Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Reflections So Far On The Age Of Trup

At this point, I would like to interject with my own thoughts on the matter. Shadal has, thus far, presented a lot of evidence that the classic commentaries, while declaring obeisance to the trup and/or the nikkud, nonetheless will feel free to offer a commentary, sometimes as their only commentary, on a verse, which contradicts the nikkud and/or the trup. He has given a sample of such explanations from these commentators, noting that there are other explanations from the same commentators that also argue against the trup and nikkud, and further, that there are other commentators he hasn't mentioned who also argue on trup and nikkud.

Shadal has discussed Rashi, Rashbam, Ibn Ezra, Ramban, Rabbenu Bachya, Radak and Abarbanel. And then he posited that they must be of the opinion that trup/nikkud is not (always) a tradition from Sinai, or else they would not have granted themselves permission to argue on it.

Certainly, some of his examples are valid. But others are not as valid, in my opinion. One egregious example is Shadal's citation of Rabbenu Bachya ben Asher, who wrote that "the implication of each and every word is according to the vowel points," yet on shiches lo lo banav mumam, associates dor ikesh ufisaltol with the next verse. It is true that Rabbenu Bachya holds one can argue on trup and nikkud, but not because he holds that the explanation of the trup and nikkud is not from Sinai. Rather, as he explicitly sets out there, where he wrote that "the implication of each and every word is according to the vowel points," any time you put vowel points in, you fix it into a particular explanation, and therefore there are no vowel points in a sefer Torah. The text of the Torah is unvocalized so as to be intentionally ambiguous, to convey multiple and wondrous explanations, all at once. And that he is willing to offer these other parses. This does not mean that the one tradition represented by trup is not from Sinai. It can well be from Sinai, but is just one explanation and parse among others, perhaps distinct from the others in that when laining the Torah, we read according to this one.

We really have to consider each of the examples inside. After all, many of these commentators first declared one should not say the composer of trup erred. So how do we understand when they themselves argue on it?

He gives an example from Abarbanel, upon {the verse in parshat Vayera, in Bereishit 18:21}:
כא אֵרְדָה-נָּא וְאֶרְאֶה, הַכְּצַעֲקָתָהּ הַבָּאָה אֵלַי עָשׂוּ כָּלָה; וְאִם-לֹא, אֵדָעָה. 21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me; and if not, I will know.'
who writes "and it will be, according to this explanation, the word עָשׂוּ is an imperative second person plural," even though the vowel points are against it.
The idea is that there should be a chataf patach under the ayin of asu. But does he truly hold it is an error? When he went to shul, did he correct the baal koreh, telling him that he should read a chataf patach under the ayin rather than a kametz? Of course, there might be a distinction between synagogue tradition and halacha of how to lein, on the one hand, and peshat interpretation of the verses on the other.

On the other hand, language is weird, and Biblical Hebrew is often irregular. The very first pasuk of Bereishit, Rashi offers an interpretation in which the word bara is equivalent to bero, "the creation of," and further, that the first three verses should be understood together as one. That does not mean that he is necessarily arguing on the trup and nikkud. Rather, Biblical Hebrew is weird, and he could claim that, though the word is pronounced bara, the meaning is as if it said bero. And the trup is as such for musical purposes, or to stress various other aspects.

Where Radak says that:
אך שוא היו - נוכל להדביקו למעלה שיהיה טעמו על גלעד שזכר ויהיה הענין כפול במלות שונות
או יהיה טעמו דבק עם בגלגל ואע"פ שהזקף במלת היו אין כל טעמי הפירושים הולכים אחרי טעמי הנקוד
he is offering two possible parses, the first of which is indeed in accord with trup. The simplest reading is that indeed, one can offer an explanation at odds with the trup. And this is an excellent, explicit proof. But perhaps he means that there is ambiguity in the verse (just like Issi ben Yehuda's five), and both parses stand together, perhaps something like Rabbenu Bachya wrote, because at the least, there is this alternative resonance. (I would still favor the first, that is Shadal's, explanation.)

The examples from Ramban are varied. The fact that he makes mention of the kametz in Adonay in parshat Vayera does not mean that he relies on the vowel points to the extent that one cannot argue on it. (And Shadal is not saying this either.) Rather, he is noting that in certain seforim there is a kametz there, which would accord with an explanation of it being Hashem, rather than "my masters." He is explaining what it would mean according to each variant, and specifically this variant, which bolsters the reading that it is Hashem. Yet it is true, the fact that he makes mention of the traditional nikkud at all, instead of determining what the nikkud should be on his own accord, implies that he grants some authority to the traditional nikkud. And that he cites the nikkud on taraf as a support for Chazal's interpretation also indeed shows that he grants it some authority.

