Thursday, November 29, 2007

Chanukka: Which Is Min HaMuvchar? Wax Candles or Olive Oil?

Note: Not Intended Halacha LeMaaseh

I would say wax candles! Of course, current practice and perception is that oil, and specifically olive oil, is better. But from an halachic perspective, I would say the opposite (at least for floating cork wicks -- but standing wicks may well be a different story).

Firstly, is there any halachic imperative to prefer olive oil over any other oil? The source for this is Shabbat 23a:

אמר רב ששת אכסנאי חייב בנר חנוכה א"ר זירא מריש כי הוינא בי רב משתתפנא בפריטי בהדי אושפיזא בתר דנסיבי איתתא אמינא השתא ודאי לא צריכנא דקא מדליקי עלי בגו ביתאי: א"ר יהושע בן לוי כל השמנים כולן יפין לנר ושמן זית מן המובחר אמר אביי מריש הוה מהדר מר אמשחא דשומשמי אמר האי משך נהורי טפי כיון דשמע לה להא דרבי יהושע בן לוי מהדר אמשחא דזיתא אמר האי צליל נהוריה טפי ואריב"ל כל השמנים יפין לדיו ושמן זית מן המובחר איבעיא להו לגבל או לעשן ת"ש דתני רב שמואל בר זוטרא כל השמנים יפין לדיו ושמן זית מן המובחר בין לגבל בין לעשן רב שמואל בר זוטרא מתני הכי כל העשנים יפין לדיו ושמן זית מן המובחר אמר רב הונא כל השרפין יפין לדיו ושרף קטף יפה מכולם:

As Soncino translates:
R. Joshua b. Levi said: All oils are fit for the Hanukkah lamp, but olive oil is of the best. Abaye observed: At first the Master [Rabbah] used to seek poppy-seed oil, saying, The light of this is more lasting; but when he heard this [dictum] of R. Joshua b. Levi, he was particular for olive oil, saying, This yields a clearer light.

R. Joshua b. Levi also said: All oils are fit for ink, and olive oil is of the best. The scholars propounded: for kneading or for smoking? — Come and hear: For R. Samuel b. Zutra recited: All oils are fit for ink, and olive oil is of the best, both for kneading and for smoking. R. Samuel b. Zutra recited it thus: All soots are fit for ink: and olive oil is the best. R. Huna said: All gums are good for ink, but balsam gum is the best of all.
Very important to note -- although Soncino translates, "All oils are fit for the Hanukkah lamp," the gemara itself does not specify Chanukka. It is indeed a logical deduction that this refers to the Chanukka lamp, and Tosafot indeed makes this deduction, on the side of the gemara, but one might otherwise interpret this as referring, e.g., to the Shabbat lamp.

There are a few things we might derive from this gemara. The first important thing to note is that Rabba initially used non-olive oil, for practical purposes. There was no emotional connection to one specific type of oil, but rather it was a cold calculation of which was the best kind of oil for this purpose. And poppy-seed oil seemed to be best, because it burned for longer.

Furthermore, once he heard this dictum of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, he instead went after olive oil preferentially, giving a different reason -- that it burns brighter. One needs to question whether this is really his reason for preferring it. Is brighter better? Or is longer better?

One might well make a homiletical point out of this, and one might even connect it to the nes of the pach shemen. Yet leaving that aside, it certainly seems plausible that Rabba knew well before this that different oils have different properties, and while one may be good in one respect, another might be better in a different respect. Yet he reverses his initial practice when hearing this statement by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi. This might be because he wishes to conduct himself in accordance with this tradition from Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, and thus now states a factor that would weigh in favor of olive oil. Or alternatively, now that he heard this statement in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, he deduces what aspect of kindling the lights should be prioritized, and apparently that is brightness rather than duration.

Now compare wax candles to olive oil. Which burns longer? Which burns brighter?

This past Chanukka (and previous years as well), we lit olive oil in floating wicks next to wax candles. My father always has lit oil. Yet we kids most often lit candles, initially because these were the projects we came home from school with. This year, I lit olive oil, and Meir came from nursery school with a candle menorah he had made (or more specifically, glued black and white buttons on in order to decorate). So I have had opportunity to compare them side by side.

It seems to me that the flames on wax candles are slightly whiter, while olive oil is a bit more tinged yellow. But this is hardly noticeable. However, this is only true at the very beginning of lighting. As time progresses, the wax candles are much, much brighter than the oil with floating wicks.

Why is this? Well, the size of the flame is based in large part on the amount of oxygen that gets to it. At the start, wax candles and oil cups are equivalent, since the oil is at the top of the cup and so it gets about the same amount of oxygen. (Although, of course, even then, the candles get oxygen from below as well as from above, while the oil only gets from above.) However, as the oil is consumed, the floating wick drops lower and lower in the cup, and less and less oxygen gets to the flame. At this point, the wax candles are much brighter than the oil cups. Indeed, sometimes the flames go out before all the oil is consumed. This may be because the floating wick capsized, but also because not enough oxygen gets to the flame when the floating wick is so low in the cup.

On the other hand, olive oil lasts much, much longer. But which is preferable? I believe the gemara addressed this issue. Rabba initially favored poppy-seed oil, thinking that because it burns longer, it is preferable, but reversed himself when he heard Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's statement, and now held that olive oil was preferable because it burns brighter. We may walk away from this gemara with the conclusion that brightness is better than duration. And so, wax candles are better than oil, when the oil is being used with floating wicks.

There is another reason, brought down by Mishnah Brurah, that olive oil was used in the nes of the pach shemen, and is thus preferable. However, this is an additional reason, supplementing the reason given in the gemara. Rabba did not give this reason, and did not even consider this reason initially, when he preferred poppy-seed oil. Should we give precedence to that which is defined as min hamuvchar by the gemara, or to something put forth by Rishonim and Acharonim, who are post-Talmudic, and what was a supplemental reason to boot? I would say that we should give precedence to the gemara.

{Update: To clarify, there are many who said that olive oil is preferable for this reason -- though they would seem to be operating on the assumption that olive oil burned just as brightly as a candle. Some examples: Meiri, Mahari Brona, Mishna Berura, Aruch haShulchan who say this, that olive oil is preferable over wax for this reason, and Kolbo and Levush that this is a reason that olive oil is Min haMuvchar. Others think wax is invalid for other reasons, but many people use wax and do not hold like this opinion.

To cite Encyclopedia Talmudit:
אנציקלופדיה תלמודית כרך טז, [חנכה] טור שכו

מהדר - לנר חנוכה - אחר שמן שומשום שאורו רב יותר - או שאינו ממהר לכלות כשמן זית - כיון ששמע דברי ר' יהושע בן לוי התחיל להדר אחר שמן זית שאורו צלול יותר. ופסקו ראשונים שמצוה מן המובחר בשמן זית, וכשאינו מצוי, מצוה בשמנים שאורם זך וצלול, וצריך לחזר אחרי שמנים אלו. נרות של שעוה, יש שכתבו שהם מצוה מן המובחר כמו שמן זית, כיון שאורם צלול, ויש ראשונים שכתבו שאף על פי שנרות של שעוה מותרים, נוי מצוה להדליק בשמן, מאחר שהנס היה בשמן. יש מהראשונים שכתבו בטעם שמצוה מן המובחר בשמן זית, לפי שבו היה הנס, ולפיכך מצוה בשמן זית יותר מבנרות שעוה. וכתבו אחרונים שאין צריך לחזר אחר שמן זית, ויש שכתבו שמצוה להדר אחר שמן זית אפילו אם הוא ביוקר. ויש שכתבו שמצוה מן המובחר בשמן זית, ואם אינו מצוי, מצוה בשאר שמנים, ואם אינם מצויים, נרות שעוה מהודרים יותר משומן או חלב.

ויש מן האחרונים שחולק וסובר שנר של שעוה או של חלב הכרוכים על הפתילה פסולים לחנוכה, לפי שהנס נעשה בנר, ואינו קרוי נר - בלשון התלמוד - אלא כשיש בו שמן, שאין האור שולט בכל השמן אלא בראש הפתילה ומושך משם את השמן אליו, אבל של שעוה או של חלב אינו קרוי נר אלא אבוקה, שכיון שהאור הולך אחר הפתילה, נמצא שהאור והלהבה שולטים בכל השעוה, ואבוקה פסולה לנר חנוכה


Perhaps since the gemara (namely, Rabba) maintains that olive oil is min hamuvchar because it is brighter, we should say that olive oil, throughout its burning, is bright enough to be considered min hamuvchar, and more than that does not add anything? While possible, I would not say this, in part because poppy-seed oil is also (presumably) bright enough, but since there is something brighter, it is better to go after that type of oil. That is, we seek after more brightness -- quite possibly because this increases pirsumei nissa -- and choose the one brightest from all that is available to us. Keeping with this goal, we should prefer wax candles over olive oil.

Perhaps this idea of being brighter is just Rabba's explanation, but the real reason is unknown, and Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi was thinking in terms of the fact that it was that oil which was involved in the nes of the pach shemen. Perhaps, but nowhere is that stated in the gemara, and furthermore, his related statement about ink belies that, making it more plausible that he is dealing with practical properties of the oil.

Not that I think that people lighting oil are acting incorrectly. Just that what is considered min hamuvchar should switch.

