Thursday, September 29, 2005

Copepods to the Rescue!

While some Orthodox Jews in New York city have been taking pains to remove the copepods from their tap-water, in Southeast Asia they are deliberately introducing them to the water supply. It seems to be the same type of copepod we have here as well - the Mesocyclops copepod. Many have died from dengue fever, spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitos. But the Mesocyclops copepod feasts upon the larvae of this mosquito, thus wiping out the Aedes aegypti mosquito population.

From the AFP article:
Modern cross-border transport, poor sanitation and inadequate surveillance by public-health authorities have helped drive an epidemic of dengue fever in tropical countries.
Southeast Asia is bearing the brunt of the latest global push of the disease. The source is a daytime-biting mosquito, Aedes aegypti, which picks up the dengue virus from an infected human and then hands it to someone else with its next blood meal.

This means taking fundamental steps such as improving water provisions and sewerage for shanty towns, encouraging the public to empty water containers and stepping up surveillance so that outbreaks of the disease are spotted at the earliest stage.
But a novel strategy has been pioneered in parts of northern and central Vietnam.
A. aegypti has been wiped out in these communities by a campaign to "seed" water tanks with a microscopic crustacean called Mesocyclops copepod, which feasts on mosquito larvae, a study published last February said.

Daf Yomi Shabbat 147b: Quicksand --
Reuters Does The Daf

Patricia Reaney of Reuters keeps pace with the Daf with a report on the viscosity and buoyancy of quicksand.

The Rif (here and here) had explained the Mishna (and gemara's) statement on Shabbat 147b about a piloma as referring to an area with quicksand. (Others explain differently.)
What is the reason? Because of sinking [in the clay soil].

{The Rif explains this as a quicksand like substance:}
To explain: it is a valley, and there is there water, underneath which is clay which is like glue, and if a man goes down there, we fear lest he sink into that clay and get stuck there, unable to ascend until they assemble other men and bring him out from there.

And there is one who says that one who bathes in particular valley in cooled, and those particular waters loosen the bowels.
From the Rif's explanation of the metziut we see that there seems to be no concern of drowning, just of being stuck. We also see that it takes many people to bring him out.

From the Reuter's article, on the study of quicksand:
Quicksand is not the bottomless pit portrayed in Hollywood films that sucks in unsuspecting victims and swallows them whole.

It is true the more people struggle, the deeper they will sink into the soupy mixture but its buoyancy makes it impossible to be completely submerged, scientists said on Wednesday.


He and his colleagues showed that Hollywood had got it wrong by measuring the viscosity, the resistance to flow, of quicksand and its sinking ability.

They also calculated the amount of force necessary to get a trapped foot out -- and found it was the equivalent needed to lift a medium-sized car. Their findings are reported in the science journal Nature.


The scientists advised people trapped in quicksand not to panic and to wiggle.

"All you have to do to get your foot out is to introduce water into the sand and if you can do that along your leg by wiggling your leg around, that is the best way to get out," Bonn said.

This is a good alternative to waiting for many people to gather.

The article in Nature, together with pictures of a toy Tazmanian devil sinking only partially in quicksand, can be seen here.

Daf Yomi Shabbat 147b: Resetting Dislocated Vertebrae

(Please note: The following discussion is not lemaaseh. As always, consult your local Orthodox Rabbi.)

Over at the Rif's blog, the Rif cited lehalacha a discussion in the gemara about resetting joints or vertebrae of an infant if they become dislocated.
Rabba bar bar Chana said {in our gemara, he cites Rabbi Yochanan}: To swaddle an infant on Shabbat is permitted. But we learnt {in the Mishna} ONE MAY NOT STRAIGHTEN AN INFANT['S LIMBS]? There it refers to the spinal vertebrae, which appears as building.
{If one is dislocated it may not be reset.}

Rav Chana of Bagdad cited Shmuel:

{Shabbat 148a}
The halacha is that one may reset a fracture.
{He held that this is the correct reading of the Mishnah.}

And so is the halacha.
Angel One left an interesting and insightful comment on the blogpost.
2 things bothered me about not being able to set an infant's vertebrae should one become dislocated. (Admittedly this is Rashi's interpretation of the passage).

1) When is a dislocated vertebrae in an infant NOT a life or death situation? Especially since you can't tell an infant: "don't move, the doctor will come in an hour".

2) Why only infants? Does this rule apply to adults too?

And I decided to prepare a response - one somewhat lengthy such that this is a more appropriate venue. Note this is a question regarding the gemara, not the Rif.

