Friday, January 08, 2010

Posts so far for parshat Shemot


  1. The Gra on the trup of Vayemararu et Chayeihem -- There is a famous commentary by the Gra on the trup of Vayigash Elav Yehuda. Here is one on וימררו את חייהם, from parashat Shemot.

    This is actually part of a series of such posts I am doing right now, considering all of the Vilna Gaon's interpretations of trup, to try to deduce just how serious he intends them, among other things. Here is the "famous" one on Vayigash. And here are his comments on the trup of he`ashir lo yarbeh, on Ki Tisa. And here are his comments on asser taaser, in Reeh. And one of megillat Esther. And there is still more to come.

  2. Shemot sources -- links to over a hundred meforshim on the parsha and haftorah, plus links to an online Mikraos Gedolos by perek and aliyah.

  3. An exciting yet possibly nonexistent variant in the spelling of amatah -- Gur Aryeh come up with a variant masorah in order to defend the tradition, and so perhaps confuses Minchas Shai. I investigate, and take a tour of Rav Saadia Gaon's translation, Dunash Ibn Labrat's attack, Ibn Ezra's defense as well as commentary, and Mizrachi and Gur Aryeh's suggestion. Then an analysis, as to why I think Gur Aryeh's suggestion is rather unlikely.

  4. The repercussions of Moshe's oath -- The Baal HaTurim seems to be dan a gezeira shava le'atzmo, something quite likely permitted for aggadah, though not for halacha. I investigate the background to this derasha. Also, what merited censorship in all this? Finally, considering and challenging Rav Chaim Kanievsky's take on this.

  1. Ramses vs. Raamses -- one as the land of Goshen, and the other as the treasure-city they built for Pharaoh. Cross-listed from Vaychi.

  2. The long-lived donkey -- how old was the donkey Moshe put his family on?

  3. Shemot sources -- useful for preparing the sedra: links to an online Mikraos Gedolos and meforshim on the parsha and haftara.

  4. 6 in one birth? Discussing Rashi's source, and Shemot Rabba's source for this midrashic claim; how Ibn Ezra partially endorses it based on contemporary science; an explication just what that contemporary science was; how Ibn Ezra and Rashbam cope with the multiple languages of fecundity, and how I would; then, how multiple births shorten term, and how we might read that into midrash and pesukim. And more.

  5. Six in one womb simultaneously, or sequentially? Considering a suggestion / theory by Rabbi Medan that when Chazal said 6 in one womb, they meant it sequentially over the woman's entire lifetime -- and this as a part of a response to Shadal about chronology and generations in Egypt. I don't think it fits well with Chazal intent in the midrash, and so we would be sacrificing one maamar Chazal to save another.

  6. What are the evil diseases of Egypt? On Ekev, Shadal discusses a malady particular to Egypt of elephantiasis. And while Shadal does not make the connection, Pliny notes that when it affected the kings of Egypt, they treated it by tempering their sitting-baths with human blood. Which then fits well with the famous midrash.

  7. Is the three-fold ambiguity of  וְרַב יַעֲבֹד צָעִיר deliberate? Early theories of multi-valence -- really focused on parshat Toledot, but long the way I discuss the ambiguity inherent in Moshe's killing of the Egyptian taskmaster.
  1. Who Made "Houses" From Whom? And Why? A rundown of the many different explanations of this ambiguous phrase, and how it connects to the context.

  2. The Age of Trup -- from Shadal's Vikuach Al Chochmat haKabbalah, the beginning of a discussion of how old trup is, and how old the orthography of trup is. With implications as to whether a parshan can argue on trup and nikkud. Here, he claims Rashi does so on occasions, and gives examples. But also that Rashi at times brings proof from trup and nikkud. The pasuk from Shemot, of stretching out her hand (see next post on Shemot) is such an example, where Rashi states that the peshat must be maidservant, because of the nikkud on "amata."

    Also see Rabbenu Bachya on the same.

  3. Why Did The Daughter of Pharaoh Stretch Out Her Hand? If it was so many cubits away? The Lubavitcher Rebbe gives an answer, which I think may well accord with the peshat of the midrash. Plus a comment section.

  4. Vayifen Ko vaCho -- Why Did Moshe Look Around? I suggest it is to see if anyone else will intervene. Plus, some comments.
          1. The Dangers of Midrashim? A Fisking -- discussing, in part, whether the daughter of Pharaoh's hand really extended several cubits, and what to make of a midrash which says it did.

          2. Finally Arriving in Egypt -- How could parshat Shemot say they arrived in Egypt when they already did in sefer Bereishit? This is no question on a peshat level. However, the midrash answers that they began to feel the oppression with the death of Yosef. I show how this midrash shows a sensitivity to theme in the text of the parsha. Finally, I reiterate my explanation of habaim mitzrayma that may well clarify a several difficult chronological/genealogical points.

            • Vav HaChibbur vs. Vav HaHippuch And How It Applies To וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת
              • Hirhurim had a question about the statement that that sefer Shemot is unique in that it leads off with a vav, showing several other seforim that do the same. The answer is grammatical - va does not (need) mean "and," but most often just transforms what would otherwise be an imperfect into the perfect (past tense). I go through each instance, demonstrating this.
            Dec 2004
            1. Who Was Chovav? Who Was Yitro? And Who Was Moshe's Father-in-law? In this post on parshat Behaalotecha, I consider these questions. It is not at all clear that these were all alternate names for the same person. See various resolutions.

            2. Vayakam Melech Chadash Al Mitzrayim -- Besides the standard "and a new king arose over Egypt," there are at least three other parses and translations, depending on whether vayakam is transitive or intransitive, whether it means "arose" or "enacted," whether chadash modifies king or arose. It could mean that Pharaoh decreed new decrees on Egypt which did not recognize Yosef. This is the dispute between Rav and Shmuel, cited by Rashi. It could be that the (same) king rose anew over Egypt (the view of the Rabanan). It could mean that a new counsel (melech) was established over Egypt, which fits well with the pasuk as fits in with some midrash as well.

            3. Who were Shifra and Puah? A relatively unknown identification alternative to Miriam as the second midwife.

            4. Pharaoh the Leper -- In association with the post above about Vayakam Melech Chadash, I point out one midrashic motivation for saying that Pharaoh did not die -- in that the pasuk says a new king arose but does not state that he died.. Another pasuk that states that the Pharaoh died is interpreted as not that he died but was struck with leprosy. Parallels to two other kings struck with leprosy, Uzziya and Pharaoh, where the former is also an instance in which leprosy = death. Also a suggestion that וַיָּמָת מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם is parsed as if the word was metzora'im, lepers, such that "the king died the death of lepers."
                    Jan 2004
                    1. Moshe/Kayin parallels, and the midrashic vs. pshat narrative -- Two murders, but the one perpetrated by Moshe is good. And in both instances, the matter becomes known. Both murderers must go into exile, and the ground plays a role in concealing the deed. Parallel focus on potential descendants of the murdered. Plus a non-contradiction between two midrashim about the Egyptian's descendants, or lack thereof.

                      Finally, a distinction between the theme and mood of the narrative within the peshat and within the drash retelling.

                    2. Multivalence -- With the famous example of who echav is that Moshe goes out to -- the Egyptians or the Israelites?

                    3. Shifra & Puah == Yocheved & Miriam? Shifra actually appears on a list of Egyptian slave names from the 18th century. Are these midwives Egyptians who cater to Israelites, or are they Israelites themselves. Plus why the midrash equates them with Shifra and Puah. Plus a possible textual derivation I propose, doubling to mem to make miyaldei haIvrim, about Moshe, become mimeyaldei haIvrim. See inside. And a precedent for such doubling.

