Friday, February 29, 2008

The Authenticity of the Zohar -- pt i

This continues Shadal's Vikuach al Chochmas HaKabbalah into the next chapter. Having set out a post-Talmudic date for development of our nikkud and trup, he uses it to assess the authenticity of the Zohar. (See previous segment.)


And it was in the morning, and the man came to my house, and sat to my right, and this is how he opened his words:

"Do you still hold firm to that which we decreed yesterday, that the nekudot and trup were not, not were created, until after the closing of the Talmud, as is the opinion of Rabbi Eliyah {Bachur}?"

The author: I acknowledge, and I credit in my place the great grammarian Rabbi Eliyah, against all who argue on him in this matter.

The guest: Now you should know, my dear friend, that in this matter which you have said, you are destroying the wall of the Zohar and all of the kabbalah, until the foundation of it.

The author: Forfend to me if I think this.

Have I not told you at the start of our conversation in investigating the age of nikkud, that even though I know that the sefer haZohar and its fellows mention many times the nikkud and the trup, I do not think because of this that such an investigation is unfit for a man who believes in the wisdom of the kabbalah. For the sefer haZohar and its fellows were written with ruach hakodesh {Divine Inspiration}, and via ruach hakodesh the nikkud is mentioned in them, in the same way that {Mohammed} the prophet of the Ishmaelites it mentioned {though he was post-Talmudic}, and the two pairs of tefillin {Rashi and Rabbenu Tam}.

And now, who do you return to cloud my soul with your doubts, when I love you?

The guest: But because I also love you, and because I know your wisdom, your righteousness, and the straightforwardness of your path, I will not hold back until I turn away your feet from the bad path to the true path, to fulfill what is stated {Mishlei 9:8}:
ח אַל-תּוֹכַח לֵץ, פֶּן-יִשְׂנָאֶךָּ; הוֹכַח לְחָכָם, וְיֶאֱהָבֶךָּ. 8 Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee; reprove a wise man, and he will love thee.
Is it not for you to know, my dear friend, that if the sefer haZohar only mentioned the nekudot and trup, I would have remained silent. But it is not the end of the matter that it mentions them, but it expounds upon them deep secrets of wondrous wisdom; Do you not see in it (chelek 3, page 205b):
{Bemidbar 27:3}:
ג אָבִינוּ, מֵת בַּמִּדְבָּר, וְהוּא לֹא-הָיָה בְּתוֹךְ הָעֵדָה הַנּוֹעָדִים עַל-יְהוָה, בַּעֲדַת-קֹרַח: כִּי-בְחֶטְאוֹ מֵת, וּבָנִים לֹא-הָיוּ לוֹ. 3 'Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not among the company of them that gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah, but he died in his own sin; and he had no sons.
אָבִינוּ -- this trup is similar to a snake."
Behold, for you to see that he bases his secret on the {trup symbol} zarka which is on the word avinu, which is similar in its form to a snake.

And behold, after it was made clear by us with proofs which have no push-off that the form of the nikkud and trup are only craftsmanship which the later people brought out after the closing of the Talmud, so that the Torah should not be forgotten from Israel, how is it possible to build upon the form of the trup -- which is the work of man, not of a prophet or the son of a prophet -- wondrous secrets?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Age of Trup -- part xxx

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmas HaKabbalah. (See previous segment.) This text was somehow not scanned into the version at SeforimOnline, so I scanned it myself from my own copy. This is the final segment of the chapter called "Third Night." He discusses the absence of Nesiim in Eretz Yisrael before the creation of nikkud. In a footnote, he discusses that there were in fact two systems of nikkud, and modifies his thesis to match.

The author: This in truth is a great novelty by me, that there were in the days of the Sages of the Talmud men whose wisdom was in the knowledge of the reading of Tanach with precision. And there is no doubt that these men were fit for the work of establishing the nikkud and trup on the face of all of Scriptures.

And now, in truth, my mind has quieted from all its bewilderments and doubts in the matter of this investigation, an investigation as to the start of nikkud and the time of the authors of the nikkud, and their location; therefore, my heart rejoices and my honor is happy as one who finds a great treasure. And also, to you my friend, I bear a thousand thanks, that you supported at my right hand and brought me to the chambers of the truth.

And now, my dear friend, I will not conceal from you, that the opinion of the author of Tzemach David, that there was no further Prince {Nasi} after Rabbi Hillel and after the year 118 {but for all these dates, add 240 years to convert to English dates, so =358}, is not a "clear halacha" {halacha berura} for behold, the wise man Shmuel Petit, in his book Observationum (printed in the city of Paris in the year 1642) brings proofs from the books of their Chachamim and from the laws of the Caesars, that until the year 175 (which is the year 415 to their calendar) there was in Eretz Yisrael a Prince (Patriarcha), whose name was Gamliel, and only in the year 189 (=429) the word of the king came from before Theodosius Caesar, who mentions the Princes {Nesiim} as a matter which already passed and was nullified from the world.

And it is so, that there are still left to us 70 years and more from the time of the nullification of the Nesiim until the closing of the Talmud, and the matter remains as it was, true, fixed, correct, and established. For it does not make sense at all that the nikkud was made in Eretz Yisrael and that it was accepted in all the dispersions of Israel, if at the time it was made, 70 years plus had already passed from the time the Nesiim were nullified, and there was no futher ruler and government to the residents of Eretz Yisrael over the residents of the Diaspora. *

* After days and years, a different nikkud than we have was revealed, in an eastern land, and those nekudot were written over the letters. (See sefer Halichot Kedem which was printed in Amsterdam in the year 607 {=1847}.) I also found in manuscript (??) 12 of Rossi that the nikkud which was above was the nikkud of the land of Ashur {and thus Bavel}, and that which was below was called the nikkud of Teveria. Therefore it appears that the beginning of the bringing out of nikkud was in Bavel, but the Sages of Teveria made in it changes, and we accepted it from them, like the words of the Ibn Ezra. And that which the men of Ivropa {Europe?} accepted the nikkud of Eretz Yisrael and abandoned the nikkud of Ashur, this was because they found that the Assyrian nikkud did not accord to their pronunciation in reading the Holy Tongue. For the Assyrian nikkud does not distinguish between patach and segol, as is the case as well in the Arabic language. Therefore the men of Europe, who were already used to distinguishing in their reading between the vowels of yaar and the vowels of gefen, needed to accept the Tiberian nikkud, and to abandon the Assyrian.

But it is still difficult that that I found in the commentary of
avot kadmon {??}, in ktav yad {manuscript} (see Kerem Chemed 4, folio 203) that the Tiberian nikkud is not similar to our nikkud, nor are either of them similar to the nikkud of Eretz Yisrael. And I cast my eyes to Hashem, that he will send out from darkness to great light sefarim or pages from the early days, which from them the doubts will be made clear and the confoundings will be whitened.

End footnote.

And now, behold, we have been occupied a lot, and already two hours have passed since midnight. Let each man please now turn to his bedchamber, and by morning light the sun will shine and we will return to delight in the investigation of wisdom, as God places in out mouths.

The guest: Peace to my master.

The author: Go in peace.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Vayakhel: Upon the Women - Does Onkelos Intend a Drash?

At the beginning of parshat Vayakhel we encounter the following pasuk (Shemot 35:22):

כב וַיָּבֹאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים, עַל-הַנָּשִׁים; כֹּל נְדִיב לֵב, הֵבִיאוּ חָח וָנֶזֶם וְטַבַּעַת וְכוּמָז כָּל-כְּלִי זָהָב, וְכָל-אִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר הֵנִיף תְּנוּפַת זָהָב לַה. 22 And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing-hearted, and brought nose-rings, and ear-rings, and signet-rings, and girdles, all jewels of gold; even every man that brought an offering of gold unto the LORD.
Onkelos translates:
כב וּמֵיתַן גֻּבְרַיָּא, עַל נְשַׁיָּא; כֹּל דְּאִתְרְעִי לִבֵּיהּ, אֵיתִיאוּ שֵׁירִין וְשַׁבִּין וְעִזְקָן וּמָחוֹךְ כָּל מָן דִּדְהַב, וְכָל גְּבַר, דַּאֲרֵים אֲרָמוּת דַּהְבָּא קֳדָם יְיָ.