A) The Cop-Out
My immediate reaction to the question was a cop-out. That is, if you look carefully, Rabbi Yochanan did not make the joints/vertebrae distinction. The one troubled by the fact that there is a contradiction, and the attempt at harmonization, is presented by the anonymous narrative voice of the gemara, the stama degemara, which might be late, and which frequently attempts harmonization.

This harmonization reads into the Mishna words that are not technically there - the Mishna just says "straighten," and this would seem to be able to refer to resetting any dislocation, not just the vertebrae. Rabbi Yochanan's statement, about "swaddling," whose purpose seems to be resetting dislocations {"straightening"} of all types. Why assume the Mishna is speaking of a specific type of dislocation?

Indeed, one might easily say that Rabbi Yochanan intended to argue against the law as laid down in the Mishna. He is after all a first generation Palestinian Amora, and is privy to other traditions - just as bar Kappara and Rav Hoshaya Rabba record braytot with alternative positions, or versions of statements. This is actually not uncommon for Rabbi Yochanan. (One might also say "Tanna hu u-falig.") Then, the Mishna claims one may not reset any dislocations on children, just as the Mishna says one may not reset any fractures (in general). Rabbi Yochanan argues and states that one may.

In fact, we see a similar dispute in the following portion of the gemara (cited above in anticipation). That is, the Mishna stated that one may not reset a broken bone, and Shmuel claims that the halacha is that one may in fact set a broken bone. The fact that Shmuel uses the word halacha implies that he knows it is a matter of dispute. Shmuel, the first generation Babylonian Amora, here had a different tradition - what might be termed a different version of the Mishna, or else a different tradition of the halacha but encoded outside the Mishna, perhaps in a brayta. In this instance, no harmonization is attempted to distinguish between different types of fractures.

One would add, then, that the problem in the Mishna is not one of boneh {from the words "looks like boneh," it would seem to be of Rabbinic decree} but rather one of refua on Shabbat, which is in many instances forbidden (and which seems to be the trend of the cases listed in the Mishna). (Cases involving danger to life are an exception.)

If so, the issue with dislocated vertebrae being an extremely dangerous condition finds no purchase. Or does it? For Rabbi Yochanan and for the original meaning in the Mishna (and perhaps one should also say lehalacha...), there is no problem. However, the stama degemara did offer an explanation - perhaps the correct one, and perhaps not. We should understand his position.

B) Why Dislocated Vertebrae Do Not Pose A Danger - Explaining the stama's position

In order to explain the thought process of the stama degemara, one needs very specific medical knowlege. This medical knowledge is not the one common today, but rather the one prevalent in Talmudic (or perhaps slightly post-Talmudic) times. This is difficult, because there is actually an ancient dispute about the nature and treatment of dislocated vertebrae, so how do you know you are looking at the correct ancient source which was adopted by the gemara?

What we know for certain is that the stama degemara must have thought that some spinal dislocation did not pose a danger to life. For if there were danger to life, there would be no issue of refua on Shabbat. Indeed, there would be no issue of boneh {building}, even Biblical in origin, for danger to life supercedes this. (And if it "appears" to be building, then any prohibition would perhaps be Rabbinic, in which case it would surely be superceded by danger to life.)

Let us turn to Latin encyclopedist, Celsus, Aulus Cornelius, from about 14 CE. His only extant work, De Medicina (On Medicine), is an 8 book treatise on medicine. In his eighth book, he writes:
13 As I stated in the first part, the head is held by two processes, inserted into two cups in the highest vertebra. These processes sometimes slip out backwards; with the result that the sinews under the occiput are stretched, and the chin fixed to the chest; the man cannot drink or speak, and sometimes has involuntary emission of semen; upon these symptoms death very quickly supervenes. Now I thought this condition should be described, not that there is any treatment for it, but that it may be recognized by these indications, and that those who have lost someone in this way may not deem the medical man to have been at fault.

14 The same fate awaits those whose spinal vertebrae have been dislocated; for this cannot happen without rupture of the marrow in the middle of them, and of the two little membranes which pass oust between the two processes at the side, and of the sinews which hold them together. But the vertebrae may slip pout both backwards and forwards, above the diaphragm or below it.

The direction of the displacement is indicated either by a swelling or by a hollow at the back. If it happens above the diaphragm, there is paralysis of the arms, and vomiting or spasm follow, breathing is difficult, pain is severe, and hearing blunted. If below the diaphragm, the lower limbs are paralysed, the urine is suppressed, or sometimes is passed involuntarily. From such accidents the man dies more slowly than when the head is displaced, yet within three days.

