Saturday, December 31, 2005

How to spell Chanukka - and Why

In Hebrew, the spelling is חֲנֻכָּה. In English, there are several variant spellings, some of which are licit.

For example, the Ch vs. H alternation. This is an attempt to render the ח. Most pronounce the ח the same as the כ (khaf), such that Ch is certainly acceptable. Others pronounce it as more of a guttural, as it is. One common transcription is an h with a dot below it, and where the dot is unavailable, as a mere h. When non-Hebrew speakers use the heh, I don't mind. But when Hebrew speakers use it, particularly when they are trying to appear more scholarly, I admit I get slightly annoyed. I suppose this is because the heh and het are now identical in transcription, such that the reader cannot distinguish between them, and then nothing is gained over the more natural ch, which is similarly ambiguous with the כ. Nothing is gained, and in fact, something is lost, in that the word is now spelled in a way contrary to how most readers (and often the writer) pronounce it, creating unneccessary confusing. In fact, if they would use ch for chet and maintain kh for khaf, as they often do, one could distinguish between the two. But whatever. It is a scholarly convention.

The h at the end (e.g. Hanukka vs. Hanukkah) is also optional. The ה is not pronounced at the end of the word, since there is no mapik, and thus one might write it in to note the Hebrew spelling, or one might legitimately omit it.

On to the real issue: the n and the k. Sometimes they are doubled. Why should we double a letter? In Hebrew, gemination (=doubling) occurs, and it is noted by a strong dagesh. In general, this gemination occurs together with an unstressed syllable with a short vowel. Short unstressed syllables need to be closed (= of the form consonant vowel consonant) as opposed to open (= of the form consonant vowel). Since gemination of a consonant doubles it, gemination of the consonant following the vowel effectively creates a new consonant which closes the previous syllable.

To take the example of חֲנֻכָּה, the ֻ is a short vowel, as opposed to the long וּ. Therefore, the syllable nu, נֻ, would be an unstressed open short syllable (with kha being the next open syllable). This is unacceptable because open short syllables must be closed. Therefore, the כ is doubled by placing a strong dagesh inside, such that the word is chanukka, with a doubled k. The first k closes the short unstressed syllable nuk, while the second k begins the next syllable ka.

(Note that a strong dagesh can appear in any letter except a gutteral (and resh, except that there are rare occurences of dagesh in resh). In this case, it appears in a kaf, in which case we might confuse it with a weak dagesh. A weak dagesh appears in the letters bgd kpt, or possible bgd kprt. This dagesh just changes it from the fricative to the plosive. (On bgd kpt, the strong dagesh also changes it from fricative to plosive, in addition to the usual gemination.) However, the weak dagesh only occurs at the start of a word or after a resting shva - basically, at the beginning of a syllable that is not preceded by an open syllable. And this is not the case here, and so it is a strong dagesh.)

Thus, the doubling of the k in English is licit. I would say it is suggested, though perhaps someone might successfully argue it optional.

However, there is really no excuse for doubling the n. What precedes the nun is a chataf patach, which is a type of shva and certainly would not prompt gemination of the nun. And we see in the Hebrew spelling that there is no strong dagesh in the nun. With no gemination in Hebrew, gemination of n does not seem licit.

Jewish Woman Marries Dolphin

in Eilat.
"I'm the happiest girl on earth," the bride said as she chocked back tears of emotion. "I made a dream come true, and I am not a pervert," she stressed.
They should have gotten a monkey to read the ketuba.

But seriously, it is unfortunate how the definition of marriage has been so watered down.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

parshat Mikeitz: Why Whole Years?

The first pasuk in parshat Mikeitz {Bereishit 41:1}:

א וַיְהִי, מִקֵּץ שְׁנָתַיִם יָמִים; וּפַרְעֹה חֹלֵם, וְהִנֵּה עֹמֵד עַל-הַיְאֹר. 1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.
Why two full years? This translation seems to follow Rashbam, who notes that this literally means two years worth of days, such that we might have thought (had it just said שְׁנָתַיִם) that it was 1 year and 1 day, or 1 year and 1/2. This tells us that two years worth of days elapsed, and thus they were full years.

What is the implication of two full years? Well, this might in part depend on how we understand מִקֵּץ. The word מִקֵּץ means "at the end of," but does not specify the beginning of the period. This could have been from the time he was initially placed in prison, or from the time that the butler promised to bring up Yosef's case with Pharaoh, and promptly forgot (see previous verse).

If we assume the latter, there have a great reason why the specification of two full years. In the previous parsha, Vayeishev, in Bereishit 40:20:
כ וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי, יוֹם הֻלֶּדֶת אֶת-פַּרְעֹה, וַיַּעַשׂ מִשְׁתֶּה, לְכָל-עֲבָדָיו; וַיִּשָּׂא אֶת-רֹאשׁ שַׂר הַמַּשְׁקִים, וְאֶת-רֹאשׁ שַׂר הָאֹפִים--בְּתוֹךְ עֲבָדָיו. 20 And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and the head of the chief baker among his servants.
כא וַיָּשֶׁב אֶת-שַׂר הַמַּשְׁקִים, עַל-מַשְׁקֵהוּ; וַיִּתֵּן הַכּוֹס, עַל-כַּף פַּרְעֹה. 21 And he restored the chief butler back unto his butlership; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand.
כב וְאֵת שַׂר הָאֹפִים, תָּלָה: כַּאֲשֶׁר פָּתַר לָהֶם, יוֹסֵף. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them.
Why specify that this happened on Pharaoh's birthday? And what are the odds? The answer would seem to be that Pharaoh's birthday was a day in which the king, in a good mood, would issue pardons (or decide not to issue them and thus execute his enemies).

If so, two full years later would once again be Pharaoh's birthday, and a most opportune day for Yosef to be mentioned by the butler.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

parshat Mikeitz: Put in a prison, taken from a pit

The Torah is very specific in where Yosef is placed after angering his master. In parshat Vayeishev, Bereishit 39:20:
יט וַיְהִי כִשְׁמֹעַ אֲדֹנָיו אֶת-דִּבְרֵי אִשְׁתּוֹ, אֲשֶׁר דִּבְּרָה אֵלָיו לֵאמֹר, כַּדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, עָשָׂה לִי עַבְדֶּךָ; וַיִּחַר, אַפּוֹ. 19 And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke unto him, saying: 'After this manner did thy servant to me'; that his wrath was kindled.
כ וַיִּקַּח אֲדֹנֵי יוֹסֵף אֹתוֹ, וַיִּתְּנֵהוּ אֶל-בֵּית הַסֹּהַר--מְקוֹם, אֲשֶׁר-אסורי (אֲסִירֵי) הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲסוּרִים; וַיְהִי-שָׁם, בְּבֵית הַסֹּהַר. 20 And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, the place where the king's prisoners were bound; and he was there in the prison.
and with him are placed the baker and the butler, in the same prison. Bereishit 40:3:
ב וַיִּקְצֹף פַּרְעֹה, עַל שְׁנֵי סָרִיסָיו--עַל שַׂר הַמַּשְׁקִים, וְעַל שַׂר הָאוֹפִים. 2 And Pharaoh was wroth against his two officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers.
ג וַיִּתֵּן אֹתָם בְּמִשְׁמַר, בֵּית שַׂר הַטַּבָּחִים--אֶל-בֵּית הַסֹּהַר: מְקוֹם, אֲשֶׁר יוֹסֵף אָסוּר שָׁם. 3 And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.
Yet Yosef is not taken from the bet hasohar, the prison, but rather from the bor, the pit. Bereishit 41:14:
יד וַיִּשְׁלַח פַּרְעֹה וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-יוֹסֵף, וַיְרִיצֻהוּ מִן-הַבּוֹר; וַיְגַלַּח וַיְחַלֵּף שִׂמְלֹתָיו, וַיָּבֹא אֶל-פַּרְעֹה. 14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon. And he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.
Obviously, pit = prison. Here they translate dungeon, since in the context it is in a prison. But the word bor is the same. There is no problem here. However, there is an irregularity of language.

It seems clear to me that this choice of the word bor is deliberate, and it is meant to be an intra-Biblical allusion to the pit that the brothers cast Yosef into. Yosef was put into this pit in parshat Vayeishev on Reuven's suggestion. Bereishit 37:22:
כא וַיִּשְׁמַע רְאוּבֵן, וַיַּצִּלֵהוּ מִיָּדָם; וַיֹּאמֶר, לֹא נַכֶּנּוּ נָפֶשׁ. 21 And Reuben heard it, and delivered him out of their hand; and said: 'Let us not take his life.'
כב וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם רְאוּבֵן, אַל-תִּשְׁפְּכוּ-דָם--הַשְׁלִיכוּ אֹתוֹ אֶל-הַבּוֹר הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר בַּמִּדְבָּר, וְיָד אַל-תִּשְׁלְחוּ-בוֹ: לְמַעַן, הַצִּיל אֹתוֹ מִיָּדָם, לַהֲשִׁיבוֹ, אֶל-אָבִיו. 22 And Reuben said unto them: 'Shed no blood; cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but lay no hand upon him'--that he might deliver him out of their hand, to restore him to his father.
and the last time he was taken out of this pit he was sold into slavery. Bereishit 37:28-29:
כח וַיַּעַבְרוּ אֲנָשִׁים מִדְיָנִים סֹחֲרִים, וַיִּמְשְׁכוּ וַיַּעֲלוּ אֶת-יוֹסֵף מִן-הַבּוֹר, וַיִּמְכְּרוּ אֶת-יוֹסֵף לַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים, בְּעֶשְׂרִים כָּסֶף; וַיָּבִיאוּ אֶת-יוֹסֵף, מִצְרָיְמָה. 28 And there passed by Midianites, merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they brought Joseph into Egypt.
כט וַיָּשָׁב רְאוּבֵן אֶל-הַבּוֹר, וְהִנֵּה אֵין-יוֹסֵף בַּבּוֹר; וַיִּקְרַע, אֶת-בְּגָדָיו. 29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.
The reason for this deliberate use of language, and the creation of this intra-Biblical allusion, is to make note of the Divine Hand in all of this. Both times Yosef is brought from the pit, it advances Yosef towards the level of royal vizier. It is also almost as if all the event in Potifar's house did not happen, and the pit into which Yosef was cast in the midbar travelled to Egypt, and from there he was taken out to see Pharaoh. This was all part of Hashem's plan, in which He controlled seemingly random events to elevate Yosef to greatness.

Indeed, Yosef says this explicitly in parshat Vayechi, in Bereishit 50:20:
יח וַיֵּלְכוּ, גַּם-אֶחָיו, וַיִּפְּלוּ, לְפָנָיו; וַיֹּאמְרוּ, הִנֶּנּוּ לְךָ לַעֲבָדִים. 18 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said: 'Behold, we are thy bondmen.'
יט וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם יוֹסֵף, אַל-תִּירָאוּ: כִּי הֲתַחַת אֱלֹהִים, אָנִי. 19 And Joseph said unto them: 'Fear not; for am I in the place of God?
כ וְאַתֶּם, חֲשַׁבְתֶּם עָלַי רָעָה; אֱלֹהִים, חֲשָׁבָהּ לְטֹבָה, לְמַעַן עֲשֹׂה כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה, לְהַחֲיֹת עַם-רָב. 20 And as for you, ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
Chazal take note of the hidden Divine plan many times in this narrative in several midrashim (the one on the word emek comes to mind). One should not dismiss this as some pious reading of God into the narrative. God's hidden control of the situation is evident on many levels, in structure, choice of language (such as bor) and explicit details. Yosef's statement in Vayechi, mentioned above, is an example of such an explicit detail. Another is the fact that Yosef saw in a dream that he would rise to greatness and his brothers and parental units would bow to him. As we see in Vayeishev, in Bereishit 37:10-11:
י וַיְסַפֵּר אֶל-אָבִיו, וְאֶל-אֶחָיו, וַיִּגְעַר-בּוֹ אָבִיו, וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ מָה הַחֲלוֹם הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר חָלָמְתָּ: הֲבוֹא נָבוֹא, אֲנִי וְאִמְּךָ וְאַחֶיךָ, לְהִשְׁתַּחֲו‍ֹת לְךָ, אָרְצָה. 10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren; and his father rebuked him, and said unto him: 'What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down to thee to the earth?'
יא וַיְקַנְאוּ-בוֹ, אֶחָיו; וְאָבִיו, שָׁמַר אֶת-הַדָּבָר. 11 And his brethren envied him; but his father kept the saying in mind.
Yaakov saw the dream as a possible portent of things to come.

Also, the repetition of the idea of dreams which occurs throughout the narrative, each time advancing the narrative. Dreams are taken as messages from God, and so Yosef's dreams, besides telling the future, also move the narrative forward (since his brothers envy him because of them and thus sell him). The same with the baker and the butler's dream, as well as Pharaoh's dream, which Yosef in his interpretation explicitly says was sent by God. God sent Pharaoh the dream not just to tell Pharaoh of coming events, but to elevate Yosef to greatness. But that is only on the most overt level. This idea of God's hidden direction is evident in many aspects throughout the narrative, and it is on this feature that Chazal pick up.

As I write elsewhere, it is this same theme of the hidden direction of God which occurs in Megillat Esther, in which seemingly random events occur which eventually work together to create salvation, but again there are hints of God's direction - e.g. Esther's direction that the Jews fast, Mordechai's statement that if she does not act; salvation will come for the Jews from somewhere else; Zeresh's statement that if Mordechai is from the zera of the Jews, once Haman starts to fall, he will fall all the way. Clearly the events in the megilla, starting from the party and Vashti's fall from grace, se are not random occurrences. And those who try to read God out of the megilla, claiming and smirking that the rabbis read Him into it on the level of hidden miracle, are not reading carefully enough.

Monday, December 26, 2005

parshat Vayeishev: Reuven's Return

In parshat Vayeishev, Reuven convinces his brothers to place Yosef in a pit (37:21). Then, on Yehuda's suggestion (37:26), the brothers pull Yosef out of the pit and sell him to Midianite/Yishmaelite traders (37:28).

כח וַיַּעַבְרוּ אֲנָשִׁים מִדְיָנִים סֹחֲרִים, וַיִּמְשְׁכוּ וַיַּעֲלוּ אֶת-יוֹסֵף מִן-הַבּוֹר, וַיִּמְכְּרוּ אֶת-יוֹסֵף לַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים, בְּעֶשְׂרִים כָּסֶף; וַיָּבִיאוּ אֶת-יוֹסֵף, מִצְרָיְמָה. 28 And there passed by Midianites, merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they brought Joseph into Egypt.

The Midianites merchantmen are the Ishmaelites, and the ones who pull Yosef out of the pit are most certainly the brothers - otherwise, why stress that they sold Yosef for twenty shekels of silver? (And see my previous post for the suggestion that Ishmaelite means nomadic trader, as it means Bedouin in Bereishit Rabba and Shemot Rabba.)

Now, Reuven returns to the pit and is shocked to see Yosef missing (37:29) and returns to his brothers and is upset (37:30). At least that is my reconstruction.

But if Reuven returns to the pit, where was he until now? Rashi mentions two explanations:
But when he (Joseph) was sold, he (Reuben) was not there, for his day to go and serve his father had arrived (Gen. Rabbah 84:15). Another explanation: He was busy with his sackcloth and his fasting for disarranging his father’s bed (Peskikta d’Rav Kahana ch. 25.)
The latter is also in Bereishit Rabba, not just in Pesiqta deRav Kahana.
In other words, if Reuven returns, he must be returning from somewhere. Indeed, his astonishment at seeing Yosef missing assumes that he is not present when Yehuda speaks of selling Yosef, or at least when they actually sell Yosef. (Unless we say that it was the Midianites who pulled Yosef from the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites (who in turn sold him to the Midanites, who sold him to Potifar - see verse 36), and the brothers never actually got to act on Yehuda's suggestion.)

Now our reaction can be "ho hum." Rashi gives two possible explanations. But let us appreciate these two explanations, which he draws from the midrash, a bit more.

Why should we think that Reuven went to serve his father? Since my major thesis is that no detail in midrash comes about ex nihilo, there must be some Scriptural source. This source is 37:22:
כב וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם רְאוּבֵן, אַל-תִּשְׁפְּכוּ-דָם--הַשְׁלִיכוּ אֹתוֹ אֶל-הַבּוֹר הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר בַּמִּדְבָּר, וְיָד אַל-תִּשְׁלְחוּ-בוֹ: לְמַעַן, הַצִּיל אֹתוֹ מִיָּדָם, לַהֲשִׁיבוֹ, אֶל-אָבִיו. 22 And Reuben said unto them: 'Shed no blood; cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but lay no hand upon him'--that he might deliver him out of their hand, to restore him to his father.
The key phrase here is לַהֲשִׁיבוֹ אֶל-אָבִיו. Who is to be returned? I posit that the midrash understands this as Reuven returning to his father rather than Yosef. If it makes it easier, strip off the vav - לַהֲשִׁיב אֶל-אָבִיו. Reuven's intent was to save Yosef, and perhaps he could do this later by persuading his brothers. However, now was not the time, and so he used a delay tactic. They would throw him into a pit, and Yosef could stay there a while. In the meantime, Reuven would return to his father. It makes sense that Reuven would go to serve his father, for Yosef had been doing this and now had gone to visit his brothers, so someone else should take care of Yaakov. (One perush suggests that they served in cycles from eldest to youngest, and Yosef as the youngest brother (Binyamin being too young), the next in line was Reuven.)

What about the aspect of teshuva? This also appears to be based upon וַיָּשָׁב רְאוּבֵן. But reference is made to changing his father's bed. To explain: In Bereishit 35:22:

כב וַיְהִי, בִּשְׁכֹּן יִשְׂרָאֵל בָּאָרֶץ הַהִוא, וַיֵּלֶךְ רְאוּבֵן וַיִּשְׁכַּב אֶת-בִּלְהָה פִּילֶגֶשׁ אָבִיו, וַיִּשְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל; {פ}

וַיִּהְיוּ בְנֵי-יַעֲקֹב, שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר.
22 And it came to pass, while Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine; and Israel heard of it. {P} Now the sons of Jacob were twelve.

Now, literally, וַיִּשְׁכַּב means "lay" or "sleep," not "have sexual intercourse with, and אֶת can either mean "with" or simply deignate the object.

Therefore, וַיִּשְׁכַּב אֶת-בִּלְהָה פִּילֶגֶשׁ אָבִיו can simply mean that he caused Bilhah his father's concubine to sleep - that is, sleep alone. The midrash fills in details that he moved his father's bed, since he thought it inappropriate that his father chose to sleep with Bilhah instead of Leah. This was an inappropriate action, and the Torah judges the righteous harshly for even minor infractions, and so it wrote that he slept with her. At least, that is the way everyone takes it - that the Torah makes up an action that he did not do. In fact, as I just demonstrated, what Chazal mean is not that the Torah does not make up an action, but writes the action in an ambiguous way such that on a straightforward level it looks like he took the far worse action, but the same words can be taken in a much less severe direction. The same with David's sin.

As I mentioned in a previous post, people would not understand the nuance of Reuven's actual action, and so Chazal decided to leave this verse untranslated in shul. Initially these were two separate verses, with a new verse beginning וַיִּהְיוּ בְנֵי-יַעֲקֹב, שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר. They linked the two together, with trup as if it were a single verse, and only had the Aramaic Targum read for וַיִּהְיוּ בְנֵי-יַעֲקֹב, שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר. One these two verses are not merely juxtaposed but also smushed together, the midrashic urge to link them semantically increases even more. Thus, we have that Reuven did teshuva and so Yaakov did not disown him, and Reuven was a valid shevet and part of the 12 sons of Yaakov.

Indeed, we might read that into the verse. For after "returning" from the pit, he "returned" to his brothers - that is, he is once more one of the 12.

