Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Yitro: The Meaning of the Trup and Nikkud of לֹ֥א תַֽעֲשׂ֖וּן אִתִּ֑י אֱלֹ֤הֵי כֶ֨סֶף֙ וֵֽאלֹהֵ֣י זָהָ֔ב לֹ֥א תַֽעֲשׂ֖וּ לָכֶֽם׃

As asked by an anonymous commentator on this other post on parshablog, what is the meaning of לֹ֥א תַֽעֲשׂ֖וּן אִתִּ֑י אֱלֹ֤הֵי כֶ֨סֶף֙ וֵֽאלֹהֵ֣י זָהָ֔ב לֹ֥א תַֽעֲשׂ֖וּ לָכֶֽם׃?

After all, the etnachta is on the word itti, giving us two apparent separate instructions:
You shall not make [images of anything that is] with Me.
Gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.

Such is the Judaica Press translation, following Rashi's commentary, based in turn on Mechilta:
You shall not make [images of anything that is] with Me You shall not make a likeness of my servants who serve Me on high. — [from Mechilta, R.H. 24]
Gods of silver This [statement] comes to warn about the cherubim, which you make to stand with Me [in the Temple], that they may not be [made] of silver, for if you deviate to make them of silver, they are to Me as gods. — [from Mechilta]
or gods of gold This [statement] comes to warn [us] that one shall not add [more cherubim] to [the two, which is the number God required]. For if you make four [cherubim], they are to Me as gods of gold. — [from Mechilta]
you shall not make for yourselves You shall not say, “I will make cherubim in the synagogues and in the study halls, in the manner that I make [them] in the Temple.” Therefore, it says: “you shall not make for yourselves.” -[from Mechilta]
Note how the portion before the etnachta is about making images of the servants who serve God on high. Thus, "you shall not make [those who are] with Me." And everything after the etnachta is about the keruvim. Either the trup's division is made based on the rabbinic explanation askin to what we find in the Mechilta, or else vice versa, or else they independently arise at this parse.

The alternative parse, against the trup, is:
You shall not make with Me gods of silver;
And gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.
This has a nice Biblical parallelism, in my opinion, with a chiastic structure: "gods of silver" matching "gods of gold"; and "You shall not make with Me" matching "you shall not make for yourselves."

But it would indeed appear to be against the trup.

A picture of the parse tree drawn by the trup would be as pictured to the right. Note how lo saasun iti branches off first.

That would be my explanation of the trup. For in לֹ֥א תַֽעֲשׂ֖וּן אִתִּ֑י אֱלֹ֤הֵי כֶ֨סֶף֙ וֵֽאלֹהֵ֣י זָהָ֔ב לֹ֥א תַֽעֲשׂ֖וּ לָכֶֽם׃, the etnachta makes that first branch, at itti. Then, the zakef on "zahav" and the tipcha on "taasu" both subdivide a clause ending in silluk (and sof pasuk), but since zahav is earlier in the verse, it must divide first. And then, within "elokei chesef veilokei zakav," there is a subdivision via the pashta on chesef in half.

While on the subject of this pasuk, we might as well note Shadal's interpretation, in which he argues that the nikkud on itti was not the original nikkud. He writes:
לא תעשון אתי : לפי הניקוד לא תעשו דבר לשתפו עמי, אמנם אין זה מתיישב כלל עם מה שלפניו ועם מה שאחריו, ונ"ל לקרוא לא תעשון אותי, כלומר לא תעשו צורתי, לא תציירוני בשום צורה, ופירש ואמר אלהי כסף ואלהי זהב לא תעשו לכם אפי' לזכרון שמים (כפירוש רשב"ם), וזה בכוונה להוריד שפע האל למטה : אינך צריך לכל זה, אלא מזבח אדמה תעשה לי ; ואתה מבין כי "אתי" הוא תיקון שתיקנו חכמים, כי מליצת תעשון אותי היתה קשה על ההמון.
Thus, the implication of itti on a peshat level is something to combine with God, that is shittuf. But he does not think this works out with the simple context.

Rather, he claims it originally read Oti, thus "You shall not make Me," that is you should not fashion Me in any form. Thus, the pasuk continues to explain that they should not make any idol. These idols of gold and silver would be the forbidden creation of a form for God. Rather (next pasuk), you should make an altar of earth for me.

This explanation would work out with the trup's division.

He also claims that this was not an error on the part of the one who wrote the nikkud, or an error in transmission from the original pronunciation. Rather, he has it as a "tikkun chachamim," deliberate, for the general populace would not understand the difficult idiom of "making Me," which means fashioning God's form into an idol. (Perhaps they might think it as the ability of man to make God into God.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

I liked the parallelism interpretation myself. You have provided a reasonable interpretation of the trup, which I didn't have before.


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