Thursday, March 25, 2004

1 More!

Hadran Alach Mi Shehaya Tameh! (9th perek yerushalmi pesachim)

Continuing the discussion below about the aleph in Vayikra being small.
I neglected to mention another letter that can serve at the end of a word with a kemetz following it - ה.

I mentioned the dots over letters as a notation to remove those letters, and a midrash explaining that Ezra placed dots over some letters/words that he was unsure should be in the text.

I happened across a Mishna and gemara that related to this in the 9th perek of yerushalmi pesachim, halacha bet:

ואיזהו דרך רחוקה מן המודיעית ולחוץ וכמידתה לכל רוח דברי ר' עקיבה ר' אליעזר אומר מאסקופת עזרה ולחוץ א"ר יוסי לפיכך נקוד על ה"א לומר לך מפני שהיא רחוקה ודאי אלא מאסקופת העזרה ולחוץ

There is a dispute as to the definition of a "derech rechoka" a faraway path, where one who does not bring the korban pesach brings one on Pesach Sheni. R Akiva gives names a place 5 mil from Yerushalayim, and the same distance in all directions. R Eliezer gives a much closer distance - right outside the Azara.

R Yose provides a textual justification for R Eliezer's opinion: That in Bemidbar 9:10 the pasuk states:

דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר: אִישׁ אִישׁ כִּי-יִהְיֶה-טָמֵא לָנֶפֶשׁ אוֹ בְדֶרֶךְ רְחֹקָה לָכֶם, אוֹ לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם, וְעָשָׂה פֶסַח, לַה.

and there is a dot over the heh in רְחֹקָה , which would imply that it should be read as if the heh were not there.

The gemara elaborates, with a dispute. Jumping into the middle:

ורבנן אמרי בשעה שהכתב רבה על הנקודות את דורש את הכתב ומסלק את הנקודה ובשעה שהנקודה רבה על הכתב את דורש את הנקודה ומסלק את הכתב. א"ר אע"פ שאין שם אלא נקודה אחת מלמעלן את דורש את הנקודה ומסלק את הכתב. ה"א שברחוקה נקוד איש רחוק ואין דרך רחוקה

I'm not going to explain this drasha now because the explanation I've seen seems slightly forced and yet the what I think the meaning is would require switching the shitot.

But, the Rabanan say that if a word has dots on some letters, to compare the amount of letters with dots and those without dots.

if lettersWithDots < lettersWithoutDots then
darshen the plain letters and remove the dotted letters // note 1
else if lettersWithDots > lettersWithoutDots then
darshen the dotted letter and remove the plain letters // note 2

Note 1: this is the case with Rechoka. I see it as the Korban HaEda elaborates. Remove the heh and you are left with Rachok.
Note 2: An example of this is ויאמרו אליו איה שרה אשתך in Bereishit 18:9, with dots on the word אליו on all letters but the lamed. Then the derasha is based on reading the word as if it were just lamed.

Rabbi disagrees and says even in the instance of a single dotted letter, such that lettersWithDots < lettersWithoutDots, you still darshen the dotted letter and ignore in that drasha the plain letters. Thus, Rechoka would just become a heh.

The gemara ends:

ה"א שברחוקה נקוד איש רחוק ואין דרך רחוקה:

This is where it gets a bit hairy. I would say that this entire statement is in accordance with the Rabanan - the heh of rechoka is dotted, so we remove it and get Rachok, and make the derasha that the man is distant, not the way. This deresha would then support the opinion of R Eliezer in the Mishna, that the man is not able to come, even if the way is not far, that he is right outside the azara. I'm not sure though that this works out in context.

Gotta go eat some dinner. Will leave with the following: there are 15 dotted words in Tanach, 10 in Torah, 4 in Neviim, 1 in Ketuvim. Here's a web page detailing them.

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