Friday, January 25, 2008

The Age of Trup -- part xviii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See last segment.) In the main text (rather than footnotes) of the previous segment, the guest defined masoret as the plene and deficient spellings of words, noting that "if they had a masorah such as we have with us today they would not have doubts or disputes, this one with the other in the reading of some of the words." The author now picks up on this.

The author: Where are they divided, and where are they in doubt, about the reading of the words?

The guest: First off, in what I informed you off before: {In Avodah Zarah 35a:} He said to him, "Yishmael my brother, how do you read {Shir haShirim 1:2} : Ki tovim dodecha or Ki tovim dodayich?" He said to him, "Ki tovim dodayich." He said to him, "The matter is not so, for behold its fellow {=the context, in Shir haShirim 1:3} proves it: לְרֵיחַ שְׁמָנֶיךָ טוֹבִים, שֶׁמֶן תּוּרַק שְׁמֶךָ; עַל-כֵּן, עֲלָמוֹת אֲהֵבוּךָ. {All of which are directed towards the man. We could have cast this, of course, as an exchange between the lovers, but the argument here is that the context proves that it is directed towards the man.}

The author: This is not proof that they did not have the masorah, for the masorah does not inform about the reading of the words {but only the consonants}, after the nikkud teaches how it is. However this is in the appearance of a proof that there was no nikkud {points} in the time of our Rabbis.

The guest: And why do you say "in the appearance of a proof," and not "proof?"

The author: Because there are of the Sages who say that the nikkud was already found in the holy tongue of old, but not all the sefarim had nikkud, except in those words which it was possible to err in them; for so decided the author of the Meor Einayim (perek 59), that the nikkud was given at Sinai, and afterwards it was forgotten, and the Sages of Tiberius reinstituted it.

And similar to this is the opinion of one who writes the dikduk which is around the masorah, who said at the beginning of his words "It is true that the nikkud was given at Sinai, but they forgot it, until Ezra came and revealed it."

The guest: If it was so that nikkud was known to the early ones, but they only made use of it by words where there could be a question, how did the teacher of Yoav not see any sefer which had the nikkud under ther word zecher in the verse timche et zecher Amalek, such that he taught Yoav z'char with a sheva under the zayin and a patach under the chaf? And if afterwards it was forgotten and Ezra came and reinstated it, how was it further forgotten? Was it not the case that from the days of the Men of the Great Assembly and on, there was not a generation that did not have in it great Sages in Israel, and the chain of tradition is known to us without interruption; and how did they say (in Kiddushin 30) verses also we cannot number, in verses we are not experts, that when Rav Acha bar Ada came, he said, "in the West {=Eretz Yisrael} the divide this verse into three verses {Shemot 19:9} וַיֹּאמֶר ה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי בָּא אֵלֶיךָ בְּעַב הֶעָנָן, בַּעֲבוּר יִשְׁמַע הָעָם בְּדַבְּרִי עִמָּךְ, וְגַם-בְּךָ יַאֲמִינוּ לְעוֹלָם; וַיַּגֵּד מֹשֶׁה אֶת-דִּבְרֵי הָעָם, אֶל-ה?

The author: This is no proof, for there they said as well "they were experts in plene and deficient words, and we are not experts"; and behold, plene and deficient words are a written matter, and even so there arose in it doubts after Ezra. If so, like this matter, we are able to say as well that Ezra established the nikkud, and afterwards it once again was forgotten, until there were born by our Rabbis doubts and disputes.

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