However, the proofs that he argues on the nikkud are not so clear. Look back at the examples. He explains ha`af tispeh as with the definite article, but then there should be a kametz under the heh rather than a patach. But rather than assume that this is argument on the nikkud, we could offer instead that (a) Ramban messed up, and misinterpreted this pasuk, forgetting this complicated dikduk; as the saying goes, "never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence;" or (b) that the Hebrew language is weird, and despite the fact that this is traditionally pronounced with an aleph, it is an archaic construction, and means what it would mean with a kametz there (and tashlum dagesh). Shadal likes to have everything regular and systematic, but natural language is not always such.

Putting Timna from the next verse as a son of Elifaz is more straightforwardly an argument on the parsing of trup. But that is not the same as the meaning of nikkud. (And trup and nikkud should not necessarily be grouped together, and Shadal does.)

In terms of Ibn Ezra, there might be a distinction between a claim that the author of the trup erred, on the one hand, and offering a different interpretation than the trup, on the other. One is claiming incompetence.
Ibn Ezra writes "and the rule is that there was no greater Sage such as the Divider after him. For behold we see in all of Scriptures that he only divided in the fitting place."
Yet Ibn Ezra indeed writes both, saying elsewhere not to pay heed to an explanation against the trup. Some of Shadal examples of where Ibn Ezra violates the trup, are straightforward, such that it seems apparent that Ibn Ezra is willing to argue. But others are more convoluted. For example,
And so too on the verse {in Reeh, in Devarim 16:6}
ו כִּי אִם-אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר-יִבְחַר ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לְשַׁכֵּן שְׁמוֹ--שָׁם תִּזְבַּח אֶת-הַפֶּסַח, בָּעָרֶב: כְּבוֹא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, מוֹעֵד צֵאתְךָ מִמִּצְרָיִם. 6 but at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to cause His name to dwell in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover-offering at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt.
he wrote that "at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt" refers to Pesach, for at the season of the springtime month they left Egypt, and it is not associated with "at the going down of the sun." And behold, according to his words, we should read שָׁם תִּזְבַּח אֶת-הַפֶּסַח בָּעָרֶב כְּבוֹא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ with a yetiv on שָׁם, a zakef on הַפֶּסַח, a tipcha on בָּעָרֶב, and an etnachta on הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, and with a segol segol pattern on בָּעֶרֶב and a kametz segol pattern on הַשָּׁמֶשׁ.
And another example:
And so too {in Miketz, in Bereishit 41:57}:
נז וְכָל-הָאָרֶץ בָּאוּ מִצְרַיְמָה, לִשְׁבֹּר אֶל-יוֹסֵף: כִּי-חָזַק הָרָעָב, בְּכָל-הָאָרֶץ. 57 And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph to buy corn; because the famine was sore in all the earth.
he explains "and all countries came to Egypt to Yosef to buy grain." (And so too explains the Rashbam.)

{There is a zakef katon on Mitzrayma, a tipcha on lishbor, and an etnachta on el-Yosef, but I do not personally see why this explanation is against the trup. But perhaps I have a different theory of trup, or do not understand his intent. But I think his intent is that the first dichotomy should be on lishbor if so, because the people would be coming to Egypt to get the grain. In which case we would still have the tipcha on lishbor, but we would have a tevir on Mitzrayma rather than the zakef gadol, with the effect that the division would be:
וְכָל-הָאָרֶץ בָּאוּ מִצְרַיְמָה | לִשְׁבֹּר || אֶל-יוֹסֵף
rather than
וְכָל-הָאָרֶץ בָּאוּ מִצְרַיְמָה || לִשְׁבֹּר | אֶל-יוֹסֵף
as we have it.

