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.

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