Thursday, December 20, 2007

Veyeitzei, Vayechi: Was Gad, The Son of Yaakov, Named After The Deity?

So asked an anonymous commenter on a previous post talking about the deity of Fortune named Gad. One could ask the same about the Navi Gad, though there we can simply say that he was named after Gad son of Yaakov.

Indeed, there is an irregularity in terms of krei and ketiv where Gad is named. In parshat Vayeitzei, in Bereishit 30, we read:

ט וַתֵּרֶא לֵאָה, כִּי עָמְדָה מִלֶּדֶת; וַתִּקַּח אֶת-זִלְפָּה שִׁפְחָתָהּ, וַתִּתֵּן אֹתָהּ לְיַעֲקֹב לְאִשָּׁה. 9 When Leah saw that she had left off bearing, she took Zilpah her handmaid, and gave her to Jacob to wife.
י וַתֵּלֶד, זִלְפָּה שִׁפְחַת לֵאָה--לְיַעֲקֹב בֵּן. 10 And Zilpah Leah's handmaid bore Jacob a son.
יא וַתֹּאמֶר לֵאָה, בגד (בָּא גָד); וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, גָּד. 11 And Leah said: 'Fortune is come!' And she called his name Gad.
יב וַתֵּלֶד, זִלְפָּה שִׁפְחַת לֵאָה, בֵּן שֵׁנִי, לְיַעֲקֹב. 12 And Zilpah Leah's handmaid bore Jacob a second son.
יג וַתֹּאמֶר לֵאָה--בְּאָשְׁרִי, כִּי אִשְּׁרוּנִי בָּנוֹת; וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, אָשֵׁר. 13 And Leah said: 'Happy am I! for the daughters will call me happy.' And she called his name Asher.
While the krei is Ba Gad, the ketiv has it as one word. One could translate it in many different ways.

But one possibility is that with the ketiv as it is, it could be read as "with {the help of} Gad." In which case it refers to an idol, rather than to Hashem's intervention. Of course, even if we do have the sheva under there, Gad there could just mean Fortune.

Indeed, fortune, rather than the specific deity of fortune, would seem to be the context given by the Biblical Author here, and indeed the intent of Leah, for see what she names her next son from Zilpah: Asher, because of "BeAshri." The JPS translation about is "Happy," or one could say "overjoyed." However, many translate Ashrei as Fortunate. Thus, "With My Fortune," and for Gad, "With Fortune." It makes a nice pair, and so I think this is the correct translation.

Yet, perhaps because of the potential negative theological overtones, it was pronounced Ba Gad, with the implication that Fortune has come, with the arrival of this son.

Shadal only says that one need not read it as with the krei to have it mean Fortune. He writes:

בגד : אין צורך לחלק התבה לשתיים. אך הכוונה במזל טוב, כמו למטה באשרי, וכן בתרגום אלכסנדרי ; ומ"מ עומק הכוונה אינו אלא בא גד, כלו' הבן הזה בא לי במזל טוב, וכן באשרי, הבן הזה בא לאשרי , כי עתה יאשרוני .

Thus even with the ketiv, it means he has come to me "with luck." And finds in the Alexandrian Targum this. But still, the deep intent is the same, even if the word בא is not explicitly present.

Wonderfully, we have a Karaite scholar, Aharon ben Yosef, come to boost the Oral tradition of the pronunciation of the word as the only literal meaning. He claims, based on other Biblical precedent, that the aleph is chaser, but this irregularity is something that can happen in Biblical Hebrew. He cited the word במה from I Kings 3, but I could not find it there and so do not know which pasuk he is referring to. Still, he writes:

Thus, he understands Gad as troop. And rejects as silly and falsehood the idea that it comes from Gid, the male reproductive organ.

And thus, the literal meaning of both the krei and the ketiv is Ba Gad, a band of troops has come, from the Hebrew word Gedud.

It is possible that in this, he is influenced by the pasuk in our parsha, Vayechi. In Yaakov's blessing, he says:
יט גָּד, גְּדוּד יְגוּדֶנּוּ; וְהוּא, יָגֻד עָקֵב. {ס} 19 Gad, a troop shall troop upon him; but he shall troop upon their heel. {S}

{Update: As Shadal notes in his vikuach al chochmat hakabbalah, Karaites accept the nikkud, so this is unsurprising.}

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin