Thursday, February 12, 2004

Not much in the way of original divrei torah this week

To an extent this was due to an increased focus on yerushalmi. However, while reading through the parsha with Mechilta and Tg Yonatan, I saw two very nice midrashim.

The first one:
Before Yisro's suggestion to Moshe, how many judges were there? Most people would say just one - Moshe. Mechilta however cites a dispute between (if I recall correctly) R Yehoshua and R Eliezer HaModai.

The pasuk in Shemot 18:18 states:
נָבֹל תִּבֹּל--גַּם-אַתָּה, גַּם-הָעָם הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר עִמָּךְ: כִּי-כָבֵד מִמְּךָ הַדָּבָר, לֹא-תוּכַל עֲשֹׂהוּ לְבַדֶּךָ.
"Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee; for the thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone."

אַתָּה refers to Moshe. The גַּם of גַּם-אַתָּה comes to include Aharon (according to R Yehoshua), or Aharon and his sons Elazar and Itamar (according toi R Eliezer HaModai). הָעָם refers not to the populace but to the 70 elders who judged with them. It makes some sense. The nation that is with you is the nation that is judging with you. That makes 72 judges, or perhaps 74 judges. On Yisro's advice this became more than 60 thousand.

This seems to be a consistent rendition of הָעָם throughout this context. So later in pasuk 23 we read:
אִם אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה, תַּעֲשֶׂה, וְצִוְּךָ אֱלֹקִים, וְיָכָלְתָּ עֲמֹד; וְגַם כָּל-הָעָם הַזֶּה, עַל-מְקֹמוֹ יָבֹא בְשָׁלוֹם.
If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people also shall go to their place in peace.'

again it is rendered as the elders.
What about in pasuk 13, 14, and 15:
וַיְהִי, מִמָּחֳרָת, וַיֵּשֶׁב מֹשֶׁה, לִשְׁפֹּט אֶת-הָעָם....
וַיַּרְא חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה, אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר-הוּא עֹשֶׂה לָעָם....
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה, לְחֹתְנוֹ: כִּי-יָבֹא אֵלַי הָעָם....

From looking at the midrash, no one seems to interpret these instances of הָעָם as the elders, though there is a possibility that הָעָם is once again the elders at Har Sinai, since the midrash again picks up pegarding the Kohanim and the Am, with Aharon, Nadav, Avihu, and the Elders on the mountain.

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