As for what Hippocrates said, that when a vertebra has been displaced backwards, the man is to be laid out on his face, and stretched out, while an assistant presses his heel upon the displaced bone and pushes it inwards, that procedure is only to be adopted when the bone has slipped out a little, not if there is a total displacement. For occasionally weakness of the sinews causes a vertebra, although not displaced, to project a little, either backwards or forwards. This is not a fatal accident, but we cannot press upon a vertebra from within; it cannot even be touched; and if it is pressed upon from outside, it generally slips back again, unless, as very rarely happens, the strength of the sinews is renewed.
So Celsus surely felt that most instances of dislocated vertebrae were extremely dangerous. Perhaps one might say that since he dies more slowly, there is more time to fix it, and so one can wait a few hours until after Shabbat.

Or better, perhaps the case the gemara speaks of is the latter case. To cite Celsus again:
For occasionally weakness of the sinews causes a vertebra, although not displaced, to project a little, either backwards or forwards. This is not a fatal accident, but we cannot press upon a vertebra from within; it cannot even be touched; and if it is pressed upon from outside, it generally slips back again, unless, as very rarely happens, the strength of the sinews is renewed.
Here is an instance of non-fatal dislocation of vertebrae. It is not only non-fatal, but (if I understand him correctly) Celsus seems to recommend against treating it at all, for it is pointless - or at least that one will need to repeatedly put it back in place.

Since this type of spinal dislocation was known, it would seem that this is the case offered by the gemara to harmonize Rabbi Yochanan and the Mishna.

C) Why specifically an infant?
This solved the difficulty of how the gemara could recommend delaying resetting dislocated vertebrae on Shabbat. But why specifically a child or an infant? Does the same apply to an adult?

In terms of dangerous spinal dislocations, certainly both a child and adult can be treated, the appearance of boneh be darned! In terms of setting fractures of bones (the next segment in the gemara), neither the Mishna nor Shmuel mentioned children specifically, and anyway, we rule like Shmuel that it is permitted.

What is left? The issue of whether one may reset dislocated bones in general, or this non-fatal spinal dislocation. Both of these are stated in terms of children or infants. Why?

Back to Celsus. From the same book, chapter 11:
Since all joints, including the jawbone and vertebrae, are held in place by strong sinews, they are displaced either by force or after some accident which has ruptured or weakened the sinews, and this occurs more readily in boys and youths, than in the more robust. And these joints slip out forwards, backwards, inwards, outwards, some in all directions, some in certain only. And there are some signs which are common to all, some special to each; there is always a swelling in the part into which the bone has ruptured, and a hollow whence the bone has receded.
These signs are found in all, but others only in some cases; these I will describe when speaking of each separately. But while it is possible for all joints to slip out, yet not all can be replaced. For the head is never forced back into position, nor is a spinal vertebra, nor a jawbone which has been dislocated forwards on both sides, and has become inflamed before it has been replaced. Again, any joints which have slipped owing to a lesion of their sinews, even when forced back into position slip out again. Also when joints have been dislocated in childhood, and have not been replaced, there is less growth than elsewhere.
The flesh of all which are out of place wastes, and in the near more than in the distant part of the limb; for instance, if the upper arm-bone is not in its place, the wasting is more here than in the forearm, more in the forearm than in the hand.
Again, according to the site and character of the accidents, more or less use of the limb is retained; and the more use is retained, the less does it waste. Now every dislocation ought to be replaced before there is inflammation; but if this has set in already, the limb is not to be disturbed until after it subsides; only when it has ended should replacement be attempted in the limbs which allow of it. But for this much depends upon the general constitution of the patient and his sinews. For if his body is slender, and humid, if sinews are weak, the bone is readily replaced; but just as the bones slips out more easily in the first instance, so the replacement is less secure. With an opposite type of constitution the replacement is more lasting but there is more difficulty in restoring that which has been put out of position. The inflammation should be relieved by applying greasy wool saturated with vinegar: there should be abstinence from food, in the case of the stronger joints, for three days, some he said for five; warm water is drunk, enough to relieve thirst; this regimen must be followed more strictly after dislocation of bones which are held in place by strong and large muscles; far more strictly indeed if fever supervenes;
then after the fifth day there should be hot-water fomentation; when the wool is removed, a cerate must be applied made with cyprus oil with the addition of soda, until all inflammation has ended. Then the limb is to be rubbed, good food given and wine in moderation; and now also the natural use of the limb is to be encouraged; because though movement when it gives pain is harmful, it is otherwise most beneficial to the body. After these generalities, I will now speak of particular cases.
The Mishna, and Rabbi Yochanan, might be speaking of infants and children because it is the more common case (dibra torah behoveh), since bones and spinal vertebrae are more easily dislocated, because of weakness of the sinews.

