Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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.


Anonymous said...


joshwaxman said...

So, Brachot 152b, and a dispute between Rav and Shmuel.

Anonymous said...

Brachot 152b?

Read down a bit, it's Brachot 48b in our editions. We don't have 152 pages in our Masechet Brachot.

You must have been in a hurry when writing this...

joshwaxman said...

yes, hurried, distracted, and careless.


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