Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Vayigash #1: Pesukim that imply that Binyamin is Young

How old is Binyamin when he and the brothers go down to Egypt? Assuming Yosef was sold at 17 (which is NOT clear - we only know that he was רֹעֶה אֶת-אֶחָיו בַּצֹּאן at that age - Bereishit 27:2) and stood before Pharoah at age 30 (41:46: וְיוֹסֵף בֶּן-שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה בְּעָמְדוֹ לִפְנֵי פַּרְעֹה מֶלֶךְ-מִצְרָיִם), and furthermore the years of plenty and famine began immediately and proceeded 9 years before Yosef revealed himself to his brothers as we see in Vayigash, Bereishit 43:11:

וְכִלְכַּלְתִּי אֹתְךָ שָׁם, כִּי-עוֹד חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים רָעָב: פֶּן-תִּוָּרֵשׁ אַתָּה וּבֵיתְךָ, וְכָל-אֲשֶׁר-לָךְ.
"and there will I sustain thee; for there are yet five years of famine; lest thou come to poverty, thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast."

then Yosef was 39. 39 - 17 = 22 years in Egypt. If Binyamin had been born immediately before Yosef was sold, then he would be 22. Yet we assume Rachel had died in childbirth of Binyamin long before this started, as the pasuk says, as Yaakov was going returning from Padan, so he might be about 30. This is somewhat necessary since the geneology of people who went down to Egypt lists his 10 sons.

I am not convinced that all these constraints are really constraints - those psukim might mean things other than what a simple reading might imply. What I want to focus upon here though are the psukim that imply that Binyamin is really young - certainly not 30, and unlikely to be 22.

Neutral is the reason Yaakov does not send Binyamin down: In Bereishit 42:4:
וְאֶת-בִּנְיָמִין אֲחִי יוֹסֵף, לֹא-שָׁלַח יַעֲקֹב אֶת-אֶחָיו: כִּי אָמַר, פֶּן-יִקְרָאֶנּוּ אָסוֹן
"But Benjamin, Joseph's brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said: 'Lest peradventure harm befall him.'"

Yosef accuses his brothers of being spies and in pasuk 13 the brothers respond:
וַיֹּאמְרוּ, שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר עֲבָדֶיךָ אַחִים אֲנַחְנוּ בְּנֵי אִישׁ-אֶחָד--בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן; וְהִנֵּה הַקָּטֹן אֶת-אָבִינוּ הַיּוֹם, וְהָאֶחָד אֵינֶנּוּ.
"And they said: 'We thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not.'"

Yosef replies in pasuk 15:
בְּזֹאת, תִּבָּחֵנוּ: חֵי פַרְעֹה אִם-תֵּצְאוּ מִזֶּה, כִּי אִם-בְּבוֹא אֲחִיכֶם הַקָּטֹן הֵנָּה.
"Hereby ye shall be proved, as Pharaoh liveth, ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither."

and in pasuk 20 again:
וְאֶת-אֲחִיכֶם הַקָּטֹן תָּבִיאוּ אֵלַי, וְיֵאָמְנוּ דִבְרֵיכֶם וְלֹא תָמוּתוּ; וַיַּעֲשׂוּ-כֵן.
"and bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die.' And they did so. "

They call Binyamin הַקָּטֹן, which means both "the youngest" in terms of being in comparison with the ages of the other brothers, but also might mean "out young brother." This is neutral but slightly leaning towards Binyamin being young, and not 30 years old.

Yaakov again refuses to send Binyamin because he fears for his safety. In pasuk 36:
וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם יַעֲקֹב אֲבִיהֶם, אֹתִי שִׁכַּלְתֶּם: יוֹסֵף אֵינֶנּוּ, וְשִׁמְעוֹן אֵינֶנּוּ, וְאֶת-בִּנְיָמִן תִּקָּחוּ, עָלַי הָיוּ כֻלָּנָה.
"And Jacob their father said unto them: 'Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away; upon me are all these things come."

And again in pasuk 38 in a response to Reuven:
וַיֹּאמֶר, לֹא-יֵרֵד בְּנִי עִמָּכֶם: כִּי-אָחִיו מֵת וְהוּא לְבַדּוֹ נִשְׁאָר, וּקְרָאָהוּ אָסוֹן בַּדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר תֵּלְכוּ-בָהּ, וְהוֹרַדְתֶּם אֶת-שֵׂיבָתִי בְּיָגוֹן, שְׁאוֹלָה.
"And he said: 'My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he only is left; if harm befall him by the way in which ye go, then will ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave."

Then in perek 43, Yisrael is asked, this time by Yehuda. Yehuda calls Binyamin a נער. In pasuk 8:
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה אֶל-יִשְׂרָאֵל אָבִיו, שִׁלְחָה הַנַּעַר אִתִּי--וְנָקוּמָה וְנֵלֵכָה; וְנִחְיֶה וְלֹא נָמוּת, גַּם-אֲנַחְנוּ גַם-אַתָּה גַּם-טַפֵּנוּ.
"And Judah said unto Israel his father: 'Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones."

A naar seems to be someone young. Yosef was a naar. (Although perhaps he is called a naar at the age of 28 by the royal butler - see my previous post). 22 might still be a naar. But a 30 year old with 10 children?

In pasuk 28, Yosef sees Binyamin and says:
וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא אֶת-בִּנְיָמִין אָחִיו בֶּן-אִמּוֹ, וַיֹּאמֶר הֲזֶה אֲחִיכֶם הַקָּטֹן, אֲשֶׁר אֲמַרְתֶּם אֵלָי; וַיֹּאמַר, אֱלֹקִים יָחְנְךָ בְּנִי.
"And he lifted up his eyes, and saw Benjamin his brother, his mother's son, and said: 'Is this your youngest brother of whom ye spoke unto me?' And he said: 'God be gracious unto thee, my son.'"

Again, הַקָּטֹן might mean young or youngest. A hint that it is relative vs. absolute age can be seen in pasuk 33:
וַיֵּשְׁבוּ לְפָנָיו--הַבְּכֹר כִּבְכֹרָתוֹ, וְהַצָּעִיר כִּצְעִרָתוֹ; וַיִּתְמְהוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים, אִישׁ אֶל-רֵעֵהוּ.
"And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth; and the men marvelled one with another."

Thus relative ages are in play. הַבְּכֹר is the eldest and הַצָּעִיר is the youngest, and each along the way Yosef knew their ages. This focus suggests that הַקָּטֹן means relative rather than absolute age.

Then in perek 44 Yosef tells his steward to place the goblet in Binyamin's sack, in pasuk 2:
וְאֶת-גְּבִיעִי גְּבִיעַ הַכֶּסֶף, תָּשִׂים בְּפִי אַמְתַּחַת הַקָּטֹן, וְאֵת, כֶּסֶף שִׁבְרוֹ; וַיַּעַשׂ, כִּדְבַר יוֹסֵף אֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּר.
"And put my goblet, the silver goblet, in the sack's mouth of the youngest, and his corn money.' And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken. "

Again Binyamin is הַקָּטֹן.

And again suggesting that הַקָּטֹן is relative age, the steward overtakes them and searches their sacks, again in age order. Pasuk 12:
וַיְחַפֵּשׂ--בַּגָּדוֹל הֵחֵל, וּבַקָּטֹן כִּלָּה; וַיִּמָּצֵא, הַגָּבִיעַ, בְּאַמְתַּחַת, בִּנְיָמִן.
"And he searched, beginning at the eldest, and leaving off at the youngest; and the goblet was found in Benjamin's sack."

Here בַּגָּדוֹל and וּבַקָּטֹן match the earlier הַבְּכֹר and הַצָּעִיר.

Once Vayigash starts we have more psukim implying that Yosef in young. In 44:19-20, Yehuda says:
אֲדֹנִי שָׁאַל, אֶת-עֲבָדָיו לֵאמֹר: הֲיֵשׁ-לָכֶם אָב, אוֹ-אָח.
וַנֹּאמֶר, אֶל-אֲדֹנִי, יֶשׁ-לָנוּ אָב זָקֵן, וְיֶלֶד זְקֻנִים קָטָן; וְאָחִיו מֵת, וַיִּוָּתֵר הוּא לְבַדּוֹ לְאִמּוֹ וְאָבִיו אֲהֵבוֹ.
"My lord asked his servants, saying: Have ye a father, or a brother?
And we said unto my lord: We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him."

Here Binyamin is called a יֶלֶד זְקֻנִים קָטָן. Now it may be to contrast rhetorically יֶשׁ-לָנוּ אָב זָקֵן, or to match the fact that in the beginning of Vayeishev, Yosef is the Ben Zekunim and his father loves him, sparking jealously in his brothers (and likely so). However, it it strange to call a 30 year old a ben zekunim.

Further, we have the pasuk 22:
וַנֹּאמֶר, אֶל-אֲדֹנִי, לֹא-יוּכַל הַנַּעַר, לַעֲזֹב אֶת-אָבִיו: וְעָזַב אֶת-אָבִיו, וָמֵת.
"And we said unto my lord: The lad cannot leave his father; for if he should leave his father, [his father would] die."

Now it is not really clear who וָמֵת applies to - Binyamin or Yaakov. Rashbam says Yaakov, Rashi says Binyamin. The idea of a young boy unable to leave his father, and perhaps the fear that the journey is too much for a child parallels what Yaakov tells Esav when he begs out of going with him, in 33:13:
וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, אֲדֹנִי יֹדֵעַ כִּי-הַיְלָדִים רַכִּים, וְהַצֹּאן וְהַבָּקָר, עָלוֹת עָלָי; וּדְפָקוּם יוֹם אֶחָד, וָמֵתוּ כָּל-הַצֹּאן.
"And he said unto him: 'My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and that the flocks and herds giving suck are a care to me; and if they overdrive them one day, all the flocks will die."

Yehuda also reiterates his father's relutance to send Binyamin, back in perek 44, and every single pasuk in the rest of the perek calls Binyamin a naar.

וְעַתָּה, כְּבֹאִי אֶל-עַבְדְּךָ אָבִי, וְהַנַּעַר, אֵינֶנּוּ אִתָּנוּ; וְנַפְשׁוֹ, קְשׁוּרָה בְנַפְשׁוֹ.
וְהָיָה, כִּרְאוֹתוֹ כִּי-אֵין הַנַּעַר--וָמֵת; וְהוֹרִידוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ אֶת-שֵׂיבַת עַבְדְּךָ אָבִינוּ, בְּיָגוֹן--שְׁאֹלָה
כִּי עַבְדְּךָ עָרַב אֶת-הַנַּעַר, מֵעִם אָבִי לֵאמֹר: אִם-לֹא אֲבִיאֶנּוּ אֵלֶיךָ, וְחָטָאתִי לְאָבִי כָּל-הַיָּמִים.
וְעַתָּה, יֵשֶׁב-נָא עַבְדְּךָ תַּחַת הַנַּעַר--עֶבֶד, לַאדֹנִי; וְהַנַּעַר, יַעַל עִם-אֶחָיו.
כִּי-אֵיךְ אֶעֱלֶה אֶל-אָבִי, וְהַנַּעַר אֵינֶנּוּ אִתִּי: פֶּן אֶרְאֶה בָרָע, אֲשֶׁר יִמְצָא אֶת-אָבִי.

"Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad is not with us; seeing that his soul is bound up with the lad's soul;
it will come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die; and thy servants will bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.
For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying: If I bring him not unto thee, then shall I bear the blame to my father for ever.
Now therefore, let thy servant, I pray thee, abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren.
For how shall I go up to my father, if the lad be not with me? lest I look upon the evil that shall come on my father.'"

That is the body of evidence. It is possible that he is 22, or 30, but I have issues with it. Further we have the pasuk in the begining of Vayeishev that calls Yosef and not Binyamin the ben zekunim, and the fact that Yaakov refers to Yosef's mother Rachel when Yosef relates his second dream, and Rachel will not be alive once Binyamin is born which I touched upon earlier.

I hope to return to this topic later, perhaps looking at the psukim surrounding Binyamin's birth and seeing if his birth must really (based on pshat) be fixed before Yosef is sold.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

I updated the post "More chronology attempts" below.

I originally mistakenly reckoned the Yehudah/Er/Onan/Peretz chronology assuming 39 years since Yosef was sold, noting that it cut really close. 39 years would really be from the time Yosef was born, and even there it was cutting it close. It becomes even harder to imagine if we say it all happened in 22 years. And see my suggestions below in that post, which I will hopefully get to fleshing out soon.

Another thought about נער

that Potifar's wife calls Yosef a נער could help along the idea that Yosef spend 10 years in prison before speaking to the butler and spending another 2 years in prison. It is easier to call an 18 year old a נער than a 28 year old. This still does not help with the butler's calling him a נער to Pharoah, since then he would be 28 - 30.

I'll try to look again at the idea that נער means youngish servant in many an instance - it is looking better and better.

More chronology attempts: Updated

This week is a slow one at parshablog. I've been staring at the parsha, trying to make heads or tails out of various timelines. I will try to flesh it out sometime soon but for now here is a general summary of my thoughts. In a post below I tried to address how a 29 year old Yosef can be a naar, and ultimately rejected my suggestion.

I'm thinking about the 14 year gap in Yaakov's life which he spent at Shem/Ever, and how that gap can in fact be partially accounted for instead by assuming a gap between the time Yosef became a viceroy and the outset of the 7 good years. Yosef would then be more than 39, which is not after all an explicit pasuk.

I am also thinking about how old Binyamin is. He seems to be described as a naar and a koton, who cannot readily leave his father's side, and as a ben zekunim. Yet by the traditional accounting he is 30, which is as if not more strange than Yosef the 28-year old naar (see below). By the reckoning of Yaakov's family which came down to Egypt, Binyamin has 10 children, which is hard ti accomplish even for a 30 year old, let alone a koton. I have a suggestion that pshat in the psukim there is that the listing there is not of people who came down to mitzrayim but rather giving a general geneology of the original Jacobite family that came down to Egypt as opposed to the 60-myriads large family that left. Partial evidence is that Yosef and sons are counted even though they did not go down to Egypt. Rather, the sons of Yaakov and all their sons are counted, as well as grandsons who are born at the time of the counting, which occurred at some time X in Egypt, where time X is unknown - perhaps Yaakov's death. (This I would have to get into in more detail, perhaps in a later post.)

This rereading of the geneological list to not require everyone listed to hae been born can allow Binyamin to be a koton at the time the brothers came to ask for food. Alternatively, adding part of the 14 year gap in Yaakov's life to precede the onset of the years of plenty can age Binyamin, allowing him to have 10 children.

{Note: I updated the following because I made the assumption of 39 years for the span, rather than 22.}
The same issue rears its head in terms of Yehuda and his children. Chazal assume he first married the daughter of the Canaanite (=merchant) after the sale of Yosef, so he has 22 years for the Yehuda/Tamar incident to take place (39-17). One year for Er to be born, One year for Onan, and one year for Shelah. Assume Er takes Tamar when he is 13, which is then 14 years into the 39. One year to die and Onan to take her and die as well. Now 15 years into the 22. She waits for Shelah until he grows older, because he presumable is younger (as "Rashi" notes, his mother being in Keziv when she gave birth to him might imply that he was born after she was had stopped giving birth for a while.) Say 1 year for this. Yehuda sleeps with Tamar, and she has twin sons, which would take another year. Now we are 17 years in. They grow up and have kids, for in perek 46 in the geneological list, we see "And the sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul" but we don't see Zerech's children, who exist (as we see e.g. in Divrei Hayamim) but presumably not yet. Could Peretz have gotten married and have had two children at the age of 5? Of course not. So we would have to say that Er/Onan/Waiting for Shelah was even less. This is really hard to say.

On solution would be to say that some of this happened before the sale of Yosef. But Yehuda tends his father's flocks in the Yosef story and his own in the Tamar story. Further, he "goes down from his brothers" which Chazal take as a reaction to the sale of Yosef.

Furthermore, if Yehuda takes his first wife when Yosef is born (unlikely because then Yehudah would be too young) then we have 39 years to work with. We could then say Peretz could have gotten married at the age of 20 and had two children in successive years. Even so this is cutting it close, for Er and Onan would still have to be fairly. And any time you would add to Yehuda with his first wife, or to Er, or Onan, or Shelah, would have to be taken away from Peretz.

This issue again can be solved by adding the gap of 14 years to Yosef after he becomes viceroy and before the 7 years of plenty commence.

It could also be resolved by explaining that the geneology is not of people who came down to Egypt but of the close family that came to Egypt but taken at some point in time in Egypt and counting some people born in Egypt. If so, Peretz's sons need not have been born in Canaan. If so, of the 39 year period we could say something like: the first 21 would create a 20 year old Er. At year 22, Onan would marry Tamar and die. And year 30 Yehuda would sleep with Tamar, since Tamar saw Shelah was not given to her. At year 31 the twins were born, and they were 8 when they went down to Mitzrayim.

The difficulty with all these calculations is that you need to be a real baki in Bereishit and Chazal's reckoning, which I am decidedly not, since each event is related to others, since each event takes time and happens in a specific sequence. We have occasional statements about people's ages, which form constraints, and each time you propose some shift in time, you have to see how those changes cycle to other events and from there to still other events, possibly violating some contraint.

Something I might want to get into before the week is up is a discussion of the word YISHAK in describing Yosef's duties, and a (possibly faulty) analysis of the word SHIBOLIM/shibbolet.

Check back for updates as I hopefully get around to dealing with each of these points in detail.

Another perek!

הדרן עלך כלל אמרו במעשרות!
(1st perek yerushalmi מעשרות)

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Mikeitz: some pure speculation

This is a summary and revision of some ideas I've been batting around to figure out some issues in chronology, some of which I worked out last year. I think it is wrong, and at the end I explain why I reject it.

After Yosef successfully interprets Pharaoh's dream, Pharaoh appoints Yosef to some position. Bereishit 41:38-41:

וַיֹּאמֶר פַּרְעֹה, אֶל-עֲבָדָיו: הֲנִמְצָא כָזֶה--אִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר רוּחַ אֱלֹקִים בּוֹ.
וַיֹּאמֶר פַּרְעֹה אֶל-יוֹסֵף, אַחֲרֵי הוֹדִיעַ אֱלֹהִים אוֹתְךָ אֶת-כָּל-זֹאת, אֵין-נָבוֹן וְחָכָם, כָּמוֹךָ.
אַתָּה תִּהְיֶה עַל-בֵּיתִי, וְעַל-פִּיךָ יִשַּׁק כָּל-עַמִּי; רַק הַכִּסֵּא, אֶגְדַּל מִמֶּךָּ.

"And Pharaoh said unto his servants: 'Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom the spirit of God is?'
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph: 'Forasmuch as God hath shown thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou.
Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled; only in the throne will I be greater than thou.'"

This is parallel to the interaction with Potifar. Bereishit 39:2-6

וַיְהִי יְהוָה אֶת-יוֹסֵף, וַיְהִי אִישׁ מַצְלִיחַ; וַיְהִי, בְּבֵית אֲדֹנָיו הַמִּצְרִי.
וַיַּרְא אֲדֹנָיו, כִּי יְהוָה אִתּוֹ; וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר-הוּא עֹשֶׂה, יְהוָה מַצְלִיחַ בְּיָדוֹ.
וַיִּמְצָא יוֹסֵף חֵן בְּעֵינָיו, וַיְשָׁרֶת אֹתוֹ; וַיַּפְקִדֵהוּ, עַל-בֵּיתוֹ, וְכָל-יֶשׁ-לוֹ, נָתַן בְּיָדוֹ.
וַיְהִי מֵאָז הִפְקִיד אֹתוֹ בְּבֵיתוֹ, וְעַל כָּל-אֲשֶׁר יֶשׁ-לוֹ, וַיְבָרֶךְ יְהוָה אֶת-בֵּית הַמִּצְרִי, בִּגְלַל יוֹסֵף; וַיְהִי בִּרְכַּת יְהוָה, בְּכָל-אֲשֶׁר יֶשׁ-לוֹ--בַּבַּיִת, וּבַשָּׂדֶה.
וַיַּעֲזֹב כָּל-אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ, בְּיַד-יוֹסֵף, וְלֹא-יָדַע אִתּוֹ מְאוּמָה, כִּי אִם-הַלֶּחֶם אֲשֶׁר-הוּא אוֹכֵל; וַיְהִי יוֹסֵף, יְפֵה-תֹאַר וִיפֵה מַרְאֶה.

"And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.
And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.
And Joseph found favour in his sight, and he ministered unto him. And he appointed him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.
And it came to pass from the time that he appointed him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had, in the house and in the field.
And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and, having him, he knew not aught save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was of beautiful form, and fair to look upon."

In Potifar's house, he was first a servant and then was promoted to overseer of the house. What seemed to have gotten him this promotion was that Potifar saw that Hashem was with Yosef. One exception to what Yosef's oversight was the bread that he ate.

What about in Pharaoh's house? Pharoah first remarks that Hashem is with Yosef:
וַיֹּאמֶר פַּרְעֹה, אֶל-עֲבָדָיו: הֲנִמְצָא כָזֶה--אִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר רוּחַ אֱלֹקִים בּוֹ.
Then Pharaoh says:
אַתָּה תִּהְיֶה עַל-בֵּיתִי, וְעַל-פִּיךָ יִשַּׁק כָּל-עַמִּי; רַק הַכִּסֵּא, אֶגְדַּל מִמֶּךָּ.

What does it mean by עַל-בֵּיתִי? Is Yosef being appointed her over all Egypt, or as overseer of Pharoah's house? (He clearly is appointed to be the former in a few psukim, which I will address later, but this might be another appointment.)

אַתָּה תִּהְיֶה עַל-בֵּיתִי seems to parallel וַיַּפְקִדֵהוּ עַל-בֵּיתוֹ by Potifar. Also, רַק הַכִּסֵּא אֶגְדַּל מִמֶּךָּ could mean he is being appointed a second-in-command, but it also parallels by Potifar כִּי אִם-הַלֶּחֶם אֲשֶׁר-הוּא אוֹכֵל. If so, he might have served several years in Pharoah's house, running the household, before being appointed to a position over all of Egypt.

וְעַל-פִּיךָ יִשַּׁק כָּל-עַמִּי is parallel to אַתָּה תִּהְיֶה עַל-בֵּיתִי. The word עַמִּי could refer to an entire nation, or to a family. Consider Shmot 21:8 by a Hebrew maidservant. Either the master of his son should marry her. However,

אִם-רָעָה בְּעֵינֵי אֲדֹנֶיהָ, אֲשֶׁר-לא (לוֹ) יְעָדָהּ--וְהֶפְדָּהּ: לְעַם נָכְרִי לֹא-יִמְשֹׁל לְמָכְרָהּ, בְּבִגְדוֹ-בָהּ.
"If she please not her master, who hath espoused her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed; to sell her unto a foreign people he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her."

A foreign people does not seem to be non-jews but rather anyone outside of the family. So, עם may well refer to family.

Why am I so interested in seeing if it is possible for two periods of employment to exist right here? After all, the psukim by Pharoah continue (41:41-46):

וַיֹּאמֶר פַּרְעֹה, אֶל-יוֹסֵף: רְאֵה נָתַתִּי אֹתְךָ, עַל כָּל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
וַיָּסַר פַּרְעֹה אֶת-טַבַּעְתּוֹ מֵעַל יָדוֹ, וַיִּתֵּן אֹתָהּ עַל-יַד יוֹסֵף; וַיַּלְבֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ בִּגְדֵי-שֵׁשׁ, וַיָּשֶׂם רְבִד הַזָּהָב עַל-צַוָּארוֹ.
וַיַּרְכֵּב אֹתוֹ, בְּמִרְכֶּבֶת הַמִּשְׁנֶה אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ, וַיִּקְרְאוּ לְפָנָיו, אַבְרֵךְ; וְנָתוֹן אֹתוֹ, עַל כָּל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
וַיֹּאמֶר פַּרְעֹה אֶל-יוֹסֵף, אֲנִי פַרְעֹה; וּבִלְעָדֶיךָ, לֹא-יָרִים אִישׁ אֶת-יָדוֹ וְאֶת-רַגְלוֹ--בְּכָל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
וַיִּקְרָא פַרְעֹה שֵׁם-יוֹסֵף, צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ, וַיִּתֶּן-לוֹ אֶת-אָסְנַת בַּת-פּוֹטִי פֶרַע כֹּהֵן אֹן, לְאִשָּׁה; וַיֵּצֵא יוֹסֵף, עַל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
וְיוֹסֵף, בֶּן-שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה, בְּעָמְדוֹ, לִפְנֵי פַּרְעֹה מֶלֶךְ-מִצְרָיִם; וַיֵּצֵא יוֹסֵף מִלִּפְנֵי פַרְעֹה, וַיַּעֲבֹר בְּכָל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.

"And Pharaoh said unto Joseph: 'See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.'
And Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck.
And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him: 'Abrech'; and he set him over all the land of Egypt.
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph: 'I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or his foot in all the land of Egypt.'
And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-phera priest of On. And Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.--
And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt.--And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt."

This can read as a continuation of the above speech by Pharoah, appointing Yosef to the position of viceroy. However, I am troubled by two points.

1. As a noted in a dvar torah last year, there is a 10 year gap. Yosef is sold at 17 (second pasuk of Vayeishev), stands before Pharoah/goes out over all of Egypt at 30 (last pasuk quoted), and was in prison for two years.

Where the two years? The first pasuk of Mikeitz: (41:1)

וַיְהִי, מִקֵּץ שְׁנָתַיִם יָמִים; וּפַרְעֹה חֹלֵם, וְהִנֵּה עֹמֵד עַל-הַיְאֹר.
"And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river."

At the end of two full years from when? In the immediately preceding narrative, Yosef in in prison and correctly interpreted the dreams for the chief baker and butler, and extracted a promise from the butler to remember him, a promise that the butler failed in until Mikeitz. So, two full years in prison, but from when? When placed in prison, or when interpreting the dream for the butler?

If from the time he was placed in prison, then 1 year serving Potifar would make Yosef 18, and two years in prison would make him 20, not 30 when he stood before Pharoah. Where were the 10 years?

Chazal explain that the two years were since he extracted the promise, but he had been in prison beforehand for 10 years.

We could alternately account for the 10 years by suggesting that Yosef told his own dreams to his brothers/ received the ketonet pasim from his father at the age of 17, but was sold much later. This would further complicate some other reckonings of Yehudah's children and grandchildren and Binyamin's children, but might still be possible.

Further, Yosef might have served Potifar for more years, say 11 instead of one.

All these possibilities are complicated by the description the butler gives of Yosef to Pharoah, which is point 2.

2. The butler describes Yosef to Pharoah as a נער. In Bereishit 41:12

וְשָׁם אִתָּנוּ נַעַר עִבְרִי, עֶבֶד לְשַׂר הַטַּבָּחִים, וַנְּסַפֶּר-לוֹ, וַיִּפְתָּר-לָנוּ אֶת-חֲלֹמֹתֵינוּ: אִישׁ כַּחֲלֹמוֹ, פָּתָר.
וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר פָּתַר-לָנוּ, כֵּן הָיָה: אֹתִי הֵשִׁיב עַל-כַּנִּי, וְאֹתוֹ תָלָה.

"And there was with us there a young man, a Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret.
And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was: I was restored unto mine office, and he was hanged.'"

Now, I know that נער can also mean servant, and I have heard divrei torah associating the term עִבְרִי with servant, but עֶבֶד seems to cover that description. On the other hand, Potifar's wife in the previous perek calls Yosef first a אִישׁ עִבְרִי and then הָעֶבֶד הָעִבְרִי. I do not think we should interpret נער. After all, the second pasuk of Vayeishev describes 17 year old Yosef as a נער.

אֵלֶּה תֹּלְדוֹת יַעֲקֹב, יוֹסֵף בֶּן-שְׁבַע-עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה הָיָה רֹעֶה אֶת-אֶחָיו בַּצֹּאן, וְהוּא נַעַר אֶת-בְּנֵי בִלְהָה וְאֶת-בְּנֵי זִלְפָּה, נְשֵׁי אָבִיו; וַיָּבֵא יוֹסֵף אֶת-דִּבָּתָם רָעָה, אֶל-אֲבִיהֶם.
"These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren, being still a lad even with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought evil report of them unto their father."

Rather than interpreting נער, if we take it in its most usual meaning, young lad.

Now, if 10 years had past, whether in Canaan, of in Potifar's house, or in prison, then Yosef would be 28 when he interpreted the dreams of the butler and baker. Can a 28 year old be called a נער?

Perhaps. If Yitzchak can be 37 at the time of the Akeida and be called a נער, and if Binyamin can be 30 and be called a נער, so can a 28 year old Yosef.

However, Chazal arrive at those numbers for those נערים based on calculations that I intend to recalculate in another way here (at least Binyamin), so they cannot serve as prooftexts. Rather, calling him a נער is somewhat problematic.

Assuming Yosef first served over Pharoah's house, and only later, say at the outset of the 7 years of plenty or slightly before that, served as the viceroy, then those 10 years can be accounted for serving in Pharoah's house. Or, we can distribute those years, and make Yosef serve some years (more than one) in Potifar's house and some years in Pharoah's house.

The two appointments would be reflected in the two וַיֹּאמֶר פַּרְעֹה אֶל-יוֹסֵף's with no narrative break in between.
וַיֹּאמֶר פַּרְעֹה אֶל-יוֹסֵף, אַחֲרֵי הוֹדִיעַ אֱלֹהִים אוֹתְךָ אֶת-כָּל-זֹאת, אֵין-נָבוֹן וְחָכָם, כָּמוֹךָ.
אַתָּה תִּהְיֶה עַל-בֵּיתִי, וְעַל-פִּיךָ יִשַּׁק כָּל-עַמִּי; רַק הַכִּסֵּא, אֶגְדַּל מִמֶּךָּ.
וַיֹּאמֶר פַּרְעֹה, אֶל-יוֹסֵף: רְאֵה נָתַתִּי אֹתְךָ, עַל כָּל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
וַיָּסַר פַּרְעֹה אֶת-טַבַּעְתּוֹ מֵעַל יָדוֹ, וַיִּתֵּן אֹתָהּ עַל-יַד יוֹסֵף; וַיַּלְבֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ בִּגְדֵי-שֵׁשׁ, וַיָּשֶׂם רְבִד הַזָּהָב עַל-צַוָּארוֹ.

Attacking the above position: why my speculation seems to be wrong
although perhaps the second וַיֹּאמֶר פַּרְעֹה אֶל-יוֹסֵף is needed to introduce to narrative section:
וַיָּסַר פַּרְעֹה אֶת-טַבַּעְתּוֹ מֵעַל יָדוֹ, וַיִּתֵּן אֹתָהּ עַל-יַד יוֹסֵף; וַיַּלְבֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ בִּגְדֵי-שֵׁשׁ, וַיָּשֶׂם רְבִד הַזָּהָב עַל-צַוָּארוֹ.

Further, Yosef tells Pharoah to set up as viceroy an אִישׁ נָבוֹן וְחָכָם; וִישִׁיתֵהוּ, עַל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם in pasuk 33, and Pharoah responds by observing to Yosef "אַחֲרֵי הוֹדִיעַ אֱלֹהִים אוֹתְךָ אֶת-כָּל-זֹאת, אֵין-נָבוֹן וְחָכָם, כָּמוֹךָ." If so, his appointment should be that of viceroy. And with one appointment, to the position of viceroy, the statement that he was 30 when he stood before Pharoah, which means he was 28 when he saw the butler, and the butler calls him a נער. Either נער extends to the age of 28-30, or else נער denotes a servant (which we know it sometimes does).

Friday, December 19, 2003

Horayot-II Update

I've been delaying it for a while, but I finally got around to scanning in the last 3 articles for horayot. I put them on my web page along withmy notes for classes 8 to 11.

You can check them out at http://yucs.org/~waxman

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Another perek! And Masechet!

And it ends with an appropriate topical sugya as well. From the very end of yerushalmi terumot, a rough translation:
"May one light שמן שריפה (this is טמא oil which is תרומה) on Chanukka?
In the House of Rabbi Yanai they said 'We may light שמן שריפה on Chanukka.'
Rabbi Nissa said, 'I knew not my father, but my mother told me "Your father said 'One who has no chullin oil may light with שמן שריפה on Chanukka.' " ' "

Rav Chaim Kanievsky explains the question as whether a Yisrael may light, because there is but the hana`ah of the mitzvah, and מצוות לאו ליהנות ניתנו, mitzvot were not given for hanaah, so one is not in violation of improper benefit if the only benefit is the mitzvah.

This tells me (though would have to look into it more extensively) that perhaps you should not use שמן שריפה for the shammas. There are two purposes for the shammas - one, to light the other candles, and two, so that you don't use the light of the rest of the candles for personal benefit. The shammas is thus there for the personal benefit rather than benefit of the mitzvah.

הדרן עלך אין נותנין דבילה!
וסליקא לה מסכת תרומות!!!!!!!!

Registered for my CUNY classes this morning

I'm taking an Artificial Intelligence class crosslisted with the Linguistics department in Computational Linguistics. Also, readings courses in Reinforcement Learning and Algorithms for Image Reconstruction from Projections.

Another perek!

הדרן עלך בצל שנתנו לתוך עדשים!
(10th perek yerushalmi terumot)

וְהָיִינוּ לְעַם אֶחָד

Via LGF from BBC:

Malaysia moots cross-cultural circumcision
Malaysia is to consider using mass circumcision ceremonies to promote racial harmony.

Circumcision is a rite of passage for young Muslim boys, and in Malaysia it is common for the ceremony to become an event with dozens, or even hundreds of boys being circumcised together.

Now the prime minister's religious affairs adviser has suggested that circumcision can bring Malaysians of all races and religions together.

Dr Abdul Hamid Othman said that with the growing popularity of circumcision among the country's non-Muslim minorities - who see it as good hygienic practice - they too could be invited to join in the celebrations with their Muslim friends.

He believes the idea could promote better race relations and he wants to see a nationwide circumcision ceremony organised.

Just over half of Malaysia's population is Muslim, mainly members of the ethnic Malay community, while the country's Chinese, Tamil and tribal peoples follow a variety of other faiths.

The government has been exploring ways of stopping the different groups from drifting apart, including the introduction of a national service scheme which begins in February.

This sounds a bit familiar... From Vayishlach, Bereishit 34:14-18:

וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵיהֶם, לֹא נוּכַל לַעֲשׂוֹת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה--לָתֵת אֶת-אֲחֹתֵנוּ, לְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ עָרְלָה: כִּי-חֶרְפָּה הִוא, לָנוּ.
אַךְ-בְּזֹאת, נֵאוֹת לָכֶם: אִם תִּהְיוּ כָמֹנוּ, לְהִמֹּל לָכֶם כָּל-זָכָר.
וְנָתַנּוּ אֶת-בְּנֹתֵינוּ לָכֶם, וְאֶת-בְּנֹתֵיכֶם נִקַּח-לָנוּ; וְיָשַׁבְנוּ אִתְּכֶם, וְהָיִינוּ לְעַם אֶחָד.
וְאִם-לֹא תִשְׁמְעוּ אֵלֵינוּ, לְהִמּוֹל--וְלָקַחְנוּ אֶת-בִּתֵּנוּ, וְהָלָכְנוּ.
וַיִּיטְבוּ דִבְרֵיהֶם, בְּעֵינֵי חֲמוֹר, וּבְעֵינֵי, שְׁכֶם בֶּן-חֲמוֹר.

They better watch out... :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Vayeishev #5: A Baaaad Report

The second pasuk in Vayeishev reads:
אֵלֶּה תֹּלְדוֹת יַעֲקֹב, יוֹסֵף בֶּן-שְׁבַע-עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה הָיָה רֹעֶה אֶת-אֶחָיו בַּצֹּאן, וְהוּא נַעַר אֶת-בְּנֵי בִלְהָה וְאֶת-בְּנֵי זִלְפָּה, נְשֵׁי אָבִיו; וַיָּבֵא יוֹסֵף אֶת-דִּבָּתָם רָעָה, אֶל-אֲבִיהֶם.
"These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren, being still a lad even with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought evil report of them unto their father."

What was this evil report? The midrash fills in the details, which you can see in a dvar torah below, but this "evil report does not factor into the narrative at all. Or perhaps it does. After all, in pasuk 8, we see:

וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ, אֶחָיו, הֲמָלֹךְ תִּמְלֹךְ עָלֵינוּ, אִם-מָשׁוֹל תִּמְשֹׁל בָּנוּ; וַיּוֹסִפוּ עוֹד שְׂנֹא אֹתוֹ, עַל-חֲלֹמֹתָיו וְעַל-דְּבָרָיו.
And his brethren said to him: 'Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?' And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

What were Yosef's דְּבָרָיו, "his words"? Were they words regarding his dreams, or the fact that he relayed bad news about his brothers to his father?

I would suggest that perhaps אֶת-דִּבָּתָם רָעָה does not mean "evil report," but rather "shepherding report." The purpose of the pasuk would then be to set up the situation so that you understand the subsequent narrative. We are told in a subsequent pasuk that Yaakov father gave Yosef a כְּתֹנֶת פַּסִּים because he loved him most, which engendered hatred in Yosef's brothers. Thus, we understand later the significance of them stripping Yosef of his coat, dipping it in blood, and showing it to Yaakov.

Similarly, we are told up front that Yosef was 17 years old and shepherded with his brothers, but that it was his role to check up periodically with his brothers on how the shepherding was going, and relay word to his father.

Firstly, this makes sense, since it was Yaakov's flocks, and not the brothers. As we see in pasuk 12:

וַיֵּלְכוּ, אֶחָיו, לִרְעוֹת אֶת-צֹאן אֲבִיהֶם, בִּשְׁכֶם.
"And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem."

As such, Yaakov would have interest in how his possessions (and sons) were doing. We saw earlier how Yaakov was able to cleverly genetically modify his flocks to his liking and have them produce offspring.

We then see Yosef's role of bringing אֶת-דִּבָּתָם רָעָה, אֶל-אֲבִיהֶם explicitly in pasuk 13-14:

וַיֹּאמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל-יוֹסֵף, הֲלוֹא אַחֶיךָ רֹעִים בִּשְׁכֶם--לְכָה, וְאֶשְׁלָחֲךָ אֲלֵיהֶם; וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, הִנֵּנִי.
וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, לֶךְ-נָא רְאֵה אֶת-שְׁלוֹם אַחֶיךָ וְאֶת-שְׁלוֹם הַצֹּאן, וַהֲשִׁבֵנִי, דָּבָר; וַיִּשְׁלָחֵהוּ מֵעֵמֶק חֶבְרוֹן, וַיָּבֹא שְׁכֶמָה.
"And Israel said unto Joseph: 'Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them.' And he said to him: 'Here am I.'

And he said to him: 'Go now, see whether it is well with thy brethren, and well with the flock; and bring me back word.' So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem."

Yaakov presumably knew how to read one of these.

Vayeishev #4: Brand Name Recognition? Or Lack Thereof?

I saw an interesting bit of realia in התורה והמצוה, who cites מהר"א אשכנזי on this pasuk: Bereishit 38:15:

וַיִּרְאֶהָ יְהוּדָה, וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ לְזוֹנָה: כִּי כִסְּתָה, פָּנֶיהָ.
When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a harlot; for she had covered her face.

מהר"א אשכנזי writes that it is the practice in Islamic countries to this day (when מהר"א אשכנזי was writing) to brand a letter on the forehead of harlots, and so harlots would typically cover their faces.

He explains along these lines that in Bereishit 38:24

וַיְהִי כְּמִשְׁלֹשׁ חֳדָשִׁים, וַיֻּגַּד לִיהוּדָה לֵאמֹר זָנְתָה תָּמָר כַּלָּתֶךָ, וְגַם הִנֵּה הָרָה, לִזְנוּנִים; וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה, הוֹצִיאוּהָ וְתִשָּׂרֵף.
"And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying: 'Tamar thy daughter-in-law hath played the harlot; and moreover, behold, she is with child by harlotry.' And Judah said: 'Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.'"

הוֹצִיאוּהָ וְתִשָּׂרֵף means take her out and brand her forehead.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Vayeshev #3: Where Does the First Pasuk Belong? (also edited from last year)

The first pasuk of Vayeshev (Bereishit 37:1) does not really belong to this parsha - and the story with Yosef's dreams happened when Rachel was still alive.

This, of course, goes against all meforshim I've seen, and it might, or might not, go against the division of the parshiyot with petuchot and stumot, but read and and see for yourself.

If we look in the previous parasha, Vayishlach (36:6-37:1):
וַיִּקַּח עֵשָׂו אֶת-נָשָׁיו וְאֶת-בָּנָיו וְאֶת-בְּנֹתָיו, וְאֶת-כָּל-נַפְשׁוֹת בֵּיתוֹ, וְאֶת-מִקְנֵהוּ וְאֶת-כָּל-בְּהֶמְתּוֹ וְאֵת כָּל-קִנְיָנוֹ, אֲשֶׁר רָכַשׁ בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן; וַיֵּלֶךְ אֶל-אֶרֶץ, מִפְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב אָחִיו.
כִּי-הָיָה רְכוּשָׁם רָב, מִשֶּׁבֶת יַחְדָּו; וְלֹא יָכְלָה אֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵיהֶם, לָשֵׂאת אֹתָם--מִפְּנֵי, מִקְנֵיהֶם.
וַיֵּשֶׁב עֵשָׂו בְּהַר שֵׂעִיר, עֵשָׂו הוּא אֱדוֹם.
וְאֵלֶּה תֹּלְדוֹת עֵשָׂו, אֲבִי אֱדוֹם, בְּהַר, שֵׂעִיר.
"And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the souls of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his possessions, which he had gathered in the land of Canaan; and went into a land away from his brother Jacob.

For their substance was too great for them to dwell together; and the land of their sojournings could not bear them because of their cattle.

And Esau dwelt in the mountain-land of Seir--Esau is Edom.

And these are the generations of Esau the father of a the Edomites in the mountain-land of Seir."...

Then there is a digression, listing Esav's descendants and Edom's kings, and then, we have Vayeshev:

וַיֵּשֶׁב יַעֲקֹב, בְּאֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵי אָבִיו--בְּאֶרֶץ, כְּנָעַן.
אֵלֶּה תֹּלְדוֹת יַעֲקֹב, יוֹסֵף בֶּן-שְׁבַע-עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה...
"And Jacob dwelt in the land of his father's sojournings, in the land of Canaan.
These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old..."

These clearly go together, and the geneological lists and monarch lists just form digressions. We are told that Esav and Yaakov settled together, but they could not dwell together because of their great wealth, so Esav moved out, leaving Canaan to Yaakov. In Hebrew:
(8) וַיֵּשֶׁב עֵשָׂו בְּהַר שֵׂעִיר, עֵשָׂו הוּא אֱדוֹם.
(1) וַיֵּשֶׁב יַעֲקֹב, בְּאֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵי אָבִיו--בְּאֶרֶץ, כְּנָעַן.
(9) וְאֵלֶּה תֹּלְדוֹת עֵשָׂו, אֲבִי אֱדוֹם, בְּהַר, שֵׂעִיר.
(2) אֵלֶּה תֹּלְדוֹת יַעֲקֹב, יוֹסֵף

See the similarities? Further, the pasuk says Esav left because (pasuk 26:7) וְלֹא יָכְלָה אֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵיהֶם, the Eretz Megureihem couldn't sustain them, and Yaakov is said to settle בְּאֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵי אָבִיו, which is Canaan, which is where the pasuk says Esav moved out of. The psukim are meant to be read in parallel.

It is also not clear the order of what happens when. Rachel is alive when Yaakov first meets Esav, and the stories seem to be in order - Dinah, Yaakov's getting named Yisrael by Hashem, Rachel's death, Yitzchak's death, Esav's moving out, possibly in some inhertance settlement. But, ain mukdam umeuchar baTorah, and it could be that some of this story happened earlier, but was not mentioned in its chronological place so that the entire story of Yosef could be told from beginning to end without interruption. If so, perhaps the beginning did not happen in Canaan after Esav moved away, but even before, perhaps before or after the story with Dinah. For we are not told specific chronological information, though we can figure out some things. We know Yosef was 17 when this starts, and we know Yaakov's age when he dies in Egypt. A lot of information is calculated, and there are gaps in time which Chazal explain as Yaakov spending many years in the yeshiva of Shem and Ever. So, not all dates are concrete. A serious effort has to be made by me at some point to figure out if all this can work out chronologically, but I suspect it can.

Yosef tells his first dream to his brothers. He says they are gathering grain, and his brothers' sheaves of grain bow down to his sheaf. He does not specify how many sheaves. He then has a second dream - we are not told how much later he has this dream. He dreams the sun and moon, and eleven stars bow down to him. His father gets angry and says, Do you think I and your mother and your brothers will bow down to you. His brothers become more jealous, but his father kept watch over the matter. Then, later, his father sends him to look after his shepherding brothers, and we still don't know how old he is.

The key phrase is "Do you think I and your mother and your brothers." Yaakov understands the moon refers to Rachel. The midrash claims that Yaakov says this to point out the foolishness - how can Rachel bow down to you, if the is not alive? What Yaakov didn't realize, says the midrash, is that Bilhah was the moon, and they would bow down in Egypt. By way of note, Dinah was not meant as one of the stars, for Yaakov only mentions brothers bowing down to Yosef, not a sister.

I would suggest that Rachel was still alive when this happened, and was pregnant with Binyamin at the time. Then, Yaakov's statement referring to Yosef's mother would make sense. Also, the Torah states (37:3)
וְיִשְׂרָאֵל, אָהַב אֶת-יוֹסֵף מִכָּל-בָּנָיו--כִּי-בֶן-זְקֻנִים הוּא, לוֹ; וְעָשָׂה לוֹ, כְּתֹנֶת פַּסִּים
that Yaakov loved Yosef because he was his Ben Zekunim, child of old age. This fits Yosef being the youngest son, for otherwise he would have even more reason to love Binyamin (which he did, as we see later). It fits in nicely if Binyamin is not yet in the picture, and thus Yosef is the Ben Zekunim.

Vayeshev #2: Dibatam Ra'ah: from last year, edited, plus an update

The second pasuk in the parasha (Bereishit 37:2) states

אֵלֶּה תֹּלְדוֹת יַעֲקֹב, יוֹסֵף בֶּן-שְׁבַע-עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה הָיָה רֹעֶה אֶת-אֶחָיו בַּצֹּאן, וְהוּא נַעַר אֶת-בְּנֵי בִלְהָה וְאֶת-בְּנֵי זִלְפָּה, נְשֵׁי אָבִיו; וַיָּבֵא יוֹסֵף אֶת-דִּבָּתָם רָעָה, אֶל-אֲבִיהֶם.

My own free translation:

"These are the Toldot of Yaakov; 17 year old Yosef would shepherd with his brothers sheep, and he would נַעַר with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpha the wives of his father, and Yosef brought their bad Dibah to their father."

אֶת means with, so רֹעֶה אֶת-אֶחָיו בַּצֹּאן means he would shepherd sheep with his brothers. נַעַר could mean that he was raised with them (children of Bilhah and Zilpah), if indeed Rachel had already passed on (see my previous dvar torah on this), or else נַעַר could mean something else.

נַעַר means to be youthful, to shake off, to discard, according to Rav Shamshon ben Rephael Hirsch, so I suggest perhaps it means he hung out with them and was youthful with them, but reported his brothers misdeeds to his father.

Also, נַעַר does not only mean youth. It sometimes means servant, as by the Akeida, Avraham left the נערים with the donkey, and he and the נַעַר (Yitzchak) went up to the mountain. So perhaps it means Yosef served with them.

What was the report of misdeeds? Rashi cites a midrash (Rashi, 37:2), that "every evil that he saw in his brothers the sons of Leah he would report to his father: that they would eat a detached limb from a still-living animal, and they denigrated the sons of the maidservants (Bilhah and Zilpah) and they were suspect in sexual improprieties. And on all three Yosef was punished..."

Where does the midrash get this list from. Siftei Chachamim gives an answer, but Mizrachi rejects it for various, very good reasons (see both inside). This is my answer, which I developed before I saw Mizrachi, but he says something very similar. I suggest that the midrash gets it from the second pasuk of the parasha. The pasuk states:
אֵלֶּה תֹּלְדוֹת יַעֲקֹב, יוֹסֵף בֶּן-שְׁבַע-עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה הָיָה רֹעֶה אֶת-אֶחָיו בַּצֹּאן, וְהוּא נַעַר אֶת-בְּנֵי בִלְהָה וְאֶת-בְּנֵי זִלְפָּה, נְשֵׁי אָבִיו; וַיָּבֵא יוֹסֵף אֶת-דִּבָּתָם רָעָה, אֶל-אֲבִיהֶם.

I would claim the midrash reads רֹעֶה not as "shepherd," but "found Raah - evil." Further, the midrash would place a colon after Echav. So it would be, "He found evil in his brothers: in the sheep." This would refer to the Ever Min HaChai, eating a limb from a live animal. Another midrash indeed claims that he misunderstood what he saw, and they were eating a Ben Pakuah, which is an animal inside a mother when the mother had ritual slaughtering. Such an animal is OK to eat without shechita. Perhaps this is what is meant by "בַּצֹּאן," in the sheep.

The pasuk continues, "וְהוּא נַעַר אֶת-בְּנֵי בִלְהָה וְאֶת-בְּנֵי זִלְפָּה, נְשֵׁי אָבִיו." Naar means young boy, but in other contexts (for example, by Avraham with the 3 guests and at the Akeida) Naar can mean servant. If so, "Hu" might not mean Yosef, but some other brother who נַעַר'd - made into a servant, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah. By considering them sons of servants and thus servants themselves, rather than sons of נְשֵׁי אָבִיו, they denigrated them.

Finally, the pasuk says "נְשֵׁי אָבִיו." Especially in light of the somewhat cryptic statement regarding Reuven and Bilhah in 35:22, this is a perfect source for chashudim al gilui arayot. (But remember that Chazal say that anyone who says Reuven sinned is only making a mistake.)

If so, we have all three bad reports, in the order the midrash gives them, directly from the pasuk. Additional reading would be Siftei Chachamim and Mizrachi.

In a related idea, Targum Yonatan gives only one sin (Tg Yonatan on 37:2): DeAchlin Bisra DeTalish Min Cheva Chayya, Yat Udnaya VeYat Dinbayya. In English, that they ate meat separated from a live animal, namely the ears and the tails. The Perush Yonatan gives an interesting explanation for why Yonatan has specifically the ears and tails. He writes that he heard that the shepherds in the land of Yishmael had the practice of cutting the ear and tail of an animal when it was sick so that it would return to its healthy state. And so they (Yosef's brothers) did, for the purposes of healing, and Yosef did not know anything of this healing and thought they were cutting it off to eat it."

Update: I noticed yesterday that דִּבָּתָם, with the dagesh in the bet, might be an assimilated nun. That would make the word דנבתם. Tg Yonatan mentions he saw them cutting of אודנייא, the ears, and דנבייא, the zanavs, the tails. So that might account for the tails.

Another two prakim!

A few years ago, I visited a certain yeshiva, where some students there told me the following story (unconfirmed, so for all I know, an urban legend):

A student who attended the yeshiva had special milk he would drink (perhaps he had a milk allergy and drank goat milk, I don't know the specifics), which was expensive and difficult to get. He kept the milk in the public refrigerator, and other students, not appreciating that this milk was limited, expensive, and hard to come by, would use the milk. This happened week after week. He tried putting up signs, first with a request not to drink it, then when that did not work, explanations about why they shouldn't drink his milk. Finally, he tacked on a sign saying that he did not give reshut for them to use his milk, and it was geneiva, etc. All to no avail. Finally, someone gave him some advice. He tacked on a sign that said: "Warning: This milk is NOT Cholov Yisrael." And nobody touched his milk.

The more things change the more they stay the same...

A few days ago I was reading the 8th perek of yerushalmi terumot, which relates that Rabbi Chiyya Rubba's daughter used to poke holes in the figs she left for her father in the bet midrash so that the benei hayeshiva [Chavrayya] would not eat them. (The holes in the figs made them look like they had been eaten by an animal, perhaps a snake, which would inject its poison into the food, and so it would be assur to eat.) The gemara continues to elaborate that Rabbi Chiyya knew why the holes were there, and his daughter was on gaurd that no actual snakes were eating them, so he was permitted to eat them.

Of course, the obvious distinction is Chamira Sakanta MeIssura, danger to life carried more stringencies than regular prohibitions, so the students in the bet midrash of Rabbi Chiyya Rubba would be faced with the Sakanta of possibly poisoned food.

On second thought, though, Cholov Yisroel might also be Sakanta. There is a dispute (also in 8th perek yerushalmi terumot) about the reason Cholov Akum is problematic. One opinion is that the fear is that the Akum will mix milk from non-kosher animals in. Another opinion is that the Akum may leave the milk uncovered, and a snake may come and sip from the milk, and spit back poison. Thus it would be the same reason as that of pierced figs.

הדרן עלך האשה שהיתה אוכלת!
הדרן עלך הזורע תרומה!
(8th and 9th perek yerushalmi terumot)
Off-topic: Orson Scott Card, science fiction writer and author of Ender's Game, has an article in the Wall Street Journal Opinion page. Very good read.

Vayeishev #1: Chutzpah!

One thing that struck me as I was reading parshat Vayeshev is the tremendous chutzpah displayed by Yaakov's sons. After all, last week, Shimon and Levi killed all the men of the town of Shechem and made themselves odious to the entire surrounding populous, and in this weeks parsha they are grazing their sheep in Shechem!

To recap, in Bereishit 34:25-31:

וַיְהִי בַיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי בִּהְיוֹתָם כֹּאֲבִים, וַיִּקְחוּ שְׁנֵי-בְנֵי-יַעֲקֹב שִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי אֲחֵי דִינָה אִישׁ חַרְבּוֹ, וַיָּבֹאוּ עַל-הָעִיר, בֶּטַח; וַיַּהַרְגוּ, כָּל-זָכָר.
וְאֶת-חֲמוֹר וְאֶת-שְׁכֶם בְּנוֹ, הָרְגוּ לְפִי-חָרֶב; וַיִּקְחוּ אֶת-דִּינָה מִבֵּית שְׁכֶם, וַיֵּצֵאוּ.
בְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב, בָּאוּ עַל-הַחֲלָלִים, וַיָּבֹזּוּ, הָעִיר--אֲשֶׁר טִמְּאוּ, אֲחוֹתָם.
אֶת-צֹאנָם וְאֶת-בְּקָרָם, וְאֶת-חֲמֹרֵיהֶם, וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר-בָּעִיר וְאֶת-אֲשֶׁר בַּשָּׂדֶה, לָקָחוּ.
וְאֶת-כָּל-חֵילָם וְאֶת-כָּל-טַפָּם וְאֶת-נְשֵׁיהֶם, שָׁבוּ וַיָּבֹזּוּ; וְאֵת, כָּל-אֲשֶׁר בַּבָּיִת.
וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב אֶל-שִׁמְעוֹן וְאֶל-לֵוִי, עֲכַרְתֶּם אֹתִי, לְהַבְאִישֵׁנִי בְּיֹשֵׁב הָאָרֶץ, בַּכְּנַעֲנִי וּבַפְּרִזִּי; וַאֲנִי, מְתֵי מִסְפָּר, וְנֶאֶסְפוּ עָלַי וְהִכּוּנִי, וְנִשְׁמַדְתִּי אֲנִי וּבֵיתִי.
וַיֹּאמְרוּ: הַכְזוֹנָה, יַעֲשֶׂה אֶת-אֲחוֹתֵנוּ.

"And it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city unawares, and slew all the males.

And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went forth.

The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister.

They took their flocks and their herds and their asses, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field;

and all their wealth, and all their little ones and their wives, took they captive and spoiled, even all that was in the house.

And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi: 'Ye have troubled me, to make me odious unto the inhabitants of the land, even unto the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and, I being few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and smite me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.'

And they said: 'Should one deal with our sister as with a harlot?'"

(Perhaps the sheep they took were they very sheep they grazed in Shechem in this week's parsha.)

Then, Yaakov and sons left Shechem toward Bet-El and were not pursued by their now-hostile neighbors. Bereishit 35:5:

וַיִּסָּעוּ; וַיְהִי חִתַּת אֱלֹהִים, עַל-הֶעָרִים אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבוֹתֵיהֶם, וְלֹא רָדְפוּ, אַחֲרֵי בְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב.
"And they journeyed; and a terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob. "

In this week's parsha, they graze the sheep in Shechem. In Bereishit 37:12-13

וַיֵּלְכוּ, אֶחָיו, לִרְעוֹת אֶת-צֹאן אֲבִיהֶם, בִּשְׁכֶם.
וַיֹּאמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל-יוֹסֵף, הֲלוֹא אַחֶיךָ רֹעִים בִּשְׁכֶם--לְכָה, וְאֶשְׁלָחֲךָ אֲלֵיהֶם; וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, הִנֵּנִי.
וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, לֶךְ-נָא רְאֵה אֶת-שְׁלוֹם אַחֶיךָ וְאֶת-שְׁלוֹם הַצֹּאן, וַהֲשִׁבֵנִי, דָּבָר; וַיִּשְׁלָחֵהוּ מֵעֵמֶק חֶבְרוֹן, וַיָּבֹא שְׁכֶמָה.

"And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem.

And Israel said unto Joseph: 'Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them.' And he said to him: 'Here am I.'

And he said to him: 'Go now, see whether it is well with thy brethren, and well with the flock; and bring me back word.' So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem."

Not only are they willing to grze in Shechem, Yaakov feels confident enough to send young Yosef to check up after them.

Further, in the next psukim, Yosef feels confident confiding in a stranger that he is seeking his brothers - for all he knows, the man might be an enemy. Bereishit 37:15-17:

וַיִּמְצָאֵהוּ אִישׁ, וְהִנֵּה תֹעֶה בַּשָּׂדֶה; וַיִּשְׁאָלֵהוּ הָאִישׁ לֵאמֹר, מַה-תְּבַקֵּשׁ.
וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶת-אַחַי אָנֹכִי מְבַקֵּשׁ; הַגִּידָה-נָּא לִי, אֵיפֹה הֵם רֹעִים.
וַיֹּאמֶר הָאִישׁ, נָסְעוּ מִזֶּה--כִּי שָׁמַעְתִּי אֹמְרִים, נֵלְכָה דֹּתָיְנָה; וַיֵּלֶךְ יוֹסֵף אַחַר אֶחָיו, וַיִּמְצָאֵם בְּדֹתָן.

"And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field. And the man asked him, saying: 'What seekest thou?'
And he said: 'I seek my brethren. Tell me, I pray thee, where they are feeding the flock.'
And the man said: 'They are departed hence; for I heard them say: Let us go to Dothan.' And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan."

Then, as I looked through Tg Yonatan, he makes a related point. The Targum seems to have two messages regarding the episode of the sale of Yosef - 1) that it was ordained by Hashem, as Hashem told Avraham that his descendants would be exiled to Egypt and that this was the appointed day for it to begin, and 2) that it was related in some way to the destruction of Shechem.

For example, when Yaakov asks Yosef to check up on his brothers in Shechem:

וַיֹּאמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל-יוֹסֵף, הֲלוֹא אַחֶיךָ רֹעִים בִּשְׁכֶם--לְכָה, וְאֶשְׁלָחֲךָ אֲלֵיהֶם; וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, הִנֵּנִי.

The Targum Yonatan translates:
והוה לזמן יומין ואמר ישראל ליוסף הלא אחך רען בשכם ודחיל דילמא ייתון חיואי וימחינון על עיסק די מחו ית חמור וית שכם וית יתבי קרתא איתא כדון ואשלחינך לותהון ואמר ליה הא נא
(though I suspect the last words should be as in Onkelos הא אנא.)

And it was after a time of days (preceding phrase not a translation of any words in the pasuk) and Yisrael said to Yosef, "are not your brothers grazing in Shechem, and I fear that perhaps the Chivites came and wiped them out because of the matter that they wiped out Chamor and Shechem and the residents of the city; come now and I will send you to them", and Yosef said "here I am."

The next pasuk's translation highlights how this was preordained by Hashem.

וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, לֶךְ-נָא רְאֵה אֶת-שְׁלוֹם אַחֶיךָ וְאֶת-שְׁלוֹם הַצֹּאן, וַהֲשִׁבֵנִי, דָּבָר; וַיִּשְׁלָחֵהוּ מֵעֵמֶק חֶבְרוֹן, וַיָּבֹא שְׁכֶמָה.

The Targum Yonatan translates:
ואמר ליה איזול כדון חמי ית שלם אחך וית שלם ענא ואתיבני פתגמא ושדריה על עיטא עמיקתא דאתמלל עם אברהם בחברון ובההוא יומא הוה שרוי גלותא דמצרים ואתא יוסף לשכם
And he said to him go now and see how fare your brothers and how fare the sheep, and bring me back word, and he send him on the deep counsel (eitza) that was spoken (by Hashem) with Avraham in Chevron, and on that day began the exile of Egypt, and Yosef came to Shechem.

When Yosef arrives in Shechem, he sees his brothers are gone, but meets a man who tells him they have gone to Dotan. Once again the dual message of Shechem and preordination surface. According the Tg Yonatan, this man is Gavriel is human guise.

וַיֹּאמֶר הָאִישׁ, נָסְעוּ מִזֶּה--כִּי שָׁמַעְתִּי אֹמְרִים, נֵלְכָה דֹּתָיְנָה; וַיֵּלֶךְ יוֹסֵף אַחַר אֶחָיו, וַיִּמְצָאֵם בְּדֹתָן.

Tg Yonatan translates:
ואמר גברא נטלן מיכן ארום שמעית מבתר פרגודא דהא אשתרי מן יומא דין שעבוד מצראי ואתאמר להום בנבואה דחיואי בען למסדרא עמהון סדרא קרבא בגין כן הוו אמרין ניזל לדותן ואזל יוסף בתר אחוי ואשכחינון בדותן
And the man said "they left from here, for I heard from behing the Curtain that indeed from this day begins the Egyptian servitude, and {so} it was said to them in prophecy that the Chivites wish to wage with them waging of war. Because of this they said 'Let us go to Dotan.' And Yosef went after his brothers and found them in Dotan.

Thus, preordination of the exile on this day factors in, as well as fear/wishing to avoid conflict with the Chivites, a repercussion of the destruction of the city of Shechem, as we saw before regarding Yaakov's fear. Is this one midrash, with Hashem gicing them this nevuah in order to send them to Dotan, or are these two midrashim, one in a Shechem trend and the other in a preordination trend. If the former, did the Chivites really wish to wage war, or is Hashem leading them astray, right where He wants them?

Finally, when the brothers propose to slay Yosef, they begin with pasuk 37:19:

וַיֹּאמְרוּ, אִישׁ אֶל-אָחִיו: הִנֵּה, בַּעַל הַחֲלֹמוֹת הַלָּזֶה--בָּא.
"And they said one to another: 'Behold, this dreamer cometh."

Targum Yonatan designates this אִישׁ and אָחִיו as Shimon and Levi, who were אחין בעיטתא, brothers in counsel. They were also the ones who wiped out Shechem.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Vayishlach #4: Commentators Who Live In Glass Houses?

Towards the end of parashat Vayishlach, the Torah lists Esav's descendants. Afterwards, it lists the kings of Edom. The pasuk states (Bereshit 36:31):

וְאֵלֶּה, הַמְּלָכִים, אֲשֶׁר מָלְכוּ בְּאֶרֶץ אֱדוֹם--לִפְנֵי מְלָךְ-מֶלֶךְ לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.
"These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before a king reigned for the children of Israel."

The next pesukim list the kings.

וַיִּמְלֹךְ בֶּאֱדוֹם, בֶּלַע בֶּן-בְּעוֹר; וְשֵׁם עִירוֹ, דִּנְהָבָה.
וַיָּמָת, בָּלַע; וַיִּמְלֹךְ תַּחְתָּיו, יוֹבָב בֶּן-זֶרַח מִבָּצְרָה.
וַיָּמָת, יוֹבָב; וַיִּמְלֹךְ תַּחְתָּיו, חֻשָׁם מֵאֶרֶץ הַתֵּימָנִי.
וַיָּמָת, חֻשָׁם; וַיִּמְלֹךְ תַּחְתָּיו הֲדַד בֶּן-בְּדַד, הַמַּכֶּה אֶת-מִדְיָן בִּשְׂדֵה מוֹאָב, וְשֵׁם עִירוֹ, עֲוִית.
וַיָּמָת, הֲדָד; וַיִּמְלֹךְ תַּחְתָּיו, שַׂמְלָה מִמַּשְׂרֵקָה.
וַיָּמָת, שַׂמְלָה; וַיִּמְלֹךְ תַּחְתָּיו, שָׁאוּל מֵרְחֹבוֹת הַנָּהָר
וַיָּמָת, שָׁאוּל; וַיִּמְלֹךְ תַּחְתָּיו, בַּעַל חָנָן בֶּן-עַכְבּוֹר.
וַיָּמָת, בַּעַל חָנָן בֶּן-עַכְבּוֹר, וַיִּמְלֹךְ תַּחְתָּיו הֲדַר, וְשֵׁם עִירוֹ פָּעוּ; וְשֵׁם אִשְׁתּוֹ מְהֵיטַבְאֵל בַּת-מַטְרֵד, בַּת מֵי זָהָב.

The first pasuk, though, presents a major problem. Namely, how could the pasuk say לִפְנֵי מְלָךְ-מֶלֶךְ לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, "before a king reigned for the chidren of Israel?" After all, Moshe received the Torah on Mt. Sinai and gave it to the Jewish people, and at that point, they had no king. The pasuk implies that at the point it is speaking, the Jews had at least one king, and that these kings of Edom ruled before any king ruled. What were the Jews in Moshe's time to make of this statement? Was this pasuk written later, after the Jews enter the land of Israel, and after the time of Shaul and David? Maybe you can say the shoftim were kings? But that is still after Moshe. I will call this problem One.

Another problem is presented by the next psukim. They list 8 kings. Now, Esav was contemporary with Yaakov. Before you can have kings, you need multiple tribes descending from Esav, for you need some mass of people. But even if you the first king reigned in the generation after Esav, you still do not seem to have time for 8 kings before Matan Torah. For example, Levi had Kehas had Yitzhar had Korach. That's 4 generations, not 8! This would seem to imply that this pasuk was written much after Moshe. This is a related problem to problem One, which I will refer to as problem Two.

I do not really understand problem Two, because besides for the answer that Ibn Ezra says, from looking at the psukim it is not really clear from the psukim that these kings were descendants of Esav, or even that the first king ruled during/after the time of Esav. Some of these kings might have predated Esav, for all the pasuk states is that "these are the kings who ruled in the LAND of Edom."

Apparently, someone named Yitzchaki wrote that this parasha {I don't think he means Vayishlach - rather just this section - staring from the Peh (meaning petucha) right before 36:31 (our pasuk) until the end of the parasha - the three Pehs before 37:1, denoting the beginning of Vayshev} - anyway, Yitzchaki wrote that this parasha was written in the days of king Yehoshafat of Yehuda (contemporary with Achav king of Israel). Yitzchaki is NOT Rashi.

Here is what Ibn Ezra has to say: "And these are the kings: Some say that this parasha was written by way of prophecy {I would guess either to solve the problem of when Israel had a king, or/and to explain how so many kings are listed}. And Yitzchaki said in his Sefer that in the days of Yehoshafat this parasha was written. And he {Yitzchaki} explains the generations according to his will. Do they indeed call him Yitzchak? All who hear him laugh (yitzchak) at him. For he said that Hadad (36:35) is Hadad the Edomite and he said that Mehetavel {wife of Baal Chanah (36:39)} was the sister of Tachpanches. And Chalila Chalila that the matter is as he spoke {that it was written} in the days of Yehoshafat. And his Sefer is worthy of being burnt. And why is he surprised about the 8 kings that ruled that they are many? For the kings of Israel were twice as many in number. And the years of these kings were close to the years of the kings of Israel. {Presumably, Yiztchaki made some calculations of how many years each king would have to rule to make it work out that these kings were before Moshe, and rejected it because he felt that there were too many in too short a time.} Additionally, the kings of Judah outnumbered the kings of Edom until the time of Moshe {in other words, Judah had even more kings in its time span than the kings in Edom if you say it was only until the time of Moshe}. And the truth is that the explanation of "before a king ruled {for the children of Israel}" refers to Moshe the king of Israel, and so indeed the pasuk states, "and there was in Jeshurun a king." {referring to Moshe}

I cannot tell more about Yitzchaki without seeing him inside. I am assuming his first count, which he though was impossible, started from Esav, though maybe his math started from an earlier generation. It would take a while to compute it, but basically, as we can surmise from Ibn Ezra's answer, the time span of all eight kings should equal the time span of twice that many kings of Israel = 16 kings.

Rashbam, by the way, chimes in, explaining לִפְנֵי מְלָךְ-מֶלֶךְ לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל as "before Moshe, who saved Israel. the princes of every nation are called king until David. I found in Yosipon {this is either Josephus or more probably Hazal's book Yosipon, based on Josephus} that after these {8} kings, close to 40 names kings {ruled} one after the other."

Thus, Rashbam also rejects Yitzchaki, showing that: for problem One, it refers to Moshe, and for problem Two, the reigns were short, for another 40 kings ruled afterwards.

I would note that it makes sense for there to be short reigns of kings. After all, these kings are not descended from one another. They presumably were old enough to have major power (they may be local rulers already) when the previous king died, so as to be the next to seize power. Thus there was not much of their natural life left when they assumed the throne.

It may seem somewhat surprising that Ibn Ezra was so shocked by Yitzchaki's Sefer. After all, Ibn Ezra says that the last perek of the Torah couldn't have been written by Moshe, but was rather written by Yehoshua (because they refer to Moshe's death and burial) (Ibn Ezra, Dvarim 34:1). He is echoing an opinion in the gemara, which refers to the last 8 pesukim, which were written by Yehoshua after Moshe wrote them down in tears and Yehoshua then wrote it down in actual ink, but Ibn Ezra extends it to the beginning of the perek.

Ibn Ezra also comments regarding the first pasuk of Dvarim (Ibn Ezra, Dvarim 1:2), regarding the curious phrase בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן "on the other side of the Jordan," which Moshe would not write since he was on THAT side of the Jordan, that if you understand this secret, you also will understand other psukim, and he gives examples, such as וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי אָז בָּאָרֶץ, "and the Canaanites were then in the land," from Bereishit 12:6. He cites many such psukim, like "Ad Hayom Hazeh." See him inside.

It is not immediately clear what Ibn Ezra's "Sod" is. Does he mean Yehoshua wrote them, towards the end of his life, after he had captured much of the land of Israel (as per the gemara). Or does he mean some later editor - the Anshei Kneset Hagedola, perhaps, added these short editorial comments?

One thing is clear. Ibn Ezra considers Yitzchaki to be saying kefira, and his sefer worthy of being burnt, but he does not consider his own sefer to be so. Ibn Ezra does, however, make his comments on Devarim 1:2 intentionally obtuse, perhaps because it is not for public consumption by the masses. He considers Yitzchaki to be kfira, I think, because 1) This is a long section of Torah, and not just a quick editorial comment, with details of what happened in many generations up to Yehoshafat, and this type of information should not make it into Bereishit. 2) The idea of things being added to the Torah as late as Yehoshafat was unpalatable. Besides for these two issues which make Yitzchaki kefira, we can see that Ibn Ezra thinks that Yitzchaki's arguments necessitating a late date are silly, and the associations with these late kings and sisters of kings based on common names is also silly.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


Another three prakim!

הדרן עלך סאה תרומה!
הדרן עלך האוכל תרומה שוגג!
הדרן עלך האוכל תרומה מזיד!
(5th, 6th, 7th prakim yerushalmi trumot)

Vayishlach #3: Shnayim Mikra VeEchad Targum?

An interesting pasuk in Vayishlach is Bereishit 35:22:
וַיְהִי, בִּשְׁכֹּן יִשְׂרָאֵל בָּאָרֶץ הַהִוא, וַיֵּלֶךְ רְאוּבֵן וַיִּשְׁכַּב אֶת-בִּלְהָה פִּילֶגֶשׁ אָבִיו, וַיִּשְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל;
וַיִּהְיוּ בְנֵי-יַעֲקֹב, שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר.

"And it came to pass, while Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine; and Israel heard of it. {P} Now the sons of Jacob were twelve:"

There is a ptucha in the middle of the pasuk, something which does occur on occassion. Further, the ptucha denotes a new section, and by rights, from context, the end of this pasuk should be linked to the genealogical account that follows rather to the event involving Reuven.

In the gemara Shabbat 55b, we find the statement of Rabbi Yonatan that anyone who says that Reuven sinned is only making a mistake. (for the verse states וַיִּהְיוּ בְנֵי-יַעֲקֹב, שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר, in order (as Rashi states there, to remove from your heart that you should not suspect him. In other words, Reuven is reckoned as a full son, which he wouldn't be had he done this. )

Rather, the meaning of וַיֵּלֶךְ רְאוּבֵן וַיִּשְׁכַּב אֶת-בִּלְהָה פִּילֶגֶשׁ אָבִיו is then he moved (בלבל) his father's bed, so the pasuk reckoned it to him as if he had lay with Bilhah. And see Rashi and the gemara there for various proofs and drashot to this.

The brayta there explains that after Rachel's death, Reuven was upset. While Rachel was alive, Rachel was a tzara to his mother Leah. After Rachel's death, his mother's maidservant should be a tzara to his mother?! Upset, he moved the bed.

We can see some of the roots of this midrash in the pasuk. It says את rather than עם, and while both can mean with, את has the more usual connotation of denoting the object in a predicate. We can then take the phrase to mean that Reuven caused the sleeping וישכב of Bilhah (thus is is not a transitive verb but a causitive verb) to be other than what it was (she slept in a different tent) because she was only פלגש אביו and not his father's main wife, like his mother Leah. Midrash is most often hyper-literal, rather than departing from the literal at all.

Besides this oddity of {P} in the middle of a pasuk, if we look at the trup, there are two trups for the beginning of the pasuk. I'm not going to get all trup-crazy, explaining the parsing of the two trups, because people are not generally interested in it, but I can explain that the two trups function the same way as taam elyon and taam tachton do, and for the same cause. That is, one trup follows a tradition to break the pasuk into two psukim, with a silluq (sof pasuk) on the word Yisrael, and the rest of the trup following mechanically from that based on the rules of trup. The other follows a tradition of it being a single pasuk, so there is an etnachta on the word Yisrael, and everything follows mechanically from that.

I read an idea in one of my trup books. Originally the pasuk was two psukim. However, in shul, they established to read both psukim, without pause. See, in shul, they used to lain a pasuk at a time followed by the Targum for that pasuk. However, here, rather than pausing and giving the Targum, they lained both psukim without pause (and thus with an etnachta and not silluq on Yisrael) and only gave the Targum for וַיִּהְיוּ בְנֵי-יַעֲקֹב שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר, thus avoiding translating the pasuk in shul for the folk that would take it literally and thus misunderstand.

I did not have the full story before. Shlomo referred me to Rav Schachter's shiur on Vayishlach in 1999: It is available here. The relevant section begins at 1:15 into the shiur. Rav Schachter mentions that the fact that one shouldn't translate it in shul is a Mishna in Megilla. That Mishna is on daf 25a in Megilla, which says that the maaseh of reuven is read but not translated.

The gemara on 25b elaborates:
Rabbi Chanina ben Gamliel went to Kebol, and the Chazan of the bet haknesset read this pasuk Vayhi Beshkon Yisrael, and he said to the Meturgemon (the one who read the Targum aloud in shul) to only translate the last part of the verse, and the Chachamim praised him.

Update: (and previous ending removed)
This seems at first glance to accord with what I cited before. Only the latter part of the pasuk was translated in certain shuls, as opposed to what we would expect from the Mishna, which is that the entire pasuk would go untranslated. This matches the idea of two trups - one, before the halacha in the Mishna/gemara was implemented, in which there was a pause for translation after the first half of our pasuk, and one with no pause (and a longer pasuk) because the first half of the "pasuk" is not being translated.

However, the gemara treats the fact that it was a single pasuk as a preexisting condition, and the chiddush was that you actually translate the latter half of the pasuk. That would imply it was always considered a single pasuk, even before seeing the practice of only translating the latter half. On the other hand, perhaps what the gemara describes is the creation of a single "pasuk" with an instruction to lain the latter "half." Or perhaps it speaks of the single pasuk in retrospect, but it was a later development.

I would also like to comment on the explanation of the pasuk given by Tosafot mentioned by Rav Schachter in the shiur I linked to above. Tosafot explains the pshat of the verse as follows:
As the midrash mentioned, Reuven was upset about the fact that Yaakov moved his bed to Bilhah's tent.
וַיֵּלֶךְ רְאוּבֵן
And so Reuven ran away from home
וַיִּשְׁכַּב אֶת-בִּלְהָה פִּילֶגֶשׁ אָבִיו
and Yaakov continued to sleep with his wife/pilegesh
וַיִּשְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל;
and Yaakov heard that Reuven had run away, and he found Reuven and yelled at him
וַיִּהְיוּ בְנֵי-יַעֲקֹב, שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר.
And Reuven returned and then Yaakov had all 12 sons again.

This is clearly not what the midrash meant, for it says that Reuven was bilbel Yaakov's bed. Further it does not mention any of this detail which a midrash should do, and that which it does mention fits into the pasuk in a manner ~= what I suggested above. So I would say that this is not pshat in the midrash.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Vayishlach #2: Dual Etymologies for People's Names

This is a continuation of the post below about dual etymologies for names. Below I discuss dual etymologies, both explicit and implicit, for place names - namely, Machanayim, Peniel, and Bet El.

