Thursday, August 09, 2012

Running commentary, Ekev, part i

Parshas Ekev begins:
יב  וְהָיָה עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן, אֵת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים הָאֵלֶּה, וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם וַעֲשִׂיתֶם, אֹתָם--וְשָׁמַר ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְךָ, אֶת-הַבְּרִית וְאֶת-הַחֶסֶד, אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע, לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ.12 And it shall come to pass, because ye hearken to these ordinances, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep with thee the covenant and the mercy which He swore unto thy fathers,

Rashi writes:
And it will be, because you will heed: Heb. עֵקֶב, lit. heel. If you will heed the minor commandments which one [usually] tramples with his heels [i.e., which a person treats as being of minor importance].והיה עקב תשמעון: אם המצות הקלות שאדם דש בעקביו תשמעון:

thus identifying the 'minor' commandments. This is a derasha rather than peshat. On a peshat level, the of eikev purpose is to establish parity. Just as you are וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם, so too will וְשָׁמַר הYou are keeping your side of the covenant, and Hashem will keep His side.

It may be rendered as 'on the heels of'.

וְשָׁמַר -- the vav functions as 'then', connoting a result.

אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ -- yet that covenant was also based on our actions.

Next pasuk:
יג  וַאֲהֵבְךָ, וּבֵרַכְךָ וְהִרְבֶּךָ; וּבֵרַךְ פְּרִי-בִטְנְךָ וּפְרִי-אַדְמָתֶךָ דְּגָנְךָ וְתִירֹשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶךָ, שְׁגַר-אֲלָפֶיךָ וְעַשְׁתְּרֹת צֹאנֶךָ, עַל הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר-נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ לָתֶת לָךְ.13 and He will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee; He will also bless the fruit of thy body and the fruit of thy land, thy corn and thy wine and thine oil, the increase of thy kine and the young of thy flock, in the land which He swore unto thy fathers to give thee.

פְּרִי-בִטְנְךָ -- children.

וּפְרִי-אַדְמָתֶךָ -- what follows.

שְׁגַר-אֲלָפֶיךָ -- Ibn Ezra in his short commentary to Shemot 13:12 defines it as עדר, just as he defines וְעַשְׁתְּרֹת here. So different words are used to connote flock of cattle and sheep respectively. Ibn Caspi says the same.

אֲלָפֶיךָ -- means cows. Ibn Ezra points to another such usage, in Tehillim 144:
יד  אַלּוּפֵינוּ, מְסֻבָּלִים:    אֵין-פֶּרֶץ, וְאֵין יוֹצֵאת; וְאֵין צְוָחָה, בִּרְחֹבֹתֵינוּ.14 Whose oxen are well laden; with no breach, and no going forth, and no outcry in our broad places;
Compare with the immediately preceding pasuk, where sheep are mentioned, but with a curious parallel for 'alufeinu:
יג  מְזָוֵינוּ מְלֵאִים--    מְפִיקִים מִזַּן, אֶל-זַן:
צֹאונֵנוּ מַאֲלִיפוֹת, מְרֻבָּבוֹת--    בְּחוּצוֹתֵינוּ.
13 Whose garners are full, affording all manner of store; {N}
whose sheep increase by thousands and ten thousands in our fields;

Indeed, in Paleo-Hebrew, which is what the Torah was initially written in, the letter aleph is named for a cow.

It started as a V , which is meant to look like a cow with two horns. And eventually, the sign was turned on its side. Thus, the aleph is question is the aleph we all know and love.

Also, the alephs in the luchot were suspended by miracle.

וְעַשְׁתְּרֹת -- Rashi gives three reasons for the word.
and the choice of your flocks: Heb. וְעַשְׁתְּרוֹת צֹאנֶךָ. Menachem [ben Saruk] explains this expression as: אַבִּירֵי בָּשָׁן, “the strong rams of Bashan” (Ps. 22:13), [meaning] the choicest of the flock, similar to “Ashteroth-Karnaim” (Gen. 14:5), [עַשְׁתְּרֹת being] an expression for “strength.” Onkelos translates it:“and the flocks of your sheep.” Our Rabbis said: Why are they עַשְׁתְּרֹת? Because they enrich (מַעֲשִׁירוֹת) their owners (Chul. 84b).ועשתרות צאנך: מנחם פירש אבירי בשן (תהלים כב, יג), מבחר הצאן. כמו (בראשית יד, ה) עשתרות קרנים, לשון חוזק. ואונקלוס תרגם ועדרי ענך. ורבותינו אמרו למה נקרא שמם עשתרות שמעשירות את בעליהן:

Onkelos is the simple straightforward peshat. The derasha is a derasha. I don't know about Menachem ben Saruk. Maybe there is a linguistic connection to Ashtoret, the Canaanite fertility goddess.

