Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Age of Trup -- part xii

Here is the next segment of Shadal's Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. I have substantive issues with this particular section, which I will post in a separate blogpost, so as not to interrupt the flow and inject my own voice into this. He continues here in the issue of the lack of Talmudic reference to vowel points. (See last post.)

The guest: Yet when it comes down to it, all this is only half a proof, and we require clear proofs which have no rejoinder.

And now, please listen to a statement found in Sanhedrin daf 4, from which is is apparent that there was no vowel points in the days of our Sages:

"The students {of Rabbi Yehuda ben Roetz} asked Rabbi Yehuda ben Roetz upon what is written {in Vayikra 12:5}:
ה וְאִם-נְקֵבָה תֵלֵד, וְטָמְאָה שְׁבֻעַיִם כְּנִדָּתָהּ; וְשִׁשִּׁים יוֹם וְשֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים, תֵּשֵׁב עַל-דְּמֵי טָהֳרָה. 5 But if she bear a maid-child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her impurity; and she shall continue in the blood of purification threescore and six days.
Let me read shiv'im {rather than shevu'ayim}, thus perhaps a woman who bears a female child is impure for 70!
He said to them: It fixed impurity and purity exist for a male {child} and it fixed impurity and purity for a female {child}. Just as where it fixed {days} of purity for bearing a male child, for a female child it is double, so too where it fixed impurity for bearing a male child, for a female child it is double.

After they left he sought after them and said to them: You have no need of this {derivation}, for we read shevu'ayim, and we derive the law from the pronounced reading {rather than the consonantal text in the Torah}."
And behold, if they had sefarim with vowel points, how did the student ask "let me read shiv'im?" And why did the teacher need to evaluate with his own reasoning, and state "it fixed impurity and purity by a male, etc.?" And how did he say in the end "we read shevuayim," and he did not say "the vocal points are shevuayim?" And how did he say "the reading is determinant, and he did not say the nikkud is determinant?"

The guest {??}: Your words are good and true. And so too in all places they say "the mikra {reading} is determinant," and they do not say "the vowel points are determinant."

And furthermore, they explicitly say {see Nedarim 37b}, "mikra soferim {the reading of the Soferim} is halacha leMoshe miSinai," and it is known that every halacha leMoshe miSinai is not something written in the Torah, but is transmitted Orally.

And also we find to them that they say (Kiddushin 57) "do we read kodesh? we read kadosh." And they do not say "Is it written," or "is it vowel-pointed kodesh?" "It is written kadosh!" Or "it is vowel-pointed kadosh."

And in Avodah Zara (29) he said to him, Yishmael my brother, how do you read {Shir haShirim {1:2}
ב יִשָּׁקֵנִי מִנְּשִׁיקוֹת פִּיהוּ, כִּי-טוֹבִים דֹּדֶיךָ מִיָּיִן. 2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth--for thy love is better than wine.
{which means the woman is saying that the man's love is better than wine} or ki tovim dodayich {which has the man talking to the woman}, and he did not say "how is it written" or "how is it pointed?" Besides for the fact that if their sefarim had vowel points, there would not be room for this question.

And if it was that it was forgotten or a few of the vowel points were messed up, they should not have arrived at the conclusion from logic, but rather they should have counted the sefarim and gone after the majority, as they say in Masechet Soferim (perek 6), "they established the two and nullified the one."

And so too in Yevamot (daf 75), "Rava said: "This is why we read petzua' (with a sheva on the peh) and do not read hapetzua'" (with a kametz under the peh.) And he did not say, this is that is written petzua.

Except for in one place, we find Rava himself, because of swiftness, was not careful and said (in Zevachim 64) "is it written ימצה (yimtzeh)? ימצה (yimmatzeh) it is written." And this, by itself, is the half-proof found in all of the Talmud that those who believe in the early origin of the vowel point {orthography} are able to support themselves with, except that they did not see it.

And in any case, this is not a proof at all, after we find in the majority of places that they make use of the vowels with the language of "reading" {keriah} and not with the language of writing, such that there is no doubt that Rava was not exact in his speech, and his intent was to say "do we read yimtzah," and he said "is it written" because he was relying on the reading which was an Oral tradition, as if it were Written Torah.

Is this not in the way that they are not careful with their statement in another place (Berachot 57) "If one {dreamed that he} had intercourse with his mother, he may expect to obtain understanding, for it is written {Mishlei 2:3}
ג כִּי אִם לַבִּינָה תִקְרָא; לַתְּבוּנָה, תִּתֵּן קוֹלֶךָ. 3 Yea, if thou call for understanding, and lift up thy voice for discernment;
and they should have said {in addition} "read not ki im but rather ki eim, except that they were not exact.

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