Here, I'd like to address the same phenomenon except in terms of people. If we look in last week's parsha, Rachel has her first son and names him Yosef. In Bereishit 30:23-24:

וַתַּהַר, וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן; וַתֹּאמֶר, אָסַף אֱלֹקִים אֶת-חֶרְפָּתִי.
וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ יוֹסֵף, לֵאמֹר: יֹסֵף ה לִי בֵּן אַחֵר.

"And she conceived, and bore a son, and said: 'God hath taken away my reproach.'
And she called his name Joseph, saying: 'The LORD add to me another son.'"

Asaf means to gather, Yosef means to add. Which is the cause of his name? The word לֵאמֹר strongly suggests it is יֹסֵף ה לִי, but if so, why mention אָסַף אֱלֹקִים אֶת-חֶרְפָּתִי?

Rashbam seems troubled by this, and states that אָסַף is the source of the name, but if so, Rachel's son would have been called Asaf. Since she said יֹסֵף ה לִי בֵּן אַחֵר, she called him Yosef and not Asaf. Thus, both of Rachel's statements contributed to Yosef's name, and so both are the etymological source.

It bears mentioning that the first statement has אָסַף with אֱלֹקִים, while the second statement has יֹסֵף with ה. So this might account for this dual etymology and perhaps elsewhere but surely not everywhere.

Also, it would not have been unusual had the word לֵאמֹר been absent and the entire statement been:
וַתֹּאמֶר, אָסַף אֱלֹקִים אֶת-חֶרְפָּתִי
יֹסֵף ה לִי בֵּן אַחֵר
ַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ יוֹסֵף

This would be poetry, and clever wordplay on Rachel's part, using two related words and then determining on that basis Yosef's name. However with the word לאמר, the second pasuk seems transformed, as if to say shat she called him this to say this message and no other.

I would also add that this seems to be a krei/ktiv. Yosef's name is spelled יוֹסֵף, spelled full with a vav. However, in the statement יֹסֵף ה לִי בֵּן אַחֵר, the word יֹסֵף is spelled chaser. The ktiv is then Yasaf, past tense. If we recall, earlier Rachel gave her handmaid Bilhah to Yaakov, in pasuk 3:

וַתֹּאמֶר, הִנֵּה אֲמָתִי בִלְהָה בֹּא אֵלֶיהָ; וְתֵלֵד, עַל-בִּרְכַּי, וְאִבָּנֶה גַם-אָנֹכִי, מִמֶּנָּה.
"And she said: 'Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; that she may bear upon my knees, and I also may be builded up through her.'"

וְאִבָּנֶה also bears the connotation of having a son.

Bilhah bears Dan, whom Rachel names, in pasuk 6:

וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל, דָּנַנִּי אֱלֹקִים, וְגַם שָׁמַע בְּקֹלִי, וַיִּתֶּן-לִי בֵּן; עַל-כֵּן קָרְאָה שְׁמוֹ, דָּן.
"And Rachel said: 'God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son.' Therefore called she his name Dan."

I heard on Shabbos someone say that this was a depressed and bitter Rachel, saying that Hashem has judged her unworthy of having children directly. It seems to me that she is *happy* with this child, considers it as if it is her own.

Then, she has another son via Bilhah, Naftali, in pasuk 8:

וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל, נַפְתּוּלֵי אֱלֹהִים נִפְתַּלְתִּי עִם-אֲחֹתִי--גַּם-יָכֹלְתִּי; וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, נַפְתָּלִי.
"And Rachel said: 'With mighty wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed.' And she called his name Naphtali."

Look in last week's postings about the correct translation of the above pasuk. But Naftulei may very well mean "prayers", as in tefillah, rather than "wrestlings", and Elokim may mean Hashem rather than "mighty". This would match וְגַם שָׁמַע בְּקֹלִי from above in pasuk 6.

Thus, Rachel really believes she already has children. If so, we can translate the ktiv of יֹסֵף ה לִי בֵּן אַחֵר, with past tense Yasaf, as "Hashem has added to me another son. The fact that his name Yosef with the vav is the imperfect form (meaning future tense) does not matter, because the tenses of names in Biblical Hebrew are archaic and therefore weird. Consider Bereishit 16:11:

וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ מַלְאַךְ ה, הִנָּךְ הָרָה וְיֹלַדְתְּ בֵּן, וְקָרָאת שְׁמוֹ יִשְׁמָעֵאל, כִּי-שָׁמַע ה אֶל-עָנְיֵךְ.
"And the angel of the LORD said unto her: 'Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son; and thou shalt call his name Ishmael, because the LORD hath heard thy affliction."

Yishmael's name is in the imperfect form, even though the etymology is כִּי-שָׁמַע, that Hashem heard, in the past.

Still, there is embarrassment in being barren (hmm... are the words related? and embarazado means pregnant in Spanish... :) ), and so having her own son naturally gathers up her חרפה, so the Asaf is also true.

On the other hand, imperfect = future tense implies a tefillah, which is in synch which the ideas expressed by Dan and Naftali. This meaning is conveyed by the krei.

In terms of answering to the concern mentioned above about Elokim vs Hashem (והמבין יבין), I would just say here that Elokim was the shem used by both Dan and Naftali (see above), and if יֹסֵף ה לִי בֵּן אַחֵר is past tense and referring to the past births, then this pasuk is aware of the two psukim above. If anything, the אָסַף אֱלֹקִים אֶת-חֶרְפָּתִי is unaware of the above, since what is the source of the shame (except we shall answer about biological vs surrogate motherhood). Thus that distinction seems neither true nor useful here.

So in this case, I would state that the dual etymology is dual in the sense of coming from two roots, but really stems from a single poetic statement.

Another instance of dual etymology is that of Yissachar.

Leah had stopped giving birth so she gave her handmaid Zilpah to Yaakov (9). Zilpah bore Gad (10-11) and Asher (12-13).

Then, Reuven brings back the flowers from the field. Bereishit 30:14-18:

וַיֵּלֶךְ רְאוּבֵן בִּימֵי קְצִיר-חִטִּים, וַיִּמְצָא דוּדָאִים בַּשָּׂדֶה, וַיָּבֵא אֹתָם, אֶל-לֵאָה אִמּוֹ; וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל, אֶל-לֵאָה, תְּנִי-נָא לִי, מִדּוּדָאֵי בְּנֵךְ.
וַתֹּאמֶר לָהּ, הַמְעַט קַחְתֵּךְ אֶת-אִישִׁי, וְלָקַחַת, גַּם אֶת-דּוּדָאֵי בְּנִי; וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל, לָכֵן יִשְׁכַּב עִמָּךְ הַלַּיְלָה, תַּחַת, דּוּדָאֵי בְנֵךְ.
וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב מִן-הַשָּׂדֶה, בָּעֶרֶב, וַתֵּצֵא לֵאָה לִקְרָאתוֹ וַתֹּאמֶר אֵלַי תָּבוֹא, כִּי שָׂכֹר שְׂכַרְתִּיךָ בְּדוּדָאֵי בְּנִי; וַיִּשְׁכַּב עִמָּהּ, בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא.
וַיִּשְׁמַע אֱלֹקִים, אֶל-לֵאָה; וַתַּהַר וַתֵּלֶד לְיַעֲקֹב, בֵּן חֲמִישִׁי.
וַתֹּאמֶר לֵאָה, נָתַן אֱלֹקִים שְׂכָרִי, אֲשֶׁר-נָתַתִּי שִׁפְחָתִי, לְאִישִׁי; וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, יִשָּׂשכָר.
"And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah: 'Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes.'

And she said unto her: 'Is it a small matter that thou hast taken away my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also?' And Rachel said: 'Therefore he shall lie with thee to-night for thy son's mandrakes.'

And Jacob came from the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said: 'Thou must come in unto me; for I have surely hired thee with my son's mandrakes.' And he lay with her that night.

And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bore Jacob a fifth son.

And Leah said: 'God hath given me my hire, because I gave my handmaid to my husband. And she called his name Issachar."

Here, the explicit etymology is the giving of Zilpah to Yaakov in pasuk 9:

וַתֵּרֶא לֵאָה, כִּי עָמְדָה מִלֶּדֶת; וַתִּקַּח אֶת-זִלְפָּה שִׁפְחָתָהּ, וַתִּתֵּן אֹתָהּ לְיַעֲקֹב לְאִשָּׁה.
"When Leah saw that she had left off bearing, she took Zilpah her handmaid, and gave her to Jacob to wife."

Yet, all these psukim and events intervene. Zilpah has two sons, which means that at least 1 1/2 years have intervened between the giving of Zilpah.

Furthermore, the more immediate cause seems to be that Leah exchanged the mandrakes for a night with Yaakov. Not only that, but the words immediately preceding Leah's preganancy are her words to Yaakov:
וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב מִן-הַשָּׂדֶה, בָּעֶרֶב, וַתֵּצֵא לֵאָה לִקְרָאתוֹ וַתֹּאמֶר אֵלַי תָּבוֹא, כִּי שָׂכֹר שְׂכַרְתִּיךָ בְּדוּדָאֵי בְּנִי; וַיִּשְׁכַּב עִמָּהּ, בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא.
Thus, Leah talks of hiring him, "שָׂכֹר שְׂכַרְתִּיךָ." We would expect *this* to be the etymology of a son named Yissachar.

When discussing this with a friend of mine, I observed that in the phrase נָתַן אֱלֹקִים שְׂכָרִי אֲשֶׁר-נָתַתִּי שִׁפְחָתִי, the word שִׁפְחָתִי sounds much like שכבתי, "my laying" - an Al Tikra of sorts. This is false, and the reference is to the giving of the maidservant Zilpah, mentioned above.

Perhaps what we are dealing with here is dual etymologies, one private and not for public consumption because it is embarassing and personal, and one public one to promulgate. This would account for Asaf (private) with Yosef/Yasaf (public), and would account for hiring שכבתי (private) vs שִׁפְחָתִי (public).

This would also account perhaps for the dual etymology of Yitzchak, but I will perhaps return to this later, for it is 1:30 AM.

A quick listing of yet-uncovered with dual etymologies:
Yitzchak (Sarah vs outsiders laugh
Yaakov (heel/trickster, though Esav merely says his existing name Yaakov is appropriate)
Yisrael (named after wrestling/named later in Bet El)
Edom (red hair/red lentils)

Monday, December 08, 2003

Vayishlach #1: Dual Etymologies for Names

I noticed something interesting as I was going through Vayishlach, and that is how while an explicit impetus for a some person/place names is given, there is often an alternative plausable impetus within the text, which is sometimes given and sometimes not.

The last two pesukim of Vayeitzei were (Bereishit 32:2-3):

וְיַעֲקֹב, הָלַךְ לְדַרְכּוֹ; וַיִּפְגְּעוּ-בוֹ, מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹקִים.
וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב כַּאֲשֶׁר רָאָם, מַחֲנֵה אֱלֹקִים זֶה; וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם-הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא מַחֲנָיִם.

"And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
And Jacob said when he saw them: 'This is God's camp.' And he called the name of that place Mahanaim."

Thus, the explicit cause of the place name Machanayim was the encountering of the camp of angels. But if so, why not call the place Machaneh? Machanayim is the dual form - it does not mean the singular "camp" or the plural "camps" but rather the dual "two camps." Yet Yaakov only encountered a single encampment of angels.

I believe (and I've noted in a past dvar torah) that this is the spark for the Targum Yonatan on the last pasuk:

ואמר יעקב כיון דחמינון, לא משירוין דעשו הינון דאתיין לקדמותי ולא משירוין דלבן הינון דהדרו למרדף בתריי אלהין משירויין דמלאכיא קדישין דאשתלחו מן קדם ה' הינון. בגין כן קרא שמיה דאתרא ההוא בלישן בית קודשא מחנים

"And Yaakov said when he saw them, 'They are not the encampments of Esav coming to meet me nor are they the encampments of Lavan who turned to chase after me, but rather they are encampments of holy angels who were sent from before Hashem.' Because of this he called the name of that place in the language of the Holy House (Hebrew) Machanayim."

Or, in Targum Yerushalmi:

ואמר יעקב כד חמא יתהון, דילמא משיריין מן לבן אחוי דאימא אינון אתיין קדמוי למסדרא לקבלי סידרי קרבא למקטל יתי או דלמא משיריין דמלאכין קדישין מן קדם
ה' אינון ואתיין לשיזבא יתי מן ידיהון, בגין כן קרא שמיה דאתרא ההוא מחנים

"And Yaakov said when he saw them, 'Perhaps they are encampments from Lavan the brother of Mother, coming before me to array against me to wage war to kill me, or Perhaps they are encampments of holy angels from before Hashem to save me from their (presumably Lavan's men's) hands.' Because of this he called the name of that place Machanayim."

I was actually originally prepared to say on the basis of Tg Yonatan that Tg Yonatan was trying to explain the dual Machanayim as referring to the camp of Esav and the camp of Lavan, which he did not encounter. But then I realized that firstly, Tg Yerushalmi only has the encampment of Lavan and not of Esav. Further I realized that in each case the word was plural "encampments" rather than singular encampment. משיריין is plural, while משריתא is singular.

