Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What Was The Name Of The City Of Shechem? -- Now Updated To Discuss The Samaritan Variant

In Vayishlach, as a preamble to the Dinah story we are told that Yaakov arrived in the city of Shechem. Bereshit 33:
יח וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב שָׁלֵם עִיר שְׁכֶם, אֲשֶׁר בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, בְּבֹאוֹ, מִפַּדַּן אֲרָם; וַיִּחַן, אֶת-פְּנֵי הָעִיר. 18 And Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram; and encamped before the city.
Was Shechem really named the same name as the city he lived in? Well, this is not so surprising. We have other cities bearing the same names as people. For example, Nachor the person vs. Nachor the city. And we even have a city named after a son:
יז וַיֵּדַע קַיִן אֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ, וַתַּהַר וַתֵּלֶד אֶת-חֲנוֹךְ; וַיְהִי, בֹּנֶה עִיר, וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם הָעִיר, כְּשֵׁם בְּנוֹ חֲנוֹךְ. 17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bore Enoch; and he builded a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son Enoch.
So perhaps Chamor named the city after his son, who after all the Biblical text says was the most important of all his brothers. Or perhaps it was named after the ancestor who founded the city. We see Nachor was named the same name as his grandfather, after all.

Another possibility is that the name of the city is not actually Shechem. There is an alternate parsing which is non-obvious until it is pointed out. According to Rashi (citing Midrash), according to Ibn Ezra, according to Targum, according to Ralbag -- according to most classical sources we are used to looking at, the city was indeed named Shechem. And shalem is an adjective, describing how Yaakov arrived there -- complete, at peace, and so on. Thus, we might have thought otherwise because of the gift he gave Esav. Or this is showing that he is all settled, before the incident with Dinah.

But then we have Rashbam. He says that whoever says that shalem is an adjective, if talking on the level of peshat, is only making an error. Would we think that Yaakov would be lacking from the measley present he gave Esav? Certainly not. Rather, Shalem is the name of the city. And he points out the precedent for this form -- Cheshbon Ir Sichon. So here, Yaakov came to Shalem Ir Shechem.

Of course, what will he do with the fact that later they are grazing in Shechem, in parshat Vayeshev? He does not seem to be bothered with it -- the area can still be Shechem to him. Thus, there, he approvingly says over a peshat he heard from Rav Yosef Kara (not Karo) that "behold your brothers are grazing in Shechem" -- in a place of danger, for they killed the men of the place.

Meanwhile, Shadal obviously is familiar with this Rashbam and so, while he does not mention it explicitly, gives a strong endorsement to the opinion that it means בשלום ובלא נזק, citing Ibn Ezra, Onkelos, Rashi, Seforno and Mendelsohnn. And the purpose of this is והגיד זה לומר כי השלים חזרתו בשלום. He then states that the name of the city is Shechem.

Update: In the comment section, Mississippi Fred MacDowell of On The Main Line notes that:
It's possible Shadal wished to refute Geiger's interpretation.


Abraham Geiger's Liberal Judaism, By Ken Koltun-From

Search for shalem, and see pg. 48.

Note that Shadal virtually severed contact with Geiger over the publication of his Urschrift, which contained many ideas and explanations like this.
Here is the relevant text. I don't "buy" this theory, but then, I've been influenced by Shadal. For example, Shadal seems to be attempting to counter precisely this, by saying it must have been redacted early, because after Yaakov's dream, he promises (apparently) to built a cultic center in Bethel. While midrashim transform this into Yerushalayim, the fact that this text would be left intact is evidence it must have been written earlier.

I also do not see the construct of Shalem Ir Shechem as particularly irregular, nor am convinced of the vector of the development of the text being suggested. For example, why did the Samaritans not then simply keep the "original" text without Shalem, rather than adapting the Rabbinic text? And that a specific party, the Samaritans, would adapt the text, does not really convince that the text was originally adapted for opposite purposes. And even the standard Rabbinic understanding is that Shalem is an adjective, meaning either complete or parallel to Shalom. All in all, it is possible, but I am not wholly convinced.

I am also reminded of the arguments between the Perushim and the Cutheans (=Samaritans), where the Perushim said that the Samaritans forged their Torah. So too about the Samaritan claim that the in various other places, if I recall correctly.

But in So Rabbi Eliezer beRabbi Shimon says to the sofrei kutim, the scribes of the Samaritans, that they have falsified their Torah. And Shechem again plays a role. In Yerushalmi Sotah 30b:

אמר ר' אלעזר בר' שמעון נמייתי לסופרי כותים זייפתם תורתכם ולא הועלתם לעצמיכם כלום. שכתבתם בתורתכם אצל אלוני מורה שכם. והלא ידוע שהוא שכם אלא שאין אתם דורשין לגזירה שוה ואנו דורשין לגזירה שוה. נאמר כאן אלוני מורה ונאמר להלן אלוני מורה. מה אלוני מורה האמור להלן שכם אף אלוני מורה האמור כאן שכם.

What seems to be the straightforward interpretation of this is that in sefer Deavrim, when describing Har Gerizim and Har Eval, the Torah puts it at Elonei Moreh. For the Mishna states:
ברכות וקללות כיצד כיון שעברו ישראל את הירדן ובאו להר גריזים ולהר עיבל שבשומרון שבצד שכם אצל אלוני מורה שנאמר (דברים יא) הלא המה בעבר הירדן ולהלן הוא אומר (בראשית יב) ויעבר אברם בארץ עד מקום שכם עד אלון מורה מה האלון מורה האמורה להלן שכם אף אלון מורה האמור כאן שכם:
Such is the Mishna. But in the gemara, another understanding of the location of Har Gerizim and Har Eval is presented.

מול הגלגל אין כאן גלגל אצל אלוני מורה. אין כאן אלוני מורה. מה מקיים ר' אלעזר הר גריזים והר עיבל. שתי גבשושיות עשו וקראו זה הר גריזים וזה הר עיבל. על דעתיה דרבי יהודה מאה ועשרים מיל הלכו באותו היום. על דעתיה דרבי אלעזר לא זזו ממקומן.
Perhaps Geiger would say that what influences that is that the Kutim treating it as holy place, rather than the internal textual issue of אין כאן גלגל אצל אלוני מורה. At any rate, apparently the Samaritans, in their Torah, added the word Shechem in Devarim to make it clearer (apparently מול שכם, but I do not have access to an online Samaritan Torah anymore). And this (among other emendations, e.g. making the mizbeach on Har Gerizim rather than on Har Eval) caused Chazal to say about them that they falsified their Torah.

Yet Rabbi Eliezer beRabbi Shimon is saying here that they falsified their Torah, but to no avail. Because we would know it anyway from the Gezeira Shava from Avraham, in Elonei Moreh, which is by Shechem. Sort of like here, even without making it שלום, the standard understanding by Chazal is that it is an adjective, and thus parallel to Shalom, but of course this is the Shechem we all know and love.


Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

It's possible Shadal wished to refute Geiger's interpretation.



Search for shalem, and see pg. 48.

Note that Shadal virtually severed contact with Geiger over the publication of his Urschrift, which contained many ideas and explanations like this.

joshwaxman said...

thanks for the heads up.

Unknown said...

Shechem was always chosen. What has confused people is the true location of shechem. It isnt in samaria but it is in meron. Rabbi shimon bar yochai discovered it.


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