There is an interesting "Rashi" associated with this statement of Onkelos, and associated with this pasuk. It reads:
with the women Heb. עַל הַנָּשִׁים, lit., [the jewelry was still] on the women. The men came with the women and [stood] near them. (The reason the Targum [Onkelos] left the passage in its simple sense is that he does not render וַיָּבֹאוּ הָאִנָשִׁים as וַאִתוֹ גַבְרַיָא, and the men came, but he renders: וּמַיְתַן, [and the men] brought, meaning that they brought bracelets and earrings while they were still on [i.e., being worn by] the women, as Rashi writes on “spun the goat hair” (verse 26), [which signifies that the women spun the hair while it was still on the goats].)
There are two aspects to Onkelos which are off, and which prompt this "Rashi." The first is that he translates al hanashim as al neshaya. That is, he does not translate al at all, and move it to its more peshat-oriented sense, "with," by saying im. Contrast this with Targum Pseudo-Yonatan, and see that he translates im neshaya. The second aspect which seems off is that he translates vayavo`u as umaytan, "and they brought," rather than va`atu. Meanwhile, Onkelos himself translates vayavo`u in the previous verse as va`atu, and this is how Targum Pseudo-Yonatan translates both verses.

This then causes one to think in terms of the other known midrash, that the women well unwilling to donate to the golden calf, so the husbands pulled them off of them. So too here, where these donations somewhat atone for those earlier actions, they "brought bracelets and earrings while they were still on the women."

Note that Rashi in all likelihood did not say this. It does not appear in Mossad haRav Kook's edition at all. In the Judaica Press translation (above), and in my Mikraos Gedolos, it appears in parentheses. And to make it clearer, the author of this statement makes reference to Rashi by name, saying "as Rashi writes on “spun the goat hair”," rather than "as I wrote..."

Did Onkelos intend this? It certainly is possible, but it is by no means certain, to my mind. In terms of translating al, Onkelos takes no positive action. This might be to preserve the ambiguity of the word al, since al is after all an Aramaic word as well, and the phrase might mean "with the women" (proximate to them), or "besides the women" (that both groups gave), or "on behalf of the women" (since, as Siftei Chachamim notes, the men had final say over the finances, for significant expenses). Or some fourth explanation I did not manage to brainstorm just now. I know that I often deliberately leave such ambiguities in, when translating Rif. This does not mean that he must be channeling the midrash. Indeed, I somewhat doubt it. In terms of translating vayava`u, that too is by no means certain. The point Onkelos might be trying to make is that in the previous pasuk, it was traveling to a location. But here, the same word means donating, given the context of the items which are donated in the verse. Thus, it has nothing to do with al, but rather with the fact that actual donation occurs in this verse. And so, I am not so sure I agree with this statement added into Rashi.

A funny point associated with this derasha is that it must insist that it was the "bracelets and earrings," that is, חָח וָנֶזֶם, which were brought "while they were still on" the women. But of course, the list given in the verse also includes kumaz, כוּמָז, about which Rashi says
This is a golden ornament placed over a woman’s private parts. Our Rabbis explain the name כּוּמָז as [an acrostic]: כַּאן מְקוֹם זִמָּה, [meaning] here is the place of lewdness. -[from Shab. 64a]
It would obviously be the height of non-tznius to bring the kumaz while still on the woman. What was she to do once it was donated? Thus, this commentary takes care to specify that he is only referring to חָח וָנֶזֶם. But if making the derasha from the phrasing of the pasuk, and from Onkelos, what basis is there to sever the list in the middle, and omit the kumaz?

Let us turn now to the part of Rashi not placed in parentheses:
The men came with the women and [stood] near them.
It is not even clear that this is Rashi. Mossad haRav Kook's edition does cite these words, but puts it in parentheses, and notes that it does not appear in the first printing of Rashi.

But assuming it is Rashi, or even assuming not, what is bothering (actually, motivating) Rashi here? He changes al to im, and explains it as proximity.

Siftei Chachamim offers the following:
It is difficult for him, for we do not accept tzedaka from women, except for a small amount. Therefore he said that the men came together with the women.
Possible. I would not readily agree to this explanation, though. I would instead note that the word al is awkward, that Onkelos leaves it pristine in its ambiguity (and Rashi often makes reference of what Targum says), and that there is that midrash floating around based on al meaning "still on." Therefore, Rashi wants to make clear that the peshat in this verse is "with." He further explains the sense of al which means "with," that they were proximate to them, and thus that upon the group of women, we also have proximate the group of men. So this statement is just clarification of how to translate the verse in its simple meaning. Siftei Chachamim's suggestion, and proposed motivation, is reading Rabbinic halacha into the verse, somewhat anachronistically and thus midrashically. And since Rashi is not trying for midrash here, but rather peshat, I doubt that Siftei Chachamim's suggestion is correct here.

I would also guess that Siftei Chachamim did not have the words of the supercommentary on Rashi, which got embedded in his commentary, and which spoke of Onkelos and the midrash of the jewelry still on the women. If it was before him, it probably would have influenced what he saw as Rashi's motivation.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Age of Trup -- part xxix

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmas HaKabbalah. (See previous segment.) Having concluded that the trup and nikkud is Savoraic, he turns to deal with whether there were Biblical (rather than halachic) scholars among Talmudic and Savoraic Chazal.

The guest: You have seen well.

And now, I will add that it appears that the Rabbanan Sovarai, who put the Oral law on a sefer, and wrote the Mishna and Talmud and Targum which until those days were all preserved Orally -- they are the ones who commanded to a few Sages fit for this task that they should find a device to make a guard for the reading so that it should not be forgotten; and they did so, and they brought out the nikkud and the trup, and put nikkud in all of Tanach. And the Rabbanan Savorai rested {samchu} their hands on their work, and praised it and established it, and on the basis of this it was accepted by all of Israel.

The author: The matter is good. But who told you that there were found in Bavel in the days of the Rabbanan Savorai Sages fit for the work of the nikkud? And is it not seen from all of the Talmud that the work of the Sages of these generations were only in halacha or aggada, not in the investigation of the simple meaning of the Scriptures and their reading?

The guest: Know that beside the Sages who engaged in halacha and aggada, there were already in the days of the Sages of the Talmud another group {perhaps "sect"} of Sages, who were called by the name kara, such as Rabbi Chanina Kara (Taanit 27b), in Rashi explains that he was a master of Mikra, and knowledgeable in girsa, and expert in it teamim. And Levi bar Sisi, upon whom they said (Yalkut Hoshea, siman 533) קחו עמכם דברים {from Hoshea 14}, "take with you good Karaim, good Darshanim, such as Levi bar Sisi and his colleagues.

And in Pesachim 117, "the kara`ei added also these," and Rashi explains masters of Mikra.

And behold, Kara {with two kemeitzim} is a Hebrew noun of the form dayyan, naggach {with a patach dagesh chazak kametz form, though Shadal does not indicate the dagesh. The extension of the patach to a kametz is the result of compensatory lengthening since the quasi-guttural resh cannot receive a dagesh.}/ And they said as well on the Aramaic linguistic wat karoi, karoya, in the pattern of karoza, katola, or in the pattern of Rabbinic Hebrew karay, in the pattern of zakkay, bannay; {See the scan in Hebrew for the vowels -- though in my text, rather than the text above, there are degeishim where appropriate.} Such as "Abba Chalifa Karoya inquired from Rabbi Chiyya bar Abba (Bava Batra 123), when Rabbi Eleazar bar Shimon died, his generation called upon him {the verse, Shir haShirim 3:6}
ו מִי זֹאת, עֹלָה מִן-הַמִּדְבָּר, כְּתִימְרוֹת, עָשָׁן: מְקֻטֶּרֶת מֹר וּלְבוֹנָה, מִכֹּל אַבְקַת רוֹכֵל. 6 Who is this that cometh up out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?
that he was a Karayei, a Tanayei, a Paytan and a Darshan. (Vayikra Rabba parasha 30.)

And in Kiddushin daf 49 it is set out clearly who is fit to be called Kara, and this is one "who reads the Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim with precision."

{Note: This last scan was from my own copy of the Vikuach. Note the different font. This is more than what was previously available online, as the scanner of SeforimOnline somehow missed the last page of this chapter.}

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Age of Trup -- part xxviii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmas HaKabbalah. (See previous segment.) He concludes that the Anshei haMasoret are not the same as the authors of the nikkud. Then he turns to the issue of the location the trup and nikkud was invented. He also discusses the type of dispute between Ben Naftali and Ben Asher.

The author: It is true that the early scribes, the Sages of the second Temple era, established the reading in all of Tanach with the vowels and the trup, and therefore its reading was called "mikra Soferim {the scribes}"; but from the days of the scribes until that days of the authors of the nikkud, many generations passed, and we have already seen beforehand, in the days of the Sages of the Mishna and the Talmud that many doubts were born and many disputes in the reading and in the separation of the trup, and in these the authors of the nikkud did not have a support or director except for their intellect and wisdom, and in these I see their impressive understanding and their extremely deep intellect.

The guest: You have spoken correctly.

And behold, it is made clear to us that the Anshei HaMasoret were one entity and the authors of the nikkud were a different entity. And if the Sages of Teveria were the Baalei HaMasoret, they were not those who brought out the nikkud.

And now, please listen to the investigation which I came up with, and judge upon it with your understanding.

Do we not know (and it is spelled out in sefer Tzemach David, 3118) that because of the sufferings, the Yeshivot were nullified in Eretz Yisrael, and the Nesiim {Princes} were nullified, after Hillel the son of Rabbi Yehuda Nesia, and those with semicha were nullified in Eretz Yisrael, and yet the closing of the Talmud was 150 years after that time. And at the time of the closing of the Talmud, and from then on, there were not Sages of renown in Eretz Yisrael, and the hand of the residents of Eretz Yisrael was not any more strong over the residents of the Diaspora, but rather all those in the Diaspora were subject to the the Sages of Bavel, since by them the yeshivot and Exilarches continues, and the Geonim, more than 500 years after the closing of the Talmud.

If so, how could it be that the nikkud was made in Eretz Yisrael? Amd who will believe that in those bad time, when the yeshivot and Princes were nullified, there was made in Eretz Yisrael a great work like the work of the nikkud, which requires clarity of thought, wondrous diligence, and deep investigation?

And even if it arises in the mind that there were already there a small number of men whose wisdom was great to perform such as this matter, how was it such that all of Israel agreed to rend their heads under these men, whose hand was not strong at all, and to accept upon all of themselves to read the Tanach as these particular men designated the nikkud, and to abandon at times also the words of the Talmud because of this nikkud?

And how was it that the Sages of Bavel did not arise against this new matter and against the reading which at times opposed the Talmud? And at the least, how did they not send out from under their hands a table of corrections and alternate readings? For even the difference of readings between those of the West and those of the East, all of them are in matters of the letters, and krei and ketiv, not in the matters of the nikkud and the trup, and all of them preceded the nikkud.

Also, Ben Asher and Ben Naftali never differed on the authors of the nikkud, but rather the dispute between this one and that one was in the matters of the makef and the meteg, and the other minor matters which do not impact the body of the reading of the words and the cutting up of the statements (*).

And behold, the work of the authors of the nikkud are always left with no dispute upon it -- no one opens his mouth to it and no one dares to speak out; what is not understandable at all if it was made in Eretz Yisrael at a time that there were not therein Princes and yeshivot of renown. And quite the opposite, the matter is much accepted by the intellect, if we say that not in Eretz Yisrael but rather in Bavel was the nikkud instituted, in a place that the great yeshivot whose dread was cast upon all of Israel in the four corners of the earth.

(*) Only one switch have I found between Ben Asher and Ben Naftali, which seems to touch on the body of the reading of the word and its meaning, and this is in the word תְּרָצְּחוּ כֻלְּכֶם (in Tehillim 62):
ד עַד-אָנָה, תְּהוֹתְתוּ עַל-אִישׁ-- תְּרָצְּחוּ כֻלְּכֶם:
כְּקִיר נָטוּי; גָּדֵר, הַדְּחוּיָה.
4 How long will ye set upon a man, that ye may slay him, all of you, {N}
as a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
see the Minchat Shai.
However, in my opinion (as I wrote in my book Prolegomeni folio 24) the matter is not as he thought it, but rather according to everyone the word is from the "poel" construction, like וְעַתָּה מְרַצְּחִים {in Yeshaya 1:21:
כא אֵיכָה הָיְתָה לְזוֹנָה, קִרְיָה נֶאֱמָנָה; מְלֵאֲתִי מִשְׁפָּט, צֶדֶק יָלִין בָּהּ--וְעַתָּה מְרַצְּחִים. 21 How is the faithful city become a harlot! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers.
but rather the dagesh was removed from a letter which carries it, and specifically where the afterwards is a guttural letter {in this case the chet after the tzadi}, such as vayise`u {with the dagesh in the sin removed because of the aleph after it}, vayikechu {with the chet taking away the dagesh in the kuf}, vayise'u {the same, with a samech and ayin}. And so we find in a few manuscripts and old printings תרצחו without a dagesh in the tzadi.

And behold, in the opinion of Ben Naftali, the resh needs to have a patach in accordance with its rule, but Ben Asher made a distinction, so that it would be known that it {the sheva/the letter} is na even though there is no dagesh {chazak}, and so he put the nikkud of תרצחו with a kametz, and there is no doubt that he extended the kamatz with a meteg, so that it would be known that it is a broad kamatz {kametz rachav, as opposed to a kamatz katon, which would be a reduced cholam}. And in the pattern of this dispute, the nakdanim argued in the word מְאַסְפָיו (in Yeshaya 62:9)
ט כִּי מְאַסְפָיו יֹאכְלֻהוּ, וְהִלְלוּ אֶת-ה; וּמְקַבְּצָיו יִשְׁתֻּהוּ, בְּחַצְרוֹת קָדְשִׁי. {ס} 9 But they that have garnered it shall eat it, and praise the LORD, and they that have gathered it shall drink it in the courts of My sanctuary. {S}
that the samech is without a dagesh, and some place the nikkud of the aleph with a patach, and some with a kametz, and there is no doubt that this too is a kametz rachav.

The author: The matter is correct in my eyes.

And based on this, it is also understandable how the Anshei haMasoret were so much drawn, like slaves, after the authors of the nikkud and trup, to appoint all sorts of strangeness, without lifting a head to differ from them in a single matter, and even to indicate which way their thoughts leaned: All this is understandable if they were from Eretz Yisrael, at a time where there were no yeshivot and Sages of renown, and the nikkud came to them from Bavel which had great yeshivot, and Exilarches, and heads of yeshivot whose dominion was over the entire earth.

Washing Printed Hands On Shabbos

An interesting situation came up on Shabbos. Someone was holding a plastic bag, with lettering on it, and he sweated, causing the words on the bag to transfer on to his hand.

1) May he wash for hamotzi?
The words might wash off, and this would be erasing. Of course, it would not be erasing for the purpose of writing. So we might classify it as solely deRabbanan. Is it pesik reshei? The words might wash off, or they might certainly wash off. It certainly seems to be nicha leih, since he wanted the words off his hands (and they were sticky, and he wanted to clean his hands). You might say there is the requirement to eat on Shabbos, which involves bread, for which one would need to wash, and perhaps one could construct an argument that this would supersede whatever prohibition exists on some level. But then, one could have Oneg shabbos without bread, could hear the hamotzi from someone else. And he could even put on gloves, like a kohen, in order to eat challah.

2) May he wash with liquid soap and water?
Just because it is bothering him?

No answers here. Real incident. Feel free to offer your suggestions.

Aroma NetCafe Is Now Kosher-Certified

It always was kosher, but could not get certification, because they were an internet cafe. What internet access has to do with hashgacha is questionable. Presumably, people taking the opposite position would say that kashrut certification conveys a sort of rabbinic imprimatur on the entire enterprise, which would constitute an endorsement of the internet. Kind of like if a brothel sold food as well, and they got hashgacha on the food.

