Friday, November 08, 2013

Were the dudaim in season? Does this impact our identification of dudaim?

Summary: A three way machlokes about what dudaim means in Sanhedrin. Though we might then take those Aramaic identifications in different ways. Rashi seizes the explanation of סיגלי and identifies it with one species. Ramban uses other gemaras to argue with that identification and propose another identification for סיגלי, but then points out a botanical problem with that other identification -- they were out of season, so how could Reuven find it. He then chooses an alternate identification for dudaim, from the gemara and from Onkelos. Then Chasam Sofer weighs in to save from the botanical problem. But there are complications.


Here is a pasuk from Vayeitzei, and Rashi:

Reuben went in the days of the wheat harvest, and he found dudaim in the field and brought them to Leah, his mother, and Rachel said to Leah, "Now give me some of your son's dudaim."יד. וַיֵּלֶךְ רְאוּבֵן בִּימֵי קְצִיר חִטִּים וַיִּמְצָא דוּדָאִים בַּשָּׂדֶה וַיָּבֵא אֹתָם אֶל לֵאָה אִמּוֹ וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל אֶל לֵאָה תְּנִי נָא לִי מִדּוּדָאֵי בְּנֵךְ:
in the days of the wheat harvest: [This is] to tell the praise of the [progenitors of] the tribes. It was harvest time, and he did not stretch out his hand upon stolen property, to bring wheat or barley, but only upon an ownerless thing, which no one cares about. — [from Gen. Rabbah 72: 2]בימי קציר חטים: להגיד שבחן של שבטים, שעת הקציר היה ולא פשט ידו בגזל להביא חטים ושעורים אלא דבר ההפקר שאין אדם מקפיד בו:
dudaim: (Sanh. 99b) Sigli. This is an herb, [called] jasmine in Arabic.דודאים: סיגלי, עשב הוא ובלשון ישמעאל יסמי"ן:

Note that Rashi first cites Sanhedrin 99b for this identification. And then, in a separate step, he further identifies which species Chazal were talking about.

Though it is actually a dispute amongst Chazzal in Sanhedrin:
And Reuben went in the days of the wheat harvest [and found mandrakes in the field]. Raba b. Isaac said in Rab's name: This shews that righteous men do not take what is not theirs.19  And found dudaim20  [mandrakes] in the field. What are dudaim? — Rab said: mandrakes;21  Levi said: violets; R. Jonathan said: mandrake flowers.
Or, in Aramaic:
וימצא דודאים בשדה מאי דודאים אמר רב יברוחי לוי אמר סיגלי ר' יונתן אמר (סיבסוך) [סביסקי]:
Note how different people can interpret Levi's סיגלי as referring to different plants. (סיגלי might connote purple and thus violets.)

According to Ramban, there is a problem with Rashi's explanation of Dudaim. He writes:

(יד): דודאים - 
סיגלי (סנהדרין צט ב), ובלשון ישמעאל יאסמין. כך מצאתי בפירוש רש"י. 
ואינו כן, כי יאסמין בלשון ערבי כך שמו בדברי רבותינו, כדאמרינן בפרק במה טומנין (שבת נ ב): האי כוספא דיאסמין שרי, וסיגלי אומרים שהם "כנפסגא" שאמרו בהן (ברכות מג ב): מברכין עליהם בורא עשבי בשמים. אבל אין זמנם בימי קציר חטים, אולי מצאם שם במקרה:
והראוי לקבל בדודאים דעת אונקלוס שתרגם בהן: 
יברוחין, ובבראשית רבה (עב ב): גם כן, ר' חייא ב"ר אבא אמר יברוחין, והן יברוח בלשון ערבי. 

"Dudaim: Sigalei (Sanhedrin 99b), and in Arabic it is jasmine. So have I found in Rashi's commentary.

And it is not so, for jasmine, in Arabic has the identical name (jasmine) in the words of our Sages, as we say in perek Bameh Tomnin (Shabbat 50b): This kusfa of yasmin in permitted. Meanwhile, regarding sigalei, they say that they are 'Kanpasga', regarding which they said about them (Berachot 43b) 'We bless upon them בורא עשבי בשמים. However, their time is not in the days of the wheat harvest [Josh: namely, during Shavuot, during spring]. Perhaps he found them by chance. And what is fitting is to accept the position of Onkelos, who renders tham as יברוחין. And in Bereishit Rabba (72:2) likewise, Rabbi Chiya beRabbi Abba said Yavruchin, and this is יברוח in Arabic."

Interestingly, we see in Sanhedrin 99b that Rav translated it as יברוחי. And Onkelos had translated it so. So Rashi is choosing one position in Sanhedrin, against another position in Sanhedrin, and against Onkelos. Unless he had understood everyone to be in agreement and just giving local names.

If I read Ramban correctly, he is saying that the true sigalei (of Berachot 43b) are not in that season. But that יברוחין would be in season. I don't know enough about the identity of these species, about Arabic, and then about botany to say whether this is so. This requires greater investigation to learn properly.

However, I would point out that Soncino and Jastrow both render יברוח as mandrake, and that mandrakes do flower in the spring. Which means that Onkelos' translation, and thus Ramban's translation, would work out with the timing.

Here is what the Chasam Sofer has to say about this:

"And Reuven went in the season of the wheat harvest: Ramban argues that these are not the species which Rashi explains as jasmine, and yavruchin [Josh: as per Rav and Onkelos] are not found in the days of the wheat harvest.

And it appears to me that this is what the verse is coming to inform us.  Based on what Chazal say, that the angel appointed on lust compelled Yehuda to turn on the path to be with Tamar, so that two tzadikim would result. So too, Hashem prepared dudaim not in their time in order to produce Yissachar."

And here is where I am a bit confounded. This summary of Ramban seems slightly off. By my read of Ramban, he indeed rejects Rashi's explanation of dudaim as jasmine; but then explains what the gemara actually meant by סיגלי and rejects that other species on the basis of season -- though giving a similar explanation to Chasam Sofer, in that Ramban's אולי מצאם שם במקרה matches nicely to dudaim not in their proper time by Divine direction. But finally, Ramban recommends יברוחין, which is another position in the gemara and is in Onkelos. And Ramban does not reject this on the basis of season. That was my read. Meanwhile, it seems like Chasam Sofer understands Ramban to reject יברוחין on the basis of season. I don't see how to read this into Ramban's words (ignoring even that it is the proper season).

On the other hand, as I described above, I haven't done my due diligence in researching the Arabic, the botany, etc. So I shouldn't necessarily leap to the conclusion that the Chasam Sofer read too hastily and so misrepresented the Ramban. (Regardless, his explanation works equally well assuming an identification of סיגלי as opposed to יברוחין.)

Suggestions welcome. Am I missing something here?


David Ohsie said...

Without evidence, I think that a simple mistake crept into the Chasam Sofer at some point and it should say "Sigalei" or "Kanpasga". As you say, his main point is that the fact that the plant was out of season, and thus the presence of divine influence, would in fact be the point of the passuk in mentioning that it was the wheat harvest season. He's not so much concentrating on identifying which plant it was.

Dan Klein said...

Though I have no first-hand knowledge of Arabic, Shadal says that yavruhin is in fact Arabic for "mandrakes."

joshwaxman said...

this also mentions the identification:


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