Some of this last is obviously speculative.

Midrash in Motion
Upon examination of the sources in Midrash Rabba, I noticed something interesting. The first midrash, about Reuven going to serve his father, is on an earlier verse, verse 21.

כ וְעַתָּה לְכוּ וְנַהַרְגֵהוּ, וְנַשְׁלִכֵהוּ בְּאַחַד הַבֹּרוֹת, וְאָמַרְנוּ, חַיָּה רָעָה אֲכָלָתְהוּ; וְנִרְאֶה, מַה-יִּהְיוּ חֲלֹמֹתָיו. 20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into one of the pits, and we will say: An evil beast hath devoured him; and we shall see what will become of his dreams.'
כא וַיִּשְׁמַע רְאוּבֵן, וַיַּצִּלֵהוּ מִיָּדָם; וַיֹּאמֶר, לֹא נַכֶּנּוּ נָפֶשׁ. 21 And Reuben heard it, and delivered him out of their hand; and said: 'Let us not take his life.'
The meforshim on location explain that וַיִּשְׁמַע implies that he is just now hearing this because he is coming from some other location. Thus the midrash asks "veheichan haya" and answers that he was serving his father. Unlikely. (The meforshim also have difficulty explaining why Reuven was serving his father just now if Yosef was also just serving his father.)

Meanwhile, this verse is much earlier in the story, well before the sale of Yosef - this is before Yosef even arrives. Thus, when Rashi cites this midrash as a reason Reuven was not present at the sale, he reinterprets the midrash, for according to the standard explanation Reuven would have already arrived after serving his father, and would have been present at Yosef's sale.

I do not think Rashi is reinterpreting the midrash, but rather is the only one among the meforshim who understands it correctly. There is no reason to ask veheichan haya on the word וַיִּשְׁמַע. And the phrase veheichan haya is repeated later, when the answer was that he was in his sackcloth doing teshuva. Rashi realized that both midrashim were really based on the pasuk of וַיָּשָׁב רְאוּבֵן.

Why then was it placed on an earlier pasuk? Rashi does not say, but I did: Because of the detail of returning to his father, which is deduced from the continuation: לַהֲשִׁיבוֹ אֶל-אָבִיו.

Friday, December 23, 2005

parshat Vayeishev: The Chronology of Yehuda's Marriage

Yaakov's children try to console him, and Yosef descends to Egypt {Bereishit 37:35-36}:
לה וַיָּקֻמוּ כָל-בָּנָיו וְכָל-בְּנֹתָיו לְנַחֲמוֹ, וַיְמָאֵן לְהִתְנַחֵם, וַיֹּאמֶר, כִּי-אֵרֵד אֶל-בְּנִי אָבֵל שְׁאֹלָה; וַיֵּבְךְּ אֹתוֹ, אָבִיו. 35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said: 'Nay, but I will go down to the grave to my son mourning.' And his father wept for him.
לו וְהַמְּדָנִים--מָכְרוּ אֹתוֹ, אֶל-מִצְרָיִם: לְפוֹטִיפַר סְרִיס פַּרְעֹה, שַׂר הַטַּבָּחִים.
36 And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, the captain of the guard.
The very next pesukim {Bereishit 38:1-2}
א וַיְהִי בָּעֵת הַהִוא, וַיֵּרֶד יְהוּדָה מֵאֵת אֶחָיו; וַיֵּט עַד-אִישׁ עֲדֻלָּמִי, וּשְׁמוֹ חִירָה. 1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.
ב וַיַּרְא-שָׁם יְהוּדָה בַּת-אִישׁ כְּנַעֲנִי, וּשְׁמוֹ שׁוּעַ; וַיִּקָּחֶהָ, וַיָּבֹא אֵלֶיהָ. 2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; and he took her, and went in unto her.
When did this marriage take place? One might take the juxtaposition {=smichut}, combined with the words וַיְהִי בָּעֵת הַהִוא to be that immediately thereafter, this happened. Or perhaps at the same time this consolation was happening.

As I demonstrate in a post on parshat VaEtchachanan, the words בָּעֵת הַהִוא are not used to indicate that something follows chronologically, but rather that this happened at the same time thereabout as the previously described events. I would suggest that it is possible that Yehuda married well before Yosef was sold, but the entirety of the events of Yehuda's marriage, death of his sons, and sleeping with Tamar spans the same time (plus possibly before and after) as the events just described regarding Yosef.

This is related to the chronology attempts I make in this post, trying to figure out how old each of Yehuda's sons must be when they marry.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Some Scattered Thoughts on Vayeishev

1) The second pasuk in Vayeishev has `et as "with," as it does mean on occasion. {Bereishit 37:2}

ב אֵלֶּה תֹּלְדוֹת יַעֲקֹב, יוֹסֵף בֶּן-שְׁבַע-עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה הָיָה רֹעֶה אֶת-אֶחָיו בַּצֹּאן, וְהוּא נַעַר אֶת-בְּנֵי בִלְהָה וְאֶת-בְּנֵי זִלְפָּה, נְשֵׁי אָבִיו; וַיָּבֵא יוֹסֵף אֶת-דִּבָּתָם רָעָה, אֶל-אֲבִיהֶם. 2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren, being still a lad even with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought evil report of them unto their father.
He was grazing, with his brothers, the flocks. He was not grazing his brothers among the flocks.

Usage like this (and common examples like `itti / `itto) are part of why midrash takes `et as a ribbuy.

2) I thought I posted this before, but cannot find it. Later in the same perek:
ז וְהִנֵּה אֲנַחְנוּ מְאַלְּמִים אֲלֻמִּים, בְּתוֹךְ הַשָּׂדֶה, וְהִנֵּה קָמָה אֲלֻמָּתִי, וְגַם-נִצָּבָה; וְהִנֵּה תְסֻבֶּינָה אֲלֻמֹּתֵיכֶם, וַתִּשְׁתַּחֲוֶיןָ לַאֲלֻמָּתִי. 7 for, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves came round about, and bowed down to my sheaf.'
ח וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ, אֶחָיו, הֲמָלֹךְ תִּמְלֹךְ עָלֵינוּ, אִם-מָשׁוֹל תִּמְשֹׁל בָּנוּ; וַיּוֹסִפוּ עוֹד שְׂנֹא אֹתוֹ, עַל-חֲלֹמֹתָיו וְעַל-דְּבָרָיו. 8 And his brethren said to him: 'Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?' And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

Note the parallelism in their response.
Note also that we can take מָשׁוֹל תִּמְשֹׁל not as "have dominion" but as the more amusing "make a mashal of us" - for he was speaking of them by means of a mashal to sheaves.

3) If we wish to make connections across dreams - Pharaoh dreams of stalks of grain. And Yosef and his brothers are stalks of grain. Could we take the 7 fat stalks as the zenith of his rule, when Yosef helped him solidify his power over all of Egypt, making all Egyptians Pharaoh's property? And the 7 thin stalks the Israelites who eventually defied Pharaoh's power and emptied Egypt of all its wealth. In addition, of course, to Yosef's interpretation, which was fulfilled.

כז לְכוּ וְנִמְכְּרֶנּוּ לַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים, וְיָדֵנוּ אַל-תְּהִי-בוֹ, כִּי-אָחִינוּ בְשָׂרֵנוּ, הוּא; וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ, אֶחָיו. 27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother, our flesh.' And his brethren hearkened unto him.
כח וַיַּעַבְרוּ אֲנָשִׁים מִדְיָנִים סֹחֲרִים, וַיִּמְשְׁכוּ וַיַּעֲלוּ אֶת-יוֹסֵף מִן-הַבּוֹר, וַיִּמְכְּרוּ אֶת-יוֹסֵף לַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים, בְּעֶשְׂרִים כָּסֶף; וַיָּבִיאוּ אֶת-יוֹסֵף, מִצְרָיְמָה. 28 And there passed by Midianites, merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they brought Joseph into Egypt.
Yishmealim perhaps means Bedouins (as it is used in Bereishit Rabba and Shemot Rabba), that is, nomadic Arabs. Thus this is descriptive, just as socharim, merchants, is descriptive, and there is no conflict with their nationality, Midianites.

5) In the next perek:
ג וַתַּהַר, וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן; וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, עֵר. 3 And she conceived, and bore a son; and he called his name Er.
ד וַתַּהַר עוֹד, וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן; וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, אוֹנָן. 4 And she conceived again, and bore a son; and she called his name Onan.
ה וַתֹּסֶף עוֹד וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן, וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ שֵׁלָה; וְהָיָה בִכְזִיב, בְּלִדְתָּהּ אֹתוֹ. 5 And she yet again bore a son, and called his name Shelah; and he was at Chezib, when she bore him.
scholars note the divergence between וַיִּקְרָא in the first and וַתִּקְרָא in the latter two. The Samaritan text/=Targum changes the first to וַתִּקְרָא. So does Tg Yonatan and so do a few Jewish manuscripts.

Onkelos and (presumably LXX as well, since it is not noted) keep וַיִּקְרָא.

As noted before, Sam. likes to harmonize and smooth texts, so this smoothing is not really great evidence. Lectio difficilior argues in favor of the standard Masoretic text, and so it is easy to see how the alternate Jewish manuscripts would come about - knowing there is a וַתִּקְרָא and anticipating and writing it early. I would consider Tg Yonatan perhaps the best evidence of this alternate reading, though it also diverges in its usual way in this pasuk, giving etiologies for each name.

6) Chazal's interpretation of the names conveying doom and gloom are quite good on the level of peshat. Just as Hevel {=vanity} was the first one to be murdered and thus cut off. And Nadav {=votive offering} and Avihu {=I will bring it} were killed for bringing their voluntary fire. And Machlon and Kilyon {conveying destruction} died without children.
Er, because he was removed {שהוער} from the world without children. Onan, for his father would mourn for him.
The place where Shela was born, Keziv, conveys stoppage. And there Yehuda's wife stopped having children. See Rashi there for examples from elsewhere in Tanach (Yirmiyahu and Yeshayahu).
The names seem deliberate or at least spookily appropriate.