Ibn Ezra, aside from translating it simply as flocks (like Onkelos), adds:
ומפרש גדול היה בספרד והוציא טעם למה קראו העברים הבקר בשם אלף והצאן בעשתרות וכן היה מפרש:הבעלים ועשתרות, בעל המזל הצומח והעשירי.

See Mechokei Yehuda or Tzafnas Paneach. I am not certain I understand, but I would think that he is referring to the signs of the zodiac, and specifically the first (aleph) and the tenth (ashtoret). The tenth sign is Capricorn, a goat. But it is the second sign of the Zodiac which is Taurus, the bull. So I don't know how to interpret aleph. The correct interpretation may arise from the last words: ועיקר משפט המזלות תלוי בבעל הצומח ובבעל העשירי.

Shouldn't the comparison be to שגר rather than אלף?

Next pasuk:
יד  בָּרוּךְ תִּהְיֶה, מִכָּל-הָעַמִּים:  לֹא-יִהְיֶה בְךָ עָקָר וַעֲקָרָה, וּבִבְהֶמְתֶּךָ.14 Thou shalt be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle.

וּבִבְהֶמְתֶּךָ -- There is a rather nice midrash taking this as 'and in your beham', your animal-driver. See my writeup here. An excerpt:
That is, Rabbi Yochanan -- the very person who claims Eretz Yisrael was not flooded -- met a Samaritan who was going to pray on Har Gerizim, which the Samaritans considered holy. When questioned why, the Samaritan said that it was not covered by the water of the flood, and thus is obviously extremely special and blessed.

Rabbi Yochanan did not have a ready answer, but his Beham, the animal driver, had a ready answer, which he put forth after asking Rabbi Yochanan for permission. And the driver's answer was remarkably clever, when we think about it. The motivation of the Samaritan was that Har Gerizim was special. And so, either show that this exception he made is contradicted by a pasuk, or else if he finds a way out, show that Har Gerizim was too insignificant to be mentioned. Either way, he deflates the Samaritan's position. And so he cited the aforementioned pasuk:

יט וְהַמַּיִם, גָּבְרוּ מְאֹד מְאֹד--עַל-הָאָרֶץ; וַיְכֻסּוּ, כָּל-הֶהָרִים הַגְּבֹהִים, אֲשֶׁר-תַּחַת, כָּל-הַשָּׁמָיִם.19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered.

Obviously, the Samaritan would want Har Gerizim to be a tall and "lofty" mountain. But if you say that it was, then the pasuk states that all the mountains were covered. But if it is one of the low mountains, then not only is it low, it was not even worthy of mention, to be discussed by the plain text of the chumash. Either way, the Pharisees win!
עָקָר  -- Ibn Ezra sees an increasing progression. We already saw that the fruit of the womb would be blessed. Further, the males will not be sterile. Further, as it continues in the next pasuk, you will be healthy.

Next pasuk:
טו  וְהֵסִיר ה מִמְּךָ, כָּל-חֹלִי; וְכָל-מַדְוֵי מִצְרַיִם הָרָעִים אֲשֶׁר יָדַעְתָּ, לֹא יְשִׂימָם בָּךְ, וּנְתָנָם, בְּכָל-שֹׂנְאֶיךָ.15 And the LORD will take away from thee all sickness; and He will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee, but will lay them upon all them that hate thee.

See Shemot 15:26:
כו  וַיֹּאמֶר אִם-שָׁמוֹעַ תִּשְׁמַע לְקוֹל ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, וְהַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינָיו תַּעֲשֶׂה, וְהַאֲזַנְתָּ לְמִצְו‍ֹתָיו, וְשָׁמַרְתָּ כָּל-חֻקָּיו--כָּל-הַמַּחֲלָה אֲשֶׁר-שַׂמְתִּי בְמִצְרַיִם, לֹא-אָשִׂים עָלֶיךָ, כִּי אֲנִי ה, רֹפְאֶךָ.  {ס}26 and He said: 'If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His eyes, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon thee, which I have put upon the Egyptians; for I am the LORD that healeth thee.'{S}

On that pasuk, Rashbam has a rather novel peshat:
כל המחלה אשר שמרתי במצרים - שעשיתי מימיהם דם ולא היה להם מים לשתות. 