Of course, people all have Internet in Kew Gardens Hills, and in a public place like a Net Cafe, people are not going to be going to truly inappropriate sites. Of course, the fact that people all have Internet in their homes, and this is a residential neighborhood, calls into question the utility of an Internet Cafe in the first place. And the library, with free internet access, is just down the block. (Though of course you cannot eat there.) Not to mention the prices -- $7.50 for one hour -- meant that after 4 hours, you have paid for home Internet access for the month, such that I wonder whether it was a good business model.

Anyway, they caved, and eliminated their Internet access. And so now they have certification.

A pity in the general sense. I hope it works out for them.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Some Insights Into The Death Of Rabbi Chanina ben Tradion

From Avodah Zarah 17b-18a:
They then brought up R. Hanina b. Teradion and asked him, 'Why hast thou occupied thyself with the Torah?' He replied, 'Thus the Lord my God commanded me.' At once they sentenced him to be burnt, his wife to be slain, and his daughter to be consigned to a brothel.

(The punishment of being burnt came upon him because he pronounced the Name in its full spelling. But how could he do so? Have we not learnt: The following have no portion in the world to come: He who says that the Torah is not from Heaven, or that the resurrection of the dead is not taught in the Torah. Abba Saul says: Also he who pronounces the Name in its full spelling? — He did it in the course of practising, as we have learnt: Thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations, but thou mayest learn [about them] in order to understand and to teach. Why then was he punished? — Because he was pronouncing the Name in public. His wife was punished by being slain, because she did not prevent him [from doing it]. From this it was deduced: Any one who has the power to prevent [one from doing wrong] and does not prevent, is punished for him. His daughter was consigned to a brothel, for R. Johanan related that once that daughter of his was walking in front of some great men of Rome who remarked, 'How beautiful are the steps of this maiden!' Whereupon she took particular care of her step. Which confirms the following words of R. Simeon b. Lakish: What is the meaning of the verse, The iniquity of my heel compasseth me about? — Sins which one treads under heel in this world compass him about on the Day of Judgment.)

As the three of them went out [from the tribunal] they declared their submission to [the Divine] righteous judgment. He quoted, The Rock, His work is perfect; for all his ways are justice. His wife continued: A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is He; and the daughter quoted: Great in counsel and mighty in work, whose eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doing. Said Raba: How great were these righteous ones, in that the three Scriptural passages, expressing submission to Divine justice, readily occurred to them just at the appropriate time for the declaration of such submission.
The portion marked by Soncino in parentheses reads like an interjection into the story, for it continues exactly where it left off at the beginning parentheses. I spoke in the previous post about possible stammaic influence of the sugya in terms of reinterpreting Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon's act of Hogeh et Hashem BeOtiyotav.

But two further points occurred to me, and thus this post. First, we can read all this elaboration as a gloss upon the original statement, which went
"They then brought up R. Hanina b. Teradion and asked him, 'Why hast thou occupied thyself with the Torah?' He replied, 'Thus the Lord my God commanded me.' At once they sentenced him to be burnt, his wife to be slain, and his daughter to be consigned to a brothel."
The following gemara can be read as a gloss, and indeed as a derasha, on the aforementioned segment. (Note how each piece of the previous, such as his daughter to the brothel, is cited and elaborated upon.) For see his response: " 'Thus the Lord my God commanded me.' At once they sentenced him to be burnt." Thus, the sentencing to be burnt was based on his saying 'Thus the Lord my God commanded me.' But how did he say those words? If there is a problem saying this, then it must be that he pronounced "the Lord my God" with its letters. Our gemara just prints it as ה' אלהי. But perhaps this derasha is reading it as YKVK. Then, it would bring in Abba Shaul's statement, but then would have to balance it so that it would not be so terrible.

Secondly, the statement from Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish serves a dual purpose here. That statement is:
Which confirms the following words of R. Simeon b. Lakish: What is the meaning of the verse, The iniquity of my heel compasseth me about? — Sins which one treads under heel in this world compass him about on the Day of Judgment.
Within the context of the entire gemara, the idea is that these are sins which are not so serious, which people do not take seriously, and which one treads under heel. Yet for very simple things they received such serious punishments.

However, there is also the juxtaposition which must be considered. The expanded text, encompassing the text immediately beforehand, we have:
His daughter was consigned to a brothel, for R. Johanan related that once that daughter of his was walking in front of some great men of Rome who remarked, 'How beautiful are the steps of this maiden!' Whereupon she took particular care of her step. Which confirms the following words of R. Simeon b. Lakish: What is the meaning of the verse, The iniquity of my heel compasseth me about? — Sins which one treads under heel in this world compass him about on the Day of Judgment.
Resh Lakish's prooftext about "the iniquity of my heel" easily applies to how Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon's daughter was careful about her step, to impress some Roman men. Indeed, that could be a reason for calling this statement to mind. It also serves to provide summary of the entire section, perhaps once it is present. Baruch shekivanti -- now looking at Rashi, I see that he actually brings down these two possible explanations. But the first one does not really work with the explanation in Resh Lakish's statement. Which one is right? Both, but I think only the latter was Resh Lakish's intent when he made the statement, while the former may be how the gemara is also using it.

Daf Yomi Nedarim 62: Sold for Flame, Or to a Fire-Temple?

From Nedarim 62, from my Rif translation:
רב אשי ה"ל ההוא אבא זבניה לנורא
א"ל רבינא לר"א והא איכא לפני עור לא תתן מכשול
א"ל רוב עצים להסקה ניתנו:
Rav Ashi had a forest which he sold for flame. {Our gemara: a fire-temple.}
Ravina said to Rav Ashi: But there is the injunction of "place not a stumbling-block before a blind man."
He said to him: Most wood is for heating {rather than idolatry}.
It seems to me there is a potentially great halachic difference which could come out of these variant girsaot. If as our gemara, that he sold it to a Bei Nura, a fire-temple, then this would be permission even for this, for even they might well use it not for their idolatry. If it is just Nura, as the Rif seems to have it, then this is not necessarily permission to sell it to a temple which specifically often makes use of exactly this for their idolatry. Perhaps the idea was that one could sell firewood to the general populace, because even though there are probably some fire-worshipers out there, who is to say that you sold it to one. And only in such a situation would it not be an issue of lifnei iver. Perhaps.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Deliberately Flatulent Herring

I found this article in New Scientist interesting.

"Biologists have linked a mysterious, underwater farting sound to bubbles coming out of a herring's anus. No fish had been known to emit sound from its anus nor to be capable of producing such a high-pitched noise.


Finally, three observations persuaded the researchers that the FRT is most likely produced for communication. Firstly, when more herring are in a tank, the researchers record more FRTs per fish.

Secondly, the herring are only noisy after dark, indicating that the sounds might allow the fish to locate one another when they cannot be seen. Thirdly, the biologists know that herrings can hear sounds of this frequency, while most fish cannot. This would allow them to communicate by FRT without alerting predators to their presence."

Friday, February 22, 2008

My Objections to the Rabbi Chanina ben Teradyon Proof

A famous proof of lack of nikkud presented by Shadal is this prior post. Perhaps read that post first before reading this.

Basically, he proves, from the fact that Rabbi Chanina ben Tradion pronounced the name in order to teach it to his students, that they must not have had nikkud. Otherwise, he could have utilized a nikkud-based solution, before turning to a method that is so serious that Abba Shaul says that (in other situations) one who does this loses his share in the World to Come.

The gemara in question, from Avodah Zarah 17b-18a:
They then brought up R. Hanina b. Teradion and asked him, 'Why hast thou occupied thyself with the Torah?' He replied, 'Thus the Lord my God commanded me.' At once they sentenced him to be burnt, his wife to be slain, and his daughter to be consigned to a brothel.

(The punishment of being burnt came upon him because he pronounced the Name in its full spelling. But how could he do so? Have we not learnt: The following have no portion in the world to come: He who says that the Torah is not from Heaven, or that the resurrection of the dead is not taught in the Torah. Abba Saul says: Also he who pronounces the Name in its full spelling? — He did it in the course of practising, as we have learnt: Thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations, but thou mayest learn [about them] in order to understand and to teach. Why then was he punished? — Because he was pronouncing the Name in public. His wife was punished by being slain, because she did not prevent him [from doing it]. From this it was deduced: Any one who has the power to prevent [one from doing wrong] and does not prevent, is punished for him. His daughter was consigned to a brothel, for R. Johanan related that once that daughter of his was walking in front of some great men of Rome who remarked, 'How beautiful are the steps of this maiden!' Whereupon she took particular care of her step. Which confirms the following words of R. Simeon b. Lakish: What is the meaning of the verse, The iniquity of my heel compasseth me about? — Sins which one treads under heel in this world compass him about on the Day of Judgment.)
I have two issues with this proof.

