Friday, April 30, 2004

A bit of elaboration on my post below which goes through all references to Seirim in Tanach. Let me explain what I was trying to accomplish, and what it has to do with all the animal pictures.

The pasuk in Vayikra refers to a bad practice some ancient Israelites had of sacrificing to Seirim, which seem to be satyrs or demons.

But what is the Jewish perspective on demons? Do they exist?

It seems to me we can divide the question into 3 parts:

1) What did some ancient Israelites believe?
2) What is the perspective in Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim?
3) What is the perspective of Chazal?

In general, the Jewish perspective is that other gods do not exist, only Hashem. However, just because something is idolatry does not guarantee that Jewish thought denies the existence of said entity.

Consider the case where someone worships a sheep, or a dog. No one would deny the dog, or sheep, exists, but we may deny that the dog or sheep is divine.

Similarly, we might say that demons or satyrs exist even if they are not divine.

1) The few mistaken ancient Israelites who worshipped Seirim obviously felt that the Seirim had some power, such that they brought sacrifices to them. Thus they certainly believed in the existence of Seirim.

2) The Torah gives the law to prevent people from bringing sacrifices to Seirim. That does not mean that the Torah acknowledges their existence - just that some people thought they existed and worshipped them.

The verse in Melachim Bet, even if it refers to Seirim, did not show a belief of the Navi in the existence of Seirim.

The verses in Yeshayahu might refer to Seirim, meaning demons/satyrs. These are things that dance in desolate places, and the context in one verse has one Lilith calling to another, and Lilith is taken to be a type of demon. This might mean that the Navi believes in the existence of these demons, if he can talk about them doing things. On the other hand, he might be using them metaphorically, in trying to paint a picture of desolation, and satyrs frequent desolate places, and so this does not mean the Navi beleives in demons even if Seirim means demons.

The point of all the pictures was that the context in Yeshayahu is the description of a desolate place with a bunch of wild animals which frequent such places. Thus I provided pics of each type of animal.

Seirim literally means goats, and the satyr meaning is an extension of that primary meaning. So there is no cause to assume it means demons, given the context of all the other wild animals there. In which case the Navi does not show that Biblical Judaism believed in demons.

In terms of the context Lilith in one verse, Lilith comes from the same root as Layla, night, which is appropriate to describe a demon. But we do not know that the Lilith calling to the other Lilith is a demon. Just as we have problems identifying many Biblical creatures, this might also be some actual animal, which is nocturnal, and is thus called Lilith, from night.

3) In terms of Chazal's perspective, they assume in many places that demons (Shedim) exist, and in the Midrash Rabba for Acharei Mot cite on of the psukim in Yeshaya to explain that Seirim are demons. This means that they think demons exist which have various magical powers, but not that one should worship them nor that they are divine in some way.

Rishonim and Acharonim have different perspectives about the existence of demons, but I do not want to get into that here.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

A powerful article in today's Wall Street Journal by Peggy Noonan

Every now and then you witness a small moment that is actually a big moment. Maybe it alerts you to something surprising that's going on, or maybe it illustrates what you already know but in a new way, one that can't be dodged or avoided.


But I must tell you of the small moment that was actually a big moment. (There's a possible spoiler coming up, so if you don't know the story and mean to see the play, stop here.) An important moment in the plot is when a character announces she is pregnant, and considering having an abortion. In fact, she tells her mother-in-law, she's already put $5 down with the local abortionist. It is a dramatic moment. And you know as you watch it that when this play came out in 1960 it was received by the audience as a painful moment--a cry of pain from a woman who's tired of hoping that life will turn out well.

But this is the thing: Our audience didn't know that. They didn't understand it was tragic. They heard the young woman say she was about to end the life of her child, and they applauded. Some of them cheered. It was stunning. The reaction seemed to startle the actors on stage, and shake their concentration. I was startled. I turned to my friend. "We have just witnessed a terrible cultural moment," I said. "Don't I know it," he responded.

Early maturation?

Sometimes midrashim, and Chazal, suggest that certain events happen in a Biblical character's lifetime earlier than makes sense to modern sensibilities. For example, Rivka talking with Eliezer and drawing water from the well for the camels at the age of 3, and people marrying at what we would consider a very early age.

That is why I found this Reuters article on Neanderthals interesting. Though I do not necessarily accept the time frame of Neanderthals existing 30,000 years ago, this shows that Neanderthals matured at an earlier age. Money quote:

Although Neanderthals disappeared from Europe about 30,000 years ago, scientists at the French research institute CRNS in Paris have uncovered new details about them by studying teeth fossils.

The findings, reported in the science journal Nature, suggest Neanderthals reached adulthood by the age of 15 -- about three years before early modern humans -- probably ate a high calorie diet and were a distinct species from modern humans.

"Neanderthals, despite having a large brain, were characterized by a short period of development," said Fernando Ramirez Rozzi.

"This difference in growth between Neanderthals and modern humans is, I think, very strong proof of two different species," he added.

Acharei Mot #3: Seirim

Here is, as promised, the survey of Seirim throughout Tanach. I obtained the list of locations from this web site, but I take exception to at least one of the psaukim classified as speaking about Seirim.

The first the one in Vayikra 17:6:

וְלֹא-יִזְבְּחוּ עוֹד, אֶת-זִבְחֵיהֶם, לַשְּׂעִירִם, אֲשֶׁר הֵם זֹנִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם: חֻקַּת עוֹלָם תִּהְיֶה-זֹּאת לָהֶם, לְדֹרֹתָם.
"And they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices unto the satyrs, after whom they go astray. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations."

Satyrs is JPS's translation, where a satyr was a Pan, a demi-god which had half human and half-goat form. Chazal in midrash Rabbi say it means demons.

The next pasuk to consider is the list of altars that King Yoshiyahu destroyed in his reformation. In Malachim Bet, 23:8:

וַיָּבֵא אֶת-כָּל-הַכֹּהֲנִים, מֵעָרֵי יְהוּדָה, וַיְטַמֵּא אֶת-הַבָּמוֹת אֲשֶׁר קִטְּרוּ-שָׁמָּה הַכֹּהֲנִים, מִגֶּבַע עַד-בְּאֵר שָׁבַע; וְנָתַץ אֶת-בָּמוֹת הַשְּׁעָרִים, אֲשֶׁר-פֶּתַח שַׁעַר יְהוֹשֻׁעַ שַׂר-הָעִיר, אֲשֶׁר-עַל-שְׂמֹאול אִישׁ, בְּשַׁעַר הָעִיר.
"And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from Geba to Beer-sheba; and he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man's left hand as he entered the gate of the city."

The web site above listed this verse, and so is suggesting that הַשְּׁעָרִים should be read HaSeirim rather that HaShearim. The Shin/Sin difference is recorded by a dot on the left (sin) or right (shin) side, but this dot is not written in a Sefer of Navi, just as nikud is not. However, the verse only talks of the altar being on the left side, not the dot ;). Further, there would be a missing yud. Further, we have the weight of tradition on the side of the verse as it currently stands. Finally, while in the context of an altar is is somewhat tempting, the local semantic context of the verse, namely that it was located in Shaar Yehoshua and in the Shaar of the city gives much more credence to the reading Shearim.

The next verse is in Divrei HaYamim Bet, 11:15:

וַיַּעֲמֶד-לוֹ כֹּהֲנִים, לַבָּמוֹת וְלַשְּׂעִירִים, וְלָעֲגָלִים, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה.
"and he appointed him priests for the high places, and for the satyrs, and for the calves which he had made."

The context is that there is a newly divided kingdom. Rechovom still controls Yehuda and Yerovam controlled the kingdom of Israel. All the priests and levites went to serve in the Bet HaMikdash in the kingdom of Yehuda, because king Yerovam had cast them off. Instead he appointed his own priests.

According to this translation, וְלַשְּׂעִירִים means the satyrs, or for Chazal they would then be demons. So, he made Bamot, altars for the satyrs, and he made Bamot for the golden Calves which he had made.

If so, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה, that he made, should only go on the calves and not on the seirim, since he did not make demons/satyrs, but did make golden calves. The trup (cantillation) obliges, giving an etnachta after seirim, thus making "the calves which he made" a section to itself. Rashi also chimes in, saying that the reason the levites abandoned him was because he appointed priests to serve demons/satyrs.

I have a few problems:

1) Why the vav in וְלַשְּׂעִירִים? It should be "He made Bamot for the Seirim, and for the calves he had made." What is with this extra "and?" It seems to set it off from the rest.