לא אשים עליך כי אני ה' רפאך אשר רפאתי למים. כדכתיב לשון זה באלישע כשריפא המים.

כל המחלהבמים מדבר, כדכתיב: וברך את לחמך ואת מימיך והסירותי מחלה מקרבך. 

That it does not refer to disease, but to the makka of dam. Rashbam bases himself there on the immediate context, in which Moshe healed the bitter waters of Mara. He does not say the same here, and I don't think he really could. This might be a good case where a global peshat should supersede the best local peshat.

Here, these illnesses are being cast upon the enemies. As such, it should perhaps suggest the proper interpretation of הַצִּרְעָה, as tzaraat, in a few pesukim. Indeed, Shadal speaks about tzaraat here as one of the sicknesses particular to Egypt.

כָּל-חֹלִי; וְכָל-מַדְוֵי -- Ibn Ezra does not take this as kefel inyan bemilim shonot, but interprets the first as diseases kiminhag haolam and the latter as not keminhag haolam, perhaps because of the rest of the phrase to which each is joined.

Next pasuk:
טז  וְאָכַלְתָּ אֶת-כָּל-הָעַמִּים, אֲשֶׁר ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ--לֹא-תָחוֹס עֵינְךָ, עֲלֵיהֶם; וְלֹא תַעֲבֹד אֶת-אֱלֹהֵיהֶם, כִּי-מוֹקֵשׁ הוּא לָךְ.  {ס}16 And thou shalt consume all the peoples that the LORD thy God shall deliver unto thee; thine eye shall not pity them; neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee. {S}

וְאָכַלְתָּ  -- Ibn Ezra sees this as a command, and sees as proof לֹא-תָחוֹס עֵינְךָ, עֲלֵיהֶם. Elsewhere, a midrash states that the Torah never gives reasons for mitzvos, but for two mitzvos, lo yarbeh lo nashim and susim, the Torah gave a reason. (And thereby King Shlomo stumbled.) Perhaps this is specifically for prohibitions. But there is a prohibition of לֹא-תָחוֹס עֵינְךָ. This seems like another reason. How so?

לֹא-תָחוֹס עֵינְךָ, עֲלֵיהֶם and וְלֹא תַעֲבֹד אֶת-אֱלֹהֵיהֶם are cause and effect. The reason not to spare them is so that כִּי-מוֹקֵשׁ הוּא לָךְ, they will be a snare to you, and you might end up serving their gods.

Or say it is a physical snare. We see that klal Yisrael did not succeed in this, and that Yehoshua, at the end of his life, told them (Yehoshua 23):
יג  יָדוֹעַ, תֵּדְעוּ, כִּי לֹא יוֹסִיף ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם לְהוֹרִישׁ אֶת-הַגּוֹיִם הָאֵלֶּה, מִלִּפְנֵיכֶם; וְהָיוּ לָכֶם לְפַח וּלְמוֹקֵשׁ, וּלְשֹׁטֵט בְּצִדֵּיכֶם וְלִצְנִנִים בְּעֵינֵיכֶם, עַד-אֲבָדְכֶם מֵעַל הָאֲדָמָה הַטּוֹבָה הַזֹּאת, אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָכֶם ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם.13 know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive these nations from out of your sight; but they shall be a snare and a trap unto you, and a scourge in your sides, and pricks in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.

Ibn Ezra takes the gods to be a snare, rather than the existence of the Canaanite people to be a snare:

כי מוקש הוא לך -כל אחד מאלהיהם:

But I see that Shadal says like me. Baruch shekivanti!
כי מוקש הוא: כל אחד מהגויים ההם, אם תקיימהו אצלך, יהיה לך למוקש, שתעבוד את אלהיהם ותסור מאחרי ה '.

לֹא-תָחוֹס עֵינְךָ -- Ramban is right that there is otherwise an impetus for mercy, but that due to the mercy of the judges, all judgement is lost.

Next pasuk:
יז  כִּי תֹאמַר בִּלְבָבְךָ, רַבִּים הַגּוֹיִם הָאֵלֶּה מִמֶּנִּי; אֵיכָה אוּכַל, לְהוֹרִישָׁם.17 If thou shalt say in thy heart: 'These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them?'

כִּי תֹאמַר בִּלְבָבְךָ -- I am not sure that I follow, or agree with, Rashi's point.

 רַבִּים -- a




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