Wednesday, December 10, 2003

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.

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