Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Vayera: The Scribal Emendation Of Avraham Standing

DovBear recently had an interesting post on Rashi and Tikkun Soferim, and I thought I would expand upon it.

Bereishit 18:22 reads:
כב וַיִּפְנוּ מִשָּׁם הָאֲנָשִׁים, וַיֵּלְכוּ סְדֹמָה; וְאַבְרָהָם--עוֹדֶנּוּ עֹמֵד, לִפְנֵי ה. 22 And the men turned from thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
On this verse, Rashi comments as follows (picture, left column; click on it to enlarge):

and Abraham was still standing, etc. But is it not so that he did not go to stand before Him, but the Holy One, blessed be He, came to him and said to him (above verse 20): “Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, etc.,” and it should have been written here: “and the Lord was still standing beside Abraham?” But this is a scribal emendation (Gen. Rabbah 49:7).

רש"י בראשית פרק יח פסוק כב ואברהם עודנו עומד לפני ה' - והלא לא הלך לעמוד לפניו אלא הקב"ה בא אצלו ואמר לו (פסוק כ) זעקת סדום ועמורה כי רבה, והיה לו לכתוב וה' עודנו עומד לפני אברהם, אלא תיקון סופרים הוא זה (אשר הפכוהו ז"ל לכתוב כן):ש

There is a difference between the text in this scan of this particular Mikraot Gedolot, on the one hand, and the translation, from Judaica Press, on the other hand. Judaica Press bases itself on a fairly common printing of Rashi, which does not have the last five words, which are present in the scan in parentheses. Those words read:
אשר הפכוהו ז"ל לכתוב כן
Which means, "which {our Sages} of blessed memory reverses to write like this.

According to the plain meaning of these words, the ones responsible for this "scribal emendation" are the Sages. The implication is that the words of the Torah were originally reversed, but Chazal found it in their power to change the actual Biblical text.

This is, of course, somewhat shocking.

It is possible Rashi did not write it, and it is possible that he did. It is found in over half of old Rashi manuscripts and there is the principle of lectio difficilior -- the rule of the more difficult word. It is more likely for someone to remove the offending phrase, for heresy, than to insert such a theologically problematic phrase. However, it is also possible to counter the argument and note that tikkun soferim is a phrase which needs explanation, and so someone might have inserted such an perhaps initially as a marginal note that made its way into the main text. Indeed, Siftei Chachamim is compelled to add an explanation to tikkun soferim, so why shouldn't someone else have done so as well, in a phrase attached to Rashi?

Siftei Chachamim cites the words of the Rashba to explain tikkun soferim to mean that they interpreted each verse called a tikkun soferim to be the reverse of what is stated. See the same picture, but the right column.

However, there seems to be no way to say this explanation in the words of Rashi, once he has the words אשר הפכוהו ז"ל לכתוב כן, which makes it clear that they changed it by writing it in reverse.

Rashi presumably bases himself on Bereishit Rabba 49:7. That reads:

בראשית רבה (וילנא) פרשה מט ז ויפנו משם האנשים, הדא אמרת אין עורף למלאכים,
וילכו סדומה ואברהם עודנו עומד לפני ה', א"ר סימון תיקון סופרים הוא זה שהשכינה היתה ממתנת לאברהם.

Thus, Rabbi Simon holds that the meaning is the reverse, and it is a tikkun soferim. But this particular midrash offers no explicit explanation of tikkun soferim.

The perush of Etz Yosef on Bereishit Rabba explains similar to Siftei Chachamim, that this was an Oral Tradition as to the meaning of the text. But then he ends by referring to midrash Tanchuma. Maharzu explains that it "as if" the pasuk said the reverse. But then, we have Matnot Kehuna, who starts with this explanation, but then based on Tanchuma and a definition of the Aruch, offers the explanation that these are actual emendations. He links it to certain letters with dots over them to show that perhaps they should not be present. See it inside.

Let us look at this Midrash Tanchuma. We want the one on Beshalach, not the one on Bereishit:

מדרש תנחומא (בובר) פרשת בראשית סימן ד
אמר ר' סימון ראה מה כתיב, ויפנו משם האנשים וילכו סדמה ואברהם עודנו עומד לפני ה' (שם שם /בראשית י"ח/ כב), לא היה צריך לומר אלא והאלהים עודנו עומד, אלא תיקון סופרים הוא, הוי (אומר) וענותך תרבני. אמר בן עזאי בא וראה ענותנותו של הקב"ה, מלך בשר ודם מי שמזכיר את שמו, אחר כך מזכיר (קטומה) [קטיזמא] שלו, אבל הקב"ה אינו כן, אלא כשהזכיר מעשיו, מזכיר אחר כך שמו, שנאמר בראשית ברא אלהים.

Tanchuma on Beshalach reads:

מדרש תנחומא (ורשא) פרשת בשלח סימן טז
וברוב גאונך הרבית להתגאות כנגד כל הקמים לנגדך, ומי הן, אלו הקמים כנגד בניך, מגיד שכל הקם כנגד ישראל כאלו קם כנגד השכינה, וכן הוא אומר אל תשכח קול צורריך (תהלים עד) כי הנה אויביך יהמיון ומשנאך נשאו ראש (שם /תהלים/ פג) מפני מה על עמך יערימו סוד ויתיעצו על צפוניך, וכתיב (שם /תהלים/ קלט) הלא משנאיך ה' אשנא ובתקוממך אתקוטט, מפני מה תכלית שנאה שנאתים לאויבים היו לי וכה"א כי הנוגע בכם נוגע בבבת עינו (זכריה ב) עיני היה לו לומר אלא שכנהו הכתוב כלומר כביכול כלפי מעלן וכנהו הכתוב שהוא תיקון סופרים אנשי כנסת הגדולה, כיוצא בו ואמרתם הנה מתלאה והפחתם אותי (מלאכי א) אלא שכנהו הכתוב, כיוצא בו בעון אשר ידע כי מקללים להם בניו ולא כהה בם (שמואל א ג) אלא שכנהו הכתוב, כיוצא בו למה שמתני למפגע לך ואהיה עליך למשא (איוב ז) אלא שכנהו הכתוב, כיוצא בו הלא אתה מקדם ה' אלהי קדושי לא ימות (חבקוק א) אלא שכנהו הכתוב, כיוצא בו ההמיר גוי אלהים והמה לא אלהים ועמי המיר כבודי בלא יועיל (ירמיה ב) אלא שכנהו הכתוב, כיוצא בו וימירו את כבודי בתבנית שור אוכל עשב (תהלים קו) אלא שכנהו הכתוב, כיוצא בו כבודי בקלון אמיר (הושע ד) אלא שכנהו הכתוב, כיוצא בו ובשלשת רעיו חרה אפו על אשר לא מצאו מענה וירשיעו את איוב (איוב לב) אלא שכנהו הכתוב, כיוצא בו ואברהם עודנו עומד לפני ה' (בראשית יח) אלא שכנהו הכתוב, כיוצא בו (במדבר יא) ואם ככה את עושה לי הרגני נא הרוג אם מצאתי חן בעיניך ואל אראה ברעתי, כיוצא בו (שם /במדבר/ יב) אל נא תהי כמת אשר בצאתו מרחם אמנו ויאכל חצי בשרנו אלא שכנהו הכתוב, כיוצא בו (מלכים א יב) מה לנו חלק לדוד /בדוד/ ולא נחלה בבן ישי לאהליך ישראל עתה ראה ביתך דוד וילך ישראל לאהליו ובדברי ימים לאלהיו, זכור תזכור ותשוח עלי נפשי (איכה ג), אולי יראה ה' בעיניו (שמואל ב טז) אלא שכינו פסוקים אלו אנשי כנסת הגדולה, ולכך נקראו סופרים שהיו סופרים כל אותיות שבתורה ודורשין אותו

Elsewhere we see the particular statement about הנוגע בכם נוגע בבבת עינו as a statement by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, and he calls it a tikkun soferim.

Here, it is clear that the anshei knesset hagedolah were the ones who changed these around.

This is within their typical role. After all, they decided what goes in and stays out of the Biblical canon. And they seem to have added various (one pasuk) introductions to certain Biblical books. Perhaps a post later about this role.

Does this mean, as someone suggested in a comment on DovBear, that all our sifrei Torah are pasul? No, we need not say that. And there is a difference between scribal error in our modern sifrei Torah which would render the particular sefer Torah passul, and another one which follows the standard established text, even though that standard text might not have been entirely accurate in malei and chaser. The Anshei Knesset haGedolah included people with ruach hakodesh, and besides, their actions have the status of pesak. Just as where certain differences in the three standard sifrei Torah were resolved by democratic process, going after the rov, which is a halachic principle, so too here, if they decided this was to be the text, they did so in establishing the texts in the canon. And then, anything which diverted would be considered passul.

To sum up, this is a plausible explanation of Rashi and Midrash Rabbah, that the scribes actually switched around the text. It has firm basis in sources, and while it sounds quasi-heretical, it need not be. On the other hand, Midrash Rabbah does not include this explanation of tikkun soferim, and so a valid explanation of the term there could be as offered by Siftei Chachamim citing Rashba, or by other commentaries. And we do not know what Rashi said, or intended. If the five words were originally there, then it is clear what he meant. If they were not originally present, then it is possible that Rashi agrees with those five words, and it is possible that he does not. There is evidence in favor of the five words being original, but it can be countered. But even if Rashi did not say it, Midrash Tanchuma says it, the Aruch says it, Matnot Kehuna says it, and Etz Yosef refers to it.


Lurker said...

A couple of comments that I made on DB's post, that are worth adding here as well:

Here's a very interesting posting by Prof. Moshe Bernstein on those additional five words in that Rashi:

When my teacher, Professor Yeshayahu Maori, was beginning to do work on a critical text (based on MSS) of Rashi al Hatorah, I asked him what the textual status of the infamous "asher hafachuhu razal" was. He replied that it occurs in well over half of the kitvei yad. We both realized that such a phrase is far more likely to be removed from "authentic rashi" than added to it. (pietistic excision to protect the reputation of rabban shel yisrael)

Furthermore, the Sefer Zikkaron (one of the earliest commentators on Rashi; I believe that he was among the megoreshei sefarad) screams a lot about these words in Rashi and at the end says, what can I do it occurs in every text that I can find (or words to that effect; I don't have the zikkaron in front of me). And he was writing about 1500.

The general principle is, just because what a rishon writes disagrees with what has become the 14th, 15th or 743rd iqqar haemunah doesn't mean the rishon didn't write it. (or maybe even the 8th....)

Prof. Maori later wrote an article about this, where he presented a compelling argument that Rashi definitely meant that the Soferim amended the text of the Torah. The article is entitled "Tikkun Soferim" v'"Kinnah HaKatuv" b'ferush Rashi, and it appears in Neti'ot L'David (a festschrift for Prof. David Weiss Halivni).

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

It would be difficult to reconcile the implications of this version of Rashi with his own statements of conviction and premises elsewhere in Shas and in his commentaries.

Anyway, "Asher hafchuhu z'l" could be describing what a tiqqun soferim is in general - so as to help us grasp the use of the idiom - not necessarily what it means, in a literal sense, in this case.

joshwaxman said...

could be. i'm not sure what the examples are.

one thing to watch out for, though, is that generally Rashi on Shas has the intention of explaining the intent of that particular gemara, while Rashi on TaNaCh is telling over Rashi's opinion.

Anonymous said...

"Rashi on TaNaCh is telling over Rashi's opinion."

How then do you account for contradictory Rashis which are based on contradictory midrashim?

joshwaxman said...

it depends on the example. I'm not sure exactly what you mean.

but the point is that Rashi on TaNaCh has the options in front of him. He gets to pick and choose which midrash to bring down, and which to leave uncited. He does this usually to advance a specific peshat, or line of peshat. Meanwhile, if an Amora or Tanna, or gemara makes a point, Rashi's role is to explain the meaning of the statement of that particular Tanna, Amora, or gemara. That he says something on a gemara does not mean that he adopts that point of view ... only that he thinks that that is the meaning of that particular statement. (But other Tannaim, Amoraim, gemaras can argue, and personally, Rashi might adopt that.) On a given pasuk, Rashi's goal is to present a specific meaning to the pasuk itself, and so his selection of midrashim is much more telling.

If you give an example of such a contradiction, I might be able to give a better answer, or even an answer. I'm sure such examples exist, but I'd like to see what you mean, first.

Anonymous said...


joshwaxman said...

again, I'd need to see the specific Rashis, and I am ignorant and lazy.

Hagar = Ketura and Ketura = righteous is in a single Rashi, at the introduction to Ketura. Rashi writes:
"Keturah (Gen. Rabbah 61:4) This is Hagar. She was called Keturah because her deeds were as beautiful as incense (קְטֹרֶת), and because she tied (קָטְרָה, the Aramaic for“tied”) her opening, for she was not intimate with any man from the day she separated from Abraham."

But where does he say that Hagar is an idolator?

I know of a Rashi that *Yishmael* was an idolator:

"making merry Heb. מְצַחֵק. An expression of idolatry, as it is said (Exod. 32:6):“and they rose up to make merry” (לְצַחֵק) . Another explanation: An expression of illicit sexual relations, as it is said (below 39:17):“to mock (לְצַחֶק) me.” Another explanation: An expression of murder, as it is said (II Sam. 2:14):“Let the boys get up now and sport (וַיִשַׂחֲקוּ) before us, etc.” - [from Gen. Rabbah 53:11]"

but I don't know about Hagar. (It may well exist, but I would like to see that Rashi before commenting on it.)

Regardless, it certainly is plausible that Rashi is inconsistent in different places. But generally he tries to weave a coherent narrative, borrowing material from this midrash or that. It might happen that this accidentally leads to conflict, because of borrowing from conflicting midrashim. Or that Rashi in one place forgot, or changed his mind from, what he wrote elsewhere. Or that he is promoting the theories of two separate midrashim.

LeMashal, I run two blogs. One is a Rif blog. The other is this blog, parshablog. On the Rif blog, I occasionally insert explanatory notes, in curly braces {}, explaining what I think Rif means there. Now, I do not always personally agree with the Rif's reading of the gemara, nor always with his halachic conclusions. But, on that blog, my goal is to explain the Rif. Meanwhile, on parshablog, I occasionally have posts on gemara and chumash. Here, I choose to put forward citations from meforshim I think are interesting. And I also give my own take on certain gemaras. (For an example, click on the learner/burner label on the side.) This more reflects my own personal opinion.

However, in some posts I contradict what I wrote in other posts. This because I feel each one should be put forth as an explanation of the pasuk, or the gemara. Like Rashi, I am willing to say "davar acher."

And indeed, for any conflict that occurs, we can attribute it to a simple "davar acher." But both are things Rashi promotes as having merit towards his commentary.

Anonymous said...

The Hagar=idolatry rashi is on 21:14.

If you are willing to say "davar acher" regarding any two conflicting rashis (as you seem to be arguing) then how can you say that Rashi regards the midrashim as historically accurate? Historically, only one of two possibilities occurred; which was it? Does Rashi not know?

What was Rashi's goal: to give a single coherent approach to chumash, or just to give a collection of "sound bites" with no necessary relation to one another?

And do you think Rashi intends to exclude in any way views which he does not mention?

joshwaxman said...

thanks. as I said, I'm ignorant and lazy. yes, rashi does cite Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer there:

"and she went and wandered She reverted to the idols of her father’s house. — [from Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 30]"

And this is thus a conflict. One could say that the second explanation of Ketura (as not being intimate) conforms with her being an idolator. Or for those who say this taking in pasuk 1 was not after Sarah's death but during Sarah's lifetime, it could perhaps refer to before she reverted to idolatry. Or she could have done teshuva by this point, reverting from her reversion. You'd have to ask Rashi.

But simply put, even if in the end it does conflict, in each place it serves a *local* important role in the peshat. There, it shows what happens to someone rejected from Avraham's house. Here, where she is called Ketura, the purpose is to show that there was only one concubine, as in pasuk 16 as well. If so, we need to explain that Keturah was an additional name to the real name, which was Hagar. To that end, Rashi, who always cites midrashim, brings down a midrash which does exactly that. I don't believe that it was Rashi's primary aim here was to praise Hagar, though it was a pleasant side-effect. Rather, it was "aggada hameyashevet divrei haMikra," to deal with the peshat-based concern of who this person is, and how many concubines Avraham had.

This might end up creating an unintentional conflict. In which case, Rashi either overlooked this, or didn't care about this (because the goal is met, even if details conflict), or he had some answer.

Or, he held it was a "davar acher." I'll deal with that next portion in my next comment.

joshwaxman said...

By the way, please choose a pseudonym, so that I can keep you straight and apart from other anonymous commenters.

"If you are willing to say "davar acher" regarding any two conflicting rashis (as you seem to be arguing) then how can you say that Rashi regards the midrashim as historically accurate? Historically, only one of two possibilities occurred; which was it? Does Rashi not know?"

This seems to me somewhat akin to the argument that midrashim must be allegorical because midrashim conflict. That argument has its problems since one can simply say that this was an argument, in which each side holds that his was what historically happened.

The same can be said for history books. They might cite different opinions, or different accounts. That does not mean that both are intended as allegory, or that one is. All it means is that there is a conflict.

The same happened in a gemara I recently cited:
"He [=Rabbi Meir] then arose and ran away and came to Babylon. Some say it was because of that incident that he ran to Babylon; others say because of the incident about Beruria."

This does not mean that either party thinks that one is allegorical. Rather, each holds his is the historical truth.

Can we say this about one individual? I don't see why not. And the same applies to all the Davar Acher's that Rashi explicitly uses. Why *not* say that each one is intended as historically accurate, but there are multiple possibilities as to what that historical reality was. If Rashi feels that each reading has solid textual basis, why not bring it up?

And why not say Rashi was unsure which the historical reality was? Rashi was not a Navi. He is a Biblical commentator, and offers plausible (to him) explanations of the text. If two pashtanim (say, Shadal and Ibn Ezra) can argue and each hold this is peshat, why can't Rashi himself?

I know I do. And I'm sure if I look far enough, I would find incidents of Ibn Ezra or Shadal offering more than one explanation as well.

joshwaxman said...

"What was Rashi's goal: to give a single coherent approach to chumash, or just to give a collection of "sound bites" with no necessary relation to one another?"

I would guess that generally the former, but am not averse to saying that some famous important statements are included by Rashi just because they are worthy of mention, and are (Talmudic) Chazal's take on the matter.

Also, Rashi was human, which allows him to on occasion digress from his primary goal, or to make an error.

But again, to reiterate what I said in an earlier comment, sometimes Rashi cites a whole midrash when his goal is part of that midrash (such as, that Keturah is the same as Hagar, and to offer a reason two names are used) and if other details happen to conflict, this can be either resolved, be an oversight, or be irrelevant.

joshwaxman said...

"And do you think Rashi intends to exclude in any way views which he does not mention?"

Sure, to a degree, at least on the level of his peshat commentary. By virtue of selecting one midrash, he can be giving less credence to others, at least on the level of peshat.

joshwaxman said...

By the way, an example at random from Shadal, who is clearly a pashtan, taken at random:

אנכי בדרך וגו' : אנכי נחני כנוי כפול, כמו אתה יודוך אתיך ( ברא' מ"ט ח' ), והוא בא תמיד בנומינאטיף [ביחסת יסוד], כמו ברכני גם אני ( למטה כ"ז ל"ד ), והטעם אני בדרך הזה נתני ה' אל בית אחי אדוני ; ויפה נפסקה מילת אנכי בטעם רביע, כי אינה דבקה עם בדרך, כמו שתירגם רמבמ"ן , או יהיה ענין המליצה הזאת כמו שמפורש למטה (פסוק מ"ח) אשר הנחני בדרך אמת לקחת את בת אחי אדני לבנו, ויהיה בדרך כתרגומו בארח תקנא, בדרך אמת, בדרך הישר, ותחסר תיבה אחת קודם בית אחי אדני, והתיבה החסרה אפשר שתהיה דרך (בדרך הישר נחני ה', שהוא דרך בית אחי אדוני) ואפשר שתהיה אל (כמו בפירוש הראשון).

Clearly, the phrase means only one thing. Yet Shadal is willing to entertain two possibilities as to the historical meaning of the phrase.

Another example, from the next perek:
חוזר לרבקה אע"פ שלא נזכרה (כדעת אנקלוס ) ושיעורו בלדת היולדת אותם, וכמוהו אשר ילדה אותה ללוי במצרים ( במדבר כ"ו נ"ט ) שפירושו אשר ילדה אותה היולדת, וכן ואותו ילדה אחרי אבשלום ( מלכים א' א' ו' ) ; או חוזר ליצחק, כמו ועירד ילד את מחויאל ( למעלה ד' י"ח ) (כדעת ר"ש דובנא ), אלא שלפי זה היה ראוי לומר בלדתו אותם (" א' אוסימו ).
Thus, he is willing to say that this phrase refers either to Rivkah or Yitzchak.

Or from the same (next) perek:
הציד בכלל, כלו' אכילת בשר בהמות ועופות השדה, היה חביב לפיו, או שהיה הציד רגיל להיות בפיו, כי היה אוהב אכילתו ; ולפי זה אין צורך לפרש שהוא כאילו כתוב צידו בו"יו , כתרגום אנקלוס והאלכסנדרי וכפירוש המפרשים ; והכותים הגיהו : צידו.

Examples abound.

Thus, pashtanim are perfectly willing to entertain multiple possibilities, with each one being intended as historical.

joshwaxman said...

"pasuk 16" above should read "pasuk 6"

Anonymous said...

You make a good case that Rashi, like the pashtanim, was just giving "possible, likely" explanations, and often more than one possibility exists.

But that runs counter to the popular perception (among the charedim from top to bottom, and among some fraction of the "modern orthodox") that whatever Rashi says becomes an article of faith.

joshwaxman said...

thanks for choosing the pseudonym.

true. it's a problem that stems in part from Rashi's statement that he only comes to give peshat, combined with the assertion that Rashi wrote with ruach hakodesh.

Anonymous said...

I'm puzzled. An analysis of Rashi (with or without the 'five words') needs to start off with the Midrash which Rashi is referencing, *not quoting*, from Bereshish Rabba.

First of all, why is Rashi paraphrasing, and changing the Midrash? The Midrash speaks about who was *wating* for whom, whereas Rashi starts off by asking, but did Avraham go toward Hashem? Rather it was G-d who went toward Avraham, yet it's a Tikkun Soferim etc... It's strange, because neither the Pasuk nor the Midrash talks about *going*, the whole question is who was waiting for whom.

Did I say we need to start with the Midrash? No, we need to start with the Pesukim. Because of the number of times G-d encountered Avraham is unclear to me. First G-d encountered Avraham when he was sitting by his tent. This encounter was interrupted by the arrival of the angels. Avraham begins to escort the angels away. At this point, G-d begins to converse again with Avraham, declaring his intent to destroy Sedom. As this happens, angels exit left and Avraham remains before G-d, as the pasuk states.

So first of all, what's bothering the midrash? Where's the inconsistency that's being addressed? Second of all, why doesn't Rashi simply quote the midrash? Why the paraphrase and change from the language of the Midrash? In short, I'll freely admit that there's much of this topic that I simply don't understand. I'm willing to be educated but I'm not going to accept any proposed explanation for the five words in question that doesn't start off with a clear explanation of the Midrash in question and an explanation for why Rashi would paraphrase, change the meaning of the Midrash and then insert additional words that don't appear in the Midrash at all.

(BTW, I note that all of the 'comings and goings' which interrupt Avraham's encounter(s) with G-d are really no problem at all if you adopt the Rambam's explanation that the entire encounter was a Mar'eh Nevuah, rather than a physical encounter. As such, Avraham never interrupted his encounter with G-d at all. But of course, the Midrash in Bereishis Rabba is at odds with this approach.)

joshwaxman said...

my own take on the original meaning of the midrash, btw, is that this was an Oral tradition of the inverted words or meaning. and that it stems not from an interruption where the angels interrupted Avraham's encounter with Hashem. rather, from an interpretation that there were not three angels who visited Avraham but instead *two* angels accompanying Hashem in his visit to Avraham. See this post on parshablog for an elaboration.

Anonymous said...

The understanding that one of the lords who appeared to Avraham in his vision was representative of G-d's presence would indeed explain both the Midrash as well as Rashi's elaboration on the Midrash. This would explain Rashi's comment, 'but did Avraham approach G-d? Rather it was G-d who approched Avraham (at the commencement of his vision) yet the Pasuk is switched around...'

However, the leap from G-d presenting Man with a *vision* of a corporeal *representation* of his presence, to the conclusion that G-d Himself is corporeal is an unwarranted, and unfounded stretch into a modality of thought which seems to me to be forbidden.

So why make that extension? By the same logic, you'd want to make the assumption that G-d possesses the form of a burning bush. Of course this is not the case; G-d has, upon occasion, presented man with the sensory perception of a physical manifestation to indicate His presence but that in no way indicates that the physical manifestation is G-d Himself in corporeal form.

joshwaxman said...

"representative of Hashem's presence" is indeed how some meforshim explain the middle interjection in reaction to Sarah's laughing.

the question of how to frame it might well be influenced by Rambam's assertion of certain ikkarei emuna. many of his contemporaries not only believed this modality of thought was permitted but even believed it correct. (whether or not they were correct in this belief is another issue.) but who gets to decide what modality of thought is permitted and what not? Rambam and Onkelos certainly take one side. But do they decide, or does the Torah decide.

See this post for a sample Chazal, and Rashi, that seem to take another position.

In this instance, I think the way Rashi understands the beginning of the parsha, he clearly holds that the three angels are distinct from Hashem. Thus, he cites the midrash that Avraham put Hashem on hold while he took care of hachnasat orecheim.

Anonymous said...

> See this post for a sample
> Chazal, and Rashi, that seem
> to take another position.

Hi, I saw the post but I don't see that it supports an assumption of corporeality. I understand this as a metaphor. However, the metaphor (G-d as a barber?) itself is so 'inventive' that R. Abbahu said: Were not the [following] verse written, it would have been impossible to conceive of it.

So R. Abbahu's wonderment is not in an of itself proof that the passeage it to be understood literally. Indeed it's not. Yet, despite not being intended to understand literally, R. Abbahu still expresses wonderment at the metaphor chosen. Of course, the metaphor is stated explicitly and therefor stands. But had this metaphor not be stated we would never conceive of it.

So I think you're still at a loss to find early sources for the notion of G-d as a corporeal entity.

joshwaxman said...

that is by no means the only example of corporeality in the statements of Talmudic Chazal. (there are other examples, I believe, in Marc Shapiro's book. e.g. when Hashem assumes horse form to attract the horses of the Egyptians.)

of course, one could always claim that each example is metaphor (and indeed Rambam would), which would make it impossible to prove. for every example, you could just say it is metaphor rather than literal.

However, in the particular instance above, Rabbi Abahu expands upon the description in the pasuk by adding all sorts of extraneous detail to the story -- giving a name to the king, and all sorts of extra events.

Yet, regardless of how Rabbi Abahu meant it, though, see what Rashi says: "[This symbolizes] the governors [from Jonathan]. But our Rabbis said that this literally refers to shaving, and the removal of the beard is by singeing it with fire."

That is, he first explains the verse as metaphorical. Then, he turns around and says it *literally* refers to shaving. This is as opposed to the first, metaphorical interpretation. That is, Rashi at the least seems to explicitly understand this midrash as literal rather than figurative. And that in turn would mean that he thinks that Chazal held by this corporeality.

Anonymous said...

That is, he first explains the verse as metaphorical. Then, he turns around and says it *literally* refers to shaving.

Isn't he saying that the metaphor of shaving had its physical manifestation as the singeing of the beard? Isn't that after all the point of every metaphor? That is, the metaphorical representation of an actual occurrence?

As far as other Midrashim, I don't recall that it states that G-d appeared Himself as the image of a horse. Are you referring to the Midrash on 'LeSusasi Berichvei Pharaoh' from Shir HaShirim? If I recall correctly, the Midrash does cite some sort of vision of a mare which appeared to lure the Egyptian chariot horses onward into the sea. But where are you getting the precise point that G-d himself appeared in the form of a mare? I have never heard of this. Are you sure you are citing the Midrash correctly?

joshwaxman said...

I don't understand what you mean here. But Rashi categorizes it as a literal razor. Are you suggesting that there was no physical singeing, and no razor? Then it is a metaphor, and it is no different than the first explanation offered by Rashi. Yet Rashi distinguishes between his interpretation and the literal interpretation given by Chazal in perek Chelek.

In terms of the horse midrash, the one in Shir haShirim Rabba does not appear to discuss Hashem luring the Egyptian chariot horses. It has its own quasi-anthropomorphism of Hashem, though one could well classify it as metaphorical:

כל מקום שנאמר: שישה כתיב בשי"ן וכאן בסמ"ך.
אמר ליה: ומה את מקיים לסוסתי ברכבי פרעה?
אלא רכב פרעה על סוס זכר, וכביכול נגלה הקדוש ברוך הוא על סוס זכר.
הדא הוא דכתיב: (תהילים יח) וירכב על כרוב ויעוף.
אמר פרעה: מה הסוס זכר הזה הורג בעליו במלחמה, אלא הריני רוכב על סוסה נקבה.
הדא הוא דכתיב: לסוסתי ברכבי פרעה.
חזר ורכב פרעה על סוס אדום, על סוס לבן, או בשחור. כביכול, נגלה הקדוש ברוך הוא על סוס אדום, לבן, שחור. הדא הוא דכתיב: (חבקוק ג) דרכת בים סוסיך סוסוון פגיין.

Perhaps there is another one in proximity.

I would have to see the specific midrash about luring (which was the one I meant) inside, to see if it matches to categorization. I'll try to see, beli neder, in the next few days, if someone I know has a copy of Dr. Marc Shapiro's book, so I can see how he cites it as well as the footnotes.

There are other pesukim, and midrashim, though.

joshwaxman said...

For example, the troublesome story in Yoma 39b:
"They said: Whence do you know that? He replied: On every Day of Atonement an old man, dressed in white, wrapped in white, would join me, entering [the Holy of Holies] and leaving [it] with me, but today I was joined by an old man, dressed in black, wrapped in black, who entered, but did not leave, with me."

Anonymous said...

Yes, but as I understand this, this is more of the same. Human sensory perception (i.e. vision) doesn't create corporeality.


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