Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Vayigash #5: Treatment of הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה

I've referred to these psukim often enough, suggesting that perhaps they do not mean that the list of members of Yaakov's house were those who actually went down to Egypt but rather the count took place later. I should probably focus more on them and explain in detail my thoughts.

In Vayigash, the list of Yaakov's family begins in Bereshit 46:8

וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל הַבָּאִים מִצְרַיְמָה, יַעֲקֹב וּבָנָיו: בְּכֹר יַעֲקֹב, רְאוּבֵן.
"And these are the names of the children of Israel, who came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons: Reuben, Jacob's first-born."

and ends in 46:26-27:

כָּל-הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַבָּאָה לְיַעֲקֹב מִצְרַיְמָה, יֹצְאֵי יְרֵכוֹ, מִלְּבַד, נְשֵׁי בְנֵי-יַעֲקֹב--כָּל-נֶפֶשׁ, שִׁשִּׁים וָשֵׁשׁ.
וּבְנֵי יוֹסֵף אֲשֶׁר-יֻלַּד-לוֹ בְמִצְרַיִם, נֶפֶשׁ שְׁנָיִם: כָּל-הַנֶּפֶשׁ לְבֵית-יַעֲקֹב הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה, שִׁבְעִים.
"All the souls belonging to Jacob that came into Egypt, that came out of his loins, besides Jacob's sons' wives, all the souls were threescore and six.

And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two souls; all the souls of the house of Jacob, that came into Egypt, were threescore and ten."

Before and after these psukim are stumot, indicating that this is a section in and of itself.

Preceding this section, in 46:6-7, we have the statement:

וַיִּקְחוּ אֶת-מִקְנֵיהֶם, וְאֶת-רְכוּשָׁם אֲשֶׁר רָכְשׁוּ בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, וַיָּבֹאוּ, מִצְרָיְמָה: יַעֲקֹב, וְכָל-זַרְעוֹ אִתּוֹ.
בָּנָיו וּבְנֵי בָנָיו, אִתּוֹ, בְּנֹתָיו וּבְנוֹת בָּנָיו, וְכָל-זַרְעוֹ--הֵבִיא אִתּוֹ, מִצְרָיְמָה.
"And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him;

his sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt."

At issue for me is the meaning of the phrase הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה in all its forms.

The simplest meaning is that it means those who came down with Yaakov to Egypt. If so, then this is a list of those who came down when Yaakov was 130, and Yosef was (presumably though I have my doubts) 39, and we are forced into a series of absurdities in terms of ages of grandchildren when they were born, got married and had children. (See my posts below on these matters.)

My approach to this whole issue is that it is a constraint satsifaction problem. We have a series of psukim each of which independently or when combined with others impose a contraint, and we try to fit details such as ages of birth and bearing of children within those contraints. Too many constraints leave little wiggle room in which too work, and we are forced into a specific assignation of dates which are difficult to accept.

Now, miracles in general are counter-rational. Who would expect a 99 your old to give birth and nurse? But miracles supercede natural order. However, where the Torah does not mention a fact as a miracle and it violates sechel, one must think why the Torah does not mention such a great miracle. Ibn Ezra seems to have an approach like this, in terms of things like Yocheved's age of 130 when birthing Moshe.

Back to constraint satisfaction. If we can relax a constraint, then we can have more room to manuever in terms of when events happened. Relaxing constraints is a matter of looking at psukim and seeing if they really must say what we assumed at first they said. I may be wrong about relaxing this specific constraint - the pasuk might indeed mean that the count took place when they entered Egypt, but then I should look at other psukim and see if *they* really mean what we think they mean. For example, I referred in an earlier post to the onset of the years of plenty and of famine. Much calculation depends on the assumption that the years of plenty began immediately after Yosef interpreted Pharoah's dream. However, it may have been several years before the years of plenty began (which might eat up some of the missing 14 years of Yaakov's life). Or, the years of plenty may have already started.

My focus begins at the last pasuk, 46:27:

וּבְנֵי יוֹסֵף אֲשֶׁר-יֻלַּד-לוֹ בְמִצְרַיִם, נֶפֶשׁ שְׁנָיִם: כָּל-הַנֶּפֶשׁ לְבֵית-יַעֲקֹב הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה שִׁבְעִים.