Firstly, even without nikkud, he could have told them Orally the words. He could have told them what the consonants were. Then, he could have told them another word with matching vowels. Or said, e.g., the Yud has a vowel as in the word Yerachmiel, or Yahalom, or Yom, and so on for the other letters. This is true whether or not they have orthographic signs.

Secondly, we might fight "kefirah" with "kefirah." Is all of this Amoraic? Or is some Savoraic or Setammaic? There are certainly signs of Savoraic influence here. (I'll put some other of my insights in the gemara in another post, beEzrat Hashem.) Specifically, "But how could he do so? Have we not learnt: The following have no portion in the world to come: He who says that the Torah is not from Heaven, or that the resurrection of the dead is not taught in the Torah. Abba Saul says: Also he who pronounces the Name in its full spelling? — He did it in the course of practicing" and all of this anonymous back and forth based on other sources certainly reads like stama digmara. If so, we might say that in fact he did not do it to "practice," or as Shadal reads it, "to teach his students." Rather, in general he pronounced Hashem's name.

But what about Abba Shaul? The answer is that Abba Shaul felt compelled to say this because people were doing it, and furthermore this is his opinion which he is adding on to the opinion of the Tanna Kamma. Say that Abba Shaul is a Tanna himself, and argues! And perhaps held like the Tanna Kamma. The problem with that if so, why is this a basis for punishment? Perhaps we might adopt the stama's answer that it was in public. Or perhaps we might say that he thought this, but he was wrong, and was punished for this.

If so, no one was talking about teaching to students, so no artifice was necessary, and no proof can be drawn from this story about the early or late origin of nikkud.

Tales of In-duh-viduals?

Just received the latest issue of the Dilbert newsletter. One thing that often annoys me slightly is the section titled "TALES OF INDUHVIDUALS." People send in stories about people they encountered were clueless in some way. However, this is also an opportunity to judge other people favorably. Just because someone appears to not understand something does not necessarily mean that he in fact does not.

Two cases in point:
"Locally we have a grocery chain called Bi-Lo. We were sitting around the office one day talking about living on farms and drinking milk from the cows. One girl said she wouldn't drink milk from a cow, only milk from Bi-Lo. The stunned silence was deafening."
Yes, what a dumb woman. She does not know that milk from the grocery store comes from cows!

But while there perhaps are indeed such people, that does not mean that this woman was one of them. There is an emotional, visceral, psychological difference between getting milk from the grocery, in which case it comes from cows, but that is in the abstract, and seeing those cows and seeing the process by which milk is extracted from cows. I once visited a goat farm, and the goat farmer asked person X (who was fairly young at the time) if he wanted goat milk. He said yes (he had been drinking goat milk solely for a while), but then she milked the goat into a cup, and handed him the frothy glass. His reaction: Ew! The goat pished into a cup! (As I noted, he was young at the time.) He did not drink goat milk for many months afterward.

And seeing the operation of milking cows up close, where you have to shpritz the udders with iodine (IIRC) and wipe them with a paper towel, prior to attaching the milking machine, is enough to potentially turn one off of milk for a while. How much dirt and feces gets into the milk?

Besides this, of course, there is pasteurization and other steps taken for quality control, which one benefits from when purchasing milk from a grocery, but which one might not have when getting the milk directly from the cow.

All in all, a bunch of people misunderstood a psychological point of some substance put forth by this woman. And yet she is the one labeled an induhvidual.

Another story:
"We were given our yearly evaluations and handed our objectives for the upcoming year: "Everyone must exceed the Team Average in sales dollars." My boss explained that this was not a case of exceeding a previous average; all ten of us were expected to be above whatever our current average was."
Hah! What a dumb manager! He is mathematically ignorant, and does not understand that you cannot have everyone above average!

Unless... unless the issue is not the meaning of "average," but rather the meaning of "objective." If this was an objective for the team as a whole, then obviously it is not satisfiable. But if this was an individual objective, but given to each member of the sales team in turn, then it makes more sense. It is not necessarily a good management idea, but just might be. That is, there obviously will be one person at least who fails to meet his objectives, and that would carry whatever repercussions that carries. But since each individual salesman has that goal and that motivation, each salesperson will try to compete with others in the same office, to do even better.

So in both cases, it may well be that the person telling over the story simply did not understand the meaning of the purported "induhvidual's" words.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ki Tisa: Half of it is 250, or Half as Much, that is, 250

To see the trup chart larger and better (since it is scaled down in this post), please click on the image.


[ כג ] כפי הטעמים , וכדעת הירושלמי שקלים ריש פרק ששי ( הלכה א ') .
The pasuk:
כב וַיְדַבֵּר ה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר. 22 Moreover the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:
כג וְאַתָּה קַח-לְךָ, בְּשָׂמִים רֹאשׁ, מָר-דְּרוֹר חֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת, וְקִנְּמָן-בֶּשֶׂם מַחֲצִיתוֹ חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתָיִם; וּקְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם, חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתָיִם. 23 'Take thou also unto thee the chief spices, of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty,
כד וְקִדָּה, חֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ; וְשֶׁמֶן זַיִת, הִין. 24 and of cassia five hundred, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a hin.
The Yerushalmi (Shekalim 24b) in question states:
שמות ל) ואתה קח לך וגו' וקידה חמש מאות וגו' שהן אלף וחמש מאות מנים:
That is, it sums it up to 1500, which is does as:
flowing myrrh as 500,
cinnamon as 250,
calamus as 250
cassia as 500.
The sum of this is 1500.

Here is the trup:

וְאַתָּ֣ה קַח־לְךָ֮ בְּשָׂמִ֣ים רֹאשׁ֒ מָר־דְּרוֹר֙ חֲמֵ֣שׁ מֵא֔וֹת וְקִנְּמָן־בֶּ֥שֶׂם מַֽחֲצִית֖וֹ חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים וּמָאתָ֑יִם וּקְנֵה־בֹ֖שֶׂם חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים וּמָאתָֽיִם׃

Thus trup accords with this because it puts together וְקִנְּמָן-בֶּשֶׂם מַחֲצִיתוֹ on one side of a disjunctive accent and חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתָיִם on the other side, such that it is to be interpreted as half as much as the mor deror which was 500, and thus 250.

Rashi, meanwhile, offers an interpretation in accordance with the Bavli, and against the Yerushalmi and the trup:
half of it two hundred and fifty [shekel weights] Half of the amount to be brought shall be two hundred and fifty; thus altogether it is five hundred [shekel weights], like the amount of pure myrrh. If so, why was it stated in halves? This is a Scriptural decree to bring it in halves to add to it two overweights, because we do not weigh [the spices] exactly. So it was taught in Kereithoth (5a).
Shadal feels that if this was the meaning, there should not be a disjunctive accent of tipcha on the word machatzito. Rather, presumably the disjunctive accent would be one word earlier (and would appear as a zakef, because of its distance from the etnachta), such that it would be:

וְקִנְּמָן-בֶּשֶׂם || מַחֲצִיתוֹ חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתָיִם.

In earlier posts (see here and here), I translated Shadal's Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah, where he attempts to prove things about the age of trup and whether the nakdanim were willing to argue with gemaras, from sources such as these. When it comes down to it, we see that in this case he decides in favor of the Yerushalmi and the trup.

Did Homosexuality, Or Homosexual-Friendly Legislation, Cause the Recent Earthquakes?

I don't think so.

But a certain Shas MK is certain they did, if news reports are to be believed:
Benizri said the government should not make do with reinforcing buildings, but should instead pass less legislation that encourages homosexuality and other "perversions like adoptions by lesbian couples."

The ultra-Orthodox party MK invoked passages from the Talmud and the Gemarrah to support his claims.
"Why do earthquakes happen?" said Benizri. "One of the reasons is the things to which the Knesset gives legitimacy, to sodomy."
This reflects a particular brand of Judaism, prevalent I think more among Sefardim, about schar veOnesh and claims to knowledge about what causes what.

It it funny that the article in HaAretz calls it passages from the Talmud and the Gemarrah. Firstly because Gemarrah is an atypical spelling, and calls to mind Sodom and Gomorrah. Secondly, it would appear that whoever wrote this was an ignoramus, who did not realize that "the Talmud" and "the Gemmarah" are one and the same. And this is who you have doing your religion reporting? (Perhaps it is a bad translation to English of a Hebrew article, where for some reason it made sense?)

I do not know whether this is an accurate portrayal of the remarks, but assuming it is, here is my reaction.

Firstly, if you want a prooftext that "
legislation that encourages homosexuality and other 'perversions like adoptions by lesbian couples.' " causes earthquakes, look lower down in the gemara. Look in Yerushalmi Berachot 9:2, where the gemara states:
ורבנן אמרו מפני המחלוקת. (זכריה יד) ונסתם גיא הרי כי יגיע גיא הרים אל אצל.
Thus, the Rabbanan rely on the prooftext from Zechariah which states:
ה וְנַסְתֶּם גֵּיא-הָרַי, כִּי-יַגִּיעַ גֵּי-הָרִים אֶל-אָצַל, וְנַסְתֶּם כַּאֲשֶׁר נַסְתֶּם מִפְּנֵי הָרַעַשׁ, בִּימֵי עֻזִּיָּה מֶלֶךְ-יְהוּדָה; וּבָא ה אֱלֹהַי, כָּל-קְדֹשִׁים עִמָּךְ. 5 And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azel; yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah; and the LORD my God shall come, and all the holy ones with Thee.
If you want to say that gays being parents of adopted children causes earthquakes, say the following derasha: Al Tikrei "Gay Haray" ela "Gay Horay."

Enough joking.

Note that the quotation of the remarks in the article was that "One of the reasons is the things to which the Knesset gives legitimacy, to sodomy." Note that it starts "one of the reasons." That means that there are multiple reasons given. Even if we could apply this gemara to persent-day situations, does this MK have ruach hakodesh to know that this is the reason?

Let us examine the many reasons the gemara gives for earthquakes. First, in Bavli Berachot 59a. In English:
AND OVER EARTHQUAKES [ZEWA'OTH]. What are ZEWA'OTH? R. Kattina said: A rumbling of the earth. R. Kattina was once going along the road, and when he came to the door of the house of a certain necromancer, there was a rumbling of the earth. He said: Does the necromancer know what this rumbling is? He called after him, Kattina, Kattina, why should I not know? When the Holy One, blessed be He, calls to mind His children, who are plunged in suffering among the nations of the world, He lets fall two tears into the ocean, and the sound is heard from one end of the world to the other, and that is the rumbling. Said R. Kattina: The necromancer is a liar and his words are false. If it was as he says, there should be one rumbling after another! He did not really mean this, however. There really was one rumbling after another, and the reason why he did not admit it was so that people should not go astray after him. R. Kattina, for his own part, said: [God] clasps His hands, as it says: I will also smite my hands together, and I will satisfy my fury. {Ezek. XXI, 22.} R. Nathan said: [God] emits a sigh, as it is said: I will satisfy my fury upon them and I will be eased. {Ibid. V, 13} And the Rabbis said: He treads upon the firmament, as it says: He giveth a noise as they that tread grapes against all the inhabitants of the earth {Jer. XXV, 30}. R. Aha b. Jacob says: He presses his feet together beneath the throne of glory, as it says: Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne and the earth is my foot-stool Isa. LXVI, 1}.
Thus, there are multiple reasons.

1) The reason of the necromancer, which may or may not be accurate for that particular earthquake. (My reading of the gemara was that the necromancer was correct as to the physical phenomenon, such that there was one rumbling after another, but entirely incorrect as to the cause.) Which is that Hashem is sad at the suffering of His children. Nothing to do with sodomy.
2) R' Katina: Something to do with God's anger over wrongdoing.
3) R' Natan: Similar.
4) The Rabbis: Not necessarily negative, but something to do with God's honor, perhaps.
5) Rav Acha bar Yaakov: Similar.

Nothing yet to do with homosexuality, so how is this MK so sure that it was not one of the aforementioned reasons?

Next up, we have the Yerushalmi Berachot 9:2:
אליהו ז"ל שאל לר' נהוריי מפני מה באין זועות לעולם אמר ליה בעון תרומה ומעשרות. כתוב אחד אומר (דברים יא) תמיד עיני ה' אלהיך בה וכתוב אחד (תהילים קד) המביט לארץ ותרעד יגע בהרים ויעשנו. הא כיצד יתקיימו שני כתובין הללו בשעה שישראל עושין רצונו של מקום ומוציאין מעשרותיהן כתיקונן תמיד עיני ה' אלהיך בה מראשית השנה ועד אחרית השנה ואינה ניזוקת כלום. בשעה שאין ישראל עושין רצונו של מקום ואינן מוציאין מעשרותיהן כתיקונן המביט לארץ ותרעד. אמר ליה בני חייך כך היא סברא דמילתא. אבל כך עיקרו של דבר אלא בשעה שהקב"ה מביט בבתי תיטריות ובבתי קרקסיות יושבות בטח ושאנן ושלוה ובית מקדשו חרב הוא אפילון לעולמו להחריבו. הה"ד (ירמיהו כה) שאוג ישאג על נוהו. בשביל נויהו. אמר ר' אחא בעון משכב זכר. אמר הקב"ה אתה זיעזעתה איברך על דבר שאינו שלך. חייך שאני מזעזע עולמי על אותו האיש. ורבנן אמרו מפני המחלוקת. (זכריה יד) ונסתם גיא הרי כי יגיע גיא הרים אל אצל. אמר רבי שמואל אין רעש אלא הפסק מלכות. כמה דאת אמר (ישעיהו יג) ותרעש הארץ ותחל. מפני מה (ישעיהו יג) כי קמה על בבל מחשבות ה.

The Yedid Nefesh translation / elaboration is to the right. Once again, we have multiple reasons:

1) Neglecting terumah and maaser.
2) Ignoring the churban habayit and attending theaters and circuses instead. (But theaters and circuses had different meaning back then, and the attention payed present-day churban habayis perhaps may not prompt this, given changed political and physical realities.
3) Sodomy.
4) Divisiveness!
5) The ending of a kingdom.

(Note, by the way, that despite Eliyahu haNavi offering an opinion and revealing the reality, this does not stop others from offering their own opinions as to the significance of earthquakes.)

So sodomy is featured there, but one opinion among many. How do we know to identify specifically this one, as opposed to any of the others? Or none of the above? Or natural causes?

Indeed, by making such a statement, in such a manner, he increases machloket, so perhaps he is the cause of the earthquakes!

Furthermore, all the Yerushalmi speaks of is the act of sodomy. But does gay-friendly legislation really encourage sodomy? Not directly -- people do not suddenly become gay because of friendly legislation. I could see the argument that it provides social support for long-term relationships, in which case people might engage in more homosexual acts. So there is some logic to the argument, based on the prooftext of the gemara.

But, once again, why rely specifically on this one opinion in the gemara and claim knowledge of the cause?

And more importantly, such statements are unproductive at best. It is, or comes across, as hatred. It increases machloket. And do you think they are going to listen to you, or will they dismiss you as a lunatic and religious freak?

On the other hand, we do see this well established practice of trying to find causes for natural phenomena such as this, in the time of Chazal, by examining the world about them as well as darshening various pesukim.

Update: Meanwhile, people have lines that they think are good, but only because they haven't seen the sources inside. I refer to this:
Mike Hammel, chairman of the Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association isn't having any of it. Hammel responded by saying:
"It is sad that a religious MK in Israel doesn't think earthquakes are God-made. On the other hand, I suppose we should be flattered he attributes us with such magical powers.
The Yerushalmi cited above explicitly says that it is God-made:
אמר ר' אחא בעון משכב זכר. אמר הקב"ה אתה זיעזעתה איברך על דבר שאינו שלך. חייך שאני מזעזע עולמי על אותו האיש.
as a Divine response to such activities.

But what can you do?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Age of Trup -- part xxvii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmas HaKabbalah. (See previous segment.) Shadal is discussing here whether the Chachmei Teveriah were the baalei nikkud, and/or the Anshe HaMasoret, and whether the two groups are identical.

The guest: You have reminded me of the words of the author of the Sefer Yetzirah, who said that there are 7 doubled letters - beged kaperet. And behold the Sefer Yetzirah appears from his language (with is the language of the Mishna} that is was made in Eretz Yisrael, and it appears that the residents of Eretz Yisrael pronounced the resh in two distinct ways, and it is not so according to the nikkud which is with us. And from this it appears that the nikkud did not come out in Eretz Yisrael.

And yet, what will we respond to the witnesses which Rabbi Elijah brought that the baalei nikkud were the Sages of Teveriah? Take, please, the sefer Masoret haMasoret and see the witnesses he brings.

And I took the sefer and I sought in the third preface, and he said: Behold his first proof is the witness of Rabbenu Yonah, who wrote that the resh with and without the dagesh {plosive and fricative}, the men of Teveriah are experts in it and not us, for they are pure of speech from all the Jews. And yet Rabbenu Yonah never said at all that they were the baalei hanikkud, and what is it to us that they were pure of speech? And indeed the opposite, that they were experts in the dagesh of the resh, it proves clearly that they were not the baalei nikkud, since the baalei nikkud placed the resh as not receiving a dagesh {as among the gutturals}.

The guest: But the second testimony he brings is from the Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, in sefer Tzachot, that he writes "such is the custom of the Sages of Teveriah, and they are primary, for among them are the men of the masoret {tradition}, and from them we received all of the nikkud." It appears that it is a proof, and what shall we answer upon it?

The author: One can only learn from the words of the Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra that of the men of Teveriah were the men of the masoret, and that we received from them all of the nikkud, and yet we might say that they too received it from them, for he {=Ibn Ezra} never said at all that they innovated it.

And it appears that the Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra was making merry with us, in his way, and in a clear way {way of jest??} he said they that are the men of the masoret {tradition}, for they have given over {masru} into our hands the nikkud, and we have accepted it from their hands; for msr and qbl are terms that go together. {And not that they were the canonical Anshei HaMesorah.}

And yet that the men of Teveriah were the men of the masoret is something that Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra says also in another placed, for on
לא וְעָשִׂיתָ מְנֹרַת, זָהָב טָהוֹר; מִקְשָׁה תֵּעָשֶׂה הַמְּנוֹרָה, יְרֵכָהּ וְקָנָהּ, גְּבִיעֶיהָ כַּפְתֹּרֶיהָ וּפְרָחֶיהָ, מִמֶּנָּה יִהְיוּ 31 And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made, even its base, and its shaft; its cups, its knops, and its flowers, shall be of one piece with it.
(Shemot 25:31) he wrote
"I have seen sefarim {of Torah} which the Sages of Teveriah have inspected, and fifteen of their elders swore that three times they gazed at each word and each point {nekudah}, and each plene and deficient spelling, and behold a yud is written in the word תיעשה {and not like we have it in what I cited above, chaser yud}."
End quote.
And yet, {even} if the Sages of Teveriah were the Anshei Masoret, who will believe that they are the baalei hanikkud {who innovated the nikkud}? And behold, this is a great mistake which went out from before Rabbi Elijah, that he conflated the masters of the nikkud with the Sages of the Masoret {tradition}, and he always referred to those who brought out the nikkud by the name "the Sages of the Masoret," and he did not see that there is a superiority to these over those, like the superiority of light over darkness. And what is to the chaff to the wheat? {a quote from Yirmeyahu 23:28.} And who does not see that the bringing out of the orthographic signs of the vowels and the trup, and the placing of the nikkud in all the words of TaNaCh, and the establishment of the trup in every single verse based on the depth of the simple meaning of Scriptures, in a deep and wondrous wisdom, which all the commentators despaired to reach its completeness {/ alternatively, its aims}, and every single day we find in the trup of the Scriptures wondrous reasons which delight the heart and which are sweeter than honey, and mysteries of wisdom which enlighten the eyes.
And the opposite is the work of the Anshei HaMasoret -- it is a melacha {labor} and not a craft at all {J: this contrast is one that appears in the laws of Shabbat}. And you already know that the Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra mocked them; and if all of their effort was for the sake of Heaven and from all their work was extended out some purpose, their work was welcome, and also those who did work which had less purpose there was by them, and also the men of printing and binding of sefarim aided a lot to increasing the bounds of the wisdoms. But who will assess these men to be the greatest of the Sages, the authors of the sefarim which were paves with gold? Such, there is no assessment or comparison of the baalei hanikkud with the Men of the Masoret.

The guest: And could it not be that the great Sages, righteous and pious inclined their shoulder to bear the heavy burden, and to work the oppressive labor for the honor of Hashem and the preservation of his Torah?

The author: This is possible, and this is our obligation without doubt; but the Masorah includes matters without number which have no purpose at all, and which cause one who chases after them quite a lot of wasted time.

For example, how much time did the Baalei HaMasoret require to waste in order to know how many verses there were in Tanach which had in them all of the letters of the aleph bet! And what purpose comes to us from knowing these verses? And the like are very many matter in the Masorah.

The guest: However, there still is to a litigant to differ, and to say that perhaps the baalei hanikkud did not have in them all the wondrous wisdom of which you speak, for still the reading with vowels and trup was already established Orally by the early Sages, and the baalei hanikkud only needed to bring out orthographic signs to indicate the received reading.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Age of Trup -- part xxvi

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmas HaKabbalah. (See previous segment.) Here, Shadal decides on a time for the introduction of nikkud and trup, namely the time of the Savoraim.

The author: If so, what do you wish to learn from this, that we see that the masters of nikkud argued with Chazal?

The guest: It appears to me that this is a proof that the authors of nikkud were not much later than Chazal; for if it was a long time after the closing of the Talmud, the would not have filled their hearts {=dared} to argue upon it. And even if you find to say that they did dare to do this, all of Israel would not have set aside the Talmud and agreed to read in the Torah and Neviim based on the masters of nikkud. And behold, it is clear to us that the time of the beginning of the nikkud is close to the time of the closing of the Talmud, in the days of the Savoraic Sages, in approximately the year 4260.

The author: This is also the position of Rabbi Elijah Bachur, even though he erred in the calculation, and wrote "3989 years to the Creation, which is 436 years after the destruction of the second Temple." And in truth, 436 years after the destruction is only the year 4264, and the two calculations he mentions are distant from one another 275 years!! And yet, the fact that nikkud was started close to the time of the closing of the Talmud seems to be correct and compelling. And not like a few of the wise one of the nations of make its date late, unyil the year 4500. And the bordering of the time of the beginning of nikkud close to the closing of the Talmud arises as well to find an answer to two great questions.

For the first one there is to ask: How is it that such a great and new matter like the bringing out of the nikkud and the trup did not leave its mention explicit in one of the books, to say, "in year such-and-such in place such-and-such, the Torah was pointed {with nikkud}.

For behold, if this was in the days of our Rabbis the Savoraim, one need not wonder at this, from from that time we do not have a single sefer.

And the second there is to ask: If the nikkud was brought out anew, how did the Karaites accept it and did not reject it? For behold, the sect of the Karaites began about 200 years after the closing of the Talmud, and within this was already lost (in the many days and the lack of books) the memory of the beginning of nikkud, and the populace though that the Holy Books had nikkud from the beginning of their existence, and therefore the nikkud was accepted by the Karaites.

And still, what is to be said about the place of the beginning of nikkud? Behold, the opinion of Rabbi Elijah is that they were innovated in Tiberias, and yet the great grammarian the Razah, om sefer Binyan Shlomo (page 32) he brings a proof against this position, from that which we know (Michlol, page 108 and 109) that the men of Teveriah had their resh by them of the doubled letters which accept plosives and fricatives {that is, they had beged kaparet, rather than beged kefet} and the opposite of this are the baalei nikkud, who placed the resh among the letters which do not accept a dagesh {even a dagesh chazak - thus among the gutturals}. Behold it is clear that the nikkud is not from the Sages of Teveriah.

Shaul And The Talkative Women

I don't recall all the source details of the following, but thought I'd post it nonetheless. Shaul was looking for the donkeys of his father, and his servant suggested consulting Shmuel the seer, who might be able to tell them where the donkeys were. But first, they had to find Shmuel. This takes us to 1 Shmuel 9:10:
י וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל לְנַעֲרוֹ טוֹב דְּבָרְךָ, לְכָה נֵלֵכָה; וַיֵּלְכוּ, אֶל-הָעִיר, אֲשֶׁר-שָׁם, אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים. 10 Then said Saul to his servant: 'Well said; come, let us go.' So they went unto the city where the man of God was.
יא הֵמָּה, עֹלִים בְּמַעֲלֵה הָעִיר, וְהֵמָּה מָצְאוּ נְעָרוֹת, יֹצְאוֹת לִשְׁאֹב מָיִם; וַיֹּאמְרוּ לָהֶן, הֲיֵשׁ בָּזֶה הָרֹאֶה. 11 As they went up the ascent to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water, and said unto them: 'Is the seer here?'
יב וַתַּעֲנֶינָה אוֹתָם וַתֹּאמַרְנָה יֵּשׁ, הִנֵּה לְפָנֶיךָ; מַהֵר עַתָּה, כִּי הַיּוֹם בָּא לָעִיר--כִּי זֶבַח הַיּוֹם לָעָם, בַּבָּמָה. 12 And they answered them, and said: 'He is; behold, he is before thee; make haste now, for he is come to-day into the city; for the people have a sacrifice to-day in the high place.
יג כְּבֹאֲכֶם הָעִיר כֵּן תִּמְצְאוּן אֹתוֹ בְּטֶרֶם יַעֲלֶה הַבָּמָתָה לֶאֱכֹל, כִּי לֹא-יֹאכַל הָעָם עַד-בֹּאוֹ--כִּי-הוּא יְבָרֵךְ הַזֶּבַח, אַחֲרֵי-כֵן יֹאכְלוּ הַקְּרֻאִים; וְעַתָּה עֲלוּ, כִּי-אֹתוֹ כְהַיּוֹם תִּמְצְאוּן אֹתוֹ. 13 As soon as ye are come into the city, ye shall straightway find him, before he go up to the high place to eat; for the people will not eat until he come, because he doth bless the sacrifice; and afterwards they eat that are bidden. Now therefore get you up; for at this time ye shall find him.'
One noteworthy point in the text that truly jumps out at the reader is how verbose the maidens' response is -- two lengthy pesukim -- in contrast to the brevity of his query -- 'Is the seer here?'

Why is this? I have three ideas, and one or two of them may even be true.

1. This is historical. This is what he asked and this is what they answered. Even so, not every thing people say gets recorded for posterity.

2. While they did indeed say this, the cause for recording it is deliberate, and has to not with the particulars of that day -- of how the women spoke so many words -- but rather because the content of their words is critical as a foreshadowing.

Note how they say "As soon as ye are come into the city, ye shall straightway find him, before he go up to the high place to eat; for the people will not eat until he come, because he doth bless the sacrifice; and afterwards they eat that are bidden."

It is critical locally, for the honor Shmuel bestows upon him. But it is more critical globally. For this is what caused Shaul's downfall, eventually. He did not wait for Shmuel for the sacrifice. As we read in I Shmuel 13:
ז וְעִבְרִים, עָבְרוּ אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן, אֶרֶץ גָּד, וְגִלְעָד; וְשָׁאוּל עוֹדֶנּוּ בַגִּלְגָּל, וְכָל-הָעָם חָרְדוּ אַחֲרָיו. 7 Now some of the Hebrews had gone over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead; but as for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.
ח וייחל (וַיּוֹחֶל) שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, לַמּוֹעֵד אֲשֶׁר שְׁמוּאֵל, וְלֹא-בָא שְׁמוּאֵל, הַגִּלְגָּל; וַיָּפֶץ הָעָם, מֵעָלָיו. 8 And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed; but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.
ט וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל--הַגִּשׁוּ אֵלַי, הָעֹלָה וְהַשְּׁלָמִים; וַיַּעַל, הָעֹלָה. 9 And Saul said: 'Bring hither to me the burnt-offering and the peace-offerings.' And he offered the burnt-offering.
י וַיְהִי, כְּכַלֹּתוֹ לְהַעֲלוֹת הָעֹלָה, וְהִנֵּה שְׁמוּאֵל, בָּא; וַיֵּצֵא שָׁאוּל לִקְרָאתוֹ, לְבָרְכוֹ. 10 And it came to pass that, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt-offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him.
יא וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל, מֶה עָשִׂיתָ; וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל כִּי-רָאִיתִי כִי-נָפַץ הָעָם מֵעָלַי, וְאַתָּה לֹא-בָאתָ לְמוֹעֵד הַיָּמִים, וּפְלִשְׁתִּים, נֶאֱסָפִים מִכְמָשׂ. 11 And Samuel said: 'What hast thou done?' And Saul said: 'Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines assembled themselves together against Michmas;
יב וָאֹמַר, עַתָּה יֵרְדוּ פְלִשְׁתִּים אֵלַי הַגִּלְגָּל, וּפְנֵי ה, לֹא חִלִּיתִי; וָאֶתְאַפַּק, וָאַעֲלֶה הָעֹלָה. {ס} 12 therefore said I: Now will the Philistines come down upon me to Gilgal, and I have not entreated the favour of the LORD; I forced myself therefore, and offered the burnt-offering.' {S}
יג וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל אֶל-שָׁאוּל, נִסְכָּלְתָּ: לֹא שָׁמַרְתָּ, אֶת-מִצְוַת ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר צִוָּךְ, כִּי עַתָּה הֵכִין יְהוָה אֶת-מַמְלַכְתְּךָ אֶל-יִשְׂרָאֵל, עַד-עוֹלָם. 13 And Samuel said to Saul: 'Thou hast done foolishly; thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which He commanded thee; for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.
יד וְעַתָּה, מַמְלַכְתְּךָ לֹא-תָקוּם: בִּקֵּשׁ ה לוֹ אִישׁ כִּלְבָבוֹ, וַיְצַוֵּהוּ ה לְנָגִיד עַל-עַמּוֹ--כִּי לֹא שָׁמַרְתָּ, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-צִוְּךָ יְהוָה. {ס} 14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue; the LORD hath sought him a man after His own heart, and the LORD hath appointed him to be prince over His people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.' {S}
3. Finally, it is the subject of an argument, though I do not remember whether it was Talmudic, midrashic, or a dispute among medieval commentators? I vaguely recall that it was the last of this list, but don't trust me on this.

At any rate, one asks exactly this question. What prompted the women to be so verbose. His answer is based on the introduction Shaul received in the beginning of perek 9:
א וַיְהִי-אִישׁ מבן ימין (מִבִּנְיָמִין), וּשְׁמוֹ קִישׁ בֶּן-אֲבִיאֵל בֶּן-צְרוֹר בֶּן-בְּכוֹרַת בֶּן-אֲפִיחַ--בֶּן-אִישׁ יְמִינִי: גִּבּוֹר, חָיִל. 1 Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah, the son of a Benjamite, a mighty man of valour.
ב וְלוֹ-הָיָה בֵן וּשְׁמוֹ שָׁאוּל, בָּחוּר וָטוֹב, וְאֵין אִישׁ מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, טוֹב מִמֶּנּוּ; מִשִּׁכְמוֹ וָמַעְלָה, גָּבֹהַּ מִכָּל-הָעָם. 2 And he had a son, whose name was Saul, young and goodly, and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.
Shaul was an extremely handsome person. And the maidens at the well kept talking so that they could take their time to look at his handsomeness.

The other commentator is appalled at this suggestion. Chas veShalom that bnos Yisrael would act in such a manner! Rather, as the gemara says, ten measures of talking was given to the world, and nine measures of it were given to women. Women are just naturally talkative. And I am sure he felt he was doing the daughters of Israel credit with this defense.


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