2) Where else do we see he made Bamot for the demons/satyrs besides this verse? This came as a big surprise to me. We know he made golden calves, but no mention of Seirim is made in Melachim Aleph 12

3) Seirim literally means goats, which are sacrificial animals. The juxtaposition of that next to וְלָעֲגָלִים increases the likelihood of it referring to animals rather than demons.

4) Without the trup my first inclination was to pause after Bamot, because of the vav in וְלַשְּׂעִירִים. But then אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה should be distributive, and he could not make demons/satyrs, as I mentioned above.

Perhaps the etnachta should be on the word Bamot; וְלַשְּׂעִירִים means "and the goats," not the demons/satyrs. וְלָעֲגָלִים does not mean the golden calves, but actual calves. אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה need not mean which he physically made, but can mean (and I think it is used in this context elsewhere) "that he sacrificed."

Thus, Jeroboam appointed priests for his altars, and to bring the goats and calves which he sacrificed.

This is unlikely given the verse in Malachim Aleph 12:32:

וַיַּעַשׂ יָרָבְעָם חָג בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁמִינִי בַחֲמִשָּׁה-עָשָׂר יוֹם לַחֹדֶשׁ כֶּחָג אֲשֶׁר בִּיהוּדָה, וַיַּעַל עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ--כֵּן עָשָׂה בְּבֵית-אֵל, לְזַבֵּחַ לָעֲגָלִים אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה; וְהֶעֱמִיד בְּבֵית אֵל, אֶת-כֹּהֲנֵי הַבָּמוֹת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה.
And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he went up unto the altar; so did he in Beth-el, to sacrifice unto the calves that he had made; and he placed in Beth-el the priests of the high places that he had made.

So לְזַבֵּחַ לָעֲגָלִים אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה here informs us that the phrase means the calves he formed. However, we also see אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה applying to the Bamot, which imples that the אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה in the verse in Divrei Hayamim may also be distributive, and should apply to the Bamot, the Seirim, and the Agalim. Perhaps he made some kind of golden goats as well?

{Update: Perhaps וְלַשְּׂעִירִים is meant to be metaphorical. After all, Jeroboam here is moving away from the centralized worship in the Bet HaMikdash specified in Vayikra, and is giving an alternate form of worship. This may be a Biblical allusion to Vayikra, saying that his making of calves and making the people worship outside the Bet HaMikdash was like worshipping the Seirim, which were associated with the prohibition of Bamot in Vayikra.}

For now, let us assume the conventional explanation supported by Rashi and the trup.

The next occurance is in Yeshayahu 13:21, but let us cite the surrounding verses for context:

וְהָיְתָה בָבֶל צְבִי מַמְלָכוֹת, תִּפְאֶרֶת גְּאוֹן כַּשְׂדִּים, כְּמַהְפֵּכַת אֱלֹהִים, אֶת-סְדֹם וְאֶת-עֲמֹרָה.
לֹא-תֵשֵׁב לָנֶצַח, וְלֹא תִשְׁכֹּן עַד-דּוֹר וָדוֹר; וְלֹא-יַהֵל שָׁם עֲרָבִי, וְרֹעִים לֹא-יַרְבִּצוּ שָׁם.
וְרָבְצוּ-שָׁם צִיִּים, וּמָלְאוּ בָתֵּיהֶם אֹחִים; וְשָׁכְנוּ שָׁם בְּנוֹת יַעֲנָה, וּשְׂעִירִים יְרַקְּדוּ-שָׁם.
וְעָנָה אִיִּים בְּאַלְמְנוֹתָיו, וְתַנִּים בְּהֵיכְלֵי עֹנֶג; וְקָרוֹב לָבוֹא עִתָּהּ, וְיָמֶיהָ לֹא יִמָּשֵׁכוּ.
"And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans' pride, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation; neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.
But wild-cats shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of ferrets; and ostriches shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.
And jackals shall howl in their castles, and wild-dogs in the pleasant palaces; and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged."

Sure satyrs or demons would hang out in a desolate place, but wouldn't a wild goat do this at well?
Consider the context: (pictures based on the JPS translation - I am not going to go anto all the possible identifications here)

The Wildcat shall lie there

and their houses shall be full of Ferrets

and Ostriches shall dwell there...

And Seirim (wild goats) shall dance there.

And Jackals shall howl in their castles...

And Wild Dogs in their pleasant castles...

The context is that of wild animals, not of demons, or so at least it seems to me.

Finally we have Yeshayahu 34:14, but again I am unconvinced by the context. The only thing that recommends it is Lilit, which might be a Night monster, but perhaps has another connotation - some nocturnal creature which we do not directly know about, which served as a source for the mythical Lilith. Again the full context, again about desolation:

וִירֵשׁוּהָ קָאַת וְקִפּוֹד, וְיַנְשׁוֹף וְעֹרֵב יִשְׁכְּנוּ-בָהּ; וְנָטָה עָלֶיהָ קַו-תֹהוּ, וְאַבְנֵי-בֹהוּ.
חֹרֶיהָ וְאֵין-שָׁם, מְלוּכָה יִקְרָאוּ; וְכָל-שָׂרֶיהָ, יִהְיוּ אָפֶס.
וְעָלְתָה אַרְמְנֹתֶיהָ סִירִים, קִמּוֹשׂ וָחוֹחַ בְּמִבְצָרֶיהָ; וְהָיְתָה נְוֵה תַנִּים, חָצִיר לִבְנוֹת יַעֲנָה.
וּפָגְשׁוּ צִיִּים אֶת-אִיִּים, וְשָׂעִיר עַל-רֵעֵהוּ יִקְרָא; אַךְ-שָׁם הִרְגִּיעָה לִּילִית, וּמָצְאָה לָהּ מָנוֹחַ.
שָׁמָּה קִנְּנָה קִפּוֹז וַתְּמַלֵּט, וּבָקְעָה וְדָגְרָה בְצִלָּהּ; אַךְ-שָׁם נִקְבְּצוּ דַיּוֹת, אִשָּׁה רְעוּתָהּ.
"But the pelican and the bittern shall possess it, and the owl and the raven shall dwell therein; and He shall stretch over it the line of confusion, and the plummet of emptiness.
As for her nobles, none shall be there to be called to the kingdom; and all her princes shall be nothing.
And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and thistles in the fortresses thereof; and it shall be a habitation of wild-dogs, an enclosure for ostriches.
And the wild-cats shall meet with the jackals, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; yea, the night-monster shall repose there, and shall find her a place of rest.
There shall the arrowsnake make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and brood under her shadow; yea, there shall the kites be gathered, every one with her mate."

Many of the animals were covered above by the previous verse, so we can establish a similar context. The remaining ones:

But the pelican

and the Bittern shall possess it...

and the Owl

and the Raven shall dwell within...

There shall the arrowsnake make her nest...
there shall the kites be gathered...

Thus, the context again seems overwhelmingly to be animals which live in desolate places. While demons is possible, I am not convinced.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Acharei Mot #2: I don't believe this, but it is an interesting idea...

In Vayikra we read of the issur Bamot, the prohibition to bring sacrifices outside of the Mishkan or Mikdash. It is possible the prohibition also includes the requirement that all species that are appropriate for peace-offerings (shelamim) must be brought as such (and not just slaughtered and eaten); and further that this must be done in the Mishkan/Mikdash and not at a private altar (Bamah), but I digress...perhaps more on this topic later.

I want to focus on one verse in particular: Vayikra 17:6

וְלֹא-יִזְבְּחוּ עוֹד, אֶת-זִבְחֵיהֶם, לַשְּׂעִירִם, אֲשֶׁר הֵם זֹנִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם: חֻקַּת עוֹלָם תִּהְיֶה-זֹּאת לָהֶם, לְדֹרֹתָם.
"And they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices unto the satyrs, after whom they go astray. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations."

I wonder if an exception could be made on the Sabbath - that is, Satyr-day. ;)

שְׂעִירִם is a strange type of idolatry. The midrash Rabba demonstrates how they picked it up in Egypt, and shows that שְׂעִירִם = demons, שדים, by comparing various psukim to one another. The JPS translation above translates it satyrs, which in mythology was a demi-god which was half-human and half goat. Appropriate since a שעיר is a goat.