Further, Celsus said that if pressure is exerted from without, "it generally slips back again, unless, as very rarely happens, the strength of the sinews is renewed." As a child ages, and his constitution improves, the strength of the sinews increases, and the dislocation is less likely to recur.

Another reason it is important to reset dislocations in children is, as Celsus said, "Also when joints have been dislocated in childhood, and have not been replaced, there is less growth than elsewhere." Thus, perhaps one might argue that here is a reason to reset the dislocation as soon as possible, even on Shabbat - a reason not applicable to a non-fatal dislocation in an adult. So perhaps it would not apply to adults.

I have not conducted a search in Rishonim/Acharonim on whether resetting non-spinal dislocations only applies to infants (that is more a Hirhurim thing to do). Again, consult your local Orthodox Rabbi as regards any practical application of the gemara.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Torah Codes and Yeter/Chaser

Over at Hirhurim, in a post entitled Torah Codes and the Talmud, Rabbi Gil Student cited the Talmudic statement in Kiddushin 30a that we are not experts in the plene and deficient spellings of words in the Torah as a convincing argument against the possible validity of the Torah Codes. After all, if there is an extra or missing letter, all the letters shift over, and the codes found at whatever skip length that crosses this variant will be invalidated. (E.g., if a word is formed by choosing each 50th letter, and a letter is missing in the Torah that should be there, then at some point one chooses the 49th letter instead of the 50th.) He notes that Dr. Elman (at YU) wrote the same.

This is all old news to me. Many years I heard the same from Dr. Bernstein - it is an obvious issue. However, the resolution seemed just as obvious to me. But first, a digression:

In Masechet Sofrim 6:4 (also occurs elsewhere, such as Yalkut Shimoni):
{Update: also, Sifrei Devarim, as well as Yerushamli Ta'anis, 20B 4:2 - courtesy of a post by Greg Gershman about this source}
Three books were found in the [Temple] courtyard - the maon book, the za'atutei book, and the hi book... so they retained the [majority] reading of the two and abandoned the [minority] of one.
To cite Gil Student's explanation from Torah Emet:
In other words, when Ezra returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, he was able to find three reliable scrolls with minor differences. The differences were as follows. In one, the word נערי was written in its Aramaic translation זאטוטי. In another, the word מעונה was written מעון without the final ה. And in the third, the word היא was written as הוא (but vocalized as 'hi') in eleven places.
I would add that the scrolls from the Temple Courtyard are not just any scrolls. They were exceptionally accurate scrolls, used to correct and confirm the correct girsa in other scrolls. They served in much the same role as the Allepo Codex and Leningrad Codex in more recent times. So here, they (perhaps Ezra) wanted to establish the correct text, and there were slight differences between codices.

In order to decide between these divergent texts, they seem to have used a principle laid down in Shemot 23:2:
א לֹא תִשָּׂא, שֵׁמַע שָׁוְא; אַל-תָּשֶׁת יָדְךָ עִם-רָשָׁע, לִהְיֹת עֵד חָמָס. 1 Thou shalt not utter a false report; put not thy hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.
ב לֹא-תִהְיֶה אַחֲרֵי-רַבִּים, לְרָעֹת; וְלֹא-תַעֲנֶה עַל-רִב, לִנְטֹת אַחֲרֵי רַבִּים--לְהַטֹּת. 2 Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou bear witness in a cause to turn aside after a multitude to pervert justice;
On a peshat level, this means that one should not go after a multitude to pervert from the correct. However, on a midrashic (hyper-literal, significance-maximalist) level, one can zoom in to just those words, and this phrase, and claim that the word וְלֹא only applies to the immediately following phrase (bear witness in a cause to turn aside) and not to the next phrase. Thus, there are certain instances in which one should go after a multitude (or majority) to pervert.

Thus, the solution adopted was to follow the majority. Each of these scrolls had a unique reading not found in the other two. If so, we should ignore the reading in the single scroll and follow the other two scrolls. (Note that this was also in choosing amongst exceptionally good textual witnesses.)

Thus the final, composite scroll did not entirely match any of the three sources exactly. If one one of them was the original, then the resulting scroll did not contain the original text. However, this did not matter. Since they applied the halachic principle of acharei rabim lehatot, following the majority, even to pervert, the final, composite scroll was an halachically valid scroll. (No comment about the status of a scroll with the true, original text.)

