Monday, February 28, 2011

Lo Tevaaru vs. Lo Taviru Esh

Summary: I'm almost certain the Samaritans changed it. The question is, why?

Post: Here is how our parasha, of Vayakhel, leads off:

3. You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwelling places on the Sabbath day."ג. לֹא תְבַעֲרוּ אֵשׁ בְּכֹל מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם בְּיוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת:

We correctly understand this to mean to start a fire, that is to kindle one. The Tzedukim, Samaritans and Karaites took this to mean burn, with the sense that there may not be any flame in one's house. This leads to dark rooms and cold food.

I was somewhat surprised to see the following emendation in the Samaritan Pentateuch:

Note that they replace the word תבערו in our Masoretic text with the word תבעירו. What is the difference? Perhaps there is no difference, and they are just replacing it with the more common current word. But the grammatical different would appear to be that teva'aru is the kal, while tav'iru is the hiphil. (I think.) This is then the difference between בָּעַר, to burn, and הִבְעִיר, to light or to kindle. While I would assert that the plain old kal can also mean to kindle, once one makes a conscious effort to emend, one is making a statement.

And if so, wouldn't this go against the point they are trying to make? By saying that kindling is forbidden, isn't the implication that keeping burning is not? I think that one could answer that they are saying the opposite. Tav'iru is the causative. Thus, you should not cause fire to be burning in all your dwelling places on the Shabbat day. How would one cause them to be burning? By kindling, even before the Shabbat day arrives.

(The reason they would emend is to make explicit any interpretation they have, so that it is in the Torah Shebichsav rather than the Torah SheBaal Peh.)

A brand new tale of Onkelos and the mezuzah

There is a famous story about Onkelos the convert, who angered his uncle Hadrian by converting. The Talmud relates a story, which I will take from an article about Onkelos:
Once more, Hadrian sent a company of troops with high officers at the head, with the express orders not to say one word to Onkelos and not to answer any questions, but to arrest him immediately. 
The messengers arrived and started to carry out the emperor's orders without delay. They led him out of his. house. At the door Onkelos stopped, and joyfully kissed the Mezuzah.
The messengers gazed at him in wonder, and could not restrain themselves from asking him:
"What does that thing on the door symbolize, and why are you so happy at being taken to Rome, where your uncle will surely have your head chopped off?" 
"I laugh at foolish people. A king sits in his palace and has guards around him to protect him from danger. But the Jewish King, the L-rd of the world, allows his servants to sit quietly at home and He protects them from outside. That is the Mezuzah on our door!" 
Whereupon, the royal messengers took torches and burned Onkelos' house to the ground. He gazed at the ruins and grinned wildly. They asked him why he was so happy, and he replied, "See! While the entirety of my home and possessions are destroyed, look to see that the Mezuzah has not been burned. Hashem cares, at least, for his ritual religious objects! At least, the Mezuzah protected itself!"
The royal messengers fell entirely under the influence of Onkelos's words and it did not take long before they also became his faithful disciples.
All right, the Talmudic narrative does NOT actually contain the section I highlighted (and indeed inserted) in bold above. I would not have expected the Roman soldiers to be convinced by this argument, if proffered by Onkelos. But perhaps Rav Yehuda Deri has a different girsa in this gemara. After all, as Yeranen Yaakov relates, via Kikar Shabbat:
This comes from an interesting article on Kikar. After a rocket hit Be'er Sheva yesterday, its chief rabbi, Rav Yehuda Deri, talked about the miracle that occurred.  He said, "We had a supernatural miracle here.  2 homes sustained great damages.  Everything around the mezuza was destroyed, except for it.  The mezuza remained whole despite everything that occurred."
Snark off, I suppose. I guess one can take this as some sort of miraculous sign of encouragement, that Hashem is with us despite these trials and tribulations. But seriously, perhaps they should check their mezuzahs, to see if there is anything wrong with them.

YU Yom Iyun -- Purim in Tanach, Talmud and Jewish History

I just received the following in my Inbox:

Join Yeshiva University faculty and administration for a day of learning at our annual Jewish Studies Yom Iyun, this year on the topic of Purim in Tanach, Talmud and Jewish History.

Sunday, March 6, 2011 • 9:30am - 1:30pm 

Yeshiva University, Furst Hall • 500 West 185th St. New York, NY$10 admission (online) $15 at the door
Free for YU Students
Courtesy parking and refreshments available with registration

Courtesy bus to YU from the Five Towns
 departs 8:00 a.m. from Cong. Beth Sholom (390 Broadway, Lawrence). No charge but reservations required (space is limited). Call at 516-972-2920 or email by Thursday, March 3rd to reserve.

ephraim karnafogelAf Hen Hayu Be-Oto Ha-Nes: Clarifying the Views of the Ba'alei ha-Tosafot in Learning and Scholarship Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel
E. Billi Ivry Professor of Jewish History, Yeshiva University
rabbi kenneth branderYom hak'Purim and Purim: The Journey to a Romantic Rendezvous with God Rabbi Kenneth Brander
David Mitzner Dean, Center for the Jewish Future
mark dratchMegillat Esther: A Scarlet Letter? A Look at the "Relationship" of Esther and Achashverosh and its Halakhic, Moral, Political, and Personal Implications Rabbi Mark Dratch
Faculty, Isaac Breuer College, Yeshiva University
grunhausForm without Substance: Fasting and Rituals in Prophetic PerspectiveDr. Naomi Grunhaus
Faculty, Stern College for Women
michelle levineStability and Discord in the Book of EstherDr. Michelle Levine
Faculty, Stern College for Women
steven fineVe-Nafokh Hu: Haman, Yeshu and the Commemoration of Purim in the World of Hazal Dr. Steven Fine
Professor of Jewish History, Director, YU Center for Israel Studies
shmuel hainThe Mitzvot of Purim: More Than Meets the Eye Rabbi Shmuel Hain
Rosh Beit Midrash, Graduate Program for Women in Advanced Talmudic Studies, Stern College for Women
ricky hidaryWhy Didn't Esther Pray? Three Responses to the
(Ir)Religiousness of Megilat Esther 
Rabbi Richard Hidary
Faculty, Stern College for Women
menachem leibtagFrom 'Ezra' to 'Esther': Considering "Author's Intent" When Studying Ketuvim Rabbi Menachem Leibtag
Faculty, Midrashiya, Gruss Institute, Yeshiva University
asterKetov Zot Zikkaron Ba-Sefer - Erasing Memory and Writing Memory in Torah and in Megillat Esther Dr. Shawn Zelig Aster
Assistant Professor of Bible, Yeshiva University
frazerWhen Did the Purim Story Happen? Chronology, Aggadah, and a Modern Orthodox Educational Challenge Rabbi Ezra Frazer
Doctoral Program, Bernard Revel Graduate School, Yeshiva University
jill katzThe Purim Story: The View From Jerusalem 538-333 BCE Dr. Jill Katz
Adjunct Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology, Yeshiva University
lawrence schifmanThe Apocryphal Additions to EstherDr. Lawrence Schiffman
Vice Provost, Yeshiva University


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