Elsewhere in Tanach (Yeshayahu 13:21) שעירים are said to dance in ruins. This may mean demons (that is how all take it) but wild goats could do the same thing. Chazal use this pasuk to show it means demons, but the context of other animals in the verse suggests to me otherwise.
וְרָבְצוּ-שָׁם צִיִּים, וּמָלְאוּ בָתֵּיהֶם אֹחִים; וְשָׁכְנוּ שָׁם בְּנוֹת יַעֲנָה, וּשְׂעִירִים יְרַקְּדוּ-שָׁם.
"But wild-cats shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of ferrets; and ostriches shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there."

But sacrificing outside the Mishkan could be construed as a sacrifice to the Seirim.

It is interesting that earlier in parshat Shemini, Moshe was angry that Elazar and Itamar did not eat the chatas of the benei yisrael. Rather, the *goat* was burned outside. (Update: Of course this is silly, since Aharon also burnt his personal chatas calf in the bet hasraifa, and the sacrificial parts of both animals were brought to Hashem. Also we have enough info about Moshe's problem and Aharon's response that a sacrifice to Seirim was not the issue.)

Further, in this parsha (perek 16) we read of the Yom Kippur service, which involved, besides sacrificing a goat to Hashem, sending a *goat* outside the Mishkan to Azazel: עֲזָאזֵל

This can be read as עז meaning goat + אל meaning god.

Update: Perhaps in a later post, a survey of שעירים as it occurs in Tanach.

Acharei Mot #1:

Earlier, in parashat Shemini, I suggested that the cause of Nadav and Avihu's death was the same as that of Korach's rebellious Edah. Both went into the kodesh with incense in their pans, and both were killed by a Divine fire from before Hashem. Indeed, I interpreted Moshe's consolation to Aharon as explaining the cause for their death - בִּקְרֹבַי אֶקָּדֵשׁ, "Through them that are nigh unto Me I will be sanctified", that is, only through Aharon was the day's service to be done. Thus, Hashem chose Aharon to serve him from amongst Korach's Edah and from two of his sons.

However, the opening Midrash of parashat Acharei Mot basically rejects my suggestion. Rabbi Shimon cites the verse from Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 9:2

הַכֹּל כַּאֲשֶׁר לַכֹּל, מִקְרֶה אֶחָד לַצַּדִּיק וְלָרָשָׁע לַטּוֹב וְלַטָּהוֹר וְלַטָּמֵא, וְלַזֹּבֵחַ, וְלַאֲשֶׁר אֵינֶנּוּ זֹבֵחַ: כַּטּוֹב, כַּחֹטֶא--הַנִּשְׁבָּע, כַּאֲשֶׁר שְׁבוּעָה יָרֵא.
All things come alike to all; there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth and to him that sacrificeth not; as is the good, so is the sinner, and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.

It is quotes like this that make you understand why Chazal wanted to be gonez Sefer Kohelet! It seems to deny fair judgement before God, since the same thing happens you whether you do good or bad. Unless he refers to life in this world, with punishment/reward in the world to come. Yet he seems to deny this in pasuk 5, when he writes:

כִּי הַחַיִּים יוֹדְעִים, שֶׁיָּמֻתוּ; וְהַמֵּתִים אֵינָם יוֹדְעִים מְאוּמָה, וְאֵין-עוֹד לָהֶם שָׂכָר--כִּי נִשְׁכַּח, זִכְרָם.
For the living know that they shall die; but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

I am not going to digress into a discussion of life after death and reward and punishment. The matter I focus on here is the drasha R Shimon makes of the first pasuk.

R Shimon parses each phrase and shows how each refers to a set of tzadikim and reshaim, who had the same end. The idea is that you cannot determine whether a person is righteous or not on the basis of their end, since often a tzadik and rasha have the same.

(Note for each of these identifications of people with appelations, the midrash cites prooftexts.)

לַצַּדִּיק = Noach
וְלָרָשָׁע = Pharoah Necho

Noach was injured by a lion in the ark, and made lame. Pharoah Necho (who killed King Yoshiyahu) took King Shlomo's mechanical throne, which had a security system built in. For Shlomo, the mechanical animals on the throne helped him ascend in honor, while for Pharoah Necho who did not know how to operate it, a lion on the throne made him lame.

Thus the tzadik and the rasha had the same thing happen to them.

לַטּוֹב = Moshe
וְלַטָּהוֹר = Aharon
וְלַטָּמֵא = the 10 evil spies

All three did not enter the Land of Israel

וְלַזֹּבֵחַ = Yoshiyahu
וְלַאֲשֶׁר אֵינֶנּוּ זֹבֵחַ = Achav

Yoshiyahu is described in Divrei Hayamim 2 as slaughtering animals for the populace. Achav is described as doing away with sacrifices.

Both died via arrows.

כַּטּוֹב = King David
כַּחֹטֶא = Nevuchadnezar

King David helped built the Temple and ruled for 40 years, and Nevuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple and ruled for 40 years.

הַנִּשְׁבָּע = King Tzidkiyahu
כַּאֲשֶׁר שְׁבוּעָה יָרֵא = Shimshon

Here this is interesting because presumably the one who swears is doing something bad, and so bad and good are reversed in order.

Tzidkayhu swore to Nevuchadnezar and broke his oath, and Shimshon put himself into others hands once they swore to him (Shoftim 15:12) so he beleived that they would not break their oaths.

Both died with their eyes poked out.

Alternatively, מִקְרֶה אֶחָד, the same happening, refers to Nadav and Avihu vs. Korach's Edah.

לַצַּדִּיק = Nadav and Avihu
וְלָרָשָׁע = Korach's Edah

Korach's Edah went to bring near incense for Machloket (dispute) and Nadav and Avihu went not in dispute. Both were burnt.

Conclusion: This seems to directly imply that Nadav and Avihu did not commit the same sin as Korach's Edah.

Tip: How to get dafkawriter text into Word/Internet Explorer

A classmate sent me notes for classes I missed in Revel today. It was all messed up, in extended ASCII characters. It looked like this:

ëãé ìäáéï àú ñåâééúéðå, ã"ø ùèééðôìã äöéò ùìà îôåøù áãáøé ùîåàì òöîí
ùîãáø òì áéùåì òëå"í, àìà ðàîø ùäúéø àú äáùø. à"ë, ééúëï ùùîåàì ø÷
ìëùøåú äáùø, åàîø ùàí áà âåé åäôê àú áùø, àéï çåùùéí ùòéøá áå àéñåø.
åëê âí

I fixed this by cutting and pasting the text into notepad and saving as an HTML file, and putting <html> tags around the text, and also putting the following meta tag at the top of the HTML page:

<META HTTP-EQUIV="Content-Type"
CONTENT="text/html; CHARSET=iso-8859-8-i">

This successfully transforms the above text into:
כדי להבין את סוגייתינו, ד"ר שטיינפלד הציע שלא מפורש בדברי שמואל עצמם שמדבר על בישול עכו"ם, אלא נאמר שהתיר את הבשר. א"כ, ייתכן ששמואל רק התכוון לכשרות הבשר, ואמר שאם בא גוי והפך את בשר, אין חוששים שעירב בו איסור. וכך גם

I got the idea after finding this page on MSDN about character sets in HTML.

This should also work hopefully for Accent Express, which I want to pot to Word.


Eliyahu sent me this interesting thing from Shadal (Shmuel David Luzzato) via IM, which he saw here:

"Ribqah said to Yishaq 'qasti behayyai, (I loathe my life)
because of those Hittite women.'" (Gen. 27:46)

In the masoretic text the letter "q" (qof) is written smaller
than usual. Shadal (Luzzatto) gives an interesting explanation of
this phenomenon which also resolves several other difficult
verses. He says that the ancient scribal practice was to leave
out one letter when the same letter begins the next word. (He
speculates that perhaps instead of this letter a certain sign was
used to indicate that one letter stands for two.) In our case the
letter "q" ends the word Yishaq and begins the word "qasti." Over
time the practice was dropped and the extra letter was added, but
because the space was narrow the letter was made smaller.
Similarly in Leviticus 1:1 "Vayiqra` `el Moshe, the ` (alef) of
vayiqra` is small because `el begins with the same letter. The
practice of leaving out the doubled letter explains some of the
qere and ketib and some other problematic words. 2 Sam. 5:2; Jer.
39:16 "hamebi `et;" 2 Kings 13:6; Jer. 32:35 "hehti `et;" Jer.
23:14 "lebilti shabu" should be read "yashubu;" "lebilti ba`u"
should be read lebilti yabo`u in Jer. 27:18. Other words include:
Yabo--yabo`u Is. 45:24 and Ez. 20:38. beyad--beyado 1 Sam. 19:9.
There are more examples of this phenomenon, according to Shadal.