True, the Amoraim were uncertain about certain plene and deficient spellings, but in the end, in the present day, we have a (basically) standard text. And true, one might collect thousands of variants from Torah scrolls, but those are vulgar texts, used by the populace. They were intended to match the original, but at times scribes made mistakes. However, they should have, and frequently did, consult one of the standard Masoretic Codices, either that of Ben Asher of Ben Naftali. These Codices were excellent expert productions from competing Masoretic schools, and when one had a question, he wrote to inquire as to the correct text. Furthermore, the Allepo Codex has halachic validity as the standard text of Tanach. Such halachic validity was granted by the Rambam.

If God knew the disputes of Abaye and Rava all the way back at matan Torah, such that all such discussions were given over to Moshe (at least on a metaphorical level), then God would also know the eventual halachic configuration of his Written Torah. If the claim of those who propound the Torah Codes is that God is relating future events, would not such knowledge of the future include the eventual text of the Torah as it exists in the present day. For it would make no sense to encode messages in a text that would be munged by additions and deletions of matres lectiones, since the messages would then be lost. Rather, if God's Supreme Intellect could give over a plain text while also encoding messages in minimum skip patterns, he could also encode messages such that the eventual configuration of the Torah would contain said patterns. The logical text would be the standard one available when the Torah Code methodology became known.

If so, the objection that knowledge of the original plene and defective spellings was lost is mitigated.

What about variations between Ashkenazic, Sefardic, and Yemenite Torah Scrolls? Shouldn't these make a difference? Well, the Torah Codes folks said the experiment works with each of these. But, one would expect it to work, without having to run the experiment. After all, a Sefardi sefer Torah differs from the Ashkenazi in whether one spells petzua daka with a heh or an aleph. This is a single letter difference, and one that does not disturb and skip patterns. Indeed, the most that could be messed up is a Torah code that utilizes that particular letter, which is statistically insignificant. And the Yemenite Torah differs slightly in only three places. At most, this would mess up Torah codes in these three local areas. While skip patterns range over many letters, the effect of these variants is constrained to very specific locales within a much wider area, such that I would assume there no statistical impact would be felt.

Some Musings:
Had you asked me, I would have thought to take a different approach to deciding the correct reading.

That is, I would agree that זאטוטי is not likely to be the correct text. It is an Aramaic replacement for na'arei, and it means youngster, but without the possible other connotation of servant that na'arei carries (see Jastrow). The Talmud tells us that this was one of the changes the 70 elders made when creating the (actual) Septuagint (=translation of 70). See Megilla 9a.

Note that this textual variant of זאטוטי makes it somewhat difficult to claim that the events described in Megillat Sofrim occurred in Ezra's day. After all, the זאטוטי variant was deliberately introduced by the 70 elders in a translation of the Torah into Greek, commanded by Ptolmey, so that people would not become confused. This happened about 250 BCE, centuries after Ezra, so it seems unlikely that this particular variant would pop up much earlier. Proof from 4 Ezra 14:44 (mentioned by R' Student in that Torat Emet article):
"And it came to pass when the forty days were fulfilled that the Most High said to [Ezra] saying: Publish the twenty four books you have written so that the worthy and unworthy may read them."
seems unconvincing - after all, this is an Apocryphal book, of Jewish origin, but with Christian interpretations, and even this verse does not suffice, but one needs to construct a "midrash" on a verse in an Apochryphal book. I am not aware of all the other proofs, but have suspicions that the books of the Azara (Temple courtyard) were read by someone as books of Ezra, and from that sprung the association with Ezra.

In terms of מעונה vs. מעון, I would agree with the single scroll that had מעון. This is because I think that in all of the scrolls, the intended pronunciation (krei) would be מעונה. This is an example of chaser/yeter as mentioned by Rav Yosef in the gemara Kiddushin mentioned above.

Here is a good parallel. In parshat Ki Teitzei, in Devarim 22:13 and on:

