Thursday, April 28, 2005

Dilbert Over at House of Hock

has an interesting, but ultimately false, dvar torah.

He writes:
What made the Rasha(wicked son) a Rasha?
When we read about the 4 sons in the Haggadah, three are somewhat self explanatory: the wise son, the simple, the one who doesn't know how to ask. But labelling one of the sons as wicked begs the question: Why is he wicked? what did he do or say or believe to deserve the title?

One start at the answer is in the response "l'fi sh'hotze et azmo min ha clal kafar ba'ekar" because he removed himself from the community he violated a basic belief. What was that basic belief? one of the Rambam's 13? Go on to the next part "ilu haya sham lo haya nigal" If he had been in Eygpt, he would not have been redeemed. Who didn't get redeemed? The midrash tells us that many Jews perished during the plague of darkness, those that were not worthy of being redeemed. It seems that they were in the catagory of Rasha as well. What was their misdeed? The children of Israel had been commanded to take a lamb in preparation of the korban pesach(pascal sacrifice). My father in law quoting a 10th century midrash says that those who did not do so died during the plague of darkness. Those who were not redeemed did not perform an act which would have symbolized their belief that redemption was around the corner. They didn't actually have to believe that the redemption was near, only do an act. Those that believed, but didn't do an act, also died. As is common, it is the action that is important, belief is good, but not essential. A similar use of the word Rasha is when Moshe sees two Jews fighting and says "Rasha, lama ta'ke rayecha" bad man(rasha), why are you hitting your neighbor. Again, rasha refers to someone who is doing an act, rather than a belief(or lack or belief).

We see that Rasha is someone whose ACTIONS take him away from the community, and who does not join with the community in actions that reflect belief. However, the Rasha does not earn the name simply with beliefs.

(thanks to Irina for asking the question and making me think about it, and thanks to my f and fil who always have answers to such questions)
It is interesting in that it is part of a general trend nowadays to bolster Orthopraxy rather than Orthodoxy as that which is required of a religious Jew, a trend also present in how many people deal with Marc Shapiro's The Limits of Orthodox Theology.

Now, on to the subject matter. How did he remove himself from the general community? With his language. The haggadah cites his question - Mah HaAvodah HaZot Lachem. To you, plural. And then it makes a drasha - Lachem, and not Lo, to him. He should have Lanu said rather than Lachem. That is how he separates himself from the community. And either distancing yourself from the community, or not joining them in their approach to serving God, and thus denying God, is considered kafar baIkar - denying a fundamental. This may or may not be parallel to one of the Rambam's Ikarei Emuna, but most likely they were not thinking in terms of Rambam when they said this, and we should not twist and stretch the plain sense of the haggadah to address this "question."

However, the main point is that the problem with the Rasha' is his choice of language. We see exactly the same thing in Bavli Brachot. The Mishna, towards the end of Brachot, gives different formulas for mezuman depending on if there is a mezuman with the leader or not. If there are three, he says Nevarech. If there are four, and thus three even without him, he says (or may say) Barchu. The difference is that Nevarech includes himself in the invitation to bless, while Barchu does not include him. This is the same grammatical difference as between Lachem and Lanu. On this Mishna, we have Shmuel's statement that he never removes himself from the klal, that is the same language as used in the haggadah. This means that even when there are four, Shmuel would say Nevarech, and so indeed is our custom.

Pashut peshat is that he is a Rasha because of his attitude and his words reflect this attitude. (As an aside, the use of this language by the Chacham is not a problem, for in the yerushalmi or Tosefta, we see the original girsa of his question. and the pasuk, which has otanu rather than etchem.) The father's response is not meant to elaborate upon the definition of removing himself from the klal. It is parallel. Just as the Rasha removed himself from the community by saying "you," not including himself. the father responds in a way that may be darshened to exclude his son, who by virtue of being wicked, would not have been redeemed.

But it is attitude, as opposed to any action, which makes the son wicked, in this instance.

Another point. Dilbert mentions that in the case of the one Jew hitting his fellow:
A similar use of the word Rasha is when Moshe sees two Jews fighting and says "Rasha, lama ta'ke rayecha" bad man(rasha), why are you hitting your neighbor. Again, rasha refers to someone who is doing an act, rather than a belief(or lack or belief).
In fact, if you look carefully at the Midrash on this pasuk, you see how Chazal deal with it. There is a linguistic point being made. Takeh is the imperfect (future) tense, not present tense. As a result, it literally means "why will you (in the future) hit your neighbor?" The Midrash explicitly takes this to mean that even if you raise your hand with intent to hit your neighbor in the near future, you are considered a Rasha. There is still the action of raising a hand, but it is a far cry from how Dilbert is trying to use it, that only if you are engaged in hitting at the moment are you a Rasha. Intent has a lot more importance here.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

This is a reminder to myself

and a plug for my favorite sound recorder/manipulation program, Audacity. I had forgotten the name of it, and I just remembered it. It can handle many file formats, such as wac and mp3, and does not have a sound clip time limit.

Kol Chamira - my first audio post

(Note: Most if not all of this is based on what I recall from Dr. Steiner's Amaraic class many years ago. Any errors are not his, but mine.)

Update: I decided to do this as an audio post. Right-click on this link and choose "Open in new window/tab" - then scroll down on this page to see the scan as the audio plays.

Update: Removed inaccurate statements about Bi'arteih. Hope to replace soon.

Update: Specifically, what I intend to add, once I get ahold of a microphone, is that Bi'arteih is an attempt at Piel, which is a form that does not exist in Aramaic. Instead, the equivalent is the Pael. (Patach, dagesh, tzeirei.) The first person perfect Pael would be *Ba'eireith. However, the resh would influence the tzeirei preceding it, and transform it into a patach. Thus, Ba'areith. Add yatheih, and you have Ba'areitheih. That is, a patach under the bet, a patach under the ayin, a tzeirei followed by yud after the resh, and then a tav with no dagesh in it, tzeirei, yud, mapik heh. (It is obviously easier to pronounce this, but what can you do? I'll update as soon as a I get a microphone. My original statement on Bi'arteih I have removed in the meantime from the sound file, was relevant to the Peal (Kal) form rather than Pael, but it was basically pronounced the same in the end, with the exception that there was a chataf patach rather than a full patach under the ayin.

Here is a scan of the Kol Chamira, from an Artscroll Siddur. Notice I circled a few things.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Acharei Mot #2: דמו בנפשו

In Parshat Acharei Mot, (Vayikra 17:14)

יד כִּי-נֶפֶשׁ כָּל-בָּשָׂר, דָּמוֹ בְנַפְשׁוֹ הוּא, וָאֹמַר לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, דַּם כָּל-בָּשָׂר לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ: כִּי נֶפֶשׁ כָּל-בָּשָׂר דָּמוֹ הִוא, כָּל-אֹכְלָיו יִכָּרֵת. 14 For as to the life of all flesh, the blood thereof is all one with the life thereof; therefore I said unto the children of Israel: Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh; for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof; whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.

A certain prominent physician in my shul pointed out a very interesting Ibn Ezra on this pasuk a few years ago:
דמו בנפשו. הוא דבק עם הנפש כי ידוע שהגידים היוצאים מפאת שמאל הלב מחולקים בחצי לדם ולרוח כדמות שמן זית עם האור
It {blood} is connected with the nefesh {life, here "spirit"}, for it is known that the arteries leaving from the left side of the heart are divided half with blood and spirit {wind} in the manner of olive oil with the flame.

He noted that this commentary by Ibn Ezra seems to recognize a modern medical fact - that there is a dual circulation , one of oxygenated blood (blood carrying oxygen, the oxygen obtained from the lungs) and unoxygenated blood. Further, as we know, the oxygenated blood is pumped out of the left side of the heart, and the unoxygenated blood comes in to the right side of the heart. Ibn Ezra thus seems to know of arteries, which carry oxygenated blood, and veins, carrying unoxygenated blood.

This would be astounding, for Ibn Ezra was born in 1092 and passed on in 1167, and it was only in 1628 that William Harvey suggested the modern model. To cite Encarta:
Only in the past 400 years have scientists recognized that blood moves in a cycle through the heart and body. Before the 17th century, scientists believed that the liver creates new blood, and then the blood passes through the heart to gain warmth and finally is soaked up and consumed in the tissues. In 1628 English physician William Harvey first proposed that blood circulates continuously. Using modern methods of observation and experimentation, Harvey noted that veins have one-way valves that lead blood back to the heart from all parts of the body. He noted that the heart works as a pump, and he estimated correctly that the daily output of fresh blood is more than seven tons. He pointed out the absurdity of the old doctrine, which would require the liver to produce this much fresh blood daily. Harvey’s theory was soon proven correct and became the cornerstone of modern medical science.

He wanted to show from here that Chazal, such as represented by Ibn Ezra, wrote with ruach hakodesh, for how else could Ibn Ezra know that the function of the heart was to pump oxygenated blood from the left hand side, with non-oxygenated blood on the right side?

My first reaction to this is that this is not what Ibn Ezra means. Rather, his description was an attempt to read the pasuk from a contemporary scientific perspective - that is, darshen in a way what was accurate science in his day.

The first hint to this is in Ibn Ezra's use of the phrase כי ידוע, "for it is known." This implies that Ibn Ezra is referring to some well known scientific fact. He is not referring to a drasha of Chazal, for there is no such drasha. He is NOT coming up with this new scientific fact ex nihilo via ruach hakodesh. Further, had no one else known of this fact, the reaction would have been: Huh?

Now, to Harvey proposed that the heart was a pump, but that does not mean that people back then did not know that the blood flowed through the heart, and it does not mean that they did not know a direction of said blood flow, such that the blood flows out the left side.

What of the oxygenated blood coming from the left? I would surmise rather that Ibn Ezra is referring to Greek science, and quite old Greek science at that (pre-Socratic), but which lasted to his day and probably further. I would guess he is actually following Empedocles (see for example here), who proposed his own dual circulation system. He suggested there were two circulations in the body - one of blood, and the other of (fiery) pneuma, an etheal and fiery substance. There were vessels for conveying blood (veins) and vessels for conveying pneuma (arteries = lit. air vessels).

Now we can look again at Ibn Ezra. I would also suggest that the words כדמות שמן זית עם האור are not referring to the connection of oxygen and blood, but rather a description of the pnuema itself.
דמו בנפשו. הוא דבק עם הנפש כי ידוע שהגידים היוצאים מפאת שמאל הלב מחולקים בחצי לדם ולרוח כדמות שמן זית עם האור
It {blood} is connected with the nefesh{life, here "spirit", or pneuma}, for it is known that the arteries leaving from the left side of the heart are divided, half conveying blood and {the other half} for wind {pneuma} which is similar to olive oil in the flame {that is, rareified matter}.
While researching this, I saw another website that make similar claims for the Chinese, but again, I think they are thinking of pneuma and chi, conveyed separately, as opposed to being conveyed by the blood, such that it is not the same.

I wonder what they're gonna feed him Erev Pesach... (link)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

New Pope's Name Based on a Mistranslation

He chose the name Benedict XVI.

This is, and has been, a translation of Baruch. For example, Baruch/Benedictus Spinoza. This assumes that Baruch is the passive and thus means blessed.

We know now, however, that this is not so. Baruch was Yirmiyahu's scribe. See for example Yirmiyahu 45:1:
א הַדָּבָר, אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יִרְמְיָהוּ הַנָּבִיא, אֶל-בָּרוּךְ, בֶּן-נֵרִיָּה--בְּכָתְבוֹ אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה עַל-סֵפֶר, מִפִּי יִרְמְיָהוּ, בַּשָּׁנָה הָרְבִעִית, לִיהוֹיָקִים בֶּן-יֹאשִׁיָּהוּ מֶלֶךְ יְהוּדָה לֵאמֹר. 1 The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke unto Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying:
One recent archaelogical discovery (discovered by Yigal Shiloh in 1978) has been the signet ring of Baruch ben Neryiah, and it reads Berechyahu ben Neryahu (as I mentioned before in this post). This means that Baruch is a theophoric name (=lit. "bearing deity"}. Thus, it is Berech + Yahu {=Hashem Blesses}. Another such theophoric names is Azaryahu, for which the shortened version is Azzur. In general the shortened form of a theophoric name such as this has a patach under the first letter, gemination (doubling) of the second letter by means of a strong dagesh, and a shuruk between the second and third root letter. As Dr. Steiner has pointed out, what happened for the name Berechyahu in its shortening is that the middle root letter, the resh, cannot take the doubling via strong dagesh, for the resh is a quasi-gutteral and as a rule does not receive a dagesh. As a result, compensatory lengthening of the preceding vowel (called tashlum dagesh) kicks in, and lengthens the short patach to the long equivalent, the qametz. The end reseult looks like the regular Hebrew passive, but it is not.

Cardinal Ratzinger Appointed New Pope

chooses name Pope Benedict XVI.

Money for Food for Pesach

I received this by email, via (they spam their mailing list on behalf of others), from Keren Yehoshua V'Yisroel:


At the Pesach Seder children all over the world will be asking the four questions: "Why is this night different than other nights?"

Thousands of children in Eretz Yisroel will be asking a fifth question: "Why must we be different from other families, because we don't have enough money for the holiday?"

The severe cuts in government support and the sharp rise in the price of basic foods (25% rise for a loaf of bread) have made this question a painful challenge for all caring Jews. Only you can answer this question. Your response will enable hundreds of families in the Holy Land to join you in enjoying a Kosher and Happy Pesach.

Small family - $180, Medium family - $360, Large family - $ 540,
6 small families - $ 1080, 4 medium families - $ 1440,
5 medium families - $ 1800, 4 large families - $ 2160.

Interesting metric for the price of basic foods (the price of a loaf of bread) given that this is an appeal for Pesach. Anyway, check 'em out.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Posts so far for parshat Acharei Mot

Year 1
Year 2
to be continued...

Acharei Mot #1: The Goat to Azazel

Parshat Acharei Mot contains the description of the goat sent to Azazel. Two identical goats are taken, and a lottery is made. One goat is sacrificed to God and the other is sent to Azazel. In Vayikra 16:7-10:
ז וְלָקַח, אֶת-שְׁנֵי הַשְּׂעִירִם; וְהֶעֱמִיד אֹתָם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד. 7 And he shall take the two goats, and set them before the LORD at the door of the tent of meeting.
ח וְנָתַן אַהֲרֹן עַל-שְׁנֵי הַשְּׂעִירִם, גֹּרָלוֹת--גּוֹרָל אֶחָד לַה, וְגוֹרָל אֶחָד לַעֲזָאזֵל. 8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for Azazel.
ט וְהִקְרִיב אַהֲרֹן אֶת-הַשָּׂעִיר, אֲשֶׁר עָלָה עָלָיו הַגּוֹרָל לַה; וְעָשָׂהוּ, חַטָּאת. 9 And Aaron shall present the goat upon which the lot fell for the LORD, and offer him for a sin-offering.
י וְהַשָּׂעִיר, אֲשֶׁר עָלָה עָלָיו הַגּוֹרָל לַעֲזָאזֵל, יָעֳמַד-חַי לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, לְכַפֵּר עָלָיו--לְשַׁלַּח אֹתוֹ לַעֲזָאזֵל, הַמִּדְבָּרָה. 10 But the goat, on which the lot fell for Azazel, shall be set alive before the LORD, to make atonement over him, to send him away for Azazel into the wilderness.
and then, a few psukim later:
כ וְכִלָּה מִכַּפֵּר אֶת-הַקֹּדֶשׁ, וְאֶת-אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וְאֶת-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ; וְהִקְרִיב, אֶת-הַשָּׂעִיר הֶחָי. 20 And when he hath made an end of atoning for the holy place, and the tent of meeting, and the altar, he shall present the live goat.
כא וְסָמַךְ אַהֲרֹן אֶת-שְׁתֵּי יָדָו, עַל רֹאשׁ הַשָּׂעִיר הַחַי, וְהִתְוַדָּה עָלָיו אֶת-כָּל-עֲו‍ֹנֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאֶת-כָּל-פִּשְׁעֵיהֶם לְכָל-חַטֹּאתָם; וְנָתַן אֹתָם עַל-רֹאשׁ הַשָּׂעִיר, וְשִׁלַּח בְּיַד-אִישׁ עִתִּי הַמִּדְבָּרָה. 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, even all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of an appointed man into the wilderness.
כב וְנָשָׂא הַשָּׂעִיר עָלָיו אֶת-כָּל-עֲו‍ֹנֹתָם, אֶל-אֶרֶץ גְּזֵרָה; וְשִׁלַּח אֶת-הַשָּׂעִיר, בַּמִּדְבָּר. 22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land which is cut off; and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.
and a few psukim later:
כו וְהַמְשַׁלֵּחַ אֶת-הַשָּׂעִיר, לַעֲזָאזֵל--יְכַבֵּס בְּגָדָיו, וְרָחַץ אֶת-בְּשָׂרוֹ בַּמָּיִם; וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן, יָבוֹא אֶל-הַמַּחֲנֶה. 26 And he that letteth go the goat for Azazel shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.
This might look like syncretism, but Azazel is the place to which the goat is sent (a "rugged, strong" mountain), as opposed to an entity. Indeed, the next perek requires that the Israelites bring their sacrifices to the Tent of Meeting, as opposed to sacrificing them in the fields, so that it does not look like they are sacrificing to the demons of the fields, and states that any who does not is cut off from his people, to it would be hard to reconcile this attitude with sending a goat to an entity apart from God named Azazel.