Of course, there are many other examples where this phenomenon
occurs without any vestige of its ever having been written with
one letter taking the place of two, yet Shadal would claim that
the original practice was completely updated in those places.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Diaperless Babies Seen As Earth-Friendly Solution

I've got gmail!

and can now also be reached by substututing in place of in the address up in the corner.

Omer count:

Last night and today is the 20th of the omer.
Tonight and tomorrow is the 21st.

Arabic Zionist Apparel

This T-Shirt image is Arabic for "There is No God But Hashem, and Moshe is His Messenger"


Via LGF.
Interesting and apropos this week's parsha (Acharei Mot) - From the Wall Street Journal: "These United States
Will same-sex marriage lead to incest and polygamy? Let's hope so!"

Friday, April 23, 2004

Why is parshat Metzora called that?

After all, the word in the begining of the pasha upon which the name is based has the definite article attached to it:
זֹאת תִּהְיֶה תּוֹרַת הַמְּצֹרָע, בְּיוֹם טָהֳרָתוֹ: וְהוּבָא, אֶל-הַכֹּהֵן.

We should call it parshat HaMetzora!

People make a similar objection to parshat BaMidbar being called BaMidbar, rather than BeMidbar, since the pasuk has a shva rather than a patach under the bet:
וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה בְּמִדְבַּר סִינַי, בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד: בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי בַּשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית, לְצֵאתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם--לֵאמֹר.

though in the latter example, I actually understand why it could be BaMidbar, as most pronounce it (even though I used the other form for the sefer two posts below). That is, בְּמִדְבַּר סִינַי is a construct form, and the bet gets a shva because we do not use the definite article when in the construct form with a proper noun (Sinai), since the proper noun carries its own definiteness. However, when we cite the name of the sefer we are not using construct form so we make the shva a patach to denote the definiteness.

I do not know why the ה is eliminated from parshat Metzora though.

(perhaps more about elision of ה later)...


Parshat Tazria begins with the statement:
דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר, אִשָּׁה כִּי תַזְרִיעַ, וְיָלְדָה זָכָר--וְטָמְאָה שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, כִּימֵי נִדַּת דְּו‍ֹתָהּ תִּטְמָא.
"Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: If a woman be delivered, and bear a man-child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of the impurity of her sickness shall she be unclean."

Hyper-Literally, אִשָּׁה כִּי תַזְרִיעַ can mean "when a woman gives forth seed." The following is based loosely on a statement of Chazal.
We can make the following drasha:

When a woman gives forth seed first, before the man, then וְיָלְדָה זָכָר, she will give birth to a boy.

That is, if she ovulates first, the likelihood is increased that she will give birth to a boy.

Consider the info from the following web site:

This method is based on simple physiological facts:

"Male" spermatozoon more mobile, but less stable
"Famale" - less mobile, but more sturdy
Spermatozoon can survive in the uterus up to 4 days
Conception can happend during ovum pass down the
fallopian tube (i.e. during 3-4 days after ovulation)
so we made supposition based on previes facts:

If coitus happend before ovulation, then "female"
spermatozoon stand a better chance to live up to
if coitus happend after ovulation, then "male"
spermatozoon stand a better chance to came to the egg first

and also here, based on Dr. Shettle's sex selection theory.

However, Wilcox published an article in 1995 based on a study that found no correlation between time of conception and the sex of the baby.

Still, see this opinion peice by James from 2000:
"There are five non-human mammalian species for which it has been reported that the time of insemination within the cycle is directly associated with the sex of the resulting offspring, i.e. white-tailed deer, Barbary macaque, golden hamster and Norway rat (for references, see James, 1996) and mouse (Tarín et al., 1999).
With regard to human beings, I conclude from previous data that there is a regression of sex ratio on cycle day of insemination such that boys are conceived earlier than girls (James, 1971). More recently, Guerrero (1974) and Harlap (1979) elaborated on this, offering evidence that the regression is U-shaped (rather than monotonic declining), and a meta-analysis concurred (Gray, 1991)."

If so, it makes a nice drasha. (Chazal I believe take tazria to mean something other than ovulation in their drasha.)

Also, while we are at it, let us see those 5 animals:

Barbary Macaque (Macaca sylvanus)


Norway rat - Rattus norvegicus


White Tailed Deer:

Parshat Shemini #4: Nadav and Avihu: What did they do wrong? Also, Elazar and Itamar

Parshat Shemini #4: Nadav and Avihu: What did they do wrong?

In the post below I presented my "conspiracy theory" - that Nadav and Avihu did nothing wrong and their death was just a work accident.

Now I present what I consider a more likely scenario, on the basis of context of Elazar and Itamar, and in comparison to a parallel occurence in the Torah.

The specific parallel was the congregation of Korach, in Bemidbar 16.

In Bemidbar 16, Korach challenges Aaron for the high priesthood.
Pasuk 1:
וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח, בֶּן-יִצְהָר בֶּן-קְהָת בֶּן-לֵוִי; וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם בְּנֵי אֱלִיאָב, וְאוֹן בֶּן-פֶּלֶת--בְּנֵי רְאוּבֵן.
Pasuk 3:
וַיִּקָּהֲלוּ עַל-מֹשֶׁה וְעַל-אַהֲרֹן, וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם רַב-לָכֶם--כִּי כָל-הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים, וּבְתוֹכָם ה; וּמַדּוּעַ תִּתְנַשְּׂאוּ, עַל-קְהַל ה.

Note the use of קְדֹשִׁים.

Moshe reacts by falling on his face (pasuk 4: וַיִּפֹּל עַל-פָּנָיו) and then responds to Korach (pasuk 5-7):
וַיְדַבֵּר אֶל-קֹרַח וְאֶל-כָּל-עֲדָתוֹ, לֵאמֹר, בֹּקֶר וְיֹדַע ה אֶת-אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ וְאֶת-הַקָּדוֹשׁ, וְהִקְרִיב אֵלָיו; וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר-בּוֹ, יַקְרִיב אֵלָיו
זֹאת, עֲשׂוּ: קְחוּ-לָכֶם מַחְתּוֹת, קֹרַח וְכָל-עֲדָתוֹ.
וּתְנוּ בָהֵן אֵשׁ וְשִׂימוּ עֲלֵיהֶן קְטֹרֶת לִפְנֵי ה, מָחָר, וְהָיָה הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-יִבְחַר ה, הוּא הַקָּדוֹשׁ; רַב-לָכֶם, בְּנֵי לֵוִי.
"And he spoke unto Korah and unto all his company, saying: 'In the morning the LORD will show who are His, and who is holy, and will cause him to come near unto Him; even him whom He may choose will He cause to come near unto Him.
This do: take you censors, Korah, and all his company;
and put fire therein, and put incense upon them before the LORD to-morrow; and it shall be that the man whom the LORD doth choose, he shall be holy; ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.'"

They do so, and finally, in the last pasuk of the perek (35), they are killed by divine fire.
וְאֵשׁ יָצְאָה, מֵאֵת יְהוָה; וַתֹּאכַל, אֵת הַחֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתַיִם אִישׁ, מַקְרִיבֵי, הַקְּטֹרֶת
"And fire came forth from the LORD, and devoured the two hundred and fifty men that offered the incense."

Perhaps Nadav and Avihu's sin was that on this particular day, the first day, when the Mishkan was being inaugurated and consecrated, only Aharon was supposed to perform the service. They brought incense when they were not supposed to, and they were not the selected people to do so, just like the congregation of Korach. This is just as during the Yom Kippur service, when only the Kohen Gadol was supposed to do basically all of the services of the day.

A summary of the events:

Looking at Vayikra perek 9. Moshe tells Aharon to bring a bunch of sin offerings for himself, his family, and for the people (pasuk 7: וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-אַהֲרֹן, קְרַב אֶל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וַעֲשֵׂה אֶת-חַטָּאתְךָ וְאֶת-עֹלָתֶךָ, וְכַפֵּר בַּעַדְךָ, וּבְעַד הָעָם; וַעֲשֵׂה אֶת-קָרְבַּן הָעָם, וְכַפֵּר בַּעֲדָם, כַּאֲשֶׁר, צִוָּה ה).