Perhaps more later.

parshat Vayishlach: Rachel's Triplets?

I mentioned a midrash last week about Rachel having triplets, giving a (probably incorrect or at least insufficient) explanation on how this is derived from the text of Chumash. Now I'd like to return to consider it further.

The verses in question are in Bereishit 35:15-16:
טז וַיִּסְעוּ מִבֵּית אֵל, וַיְהִי-עוֹד כִּבְרַת-הָאָרֶץ לָבוֹא אֶפְרָתָה; וַתֵּלֶד רָחֵל, וַתְּקַשׁ בְּלִדְתָּהּ. 16 And they journeyed from Beth-el; and there was still some way to come to Ephrath; and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.
יז וַיְהִי בְהַקְשֹׁתָהּ, בְּלִדְתָּהּ; וַתֹּאמֶר לָהּ הַמְיַלֶּדֶת אַל-תִּירְאִי, כִּי-גַם-זֶה לָךְ בֵּן. 17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the mid-wife said unto her: 'Fear not; for this also is a son for thee.'

and the midrash is predicated on the words וַיְהִי בְהַקְשֹׁתָהּ בְּלִדְתָּהּ, "And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour." There is a divergence between Rabbi Yehoshua and his students.

His students, who did not hear Rabbi Yehoshua's explanation, gave an explanation that is decidedly within the realm of peshat.

Perhaps {I will refine and correct this later} at issue is the problem of the role of the words וַיְהִי בְהַקְשֹׁתָהּ בְּלִדְתָּהּ, when we already saw in the previous verse וַתְּקַשׁ בְּלִדְתָּהּ. Is she is labour more than once? Rabbi Yehoshua's students explain that while the role of the vav hahipuch, the va followed by the gemination of next letter, is to advance the narrative, here this is not what is happening. Rather, the vav hahipuch is attached to the word וַיְהִי, and the role is similar to the vav hachibbur.
(Flashback to Bereishit, where
בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ
וְהָאָרֶץ, הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ, וְחֹשֶׁךְ, עַל-פְּנֵי תְהוֹם; וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, יְהִי אוֹר; וַיְהִי-אוֹר
where the middle verse, with vav hachibbur {=ve} serves to stay in place, such that we have "In the beginning of God's creation of heaven and earth, when the earth was formless and void..., God said let there be light and there was light.)

Here, the narrative is not being advanced, such that we are now finding out that she is having difficulty in labour (for we already know that), but rather, when she was in the aforementioned difficult labour, the midwife comforted her. So is the way they comfort women in travail: do not fear for you have given birth to a son. {Etz Yosef: for it is a

The sardyot who captured the students of Rabbi Yehoshua did not like their answer, and remarked that Rabbi Yehoshua had not explained it so, but rather:
each shevet had a twin born with him. Like this that Abba Chalfoi said: An extra twin was born with Binyamin.
I think I am correct in interpreting this as triplets. Perhaps it does mean that Binyamin, just as his brothers, was born with a single twin. But I think triplets are intended.

How do we know that each brother was born with a twin? I thought it was the `et {lit. "with"} in all the וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, though `et is occassionally missing. There is no `et here. Something to look up.

If I am correct, then what Rabbi Yehoshua is doing is saying:
וַתְּקַשׁ בְּלִדְתָּהּ = first daughter
וַיְהִי בְהַקְשֹׁתָהּ בְּלִדְתָּהּ = second daughter.
I would add at this point that each of these has a mapik heh, "her labour," which could possibly be interpreted as "the labour of her" = "the labour of her daughter."
Furthermore, we have the statement אַל-תִּירְאִי כִּי-גַם-זֶה לָךְ בֵּן, "fear not; for this also is a son for thee," we may interpret this as her having given birth twice already, and still has a son within her. For a total of one son and two daughters in one birth.

A bit of refining. Recall that the vav hahippuch advances the narrative. If so, it is nonsense to say
וַתֵּלֶד רָחֵל
וַתְּקַשׁ בְּלִדְתָּהּ
If she has already given birth (=וַתֵּלֶד רָחֵל), why should she be in labour (= וַתְּקַשׁ בְּלִדְתָּהּ)? Now forget that derasha I tried to make from the mapik heh. Rather:
וַתֵּלֶד רָחֵל = Rachel gave birth.
וַתְּקַשׁ בְּלִדְתָּהּ = Rachel was in labour. Then, she must have given birth, for we read:
וַיְהִי בְהַקְשֹׁתָהּ, בְּלִדְתָּהּ; וַתֹּאמֶר לָהּ הַמְיַלֶּדֶת = Rachel is in labour and the midwife tells Rachel something.

Now, the midwife tells Rachel, who is in labour, that she has yet a son in her. This means that Rachel is currently in labour with the son. This son is Binyamin).
Since Rachel only gave birth to two sons (Yosef and Binyamin), and the fact that the midwife is saying that in addition to what you gave birth to, you are also having a son, the first two births must have been daughters.

Going back, the students of Rabbi Yehoshua might have only (or additionally) been commenting on the midwife's statement (which is how the meforshim seem to understand it). That is, she is not telling her that there is an additional child in her, but gam is used asseveratively (="indeed"). She is telling Rachel that the single child that she is giving birth to is a son. Note that the students do not use the word gam in their explanation.

I do not think that this is not a simple matter of darshening the word gam to include, thus making 2 daughter (or one additional daughter), as the Matnot Kehuna suggests.

New York City Transit Strike Is Over

Bloomberg was just announcing it in a press conference on TV. People going back to work, should begin at 4.

More thoughts on the Orthodoxy test

I had a lot of difficulty taking it, for often I did not see what I felt was the correct response among the choices offered. Or I thought that the top and the bottom answer were both correct. Thus, it stands to reason that I was labelled "Huh?" and has approximately the average raw score for each label.

Some thoughts on individual questions:
1) Daas Torah is:

it depends here what you mean by Daat Torah. Because of the complexity of modern life, there are many aspects that would fall outside the specialty of certain talmidei chachamim. And it then falls on the talmidei chachamim to familiarize themselves with the issues. (Rava spending so much time studying eye defects of animals is an example.) At the same time, because of the complexity of modern life, there are many aspects that involve halachic and hashkafic issues, and so one certainly should incorporate halacha into it, which involves consulting with an expert. And unfortunately, many cannot determine when an issue requires an halachic/ hashkafic consultation. Torah has a de'ah on many subjects. Howeverly, someone dating should not go to a rabbi, tell the names, and ask "should I marry this girl or not," for it is the guy, not the rabbi who is dating the gal. But that is the extreme some take it to.
Further, exposure to Torah changes a person, and eventually talmidei chachamim become "Torah"-individuals and develop a Torah-influenced perspective on life. They channel Torah. And so, it is a good idea to consult with them to get a perspective which you may not possess yourself.
But no rabbi, even the greatest Rabbi, is infallible. This is true even for halachic statements. There is an idea of tzadikkim being protected from sin, but this did not even extend to Rabbi Zera. There is an idea of divine guidance for some in the sources, but this is not absolute. Error is decidedly possible.

So, among the answers:

an essential component of Orthodox Judaism

Certainly. Especially for some groups in Orthodox Judaism, it is an essential component. It may even be a good component.

important, but not necessarily binding

I would say - in many ways, a good idea. In personal matters, it is not binding as far as a halachic decision goes.

However, there is an idea of shimush of talmidei chachamim, and to develop a personal bond with a Rebbe, such that one develops a Torah-influenced personality, and so perhaps in such situations it should be binding.

based on a real concept of listening to rabbinc leadership but extended too far

Yes. That was my choice. People certainly extend it too far. The question is who is doing this extension.

something rabbis made up to maintain communal control

Probably true for some communities, when taken to an insane extent.

What's Daas Torah?

Good question.

Leave this question out of my results

2) The State of Israel is:
My answer: Reishit Tzmichat Geulateinu.
And many other things, before and after, are as well. This does not mean that as a result I am certain that Moshiach is coming tomorrow, or within the next five years. But this is without a doubt a step in the right direction.
Perhaps this is actually not Reishit Tzmichat Geulateinu, but rather in fact Geulateinu. After all, there is a statement of Chazal (though others disagree) that the only difference between now and Yemot HaMashiach is Shibud Malchuyot. Ben Gurion was the Moshiach. Or at least a much better candidate that some that others are promoting.

3) Higher secular education is: (and the answers are: assur/bad but necessary for parnossa...)

The question is, for whom??
For someone in Meah Shearim or New Square, it probably is not necessary, or even a good idea. For others: where do you plan on going? Yeshiva University? Queens College? Saint Johns?
Different environments will affect different people differently, depending on their mental capacities and personality. Sending someone with an attitude that everything his professor says is absolute truth to a university which tries to indoctrinate (and indoctrination most certainly happens in higher education), where he will develop radical left-wing views and believe that the Torah was typed (or redacted) by 1000 monkeys sitting in a room for a while after they had finished Shakespeare is probably not a good idea.
For someone who will excel in such an environment and become a better human being, and who knows how to take things with a grain of salt, higher education is most likely an excellent idea. Perhaps for some, one cannot become the best possible Jew without having a secular education.
In between - well, there are many different solutions available in the real world, and people should find the one that suits them the best, and gets them to where they want to be in life, financially and spiritually.
To determine which is the best fit, perhaps one should consult Daat Torah. :) I'm serious.
Mine is not an attitude that tries to suppress uncomfortable knowledge. But it an acknowledgement that not everything is right for everyone. A drug that someone needs is good for them, but lethal to those who do not need it.

I compromised and chose "occasionally worthwhile but often full of apikorsus."

Perhaps more thoughts on other quiz questions later.

The Digital version of the "Einstein and Yeshiva University" exhibit is up on the web

Einstein and Yeshiva University:
"Love for the Spiritual and the Moral"
Einstein and Yeshiva University celebrates the centennial of the seminal scientific articles Einstein published in 1905, the 75th anniversary of Yeshiva College and the 50th anniversary of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The exhibit explores the relationship between Einstein and the University during its formative years and his interactions with its first two presidents.

