Friday, December 05, 2008

*How* Exactly Is Vayeitzei Setumah?

An interesting Baal HaTurim leading off this week's parsha. From the Mikraos Gedolos, pictured to the right. Thus, there are some who say that this parsha is setumah. And in parenthesis, an elaboration, that the entire sidra lacks petucha and setuma breaks.

However, this definition is in parenthesis, which makes me wonder exactly who provided this gloss? Was it the Baal HaTurim himself, or some later author trying to clarify, since this is not the typical meaning of setuma?

I would venture that it is not from the Baal HaTurim himself. After all, if we look at earlier printed sefarim of Baal HaTurim, we find this parenthetical remark absent.

And indeed, I would strongly doubt that this is the correct meaning of Baal HaTurim's statement, for several reasons.

1) Firstly, the famous instance of the parsha which is setuma is Vayechi. And people mention a masoretic note which puts specifically Vayechi and Vayeitzei together in being setuma. Though other sources argue about Vayeitzei. Now, Vayechi lacks a gap before it, in between the last pasuk of Vayigash and the first pasuk of Vayechi. So it makes sense that that is the meaning of setuma. Whether this is the case for Vayeitzei is possibly a matter of differing manuscripts.

2) Vayechi should have the same status as Vayeitzei in its setuma-ness, and if we simply examine Vayechi, we will find more than one petucha within that sidra.

3) Furthermore, we see in various sources that whether Vayeitzei is setuma or not is a matter of dispute. Yet as far as we have seen, such that "yesh omrim" that it is setuma. (e.g. see Baal HaTurim above. Yet we see no evidence of a manuscript that has petuchas or setumas within the sidra of Vayeitzei itself. On the other hand, we can turn this around and ask where we see a manuscript which lacks the gap (though something which is only "yesh omrim" may be harder to discover).

3) The masoretic notes, and all the discussions about the parsha being setuma, only mention Vayeitzei Yaakov and Vayechi. But if the definition was a lack of petucha and setuma within the sidra itself, then what about parashat Miketz? For Miketz also lacks such petuchot and setumot. From the lack of mention (and the mention is of a closed list), we may deduce that that is not the working definition. (On the other hand, we can show this to not be so, in some manuscripts, on the basis of Chizkuni in the next section.)

5) Furthermore, we have Chizkuni, who talks separately about the phenomenon of the missing gap between sidrot and the the phenomenon of no petuchot and setumot throughout the parsha.

Thus, Chizkuni writes what is pictured to the right.
"And why is this parsha closed up? Because he was closed up in the house of Ever. Another explanation: Because he concealed his leaving from the city because of his brother Esav.

And the parsha is also nistam {closed} throughout the seder -- we do not find a single parsha, something which is not the case with all the other sedarim.

And furthermore, that the matter is connected to that which is above, to "And Yitzchak sent Yaakov to Padan Aram," as Rashi explains..."
It seems clear that by parsha, Chizkuni means topic or section. And thus, the topic break between two seders would warrant a break -- a gap. And by seder, he means what we typically call today a parsha.

And note that he says that not only is this parsha (at the beginning) nistam, but so too throughout the sidra of Vayeitzei, something not the case elsewhere. We see that Chizkuni considers this a separate phenomenon that the first one.

In terms of Miketz, perhaps he had a different version of Miketz, or perhaps he holds that the gap leading in to the sidra counts to disqualify it.

At any rate, it seems that in explaining the Baal HaTurim, the gloss interpreted parsha to mean sidra, while it very well might not have meant that at all.

I addressed this issue once before, on parshat Vayechi. In one of those posts, I put up the following clip from the Karaite scholar Aharon ben Yosef (left) and the supercommentary upon him, Yosef Shlomo Luzki (right).

Aharon ben Yosef mentions the tradition that there are two parshiyot which do not have in them a psikeither setuma or petucha, and that is Vayetze and Vayechi. Though of course, in the sidra of Vayechi we have a couple of gaps in the middle. (And don't forget Miketz which does not have!) Yosef Shlomo Luzki understands that this, not having a psik refers to not having a gap between two sidras. (And indeed, he may well be correct.) But then, he notes that there is a setuma leading into Vayeitzei. And so suggests this was in alternate manuscripts, namely in a Ben Naftali manuscript.

At the end of the day, I can see opportunities for claiming all sorts of things about what setuma and parsha meant, and how it could have meant different things in different sources. But in the end, I am leaning towards the idea that it refers to the lack of a gap leading into the sidra, which is an introduction of a new parsha, or topic, where parshiyot are typically delineated by petuchas and setumas. (Stuma here is thus an unfortunate homonym, as many meforshim say.)

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