Aharon does basically all the service. He slaughters the calf (pasuk 8), his sons just bring him the blood but he, Aharon, then sprinkles and pours the blood (9) and offers up on altar the portions of the calf that should be offered (10).

The hide and flesh of Aharon's sin-offering, which should normally be kept by the priest and eaten, respectively, are burnt outside the camp (pasuk 11). {This might help explain the story with Elazar and Itamar later.}

Then Aharon slaughters the Olah offering, which is an offering burn in its entirety on the altar. His sons bring his the blood which he sprinkled (12) and his sons bring him peice by peice, and Aharon offers all the portions
on the altar (13-14). Then he does the same for the people's sin offering and Olah (15-16). Then he brings the Mincha offering (17).

Then he brings the two peace offerings, of which parts are typically eaten; his sons bring him the blood and he throws it on the altar (18) and they (inclusive of his sons) bring the portions which should be brought onto the altar (19-20).

The parts of the peace offering which are to be eaten by the kohanim Aharon waves as a wave-offering before Hashem(21) - presumably he or his sons should eat this.

Then Aharon blesses the people after offering all these sacrifices (22), Moshe and Aharon leave the tent of Meeting and they both bless the people (23). Finally, a divine fire comes down and consumes the Olah and the fats from the other offerings which are on the altar; the people see this and are much impressed; they should (or sing) and fall on their faces (ouch!).

Then Nadav and Avihu take censers, and put fire in it, and incense on it, and bring the foreign fire, which Hashem did not command (10:1). Lets see the Hebrew and translation:

וַיִּקְחוּ בְנֵי-אַהֲרֹן נָדָב וַאֲבִיהוּא אִישׁ מַחְתָּתוֹ, וַיִּתְּנוּ בָהֵן אֵשׁ, וַיָּשִׂימוּ עָלֶיהָ, קְטֹרֶת; וַיַּקְרִיבוּ לִפְנֵי ה, אֵשׁ זָרָה--אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוָּה, אֹתָם.
וַתֵּצֵא אֵשׁ מִלִּפְנֵי ה, וַתֹּאכַל אוֹתָם; וַיָּמֻתוּ, לִפְנֵי ה.
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-אַהֲרֹן, הוּא אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר ה לֵאמֹר בִּקְרֹבַי אֶקָּדֵשׁ, וְעַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָעָם, אֶכָּבֵד; וַיִּדֹּם, אַהֲרֹן.
"And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.
And there came forth fire from before the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
Then Moses said unto Aaron: 'This is it that the LORD spoke, saying: Through them that are nigh unto Me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.' And Aaron held his peace."

So we see that basically all of the day's services were to be performed by Aharon.

Both Korach's congregation and Nadav and Avihu took this incense when they were not supposed to, and especially on this day of inauguration it looks like they are trying out for the position of high priest themselves, just as Korach's congregation did.

Further, in both cases a Divine fire comes from before Hashem and consumes them. Finally, Moshe says to Aharon that Hashem said: בִּקְרֹבַי אֶקָּדֵשׁ, "Through them that are nigh unto Me I will be sanctified", which cab be read similarly to Moshe's statement to Korach: וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר-בּוֹ, יַקְרִיב אֵלָיו and וְהָיָה הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-יִבְחַר ה, הוּא הַקָּדוֹש. There was a process of selection and Aaron was chosen.

What happens next? Aften the death of Nadav and Avihu and their being brought out of the camp, Moshe tells Aharon, Elazar and Itamar what to do.

He tells them to eat the Mincha-offering remnants (what was not brought on the altar) in a holy place (12-13) and to eat the portions of the peace offerings that are for the priest to eat (14-15).

However, Moshe decidedly does NOT tell them what to do with two of the remaining offerings - the parts of the sin-offering of the people, and that of Aharon's offering where a sin offering usually has portions that are eaten. Earlier, in last perek, in pasuk 11 (scroll up too see) we saw that Aharon's sin offering was not in this case it was burnt outside the camp. Further it seems he did the same for the people's sin offering, as pasuk 15 states וַיִּקַּח אֶת-שְׂעִיר הַחַטָּאת, אֲשֶׁר לָעָם, וַיִּשְׁחָטֵהוּ וַיְחַטְּאֵהוּ, כָּרִאשׁוֹן. )

It seems that these prakim are not relating the narrative in a strict chronological manner. That is, this instruction on what to do was presumably given in the course of the day described in the previous chapter. Moshe gives no instructions about the people's sin-offering, and they burn it outside the camp rather than consuming it. Further, when was the death of Nadav and Avihu? This is also in the course of the day, and at such a time that when Moshe instructed Elazar and Itamar about the eating of the Mincha and peace-offerings they could be called "the remaining sons (pasuk 12)."

So, the previous perek gives the general order of the day, and then follows it with various expansions and details - I would say the divine fire consuming the offerings on the altar, Nadav and Avihu's incense and deaths, and Moshe's commands.

How could Moshe get angry at Elazar and Itamar? He did not tell them to eat of the people's sin-offering. Yet, in 10:16-20:

וְאֵת שְׂעִיר הַחַטָּאת, דָּרֹשׁ דָּרַשׁ מֹשֶׁה--וְהִנֵּה שֹׂרָף; וַיִּקְצֹף עַל-אֶלְעָזָר וְעַל-אִיתָמָר, בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן, הַנּוֹתָרִם, לֵאמֹר.
מַדּוּעַ, לֹא-אֲכַלְתֶּם אֶת-הַחַטָּאת בִּמְקוֹם הַקֹּדֶשׁ--כִּי קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים, הִוא; וְאֹתָהּ נָתַן לָכֶם, לָשֵׂאת אֶת-עֲו‍ֹן הָעֵדָה, לְכַפֵּר עֲלֵיהֶם, לִפְנֵי ה.
הֵן לֹא-הוּבָא אֶת-דָּמָהּ, אֶל-הַקֹּדֶשׁ פְּנִימָה; אָכוֹל תֹּאכְלוּ אֹתָהּ בַּקֹּדֶשׁ, כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוֵּיתִי.
וַיְדַבֵּר אַהֲרֹן אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, הֵן הַיּוֹם הִקְרִיבוּ אֶת-חַטָּאתָם וְאֶת-עֹלָתָם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, וַתִּקְרֶאנָה אֹתִי, כָּאֵלֶּה; וְאָכַלְתִּי חַטָּאת הַיּוֹם, הַיִּיטַב בְּעֵינֵי ה.
וַיִּשְׁמַע מֹשֶׁה, וַיִּיטַב בְּעֵינָיו.
"And Moses diligently inquired for the goat of the sin-offering, and, behold, it was burnt; and he was angry with Eleazar and with Ithamar, the sons of Aaron that were left, saying:
'Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin-offering in the place of the sanctuary, seeing it is most holy, and He hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD?
Behold, the blood of it was not brought into the sanctuary within; ye should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded.'
And Aaron spoke unto Moses: 'Behold, this day have they offered their sin-offering and their burnt-offering before the LORD, and there have befallen me such things as these; and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, would it have been well-pleasing in the sight of the LORD?
And when Moses heard that, it was well-pleasing in his sight."

Why is Moshe not angry at Aharon for not consuming his own sin-offering and is only concerned with that of the people? Further, What does Moshe mean that they should have eaten it in the sanctuary as he commanded? Nowhere in the parsha does Moshe talk about this. He talks about other korbanot but not the people's sin-offering. Further, it would seem that they did in fact eat the Mincha and peace-offering.

Aharon's answer is also an enigma. Is he saying they did not bring or eat the korbanot? Is he saying he did not because of being an onen? It seems he is saying he did not eat the Chatas, which he did not (it was burnt, in pasuk 11). Also, what if he speaking of their Olah and Chatas not being brought? The Olah was brought, and Moshe did not complain about it. Further, we see in the past perek that the sin offering of the people was indeed brought! In pasuk 15:
וַיַּקְרֵב, אֵת קָרְבַּן הָעָם; וַיִּקַּח אֶת-שְׂעִיר הַחַטָּאת, אֲשֶׁר לָעָם, וַיִּשְׁחָטֵהוּ וַיְחַטְּאֵהוּ, כָּרִאשׁוֹן.
"And the people's offering was presented; and he took the goat of the sin-offering which was for the people, and slew it, and offered it for sin, as the first."

