Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The meaning of Ki Karov Hu

Summary: Does Ki mean 'because' or 'although'? And if peshat may mean 'although', then is Rashi saying peshat or derash?

Post: Regarding the first pasuk in Beshalach:

17. It came to pass when Pharaoh let the people go, that God did not lead them [by] way of the land of the Philistines for it was near, because God said, Lest the people reconsider when they see war and return to Egyptיז. וַיְהִי בְּשַׁלַּח פַּרְעֹה אֶת הָעָם וְלֹא נָחָם אֱ־לֹהִים דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים כִּי קָרוֹב הוּא כִּי אָמַר אֱ־לֹהִים פֶּן יִנָּחֵם הָעָם בִּרְאֹתָם מִלְחָמָה וְשָׁבוּ מִצְרָיְמָה:

Rashi says:

for it was near: and it was easy to return by that road to Egypt. There are also many aggadic midrashim [regarding this].כי קרוב הוא: ונוח לשוב באותו הדרך למצרים. ומדרשי אגדה יש הרבה:

Thus, he is taking the word כי to mean 'because', just like the כי that follows in ki amar Elokim.

An alternative way of explaining כי is 'although'. Or even as 'because', 'Hashem did not lead them out by the way of the land of the Philistines because it was near', where it would be a reason to have led them. But then He did not lead them this way.

Here is what I suggested in 2009:
כִּי קָרוֹב הוּא: Rashi, that it is close to Egypt such that they would return to Egypt when they see war. But perhaps that it is the close way to get to Eretz Yisrael, and so an immediate was to conquer the land would frighten them such that they would give up immediately. Better to let them have the other experiences in the wilderness first, such as the splitting of the Reed Sea, Marah, Har Sinai, and so on.
This is what Rashbam says:
דרך ארץ פלשתים כי קרוב הוא דרך ישר ליכנס מיד בארץ כנען. ולכשיבאו לטורח מלחמות ארץ כנען יתנו ראש וישובו למצרים. כמו שעשו כמה פעמים, כדכתיב: 
הלא טוב לנו שוב מצרימה.
נתנה ראש ונשובה מצרימה.
זכרנו את הדגה אשר נאכל במצרים.
לפיכך ויסב את העם דרך המדבר - 
ארץ רחוקה, כדכתיב: אחד עשר יום מחורב וגו', אבל פלשתים לבדם היו מפסיקין בין מצרים ובין ארץ כנען. כמו שמוכיח ביצחק שהיה יורד מארץ כנען ללכת דרך ארץ פלשתים לארץ מצרים מפני הרעב, עד שאמר לו הקב"ה: גור בארץ הזאת. וישב יצחק בגרר. 

I am not entirely certain which was to parse it. But based on the dibbur hamatchil and the restatement, it seems to me that he is taking it as a description of the proximity or a reason one might have thought to have taken them in that way. (This against Rashi, that it means 'because' but is a reason not to go.)

Ibn Ezra writes:
כי קרוב הוא -א"ר משה: 
אע"פ שהוא קרוב. וכמוהו לפי דעתו כי עם קשה עורף הוא. רפאה נפשי כי חטאתי לך. כי רכב ברזל לו. 
ולפי דעתי 
אין צורך. כי טעמו: למה לא נחם אלוהים דרך ארץ פלשתים, בעבור שהוא קרוב. והנה נחם דרך רחוקה שלא יראו מלחמה ויאמרו: נתנה ראש ונשובה מצרימה
וידענו כי השם יודע העתידות בלי ספק וידע שינחמו אם יוליכם דרך ארץ פלשתים. ואמר: פן ינחם העם. כי דברה תורה כלשון בני אדם שיבינו הלומדים.
Thus, according to Rabbi Moshe ben Shmuel HaKohen (Ibn Gikatilla) there is justification for saying that כי here means 'although'. But Ibn Ezra does not think this is necessary, and explains it otherwise, as 'because'. Is his explanation the same as Rashi? I am not sure, for the wording is ambiguous in my eyes. I think it could be a 'because' in the sense Rashbam brought it.

Ramban thinks Ibn Ezra is agreeing with Rashi, and argues on both of them. See inside.

I would like to think a bit more about Rashi. When he put forth his explanation, did he put it forth as peshat or derash?

Recall that Rashi wrote:

for it was near: and it was easy to return by that road to Egypt. There are also many aggadic midrashim [regarding this].כי קרוב הוא: ונוח לשוב באותו הדרך למצרים. ומדרשי אגדה יש הרבה:

One would quickly leap to the idea that he is saying peshat. After all, many people assert that Rashi is always saying peshat. Plus, he contrasts it to the many midreshei aggadah that he is not bringing down. So it should be peshat.

On the other hand, just because he says that there are many midreshei aggadah he is not citing does not mean that the midrash he does cite is peshat.

Rashi made a famous statement that "ואני לא באתי אלא לפשוטו של מקרא ולאגדה המיישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אופניו".

See my analysis in a post from a year ago, on parashat Beshalach, regarding this statement which Rashi makes in parashat Bereishit:
If we look at these specific midrashim that Rashi is declining to bring, we see that they involve the voice walking, or better -- reading וישמיעו such that the trees are speaking, or that the angels were talking. Instead, he explains that they heard Hashem who was walking in the garden. This, then, might be a rejection of a specific type of midrash.
Here as well, I would say that this is a rejection of a specific type of midrash, such that he will only bring down אגדה המיישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אופניו. So Rashi could very well intend his comment here in Beshalach as derash, while acknowledging that the peshat is 'even though' is was near.

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