{On the other hand, if one does follow e.g. Ramban that it is a type of se'ir, it is still possible to reconcile - the idea being that they are symbolically casting their sins off to a place of desolation, represented by Azazel - but not that this is an offering to Azazel.}

The role of the goat being sent to the place Azazel in the wilderness seems a symbolic sending away of sin, as it states in verse 22: "And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land which is cut off; and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness."

Its role is perhaps akin to that of the second bird of the leper which we saw in last week's parsha, Metzora. In Vayikra 14:2-7:

ב זֹאת תִּהְיֶה תּוֹרַת הַמְּצֹרָע, בְּיוֹם טָהֳרָתוֹ: וְהוּבָא, אֶל-הַכֹּהֵן. 2 This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: he shall be brought unto the priest.
ג וְיָצָא, הַכֹּהֵן, אֶל-מִחוּץ, לַמַּחֲנֶה; וְרָאָה, הַכֹּהֵן, וְהִנֵּה נִרְפָּא נֶגַע-הַצָּרַעַת, מִן-הַצָּרוּעַ. 3 And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;
ד וְצִוָּה, הַכֹּהֵן, וְלָקַח לַמִּטַּהֵר שְׁתֵּי-צִפֳּרִים חַיּוֹת, טְהֹרוֹת; וְעֵץ אֶרֶז, וּשְׁנִי תוֹלַעַת וְאֵזֹב. 4 then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two living clean birds, and cedar-wood, and scarlet, and hyssop.
ה וְצִוָּה, הַכֹּהֵן, וְשָׁחַט, אֶת-הַצִּפּוֹר הָאֶחָת--אֶל-כְּלִי-חֶרֶשׂ, עַל-מַיִם חַיִּים. 5 And the priest shall command to kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water.
ו אֶת-הַצִּפֹּר הַחַיָּה יִקַּח אֹתָהּ, וְאֶת-עֵץ הָאֶרֶז וְאֶת-שְׁנִי הַתּוֹלַעַת וְאֶת-הָאֵזֹב; וְטָבַל אוֹתָם וְאֵת הַצִּפֹּר הַחַיָּה, בְּדַם הַצִּפֹּר הַשְּׁחֻטָה, עַל, הַמַּיִם הַחַיִּים. 6 As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar-wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water.
ז וְהִזָּה, עַל הַמִּטַּהֵר מִן-הַצָּרַעַת--שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים; וְטִהֲרוֹ, וְשִׁלַּח אֶת-הַצִּפֹּר הַחַיָּה עַל-פְּנֵי הַשָּׂדֶה. 7 And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let go the living bird into the open field.
Again, we have two identical birds, of which one is slaughtered to God, and the other, live one is sent away.

Thinking for a moment like a Sadducee rather than a Pharisee, the verses do not mention throwing the goat to Azazel backwards off a cliff to its doom. For all we know, it could be sent off to wander the wilderness. Indeed, in Jerusalem Talmud we hear the report that for many years up to the destruction of Second Temple, the goat sent to Azazel escaped the hands of the appointed man taking it into the desert, and it then wandered the desert until it was captured and eaten by bandits. The escaping of the goat every year was accidental, and a bad omen, in the Talmud's account, but perhaps this was the result of alternate interpretation of the verses, or by Sadducee kohanim, such that they "accidentally" let it slip from year to year. (They had some Sadducee priests back then.)

Also, check out the Jewish Encylopedia's writeup, which takes a different position.

Dinosaur Eggs Discovered

From Wired:
The rare discovery of eggs inside a dinosaur has given scientists new clues about the reproductive biology of the creatures and more support for the theory that birds came from dinosaurs.

The pair of shelled eggs is the first of its kind found inside a dinosaur, said researchers who reported the discovery in Friday's issue of the journal Science.


There have been previous findings of round objects around dinosaur skeletons and scientists have suspected they might be eggs but because they did not have shells, there wasn't certainty, Sato said.

"You have egg shells with this one," she said of the specimen at the National Museum of Natural Science in Taiwan that was excavated from China. "This is the first time for sure."


The remains of the shelled eggs looked like pineapple-sized potatoes.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Interesting Indian Ceremony

From Reuters:
Every two years, parents who have vowed to bury their first-born if they are blessed with a child, take part in the Kuzhimattru Thiru Vizha ceremony.

The children are drugged to make them unconscious and placed in shallow "graves" in temple courtyards. The pits are covered with leaves and dirt and the children are pulled out after Hindu priests chant a brief prayer -- lasting up to a minute.

Update: I don't know anything about Hindu ceremonies, and therefore cannot state definitively what is really behind this ceremony, but it looks like a Molech child-sacrifice. After all, Hindu priests are involved, and they vow their first born, and symbolically offer their children to die (perhaps to a deity) in thanks for some granted wish (a child). Some accounts of the Molech ceremony also had the child passing symbolically through the fire, as opposed to actually being killed.

Posts so far for parshat Metzora

Year 1
To be continued...

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Why you *are* in fact allowed to hold a baby during davening

R' Gil Student over at Hirhurim has an interesting post about how a gemara in Brachot 23b is taken to prohibit holding many things during Shemoneh Esrei, including a knife, a loaf of bread, a plate, and money. Various acharonim apparently extend this to holding children, sine the idea is that they are all things which will take your mind off of the prayer.

I am a Rif blogger, and so I feel compelled to point out that this is not necessarily the meaning of this gemara, as understood by the Rif.

The context of the gemara is what you can and cannot do in terms of a bathroom. I am going to cite the Rif's version, from my post (in the Rif it is daf 14b, so see the Rif in full there).

The Sages learnt {in a brayta}: one should not grab tefillin in his hand or {and?} a sefer Torah in his arm and pray, nor should he urinate with them, nor sleep with them, whether a permanent or a temporary sleep.

Shmuel said: a knife, a plate, a loaf {of bread}, and money are like them {as in the preceding brayta - our gemara has a different order for these items}.

Now, the brayta speaks of several cases - that you may not hold a sefer Torah or tefillin during:

  1. prayer

  2. urination

  3. different types of sleep

Shmuel says that the law is the same in terms of money, a knife, a plate, and a loaf of bread. In terms of which case? Prayer? Urination? Sleep?

Rashi explicitly links Shmuel's statement only to the first case - prayer. He does not link it to the other cases. Thus, we see that is is easy to hold that Shmuel's statement is only applicable to a single case in the brayta.

However, I would argue as follows. The context of the gemara is things related to the privy. It is in that context that the brayta was brought. Therefore, it is only logical that Shmuel's statement, which follows, also relates to the privy - that is, what one may urinate while holding.