I am somewhat confused about all this. I was originally going to parse pasuk 10:19, Aharon's answer, as saying that his sons did not do some action because it was Aharon's day, and since they were not the Kohen Gadol they did not do it. That is:

וַיְדַבֵּר אַהֲרֹן אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, הֵן הַיּוֹם הִקְרִיבוּ אֶת-חַטָּאתָם וְאֶת-עֹלָתָם לִפְנֵי ה, וַתִּקְרֶאנָה אֹתִי, כָּאֵלֶּה; וְאָכַלְתִּי חַטָּאת הַיּוֹם, הַיִּיטַב בְּעֵינֵי ה.
הַיִּיטַב has a full patach under the heh, rather than chataf patach we should expect were it a question. Thus:
Aharon said to Moshe, had they today sacrifices their Olah and sin offering before Hashem, then perhaps it would have happened to me as these (Nadav and Avihu) {that is, Elazar and Itamar might have also been killed}. Rather I ate the chatas today, which was {rather than would it have been} pleasing in the eyes of Hashem.

Thus, they learned the lesson.

However, this does not fit with what seems to have gone on, since Aharon in fact did not eat his sin offering.

{Note that Zevachim 101a has a 4-way machloket about what Moshe thought, and what Aharon did. I am going to offer a different explanation.}

I think what is happening was as follows. Moshe inquires after the sin offering of the people. He sees it is burntoutside the camp. He assumed incorrectly that if the remains were burning outside the camp, something had happened after slaughter that perhaps invalidated it, or they did not feel like bringing it. In terms of the people's sin-offering, this was a big deal, since Moshe wanted to make certain the people were atoned for.

Moshe did not inquire after Aharon's calf sin-offering, because if Aharon did not get atonement, it was perhaps his own business. But if the sin-offering was not brought for the people, they shirked their duty. So, both were burned outside the camp.

Aharon responded that Moshe was mistaken in thinking that because he saw the people's sin offering burning outside the camp, that the people's sin offering was not brought.

וַיְדַבֵּר אַהֲרֹן אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, הֵן הַיּוֹם הִקְרִיבוּ אֶת-חַטָּאתָם וְאֶת-עֹלָתָם לִפְנֵי ה, וַתִּקְרֶאנָה אֹתִי, כָּאֵלֶּה; וְאָכַלְתִּי חַטָּאת הַיּוֹם, הַיִּיטַב בְּעֵינֵי ה

Aharon said to Moshe: Today, we did indeed offer the people's sin offering and Olah offering before Hashem (as indeed we see in 9:15-16). Then, happened to me such and such (that is, Nadav and Avihu's death). Had I (or they) eaten the chatas today, would it be good in Hashem's sight?

That is, either Hashem would not like the callousness of eating meat when Aharon's son's had died, or because of Aninut, or because Aharon would not eat it with a full heart. And so Moshe saw that the sin-offering for the people had indeed been brought, and it was good in his eyes what had been done.

I'm not sure whether consumption of the korban chatas is meakev, or if the throwing of the blood suffices. In one case the people would have atonement, and in the other they would not...

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Another masechet!

Hadran Alach Yerushalmi Shekalim!

Argh! Hebrew messed up.

going to try to fix it in all recent posts.
and i know i've not posted yet on tazria-metzorah. hope to do so soon.


Last night and today is the 16th of the omer.

Tonight and tomorrow, the 17th of the omer.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004


Last night and today is the 14th of the omer.

Tonight and tommorow, the 15th day of the omer.

Shemini #3: In Defense of Nadav and Avihu (AKA Conspiracy Theory)

I was reading parshat Shemini, and I think it possible that Nadav and Avihu didn't sin. כל שאומר נדב ואביהוא חטא אינו אלא טועה.

Why would we think they sinned? Well, the psukim (Vayikra 10:1-2) state:

וַיִּקְחוּ בְנֵי-אַהֲרֹן נָדָב וַאֲבִיהוּא אִישׁ מַחְתָּתוֹ, וַיִּתְּנוּ בָהֵן אֵשׁ, וַיָּשִׂימוּ עָלֶיהָ, קְטֹרֶת; וַיַּקְרִיבוּ לִפְנֵי ה, אֵשׁ זָרָה--אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוָּה, אֹתָם.
וַתֵּצֵא אֵשׁ מִלִּפְנֵי ה, וַתֹּאכַל אוֹתָם; וַיָּמֻתוּ, לִפְנֵי ה.
"And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.
And there came forth fire from before the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

A few points.
1) The pasuk refers to אֵשׁ זָרָה, "strange fire." This seems negative.
2) The pasuk refers to the fire, or their actions, with the words, אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוָּה, אֹתָם, "which He had not commanded them." Thus it seems they were not doing what Hashem wanted or commanded.
3) The result seems to be punishment from Hashem: וַתֵּצֵא אֵשׁ מִלִּפְנֵי ה, וַתֹּאכַל אוֹתָם; וַיָּמֻתוּ, לִפְנֵי ה.

Yet, if we look at the midrash, Chazal give more than 12 different sins that Nadav and Avihu did to merit the punishment. For example, they performed the service after drinking; they ruled halacha before their teacher Moshe; they said regarding Aharon and Moshe - "when will these two die and we will replace them"; they did not marry because they did not consider any match on their level. What about the plain meaning of the verse? It explicitly mentions the sin!

I would suggest that perhaps they did not sin.
1) Regarding the אֵשׁ זָרָה, the strange fire, recall that in context a fire went forth from before Hashem. Thus, אֵשׁ זָרָה need not be negative. It is a needed adjective to distinguish one type of fire the other other.

It may have been a work accident. Consider the context. While the perek starts with Nadav and Avihu bringing this אֵשׁ זָרָה, the perek is a Christian division system. The beginning of Shlishi actually is earlier, and so this should be joined to the preceding narrative.

The preceding psukim (Vayikra 9:22-24) state:

וַיִּשָּׂא אַהֲרֹן אֶת-יָדָו אֶל-הָעָם, וַיְבָרְכֵם; וַיֵּרֶד, מֵעֲשֹׂת הַחַטָּאת וְהָעֹלָה--וְהַשְּׁלָמִים.
וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, אֶל-אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, וַיֵּצְאוּ, וַיְבָרְכוּ אֶת-הָעָם; וַיֵּרָא כְבוֹד-ה, אֶל-כָּל-הָעָם.
וַתֵּצֵא אֵשׁ, מִלִּפְנֵי ה, וַתֹּאכַל עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, אֶת-הָעֹלָה וְאֶת-הַחֲלָבִים; וַיַּרְא כָּל-הָעָם וַיָּרֹנּוּ, וַיִּפְּלוּ עַל-פְּנֵיהֶם.
"And Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people, and blessed them; and he came down from offering the sin-offering, and the burnt-offering, and the peace-offerings.
And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and came out, and blessed the people; and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people.
And there came forth fire from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt-offering and the fat; and when all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces."

So this fire that consumed Nadav and Avihu which went forth from before Hashem was not the first in context.

I suggest that perhaps this was just a work accident. Here a fire came from before Hashem to eat the korbanot. This really impressed the people. It was miraculous, and their response was to shout (or sing) and fall on their faces in astonishment.

What then was the normal course of actions, for the people to be so impressed here?

Similarly, Eliyahu on Har HaCarmel has a showdown with the priests of Baal - a contest in which they both bring korbanot, and they will see which deity will consume the respective offerings. Even after Eliyahu douses the sacrifice with water, a fire comes from Hashem and consumes the sacrifice. Meanwhile, no fire consumes that of Baal. Says the midrash, one priest was hidden in the altar to light the korban and make it appear that Baal burned the korban, but he was bitten by a snake and died.

In general I would expect that sacrifices would be lit by a normal fire, and they would claim this was a proxy for the diety and the God was consuming the offering. For example, the flames of the Moloch idolatry to which people sacrificed their children was not supernatural. Rather they lit the fires themselves.

To some extent, in Jewish practice, they are supposed to light the wood, but in addition there was a heavenly flame that consumed the sacrifices.

At any rate, it would therefore not be crazy for Nadav and Avihu, at the very beginning of their service (this was after all at the inauguration of the Mishkan) to expect that a similar thing was to happen. They went in with an אֵשׁ זָרָה, a strange fire, that is one not from before Hashem. They did this because they thought this was the way the offering of incense was to be done.

However, as in 2), this was not what Hashem had commanded. This was not Hashem's plan, but they thought that this was what they were supposed to be doing. So they went in with their *foreign* fire to light the incense.