יג כִּי-יִקַּח אִישׁ, אִשָּׁה; וּבָא אֵלֶיהָ, וּשְׂנֵאָהּ. 13 If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her,
יד וְשָׂם לָהּ עֲלִילֹת דְּבָרִים, וְהוֹצִא עָלֶיהָ שֵׁם רָע; וְאָמַר, אֶת-הָאִשָּׁה הַזֹּאת לָקַחְתִּי, וָאֶקְרַב אֵלֶיהָ, וְלֹא-מָצָאתִי לָהּ בְּתוּלִים. 14 and lay wanton charges against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say: 'I took this woman, and when I came nigh to her, I found not in her the tokens of virginity';
טו וְלָקַח אֲבִי הַנַּעֲרָ, וְאִמָּהּ; וְהוֹצִיאוּ אֶת-בְּתוּלֵי הַנַּעֲרָ, אֶל-זִקְנֵי הָעִיר--הַשָּׁעְרָה. 15 then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate.
טז וְאָמַר אֲבִי הַנַּעֲרָ, אֶל-הַזְּקֵנִים: אֶת-בִּתִּי, נָתַתִּי לָאִישׁ הַזֶּה לְאִשָּׁה--וַיִּשְׂנָאֶהָ. 16 And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders: 'I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her;
יז וְהִנֵּה-הוּא שָׂם עֲלִילֹת דְּבָרִים לֵאמֹר, לֹא-מָצָאתִי לְבִתְּךָ בְּתוּלִים, וְאֵלֶּה, בְּתוּלֵי בִתִּי; וּפָרְשׂוּ, הַשִּׂמְלָה, לִפְנֵי, זִקְנֵי הָעִיר. 17 and, lo, he hath laid wanton charges, saying: I found not in thy daughter the tokens of virginity; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity.' And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city.
יח וְלָקְחוּ זִקְנֵי הָעִיר-הַהִוא, אֶת-הָאִישׁ; וְיִסְּרוּ, אֹתוֹ. 18 And the elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him.
יט וְעָנְשׁוּ אֹתוֹ מֵאָה כֶסֶף, וְנָתְנוּ לַאֲבִי הַנַּעֲרָה--כִּי הוֹצִיא שֵׁם רָע, עַל בְּתוּלַת יִשְׂרָאֵל; וְלוֹ-תִהְיֶה לְאִשָּׁה, לֹא-יוּכַל לְשַׁלְּחָהּ כָּל-יָמָיו. {ס} 19 And they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel; and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. {S}
כ וְאִם-אֱמֶת הָיָה, הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה: לֹא-נִמְצְאוּ בְתוּלִים, לַנַּעֲרָ. 20 But if this thing be true, that the tokens of virginity were not found in the damsel;
כא וְהוֹצִיאוּ אֶת-הַנַּעֲרָ אֶל-פֶּתַח בֵּית-אָבִיהָ, וּסְקָלוּהָ אַנְשֵׁי עִירָהּ בָּאֲבָנִים וָמֵתָה--כִּי-עָשְׂתָה נְבָלָה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, לִזְנוֹת בֵּית אָבִיהָ; וּבִעַרְתָּ הָרָע, מִקִּרְבֶּךָ.
21 then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die; because she hath wrought a wanton deed in Israel, to play the harlot in her father's house; so shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee. {S}
In each instance, the word damsel is written נַעֲרָ. There is no letter heh at the end, such that the ketiv is officially na'ari = young man. But this is not the meaning at all on a peshat level. Rather, this is another instance showing that the final heh is not always necessary to express the kametz at the end of a word. We are familiar with many other instances of this. From the text just cited:


Now, it is more likely for the text to be changed to add the final heh than for it to lose the final heh, since the more common spelling at that time would be with the final heh. Thus, מעוןrecommends itself.

In terms of the variant of היא was written as הוא (but vocalized as 'hi') in eleven places, that reading also recommends itself under the same principle of lectio difficilior as above, since it is weirder = the more difficult reading. We would assume one would emend the text to match the gender of the way it was read and the gender of the noun to which היא serves as a pronoun. Both readings are acceptable since, early on, the matres lectiones served to denote different vowels, such that a vav could stand in place of the iy sound. (There are many such examples in Tanach.)

That is the analysis from the perspective of which reading recommends itself. One could also consider the issue from the perspective of textual families.

Imagine there was originally a single, correct sefer Torah from which these three variant scrolls sprung. This scroll would either have נערי or זאטוטי; it would have מעונה or מעון; and היא or הוא. Now, assume that each of the three scrolls were directly copied from this original scroll A (or copied from a flawless copy), but in copying, mistakes were made. The simplest explanation seems to be that scroll Z copied everything right with the exception of substituting זאטוטי for נערי.
Otherwise, we would have to assume that the original scroll read זאטוטי and that two scrolls(H and M) made identical mistakes in isolation, substituting נערי for the correct זאטוטי. The same goes for מעונה/מעון. Better to assume one mistake of substituting מעון for the correct מעונה in scroll M than to assume that two other scrolls (H and Z) made mistakes in the opposite direction. Finally, the same and more goes for היא/ הוא. Better to assume that one mistake was made in scroll H eleven times (while M and Z got it right) than to assume that, in isolation, two scrolls (M and Z) made identical mistakes in eleven separate locations! After all, it was considered a great miracle when 70 elders, each in isolation, intuited to make ten changes in translation. It is surely somewhat improbable for eleven separate mistakes - and the same eleven mistakes, and no others (or only one - the distinguishing marks of M and Z) - to occur in isolation in two separate scrolls. Thus, the idea of nullifying the one and following the two makes sense.