Indeed, the Rif brings down Shmuel's statement. The context of the Rif, in his citations of the gemara, relate to the privy. It only makes sense that the Rif brings down Shmuel's statement in this context because he also holds it is halacha in terms of the privy. Otherwise, why bring it down lehalacha here. He should cite it in a different context, that of rules of prayer. From my limited experience with the Rif, it seems clear to me that he would have cited Shmuel in a different context if he agreed with Rashi that it only applied to prayer.

Let us dwell on why holding a sefer Torah or tefillin would be problematic.

Rashi says that his mind will not be on the prayer because he is afraid of dropping them. The same would then apply to Shmuel's statement - he would be afraid of dropping them.

What about urination? It is not kavod.

What about sleep? Rashi says - lest one pass gas.

I would agree more or less in all these cases. There is an halachic obligation to treat tefillin and a sefer Torah with a certain respect. I would say the presence of mind required while holding tefillin and a sefer Torah would preclude focusing on prayers. Urination is not kavod. And sleep, one is not having the appropriate presence of mind. (So I argue a bit, but not in terms of anything that would make a difference.)

Now let us turn to Shmuel. Do all three cases (prayer, urination, sleep) make sense?

In terms of prayer, Rashi says: since one worries about dripping them - the knife, lest it drop and injure him; the bread lest it get ruined; the money lest is become lost; and the plate, lest it spill its contents.

These are all plausible explanations, should one want to tie Shmuel's statement to the first case of the brayta. It is not necesssary though.

In terms of urination, I would say: the knife, lest he injure himself; the bread, for it is not respectful to bread, plus the bread may become soiled; the money, for it may become dirty, and he is going to purchase things with this money, such that others will handle it, and thus it is not appropriate; and the plate, since food goes on it, it is not appropriate.

In terms of sleep, it is hard to find justification. The knife is understandable as a precaution lest he injure himself in his sleep. The bread, he may soil, so perhaps you can argue Bal Taschis. The money and plate - if someone wants to risk it, what cause can you have to prohibit him halachically from doing so?

I think it is for this reason that Rashi saw fit to apply it only to the case of prayer, since the last case, of sleep, is hard to justify.

However, as pointed out, the simplest understanding of the gemara recognizes that the brayta was brought in in terms of urination, and so it makes sense that Shmuel's statement which follows is also specifically as regards urination, and not sleep, and not prayer.

Further, one should not say that Shmuel's examples are just that - examples - and one should include other things of the type, in terms of prayer. After all, we really do not understand the reasoning behind Shmuel's statement - if it even applies to prayer, and the reason it should - such that we should extend it to still other cases.

An additional interesting point is that if we apply this to all three instances in the brayta, including sleep, then we could extend it to babies as well, as the sources Gil cites extend it in terms of prayer. This would prohibit co-sleeping with your infant, which I do not think the gemara would do (see the gemaras about sleeping with your child {in the nude, as was the general sleeping practice back then} until a specific age, though see also the case Shlomo HaMelech needed to adjudicate, in which he pretended that he would split the babe in two, which started from a co-sleeping tragedy.)

In sum, there is an acharon (the Birkei Yosef that Gil cites) who says that you should not. However, I think there is a Rishon, the Rif, who reads Shmuel's statement as not talking about prayer at all, but about urination (and not as understood by Rebenu Yonah there - see inside). Therfore, I would say that one may even pray lechatchila while holding a baby. At the same time, one should focus on his prayers. We should not, however, create Rabbinic prohibitions where none exist.

Let me add that I am not (yet) a rabbi, and furthermore I am not saying this as psak halacha. I will echo what R Gil said at the end of his post: "Ask your rabbi before following any halakhic advice given here."

Update and Correction:
Over Rosh HaShana, I did a lot of reading - through the Rif on Rosh HaShana (12 blatt), Yoma (6 blatt), and Succah (27 blatt). Since I had neglected to do the whole learning 30 days before the Yom Tov thing, this seemed like a good way to catch up, and to take a break from Eruvin (plug for Rif blog - we just started Eruvin in daf Yomi). And I saw something (in Rif Succah 20a, excerpting Succah 41b) that I should have seen before, and which I should have considered when I made my original post: Why you *are* in fact allowed to hold a baby during davening. That was based on my analysis of a gemara in Berachot 23b (cited by the Rif on Berachot 14b), that a statement of Shmuel that the law is the same in terms of a knife, a loaf of bread, a plate, and money refers not to holding these items during davening Shemoneh Esrei but rather to holding them while urinating. Check out the aforementioned post for analysis and what I feel is a compelling argument that this is so.

However, I also claimed that, based on the way I understood them, the Rif and the Rosh read the gemara the same way. This is not the case. They would have read the relevant gemara as I did, because of this gemara in Succah. I missed this through a combination of ignorance, laziness, and pride - Rabbenu Yona on the Rif in Brachot referred to the gemara in Succah, but I did not realize that the gemara in Succah in fact explicitly cited the brayta and statement of Shmuel from Brachot, and did not look it up.

To recap, the gemara in Brachot 23b read:
The Sages learnt {in a brayta}: one should not grab tefillin in his hand or {and?} a sefer Torah in his arm and pray, nor should he urinate with them, nor sleep with them, whether a permanent or a temporary sleep.

Shmuel said: a knife, a plate, a loaf {of bread}, and money are like them {as in the preceding brayta - our gemara has a different order for these items}.
This was embedded in a discussion of the laws of the privy. Shmuel's additions to the law laid down in the brayta only applies to one of the three cases (for why should one not sleep while holding money?), and Rashi identifies this case as prayer. I did not realize this at the time, but he is essentially forced into adopting this position because of the gemara in Succah. The reason Shmuel gave these examples is somewhat arbitrary - one if afraid of dropping all of these, and thus there is tirda - but the examples are random, and he could have selected many other examples at random.

I argued that since the context of the gemara was the laws of the privy, it is clear that this is why the brayta was brought down. True, the brayta also gives the case of praying and sleeping temporary or more sustained sleep, but that was just how the brayta was formulated. It was brought down here in Brachot for the case of the privy. If so, it stands to reason that Shmuel's statement continues discussing the essential rule that was brought down in the brayta. And, once you realize that Shmuel's statement is about urinating while holding the items, his choice of items makes sense, such that it is deliberate and not random. That is, do not hold a knife while urinating lest you accidentally cut yourself. Do not hold a loaf of bread while urinating because it is disrespectful to the food, plus you might render it inedible. Do not hold a plate - if by praying, one might say that it is laden with food, which you are afraid will spill. Do not hold a plate while urinating, because it is disgusting - people will eat off that plate! Do not hold money while urinating - this is something that is given over from one person's hand to another.

However, now we have the gemara in Succah 41נ. It reads:

א"ל מר בר אמימר לרב אשי אבא צלויי קא מצלי ביה
מיתיבי לא יאחז אדם תפילין בידו וספר תורה בחיקו ויתפלל ולא ישתין בהן מים
ולא יישן בהן לא שינת קבע ולא שינת עראי
ואמר שמואל סכין וקערה ככר ומעות הרי אלו כיוצא בהן
התם לאו מצוה נינהו וטריד בהו הכא מצוה נינהו ולא טריד בהו
תניא רבי אלעזר בר צדוק אומר
כך היה מנהגן של אנשי ירושלים אדם יוצא מביתו ולולבו בידו הולך לבית הכנסת לולבו בידו קורא קריאת שמע ומתפלל ולולבו בידו קורא בתורה ונושא את כפיו מניחו על גבי קרקע הולך לבקר חולים ולנחם אבלים לולבו בידו נכנס לבית המדרש משגר לולבו ביד בנו וביד עבדו וביד שלוחו
מאי קמ"ל
להודיעך כמה היו זריזין במצות
Mar the son of Amemar said to Rav Ashi: Father used to pray with it {=the lulav}.
A contradiction!
{The brayta stated:} A man should not grab his tefillin in his hand and his Torah scroll in his embrace and pray, nor should he urinate with them, nor should he sleep with them, not a temporary nor a sustained sleep.
And Shmuel said: A knife, a plate, a loaf, and money are like them.
{The answer:} There, they are not a mitzvah and he is bothered with them. Here, it {=lulav} is a mitzvah and he is not bothered with them.