Thus, according to both these Targumim, Yaakov saw (at least) two camps and thought it was an enemy and it turned out to be encampments of angels. Thus, the Targumim are indeed troubled by the question, but the resolution is to treat the word מחנה in the pasuk as if it said מחנות (plural) or מחנים (dual), so that Yaakov indeed saw more than a single camp.

In terms of the midrash of Yaakov thinking the camps were that of Esav/Lavan, that is most probably sparked by the words "וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב כַּאֲשֶׁר רָאָם, מַחֲנֵה אֱלֹקִים זֶה;" that is, only when Yaakov saw them -- really saw them up close, did he say that they were [an] encampment(s) of Hashem. So, what did Yaakov think before he truly saw them? The most obvious assumption would be either Esav who he is anticipating seeing in the near future, or else Lavan from whom he just escaped.

This issue bothers the classical mefarshim (and midrashim) as well. Rashi and Ramban, based on a midrash Tanchuma, say that the two Machanot were that of angels -- those who accompanied him in Eretz Yisrael, and those who accompanied him in Chutz LaAretz.

Why wouldn't the Targumim utilize this midrash. I might refer to the Targumim I mentioned last week (see below or in the archives). Tg Yonatan had Yaakov's accompanyment being the two angels sent to destroy Sodom, and Tg Yonatan and Tg Yerushalmi have those angels (Tg Yerushalmi might have a host of angels) ascend to heaven, anouncing that Yaakov the Chassid whose visage is on the Kisei HaKavod has arrived, and the other angels come down to see him. However, they do not subscribe to the whole midrashic idea of heavenly hosts accompanying Yaakov in general. Thus they could not be the two machanot.

Ramban has geographical issues with the angels of Eretz Yisrael meeting Yaakov here, far from the border of Eretz Yisrael, and suggests that this was a vision sent to reassure Yaakov in the possible impending conflict with Esav to tell him that he had more in his forces than those with his enemies, and it was called machanayim because that is the "derech hashemot." Alternatively he (and Ibn Ezra also) suggests that machanayim refers to Yaakov's machaneh and their machaneh.

At any rate, this is an issue that troubles everyone. Going along with this difficulty, we have in parshat Vayishlach (in very close proximity to the above) a much more compelling reason for the name Machanayim, except that the pasuk does not tell us that that is the cause for the name, but rather gives us the explanation given above.

In Bereishit 32:8-9, after being informed that Esav is approaching with 400 men,

וַיִּירָא יַעֲקֹב מְאֹד, וַיֵּצֶר לוֹ; וַיַּחַץ אֶת-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-אִתּוֹ, וְאֶת-הַצֹּאן וְאֶת-הַבָּקָר וְהַגְּמַלִּים--לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת.
וַיֹּאמֶר, אִם-יָבוֹא עֵשָׂו אֶל-הַמַּחֲנֶה הָאַחַת וְהִכָּהוּ--וְהָיָה הַמַּחֲנֶה הַנִּשְׁאָר, לִפְלֵיטָה.
"Then Jacob was greatly afraid and was distressed. And he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and the herds, and the camels, into two camps.
And he said: 'If Esau come to the one camp, and smite it, then the camp which is left shall escape.' "

Thus, Yaakov divided his camp into two camps, that is מחנים. This would be a great etymology for Machanayim.

A small pointless point: The earlier pasuk did not actually explicitly state that the encampment of angels was the case for the place name. The pasuk was
וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב כַּאֲשֶׁר רָאָם, מַחֲנֵה אֱלֹקִים זֶה; וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם-הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא מַחֲנָיִם
Yaakov said when he saw them, 'This is an encampment of God.' And he called the name of this place Machanayim.

Thus, the pasuk just states he called the place this name, but they might be two independent ideas. It is simply the juxtoposition that conveys the idea that the former is the motive for the latter. The Targumim make the connection explicit, elaborating בגין כן, "because of this."

Then I started thinking about other cases when there are two etymologies for a place/person name, and only one or else both are given. Also in Vayishlach, after fighting with the [man or angel or Hashem], in Bereishit 32:31:

וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם, פְּנִיאֵל: כִּי-רָאִיתִי אֱלֹהִים פָּנִים אֶל-פָּנִים, וַתִּנָּצֵל נַפְשִׁי.
"And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: 'for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.' "

In this pasuk the cause for naming the place Peniel (later Penuel) is clear. However, in the next perek, when speaking with Esav, Yaakov states (Bereishit 33:10):

וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב, אַל-נָא אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ, וְלָקַחְתָּ מִנְחָתִי, מִיָּדִי: כִּי עַל-כֵּן רָאִיתִי פָנֶיךָ, כִּרְאֹת פְּנֵי אֱלֹקִים--וַתִּרְצֵנִי.
"And Jacob said: 'Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found favour in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand; forasmuch as I have seen thy face, as one seeth the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me."

Thus Yaakov states that seeing his brother is like seeing Penei Elokim. This would also be a valid (though not compelling as in the last instance) etymology for Peniel.

This concern seems to have indeed sparked a midrash (present in Tg Yonatan), cited by Rashi, that by saying he has seen Esav's sar (malach) and prevailed, and is mentioning this so that Esav would realize that he could not prevail over Yaakov and thus trouble would be avoided. Ibn Ezra also states that כִּרְאֹת פְּנֵי אֱלֹקִים is Yaakov referring to having seen an angel, and he says that many mefarshim say that the malach came to Yaakov to strengthen his heart so he should not be afraid of his brother, for an angel could not prevail against him, and certainly not man.

Later, also in Vayishlach, after the incident in Shechem, Hashem tells Yaakov to move to Bet El (which was Luz).

First, in Bereishit 35:1:

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹקִים אֶל-יַעֲקֹב, קוּם עֲלֵה בֵית-אֵל וְשֶׁב-שָׁם; וַעֲשֵׂה-שָׁם מִזְבֵּחַ--לָאֵל הַנִּרְאֶה אֵלֶיךָ, בְּבָרְחֲךָ מִפְּנֵי עֵשָׂו אָחִיךָ.
"And God said unto Jacob: 'Arise, go up to Beth-el, and dwell there; and make there an altar unto God, who appeared unto thee when thou didst flee from the face of Esau thy brother.'"

Here, the name of the place Hashem tells him to go to is Bet El, and the command refers to the previous events that happened there. This is important because as I will show later, in last week's parsha, Vayeitzei, Yaakov was in Luz when he fled from Esav, and back then he also built an altar and called the place Bet El. So, in this pasuk here, Hashem refers to the place as already having this name, and refers to the past events.

Then, in pasuk 6:

וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב לוּזָה, אֲשֶׁר בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן--הִוא, בֵּית-אֵל: הוּא, וְכָל-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-עִמּוֹ.
"So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan--the same is Beth-el--he and all the people that were with him."

Here, both names are used, but this is OK, since Luz was the original name of the place.

Pasuk 7:

וַיִּבֶן שָׁם, מִזְבֵּחַ, וַיִּקְרָא לַמָּקוֹם, אֵל בֵּית-אֵל: כִּי שָׁם, נִגְלוּ אֵלָיו הָאֱלֹהִים, בְּבָרְחוֹ, מִפְּנֵי אָחִיו.
"And he built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el, because there God was revealed unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother."

What is the relation between the name El-Bet-El, and Bet El?

Hashem appears to Yaakov again in that place:
Pasuk 9:

וַיֵּרָא אֱלֹקִים אֶל-יַעֲקֹב עוֹד, בְּבֹאוֹ מִפַּדַּן אֲרָם; וַיְבָרֶךְ, אֹתוֹ.
"And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him."

Then, Yaakov builds *another* (didn't he just do this in pasuk 7?!?) altar: Pasuk 14:

וַיַּצֵּב יַעֲקֹב מַצֵּבָה, בַּמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר אִתּוֹ--מַצֶּבֶת אָבֶן; וַיַּסֵּךְ עָלֶיהָ נֶסֶךְ, וַיִּצֹק עָלֶיהָ שָׁמֶן.
"And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He spoke with him, a pillar of stone, and he poured out a drink-offering thereon, and poured oil thereon."

And finally, he calls the name of the place Bet El again! Pasuk 15:

וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב אֶת-שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם, אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אִתּוֹ שָׁם אֱלֹקִים--בֵּית-אֵל.
"And Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Beth-el."

Recall that back in Vayeitzei, in Bereishit 28:18-19, Yaakov dreamed of the ladder reaching to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it...

וַיַּשְׁכֵּם יַעֲקֹב בַּבֹּקֶר, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-הָאֶבֶן אֲשֶׁר-שָׂם מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו, וַיָּשֶׂם אֹתָהּ, מַצֵּבָה; וַיִּצֹק שֶׁמֶן, עַל-רֹאשָׁהּ.
וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-שֵׁם-הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא, בֵּית-אֵל; וְאוּלָם לוּז שֵׁם-הָעִיר, לָרִאשֹׁנָה.

"And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
And he called the name of that place Beth-el, but the name of the city was Luz at the first."

So what is the deal here? How many times did Yaakov name this place (1, 2, 3, more?), what names, and for what reasons? And see the Or HaChaim who comments somewhat on the difficulties involved in pasuk 16 in Vayishlach.

I suggest for this involved issue you should really look carefully at the involved pesukim.

After staring at the pesukim for a while, I thought about the following solution. In Vayeitzei, the name of the place was Luz and Yaakov called it Bet El. In Vayishlach perek 31, pasuk 1 has Hashem tell Yaakov to go to Bet El, to where he previously fled from his brother, and to build a new altar there. In pasuk 6, Yaakov goes to Bet El, which the pasuk informs us used to be called Luz. In pasuk 7,

וַיִּבֶן שָׁם, מִזְבֵּחַ, וַיִּקְרָא לַמָּקוֹם, אֵל בֵּית-אֵל: כִּי שָׁם, נִגְלוּ אֵלָיו הָאֱלֹהִים, בְּבָרְחוֹ, מִפְּנֵי אָחִיו.
"And he built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el, because there God was revealed unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother."

the standard reading is that this is Yaakov's fullfillment of the new tzivui - he is now building the altar. And he calls the place el-Bet-El, giving it a new name now, for the reason that Hashem had previously revealed Himself to him when Yaakov fled his brother.

However, I think the actual meaning of the pasuk is that the pasuk is speaking in the pluperfect. Together, pasuk 6 and 7 read and should be translated as:

וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב לוּזָה, אֲשֶׁר בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן--הִוא, בֵּית-אֵל: הוּא, וְכָל-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-עִמּוֹ.
"So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan--the same is Beth-el--he and all the people that were with him."

וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב לוּזָה, אֲשֶׁר בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן--הִוא, בֵּית-אֵל: הוּא, וְכָל-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-עִמּוֹ.
וַיִּבֶן שָׁם, מִזְבֵּחַ, וַיִּקְרָא לַמָּקוֹם, אֵל בֵּית-אֵל: כִּי שָׁם, נִגְלוּ אֵלָיו הָאֱלֹהִים, בְּבָרְחוֹ מִפְּנֵי אָחִיו.
"So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan--the same is Beth-el--he and all the people that were with him.
And he hadbuilt there an altar, and hadcalled the place El-beth-el, because there God was revealed unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother."

Thus, the בְּבָרְחוֹ מִפְּנֵי אָחִיו modifies the entire sentence - when he had built the altar (back then), and when he had called the place El-Bet-El (back then) in response to Hashem revealing Himself to Yaakov (back then) when Yaakov fled from his brother. Apparently, Bet-El == El-Bet-El.

Then, is pasuk 9 again,

וַיֵּרָא אֱלֹקִים אֶל-יַעֲקֹב עוֹד, בְּבֹאוֹ מִפַּדַּן אֲרָם; וַיְבָרֶךְ, אֹתוֹ.
"And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him."

This does not mean that Hashem revealed Himself to Yaakov twice now at this point in time in Bet El, but rather that Hashem is now revealing Himself to Yaakov a second time, this time when Yaakov came from Padan Aram, and the first time in Vayeitzei.

Since Hashem again reveals himself to Yaakov, Yaakov builds an altar. Pasuk 14:

וַיַּצֵּב יַעֲקֹב מַצֵּבָה, בַּמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר אִתּוֹ--מַצֶּבֶת אָבֶן; וַיַּסֵּךְ עָלֶיהָ נֶסֶךְ, וַיִּצֹק עָלֶיהָ שָׁמֶן.
"And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He spoke with him, a pillar of stone, and he poured out a drink-offering thereon, and poured oil thereon."

And finally, calls the place Bet El.

וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב אֶת-שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם, אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אִתּוֹ שָׁם אֱלֹקִים--בֵּית-אֵל.
"And Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Beth-el."

Perhaps he is calling the place Bet-El again (the first time in Vayeitzei), or perhaps this is a reminding of the etymology since in the next pasuk he moves on from Bet El.

Even if he does call the place Bet-El again, now at least the pesukim progress in a normal order. Perhaps calling the place Bet El again carries some meaning, like Yitzchak naming of wells the same names they had previously.

At any rate, what we deal with here is the same etymology at least, though there might be two events sparking the same etymology.

At this point, I've spoken enough about place names. I shall continue with the names of people.


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