Aluminum Wick Holders
The alternative to floating wicks are standing wicks, using metal wick holders. Floating wicks float on the surface of the oil, and so drop lower and lower in the cup as the oil is consumed. A standing wick has a base at the bottom of the cup and extends to over the top of the cup. The wick seems encased in a metal sheath, such that only the portion of wick coming out of the metal will burn, but meanwhile it draws oil from the bottom. Thus, the flame stays in place over the surface of the cup, rather that getting lower and lower as the oil is consumed. This would seem preferable to floating wicks.

Perhaps it would also be preferable to wax candles, for the Mishna Berura's reason of the nes having been with shemen zayit. I am not so convinced that this is so, since the nes shemen was not mentioned by the gemara, and our only consideration should be respective brightness.

However, I would consider the following important. Rabba initially preferred poppy-seed oil because of its duration, but then switched to preferring olive oil, based on Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's statement and giving the reason that it burns brighter. It is quite possible that, given two fuels that burn with equivalent brightness, duration would once again become a reason for preference.

Also, I don't know whether to trust my own eyes. I think wax burns a bit brighter, or maybe equally brightly, even when the flame is on the surface, but perhaps I am incorrect in this regard. I also would need to compare these standing wicks side by side with wax candles.

I've also seen these in the $25 to $30 sets you can pick up in Judaica stores, which have the oil already in it. In terms of the prefabricated sets, some have said that the flames on these are not to good. However, Rabbi Gil Student notes in a comment in the comment section of his blog, Hirhurim:
As to the flame on these not being too good, that's only if you don't know the trick. You have to pull the wicks out a bit so that there is a good 1/4-1/2 inch of external wick that has been soaked with oil.
There is also the apparent danger posed by one particular prefab set, as well as the difference in cost ($1 for a box of candles, $1 for floating wicks plus cost of oil, similar price for the standing wicks.)

The Eighth Day of Chanukka
One possible problem with using candles rather than oil lamps is that on the last days of Chanukka, due to the heat coming from the other candles, the candles might not burn the required half hour. This is a perception that has some basis in reality.

Specifically, it is a problem at Yeshiva University (YU) where, due to fire hazard concerns, they request that everyone light the Chanukka menorah in a common area (e.g. by the entrance of Rubin Hall, or of Morgenstern Hall), rather than in individual rooms. This common area is a (figurative) furnace, because of the hundreds and hundreds of candles (and oil lamps) burning in close proximity.

However, when we lit Meir's wax-candle menorah on the eighth night (which was Shabbat Chanukka) for chinuch purposes, all the candles lasted at least 35 minutes (and the last of them went out at about the 45 minute mark.) So, assuming the surrounding area is not too hot, candles should be fine for even the eighth night (assuming it is not Shabbat).

There are also practical measures one can take to make the candles last longer, the same as we do for Shabbat Chanukka: Use bigger or longer candles, freeze the candles, or move your menorah and light at a distance from other menorahs.

What if someone lights close to your menorah afterwards and so it ends up not lasting 30 minutes. I would think it would be no worse than if someone blew them out, since hadlaka oseh mitzvah? Indeed, perhaps one can even argue that within a single menorah, for the first few candles lit, before the final candles are lit.

Shabbat Chanukka
Shabbat Chanukka is another difficult situation when using candles rather than oil, since the Chanukka candles need to be lit before Shabbat candles and need to last 30 minutes past nightfall, rather than just 30 minutes.

However, there are solutions to this problem: Use larger/longer candles, and it can't hurt to freeze the candles as well.

Vayeshev: What Did The Wife of Potifar Ask Yosef To Do?

In parshat Vayeshev, in Bereishit perek 39:

י וַיְהִי, כְּדַבְּרָהּ אֶל-יוֹסֵף יוֹם יוֹם; וְלֹא-שָׁמַע אֵלֶיהָ לִשְׁכַּב אֶצְלָהּ, לִהְיוֹת עִמָּהּ. 10 And it came to pass, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.
Why the double language לִשְׁכַּב אֶצְלָהּ, לִהְיוֹת עִמָּהּ? Are these separate acts? Poetic duplication?

The same question appears by duplicate language by Shechem and Dinah, but the question is greater here, based on the way the pasuk reads.

I would suggest several possibilities. First, perhaps it is poetic duplication but just means one thing.

Second, perhaps the duplication of לִשְׁכַּב אֶצְלָהּ, לִהְיוֹת עִמָּהּ is a deliberate repetition, because she repeatedly solicited him -- כְּדַבְּרָהּ אֶל-יוֹסֵף יוֹם יוֹם.

But it could also be two separate actions. The problem is that Hebrew is a clean language, and uses euphemisms, so it is can be unclear where the euphemism is meant and where the actual actions on a literal level described by the euphemism are meant. Thus לִשְׁכַּב can mean to actually sleep or lie prostrate, or it can mean to have intercourse with. In the classic case of Reuven with Bilhah, Chazal (perhaps) claim that it is not a euphemism but that he actually caused her to lie and sleep (by moving Yaakov's bed from her tent to the tent of Leah), though the language used is parallel to the one of the euphemism, in order to teach (him/us) a lesson.

Here, perhaps לִשְׁכַּב אֶצְלָהּ is not the euphemism, but rather to literally lie next to her. The next stage would be to "be with her," לִהְיוֹת עִמָּהּ, though that would be the euphemism. And that way there would be a natural development from one to the other. Furthermore, we can then explain the lack of the vav. She wanted him to lie next to her in order that he might "be" with her.

Or perhaps she was entreating him for X, and if not X, then at least Y. Thus, לִשְׁכַּב אֶצְלָהּ is the euphemism, thus intercourse. And if not that, at least to be with him, לִהְיוֹת עִמָּהּ, not the euphemism but literally -- perhaps foreplay.

Or perhaps she was entreating him for X, and in addition Y. That is, לִשְׁכַּב אֶצְלָהּ would be intercourse, and לִהְיוֹת עִמָּהּ would be cuddling after the fact. I don't really see this as being something she would be entreating before anything happened at all. But this is what Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite suggests, in the picture accompanying this paragraph. Note that this is a Karaite suggesting that one of the phrases might not be the euphemism. He follows it up with the obvious suggestion that it is poetic repetition. {Update: Someone suggested privately that he may mean, by begomer hamaaseh, that there would not be coitus interruptus. This is plausible, and perhaps a better reading of him than I gave above. I am unsure, in part because it is not explicit enough.}

This ties in, perhaps, with the issue of how to deal with the phrase yamim o asor -- does it mean stay a few days, and if not ten days? When trying to cajole someone, you don't say "if you don't agree to X, then at least agree to X + Y!" That is why some pashtanim, and Chazal, say it means a year, and if not, a set of 10 months. So too here, if she is trying to persuade him of something, would we go from less to more? It depends on how you cast it.

Shadal has a fascinating suggesting, in which neither is the euphemism. My guess is that he is of the opinion that once we remove one from its role of euphemism, the other one also cannot be a euphemism, on a peshat level.
י] לשכב אצלה : אפילו בלא תשמיש ( רש"י ). להיות עמה : להתעכב אצלה אפי' בלא שכיבה ומה שמצאנו האמינון אחיך היה עמך ( ש"ב י"ג כ' ), אע"פ שהכוונה על המשגל, פשט המילות איננו אלא נתעכב עמך. ואולי לא היה בוטח בכוחו ובגבורת לבו, אם יתחיל להתקרב אליה
Thus, the first one is just lying next to her, with no intercourse. (I'm not sure what he imagines was intended in this lying next to one another phase.) The second one is just to hang out in her proximity. Perhaps, says Shadal, Yosef did not trust himself even so far as the second entreaty, because he was unsure of himself. And this reading fits in well with how the narrative takes pains, in the next pesukim, to explain how Yosef came to be in her proximity.

Note that Shadal takes his cue for לשכב אצלה from Rashi, but does not cite him for the second part. That is well and good -- he takes the part of Rashi which is peshat, but not that which is derash.

The Rashi itself is fascinating. Rashi states:
to lie beside her even without intercourse. [From Gen. Rabbah 87:6]
to be with her in the World to Come. [From Gen. Rabbah 87:6]
Both of these are from the same siman and seif in Bereishit Rabba, but you have to see it inside to really appreciate it. (Or you can rely on my summary here.) These actually come from two different positions, separated by a davar acher, in Bereishit Rabba. This might be obvious when you compare the meaning and nature of Rashi's two citations.

In Bereishit Rabba, the actual opposition is to lie beside her -- in this world, and to be with her -- in the World to Come (or rather, the actual words is that he refused to be with her in Gehinnom in the world to come). And this has its own midrashic sense, in explaining the repetition. See inside. But then, there is a davar acher, in which only "did not listen to her" is explained as even "even lying beside her without intercourse."

The way I would interpret this davar acher is that the midrash recognizes the duplication, of course, and explains "to lie beside her -- even without intercourse" but anticipates that you will of course understand that to be with her means actually with intercourse. Or perhaps, that it follows Shadal, that both phrases mean without intercourse. A further plausible explanation along these lines is that this midrash is not bothered by the repetition of "sleep with" and "be with." Rather, it is bothered by the repetition of Yosef's "not hearkening to her" in this verse compared with his explicit refusal in previous verses. This verse must be adding something, and so the intent of the verse in general is a relaxation of the terms of her entreaty, and even to this he refused.

Rashi takes the Midrash Rabba and moves things about. He applies a statement officially on וְלֹא-שָׁמַע אֵלֶיהָ to the next phrase, לִשְׁכַּב אֶצְלָהּ. And he combines two midrashim from the same source. The end result is that nowhere in his commentary on this verse is the suggestion that she asked him from more -- although that is implicit in the word "even."

Does Rashi intend all this as peshat, or as midrash? What is Rashi attempting to accomplish? We could not even begin to approach this question, IMHO, before looking at Rashi's sources and seeing what he saw and how he changed them. But though I have my own thoughts on the matter (the former as peshat, intended to explain the duplication of phrase, and the latter as derash), I will leave the question open.

It is also important to stress, so I will stress it again here, that how Rashi takes the midrash is not necessarily how the author of the midrash took the midrash. And it is quite interesting how Rashi harnesses and directs his sources.

Vayeshev: Which Daughter*s* Comforted Yaakov?

This adds to something I wrote on Vayeitzei and Vayishlach:

Shadal writes:

וכל בנותיו : לדעת ראב"ע ורמב"ן היו דינה ושרה בת אשר ויש אומרים כלותיו, ומוהר"ר אברהם גריגו אומר כי בנות אחרות נולדו ליעקב (ככתוב למטה מ"ו ז' בנותיו ובנות בניו אתו), ולא הזכיר רק דינה מפני המאורע, כי כן בכל מקום בסיפור התולדות אינו מזכיר אלא הזכרים ואותן הנקבות, שאירע בהן איזה ענין פרטי או שהיו מפורסמות באיזה דרך שיהיה. ונ"ל כי באמת אין ספק שבנות אחרות היו ליעקב ולבניו, אמנם לא נכנסו בכלל השבעים נפש, כי נישאו לבני אחיהן ולבני דודיהן, כיוכבד שנישאת לעמרם, והנה כתוב מלבד נשי בני יעקב ( למטה מ"ו כ"ו ), לפיכך לא נמנו, רק דינה ושרח שנמנו נראה שהיו פנויות.

Thus, besides other answers, he considers that multiple daughters were born to Yaakov, with Dinah only explicitly mentioned because of the incident which happened to her. This answers the issue of the fact that the pasuk says that Yaakovs daughters (plural) attempted to comfort him. That only Serach bat Asher and Dinah are counted amongst those who enter Egypt, he answers with the suggestion that the others married (relatives), and so were not counted separately.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Vayeshev: Bar Kochva As The Gilgul Of Shelah

An interesting tidbit, involving Shelah, Mashiach, Er and Onan, and gilgulim.

From The Image of Bar Kokhba, by Richard Marks. He translates the words of Rav Chayim Vital's Sefer HaGilgulim:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Interesting Posts And Articles #8

1. A quixotic uncle is bad for shidduchim.

2. "Infringement Nation" by John Tehranian.

3. Rabbi Harry Maryles posts about overly modest Jewish women: (based on this article)

היא היתה חלק מקהילה קטנה של נשים, שהפכו את הצניעות לדגל, לביטוי עצמי ולאובססיה. על דעת עצמן, ללא הדרכת רב, הן מרבות בתפילות ובקריאת תהילים ומאמינות שנשים שמתלבשות בצניעות יביאו את הגאולה. לכן, על בגדיהן הארוכים והרחבים כאוהל, הן הוסיפו כיסוי ארוך שבו הן מכסות את הראש והפנים. בשנתיים האחרונות אפשר לראות נשים עם רעלה ברמת בית שמש, באלעד, בביתר עילית, בטבריה, בצפת ואף בשכונת בית ישראל בירושלים. ברחוב הראשי של רמת בית שמש הן צועדות, בדרך כלל בזוגות, ביד אחת הן מחזיקות את שולי הרעלה מעל האף, ובשנייה דוחפות עגלה

And one commenter even defends it. This is not an ideal, and there is a tradeoff, in which increasing this level of tznius affects personal freedom and expression. They are linked, and we see the oppression of women that this is part of, in some Muslim countries. Chas veshalom that this should become the standard. It is already bad enough as it is, in some communities.

4. OnTheMainLine interprets a seal.

5. E-Lomdus has a follow-up Thanksgiving post.

Bereishit/Vayeshev: The Appropriately Named Er and Onan

As I've covered before on this blog, Hevel, Er and Onan, and Machlon and Kilyon all seem quite appropriately named. Now, a peshat-based explanation of this phenomenon -- that this was not in fact their names, but they were called this after their death.

This is what Shadal cited about Hevel:
ב] את הבל : לדעת קליריקוס נקרא כן אחרי מותו, כי היתה מציאותו הבל
Thus, Clericus asserts that this was not Hevel's name when Hevel was alive, but rather that he was called this after death, for he came to naught.

There is an unspoken, non-explicit impetus for this explanation. Besides that it is quite "lucky" for one named Hevel to come to this end -- and the same for Machlon and Kilyon, Er and Onan -- the unspoken impetus may be found in the pesukim, in Bereishit 4:
א וְהָאָדָם, יָדַע אֶת-חַוָּה אִשְׁתּוֹ; וַתַּהַר, וַתֵּלֶד אֶת-קַיִן, וַתֹּאמֶר, קָנִיתִי אִישׁ אֶת-ה. 1 And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said: 'I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.'
ב וַתֹּסֶף לָלֶדֶת, אֶת-אָחִיו אֶת-הָבֶל; וַיְהִי-הֶבֶל, רֹעֵה צֹאן, וְקַיִן, הָיָה עֹבֵד אֲדָמָה. 2 And again she bore his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
Thus, Kayin gets an etymology for his name, but Hevel, in the next pasuk, does not. Later, in the same perek, we have:
כה וַיֵּדַע אָדָם עוֹד, אֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ, וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן, וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ שֵׁת: כִּי שָׁת-לִי אֱלֹהִים, זֶרַע אַחֵר--תַּחַת הֶבֶל, כִּי הֲרָגוֹ קָיִן. 25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bore a son, and called his name Seth: 'for God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel; for Cain slew him.'
Thus, even the next brother gets an etymology for his name, but Hevel does not. This all fits well with the idea that Hevel is not the real name, but was ascribed after death.

And indeed, Hevel, Machlon, Kilyon, Er, and Onan all died without having children.

Also, perhaps we can say that the etyomology is Hevel is given in the aforementioned pasuk, in 25: תַּחַת הֶבֶל כִּי הֲרָגוֹ קָיִן.

The problem with saying this with Er and Onan is that mother and father named them. As we have in Bereishit 38:
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.
which is presumably why Shadal does not suggest the same over here.

It might be readable into Machlon and Kilyon in the first perek of Rut.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ketubot 86b: If He Does *Not* Set Her Up As A Shopkeeper

The Mishna in Ketubot 86b, reads, according to the printed version of the Rif:
המושיב את אשתו חנונית או שמינה אפוטרופא הרי זה משביעה כל זמן שירצה
לא הושיבה חנונית ולא מינה אפוטרופא ה"ז אינו יכול להשביעה
רבי אליעזר אומר אפילו על פלכה ועל עיסתה
If one sets up his wife as a shopkeeper or appoints her as an adminstratrix, he may compel her to swear to him whenever he wants.
If he does not set her up as a shopkeeper or as an administratrix, he is not able to compel her to swear to him.
Rabbi Eliezer says: Even on her spindle and her dough.
However, Bach says to cross out the second sentence, לא הושיבה חנונית ולא מינה אפוטרופא ה"ז אינו יכול להשביעה. Indeed, it is not in our Mishna in the gemara, and is not in the same Mishna in Yerushalmi.

This is relevant because our gemara has a discussion of the meaning of Rabbi Eliezer's statement. Is he talking lechatchila or bedieved. That is, is he saying that ab initio, without any status of shopkeeper of administratrix, he can make her swear about her spindle and her dough, such that he is arguing with the Tanna Kamma? Or (this goes with the ab initio bit), is he saying that by virtue of the fact that she works with spindle and dough for him, she is a sort of administratrix, such that he can compel her to swear? Or is he saying {as a bedieved} that once he makes her swear about her duties as shopkeeping, he can roll over am additional oath about her spindle and her dough?

In other words, does אפילו in Rabbi Eliezer's statement go on the things he can make he swear about {the "cheftza"} or on the status of the woman he can make swear {the "gavra"}?

This is somewhat more ambiguous without the words that Bach tells us to remove from the text of Rif's Mishna. For the Tanna Kamma says he can compel her to swear whenever, and he is perhaps extending the subject matter upon which she swears, with the words אפילו. Thus, it can be read as an extension of the Tanna Kamma.

But with these words inserted, it is being stressed that there are situations where he cannot compel her to swear. Juxtapose Rabbi Eliezer's statement of אפילו with this, and it reads more as an argument with the Tanna Kamma, that he even allows swearing where she is not an administratrix. Perhaps for some unknown reason, or perhaps because work on spindle and dough is enough to consider her an administratrix.

Indeed, with the words inserted, it matches the words in the brayta {and if we argue the words were not initially present in the Mishna, perhaps we can say they were accidentally copied from this brayta}. That brayta reads {86b}:
ת"ש הרי שלא פטר את אשתו מן הנדר ומן השבועה והושיבה חנוונית או שמינה אפוטרופיא הרי זה משביעה כל זמן שירצה
לא הושיבה חנוונית ולא מינה אפוטרופיא אינו יכול להשביעה
רבי אליעזר אומר אע"פ שלא הושיבה חנוונית ולא מינה אפוטרופיא הרי זה משביעה כל זמן שירצה שאין לך אשה שלא נעשית אפוטרופיא שעה אחת בחיי בעלה על פילכה ועל עיסתה
אמרו לו אין אדם דר עם נחש בכפיפה
שמע מינה לכתחלה שמע מינה

Note that the statement לא הושיבה חנוונית ולא מינה אפוטרופיא אינו יכול להשביעה is present. And that Rabbi Eliezer is expanded, such that אפילו is expanded into אע"פ שלא הושיבה חנוונית ולא מינה אפוטרופיא הרי זה משביעה כל זמן שירצה, and על פלכה ועל עיסתה is expanded so that it is clear that it is because of her dough and spindle that he can make her swear, for she is now considered an administratrix: שאין לך אשה שלא נעשית אפוטרופיא שעה אחת בחיי בעלה על פילכה ועל עיסתה.

This represents a Tannaitic expansion of the shorter version, and thus an interpretation of the shorter version.

Now, perhaps we should therefore say the girsa in the Mishna should be as without the sentence there. After all, the Mishna needs to be ambiguous in order for the setama digmara to feel compelled to resolve this. However, we might answer that that part, in and of itself, is not sufficient to remove all ambiguity. It is only the phrases inserted in to Rabbi Eliezer's position (rather than the Tanna Kamma's position) that makes this brayta entirely unambiguous.

Ketubot 86a: Collecting the Value of the Paper?

The gemara {Ketubot 86a} reads:

גופא אמר שמואל המוכר שטר חוב לחברו וחזרו ומחלו מחול ואפילו יורש מוחל
אמר רב הונא בריה דרב יהושע ואי פקח הוא מקרקש ליה בזוזי וכתיב ליה שטרא בשמיה
אמר אמימר מאן דדאין דינא דגרמי מגבי ביה מיניה דמוחל [דמי] שטרא מעליא ומאן דלא דאין דינא דגרמי מגבי ביה דמי ניירא בעלמא
[הוה עובדא] ואכפייה רפרם לרב אשי ואגבי ביה ככשורא לצלמי
והלכתא כוותיה
To return to the main text: Shmuel said: If one sold a bond of debt to his fellow, and then turned around and forgave it, it is forgiven, and even the heir can forgive.
Rav Huna son of Rav Yehoshua said: And if he {the buyer} is clever, he rattles for him {the debtor} some money such that he {the debtor} will write the bond in his name {before the creditor forgives the debt}.
Amemar said: He {=Rabbi Meir} who judges liability for indirect action would here allow one to collect from the one who forgave, the amount of a valid bond, and one who does not judge liability for direct action would allow collection of only the value of the paper.
[There was an incident] and Rafram compelled Rav Ashi to order collection of it as a beam fit for decorative mouldings.
{Rif}: And the halacha is like him.
I don't understand why according to Amemar, one would allow the collection of the value of the paper. After all, the buyer is in possession of the paper, so what it to collect from the seller?

We might answer that this is intended idiomatically, that he could not collect anything from either the borrower or the creditor, as the paper is a mere scrap, as opposed to a valid shtar. I think this is correct, but as written, it appears to be misused, since he is not in fact collecting anything at all.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Daf Yomi Ketubot 85a: Tear or Impair?

From my translation of the Rif:
ההיא איתתא דמחייבה שבועה בי דינא דרבא
אמרה בת רב חסדא ידענא בה דחשידא אשבועתא
אפכה רבא אשכנגדה

זמנין הוה יתיב רב פפא ורב אדא בר מתנא קמיה אייתו ההוא שטרא לקמיה
אמר ליה רב פפא ידענא ביה דשטרא פריעא הוא
אמר ליה איכא איניש אחרינא בהדי מר
אמר ליה רב אדא בר מתנא ולא יהא ר"פ כבת רב חסדא
אמר ליה בת רב חסדא קים לי בגוה ומר לא קים לי בגויה
אמר רב פפא השתא דאמור רבנן קים לי בגויה מלתא היא כגון אבא בר מר דקים לי בגויה קרענא שטרא אפומיה
קרענא סלקא דעתך אלא מרענא שטרא אפומיה
ולא מפרע מידי מיניה אלא בשבועה אי נמי בשודא דדייני יהבינא לההוא דלא איתרע שטריה

There was a woman who was obligated in an oath in the courthouse of Rava. The daughter of Rav Chisda {=Rava's wife} said, "I know about her that she is suspect in her oaths." Rava flipped over the oath to the one opposite her {in judgment}.

Another time, Rav Papa and Rav Ada bar Matna sat before him {=Rava}. A certain bond was brought before him.
Rav Pappa said to him: I know about this that this is a paid-off bond.
He {=Rava} said to him: Is there another man together with master {such that we will have two witnesses}?
Rav Ada bar Matna said to him: And is not Rav Pappa like the daughter of Rav Chisda?
He said to him: The daughter of Rav Chisda, I know I can rely on. But Master, I do not know if I can rely on.
Rav Pappa said: Now that the Sages say "I can rely upon him" is has validity, someone such as Abba bar Mar, upon whom I can rely, I would tear up a bond on his say-so.
Tear-up, does it arise in your mind?
Rather, "impair a bond on his say-so."
{Rif explains:} and not allow payment of anything from it without an oath. Alternatively, with the discretion of the judges we give it to he whose bond is not impaired.
This is clear emendation on the part of the setama digmara. The word קרענא is emended to מרענא, changing the ק to a מ, and the meaning from "tear" to "impair." Yet tearing is a physical act one can do to a document, and furthermore lectio difficilior applies, where they explicitly change the text to something else because of a problematic implication. Perhaps "tear" was meant figuratively. But maybe it was meant literally. Just as the daughter of Rav Chisda was trusted to prevent swearing, Abba bar Mar is trusted to say that the bond has been paid off. If he is actually trusted on this fact about this particular bond, why should we allow the holder of the bond (the lender) to swear? This would be treating him as a single witness, but the contrast is to Rav Pappa, where Rava required another person to say the same. And if another person said the same, the bond would have been torn up. Thus, the first suggestion of the Rif certainly appears problematic. Which is why a second explanation is offered. That it is based on shuda dedayni. But if so, and the judge, as here, can decide to not let him collect with this shtar, then why not rip it up?

Meanwhile, Tosafot (pictured to the right, from Ketubot 85a), based an Rabbenu Chananel, says the same, first explanation of Rif, that it means to collect without an oath. And he notes that this is the usage of the term throughout all of Shas. (Yet here it is the setama rather than in an Amora's original use.) If so, there is a problem -- if all that is being imposed is an oath, even for Abba bar Mar, then why would Rav Pappa not be trusted as a single witness, which would indeed impose a requirement of an oath? The answer Tosafot gives is forced -- that Rav Pappa (and in an analogous situation, Abba bar Mar) was a relative of either the lender or borrower.

The problem with this forced explanation is twofold. Firstly, it is nowhere in the gemara, and this seems like the sort of detail that should be mentioned, either by the setup in the original gemara or in the setama. Secondly and more importantly, Rava does not ask if there is another single witness to stand alone and impose as oath. His words are איכא איניש אחרינא בהדי מר, with the implication that he will work together with Rav Pappa as a second witness. If Rav Pappa were invalid because of being a relative, he could not stand with the other witness. And indeed, as I mentioned above, the intent with that second witness would be to entirely invalidate, and therefore tear up, the shtar.

As such, I would question the setama digmara's emendation here, and say that we should preserve the reading of קרענא.

Daf Yomi Ketubot 83: Does The Husband Write To Her "Ad Infinitum?"

Translation from my Rif translation:

{Ketubot 83a}
הכותב לאשתו דין ודברים אין לי בנכסיך הרי זה אוכל פירות בחייה ואם מתה יורשה
אם כן למה כתב לה דין ודברים אין לי בנכסיך שאם מכרה ונתנה קיים
כתב לה דין ודברים אין לי בנכסיך ובפירותיהן הרי זה אינו אוכל פירות בחייה ואם מתה יורשה
רבי יהודה אומר לעולם הוא אוכל פירות ופירי פירותיהן עד שיכתוב לה דין ודברים אין לי בנכסיך ובפירותיהן ובפירי פירותיהן עד עולם
כתב לה דין ודברים אין לי בנכסיך ובפירותיהן ובפירי פירותיהן [עד עולם] בחייך ובמותיך אינו אוכל פירות בחייה ואם מתה אינו יורשה
רשב"ג אומר אם מתה יירשנה מפני שהתנה על מה שכתוב בתורה וכל המתנה על מה שכתוב בתורה תנאו בטל
If one wrote to his wife, "I have no right or claim to your assets," behold he eats the fruits in her lifetime, and if she dies, he inherits her.
If so, why did he write to her ""I have no right of claim to your assets?" That is she sold or gave, it is valid.
If he wrote to her, "I have no right or claim to your assets or their fruits," behold he does not eat the fruits, and if she dies, he inherits her.
Rabbi Yehuda says: He always eats the fruits, and the fruits of the their fruits, until he writes to her ""I have no right or claim to your assets or their fruits or the fruits of their fruits ad infinitum."
If he wrote to her, "I have no right or claim to your assets or their fruits or the fruits of their fruits [ad infinitum] in your life and in your death," he does not eat fruits in her lifetime and if she dies, he does not inherit her.
R' Shimon ben Gamliel says: If she dies he inherits her, for he has attempted to impose a stipulation upon what was written in the Torah, and whoever imposes a stipulation on what is written in the Torah, his stipulation is nullified.
Of interest are the words [עד עולם] inserted in brackets here. One would need to check manuscripts of Rif to see what was and what was not present. Compare with the Mishna in our gemara, and with the Mishna in Yerushalmi. You will discover that the girsa is exactly as we have in Rif, and without the words in brackets. So does [עד עולם] in fact belong?

Relevant to this is Tosafot on the daf (83a), who makes a girsological point. In the dibbur hamatchil, he has כתב לה דין ודברים אין לי בנכסיך ובפירותיהן בחייך ובמותיך. This clearly does not have the words ובפירי פירותיהן. Yet as he notes, most sefarim do in fact have ובפירי פירותיהן there. Thus, the Tanna of the Mishna is stating stam in accordance with the wording of Rabbi Yehuda. But then, he notes, the words עד עולם are not present, and there is a discussion in the gemara (on 83b) whether עד עולם is really essential. And the fact that it is missing in this next part of the Mishna can be taken as proof that this is not essential. Yet the gemara does not bring this as proof. Why not? Tosafot answers that perhaps the Tanna just included enough words to establish a plain Mishna like Rabbi Yehuda, but did not want to overextend the verbiage, and so left it out, but of course he would write this as well.

Of course, one could also say that Tosafot's question is valid, and therefore we should establish like this minority girsa.

At this point, with the evidence we presently have before us, and not looking at manuscripts or conducting further analysis of the gemara, I think this issue is not really resolvable. Yet, I have a few observations which might be valid.

1. This discussion of whether עד עולם is essential is conducted by the setama digmara, which is post-Talmudic. Thus, we could answer like Tosafot, or else we could answer that the version of the Mishna which stood before the stamaim {Savora or Gaon} was this minority girsa. But that does not mean that the original, correct girsa of the Mishna is like that.

2. Perhaps this variation between Rabbi Yehuda's statement and the statement based on him was the impetus for the gemara's discussion of whether עד עולם or ובפירי פירותיהן was the essential component. Obviously, there is the issue that they seem to carry the same implication, but the variation could also be the spark.

3. We can understand how a girsa which has עד עולם could come about. That is, it seems like the Tanna is establishing a stam Mishna like Rabbi Yehuda. But then the language is off. So we should reinsert the language. And furthermore, Tosafot's question from the fact that the gemara does not resolve from the absence of עד עולם could also cause עד עולם to be inserted in the Mishna. Thus, under lectio difficilior, I would doubt that עד עולם really belongs.

4. I am not entirely convinced that the Tanna is really establishing plainly like Rabbi Yehuda. This is, after all, a further "gate" in the Mishna, dealing with the additional issue of uprooting his inheriting of her. For this, the phrase might be required, but not for the simpler issue of eating fruits and fruit of fruits.

5. Note that Tosefta Ketubot 9:3 does not actually have Rabbi Yehuda giving over the proper text to write to dismiss fruits and fruits of fruits.
ט,ג ר' יהודה אומר לעולם הוא אוכל פירי פירות וילקח בהן קרקע והוא אוכל פירות רשב"ג ור' ישמעאל בן ר' יוחנן בן ברוקה אומרים אם מתה יירשנה שהתנה על מה שכתוב בתורה וכל המתנה על מה שכתוב בתורה תנאו בטל.
Indeed, it looks a bit like expansion of this juxtaposition of Rabbi Yehuda and Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel to establish the two disputes as in the Mishna.

But still, tzarich iyyun.

Update: Note that Rosh says basically the same as Tosafot. He notes the prevalent girsa and that one should be gores like it, that this proves the halacha is like Rabbi Yehuda, notes the issue of the missing עד עולם, and gives two suggestions -- the Tanna is writing in shorthand, or perhaps "in life and after death" carries the same implication as עד עולם -- something I find difficult, because that is a further bava in the Mishna, which adds this additional aspect in terms of inheritance.

Also, others prove that the halacha is like Rabbi Yehuda from the fact that the gemara brings down a brayta which gives a definition of peiri perot, in this context.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Interesting Posts and Articles #7

1. Three posts on whether water or wild donkeys were found by Ana:
At MevaseretTzion (and comment section), at DovBear (and comment section), and at OnTheMainLine (and comment section).

2. LineMan has a nice Letter to the Editor to Mishpacha magazine.

3. AishOrchestra has decided to believe 9/11 conspiracy theories. What can you do? There is a lot of silliness in this world.

4. Hirhurim posts a link to an excellent and short shiur (audio) by Rav Schachter, about being normal. From several years ago, but really worth listening to.

5. A silly article in the Wall Street Journal about turkey (as the tie-in to thanksgiving) Hechsher Tzedek and the expansion of the meaning of kosher. Silly because (IMHO) you can tell the bias of the reporter by the way certain facts are presented, and how things are juxtaposed. Two examples:
Judaism's taboos on pork and shellfish, as well as the requirement to separate meat and dairy products, are well known even among gentiles. Yet for many contemporary American Jews the taboos can feel arbitrary, cumbersome and devoid of meaning (only 17% say they keep kosher homes). At the same time, some Jews who do find spiritual meaning in the dietary laws have become frustrated that kosher food production does not always reflect their values.
and the choice to close the article with:

Not surprisingly, many officials in the kosher foods industry prefer to stick to a narrow definition. Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Kashrut Division of the Orthodox Union, the largest kosher certification agency in the U.S., says matters of health, safety and workplace conduct are "not trivial," but their enforcement is better left in the hands of federal and state governments.

Atlanta's Rabbi Norry disagrees: "Kashrut has got to mean more than a symbol on a package."

Does Rabbi Genack really think that Kashrut does not mean something more than a symbol on a package? Of course not.

Vayishlach: Bet El and Yeravam

As a follow-up to last week -- in Vayeitzei I spoke of what was motivating the midrash Rashi cited, about the place Yaakov slept being Har HaMoriah as opposed to Bet El. I noted that Bet El would eventually become a place where Yeravam ben Navat would construct one of his two temples. And this would motivate the midrash, motivate Rashi, motivate Shadal.

Now reaching this week's parsha (Vayishlach), I notice that Shadal makes this explicit.

טו] ויקרא יעקב : בתחילה קרא אל בית אל למקום המזבח אשר בנה (פסוק ז'), ועכשו קרא בית אל לכל המקום אשר דיבר אתו שם עכשו, והוא עצמו מקום חלום הסולם, וחזר וקרא לו בית אל על שם הדיבור של עכשו. והנה ידוע כי ירבעם העמיד עגל בבית אל, והנה יבושו המאחרים זמן כתיבת ספר התורה, שאם היה שנכתב אחרי ירבעם, אין ספק כי הכהן או הלוי או היהודי שכתב ס' התורה (כי מעשרת השבטים עובדי העגלים לא ייתכן לומר שהיה מי שכתב ס' התורה) לא היה כותב סיפור זה המסייע חטאת ירבעם בהיותו מיחס קדושה למקום הנקרא בית אל

Thus, the fact that this bit is told over in the narrative is proof of early authorship of the Torah. For after Yeravam established a temple there, one would not expect such a story to be told over, or composed. And we would not expect someone from the 10 shevatim, who worshiped the calves, to compose the Torah. (He apparently did not anticipate the whole conspiracy theory involving Aharonic vs. Mushite priests, where individual narratives would come from each.)

The argument is somewhat reminiscent of the midrashic observation that the Torah is not concealing facts about Yosef, for it reveals the negative facts about Yehuda, thus showing the integrity of the Torah towards truth.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Vayishlach: Did Yaakov Struggle With An Angel? Or With God Himself?

Standard traditional reading is that Yaakov struggled with an angel of Hashem. But we already saw in Vayera the possible reading of Hashem assuming human form. Perhaps we should say the same here as well. The relevant local pesukim read {Bereishit 32}:

כג וַיָּקָם בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-שְׁתֵּי נָשָׁיו וְאֶת-שְׁתֵּי שִׁפְחֹתָיו, וְאֶת-אַחַד עָשָׂר, יְלָדָיו; וַיַּעֲבֹר, אֵת מַעֲבַר יַבֹּק. 23 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two handmaids, and his eleven children, and passed over the ford of the Jabbok.
כד וַיִּקָּחֵם--וַיַּעֲבִרֵם, אֶת-הַנָּחַל; וַיַּעֲבֵר, אֶת-אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ. 24 And he took them, and sent them over the stream, and sent over that which he had.
כה וַיִּוָּתֵר יַעֲקֹב, לְבַדּוֹ; וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ, עַד עֲלוֹת הַשָּׁחַר. 25 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
כו וַיַּרְא, כִּי לֹא יָכֹל לוֹ, וַיִּגַּע, בְּכַף-יְרֵכוֹ; וַתֵּקַע כַּף-יֶרֶךְ יַעֲקֹב, בְּהֵאָבְקוֹ עִמּוֹ. 26 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was strained, as he wrestled with him.
כז וַיֹּאמֶר שַׁלְּחֵנִי, כִּי עָלָה הַשָּׁחַר; וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא אֲשַׁלֵּחֲךָ, כִּי אִם-בֵּרַכְתָּנִי. 27 And he said: 'Let me go, for the day breaketh.' And he said: 'I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.'
כח וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, מַה-שְּׁמֶךָ; וַיֹּאמֶר, יַעֲקֹב. 28 And he said unto him: 'What is thy name?' And he said: 'Jacob.'
כט וַיֹּאמֶר, לֹא יַעֲקֹב יֵאָמֵר עוֹד שִׁמְךָ--כִּי, אִם-יִשְׂרָאֵל: כִּי-שָׂרִיתָ עִם-אֱלֹהִים וְעִם-אֲנָשִׁים, וַתּוּכָל. 29 And he said: 'Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed.'
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 אֱלֹהִים 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.'

Note that it does not say in all these places "an angel," in the JPS translation, but rather God. Of course, Elohim might be taken to mean "angel." Also, check out Judaica Press translation, which consistently renders it as an angel of God, or just angel. This is consistent with Rashi's explanation of the pesukim, which make this "man" a guardian angel for the nation from Esav, have the angel wish to leave at dawn to recite a song of praise to God, and have the promise being that Yaakov will meet Hashem later, who will rename him at Bet-El.

Yet, Yaakov calls the place Peniel, for seeing Elohim face to face. That may mean nothing, though. Compare with earlier in the same perek, where he talks of an encampment of God after seeing God's angels.
ב וְיַעֲקֹב, הָלַךְ לְדַרְכּוֹ; וַיִּפְגְּעוּ-בוֹ, מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹהִים. 2 And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
ג וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב כַּאֲשֶׁר רָאָם, מַחֲנֵה אֱלֹהִים זֶה; וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם-הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא, מַחֲנָיִם. {פ} 3 And Jacob said when he saw them: 'This is God's camp.' And he called the name of that place Mahanaim. {P}
Yet the angels also says that Yaakov has striven with both God and man. And there is a parallel to later, in perek 35,
ט וַיֵּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶל-יַעֲקֹב עוֹד, בְּבֹאוֹ מִפַּדַּן אֲרָם; וַיְבָרֶךְ, אֹתוֹ. 9 And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him.
י וַיֹּאמֶר-לוֹ אֱלֹהִים, שִׁמְךָ יַעֲקֹב: לֹא-יִקָּרֵא שִׁמְךָ עוֹד יַעֲקֹב, כִּי אִם-יִשְׂרָאֵל יִהְיֶה שְׁמֶךָ, וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, יִשְׂרָאֵל. 10 And God said unto him: 'Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name'; and He called his name Israel.
I would read this not as a separate incident (and not at Bet-El), but rather a summary, macro-statement, as opposed to the zooming-in narrative which happened in perek 32 in Maavar Yabbok. If the same incident, then it was Hashem who struggled with Yaakov. (If we wished to argue this, we would either have to appeal to the Documentary Hypothesis, leaving it as Bet-El as the location {and resolving the issue of the twice naming of Yisrael}, or else argue that pasuk 11 is indeed a separate prophecy, and that one happened in Bet-El, while the former one happened where it states, בְּבֹאוֹ מִפַּדַּן אֲרָם in general.)

Even if we say they are separate incidents, if in the second naming it was Hashem who did it, and in the first naming the "man" quacked like a Deity, then ...

However, we do not only have Chumash. We also have Nach. And in Nach, we have Hoshea 12:

ד בַּבֶּטֶן, עָקַב אֶת-אָחִיו; וּבְאוֹנוֹ, שָׂרָה אֶת-אֱלֹהִים. 4 In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and by his strength he strove with a godlike being;
ה וַיָּשַׂר אֶל-מַלְאָךְ וַיֻּכָל, בָּכָה וַיִּתְחַנֶּן-לוֹ; בֵּית-אֵל, יִמְצָאֶנּוּ, וְשָׁם, יְדַבֵּר עִמָּנוּ. 5 So he strove with an angel, and prevailed; he wept, and made supplication unto him; at Beth-el he would find him, and there he would speak with us;
Here, it is clear in pasuk 5 that he strove with an angel -- וַיָּשַׂר אֶל-מַלְאָךְ. Then, it would not be Hashem, but rather an angel, with whom Yaakov struggled. But then there is pasuk 4, which states שָׂרָה אֶת-אֱלֹהִים, preserving the ambiguity. Since the ambiguity is immediately resolved, a good translation, as above, is "a godlike being." And the end of pasuk 5, that he would find him at Bet-El is the link to perek 25, where Hashem repeats the angel's renaming. Indeed, this is a firm basis for Rashi's explanation.

However, we must realize that Hoshea was written well after Bereishit. It reflects one understanding of what happened in Vayishlach, and how those pesukim are to be understood. But, just perhaps, this is not the only interpretation of these pesukim.

This is a difficult position to put forth. After all, Hoshea is a Navi, and thus wrote his sefer, and delivered his prophecy, with nevua, much greater than the ruach hakodesh attributed to Rashi. Yet while the message comes from Hashem, the specific coloring and presentation is up to the prophet himself. And the point here was one to Hoshea's contemporaries, not to give absolute interpretation to other Biblical verses. Perhaps akin to how sometimes prophets speak not as prophecy, but as talmidei chachamim.

This particular issue might be what condemns this view all the more so to heresy. While the third principle establishes God's incorporeality, the sixth of Rambam's principles establishes that all the words of the prophets are true. The question is to what extent to take this principle.

Vayishlach: Esav Separates From Yaakov, As Lot Did From Avraham

In Bereishit 36:
ו וַיִּקַּח עֵשָׂו אֶת-נָשָׁיו וְאֶת-בָּנָיו וְאֶת-בְּנֹתָיו, וְאֶת-כָּל-נַפְשׁוֹת בֵּיתוֹ, וְאֶת-מִקְנֵהוּ וְאֶת-כָּל-בְּהֶמְתּוֹ וְאֵת כָּל-קִנְיָנוֹ, אֲשֶׁר רָכַשׁ בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן; וַיֵּלֶךְ אֶל-אֶרֶץ, מִפְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב אָחִיו. 6 And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the souls of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his possessions, which he had gathered in the land of Canaan; and went into a land away from his brother Jacob.
ז כִּי-הָיָה רְכוּשָׁם רָב, מִשֶּׁבֶת יַחְדָּו; וְלֹא יָכְלָה אֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵיהֶם, לָשֵׂאת אֹתָם--מִפְּנֵי, מִקְנֵיהֶם. 7 For their substance was too great for them to dwell together; and the land of their sojournings could not bear them because of their cattle.
Rashi notes:
and the land of their sojournings could not provide [sufficient] pasture for their animals.
The Midrash Aggadah (Gen. Rabbah 82:13), however, explains “because of his brother Jacob,” [as follows:] Because of the note of obligation of the decree: “that your seed will be strangers” (Gen. 15: 13), which was put upon the descendants of Isaac. He (Esau) said, “I will get out of here. I have neither a share in the gift-for the land has been given to him-nor in the payment of the debt.” [He left] also on account of the shame that [he felt because] he had sold his birthright. — [from Gen. Rabbah 82:13]
Thus, there is an explicit peshat reason, and a separate derash based reason. Those derashot of course have bases in the words of the pasuk. Thus, to point out the partially obvious, וְלֹא יָכְלָה אֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵיהֶם means that Esav could not sustain having to suffer through wanderings and exile, and thus opted out, separating from Yaakov. לָשֵׂאת אֹתָם means bearing them, where is refers to Esav and his descendants, rather than the land. כִּי-הָיָה רְכוּשָׁם רָב is that despite the reward/gift, he will not do it, so as not to have to deal with the debt. Also, on account of the shame from having sold the birthright would seem to come from a reversal of two letters in מִשֶּׁבֶת, to construct miboshet.

There is of course a parallel to Lot separating from Avraham, for the same peshat reason:

ה וְגַם-לְלוֹט--הַהֹלֵךְ, אֶת-אַבְרָם: הָיָה צֹאן-וּבָקָר, וְאֹהָלִים. 5 And Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.
ו וְלֹא-נָשָׂא אֹתָם הָאָרֶץ, לָשֶׁבֶת יַחְדָּו: כִּי-הָיָה רְכוּשָׁם רָב, וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לָשֶׁבֶת יַחְדָּו. 6 And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together; for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.
ז וַיְהִי-רִיב, בֵּין רֹעֵי מִקְנֵה-אַבְרָם, וּבֵין, רֹעֵי מִקְנֵה-לוֹט; וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי, וְהַפְּרִזִּי, אָז, יֹשֵׁב בָּאָרֶץ. 7 And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle. And the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelt then in the land.
ח וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָם אֶל-לוֹט, אַל-נָא תְהִי מְרִיבָה בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ, וּבֵין רֹעַי, וּבֵין רֹעֶיךָ: כִּי-אֲנָשִׁים אַחִים, אֲנָחְנוּ. 8 And Abram said unto Lot: 'Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we are brethren.
ט הֲלֹא כָל-הָאָרֶץ לְפָנֶיךָ, הִפָּרֶד נָא מֵעָלָי: אִם-הַשְּׂמֹאל וְאֵימִנָה, וְאִם-הַיָּמִין וְאַשְׂמְאִילָה. 9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me; if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou take the right hand, then I will go to the left.'
י וַיִּשָּׂא-לוֹט אֶת-עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא אֶת-כָּל-כִּכַּר הַיַּרְדֵּן, כִּי כֻלָּהּ, מַשְׁקֶה--לִפְנֵי שַׁחֵת יְהוָה, אֶת-סְדֹם וְאֶת-עֲמֹרָה, כְּגַן-יְהוָה כְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, בֹּאֲכָה צֹעַר. 10 And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of the Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou goest unto Zoar.
יא וַיִּבְחַר-לוֹ לוֹט, אֵת כָּל-כִּכַּר הַיַּרְדֵּן, וַיִּסַּע לוֹט, מִקֶּדֶם; וַיִּפָּרְדוּ, אִישׁ מֵעַל אָחִיו. 11 So Lot chose him all the plain of the Jordan; and Lot journeyed east; and they separated themselves the one from the other.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Vayishlach: Did Esav Kiss Yaakov?

The pasuk says he did. But perhaps it does not. Bereishit 33:
ג וְהוּא, עָבַר לִפְנֵיהֶם; וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ אַרְצָה שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים, עַד-גִּשְׁתּוֹ עַד-אָחִיו. 3 And he himself passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
ד וַיָּרָץ עֵשָׂו לִקְרָאתוֹ וַיְחַבְּקֵהוּ, וַיִּפֹּל עַל-צַוָּארָו וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ; וַיִּבְכּוּ. 4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him; and they wept.
We can parse it as וַיָּרָץ עֵשָׂו לִקְרָאתוֹ וַיְחַבְּקֵהוּ being Esav, and וַיִּפֹּל עַל-צַוָּארָו וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ, and וַיִּבְכּוּ being the two of them. Or we can parse it as the entirety until וַיִּבְכּוּ being Esav.

There are dots over the word וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ. There is basis in Chazal for this being a scribal notation that perhaps these words to not belong. See here for elaboration.

Rashi takes off on these dots:
and kissed him Heb. וֹיֹשֹקֹהֹוּ. There are dots over the word. There is controversy concerning this matter in a Baraitha of Sifrei (Beha’alothecha 69). Some interpret the dots to mean that he did not kiss him wholeheartedly. Rabbi Simeon ben Yochai said: It is a well known tradition that Esau hated Jacob, but his compassion was moved at that time, and he kissed him wholeheartedly.
Thus, this may read as that the word conceptually should not be there, because though he kissed him, he did not mean it. And Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai argues. I would argue that there is a thematic point which is motivating Rashi here. True, there are dots over the letters, but that is not his concern so much as Esav's emotion, attitude, and goals. Compare with what Rashi writes of Lavan's motivations, when also kissing Yaakov:
that he ran towards him He thought that he (Jacob) was laden with money, for the servant of the household (Eliezer) had come here with ten laden camels.[from Gen. Rabbah 70:13]
and he embraced When he (Laban) did not see anything with him (Jacob), he said, “Perhaps he has brought golden coins, and they are in his bosom.” [from Gen. Rabbah 70:13]
and he kissed him He said,“Perhaps he has brought pearls, and they are in his mouth.” [from Gen. Rabbah 70:13]
Esav also hugs Yaakov. Rashi explains this as well:
and embraced him His compassion was moved when he saw him prostrate himself all those times. — [from Gen. Rabbah 78:8]
This is all a peshat concern -- did Yaakov really make up with his brother here, or not. And Rashi is willing to say, and cite, that that is not the cause for the dots. (Or at least that is the first impression one gets from Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai's dismissal of the matter.)

Shadal discusses the dots in a more peshat oriented manner. For Esav's intent creating those dots is more a midrashic take. Instead, Shadal discusses whether the word should be present:

ד] וישקהו : יש שאמרו כי הנקודות שעל המילה הזאת, להורות שבקצת ספרים לא היתה כתובה, ושכן אוריגנס לא מצא אותה בספריו. ואמת הוא כי על הרוב אין נפילה על הצואר בין האוהבים אלא לנשק, וא"כ היה אפשר שיאמר הכתוב ויפל על צואריו ויבכו בלא מילת וישקהו, והיתה הנשיקה מובנת מאליה, כמו ביוסף עם יעקב ( למטה מ"ו כ"ט ) ויפל על צואריו ויבך על צואריו עוד ; שנשק אותו אעפ"י שלא נכתב. ואפשר ג"כ כי בחוזק ההתפעלות יישאר האוהב על צוארי האוהבו משתאה ומשתומם ולא יישקהו, וייתכן שכן היה הענין ביוסף עם יעקב, אבל יעקב ועשו אין ספק כי לא היתה ביניהם חיבה יתרה, ולא היה שם חוזק התפעלות שיגרום לאחד מהם שיישאר משתאה ומשתומם.
Thus, he notes that in fact in Origen the word is not present. And he gives good reason that the word is implicit and thus unnecessary, or else that the word is unwarranted.

I would note that as written, with the word present, there is a certain poetic symmetry to the verse. This would be a reason to say it should be present, IMHO. Thus:

ד וַיָּרָץ עֵשָׂו לִקְרָאתוֹ וַיְחַבְּקֵהוּ, וַיִּפֹּל עַל-צַוָּארָו וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ; וַיִּבְכּוּ. 4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him; and they wept.
Whether it is Esav in the first and Yaakov in the second, or Esav in both first and second, the fact is that we have:
וַיָּרָץ עֵשָׂו לִקְרָאתוֹ וַיְחַבְּקֵהוּ
followed by
וַיִּפֹּל עַל-צַוָּארָו וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ
which is parallel syntactic form, and similarly develops semantically.

One final note on this -- the word וַיְחַבְּקֵהוּ has a similar root to אבק. To get there, switch one guttural for another. Indeed, in last perek, by Maavar Yabbok, on the wrestling, Shadal writes, citing Rashi: ורש"י פירש מל' חבוק, וכן בל' ארמית אביק, ענינו דבוק וחבוק, ולזה דעתי נוטה.

Thus, they are related in meaning and quite possibly in etymology. Perhaps this is deliberate, to match off the struggle with the angel with the meeting with Esav.

The Secret behind the number 11 - A Partial Debunking

I recently received this by email. Here is a partial debunking, unfortunately necessary.

Basically, there are 10,000+ facts associated with 9/11, and someone selected a bunch of such facts which add up in various ways to the number 11. Ignoring the other 40+ which add up to 12. And the 42+ which add up to 13. And so on. And this is supposed to mean something.

Besides that many of these "facts" are actually false. Others have already debunked this. So this adds nothing new, except to introduce it to new audiences. (Similar ones which try to link this with gematria are similarly silly.) My comments throughout this piece.
The Secret behind the number 11

Pretty Chilling - read to the bottom. Try it out.
If you are a sceptical [sic] person - still read on as it's actually very interesting!

This is actually really freaky!! (Mainly the end part, but read it all first)

1) New York City has 11 letters

Washington, DC has 9, or 12 letters. Pennsylvania has 12 as well. But Shanksville has 11. Pentagon has 8 letters. Don't tell them, or they'll add this to the list.

2) Afghanistan has 11 letters.
3) Ramsin Yuseb has 11 letters . (The terrorist who threatened to destroy the Twin Towers in 1993)

But this spelling and transliteration is unique to this email. All other references to him have different transliterations of his name, and those transliteration do not have 11 letters. Further, he has nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Meanwhile, in no way does Osama bin Ladin have 11 letters.

4) George W Bush has 11 letters.
But George Bush has 10. And George Walker Bush has more.

This could be a mere coincidence, but this gets interesting:
1) New York is the 11th state.

2) The first plane crashing against the Twin Towers was flight number 11.
3) Flight 11 was carrying 92 passengers. 9 + 2 = 11
92 people, including pilots, but OK.
4) Flight 77 which also hit Twin Towers , was carrying 65 passengers. 6 + 5 = 11
Actually, rather than 65, there were 64 people (passengers + crew) on board Flight 77, and 6 + 4 = 10.
Also, one of the flights was United Air Flight 93, and 9 + 3 = 12. So numbers add up to 12, not just 11. United Air Flight 175 was another, and 1 + 7 + 5 = 13. It was this Flight 175, not 77, which had 65 people on board.
5) The tragedy was on September 11, or 9/11 as it is now known. 9 + 1+ 1 =11

6) The date is equal to the US emergency services telephone number 911.

Sheer coincidence. .?

Not coincidence, but just selection of a certain group of facts from a much larger set.
Read on and make up your own mind:

1) The total number of victims inside all the hi-jacked planes was 254.
2 + 5 + 4 = 11
Actually, the total number of people on all flights was 221. 2 + 2 + 1 = 5.
2) September 11 is day number 254 of the calendar year.

3) The Madrid bombing took place on 3/11/2004. 3 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 4 = 11.
Note how here the year is included. Because 3+11 is not equal to 11. So change the representation of the date.

4) The tragedy of Madrid happened 911 days after the Twin Towers incident.
By my calculations in Excel, it actually happened 912 days after the Twin Towers incident. You see, Madrid happened in March, and the year 2004 was a leap year. Thus, there was a Feb 29, which means 912 days.

Now this is where things get totally eerie:

The most recognized symbol for the US , after the Stars & Stripes, is the Eagle. The following verse is taken from the Koran, the Islamic holy book:

"For it is written that a son of Arabia would awaken a fearsome Eagle. The wrath of the Eagle would be felt throughout the lands of Allah while some of the people trembled in despair still more rejoiced: for the wrath of the Eagle cleansed the lands of Allah and there was peace."