For Shadal, in his commentary on Torah, writes:
לשבר אל יוסף : אין לסרס המקרא נגד הנגינות כי הבאים לא היתה כוונתם ללכת אל יוסף, אלא לילך למצרים ( אא"א ), ושיעור הכתוב לפי זה ולפי הטעמים כך הוא : וכל הארץ באו מצרימה, ואח"כ הכתוב מוסיף שתי הודעות שהיתה כוונת ביאתם כדי לשבור, ושהיתה ביאתם אל יוסף דוקא

One could see a commentator missing out on this. It is a matter of association or distribution of phrases, based on trup. This is different from a case where the trup makes a division within a single phrase, and one reads a different division against it. Reading over a disjunctive trup, or pausing where there is a conjunctive trup, is a more obvious argument on the author of trup. In more complicated instances, one could well say that the commentator missed out on the meaning of the trup, or did not have the same developed theory of trup.

The same issues of this complex association or distribution is present in the examples for Rashbam.

In terms of the case of Arami Oved Avi, why do we assume that the trup on a given verse must represent the peshat? There is a famous derasha on Arami Oved Avi, how Laban the Aramean tried to destroy my (fore)father. Could this not have been the tradition the trup is trying to convey, working on a derash level, which Chazal understood to be on par with peshat. It is one thing to say a peshat in opposition to nikkud, the vowel points, because those are then the actual words (with derashot functioning on an al-tikra level). But if multiple parses are possible for a verse, and the trup clearly accords with a midrashic level, perhaps it is not arguing on it to give a different explanation on the peshat level.

In terms of Rashi, this is all made difficult because Rashi often gives midrasho-peshat. In my opinion, he sometimes offers midrashic explanations just because they are the famous, classic traditional Rabbinic explanations of the verse. And he explicitly writes that he includes aggada hameyashevet divrei hamikra, whatever that means (e.g. it resolves peshat-based questions, or bolsters a theme developed on a peshat level, etc.) How do we know that when Rashi gives an explanation not in accord with trup or nikkud, he is doing so on a peshat-level? After all, on Bitya sending forth amata, he mentions as well the derasha of Chazal about how her hand extended many cubits, though noting that the nikkud is against it. This need not be that nikkud, and trup, are not Sinaitic, but rather that the midrash is allowed to go against the nikkud or trup. What do you think an al tikra is??

That he mentions Issi ben Yehuda's Five without clarifying, as the students of Tosafot do, that the trup indeed disambiguates, is no proof. He might be making a midrashic point about the ambiguity of the verse.

You can possibly kvetch out a reading on kimat keSdom, that this is the meaning of kimeat, going on everything after the etnachta, and placed before the major break in order that it distributes over both Sodom and Gemorrah.

In terms of malkam / milkom, noting that Milkom was the name of the deity of Benei Ammon does not necessarily mean that he is arguing on the nikkud. There are elements of the verse that certainly connote kingship. The phrase, after all, is עֲטֶרֶת-מַלְכָּם, the crown of their king. What Rashi might be saying is that it is a pun, or deliberate allusion, to their deity. This can be on a midrashic level or even on a peshat level. For comparison, another pasuk has Hashem telling Benei Yisrael that "You will call Me Ishi (my husband), and will no longer call Me Baali." Obviously, Baali is meant to parallel Ishi. But at the same time, it is important for a parshan to note the almost certainly deliberate pun to Baal, for that is peshat-level as well.

Not to mention that you can preserve the nikkud and say it refers to Milkom at the same time. See the JPS translation, which translates:
ל וַיִּקַּח אֶת-עֲטֶרֶת-מַלְכָּם מֵעַל רֹאשׁוֹ וּמִשְׁקָלָהּ כִּכַּר זָהָב, וְאֶבֶן יְקָרָה, וַתְּהִי, עַל-רֹאשׁ דָּוִד; וּשְׁלַל הָעִיר הוֹצִיא, הַרְבֵּה מְאֹד. 30 And he took the crown of Malcam from off his head; and the weight thereof was a talent of gold, and in it were precious stones; and it was set on David's head. And he brought forth the spoil of the city, exceeding much.
Referring to it be its recognizable variant, Milkom, only serves to make it clearer. But Rashi is not even forced to abandon the nikkud in adopting this explanation.

I have not answered every case, and I don't think I could. Shadal puts forth a persuasive argument that at least some of these classic commentators feel they can and indeed do argue on trup and / or nikkud. And some of them explicitly feel they can do so because trup is not from Sinai. But I am not sure that all of them hold this.

This ends my reflections on the Vikuach material, for now. I have another post, coming up, analyzing on my own some of the gemaras that might or might not suggest that nikkud / trup, or rather the vowel sounds and the oral cantillation, is from Sinai.

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