They learnt {in a brayta}: Rabbi Eleazar bar Tzadok says:
This was the custom of the men of Jerusalem: A man would leave his house with his lulav in hand. He went to the synagogue with his lulav in hand. He would read Shema and pray {Shemoneh Esrei} with his lulav in hand. He would read from the Torah and lift up his hands {to bless}, he would place it on the floor. He would go to visit the sick, to console mourners with his lulav in hand. He would enter the study hall and would give over his lulav to his son's hand, his servant's hand, or his agent's hand.
What is this {brayta} coming to tell us?
To inform us how zealous they were in performance of mitzvot.
In the context of this gemara, Shmuel's statement must perforce be about prayer and not about urination. Further, from the answer of this gemara, we see that the problem Shmuel had with these items is that a man would be tarud with them. This directly produces Rashi's explanation of the gemara in Brachot, and it would seem it could be no other way. Thus, I was mistaken in my attribution of my reading of the gemara in Brachot to Rif and Rosh.

Thus, any allowance for holding a baby during Shemoneh Esrei would have to come from a claim that a baby is not comparable to Shmuel's examples, and that he would not be tarud. Perhaps one could say chai nosei et atzmo, or else that because of chiba for the child, just like the chiba for the mitzvah of lulav, he would not be tarud. Or some such answer.

I am unrepentant in one regard, however. I still maintain that my analysis of the gemara in Brachot is correct, and superior to an analysis that makes Shmuel statement one about prayer. This, for all the reasons I outlined above.

What then of the gemara in Succah? Well, we are faced with two parallel gemaras, and when this happens, we should determine which was the original and which was the copy. In this instance, it seems fairly obvious that Berachot contains the original. The brayta and Shmuel's statement are brought in straightforwardly in series of statements about the privy. This is where we would expect the brayta to be brought. Shmuel's statement is said benichuta - calmly, on the brayta.

Meanwhile, the gemara in Succah is about the laws of lulav, and we have two statements about holding lulav all day. One is Mar bar Amemer relating his father's practice, and the other is the brayta relating the practice of the men of Jerusalem. This practice was troubling in light of another source, from a different field entirely, so the gemara says meitvei - I have an objection! Then, another sugya is copied in its entirety and brought for the contrast - here is a source stating one cannot hold things during prayer! They thus cite the sugya in its entirety - both brayta and Shmuel's statement, as part of the objection. This sub-sugya, of brayta grouped with Shmuel, in coming from somewhere. In truth it does - it comes from Berachot.

Tosafot, too, seems to acknowledge Berachot as the original. On Succah 41b, d"h ve`amar Shemuel, he asks why Shmuel's statement was brought along for the ride. He answers that if they only brought the brayta, I would think this was the law by tefilla only in terms of the tefillin and sefer Torah, since if they fell, there would be bizayon and he would therefore be tarud with them. Therefore, Shmuel's statement is also brought, since he discusses secular items.

Now, if this were the original source in which the brayta was brought, Shmuel's statement would be necessary as commentary of the brayta, since otherwise we would not have his statement. (It would later be copied together with the brayta to Berachot.) Tosafot assumes that these statements are being brought from elsewhere to pose the contradiction. (Of course, this is not so, since Tosafot would not subscribe to the view that if two parallel sources exist, one is the original, and the other a copy. Rather, both were in the ether, and Ravina and Rav Ashi cited what they felt necessary in each instance, such that there is sometimes duplication.)

Digression: Here we see the first potential "out." Often, when the gemara cites a statement from elsewhere, they cite the entire sugya, even when the statement required is in the middle of the sugya. Not realizing this fact causes misunderstandings in later generations of what the question was and what the answer was, and such is reflected in the stama or in commentators. I could offer examples here from Horayot, Gittin, and elsewhere, but they are quite involved, and besides the point. One could then quite simply say that Tosafot was right and did not know it. The brayta was cited, and Shmuel's statement was cited agav the brayta, when they did the transfer from one sugya to the other. Indeed, only a sefer Torah and tefillin may not be held, because the possible bizayon to kitvei kodesh will cause him to be tarud. However, this does not mesh with the answer offered by the gemara. True, there is a mitzvah to hold a lulav, one which does not exist by tefillin and sefer Torah, but then, there is no issue of bizayon to kitvei kodesh if the lulav drops, so the question does not start. (Unless one speaks of bizayon to mitzvot, or else wants to argue against the gemara...) Besides, I don't believe this is the answer for a moment. End Digression.

However, once we assume the gemara in Berachot is the source sugya, then I would grant primacy to the best interpretation as found locally in that sugya, and that would be that Shmuel is speaking of urination. What then to make of the gemara in Succah, in which Shmuel must speak of prayer? I would say that Shmuel was taken out of context, and that this movement was a result of reinterpretation, and that the movement also causes Shmuel to be reinterpreted.

Who does this reinterpretation of Shmuel, and who does this movement of brayta and Shmuel from one sugya to another? It is the stama digemara, which speaks in Aramaic and typically tries to harmonize differing sugyot.

For this is introduced by מיתיבי, not by a statement by an Amora. And it does not seem to be Rav Ashi, the sof horaah and redactor of Bavli, for he was told this by Mar bar Amemar, and could have replied directly. The analysis in the gemara takes a sugya involving the Amora Rav Ashi, and a sugya involving the Amora Shmuel, which were already complete by themselves, and transfers the existing sugya of Shmuel to contrast and offer a harmonization. This seems stamaitic.

(Further, Amemer has a brayta to back him up, whereas Shmuel only has his own statement and interpretation of a brayta. Ask on Shmuel rather than Amemer, who is only equal the subsequent brayta! And look at the question, what the brayta is coming to teach us. It is coming to teach us their zealousness in mitzvot? It seems rather to teach us that one may hold the lulav during all of these activities, including Shema and Shemoneh Esrei, but not during duchening, an aliya, and learning. Or at least that one may hold the lulav during davening!)

I would posit that Shmuel's statement is not to be taken as the stama in Succah took it, as referring to prayer, but rather to urination. Therefore there is no problem with Amemar's actions, or with the actions of the men of Jerusalem. And thus it is not an issue of tirda by tefillin and sefer Torah, but rather the disrespect to these items by urinating with them, sleeping with them, or praying with them, which would entail not paying proper attention to them.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Attention fellow bloggers - I know how to post despite blogger glitches - bloggers, read on

Probably you can also blog by email.
But I found a way to blog despite blogger glitches.
There is a program called Zoundry, at
you need to put in your blogger name and password.
(so if you don't trust them, you might create a new account when you can and invite yourself in the new account as a guest blogger, without admin priveleges. But right now blogger is down anyway, so you cannot follow this suggestion)
Zoundry is able to post, as I have just tested.
I've been having blogger headaches the past few days, and will not have much opportunity to post more this week.

test post

test post to get past blogger glitches

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Daf Yomi Brachot daf 42

work in progress - in the meantime, see Chullin 86b

Another two YU events, the same night: The Printing of the Talmud

I also received the following via email. It ends about the same time as the other symposium, on Dead Sea Scrolls and Copyright, begins, so it might be interesting to check out. (I made a few edits to the email I recieved.)

YESHIVA UNIVERSITY MUSEUM is pleased to invite you to two stellar events:
Monday, April 11, 2005 at YESHIVA UNIVERSITY MUSEUM
at the Center for Jewish History 15 West 16 Street - New York, NY - 10011

1) The exhibition opening:

Printing the Talmud: From Bomberg to Schottenstein
Viewing and Reception Monday, April 11, 2005 5pm - 6:15pm
Rosenberg and Winnick Galleries
Mezzanine Level


2) The Symposium:

The Vital Talmud: The World That Made It And the World It Made
Monday April 11, 2005 6:30pm - 8pm Leo and Julia Forchheimer Auditorium
INTRODUCTION Norman Adler, Dean of Yeshiva College, Yeshiva University

MODERATOR Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt Riverdale Jewish Center


Yaakov Elman Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, Yeshiva University
Steven Fine Jewish Foundation Professor of Judaic Studies, Department of Judaic Studies, University of Cincinnati
Jennie Rosenfeld Talmud Teacher, Wexner Graduate Fellow CUNY Graduate Center

RSVP info [at] yum {dot} cjh {dot} org or 212.294.8330 ext. 8808

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Dead Sea Scrolls Controversy - Originality in Copyright Law, the “Ownership” of Scholarly Research, and the Impact on Use of Religious Texts

I received the following by email recently. It looks like an interesting talk. I remember a while back reading a translation of Targum Onkelos, with the Aramaic on one side and the English on the other, in which the author said he could not use Sperber's critical text on the Aramaic side, because of copyright issues, but would note in footnotes where (A) Sperber changes something. I don't know whether or not this is the current situation as well. (See here for some Targumim.)