However, as we saw earlier, Hashem was impressing the nation, by sending forth his own fire to consume the sacrifices. Just as He consumed the other sacrifices, he sent fire to consume the incense. (3)

Nadav and Avihu got in the way of this heavenly fire, because they were bringing the normal fire at this time and did not expect to encounter a holy fire, and they died. That is, it was a work accident.

Moshe's consolation to Aharon reflects the full story, inclusive of the first portion. That is, not only does he say "בִּקְרֹבַי אֶקָּדֵשׁ," "Through them that are nigh unto Me I will be sanctified," referring to Nadav and Avihu, but further he says וְעַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָעָם, אֶכָּבֵד, "and before all the people I will be glorified." This latter part refers to the fire consuming the other korbanot, and the people singing and falling on their faces.

Couldn't Hashem have missed had He wanted to? Who knows? But perhaps then we could bring in one of the sins listed by Chazal; because of some sin, they did not merit Hashem stopping the flame from touching them.

Note that while I think this approach shows promise, I have another idea which recommends itself more, which I hope to discuss in a later post.

There is a similar idea voiced in Midrash Rabba, about Nadav and Avihu being innocent. The verse states:
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-אַהֲרֹן, הוּא אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר ה לֵאמֹר בִּקְרֹבַי אֶקָּדֵשׁ, וְעַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָעָם, אֶכָּבֵד; וַיִּדֹּם, אַהֲרֹן.
"Then Moses said unto Aaron: 'This is it that the LORD spoke, saying: Through them that are nigh unto Me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.' And Aaron held his peace."

When did Hashem speak this. And what is meant by הוּא? The words Moshe states?

The Midrash explains: Moshe told Aharon. On Har Sinai Hashem told me that in the future I would consecrate the Mishkan and with a great man I would consecrate it, and I (Moshe) though perhaps me or you (Aharon) the house would be consecrated, and now your two sons are greater than me or you. Once Aharon heard that his sons feared Heaven he was silent and received reward for his silence. How do we know he was silent? For the verse states וַיִּדֹּם אַהֲרֹן. Where do we see he received reward for his silence? Since he merited that Hashem's words were directed solely to him, as it states (pasuk 8) וַיְדַבֵּר ה, אֶל-אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר. This is what is states (Tehillim 19:9) פִּקּוּדֵי יְהוָה יְשָׁרִים, מְשַׂמְּחֵי-לֵב, "The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;"

In context, it seems that this means that the mitzvot of Hashem are right, and since Aharon got this directed and associated specifically with him his heart was gladdenned, and that is how it explained later in in the same midrash. Indeed, Rabbi Yitzchak started the whole section off with a citation from Yirmiyahu 15:16:
נִמְצְאוּ דְבָרֶיךָ, וָאֹכְלֵם, וַיְהִי דבריך (דְבָרְךָ) לִי, לְשָׂשׂוֹן וּלְשִׂמְחַת לְבָבִי: כִּי-נִקְרָא שִׁמְךָ עָלַי, ה אֱלֹקֵי צְבָקוֹת.
"Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy words were unto me a joy and the rejoicing of my heart; because Thy name was called on me, O LORD God of hosts."

Specifically, this verse is being taken to mean that Hashem's words were a joy to Aharon's heart when His name was called on him (Aharon) when the words were addressed specifically to him.

However, I think there is something more to this midrash.
פִּקּוּדֵי יְהוָה יְשָׁרִים, מְשַׂמְּחֵי-לֵב - those upon whom Hashem was פוקד, those destroyed by Hashem, that is, Nadav and Avihu, Moshe tells Aharon, were יְשָׁרִים; this information is מְשַׂמְּחֵי-לֵב, it gladdens the heart of Aharon to hear that his sons here yesharim, and feared Heaven. Thus the verse is a prooftext for the other idea in that midrash.

Indeed, R Yitzchak's opening verse can be seen in this light as well:
נִמְצְאוּ דְבָרֶיךָ, וָאֹכְלֵם, וַיְהִי דבריך (דְבָרְךָ) לִי, לְשָׂשׂוֹן וּלְשִׂמְחַת לְבָבִי: כִּי-נִקְרָא שִׁמְךָ עָלַי, ה אֱלֹקֵי צְבָקוֹת.
Your words, Hashem, which you spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai about consecrating the Mishkan with the death of a great tzadik or tzadikim, were found to be true, and they were consumed. And Your words which Moshe told me about their being righteous were to me as a joy and the rejoicing of my heart, (and as a result) Your name was called to me with the specific command about not doing service while drunk.

Friday, April 16, 2004

I'm confused...

The Haftara for this week, parshat Shemini, is in Shmuel Bet, about King David bringing back the aron. Yet the mishna at the end of Psachim says "Ain maftirin Achar HaPesach."


One pasuk struck me

as I read thru parshat Shemini. This is shortly after Nadav and Avihu die.

Vayikra 10:12
"וַיְדַבֵּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-אַהֲרֹן, וְאֶל אֶלְעָזָר וְאֶל-אִיתָמָר בָּנָיו הַנּוֹתָרִים, קְחוּ אֶת-הַמִּנְחָה הַנּוֹתֶרֶת מֵאִשֵּׁי ה, וְאִכְלוּהָ מַצּוֹת אֵצֶל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ: כִּי קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים, הִוא. "
"And Moses spoke unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons that were left: 'Take the meal-offering that remaineth of the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and eat it without leaven beside the altar; for it is most holy."

the words to describe Elazar and Itamar: בָּנָיו הַנּוֹתָרִים, his remaining sons
the words to describe the meal offering: הַמִּנְחָה הַנּוֹתֶרֶת, the remaining meal-offering

Noteret and Notarim are used to describe both of them. The remaining sons should take the remaining of the offering. Further, what is it remaining of? הַמִּנְחָה הַנּוֹתֶרֶת מֵאִשֵּׁי ה - the mincha remaining from the fire of Hashem. But, that same description can be used for the sons, for Nadav and Avihu were also taken by the fire of Hashem.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Thursday night - Friday day = 10th day in the Omer

Drat! And I kept salivating during those Geico Commercials!

Apparently, the gecko is one of the non-kosher animals listed in parashat Shemini.

Vayikra 11:29-30:
וְזֶה לָכֶם הַטָּמֵא, בַּשֶּׁרֶץ הַשֹּׁרֵץ עַל-הָאָרֶץ: הַחֹלֶד וְהָעַכְבָּר, וְהַצָּב לְמִינֵהוּ.
וְהָאֲנָקָה וְהַכֹּחַ, וְהַלְּטָאָה; וְהַחֹמֶט, וְהַתִּנְשָׁמֶת.
"And these are they which are unclean unto you among the swarming things that swarm upon the earth: the weasel, and the mouse, and the great lizard after its kinds,
and the gecko, and the land-crocodile, and the lizard, and the sand-lizard, and the chameleon."

So according to this, the אֲנָקָה is the gecko.

Further info on the אֲנָקָה:

For the identification of various lizards, obviously we cannot trust the King James translation, which gives gecko.

Saadia Gaon says it is "warel," or gecko. אֲנָקָה means groan, and the gecko makes a groaning noise.

Rashi says it is הריצ"ון, and Tg Onkelos and Bava Batra 4a translate it as ילא, or hedgehog.

Tg Yonatan takes the root of the word to be ינק, to nurse, with the yud turning into an aleph in the animal name, and so he writes מינקת חיויא, which the Perush Yonatan writes, some say that is a type of creeping creature which nurses from a snake. What it would nurse, I do not know, since a snake is a reptile, not a mammal, and would therefore not possess mammary glands.

The LXX translates it as mugali, or mole.

Meanwhile, two other animals listed in this pasuk are translated by various commentators as gecko.

(some help in this from Eliyahu Segal, who got it from Aryeh Kaplan)

Friday, April 09, 2004

Erev Pesach

I got a haircut. I noticed a lot of other people getting haircuts as well. My guess as to the origin of this minhag: It is a mitzvah liSaper biytziat mitzrayim.


Update: LiSaper Biytziat Mitzrayim = telling over the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
LiSaper = to tell over,
but also
LiSaper = to cut hair

Ad SheDarashah Ben Zoma:

In the Haggadah, they cite a discussion about speaking about Yetziat Mitzrayim. In context, it is whether one must mention the Exodus from Egypt every night, by the Shema. The conflicting opinion (the Chachomim) would be that there is no such obligation to say it at night.

