Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why the plural לֵילֵי in Targum Onkelos regarding לֵיל שִׁמֻּרִים?

Summary: Grammatically, it functions fine as a singular. But some remez based on a plural interpretation.

Post: Consider the following pasuk and Onkelos:

יב,מב לֵיל שִׁמֻּרִים הוּא לַה', לְהוֹצִיאָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם:  הוּא-הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה לַה', שִׁמֻּרִים לְכָל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְדֹרֹתָם.  {פ}לֵילֵי נְטִיר הוּא קֳדָם יְיָ, לְאַפָּקוּתְהוֹן מֵאַרְעָא דְּמִצְרָיִם:  הוּא לֵילְיָא הָדֵין קֳדָם יְיָ, נְטִיר לְכָל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְדָרֵיהוֹן.  {פ}

Chelek Hadikduk writes (page 106) to consider why the singular in Biblical Hebrew seems to be rendered by a plural in Aramaic:

"The Targum is לֵילֵי. According to its simple meaning {peshat} he took the language of Chazal in the Mishnah, e.g. leilei Shabbos; leilei Pesachim; see Tosafot Yom Tov {?}.

And it is possible to say that this is a remez to us in this of the leil of Yom Tov Sheini of the Diaspora, for this is the start of the moadim. Alternatively, it is a remez that this night is not alone for the miracle of Egypt, for it will have miracles in the future, as Chazal darshen לֵיל שִׁמֻּרִים, etc., that this was in the days of Avraham, for it is written ויחלק עליהם לילה; the second one is the exodus from Egypt. This is {the continuation of the pasuk} לְהוֹצִיאָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם. The third was in the days of Chizkiyah: ויהי בלילה ההוא ויצא מלאך ה'ש -- this is הוּא-הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה לַה'א. The fourth is in the future to come as well. This is שִׁמֻּרִים לְכָל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְדֹרֹתָם -- for the end of their doros."

Nice, though remez is not exactly my cup of tea.

Back to the peshat perspective, here is what Jastrow writes about לילי functioning as both a plural and singular construct form:


yaak said...

First of all, some versions of Onkelos just has ליל.

Secondly, the Remez of the Chelek Hadikduk makes perfect sense to me (yes, Remez is my cup of tea - pardon the pun) since if you look at the Targum Yonatan and Targum Yerushalmi, it lists the nights that are hinted to.

joshwaxman said...

re 1 here example:

Mar Gavriel said...

Right, Dr. Steiner has talked about this in class:

לֵלְיָא – why the yud? It must be from an old reduplicated form *laylayu.

This is like the old *maymaymu. For many years, Dr. Steiner wondered why the form מַ֫יִם looked dual. Now, he realizes – it’s neither plural nor dual: it’s singular!

In the Mishna, in a number of places, we find לֵילֵי שַׁבָּת (parallel to יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת), which is singular. Similarly, one construct form of מַיִם is מֵימֵי. (More common is just מֵי, and in medieval piyyut we see also מֵימוֹת.) Later, it was mis-analyzed as dual or plural, and construed this way—but we still find examples where מַ֫יִם is singular:

There are various absolute forms of *laylayu in Hebrew: The most common form retains the case ending, לַ֫יְלָה; there also exist לֵיל (Isaiah in משא דומה); and לַיִל (in Isaiah 16:3).

Mar Gavriel said...

Incidentally, there's a passage in Maghrebinian lectionaries for Pesach, which they call ליל נטיר -- it's a Palestinian Targum to Exodus 12:42. However, for my Haggada, I used the version from Targum Neofiti, believing it to be the most accurate representative of the family of Palestinian targumim -- so in my Haggada, the passage begins לילי נטיר.

Josh fan said...

what is interesting is that the word שִׁמֻּרִים is plural and targum switches to נְטִיר singular that might be why he used plural for לֵיל


Blog Widget by LinkWithin