Program in Intellectual Property, Entertainment and Media Law
and The Program in Jewish Law and Interdisciplinary Studies
The Dead Sea Scrolls Controversy:
Originality in Copyright Law, the “Ownership” of Scholarly Research, and the Impact on Use of Religious Texts
An Evening Symposium with
Burns Senior Lecturer David Nimmer
David Nimmer is the current author of Nimmer on Copyright, the
standard reference treatise in the field, and is a Visiting Professor at
UCLA Law School. Nimmer on Copyright was first published by his
late father, Professor Melville B. Nimmer, and is routinely cited by
U.S. and foreign courts at all levels in copyright litigation. David
Nimmer is also the author of Copyright in the Dead Sea Scrolls:
Authorship and Originality [38 Houston Law Review 1-217 (2001)].

Moshe J. Bernstein, Professor of Bible, Yeshiva University (moderator)
Lawrence H. Schiffman, Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, NYU
Rabbi Jeremy Wieder, Professor of Talmud, Yeshiva University
Diane L. Zimmerman, Professor of Law, NYU
Monday, April 11, 2005
6:00 pm
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
55 Fifth Avenue (at 12th Street)
Informal Reception to Follow
For more information, please contact Joe Goetz, Executive Director, Program in
Intellectual Property, Cardozo School of Law
212-790-0207 or jgoetz1 at yu dot edu
(link here)

Posts so far for parshat Tazria

Year 1
to be continued...

Pope reincarnated

as superhero? with an anti-Devil cape and special chastity pants?

Reminds me of the joke of the elderly Jew trying to figure out why the priest sitting next to him is wearing his collar backwards.

The Carnival of Biblical Studies

is up, over at The Ebla Logs. There is an entry from parshablog there, on epsitolic formula in parshat Vayishlach. My entry is a bit out of place, compared with the focus of the other entries and blogs, though. Check it out.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Vayikra #1: Moshe's name

Parshat Vaykira begins with Hashem calling to Moshe. (Vayikra 1:1)

א וַיִּקְרָא, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה; וַיְדַבֵּר ה אֵלָיו, מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר. 1 The LORD called unto Moses, and spoke unto him out of the tent of meeting, saying:
The Midrash interprets this as: of all the numerous names Moshe had (and the Midrash interprets various psukim to demonstrate Moshe's other names, Hashem chose to call him only the name that Pharaoh's daughter gave him. Thus, וַיִּקְרָא, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, "and He called unto Moshe."

Moshe's name is not a trivial matter. I already posted once about it, but wish to elaborate a bit more.

The first thing to know about Biblical etymologies is that they do not always work out linguistically. This is not a bug, it is a feature. (If it were a bug, it would be entomology, not etymology :) That is, it is quite common that the name does not resolve according to grammar to bear the exact meaning, or turn out to be the same root, as one might expect from the impetus described in the verse. Other factors besides linguistic derivation play a role is determining a name - a name might be motivated by assonance or sound symbolism, for example.

Let us consider some examples. First, Noach: In Bereishit 5:29:

כט וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ נֹחַ, לֵאמֹר: זֶה יְנַחֲמֵנוּ מִמַּעֲשֵׂנוּ, וּמֵעִצְּבוֹן יָדֵינוּ, מִן-הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר אֵרְרָהּ ה. 29 And he called his name Noah, saying: 'This same shall comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, which cometh from the ground which the LORD hath cursed.'
Speiser, in Anchor Bible Genesis, writes:

That is, the Masoretic text (MT) gives יְנַחֲמֵנוּ, meaning "shall comfort us." This is slightly difficult because the root of that is nh.m, while the name Noach has nwh. at its root. As Speiser says, it is not so difficult, in that many biblical etymologies are not guided by linguistic considerations. Here, יְנַחֲמֵנוּ sounds similar to Noach, and thus, via assonance, it is an appropriate source for the name, at least as a biblical etymology.

By the way, Speiser starts by noting that the Septuagint, the LXX, might, but need not reflect yanuach. That is, the Greek translation might, but might not, be based on an alternate Hebrew text which had at the root of the etymology nwh., matching Noach's name better. The thing is, you cannot really tell based on the Greek translation, because it could have about as easily have at its base the Hebrew יְנַחֲמֵנוּ, as we have in our Masoretic texts. And even if it did reflect a variant reading, the Masoretic text would be better, since it is a more difficult reading. That is, under the principle of lectio difficilior, the rule of the difficult word, under certain situations, the more difficult word choice is more likely the original, since one is prone to emend the text to make it easier {in this case, to "fix" the etymology}, rather than in the opposite direction, making the text harder. (See my post Megilla and lectio difficilior.)

At any rate, this is an example, among many, of Biblical etyomologies that do not break down lingustically. Here, it is assonance at play, or else sound symbolism that considers Noach and Nachem to be related because of their similar sounds. (An idea not so farfetched in fact, in certain instances Hebrew, though I would not necessarily take it as far and comprehensive as, say, Rav Shamshon ben Refael Hirsch.)

Another good example is Kayin. We read in Bereishit 4:1

א וְהָאָדָם, יָדַע אֶת-חַוָּה אִשְׁתּוֹ; וַתַּהַר, וַתֵּלֶד אֶת-קַיִן, וַתֹּאמֶר, קָנִיתִי אִישׁ אֶת-ה. 1 And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said: 'I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.'
Speiser, in Anchor Bible Genesis, writes:

Verse 22 is:

כב וְצִלָּה גַם-הִוא, יָלְדָה אֶת-תּוּבַל קַיִן--לֹטֵשׁ, כָּל-חֹרֵשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת וּבַרְזֶל; וַאֲחוֹת תּוּבַל-קַיִן, נַעֲמָה. 22 And Zillah, she also bore Tubal-cain, the forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

Once again, the etymology is not linguistically based, and Speiser explains it is sound symbolism. Why? For the roots do not exactly work out. However, since they sound similar, kaniti is the etymology given for Kayin.

Another example is Shet: In Berseishit 4:25:

כה וַיֵּדַע אָדָם עוֹד, אֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ, וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן, וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ שֵׁת: כִּי שָׁת-לִי אֱלֹהִים, זֶרַע אַחֵר--תַּחַת הֶבֶל, כִּי הֲרָגוֹ קָיִן. 25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bore a son, and called his name Seth: 'for God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel; for Cain slew him.'

That is, shat (granted) sounds similar to Shet, and is thus the basis of the name Shet. This is not the same as saying that Shet means granted.

One last example, to make things more difficult:
In Bereishit 2:23:

כג וַיֹּאמֶר, הָאָדָם, זֹאת הַפַּעַם עֶצֶם מֵעֲצָמַי, וּבָשָׂר מִבְּשָׂרִי; לְזֹאת יִקָּרֵא אִשָּׁה, כִּי מֵאִישׁ לֻקְחָה-זֹּאת. 23 And the man said: 'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.'

Speiser notes:

Here is possibly another example of assonance. The claim Speiser makes reference to here is that isha comes from the root `nsh. That is, if you look at the word isha, אִשָּׁה, you will note that there is a strong dagesh in the letter shin. This reflects a letter nun that has been assimilated into the shin, such that the word is * `insha --> ish:a. Thus, the masculine form would be `enosh, rather than `ish.

Ibn Ezra promotes the Biblical etymology, saying that אִשָּׁה does in fact come from אִישׁ. The yud quiesces, compelled by the fact that otherwise people might confuse it with אִישָׁהּ, "her husband." Thus, the strong dagesh causing gemination of the shin is the result of the assimilation of the yud, not a nun.

{We can look at it another way. With the elision of the yud, the vowel transforms from a full chirik, which is a long vowel, to a deficient chirik, which is a short vowel. Long (vowelled) unstressed syllables may be open syllables, but unstressed syllables with short vowels must be closed. Thus, the gemination via strong dagesh of the shin, such that it closes the syllable `ish and begins the syllable shah. }

Both אִישׁ and אִשָּׁה use the root אנש, `nsh, to form their plurals. For men, it is אנשים, and for women, נשים. According to the claim that אִשָּׁה also comes from אנש, then three out of four come from this single root.

Assuming we say that אשה does come from אנש, then this etymology of אִשָּׁה by assonance is more problematic than the other cases. Here, it seems te the etymology of the word, in which case it should reflect the actual linguistic basis. I would point out, though, that the word אִשָּׁה was already used in the preceding pasuk, such that this might not be the creation of the noun. True, it is possible that, just as the animals are being named a few psukim back, so too woman is named here. On the other hand, perhaps this is a Proper Noun, and is her name, changed later, after the sin, to Chava because she is the mother of all living. As her name, it could be he chose this because of its assonance to אִישׁ. Even as a regular noun, it could be that אִשָּׁה was chosen by Adam from a list of other names for woman as a counterpart of אִישׁ (as it is used throughout Torah) because of the assonance. Or, one could say, he had the option of calling her a name designating a completely different species, but chose אשה, from אנש, to designate her as the same species, and justified it with a poetic statement such as we often find by the giving of names, such that there is assonance in play.

So much for this digression. Back to the matter at hand, which is that it is quite common for a Biblical etymology to be not based on grammar, but by other considerations, such as assonance.

There are, then, two possible attitudes to take about such etymologies.

The first is that if the grammar does not work out, then the etymology is false. That is, there was some true etymology, long forgotten, and the Biblical etymology is made up by someone who did not know or did not care for grammar, or else is an imaginative explanation of the name designed for the enjoyment of the audience.

The second is that through the generations, people did not always give names to their children and others such that the impetus behind the name is an exact linguistic match. They believed in sound symbolism, or used assonance in choosing names. The names themselves might mean something, if we examine it using Hebrew, or Akkadian grammar, but the names were chosen because of assonance of other considerations. Further, not everyone was a Hebrew grammarian.

I would argue for the validity of the second attitude - I know someone named Avigayil after her grandfather Avraham.

Now, with the understanding that it is not an exception but rather almost a rule that Biblical names do not always conform 100% grammatically to the impetus given in the pasuk, we can turn to Moshe's name. His name may or may not conform exactly to the Biblical etymology, grammatically speaking, but even if it does not, it would not be earth-shattering.

Let us see what William Propp writes in Achor Bible Exodus. First, look at the citation of Ibn Ezra, in the second paragraph, third and fourth line from the end of the paragraph:

1) Ibn Ezra does indeed state that grammatically speaking, it should have been mashuy rather than Moshe, but he would have taken offense at the way his opinion is being characterized here. What Ibn Ezra actually said was that you should not be bewildered by the fact that given the reasoning behind the name, it should have been mashuy, for in general, many Biblical names do not follow the dictates of grammar.

This is why I offered these examples of assonance in Biblical names - to show that it is in fact a common practice.

Thus, even if it would mean "Drawer from the water," this should be absolutely no problem in terms of it being the true etymology of Moshe's name -- assuming one adopts attitude number two. Instead, we see attitude number one - that the etymology is spurious, and that there was a true etymology which is not known by the author.

1.5) I would add: Pharaoh's daughter is not a Semitic grammarian such that she would choose a name that works out grammatically.

2) It is also possible that Moshe's name would be grammatically correct, assuming it is the Qal passive participle (usually, we have a different form than Qal, namely Nif'al, functioning as the passive), as suggested by David Noel Freedman. Propp notes this possibility, but also notes that it is rare, this seeming to be a reason to reject it. In fact, the qal passive participle may be more common than we think, since it is a matter of vowelization - many Puals might be interpreted as Qal passive particles. Also, rare forms are often really non-rare archaic forms, where the grammar has moved on since the time it was usual. Often these forms appear in Biblical poetry since archaic forms are poetic. But, as I suggested in a previous post, names also do not change as quickly as the grammar, so this form may not have been rare at all when Moshe was named, or else was chosen because its archaic nature made the name poetic.

3) He points out that an Egyptian princess is giving him a Hebrew name, an unlikely occurrence, and one that hints at dim familiarity with the "true" Egyptian origin of the name.

But we must remember that this is an Egyptian princess who, upon seeing the boy, exclaimed "From the Hebrew children is this one!" She is the one who sought a Hebrew nursemaid for the infant. Moshe knew he was a Hebrew, such that when he grew up, he went out to see how the Egyptian taskmasters were treating his bretheren. Pharaoh's daughter was able to converse with Miriam and Yocheved, so either they spoke Egyptian or she spoke Hebrew. Also, if you look at the psukim, Moshe was not named immediately, but after he grew up a bit. Pharaoh's daighter had plenty of time to consult with Yocheved, Miriam, or some Hebrew speaking advisor who could tell her an appropriate Hebrew name for the boy she is raising in the palace as a Hebrew.

Thus, the fact that she chooses a Hebrew name is not surprising at all.

It can be evidence of spurious imaginitive etymology if you really want to use it for this, but one need not be compelled by this to think that the etymology must be made up.

4) Even assuming the Biblical etymology is false, other Hebrew etymologies are possible. One possibility is "Drawer Out." Once we discard the etymology as fictional, we may as well also discard the Egyptian princess giving the name as fictional. If so, why go for an Egyptian etymology?

To cite Propp: "The likelihood of Hurrian, Kassite, or Sumerian derivation is surely low. If Moses' name is not Hebrew, what could it be but Egyptian?"

But how does he know it is not Hebrew? He rejected a specific Hebrew etymology, but not any possible Hebrew etymology. Especially once you discard the narrative, which opens up an entire
field of possibilities.

5) The Egyptian etymology is not as good as the Hebrew one. That is, it is only part of a name. It was thus something like Thutmose with the Thut dropped off. He says Mose can stand on its own. We do in fact see this in Hebrew theophoric {lit. "carrying god"} names, such that Azaryahu becomes Azzur. But while Mose {"Son"} is theoretically possible, do we actually have concrete instances of this name? (I don't know - he uses the words "can stand alone.")

Further, some voice reservations. Why? Because Moshe should be Mose. That is, it should then be מסה, not משה. The sh and s are different phones (sounds). Plus, we know that the ס is used for these Egyptian "Mose" names. Consider Ramses, רעמסס, which is supposedly the same - it is Ra' + MSS = Son of Ra. If ש is being used to denote this phone, it should be רעמשש.

He defends it by saying that it is admittedly difficult, but do you have a better suggestion?! It is not likely Sumerian, Kassite or Hurrian.

Meanwhile, the Hebrew works out perfectly phonetically.

6) There are other suggestions he mentions and rejects, which might have merit, but you can see them in the clip I provided above.

7) Meanwhile, some people regard this Egyptian etymology as gospel (pardon the expression), many probably because they do not know the details behind it, but just know that "that is what scholars say." That is what some (probably most) Biblical scholars say. Others suggest other things.

Because the Egyptian etymology is the "scholarly" one, some may assume that it must be true and then try to work it into the pasuk. This was the subject matter of a post on Hirhurim (Moses and Mada). He notes that the Netziv explains that he is called Moshe because the verse says that "he became her son." The statement "Because I drew him out of the water" in incidental, just explaining why she considered him her son. The pasuk:
י וַיִּגְדַּל הַיֶּלֶד, וַתְּבִאֵהוּ לְבַת-פַּרְעֹה, וַיְהִי-לָהּ, לְבֵן; וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, מֹשֶׁה, וַתֹּאמֶר, כִּי מִן-הַמַּיִם מְשִׁיתִהוּ. 10 And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses, and said: 'Because I drew him out of the water.'
While this is a possible explanation of the pasuk, I think it is farfetched as peshat, because this form of [s]he called / for [s]he said is used many times, and it always is the etymological basis for the name.