What does הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה mean? Specifically, can it mean that 70 physically came down to Egypt with Yaakov, as I said above?

Certainly *not*! After all, to arrive at the figure of 70, we need to include Yosef and his sons Menashe and Ephraim, who were all in Egypt. True, Yosef at some point went down to Egpyt (he was sold there) but Ephraim and Menashe were born in Egypt and never left. So, הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה cannot mean that 70 people came to Egypt.

Now, I think there are two distinct possibilities of what הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה could mean.

First, the full phrase was כָּל-הַנֶּפֶשׁ לְבֵית-יַעֲקֹב הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה שִׁבְעִים. We can say that the pasuk is referring to בֵית-יַעֲקֹב which was הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה. In other words there was the Bet Yaakov as it entered Egypt, as opposed to the Bet Yisrael which left Egypt. Thus we have the family as an entity, which existed as said entity in the early days of the Jews' stay in Egypt. We have a count of them, just as we have a count in Bamidbar of the Jews who left Egypt. This count need not have taken when they were entering, for we are referring to that type of family as opposed to the physical act of Entering Egypt.

The slightly different alternative (which people I said this over to on Shabbos took it to mean) is that we are dealing in this pasuk with a specific act - that of entering Egypt. That was done by Bet Yaakov. So the verb goes to Bet Yaakov while the count goes to the people who are part of Bet Yaakov and that count could happen later.

There is a very fine distinction between the two alternatives, and that is that in the first I am not taking this as an action of entering so much as a description of the family - much as in the US there were families known as "First Families Of Virginia." This was the first generation - those who came to populate Goshen. In other words, it is verb vs. adjective. (The reason I'm spending so many words on this is that it is an important yet fine point of distinction and I am having difficulty conveying the difference.)

In either case, the constraint would be relaxed and we could claim the count of the first family, or else the members of the family which came to Egypt, happened later.

How about the first pasuk, though?
46:8 states:

וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל הַבָּאִים מִצְרַיְמָה, יַעֲקֹב וּבָנָיו: בְּכֹר יַעֲקֹב רְאוּבֵן.

I would like to say הַבָּאִים מִצְרַיְמָה means the same as הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה. In favor of this interpretation is that it is nearly the same phrase, so it should have the same meaning - consistency being a virtue. Also, this pasul opens the genealogy while the one I discussed before ends it. This framing of the genealogy by the same phrase presses somewhat for consistency of meaning.

Further, this leading pasuk purports to give the names of all the descendants. This could mean either those who specifically came down with Yaakov, in which case הַבָּאִים מִצְרַיְמָה would be specific and exclusive of the Yosef branch, or else it could be trying to present all the descendants of Yaakov, including the Yosef branch, with the distinction of the Egypt/Canaan branches being secondary. If the latter, then הַבָּאִים מִצְרַיְמָה should somehow encompass the Yosef branch just as it did in the last pasuk.

Judging from my own subjective stylistic sense, it seems that the listing of *all* of Yaakov's descendants is primary and the split into Egpyt/Canaan branches is secondary. This is based on the following observation.

We begin וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת. In the same pasuk we list the first son - בְּכֹר יַעֲקֹב רְאוּבֵן. We list each son and their current children and, if extant, grandchildren. We group each into sons born of each wife and give the count.

The section for Rachel is in the middle, preceding Bilhah's sons: 46:19-22:

בְּנֵי רָחֵל אֵשֶׁת יַעֲקֹב, יוֹסֵף וּבִנְיָמִן.
וַיִּוָּלֵד לְיוֹסֵף, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה-לּוֹ אָסְנַת, בַּת-פּוֹטִי פֶרַע כֹּהֵן אֹן--אֶת-מְנַשֶּׁה, וְאֶת-אֶפְרָיִם.
וּבְנֵי בִנְיָמִן, בֶּלַע וָבֶכֶר וְאַשְׁבֵּל, גֵּרָא וְנַעֲמָן, אֵחִי וָרֹאשׁ; מֻפִּים וְחֻפִּים, וָאָרְדְּ.
אֵלֶּה בְּנֵי רָחֵל, אֲשֶׁר יֻלַּד לְיַעֲקֹב--כָּל-נֶפֶשׁ, אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר.

