Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bemidbar Sinai: Why Mention It, And How Is It Different From Behar Sinai?

Why specify that parshat Bemidbar occurs in midbar Sinai? Why mention place name at all?

One idea which should not be overlooked is that this is the beginning of a Chumash, and besides being part of Torat Moshe, each sefer can stand on its own. Therefore, setting is important.

In Bereishit this is established as the beginning of Creation. In sefer Shmot this is accomplished by repeating a pasuk from sefer Bereishit about those who went down to Egypt: וְאֵלֶּה, שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הַבָּאִים, מִצְרָיְמָה: אֵת יַעֲקֹב, אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ בָּאוּ. In sefer Vayikra we have וַיִּקְרָא, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה; וַיְדַבֵּר ה אֵלָיו, מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר. In Bemidbar we have an elaborate description of time and place: וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה בְּמִדְבַּר סִינַי, בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי בַּשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית, לְצֵאתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם--לֵאמֹר. And in Devarim we have five full pesukim to elaborate upon time and place:
א אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּעֵבֶר, הַיַּרְדֵּן: בַּמִּדְבָּר בָּעֲרָבָה מוֹל סוּף בֵּין-פָּארָן וּבֵין-תֹּפֶל, וְלָבָן וַחֲצֵרֹת--וְדִי זָהָב. 1 These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel beyond the Jordan; in the wilderness, in the Arabah, over against Suph, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab.
ב אַחַד עָשָׂר יוֹם מֵחֹרֵב, דֶּרֶךְ הַר-שֵׂעִיר, עַד, קָדֵשׁ בַּרְנֵעַ. 2 It is eleven days journey from Horeb unto Kadesh-barnea by the way of mount Seir.
ג וַיְהִי בְּאַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה, בְּעַשְׁתֵּי-עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ; דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה, אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֹתוֹ, אֲלֵהֶם. 3 And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;
ד אַחֲרֵי הַכֹּתוֹ, אֵת סִיחֹן מֶלֶךְ הָאֱמֹרִי, אֲשֶׁר יוֹשֵׁב, בְּחֶשְׁבּוֹן--וְאֵת, עוֹג מֶלֶךְ הַבָּשָׁן, אֲשֶׁר-יוֹשֵׁב בְּעַשְׁתָּרֹת, בְּאֶדְרֶעִי. 4 after he had smitten Sihon the king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who dwelt in Ashtaroth, at Edrei;
ה בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן, בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב, הוֹאִיל מֹשֶׁה, בֵּאֵר אֶת-הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת לֵאמֹר. 5 beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, took Moses upon him to expound this law, saying:
So it makes sense in Bamidbar to have this detail.

Others (Shadal, Aharon ben Yosef) focus on the role in dating the instruction, and the distinction between Behar Sinai and Bemidbar Sinai.

As the Karaite Aharon ben Yosef writes (right column, to the right) that the words bemidbar Sinai is to distinguish it from behar Sinai. After all, earlier in parshat Behar (from sefer Vayikra) we were told behar Sinai, and so all those parshiyot were from there.

There is a progression from Yetzias Mitzrayim to Har Sinai to being in the wilderness in Sinai. But (now from the super-commentary) since ain mukdam umeuchar baTorah, certain things happened in a different order than as they appear in Mikra. Thus, Shmitta, Yovel, and so on were before the rest of Toras Kohanim even though they appear later in the text. Bemidbar Sinai in the Ohel Moed is after Har Sinai, once the Mishkan is built. (In between, Hashem spoke to Moshe in Moshe's own Ohel.)

Shadal writes something similar:
במדבר סיני: כל מקום שנאמר בהר סיני זהו קודם שהוקם המשכן, אבל משנבנה אוהל מועד לא נאמר אלא במדבר סיני ( רשב"ם ), כי אז לא היה ה' מדבר עם משה בהר, אלא במשכן, בכל מקום מן המדבר שהיו חונים בו ומקימים בו המשכן.

One might bring a related point from Rashi on parshat Behar about mah inyan shmitta eitzel har Sinai:
on Mount Sinai What [special relevance] does the subject of Shemittah [the “release” of fields in the seventh year] have with Mount Sinai? Were not all the commandments stated from Sinai? However, [this teaches us that] just as with Shemittah, its general principles and its finer details were all stated from Sinai, likewise, all of them were stated-their general principles [together with] their finer details-from Sinai. This is what is taught in Torath Kohanim (25:1). [And why is Shemittah used as the example to prove this rule, especially since the very fine details are not even specified here (Sefer Hazikkaron)?] It appears to me that its explanation is as follows: [At the plains of Moab, Moses reiterated the majority of the laws of the Torah to the Israelites before their entry into the land of Israel, this reiteration comprising most of the Book of Deuteronomy. Now,] since we do not find the laws of Shemittah [“release”] of land reiterated on the plains of Moab in Deuteronomy, we learn that its general principles, finer details, and explanations were all stated at Sinai. Scripture states this [phrase] here to teach us that [just as in the case of Shemittah,] every statement [i.e., every commandment] that was conveyed to Moses came from Sinai, [including] their general principles and finer details [and that the commandments delineated in Deuteronomy were merely] repeated and reviewed on the plains of Moab [not originally given there].
(It is unclear that others mentioned here besides Rashi would agree with this.)

One might also cast this as the Torah's explicit Documentary Hypothesis. (Not my own theory, but I will not attribute it here online.) The Torah informs us that it was given over in three different locations and times, and we can consider these three texts. There is HS (Har Sinai), OM (Ohel Moed) and AM (Arvos Moav). Each time was a different nevuah, and all were given to Moshe. Moshe may have then compiled these together, and this could perhaps account for what seems to be three textual strains.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Parshas Bamidbar
The Medrash starts off in these weeks Parsha "the Torah was given with three things: fire, water, and desert. The Medrash begs the question what is the significance of these elements and what is their connection to the Torah? There are multifaceted reasons for each of the elements; it is only when you look deeper into each element in symbolism and history that it becomes abundantly clear. It is only then that the correlations are easy to understand. Fire represents many things. The first thing it represents is that we must do Mitzvos with a fiery enthusiasm. That is that our souls should be metaphysically on fire. A second lesson of fire is that just as fire spreads it is our job to spread torah. Then there is the Torah and its historic correlation with fire the first person to recognize hashem was Avraham. He was sent to death by Nimrod. The death they choose for him was a FIRE which he bravely entered and came out unscathed. Jewish history continues to illustrate the connection between the fire and Torah. We know the Medrash states that Har Sinai the Mountain was full of smoke because the torah descended with fire. The first part of the Medrash is now understood and we see that the torah and fire are essentially intertwined.
Water's symbolical and historical correlation with torah is also apparent after a bit of reflection. First everyone knows the Chazal that says that when the torah says water it is talking about torah as the Chazal state אין מים אלה תורה. The result of this is just as water is the greatest thirst quencher so to the torah is the only thing that can quench the thirst of our soul. The water further symbolize the messages of torah first by telling us that just as water always flows to the lowest point thereby always behaving modestly. It is our job as Jews to always behave modestly. A second aspect is just as water is abundant and is free so should the Torah be abundant and free. Lastly we all know that water in a Mikvah is to cleanse Jews from their impurities. That is to go frum Tumah to Tahrah it is also the function of Torah to cleanse Jews of their metaphysical impurities. Torah and its historic correlation with water is also known .The Jews where being chased by the Egyptians where did they go into the water and it split .This was done only so the Jews receive the Torah. A second aspect of the Medrash is now understandable and we see the wisdom of the Medrash in a much clearer light.
The last part of Medrash speaks of the desert. Thinking deeply we find its significance to Torah. The first moral lesson to take is, that is just as a desert is freely used by all people so to should be your Torah. The second lesson is that just as the Desert is empty of trees and shrubbery we should be empty of materialisms if we want to receive the torah properly. The third lesson of the desert just as it has no owner so to the torah has no owner and every Jew has a part in it. The historical aspect of the desert should be readily apparent. The Jews left Egypt and they followed Hashem into the Desert showing their amazing trust in Hashem an essential key to receiving the torah and a lesson to us all.
The Medrash may have one more lesson that is not so readily apparent that is the Kosher aspect. That is just as the Torah expects our dishes to be Kosher and Hashem expects no less of us, to receive the Torah. The Three elements are clear illustrations of Koshering. There are three ways to make a non kosher item kosher. They are all in our Medrash first fire this is Libun known more widely as kashering it is purging that means heating a pan or grill until it is red hot, so here we have the element of fire. Then there is hagalah which is essentially submerging the utensil in boiling water we now have the element of water. The most recognizable aspect of the desert is sand and dirt and now you can understand the final correlation. There is a way to Kosher something called na’itza and it is only for knives. It is when you stab it in hard soil 10 times you know have the element of desert. The Medrash is now explained and we understand it on a whole new level in its symbolism history and Kashrus.


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