My Results on the "Orthodoxy Test"

After seeing two other bloggers publish their results (Town Crier - Right Wing Yeshivish :) - and Hirhurim - Left Wing Yeshivish) of LamedZayin's Orthodoxy Test, thought I'd give it a shot.

The results are actually what I expected - being my general attitude that reality is a lot more nuanced that most people assume: User Test: The Orthodoxy  Test.

Left Wing Modern Orthodox: 34%
Right Wing Modern Orthodox: 63%
Left Wing Yeshivish/Chareidi: 57%
Right Wing Yeshivish/Chareidi: 30%

This means you're: Huh?

What does it mean?

I give up. What are you?

Comparison Summary:

Of the 262 unique test takers...

For: Left Wing Modern Orthodox

49% scored higher, and
49% scored lower.

The average Raw Score is: 29.6, your's was: 28.

For: Right Wing Modern Orthodox

59% scored higher, and
37% scored lower.

The average Raw Score is: 47.8, your's was: 46.

For: Left Wing Yeshivish/Chareidi

56% scored higher, and
42% scored lower.

The average Raw Score is: 41.2, your's was: 40.

For: Right Wing Yeshivish/Chareidi

43% scored higher, and
56% scored lower.

The average Raw Score is: 23.1, your's was: 24.

Friday, December 16, 2005

parshat Vayeitzei/Vayishlach: 12 Boys and Only 1 Girl?!

In Vayeitzei, among the 11 sons that are born, Dina is born as well. Is this believable - to have 12 boys and only 1 girl?

First, I would note that one midrash notes that a twin sister was born with each son, for them to marry. (The sources for this perhaps I will examine later.)

Also, there is a derasha on Vayishlach, on Binyamin's birth {Bereishit 35:17}:

יז וַיְהִי בְהַקְשֹׁתָהּ, בְּלִדְתָּהּ; וַתֹּאמֶר לָהּ הַמְיַלֶּדֶת אַל-תִּירְאִי, כִּי-גַם-זֶה לָךְ בֵּן. 17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the mid-wife said unto her: 'Fear not; for this also is a son for thee.'
that it was difficult because besides Binyamin's twin sister, there was an extra sister born to her. Perhaps based on the mapik in בְּלִדְתָּהּ = "in the birthing of "her," the extra sister...

We know that when Yaakov and family went down to Egypt, we read {Bereishit 46:7}:
ו וַיִּקְחוּ אֶת-מִקְנֵיהֶם, וְאֶת-רְכוּשָׁם אֲשֶׁר רָכְשׁוּ בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, וַיָּבֹאוּ, מִצְרָיְמָה: יַעֲקֹב, וְכָל-זַרְעוֹ אִתּוֹ. 6 And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him;
ז בָּנָיו וּבְנֵי בָנָיו, אִתּוֹ, בְּנֹתָיו וּבְנוֹת בָּנָיו, וְכָל-זַרְעוֹ--הֵבִיא אִתּוֹ, מִצְרָיְמָה. {ס} 7 his sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt. {S}
such that the plural "his daughters" implies that Dinah was not the only one. One approach is to take "daughters" to mean wives of his sons, even without stating that they married their sisters (but rather that daughters-in-law could be called daughters).

The simplest thing to say, on a peshat level, is that of course daughters were also born, but it is the nature of the Biblical text to only mention the birth of sons. Looking through all the genealogical lists, mention of daughters is exceptional, and for a reason. In large part, this is because the sons are important for tracing lineage in subsequent generations. Especially since each of Yaakov's sons is the beginning of a tribe, there is reason for them to be mentioned. Additionally, it is the sons of Yaakov who take subsequent actions that are mentioned in the patriarchal narrative. If so, there were perhaps many other daughters born to Yaakov.

Speiser notes that by Dinah's birth, no reason is given for her name. He writes, "No explanation of the name is given, which has caused critics to question the originality of the notice."

Yet there is good reason not to list an etymology. Etmologies are described in part because the importance of each of these characters as the start of a tribe. In truth, she should not have been listed here, since other daughters are not listed. However, she merits mention because of the story involving her rape by Shechem in parshat Vayishlach. The nature of the Biblical narrative is to mention in passing details which will be important later on, so that a daughter of Leah does
not suddenly leap out of nowhere and surprise the reader. Other examples of this exist, but I am busy with other items at the moment. One such example might be the mention of the birth of Rivkah...

What caused me to write about this subject? Because there is another possibility, based in peshat - that in fact Dinah was the only daughter, and that similarly, Yitzchak had no daughters, and similarly, Avraham had no daughters (though there is a midrash that he had one, and another midrash that he had another).

According to BBC News, new research has determined that the longer it takes to conceive, the more likelihood that a boy will be born:
The longer a woman takes to get pregnant, the more likely she is to have a boy, scientists suggest.

Dutch researchers analysed data for 5,283 women who gave birth to single babies between 2001 and 2003.

Among the 498 women who took longer than a year to get pregnant, the chance of having a boy was almost 58%, the British Medical Journal study found.

But the proportion of male births among the 4,785 women with shorter times to pregnancy was 51%.

The authors calculate that, for couples conceiving naturally, each additional year of trying to get pregnant is associated with a nearly 4% higher expected probability of delivering a male baby.


Dr Smits and his team say their work supports the theory that conception depends on how viscous, or "sticky", the mucus in a woman's cervix is.

The stickier it is, the harder it is for any sperm to get through. But Y bearing sperm are lighter, and swim faster.

Therefore, if a woman takes longer to get pregnant, it may be that she has thicker than usual mucus.

This would mean it is harder for any sperm to get through, so conception takes longer.

And, when it does happen, it is more likely to have a boy because of male sperm's swimming abilities.

Since the Imahot took many years before conceiving, it is quite possible that the odds of a boy being born far outweighed the odds of a girl being born.

parshat Vayishlach:The ta'am 'elyon and ta'am tachton

The trup on a pasuk towards the end of parshat Vayishlach {Bereishit 35:22} is:

כב וַיְהִ֗י בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֗ן וַיִּשְׁכַּב֙ אֶת־בִּלְהָה֙ פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֔יו וַיִּשְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל {פ}וַיִּֽהְי֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יַעֲקֹ֖ב שְׁנֵ֥ים עָשָֽׂר׃

which is a bit strange because there it a petucha, which starts a new section, in the middle of a pasuk.

There is an alternative trup, which does not have this problem:
כב וַיְהִ֗י בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֔ן וַיִּשְׁכַּ֕ב אֶת־בִּלְהָ֖ה פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֑יו וַיִּשְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ {פ}
וַיִּֽהְי֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יַעֲקֹ֖ב שְׁנֵ֥ים עָשָֽׂר׃
As I discuss in this post (Shnayim Mikra VeEchad Targum?) this is a result of the omission of the reading of the Targum on the first half of the verse. In shul they used to read a single verse and then read the Tagum, then read the next verse and then read the Targum, etc.. While we have Targum for both halves of the verse, in shul they did not read the Targum for this first half (since it contains somewhat "inappropriate" material to be translated for all to hear, especially those who might not truly understand it), and I discuss the sources in the aforementioned post. Instead, they would read both verses and only read aloud the Targum for the second.

The two different trup we have for the pasuk is the result of the application of the standard rules for division of the verse as laid down in Wickes. Since the pasuk ends in different places, the specific trup used to mark the divisions is different (since the trup chosen is based on the trup at the end of the phrase being subdivided).

Thus, the true, original trup division, which reflects true division into pesukim is the one which gives us two verses instead of one. Perhaps now that we are not reading aloud the Targum after each pasuk, there is no reason to choose the modified trup rather than the one that reflects the true division into pesukim.

Let us analyze the trup.
For both, the trup at the end is: וַיִּֽהְי֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יַעֲקֹ֖ב שְׁנֵ֥ים עָשָֽׂר. This is because all this trup is determined by the silluq at the end, on the word עָשָֽׂר, and since both trup agree that a pasuk ends here, there is no reason for dispute.

The one divergence which causes all the rest is on the word yisrael. The one we read in shul is יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל while the alternate trup is יִשְׂרָאֵֽל. This is simply the question of whether the pasuk ends here, in which case we get silluq, or continues, in which case this is the best position for the major dichotomy of the verse, in which case we get etnachta.

Now every pasuk only gets a maximum of one etnachta, and so once we place this etnachta, and subdivision will need the trup that subdivides etnachta instead. Meanwhile, in the same position, for the pasuk in which we place silluq, we would place the etnachta. At least, that is what we should expect. This is not the case, however, for we place the etnachta on אָבִ֑יו in the short pasuk, and a zakef on אָבִ֔יו in the long pasuk. Since there is a preceding zakef in the short pasuk on the word הַהִ֔וא, and we can show based on the rules of trup that the הַהִ֔וא division happens first, these are being divided in different places. This is alright and expected. The major dichotomies are determined logically (based on the meaning of the pasuk), while the minor dichotomies are determined mechanically based on syntax. There are two major divisions in this long pasuk, on logical grounds, because there are three logical parts of the pasuk. Therefore, first the etnachta is placed on אָבִ֑יו is a logical division, and then the zakef is placed on הַהִ֔וא as a second logical division. [Note: edited for correctness. See comment section for the error trail.]

To show all the divisions of the short pasuk:

וַיְהִ֗י בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֔ן וַיִּשְׁכַּ֕ב אֶת־בִּלְהָ֖ה פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֑יו וַיִּשְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

וַיְהִ֗י בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֔ן וַיִּשְׁכַּ֕ב אֶת־בִּלְהָ֖ה פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֑יו
וַיִּשְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

וַיִּשְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ may become
though this is unnecessary syntactically and is musically motivated.

the first part:
וַיְהִ֗י בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא
וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֔ן וַיִּשְׁכַּ֕ב אֶת־בִּלְהָ֖ה פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֑יו

revii and pashta subdivide phrases ending in zakef, and so
וַיְהִ֗י בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא
is divided into
בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא
and then
בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא
is divided into
בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙
בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא
and then all we have are conjunctive, rather than disjuctive trup (since each phrase has less than three words) and so they are subdivided no further.