Here Binyamin and Yosef are listed in the same pasuk. And Yosef's branch is not a branch at all but it counted towards a subtotal of 14. The mention that Yosef's sons were born to him in Egypt is to give info needed ahead at the end when we calculate the Egypt/Canaan branch, but the primary counting is by mothers, and there Yosef and descendants figure.

The first pasuk is an introduction to this primary count. The secondary split is the subject of the last two psukim. So we really should split the count into two sections - from וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת until pasuk 25: אֵלֶּה בְּנֵי בִלְהָה, אֲשֶׁר-נָתַן לָבָן לְרָחֵל בִּתּוֹ; וַתֵּלֶד אֶת-אֵלֶּה לְיַעֲקֹב, כָּל-נֶפֶשׁ שִׁבְעָה, and secondly the secondary count splitting the Egyptian and Canaanite branches.

Note this partially undoes the argument I presented before about the first and last psukim framing the count, but it still does that, and both psukim mentioning הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה/הַבָּאִים מִצְרַיְמָה should refer to the entirety of Yaakov's family.

However, there is a problem with הַבָּאִים מִצְרַיְמָה meaning all of Yaakov's family including Yosef, Ephraim and Menashe. Firstly, הַבָּאִים is plural. Secondly, הַבָּאִים is present tense.

Why is this a problem? Well, if הַבָּאִים if plural then it refers to all individuals, which means (or so it was pointed out to me) that each of them went down to Egypt. Thus you cannot say that we are just listing members of the family (singular) which (that is the family did) went to Egypt.

I do not really find this to be an issue at all. This is more of an issue according to the second possibility within the fine distiction I made above. If it means approximately "early family" then that appelation could apply to individuals of the family even if they did not go down to Egypt. It means "of the generation first in Egypt." However, even if it it meant to be a verb, I have no problem with it. The question is, what does בני ישראל mean?

There is a pasuk in Shemot 19:3:
וּמֹשֶׁה עָלָה, אֶל-הָאֱלֹהִים; וַיִּקְרָא אֵלָיו יְהוָה, מִן-הָהָר לֵאמֹר, כֹּה תֹאמַר לְבֵית יַעֲקֹב, וְתַגֵּיד לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.
"And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying: 'Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:"

Once again we have the distinction of Bet Yaakov vs. Benei Yisrael. Chazal on this pasuk say Bet Yaakov refers to the women. However, that is clearly not what it means in Bereishit (see above).

On a pshat level, what is happening in Shemot is we have a poetic pasuk, and a feature of Biblical poetry is repetition; the second half of a pasuk or phrase echoes the idea of the first half, in different language. We can see this feature in close proximity in the phrase וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ-לִי מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהֲנִים, וְגוֹי קָדוֹשׁ. A priestly kingdom is approximately equal to a holy nation. So, Bet Yaakov is a synonym for Benei Yisrael.

If so, reconsider the first pasuk, וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל הַבָּאִים מִצְרַיְמָה, יַעֲקֹב וּבָנָיו: בְּכֹר יַעֲקֹב, רְאוּבֵן. Note it does not say Benei Yaakov, but Benei Yisrael, parallel to Bet Yaakov in the last pasuk. Both the house of Jacob and the Sons of Israel are an appelation given to a group rather than a collection of individuals. However, the form of בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל is plural. This would demand a plural verb or adjective (see next discusssion) to accompany it, and thus we have הַבָּאִים מִצְרַיְמָה rather than הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה.

The second facet of the problem is that הַבָּאִים is present tense. Again, this is according to the second sense of my suggestion, that הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה was a verb which applies to the collection in the past and we are just enumerating the members of this group now. Why is the present tense a problem?

It is a problem because (at least in the second sense) the Bet Yaakov entered Egypt in the past, while in present tense we are conducting a count. But if in present tense they enter Egypt, then they enter Egypt at the time of the count!

I also do not consider this a significant problem, but that is because I am privy to a fact about Hebrew grammar many do not know: There is no present tense in Hebrew. There is imperfect which most often indicates future tense, and perfect which most often indicates past tense. What we call present tense is really just the noun form.

Consider: אני שומר.
"I watch."
"I {am} a watchman."

הוא אומר
"He says."
"He is a sayer."

אתם שומרים
"You are watching."
"You are watchers."

This noun form is a neutral tense, which often indicates present tense, but fairly frequently does not.

Consider the last pasuk of the second perek of Bereishit:
וַיִּהְיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם עֲרוּמִּים, הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ; וְלֹא, יִתְבֹּשָׁשׁוּ.
"And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."

עֲרוּמִּים is this noun form. Had someone said הם עֲרוּמִּים, one would translate "they are naked." However, what happens here is that the past tense of וַיִּהְיוּ informs on עֲרוּמִּים that it is past tense. I would actually put it better, and more general. Noun-form verbs are neutral, and they assume the tense of whatever non-neutral verb is in close proximity. Here, וַיִּהְיוּ is actually a verb denoting the act of "being." This colors the noun-verb עֲרוּמִּים so we interpret it as past tense.

Ibn Ezra speaks about the absence of present-tense verbs in Hebrew in the context of Amos 7:14-15:

וַיַּעַן עָמוֹס, וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל-אֲמַצְיָה, לֹא-נָבִיא אָנֹכִי, וְלֹא בֶן-נָבִיא אָנֹכִי: כִּי-בוֹקֵר אָנֹכִי, וּבוֹלֵס שִׁקְמִים.
וַיִּקָּחֵנִי יְהוָה, מֵאַחֲרֵי הַצֹּאן; וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי יְהוָה, לֵךְ הִנָּבֵא אֶל-עַמִּי יִשְׂרָאֵל.
"Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah: 'I am no prophet, neither am I a prophet's son; but I am a herdman, and a dresser of sycamore-trees;
and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said unto me: Go, prophesy unto My people Israel." {edited from King James to match the tense I want.}

The meforshim all must deal there with the question - how can Amos say he is no prophet if he is actually a prophet. In the next pasuk he says how Hashem appointed him. This might lead to issues of what is a navi, a ben navi. Perhaps those are negative appelations as opposed to, say, roeh, at that point in time.

Ibn Ezra notes that the noun-verbs are neutral. Further in the next pasuk וַיִּקָּחֵנִי is past tense, so he renders it "I WAS no prophet nor WAS I a prophets son, but I WAS a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore-trees WHEN Hashem took me from following the flock..."

Thus this is an example of a neutral verb taking its tense from the surrounding verb tenses.

Back to our pasuk, with the "present" verb tense:

וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל הַבָּאִים מִצְרַיְמָה, יַעֲקֹב וּבָנָיו: בְּכֹר יַעֲקֹב, רְאוּבֵן.

I would note that הַבָּאִים need not be a verb at all but rather a noun functioning as an adjective, describing the בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל. And even as a verb, it need not be present tense.

The final issue is the middle הַבָּאָה. Pasuk 26: כָּל-הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַבָּאָה לְיַעֲקֹב מִצְרַיְמָה, יֹצְאֵי יְרֵכוֹ, מִלְּבַד, נְשֵׁי בְנֵי-יַעֲקֹב--כָּל-נֶפֶשׁ, שִׁשִּׁים וָשֵׁשׁ. Here it clearly refers to those who came to Egpyt as opposed to those who were there, since the next pasuk is וּבְנֵי יוֹסֵף אֲשֶׁר-יֻלַּד-לוֹ בְמִצְרַיִם, נֶפֶשׁ שְׁנָיִם: כָּל-הַנֶּפֶשׁ לְבֵית-יַעֲקֹב הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה, שִׁבְעִים.

הַבָּאָה לְיַעֲקֹב מִצְרַיְמָה is not inclusive of the who family as the phrase clearly *is* in the first and the last pasuk. However, this does not necessarily mean we are counting here those who physically entered Egypt. Rather, among the larger all-inclusive mother-based count, we are distinguishing between two *branches* of the family - the Canaanite-based branch, which emigrated from Canaan with Yaakov, and the Egypt-based branch, which took root as a result of the brothers selling Yosef down to Egypt. We are given the number of people belonging to each of those branches, and כָּל-הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַבָּאָה לְיַעֲקֹב מִצְרַיְמָה is descriptive of that branch as opposed to the other.

Finally, we do have an account of Yaakov bringing people with him to Egypt in the section preceding the genealogy, but there is a stuma in between, plus those psukim are in a narrative section, which dictates action. We should necessarily use it for proof of the meaning in a genealogical section.

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin