Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Scattered Thoughts on haftarat Bamidbar

The haftara for Bamidbar is the second perek of Hoshea, and I have a few points to note:

The mashal is to a cheating spouse, who is cast off, seeks her lovers but does not attain them, and then seeks to return to her first spouse - אֵלְכָה וְאָשׁוּבָה אֶל-אִישִׁי הָרִאשׁוֹן--כִּי טוֹב לִי אָז, מֵעָתָּה. Meanwhile, what she thought were the wages of her lovers (the Bealim) were really provided by her husband. And then he woos her and betroths her forever.

There is a connection to the previous perek where Hoshea followed Hashem's instruction to marry a harlot and "children of harlotry" (though my reading of it had the children born being fathered by Hoshea -- and I take וַיִּקַּח there to mean marry), and to name the children born as they are named.

According to halacha, though, I wonder whether the mashal could be realized. It is not really a machzir gerushato problem, since she did not marry the lovers after being sent off by her husband. But a sota is forbidden to her lover and to her husband. Luckily for us, this is a mashal, and one cannot ask such a question on it to uproot the nimshal.

The next two points are not original. In pasuk 18:
יח וְהָיָה בַיּוֹם-הַהוּא נְאֻם-יְהוָה, תִּקְרְאִי אִישִׁי; וְלֹא-תִקְרְאִי-לִי עוֹד, בַּעְלִי. 18 And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call Me Ishi, and shalt call Me no more Baali.
יט וַהֲסִרֹתִי אֶת-שְׁמוֹת הַבְּעָלִים, מִפִּיהָ; וְלֹא-יִזָּכְרוּ עוֹד, בִּשְׁמָם. 19 For I will take away the names of the Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be mentioned by their name.
Notice how the JPS translation deliberately does not translate Ishi and Baali. There is deliberate multivalence, here, or at least a pun. Ishi means husband, and Baali also can be used to mean husband. Malbim says that the former connotes the love aspect of the relationship while the latter refers to the memshala of the relationship. But of course it can also refer to Baal as in the idolatry (as in the immediate context in the next pasuk). This is a deliberate pun.

Finally, the last pasuk has a word we spoke about in a Biblical Hebrew class or two:
כב וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי, בֶּאֱמוּנָה; וְיָדַעַתְּ, אֶת-ה. {פ} 22 And I will betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the LORD. {P}
וְיָדַעַתְּ is strange, but that is its grammatical form. What is strange about it is the dagesh in the tav at the end. If it were a dagesh chazak, we would expect a sheva na under it, which we clearly do not have -- and why should there be a dagesh chazak? It would therefore be a dagesh kal, but we have that only in a consonant cluster at the end of the word? -- if the ayin had a sheva nach, we could have the tav with a sheva nach as well. Since the ayin has a patach, we should expect the dagesh kal to be absent from the tav. It is thus a cross between veyada'ath and veyada't.

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