                    4. A Bunch of Chayos! And how to translate it -- animals, midwives, intelligent...

                    5. The derivation of Moshe's name -- The one given in the pasuk, and the one offered by some Biblical scholars. And my analysis of the overall picture, such that the one offered by some Biblical scholars is not really compelling (IMHO).

                    6. Moshe's Name -- cross-listed from Vayikra, 2005. An expansion on the above.
                                  to be continued...


                                  Anonymous said...

                                  Did Moshe speak Loshon Hara hence SNAKE, or Moitzeh Shem Ra and hence Loikeh Bigufo?

                                  Anonymous said...

                                  You should do a Post on this.

                                  Anonymous said...

                                  add this story you have a ready made post

                                  The following powerful story appears in “Hassidic Tales of the Holocaust” by Yaffa Eliach:

                                  One of the forced laborers in the camps relates that one day he heard frightening cries of anguish the likes of which he had never heard before. Later he learned that on that very day a selection had been made — of infants to be sent to the ovens. We continued working, tears rolling down our faces, and suddenly I hear the voice of a Jewish woman: “Give me a knife.”

                                  I thought she wanted to take her own life. I said to her, “Why are you hurrying so quickly to the world of truth…” All of a sudden the German soldier called out, “Dog, what did you say to the woman?”

                                  “She requested a pocketknife and I explained to her that it was prohibited to commit suicide.”

                                  The woman looked at the German with inflamed eyes, and stared spellbound at his coat pocket where she saw the shape of his pocketknife. “Give it to me,” she requested. She bent down and picked up a package of old rags. Hidden among them, on a pillow as white as snow, lay a tender infant. The woman took the pocketknife, pronounced the blessing — and circumcised the child. “Master of the Universe,” she cried, “You gave me a healthy child, I return him to You a worthy Jew.”

                                  Anonymous said...

                                  Thing is was this baby alive or dead?

                                  joshwaxman said...

                                  thanks. perhaps i'll do a post on it. I could add the following, from 3 years ago:


                                  Anonymous said...

                                  I thought of something this morning and I'm quite puzzled by it. Midrash Rabbo comments on a six-fold expression for population increase by saying that Jewish women gave birth to six babies at once. But Moshe was born by himself - unless you suppose that he had an extra five siblings that are mentioned nowhere else. This is such an obvious question that there must be an obvious answer, but I can't think of one.

                                  joshwaxman said...

                                  great question!
                                  I addressed it at the end of the post I just put up.

                                  Shabbat Shalom,

                                  Anonymous said...

                                  Hitting them all out of the Ball park like a seasoned pro very Impressive.

                                  joshwaxman said...


                                  Unknown said...

                                  In 2007, you cited the Lubavitcher Rebbe's beautiful explanation of the Midrash that states that Pharoh's daughter's arm became very long when she say Moshe in the basket. ("We are confronted with a situation that is beyond our capacity to rectify. So we resign ourselves to inactivity, reasoning that the little we can do won't change anything anyway. Yet Pharaoh's daughter heard a child's cry and extended her arm. An unbridgeable distance lay between her and the basket, making her action seem utterly pointless. But because she did the maximum of which she was capable, G-d did the rest.") Can you pinpoint the place the Rebbe said this (i.e. provide a reference)? Thanks.

                                  joshwaxman said...

                                  sorry - this i didn't actually see inside, but got from Chabad's "parsha in depth":


                                  maybe someone there could pinpoint the source for you.


                                  Unknown said...

                                  Yanki Tauber, of, wrote me the following email about the idea Josh quoted:

                                  Dear Saul
                                  The peice you cite is actually from the Kotzker Rebbe (chassidic master Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, 1787-1829). It appears in the book Emet v'Emunah (as well as in various other works that quote his teachings). The attribution to the Lubavitcher Rebbe was in error, and this has been corrected on the site.


                                  Blog Widget by LinkWithin