That verse is number 9.11 of the Koran.

Except of course that this verse is not in the Koran. It was made up as a hoax and a joke after 9/11. The actual verse 9.11 in the Koran refers to something completely different.

Unconvinced about all of this still ..?

Try this and see how you feel afterwards, it made my hair stand on end:

Open Microsoft Word and do the following:

1. Type in upper case Q33 NY This is the flight number of the first plane to hit one of the Twin Towers .
2. Highlight the Q33 NY.
3. Change the font size to 48.
4. Change the actual font to the WINGDINGS……………………

What do you think now????
Except Q33 was not in fact the flight number of the first plane to hit one of the Twin Towers. Somebody, perhaps as a joke, worked backwards from the WingDings.

Send this to as many people as you know and in 11 minutes you will get a nice surprise
Feel free to point anyone who sends this to you this partial debunking.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Turning Skin Cells Into Stem Cells

This certainly seems to be an incredibly positive development (link to Wired):

In an unprecedented feat of biological alchemy, researchers have turned human skin cells into stem cells that hold the same medical promise as controversial embryonic stem cells.

Two teams of researchers -- one led by Kyoto University's Shinya Yamanaka, the other by the University of Wisconsin's Junying Yu -- used a virus to add four new genes to skin cells. Thus transformed, the reprogrammed cells became capable of changing into nearly any cell type in the human body. Embryonic stem cells also have this ability, and may someday be used to cure degenerative diseases, grow new organs and even replace limbs.

If this pans out, it could eliminate the moral issues of using embryonic stem cells, or the moral arguments at least. Though on that issue, I do not really personally see any moral issue at play. Of course, at the moment, embryonic stem cell researchers have no intention of abandoning what they are presently doing. But perhaps the greater availability will lead to important medical advances.

Daf Yomi Ketubot daf 80: Two Maidservant, One Assigned. What Home Comfort Is There?

Perhaps something, perhaps nothing.

From Ketubot daf 80, taking from my Rif translation:
איבעיא להו בעל שמכר קרקע לפירות מהו
מי אמרינן מאי דקני אקני ליה או דילמא כי תקינו רבנן משום רווח ביתא אבל לזבוני לא
יהודה בר מרימר משמיה דרבא אמר מה שעשה עשוי
רב פפי משמיה דרבא אמר לא עשה כלום
א"ר פפא הא דיהודה בר מרימר לאו בפירוש איתמר אלא מכללא איתמר
דההיא אתתא דעיילא ליה לגברא תרתי אמהתא אזל גברא נסב אתתא אחריתי עייל לה חדא מנייהו אתיא לקמיה דרבא צווחא ולא אשגח בה מאן דחזא סבר מה שעשה עשוי ולא היא משום רווח ביתא הוא והא קרווח דאיכא אחריתי
והלכתא בעל שמכר קרקע לפירות לא עשה כלום
מאי טעמא אביי אמר חיישינן שמא תכסיף
רבא אמר משום רווח ביתא
מאי בינייהו איכא בינייהו ארעא דמקרבא למתא אי נמי בעל אריס הוא אי נמי זוזי וקעביד בהו עסקא
והלכתא כרבא
It was a question to them: A husband who sold the land in terms of rights to the fruits, what is the law? Do we say that what was acquired he can transfer ownership of? Or perhaps, the Sages enacted because of {Ketubot 80b} providing for the comfort of his home, but to sell, no?
Yehuda bar Meremar, citing Rava, said: What was done was done.
Rav Papi citing Rava said: He did not do anything {that had an effect}.
Rav Pappa said: This of Yehuda bar Meremar was not stated explicitly, but rather was inferred.
For there was a woman who brought in two her husband {in marriage} with her two maidservants. The husband went and married another woman {in addition}, and he assigned to her one of them {the maidservants}. She came before Rava, crying, and he paid her no heed. One who saw this thought that what was done was done, but it was not so. Rather, it was for the purpose of the comfort of the house, and there is still this comfort for the house, for there is another one.
And the halacha is that a husband who sold land in terms of fruit rights did not accomplish anything. What is the reason?
Abaye said: We worry lest it {the land} deteriorate {because of over-farming}.
Rava said: Because of comfort of the house.
What is the practical distinction between them?
This is the practical distintion? Land which is close to the town {where one can see how the land is treated}. Alternatively, where the husband is a tenant farmer {for the person to whom the fruit rights were sold}. Alternatively, where the husband receives money and uses it to engage in trade {such that there is comfort for the house, so Rava would permit}.
And the halacha is like Rava.
Of interest here is the reason given for the comfort of the house, which is present. Rif has the words דאיכא אחריתי in the phrase והא קרווח דאיכא אחריתי. Thus, the reason that this was allowed to the husband was that there was some aspect of comfort to the house, since the other maidservant was still present. These words, דאיכא אחריתי, are not present in our gemara. Thus, Rashi explains that the comfort to the house is that this maidservant assigned to the other, new, woman, is still providing household duties {for the household in general, perhaps by servant this new wife}. Of course, once these words are inserted, דאיכא אחריתי, such explanation is impossible.

Is this a girological variant, or is the Rif merely inserting in his own explanation? Often, he inserts his own explanations with an extra word פירוש, but not always does he make this clear. And this could be read separately, or as part of the text.

Rosh clearly takes this text as the Rif's commentary, and then argues on it, noting that the implication would be that he could then sell one of the maidservants, since there is still comfort to the house coming from the other maidservant.


Vayishlach: The Etymology of Maavar Yabbok

In Bereishit 32:
כג וַיָּקָם בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-שְׁתֵּי נָשָׁיו וְאֶת-שְׁתֵּי שִׁפְחֹתָיו, וְאֶת-אַחַד עָשָׂר, יְלָדָיו; וַיַּעֲבֹר, אֵת מַעֲבַר יַבֹּק. 23 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two handmaids, and his eleven children, and passed over the ford of the Jabbok.
כד וַיִּקָּחֵם--וַיַּעֲבִרֵם, אֶת-הַנָּחַל; וַיַּעֲבֵר, אֶת-אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ. 24 And he took them, and sent them over the stream, and sent over that which he had.
כה וַיִּוָּתֵר יַעֲקֹב, לְבַדּוֹ; וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ, עַד עֲלוֹת הַשָּׁחַר. 25 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
כו וַיַּרְא, כִּי לֹא יָכֹל לוֹ, וַיִּגַּע, בְּכַף-יְרֵכוֹ; וַתֵּקַע כַּף-יֶרֶךְ יַעֲקֹב, בְּהֵאָבְקוֹ עִמּוֹ. 26 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was strained, as he wrestled with him.
Why is it called the ford of Yabbok? It would seem that we should connect מַעֲבַר יַבֹּק to the wrestling, to the וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ in pasuk 25 and the בְּהֵאָבְקוֹ עִמּו in pasuk 26. And perhaps even the מַעֲבַר to וַיַּעֲבֹר and וַיַּעֲבֵר, though perhaps that is what one does at a ford, for by definition it is "a place where a river or other body of water is shallow enough to be crossed by wading." So naturally he would be crossing here.

Of course, another etymology of place name comes from here - Peniel, though that is a place that has other etymologies (as I covered in earlier years).

This is an example of a non-explicit etymology, as the text does not attribute the name to this incident. But non-explicit etymology happens elsewhere.

There are other options. This could be the name of the place, for other reasons, and what he did there was called that after the place. Or, because of the name of the place, what he did -- wrestling, or whatever -- could have been called by some other term, but for poetic purpose a word was selected which echoed the name of the place.

Shadal cites Gesenius:
וגזניוס אומר בי אמר כאן "ויאבק" ע"ש הנחל יבוק

Monday, November 19, 2007

Always a Bridesmaid, Never A Bride

This is not Torah-themed. Still, it has to do with development of sayings, and is thus somewhat on topic.

My wife recently pointed out to me an interesting line in Anne of the Island (1915). (This is the third book in the series starting with Anne of Green Gables.) In it, we have the have the following statement from Anne:
"I'm to be Phil's bridesmaid next June, when she marries Mr. Blake, and then I must stop, for you know the proverb `three times a bridesmaid, never a bride,' " said Anne, peeping through the window over the pink and snow of the blossoming orchard beneath.
We are of course more familiar with a variant of this saying: "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride." That saying is bemoaning the fact that a particular person is single and being asked to serve as a bridesmaid, but has not yet become a bride.

But in the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, we have the following entry:
Always a maiden [bridal attendant], never a wife.
[1882 E. M. Ingraham Bond & Free i.]
Three times bridesmaid, never a bride.
[1903 V. S. Lean Collectanea II. 81]
Why am I always the bridesmaid, Never the blushing bride?
[1917 Leigh, Collins, & Morris ‘Why am I always the Bridesmaid?’ (song)]
Then they'd leave me‥and go off and buy candy and orchids for the other girls. ‥Often a bridesmaid but never a bride.
[1951 Wodehouse Old Reliable xi.]
The first one, Bond and Free, has a character singing that line.

Despite that this is the earliest listed, both proverbs and superstitions obviously can have histories well before the time of of written attestation. And my strong inclination is that it started with the "Three times bridesmaid, never a bride" and developed to the other proverb.


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