I would possibly agree to a dual etymology (Hebrew and Egyptian), but the pashtan in me rejects the Netziv's explanation of the pasuk.

I think more likely is that either assonance is in play here, such that the grammar need not work out, or else that it is the rare Hebrew Qal passive participle form.

Siyum HaShas Yerushalmi

Two Shabbosim ago I made a siyum on all of Talmud Yerushalmi, finishing with Kiddushin. We had the siyum at Rabbi Friedman's shul in Kew Gardens Hills, during seudah shlishit. We set up an area in the ezrat nashim, so that my mom, my sister, my wife, and Meir Yaakov came as well.

The end of kiddushin is built for a siyum - it is at the end of seder nashim, and it contains soft and engaging material, most probably deliberately so, as a result. Thus, I did not really have to add much over the Mishna and Gemara. It is all about choosing Torah as a career, and the benefits of such a choice (on a very practical level). It ends with a reminder of the importance of enjoying what the world has to offer.

הדרן עלך הניזקין!
הדרן עלך האומר!
הדרן עלך מי שאחזו קורדייקוס!
הדרן עלך הזורק!
הדרן עלך המגרש!
(prakim 5-9 of yerushalmi gittin)
וסליקא לה מסכת גיטין

הדרן עלך האשה נקנית!
הדרן עלך האיש מקדש!
הדרן עלך האומר לחבירו!
הדרן עלך עשרה יוחסין!
(prakim 1-4 of yerushalmi kiddushin)
וסליקא לה מסכת קידושין
וכולא סידרא דנשים
וכולא תלמוד ירושלמי

Friday, April 01, 2005

Shemini #1: The Stork and the Bat: Birds of a Feather?

An interesting non-kosher animal mentioned in this week's parsha is the עֲטַלֵּף, the bat. Rav Shamshon ben Rephael Hirsch classifies this amongst other quadriliteral roots that etymologically break down into the letter ע + a triliteral root describing some basic feature.

Thus, for example, the Akrav עקרב, scorpion (mentioned by the way recently on the Rif blog), is ע + קרב, war, because of its viciousness. טלף means hoof or claw, so עֲטַלֵּף is a clawed flying creature, the bat.

It may seem strange to us that the bat is classified amongst birds, such as the stork and the heron. In Vayikra 11:

יג וְאֶת-אֵלֶּה תְּשַׁקְּצוּ מִן-הָעוֹף, לֹא יֵאָכְלוּ שֶׁקֶץ הֵם: אֶת-הַנֶּשֶׁר, וְאֶת-הַפֶּרֶס, וְאֵת, הָעָזְנִיָּה. 13 And these ye shall have in detestation among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are a detestable thing: the great vulture, and the bearded vulture, and the ospray;
יד וְאֶת-הַדָּאָה--וְאֶת-הָאַיָּה, לְמִינָהּ. 14 and the kite, and the falcon after its kinds;
טו אֵת כָּל-עֹרֵב, לְמִינוֹ. 15 every raven after its kinds;
טז וְאֵת בַּת הַיַּעֲנָה, וְאֶת-הַתַּחְמָס וְאֶת-הַשָּׁחַף; וְאֶת-הַנֵּץ, לְמִינֵהוּ. 16 and the ostrich, and the night-hawk, and the sea-mew, and the hawk after its kinds;
יז וְאֶת-הַכּוֹס וְאֶת-הַשָּׁלָךְ, וְאֶת-הַיַּנְשׁוּף. 17 and the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl;
יח וְאֶת-הַתִּנְשֶׁמֶת וְאֶת-הַקָּאָת, וְאֶת-הָרָחָם. 18 and the horned owl, and the pelican, and the carrion-vulture;
יט וְאֵת, הַחֲסִידָה, הָאֲנָפָה, לְמִינָהּ; וְאֶת-הַדּוּכִיפַת, וְאֶת-הָעֲטַלֵּף. 19 and the stork, and the heron after its kinds, and the hoopoe, and the bat.
To which one might have two (incorrect, IMHO) responses. The first is that the translation of עֲטַלֵּף as bat is suspect. The second is that God, and Moshe, do not know their zoology, such that they thing the bat is a bird!

The first thing to note is that all these things are described as עוף.

What is עוף?

The English translation gives fowl, which to us means birds, and the bat is not a bird. However, עוף simply means flying creature, or just flying, when used as a bird.

Consider Bereishit 1:20:
כ וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים--יִשְׁרְצוּ הַמַּיִם, שֶׁרֶץ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה; וְעוֹף יְעוֹפֵף עַל-הָאָרֶץ, עַל-פְּנֵי רְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם. 20 And God said: 'Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let fowl fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.'
A better translation would be: Let flying creatures fly. We see יְעוֹפֵף means fly, so עוֹף are creatures that fly.

Now, a bat flies just as much as a stork flies.

We would still have a problem - even if עוף means flying creatures, why would the Torah list is here, amongst types of birds. A better grouping would be with rodents and other swarming creatures, with the mouse. After all, the scientific classification lists the bat amongst other rodents. Does God not know modern zoology?

I think the question makes certain unfounded assumptions, amongst them that the scientific classification is the only correct classification.

This touches slightly on a philisophical dispute between the Nominalists and the Realists. Realists believe that names, that is abstracts, have an existence outside of the things they describe, whereas Nominalists consider these classifications just names that are used to describe the underlying reality, and only have existence in our imaginations.

Classifications are really arbitrary. Depending upon what you are interested in, you may classify things differently.

Naturalists are interested in studying the biology and behaviors of animals, and classify the animals based on certain shared features. They choose the more important features, and break them into kingdoms, families, etc., all the way down to species.

A farmer, or hunter, might classify animals differently, based on where they are found, or how well they go with red wine.

There is an underlying reality, but the classification is a convenient system for categorizing things into groups based on your specific interests.

The classification system used in Biblical times is not the same as the one the naturalists use today, but it is an equally valid system. It seems to divide up animals based on their habitat (water, land, air) and their method of motion (creeping, swarming, flying, etc.).

In the classification system used in the Bible, it is perfectly acceptable, and in fact correct, to list the bat amongst other flying creatures.

The same thing goes for Yonah and the whale. It is not clear that the large daga that swallowed him was in fact a whale, but if it was, then people object that it is called a daga, a fish, and the whale is a mammal, not a fish. Does God not know that the whale is not a fish?!

You have got to be kidding me.

The modern classification system indeed says that the whale is not a fish but a mammal, but that does not mean that it could not be classified as a fish in the Biblical classification system, which is what is being used. After all, Dibra Torah KiLeshon BeNei Adam, the Torah speaks in the language of humans, and no doubt in ancient times it was categorized as a fish. It swims in the water, looks like a fish, etcetera. Who is to say it is not a fish?

One final example, from this web site, which talks of the classification of fruit:
Forget everything you think you think you know about fruit! Much of it is incorrect. Many things we call vegetables are fruits. Many things we call berries are not berries at all. Nuts and grains are fruits as well, but not all the things we call nuts are true nuts!

The scientific definition of a fruit is any structure that develops from a fertilized ovary and contains seeds of the plant. All fruits come from the ovaries of a flower. Therefore, many things that we consider to be “vegetables” are actually fruits . For example tomatoes, cucumbers, beans (green beans as well as all other beans), peas, peppers, corn, eggplant and squash are all fruits.
I do not think that much of what people think they know about fruit is incorrect. Rather, there are two classification systems at play.

One is the scientific one, in which corn, tomatoes, beans, and peppers are fruit.

The other one is the (informal because it is not "scientific") culinary classification, in which sweet things that can be eaten raw are called fruits, and things which are not sweet when raw and things which must be cooked to be eaten are considered vegetables.

Both the culinary classification and the scientific classification break things into sets of "fruits" and "vegetables." The culinary "fruit" and the scientific "fruit" are homonyms and homographs (pronounced and written the same) but they refer to different sets of items. (As another example, the word "variable" means entirely different things in computer science and in statistics.) The sets overlap to a great degree (because they are trying to classify the same items), but they are not identical.

So, I do not think that one classification is wrong.


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