Ben Zoma's drasha in as follows: The pasuk in Dvarim 16:3

לְמַעַן תִּזְכֹּר אֶת-יוֹם צֵאתְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ.
"that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life"

Now, the word KOL, using midrashic principles, comes to expand on what the verse states. So לְמַעַן תִּזְכֹּר אֶת-יוֹם צֵאתְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ would be mentioning the Exodus every day. Adding כֹּל expands upon the word יְמֵי , teaching us not just the day but also the nights.

The Chachamim, who disagree that there is such an obligation, must do something with the expansion of the word כֹּל in the pasuk. They note that כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ is a phrase, as is יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ, and the word KOL can come either to modify the first word of the phrase, יְמֵי , or the second word in the phrase, חַיֶּיךָ. According to Ben Zoma, it modified the word יְמֵי so the expansion was not just days but nights as well. However, if you say it modifies the second word, חַיֶּיךָ, "your life," then without the word KOL is is just your life, that is Olam HaZeh. KOL comes to expand upon it and say another life, olam hazeh - therefore, to include the days of Mashiach (as a result of techiyat hametim, resurrection of the dead).

Monday, April 05, 2004

I'm mentioned in OpinionJournal's Best of the Web!

You can see it at today's (April 5th) Best of the Web. I'll try to get the link to the archive when it pops up.

Well, not me actually. Another Josh Waxman, who happens to be a reader, I suppose. I know a few of them, and I have some guesses at to which of them it was. Here's the mention:

Our item Friday on blogger Markos Zuniga's post about the four Blackwater Security Consulting contractors murdered in Fallujah, Iraq, last week--"They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them," Zuniga said--brought this response from reader Josh Waxman:

It would be "fair and balanced" if you also mentioned that Markos explained that the reason he was angry was because the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq got second billing to the deaths of these individuals.

But that might not please your master, would it? It's really nice when facts are things you can use as you wish, and discard when they're inconvenient.

We don't want to get into any trouble, so if you see our master, please don't tell him we published Waxman's letter. Anyway, we're not sure how Zuniga's professed sympathy for soldiers is a mitigating factor. "Screw them," he said of four men who had been lynched. Is such an attitude less despicable because there are other people whose lynching Zuniga would object to?

To clarify, I agree with James Taranto here.

Update: Jon of the Yeshiva blog led me to the other Josh Waxman's web site, here.

A perek! and masechet!

Hadran Alach Arvei Psachim! (10th perek yerushalmi psachim)
Uslika Lah Masechta DiFsachim!

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Kol Chamira

Artscroll has differences between the kol chamira of the night and the day. The night one has "delo chamiteih" only, while the day one has "dachazitei udelo chazitei, dachamitei udelo chamitei." (The nikud BTW is off, but a that is not the focus here.) What is the difference between chazitei and chamitei? Artscroll translates one as "recognize" and the other as "saw."

What I heard in Dr. Steiner's class a few years back, was that chazitei and chamitei means the same thing. They are the same root, just a dialectal difference that swaps the zayin for mem.

Friday, April 02, 2004

A pesach observation

It is interesting that the two songs at the end of the seder pose a question and answer it.
One song is: Echad Mi Yodeah? (Who Knows One?)
And the other song is Chad God Ya! (One God: Yud-Heh)


Karpas - for how long?

The mishna in the 10th perek of psachim, 114a begins:
הביאו לפניו מטבל בחזרת עד שמגיע לפרפרת הפת הביאו לפניו מצה וחזרת וחרוסת ושני תבשילין אע"פ שאין חרוסת מצוה
and the previous mishna was
מזגו לו כוס ראשון ב"ש אומרים מברך על היום ואחר כך מברך על היין וב"ה אומרים מברך על היין ואחר כך מברך על היום

so you mix the first cup and drink it. then they bring the chazeret (in this case karpas) and he dips "until he reaches" the parperet hapat, which seems to be maror according to Rashi (and Rashbam who says the same thing verbatim).

What is the meaning of this phrase "until he reaches", עד שמגיע ? According to Rashi, this AD means BEFORE he reaches, and the purpose of the phrase it to show that this is an earlier dipping, and not that of dipping the maror. I don't know though; מטבל בחזרת עד שמגיע לפרפרת הפת seems to me to be a continuous action of dipping, which continues until this parperet hapas. In other words, AD means UNTIL. That is, before doing parperet hapas, there is a course which can go on continuously until it is time for the next mitzvah.

*If* the latter were true, then people could munch on karpas throughout maggid, which would make it somewhat easier to bear.

As to the definition of parperet hapas:

Rashi (,Rashbam) states that it is the parperet brought with - that is, after - the pat, the matza, which you make Al Achilat Maror on, and the purpose of this statement is to distinguish this first dipping from the latter.

The tosefta says, in the 10th perek:
אפילו לא אכל אלא פרפרת אחת אפילו לא טבל אלא חזרת אחת חוטפין מצה לתינוקות בשביל שלא יישנו
even if you have only eaten a single parperet, even if you do only dipped a single lettuce, you hurry the matza to the children so that they should not fall asleep.

here is parparet again (just as in the mishna), and again in the context of something distinct from dipping chazeret.

from the tosefta it is somewhat difficult to claim parperet is maror, because we say even if you dipped chazeret only once - only once would be karpat (or according to an opinion in the gemara, if you had kavana for maror by the first dipping you satisfied your requirement for maror.) But if you dipped it twice, that would be maror, which would be the parperet. But how would you be eating the parperet at distinct from (and possibly earlier than) the dipping of the chazeret?
Further, we state, even if you only ate a single parperet. Why would you eat more than one parperet, if it is maror. (unless we are referring to korech in addition). It seems problematic if parperet = maror = chazeret.
further, the way we currently practice the seder, the maror follows the matzah. So how could you say "even if you only ate one maror", as an explanation of parperet? If so, you would already have served the matza, so why is there a need to give the children even if we have only reached this point? we already gave them matza!

Jastrow associates parperet with פרפר, which means to crush. פרפריין is a dish of bread crumbs and vegetable mash.
Parperet, associated with crumbs, means a minor dish, a salad, a hash, etcetera.

elsewhere the gemara speaks about a parperet lifnei hamazon, (an appetizer) before the meal, and a parperet betoch hamazon, within the meal, and leachar hamazon, after the meal (a dessert).

so according to this, it would be some kind of course, and I would claim he he can keep eating karpas until he reaches that point. perhaps they had other courses throughout maggid (or perhaps, maggid I seems to be later??), and that is what the tosefta is saying, that you should make sure the children get matza even if you have only served one course, which preceded matza.

The mishna, again:
הביאו לפניו מטבל בחזרת עד שמגיע לפרפרת הפת הביאו לפניו מצה וחזרת וחרוסת ושני תבשילין אע"פ שאין חרוסת מצוה ר"א <בן> [ברבי] צדוק אומר מצוה ובמקדש היו מביאין לפניו גופו של פסח:

it seems that they bring all this karpas, parperet hapat, matza, chazeret, and charoset, and 2 items of food, and in the zman hamikdash, the korban pesach, all before the second cup, for the next mishna is mixing of the second cup. And the asking of ma nishtana, and maggid, takes place on the second cup. So this seems to imply that have the meal before maggid. {Update: The answer is presumably that you bring forth all these items, but do NOT eat them (the mishna does not mention eating them) until after the second kos. And this is then the impetus for the seder plate, which they bring before him with all those items, and is on the table during maggid even though you do not eat it yet. The thing is, I am not sure which gemara this comes out of. end update.}I'll return to this question perhaps in a later post - there is what to talk about.

Jastrow cites an interesting opinion, of the Bartenura (a commentary on the mishna). Bartenura suggests that the words עד שמגיע לפרפרת הפת should really be עד שמגיע לפרפר את הפת
that is, parperet hapat is really lifarper et hapat, to break the bread. That is, he eats the karpas until yachatz, where he breaks the bread. This is promising and a wonderful solution, EXCEPT...

for the slight problem that the mishna talks about it in the context of dipping chazaret, and it occurs in a similar context in tosefta, and in tosefta, it says explicitly if you one ATE a single parpetet. so in the tosefta it cannot refer to yachatz (breaking the matza) and so I doubt it refers to it in the mishna as well.

I hope to return to the order of the meal and maggid in short order, in a later post.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Computational Girsology

Something I'm working on for a computational linguistics class in CUNY.


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