Meanwhile, consider:
וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֔ן וַיִּשְׁכַּ֕ב אֶת־בִּלְהָ֖ה פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֑יו
zakef and tipcha subdivide phrases ending in etnachta, and so we have:
וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֔ן
וַיִּשְׁכַּ֕ב אֶת־בִּלְהָ֖ה פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֑יו
וַיִּשְׁכַּ֕ב אֶת־בִּלְהָ֖ה פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֑יו
is divided into
אֶת־בִּלְהָ֖ה פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֑יו
and then
אֶת־בִּלְהָ֖ה פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֑יו
is divided into
פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֑יו

So much for the short version of the pasuk.

Let us consider the long version:
כב וַיְהִ֗י בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֗ן וַיִּשְׁכַּב֙ אֶת־בִּלְהָה֙ פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֔יו וַיִּשְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל {פ}וַיִּֽהְי֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יַעֲקֹ֖ב שְׁנֵ֥ים עָשָֽׂר׃

As mentioned above, the etnachta divided the pasuk, so the first half is:
וַיְהִ֗י בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֗ן וַיִּשְׁכַּב֙ אֶת־בִּלְהָה֙ פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֔יו וַיִּשְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל

zakef and tipcha subdivide phrases ending in etnachta, so we have:
וַיְהִ֗י בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא
וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֗ן וַיִּשְׁכַּב֙ אֶת־בִּלְהָה֙ פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֔יו וַיִּשְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל

revii and pashta subdivide phrases ending in zakef, so we divide
וַיְהִ֗י בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא
בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא
and then divide
בִּשְׁכֹּ֤ן יִשְׂרָאֵל֙
בָּאָ֣רֶץ הַהִ֔וא

which is an identical to the one we had in the short pasuk.

Meanwhile, how shall we subdivide וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֗ן וַיִּשְׁכַּב֙ אֶת־בִּלְהָה֙ פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֔יו וַיִּשְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל?
subdividing an etnachta, as we mentioned, is done by tipcha and zakef, so we have:
וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֗ן וַיִּשְׁכַּב֙ אֶת־בִּלְהָה֙ פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֔יו
וַיִּשְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל

which gives us similar division to the one we had in the short pasuk, once we knocked off the first zakef.

וַיִּשְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל is divided into
the same as before.

We now divide
וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֗ן וַיִּשְׁכַּב֙ אֶת־בִּלְהָה֙ פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֔יו
revii and pashta subdivide phrases ending in zakef, so we subdivide
וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רְאוּבֵ֗ן
וַיִּשְׁכַּב֙ אֶת־בִּלְהָה֙ פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֔יו

then, we subdivide וַיִּשְׁכַּב֙ אֶת־בִּלְהָה֙ פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֔יו into
אֶת־בִּלְהָה֙ פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֔יו

and then subdivide אֶת־בִּלְהָה֙ פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֔יו into
פִּילֶ֣גֶשׁ אָבִ֔יו

Thus, the subdivisions are identical. What differs is the specific trup, and this, as mentioned above, is a result of each trup being determined by the trup at the end of the phrase it is subdividing.

parshat Vayeitzei/Vayishlach: Triple Etiologies of Place Names

In the past, I've discussed dual etiologies of names. I'd like two note two examples in which we have triple etiologies, where I previously only noticed two.


When sending gifts to Esav, Yaakov states {Bereishit 30:21-22}:
כא וַאֲמַרְתֶּם--גַּם הִנֵּה עַבְדְּךָ יַעֲקֹב, אַחֲרֵינוּ: כִּי-אָמַר אֲכַפְּרָה פָנָיו, בַּמִּנְחָה הַהֹלֶכֶת לְפָנָי, וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן אֶרְאֶה פָנָיו, אוּלַי יִשָּׂא פָנָי. 21 and ye shall say: Moreover, behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us.' For he said: 'I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept me.'
כב וַתַּעֲבֹר הַמִּנְחָה, עַל-פָּנָיו; וְהוּא לָן בַּלַּיְלָה-הַהוּא, בַּמַּחֲנֶה. 22 So the present passed over before him; and he himself lodged that night in the camp.
Speiser writes: Note the five occurrences of the stem pny, each with a different connotation, yet all leading up to Peniel in vs. 31.

Later, in pasuk 31, we have the second etiology:

ל וַיִּשְׁאַל יַעֲקֹב, וַיֹּאמֶר הַגִּידָה-נָּא שְׁמֶךָ, וַיֹּאמֶר, לָמָּה זֶּה תִּשְׁאַל לִשְׁמִי; וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתוֹ, שָׁם. 30 And Jacob asked him, and said: 'Tell me, I pray thee, thy name.' And he said: 'Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?' And he blessed him there.
לא וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם, פְּנִיאֵל: כִּי-רָאִיתִי אֱלֹקִים פָּנִים אֶל-פָּנִים, וַתִּנָּצֵל נַפְשִׁי. 31 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: 'for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.'
{Speiser translates Elokim as God - though later, he renders this example "divine beings" as well in a COMMENT on the next chapter, on page 260.)

But there is a third one which Speiser does not mention, in parshat Vayishlach. It is somewhat related to the aforementioned, though:
י וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב, אַל-נָא אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ, וְלָקַחְתָּ מִנְחָתִי, מִיָּדִי: כִּי עַל-כֵּן רָאִיתִי פָנֶיךָ, כִּרְאֹת פְּנֵי אֱלֹקִים--וַתִּרְצֵנִי. 10 And Jacob said: 'Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found favour in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand; forasmuch as I have seen thy face, as one seeth the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me.
Still, it is named Peniel because seeing Esav's face is like seeing the face of God.

For Machanayim:

We have the explicit eteology, in Bereishit 32:2:
וְיַעֲקֹב, הָלַךְ לְדַרְכּוֹ; וַיִּפְגְּעוּ-בוֹ, מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹקִים.
2 And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
ג וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב כַּאֲשֶׁר רָאָם, מַחֲנֵה אֱלֹקִים זֶה; וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם-הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא, מַחֲנָיִם.
3 And Jacob said when he saw them: 'This is God's camp.' And he called the name of that place Mahanaim. {P}
Then, we have Yaakov split his camp into two camps:
ח וַיִּירָא יַעֲקֹב מְאֹד, וַיֵּצֶר לוֹ; וַיַּחַץ אֶת-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-אִתּוֹ, וְאֶת-הַצֹּאן וְאֶת-הַבָּקָר וְהַגְּמַלִּים--לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת. 8 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and was distressed. And he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and the herds, and the camels, into two camps.
ט וַיֹּאמֶר, אִם-יָבוֹא עֵשָׂו אֶל-הַמַּחֲנֶה הָאַחַת וְהִכָּהוּ--וְהָיָה הַמַּחֲנֶה הַנִּשְׁאָר, לִפְלֵיטָה. 9 And he said: 'If Esau come to the one camp, and smite it, then the camp which is left shall escape.'

Finally, we have a third {which again Speiser does not identify as a separate etiology}:
י וַיֹּאמֶר, יַעֲקֹב, אֱלֹהֵי אָבִי אַבְרָהָם, וֵאלֹהֵי אָבִי יִצְחָק: ה הָאֹמֵר אֵלַי, שׁוּב לְאַרְצְךָ וּלְמוֹלַדְתְּךָ--וְאֵיטִיבָה עִמָּךְ. 10 And Jacob said: 'O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who saidst unto me: Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will do thee good;
יא קָטֹנְתִּי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים, וּמִכָּל-הָאֱמֶת, אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ, אֶת-עַבְדֶּךָ: כִּי בְמַקְלִי, עָבַרְתִּי אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה, וְעַתָּה הָיִיתִי, לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת. 11 I am not worthy of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast shown unto Thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two camps.
where the contrast between "with my staff" and "become two camps" is one of growth, and transition from rags to riches. Thus, it is not the splitting into two camps because of distress, but the growing into two camps (as indeed Speiser translates). This is thus a separate etiology of Machanayim.

{As an aside, these triple etiologies provide nice counter-examples to those who would assign automatically different etiologies to different authors. If you look at Speiser, he even assigns one of the dual etiologies to a single hand, and does the same with the third etiology.}

parshat Noach: Dual Etiology for Bavel

A non-overt etiology in the story of the tower of Bavel. It begins {Bereishit 11}:

א וַיְהִי כָל-הָאָרֶץ, שָׂפָה אֶחָת, וּדְבָרִים, אֲחָדִים. 1 And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.
ב וַיְהִי, בְּנָסְעָם מִקֶּדֶם; וַיִּמְצְאוּ בִקְעָה בְּאֶרֶץ שִׁנְעָר, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
ג וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל-רֵעֵהוּ, הָבָה נִלְבְּנָה לְבֵנִים, וְנִשְׂרְפָה, לִשְׂרֵפָה; וַתְּהִי לָהֶם הַלְּבֵנָה, לְאָבֶן, וְהַחֵמָר, הָיָה לָהֶם לַחֹמֶר 3 And they said one to another: 'Come, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly.' And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
ד וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָבָה נִבְנֶה-לָּנוּ עִיר, וּמִגְדָּל וְרֹאשׁוֹ בַשָּׁמַיִם, וְנַעֲשֶׂה-לָּנוּ, שֵׁם: פֶּן-נָפוּץ, עַל-פְּנֵי כָל-הָאָרֶץ. 4 And they said: 'Come, let us build us a city, and a tower, with its top in heaven, and let us make us a name; lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.'
ה וַיֵּרֶד יְהוָה, לִרְאֹת אֶת-הָעִיר וְאֶת-הַמִּגְדָּל, אֲשֶׁר בָּנוּ, בְּנֵי הָאָדָם. 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
The midrash understands this to mean that they intended to wage war on heaven, based on וְרֹאשׁוֹ בַשָּׁמַיִם - that the head of the tower was meant to actually reach the heavens. They wanted to attack Heaven to preempt any future flood - and we might understand the rest of the verse in that light - that this was to prevent them from being scattered, and they were going to make a name for themselves by attacking Heaven.

On the level of peshat, this might well fit in. Scholars note a possible connection between this tower of Bavel and the ziggurat in Bavel described in Enuma Elish.

For a whole year they made bricks for it.
When the second year arrived,
They had raised the top of Esagila in front of (?) the Apsu;
They had built a high ziggurat for the Apsu.

Speiser notes (pg 76) "the Akkadian for "they raised its (Esagila's) head" (ullu resisu) is merely a play on Esagila." He continues, "it is to this particular phrase in a well-known canonical composition, transmitted either directly or indirectly, that the biblical phrase "with its top (literally "head") in the sky" obviously harks back."

Note I don't know if I would subscribe to the claim of "merely," and this would make a difference as to its import here. Perhaps high-falutin language, such that we find in Biblical poetry, utilizes expressions which are common from elsewhere but puts it in proximity so as to also create local parallelism, such that we see in the parallelism to Esagila. In fact, this may be a common expression, such that one should not make such a link, but trace both to common parlance.

By the spies sent to spy out the land of Israel, they notes that the cities were fortified "to the heavens." True, this does not involve mention a "head," but it shows that "in the heavens" at least is common enough. Likewise, the modern expression that someone has his head in the clouds does not hark back to Enuma Elish.

We have a mention of a head reaching the heavens in Vayeitzei. In Bereishit 28:12:
יב וַיַּחֲלֹם, וְהִנֵּה סֻלָּם מֻצָּב אַרְצָה, וְרֹאשׁוֹ, מַגִּיעַ הַשָּׁמָיְמָה; וְהִנֵּה מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹהִים, עֹלִים וְיֹרְדִים בּוֹ. 12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
Now, Speiser connects this to a ziggurat, but makes no direct connection to Enuma Elish, even though we have וְרֹאשׁוֹ מַגִּיעַ הַשָּׁמָיְמָה. So I have my doubts that that is an obvious literary connection between the two.

Still, the tower of Bavel is likely a ziggurat, which is a gateway to heaven. There is an upper and lower temple, and it is a conduit to heaven - as Speiser writes (pg 220) in Vayeitzei, it is "a spiritual symbol, in short, of man's efforts to reach out to heaven."

Now, Speiser and many modern scholars dismiss the explanation of Bavel and bll, to mix up and confuse, because bll is not equal to bbl. (Though as we see in Tg Onkelos, it can be blbl in Aramaic, which we might say could then lose the lamed...) As a result, they claim the aetiology is fanciful, and the true source of the name is babh `el = gate of god.

Now, I will admit that this etiology is a good one. I would even note that the fact that bll, confusion of language, comes from a confusion of the language bbl, gate of god, such that they intended it as gate of god (as we see in the story), but God had a different say and decided that it should be based on bll, confusion of their language and plans, and that this might form an excellent peshat in that narrative.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Blogging will most likely be lighter than usual this week

since today starts a weeklong take-home final for Syntax I. The semester at CUNY is thus coming to a close, while Revel continues...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Posts so far for parshat Vayishlach

  • Come and Hear, or Come, Then Hear? (2004)
    • Did Dinah's brothers come because they heard the news, or did they hear the news because they came? Midrash, parsing, and trup.
  • How to Address a Business Letter (2004)
    • And Yaakov's message to Esav. There is a formal form of address, discovered in extra-Biblical sources as well as elsewhere in Tanach. And the parsing which seems proposed by trup, and the traditional explanation, seems against this parse. Yet this parse was apparently known to Yehuda Nesia, and in fact does work out according to trup (looking at Wickes' rules, and against Speiser's suggestion that it does not).
  • Dinah's Arms (2004)
    • being exposed, caused her to be seized?
  • Binyamin's Name (2004)

  • וְהָיִינוּ לְעַם אֶחָד and cross-cultural circumcision (2003)
  • In "Dual Etymologies for Names" (2003)
    I discuss how various place names seem to have more than one reason for their naming. Specifically, מחנים (in the dual form), named at the end of Vayeitzei, is so named because Yaakov sees a single encampment of angels. But then we see in Vayishlach, shortly afterwards and in the same location, that he splits his family into two camps. I discuss a midrash on the matter in Tg Yerushalmi, and the Scriptural basis for the midrash. Tg Yonatan, Rashi, and Ramban seem to take on the issue of why there is a dual in מחנים.
    Another dual place name in Vayishlach is Penuel, which Yaakov first names for having seen God face to face and living to tell the tale, yet later he uses the term to say that seeing Esav's face is like seeing that of God.
    Also in Vayishlach is Bet El, which Yaakov seems to name multiple times, but I claim the
    psukim are speaking in the pluperfect, and he only names the place one time.
  • In "Dual Etymologies for People's Names" (2003)
    I treat dual etymologies for people rather than places as I did in the first post. Turning to Vayeitzei, I find dual etymologies for Yosef and Yissacher, and give possible explanations for this.
  • In "Shnayim Mikra VeEchad Targum?" (2003)
    I discuss two psukim that have only a single targum, and how the trup is constructed so as to omit the translation in shul. It is a pasuk about Reuven and Bilhah.
  • In "Commentators Who Live In Glass Houses?" (2003)
    Ibn Ezra takes a contemporary, Yitzchaki, to task for kefira in the dating of the psukim about the kings of Edom. I show how Ibn Ezra's approach differs from Yitzchaki.
  • Rachel the Wrestler, Yaakov the Wrestler (2002)
    • cross-listed from Vayeitzei

Thursday, December 08, 2005

parshat Vayeitzei: Who Named Levi?

Who named Levi? The pasuk states {Bereishit 29:34}
לד וַתַּהַר עוֹד, וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן, וַתֹּאמֶר עַתָּה הַפַּעַם יִלָּוֶה אִישִׁי אֵלַי, כִּי-יָלַדְתִּי לוֹ שְׁלֹשָׁה בָנִים; עַל-כֵּן קָרָא-שְׁמוֹ, לֵוִי. 34 And she conceived again, and bore a son; and said: 'Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have borne him three sons.' Therefore was his name called Levi.
JPS thus translates קָרָא as "was called," the passive.

There is another possibility, given by Judaica Press, based on Rashi, in turn based on a midrash in Devarim Rabba. They translate:
And she conceived again and bore a son, and she said, "Now this time my husband will be attached to me, for I have borne him three sons; therefore, He named him Levi.
Thus, קָרָא is translated as "he called," with God as the one performing the act of naming.
He named him Levi: [I wondered why] it is written concerning this one, “and he named,” while concerning all [the others], it is written, “and she named.” There is an aggadic midrash in Deuteronomy Rabbah, [which relates] how the Holy One, blessed be He, sent Gabriel and he brought him (Levi) before Him, and He gave him this name, and He gave him the twenty-four priestly gifts; and because he accompanied him (לִוָּהוּ) with gifts, he named him Levi.
The simple, non-midrashic reading of this, taking the verb the same way syntactically, is "he said," with a lowercase "h," with Yaakov doing the naming. And on a peshat level, it is not clear that Rashi disagrees. He notes the distinction of "she called/he called," and then mentions a midrash which accounts for the sudden shift, while marking it clearly as a midrash aggada. (Or alternatively, he notes the distinction "she called his name"/"his name was called," which carries no real semantic difference, and notes a midrash aggada which plays upon this.)

The trup would seem to favor taking קָרָא as "was called," the passive, for there is a makef (dash) connecting the words קָרָא-שְׁמוֹ, such that they receive only one stress. This is more consistent with the name being the subject ("thefore his name was called") than the object. I do not think we would expect a makef if "his name" were the object. Indeed, in the close parallel, in which Rachel names a son, we read {Bereishit 30:6}:

ה וַתַּהַר בִּלְהָה, וַתֵּלֶד לְיַעֲקֹב בֵּן. 5 And Bilhah conceived, and bore Jacob a son.
ו וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל, דָּנַנִּי אֱלֹקִים, וְגַם שָׁמַע בְּקֹלִי, וַיִּתֶּן-לִי בֵּן; עַל-כֵּן קָרְאָה שְׁמוֹ, דָּן. 6 And Rachel said: 'God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son.' Therefore called she his name Dan.
we have no makef between קָרְאָה and שְׁמו. ֹ

It is a little strange for Yaakov to be naming the son, for he is not mentioned in the verse. (For that matter, neither is God.) It is Leah who gives the etymology for the name, and so we should either expect her to actually assign the name, or for Levi to be named, using a passive verb, in which the actor is not specified. True, Leah could have said this and in response Yaakov named him Levi, but that is a bit more difficult.

And so, we have three different possibilities:
1) He was named (presumably by Leah)
2) God named him
3) Yaakov named him

There is actually a fourth possibility I will cover shortly.

Speiser, in Anchor Bible Genesis, emends the text to "she called him," noting "Sam., LXX; MT "was called/he called." That is, the Samaritan Torah has "she called him," as does the Septuagint, and he follows their more logical reading. The Masoretic text, on the other hand, hasקָרָא, which can mean either (1) or (3).

Here is the LXX:

29:34 και συνελαβεν ετι και ετεκεν υιον και ειπεν εν τω νυν καιρω προς εμου εσται ο ανηρ μου ετεκον γαρ αυτω τρεις υιους δια τουτο εκαλεσεν το ονομα αυτου λευι

I could not find the Samaritan Torah online, (though would appreciate someone sending me a link), but I assume that they have the text קָרְאָה rather than קָרָא.

{Update: Indeed it does. Thanks for the link! Here is the page in question.}

I take exception to Speiser's comment, because it implies that MT could not mean "she called." In fact, it can (as I will soon explain). By making this an emendation and claiming that the MT means something else, we get to apply emendation, which looks nice and scholarly, but several other things occur:

1) He partially undermines his own argument. If all texts are in agreement, then the conclusion is more solid.
2) Those who give primacy to the MT will take the text otherwise. This will lead them to argue against his emendation, and also to think that the correct meaning of the must be "was called" or "he called."
3) The MT gets maligned - a data point is created in which the Masoretic text was wrong.
4) In fact, the thought process which involves justifying the MT could explain the relationship of the Samaritan text and the LXX to the MT, which then yields a deeper understanding of the issue.
5) Parenthetically, Speiser is possibly wrong, and the correct reading may indeed indeed be "was called." A closer analysis might have revealed this.

Indeed, the most likely meaning of the term appears to be "she called." Consider all the other sons (and one daughter):
  1. Reuven: (29:32): וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ רְאוּבֵן
  2. Shimon: (29:33): וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, שִׁמְעוֹן
  3. Levi: (29:34): עַל-כֵּן קָרָא-שְׁמוֹ, לֵוִי
  4. Yehuda: (29:35): עַל-כֵּן קָרְאָה שְׁמוֹ, יְהוּדָה
  5. Dan (30:6): עַל-כֵּן קָרְאָה שְׁמוֹ, דָּן
  6. Naftali: (30:8): וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, נַפְתָּלִי
  7. Gad: (30:11): וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, גָּד
  8. Asher: (30: 13): וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, אָשֵׁר
  9. Yissachar: (30:18): וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, יִשָּׂשכָר
  10. Zevulun (30:20): וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, זְבֻלוּן
  11. Dinah (30:21): וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמָהּ, דִּינָה
  12. Yosef (30: 24): וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ יוֹסֵף
  13. Ben-Oni/Binyamin (35:18): וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, בֶּן-אוֹנִי; וְאָבִיו, קָרָא-לוֹ בִנְיָמִין
Each of these is called by his or her mother. There are one or two exceptions. Binyamin is called Ben Oni by his mother, while his father is the one who names him Binyamin. And the other possible exception is Levi, if we read קָרָא as "he called him." Perhaps we can match קָרָא by Binyamin to קָרָא by Levi.

However, Binyamin is in a separate section, and is an exceptional case - and even there, we have וַתִּקְרָא. Let us consider the other cases.

In each, the mother names the child. In most instances, this is stated via: וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ. However, there are three in the middle which deviate. Speiser engages in a smoothing operation. First, smooth all three exceptions to be identical. This could be accomplished by
transforming the three exceptions to קָרָא, or else by transforming the three exceptions to קָרְאָה. The second step is to smooth these three exceptions with the surrounding verses. In each of those other verses, the mother names the child (וַתִּקְרָא), and thus it is likely that these all are really קָרְאָה. The reason for a simple perfect (=past) tense rather than the vav conversive form וַתִּקְרָא is the word עַל-כֵּן, which interrupts the flow such that we cannot have וַ here. Another reason to favor the transformation to קָרְאָה - two of the verses have קָרְאָה and only one has קָרָא, and we should follow majority rule, for this entails fewer emendation and fewer claims of the text having become mangled.

I do not know if all this went through his mind. A more simple way at arriving at this conclusion: there are 12 people named here, and with only one exception, the mother does the naming. In the single exception, there are two variant textual traditions, represented by Sam. and LXX, which have קָרְאָה. The most logical path would be to follow the two texts and assume that the one (the MT) is wrong - and to follow the two instances of קָרְאָה in the MT, and assume that the one occurrence of קָרָא is wrong. Thus, we should emend to קָרְאָה.

However, we need not emend קָרָא to make it mean "she called." Let us examine this phonologically. Neither the aleph of קָרָא nor the heh of קָרְאָה is pronounced. Both are matres lectiones, to help with the reading of the word (or in the case of קָרָא, for etymological reasons as well).

Perhaps the word was originally, correctly קָרְאָה. What then happened is commonly called "elision of aleph." That is, the sheva followed by aleph are not pronounced. We see a very common occurence of this phenomenon in the word וַיֹּאמֶר, where the aleph, while present, is not pronounced. On the occasion where aleph is pronounced, it will be at the beginning of a syllable or at the end followed by a shva nach (resting shwa). In וַיֹּאמֶר, there is no shva.

Another example which people frequently get wrong is in Tehillim 34:10, though it also accurs in bentching:
י יְראוּ אֶת-ה קְדֹשָׁיו: כִּי-אֵין מַחְסוֹר, לִירֵאָיו. 10 O fear the LORD, ye His holy ones; for there is no want to them that fear Him.

There is no shva under the resh or aleph, telling us that only one is pronounced. In this case, it is the aleph. Note also the shva under the yud instead of the chirik we would expect. The word is pronounced ye-ru, rather than yir-`u {update: or rather, yi-re-`u}. In other words, יְרוּ.

That the word is pronounced without the aleph - יְרוּ - does not change its syntactic or semantic meaning. This is a purely phonological phenomenon.

Similarly, if we have the same elision of aleph for the word קָרְאָה, we would pronounce it קָרָה, though we might as well keep the aleph and have קָרָא so that people can identify the root. After all, neither the aleph nor heh are actually pronounced.

And once again, that the word is pronounced differently is a phonological phenomenon, but has no bearing on syntax nor semantics. The word would still mean "she called." And Speiser would not have to appeal to an emendation.

Alternatively, the text can be written in one way (ketiv) and pronounced otherwise (krei). There are some fairly odd spellings. Perhaps the text was written קרא but should be vocalized קָרְאָ. Not always do we have matres lectiones at the end of words. There are times that they are regularly absent - e.g., the kha ending in לְשׁוֹנְךָ and the ta ending in אָכָלְתָּ. Sometimes u endings of words disappear and we call it ketiv and krei. Consider also the case of motzi shem ra, in Devarim 22, with the multiple occurrences of הַנַּעֲרָ. The MT does not mean "boy." Rather, this is a variant spelling.

So too, קָרְאָ might be a variant spelling. Or, as mentioned above, this could be a phonological phenomenon of elision of aleph such that it was even meant to be pronounced קָרָא.

What now of the other two textual traditions? The LXX is a translation, and just reflects meaning. If the word means "she called" even in MT, then it could just as well reflect a translation of the MT. In terms of the Samaritan Torah, if this is a variant spelling of קָרְאָ in MT, the Samaritan text could simply be smoothing this out by adding the heh at the end. Or perhaps it is also a translation. As has been demonstrated (link goes to essay by R' Gil Student), the Samaritan text itself emends the text to smooth things out. And as Rabbi Chajm Heller writes (same link), they have a tendency to modift the text as a means of interpretation. Furthermore (same essay):
Additionally, we find slight changes of wording in the Samaritan Torah to fit the text to the Samaritan dialect of Hebrew. For example, the Samaritan scribes consistently removed verbs in the infinitive. Also, certain Aramaic words found their way into the text. Both of these types of changes reflect the translation of the biblical text into the Samaritan dialect, a phenomenon very consistent with the previously mentioned commentaries that were also inserted into the text.
So this is really a translation in Samaritan dialect, a Hebrew Targum if you will, such that if it reflects the meaning, this does not necessarily reflect an original wording.

Thus, Speiser can be correct in having the word mean "she called" without needing to emend the text.

However, if I were Speiser, I would have emended the text in the opposite direction. The problem is not the one occurrence of קָרָא, but the two occurrences of the word קָרְאָה. I would have changed both to קָרָא, to mean "was called."

Speiser likes to divide the text into segments - P, J, E, what have you. Yet his eye is on Elokim/ YKVK distinctions. There is a much more obvious distinction, however - between the עַל-כֵּן and the וַתִּקְרָא. Indeed, Speiser assigns the first two עַל-כֵּן's (that is Levi and Yehuda) to J, because the name YKVK is used with Yehuda, and the third עַל-כֵּן, the naming of Dan, to E, because Elokim is used.

Nonsense. If any grouping is to be made, it should be of this middle group of עַל-כֵּן stuck in the center of a ground of וַתִּקְרָא. To be fair, Speiser notes that the division in this section of Yaakov's children is tenuous - "The borderline between J and E is sometimes uncertain in this section." But this is not an issue of borderline. This middle section, which stands out, contains both J and E, and comes from the same source, if we are even to posit different sources. (In fact, there are many other issues with an J/E analysis here, which I will not go into here because it will take us too far afield.) (Note also that there are other elements in the narrative that link other groups of sons together.)

If these three are distinct from וַתִּקְרָא, there is no need to smooth to match the context. Those other verses can have her (with who she is changing from verse to verse) naming the children, while these three need not have her explicitly naming the children.

Furthermore, from a syntactic perspective, the words עַל-כֵּן, "therefore," used to introduce the section and take it out of the vav conversive, sets the stage for a distancing of actor. "was named" is dependent on the existence of "therefore," and thus we would expect "was named" to follow "therefore," or else there is no need for the shift.

Finally, forget going after the majority when we move from קָרָא to קָרְאָה. For קָרְאָה is most decidedly not the majority. Sure, it is in the majority locally: two to one. However, globally, when we search (here at snunit) for the words עַל-כֵּן קָרָא, you will get 13 matches, where it is clear that what is meant is "was called." In constrast, if you do a search for עַל-כֵּן קָרְאָה, you will find two matches - namely, the two in parshat Vayeitzei. And these might have been changed by a scribe to match all of the other instances of וַתִּקְרָא.

Thus, the reading קָרְאָה is outnumbered 13 to 2. This makes sense if the words עַל-כֵּן are to introduce the passive. Perhaps Speiser should emend the two instances of קָרְאָה to קָרָא.

If we do not wish to emend, perhaps we can explain that in truth the word קָרָא was intended. At the same time, the Author wished to match the other instances of וַתִּקְרָא, and so in general wrote קָרְאָה, which can perhaps be pronounced the same (or at least similarly). After all, in all these instances, it was the mother than named the child. To convey both, a multivalent reading was created, the Author maintaining the spelling in the first to make sure the reader saw the base meaning in all three cases.


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