However, this is so only if we assume that the scrolls are not related at all, but each is an isolated spinoff of the one original. Other possibilities exist.

Scroll Z surely is not original, because it is an obviously incorrect variant. But what if scroll H was the original - and had הוא instead of היא? A scribe copied scroll H and made a mistake - he changed the reading to היא in eleven places, thus generating H2. We do not have H2 before us. However, another scribe copied H2 and changed מעונה to מעון, thus generating scroll M. Another scribe copied H2 and did not change מעונה to מעון, but changed נערי to זאטוטי, thus generating scroll Z. Visually, this would look like this:

| M_ Z

(H2 is the substitution of היא for what we now claim is the original הוא.)
Thus, H could have been the original, and we still are speaking of only three mistakes. A similar process and relationship of texts could be used to justify M as the original, by flipping the order of the introduction of errors:

| \ _

(M2 is the substitution of מעונה for what we now claim is the original מעון.)
And of course, we could similarly put forth Z as the original, though we know that to be untrue.

Could one claim that the unique features of M (מעון) + H(הוא) is original? Here difficulties arise:

( ___ M+H )
| \ ___________
H __________M

The problem with a diagram like the above is that the change to lose the H feature must happen in two locations (to create M, and to create Z). The loss of the M feature happens in only one place. But perhaps there is some cause of this loss of feature H in those eleven places.

Slightly less difficult is the following diagram, which requires loss of the M feature by two separate scribes, one to create H, and the other to create Z.

( M+H )
| M ______H
| ____

All of this is forced by the presence of scroll Z, which lacks the unique features of both scroll H and scroll M.

But perhaps one could claim that Z is not a scroll that should be heeded as a witness to a textual family. That is, why would a scroll have זאטוטי? This is a scroll for popular consumption - it has this Aramaic rendition so that people will not make this incorrect assumption. Perhaps when reading in public there was a tradition among some to read זאטוטי, just as the 70 elders had consensus to change it to זאטוטי in their translation. Similarly, the reading of היא and מעונה reflect the way it is read, and was always read, even though there was an archaic spelling in the written text itself. A scribe who would put in זאטוטי would also put in known changes from other texts which best reflect the way it is publicly read. Then, we could have a tree like:

( M+H__)
| H_____ _M

where H loses the M and M loses the H, and with Z collecting features from each that better match the krei.

Update: Fixed trees. Lets hope they come out well this time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Is Amazon showing context sensitive ads?

I was quite amused to see the following in my Amazon Gold Box this morning.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I'm back, after a week or two of neglect of parshablog

Blogging has been difficult to fit into my schedule lately. I just recently completed a move to Queens from Riverdale, and have been unpacking, kashering the oven, finding and putting up mezuzot, buying food, etcetera. Add to this my wife starting grad school, my beginning the semester at Revel and CUNY, and looking after Meir, and there has been little time for parshablogging. (I just got the baby to sleep, so I'll try to post now.)

That's not to say that I did not have what to post -- just the time it takes to sit down and write actual posts have been hard to find.

I have managed to post at the Rif blog, but that is in part because I prepare a bit in advance in order to make sure I keep in synch with Daf Yomi. Also, because it is much easier to translate and explain an existing text than to formulate coherently a new one. That reminds me -- do me a favor and tell someone about the Rif's Daf Yomi shiur -- attendance has been sparse of late.

Meir said his first sentence last Shabbat. He was in an umbrella stroller in Rabbi Friedman's shul, strapped in for Shemoneh Esrei (though my post here argues you may hold a baby). My father had given him a tie (which Meir calls an "OT") to play with, so as to keep him quiet. Meir dropped the tie, and began saying "OT UP! OT UP!" to get someone to pick up the tie. This after trying a few times unsuccessfully to strain and pick up the tie himself.

I watched Bush's speech about Rehnquist's death. In the leadup to the speech, I couldn't help but note how all the commentators were talking about his position on the Supreme Court opening up, and what this all meant politically -- focusing on this as much, if not more, than on the man. One of the drawbacks of being active on the political scene. I thought it very tasteful how Bush deferred discussing the issue, dispensing with it in a sentence or two, but focusing mostly on the man and his accomplishments.

