In parashat Vayeitzei, we encounter the following pasuk (Bereishit 29:13):

There is a revii on אחתו. To subdivide it, we would use telisha gedola, geresh, and munach legarmeih. The geresh is used on the word לבן, which means that we must use for the minor dichotomy the munach legarmeih on the word שמע. (It is remotely possible that the telisha ketana on ויהי is really a telisha gedola, and would represent the earliest dichotomy; telisha ketana and gedola switch off on occasion, and Minchas Shai does note that in ספרים ספרדיים, the כ of כשמע has a dagesh kal, something we would expect after a disjunctive rather than conjunctive accent.) But the vertical bar after the word שמע is part of the munach legarmeih, rather than a psik. The psik and the vertical bar of munach legarmeih are homographs.

b) The Targum Pseudo-Yonasan on this pasuk reads (English translation):
And it was when Laban heard the account of the strength and piety of Jakob the son of his sister; how he had taken the birthright and the order of blessing from the hand of his brother, and how the Lord had revealed Himself to him at Bethel; how the stone had been removed, and how the well had upflowed and risen to the brink; he ran to meet him and embrace him, and kissed him and led him into his house; and he related to Laban all these things.
I highlighted Targum Yonasan's insertion. What is the Targum's basis of this elaboration? I would consider three idea.

First, the phrase sheima Yaakov on a peshat-level just means the report of Yaakov's arrival, but it can also mean renown. Therefore, this should be an account of his mighty deeds. Second, the word האלה might be considered a bit awkward. What are all 'these' words? We can match it up, then, with the sheima earlier in the pasuk, and say that Lavan first heard reports of Yaakov's deed, from Rachel (with ותגד of the previous pasuk encompassing more than just Yaakov's arrival), and Yaakov confirmed it with a firsthand account. And the details would be every significant event in the plain text of the pesukim plus every midrash already mentioned by Targum Yonasan. Third -- though this is not applicable here and is more typical of the Baal HaTurim's approach -- to find details to be mentioned, we could look at the few instances the word שֵמע occurs in Tanach -- once here, once in not taking sheima shav, and here, here, here, and here.

c) Birkas Avraham notes the pasuk, and the next pasuk in which Lavan says to Yaakov that Yaakov is of his bone and flesh. Then, he writes:

"There is the trup of psik [a vertical bar | ] after the word שֵמע, and it is understood well together which what is stated in Targum Yonasan ben Uzziel, that he heard from Rachel the mights and kind deeds of Yaakov his sister's son, how he had taken the birthright and the order of blessing from the hand of his brother, and how the Lord had revealed Himself to him at Bethel; how the stone had been removed, and how the well had upflowed and risen to the brink;, then, he ran to meet him, etc.

And in a manner of jest (הלצה) it is possible to add that Lavan rejoiced over the fact that Yaakov was his sister's son, for we establish in Masechet Bava Basra (daf 110a), 'most sons are similar to the mother's brother.' And if so, Yaakov is evidence as to the righteousness of Lavan in the eyes of the residents of his city. And therefore Lavan adds and says to Yaakov, 'surely you are my bone and flesh', as if this is in the merit of the righteous uncle.

And I further saw in the commentary of the Or HaChaim, who explains that the aforementioned כל הדברים Yaakov Avinu related to Lavan, such that via this he would leave off of being wicked, and that he {=Yaaakov} was a mighty man, etc. And the Or HaChaim adds that upon this, Lavan responded to him with the words of this aforementioned gemara, and said to him that despite all his wisdom and might that he related to him, know that the uncle is greater than him in this [for the language of אך is an exclusion], that anything which is compared is not equal to that it is compared to in all its aspects, with leaving off some part. See there in Or HaChaim."

d) After enjoying the various parts of the dvar Torah above (in part c), I will now explain my slight objections. I don't see why a psik specifically would show that all these details were related. Maybe that there was a lengthy pause in which Rachel told over all this? Also, it is not a pesik, but a munach legarmeih. But you can see some back and forth on this matter in this older post. Finally, אך in Biblical Hebrew acts as an intensifier rather than as an exclusion. אך excludes in Mishnaic Hebrew. But naturally, on the level of derash (both halachic and aggadic), such interpretation of אך is common.

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