For some, everything is about politics. I've been following the whole Katrina disaster on various blogs, and I'm somewhat turned off by the way this has become, for some, yet another excuse to bash Bush. On one blog, which I won't name, even Bush Sr. and Clinton getting together to help victims became yet another reason to bash Bush. Nu. There is plently of blame to go around -- it is by no means all Bush's fault -- and a clearer picture will emerge in the future -- one that will hopefully be useful in dealing with future catastrophic events. From what I've seen, Bush and co. are focusing more on resolving the situation and helping people, rather than focusing on responding to leftist spin to cast the blame on them (and they have said as much in news conferences). And as OpinionJournal's Best of the Web pointed out yesterday, there have not been the expected immediate political repercussions.

I have another post in the works on Harry Potter. (The first one is here, and I think reveals a major secret/trick in the book.) This post will discuss the actual location of the locket Horcrux, the two items successfully smuggled into Hogwarts, the identity of the Horcruxes, and a suggestion on the true identity of the Half Blood Prince.

I also had what to post on Ekev. There was a great Midrash -- offhand summary follows -- in which there was a dispute between a Sage (?Rashbi?) and a Samaritan about the Flood. The Samaritan claimed Har Grizim was holy in that in was not covered by the flood, and brought various proofs, and the Sage finally couldn't answer. The animal driver (Beham) gave a great answer, and the Sage gave him great kavod, and interpreted the verse in Devarim 7:14:

יד בָּרוּךְ תִּהְיֶה, מִכָּל-הָעַמִּים: לֹא-יִהְיֶה בְךָ עָקָר וַעֲקָרָה, וּבִבְהֶמְתֶּךָ. 14 Thou shalt be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle.
as explaining that עָקָר (as mentioned earlier) meant barren from having an answer, and בְהֶמְתֶּךָ means your Beham (animal driver).

An interesting -- for me at least -- grammatical digression and theorizing. The pattern for a professional is CaCCAC, where a is patach and A is kamatz. Thus, חמור - CHaMOR (here a is actually a chataf) is a donkey, but a chammAr is a donkey driver -- duplication of mem done by a dagesh chazak. גמל - GAMAL is a camel, but GammAL is a camel driver. So, from בהמה, we would expect BaHHAM. Alas, a guttural such as ה may not be geminated by a dagesh, for it would be too difficult to pronounce. The patach is transformed into a segol, perhaps by tashlum dagesh -- compensatory lengthening. Other similar instances: האח, he`ach = Alas; האמור; or for an example with heh, להבה from להב.

In parshat Re`ei, I saw another interesting take in the Midrash. Noting that elsewhere, besar taavah, meat not brought as a sacrifice, is forbidden -- all meat must be brought to the ohel moed, yet here (See Devarim 12) it is permitted - first in general, and then in the explicit case when one is too distant from the Bet HaMikdash to bring a sacrifice, though that does not necessarily preclude other instances. At any rate, this seems a contradiction. The Midrash brings this as one of several example of Hashem forbidding something in one place and permitting it later, in another place. Rather than considering this a contradiction, this is perhaps regarded as a layered presentation, or else of a relaxing of previously given rules. To this end, the Midrash gives a great explanation of the pasuk, Devarim 12:20:

כ כִּי-יַרְחִיב ה אֱלֹקֶיךָ אֶת-גְּבֻלְךָ, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר-לָךְ, וְאָמַרְתָּ אֹכְלָה בָשָׂר, כִּי-תְאַוֶּה נַפְשְׁךָ לֶאֱכֹל בָּשָׂר--בְּכָל-אַוַּת נַפְשְׁךָ, תֹּאכַל בָּשָׂר. 20 When the LORD thy God shall enlarge thy border, as He hath promised thee, and thou shalt say: 'I will eat flesh', because thy soul desireth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, after all the desire of thy soul.
Here, the border that Hashem enlarges is taken not as the physical border of Israel -- for how can a land, which has specific dimensions, be enlarged (don't answer that -- is is a typical midrashic, hyperliteral perspective) -- but rather as the metaphorical border of halacha, in this case Biblical law. And yes, the Midrash soon after even uses the derasha we love, from the Sabbateans, of Hashem being Matir Assurim -- literally releasing the bound, but taken here as permitting the forbidden!

Registered for classes finally -- at CUNY, in the computer science department, Research at CUNY, which is basically a bunch of professors coming in and describing their research, in an attempt to draw students to conduct some of the research. Hopefully this will help me develop choose an advisor. In the linguistics department, I decided to branch out, and expand my knowledge somewhat, and signed up for Syntax I. (Previously I've taken Computational Linguistics and Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics.) And in Revel, I signed up for Shir Hashirim.

That's all for now. Hope to post again soon.


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