Thursday, January 01, 2009

Some great Chizkunis on Vayigash

So I was reading over Chizkuni over Shabbos, and saw quite a number of really nice explanations of pesukim and Rashis. Not necessarily that I agree with all of them, but they are exceptionally creative.

Here are a few of them.

1) As discussed in a previous post, Yehuda says Yosef asked whether they had a brother or father. Chizkuni says that Yosef must have asked this, because Yehudah would not be lying to Yosef's face, in the midst of beseeching him.

2) He finds a contradiction between Yosef proving himself as their brother via his milah (as per Rashi in Vayigash) with Yosef compelling the Egyptians to circumcise themselves (as per Rashi in Miketz). He resolves it by suggesting that (a) Yosef also had peria, (b) only the paupers were compelled, while Yosef was rich, and (c) the brothers did not know about Yosef's actions.

3) Why give them changes of clothing? He suggests that it was in part because he caused them, with his deception, to rip their clothing.

4) When the pasuk states
ד אָנֹכִי, אֵרֵד עִמְּךָ מִצְרַיְמָה, וְאָנֹכִי, אַעַלְךָ גַם-עָלֹה; וְיוֹסֵף, יָשִׁית יָדוֹ עַל-עֵינֶיךָ. 4 I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again; and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.'
Chizkuni refers to the practice of closing the deceased eyes. Yosef shall perform this rite for his father, and thus will be engaged in his burial, as we see later. Alternatively, understand it as inyanecha (compare ain Yaakov), that Yosef will be involved with your affairs and needs.

5) Er and Onan, and their death, are mentioned here, at the time of Yaakov's simcha, as a penalty for the pain he caused, earlier. While he does not explicitly relate this, he also suggests on this parsha that the reason for the plural in bnei for Chushim, son of Dan, is that Dan had other sons who died. Yet, I would point out, this is not mentioned explicitly in the text, unlike Er and Onan.

6) Who are the plural "daughters" of Yaakov? Chizkuni suggests that it is referring to just Dinah, and notes the example of Chushim ben Dan (assuming here, contrarily, that there was just Chushim).

7) What happened to all the wives of the shevatim? He suggests that they died in Canaan.

8) He expands on the Rashi which states:
These are the sons of Leah …and Dinah his daughter The males are attributed to Leah and the females to Jacob, to teach you that if the woman emits seed first, she gives birth to a male, but if the male emits seed first, she (the woman) gives birth to a female. [From Niddah 31a]
with a bit of incorrect scientific explanation. If the female puts forth seed (isha ki tazria) first, then the male seed which comes later disperses it, and thus what remains is the male seed and so the child is male; if the male gives his seed first, then the female seed disperses it, and the resultant child is female, since it came from female seed.

For those who claim Chazal (which would include Chizkuni) knew all of modern science, and did not rely on contemporary science -- would you claim this Chizkuni is scientifically accurate? (Yes, it is possible to kvetch anything.)

9) He uses the term anshei to mean warriors, in the course of expanding on a theme introduced by Rashi. Yet on the actual pasuk of anshei chayil, he endorses Rashi, that it means capable. This is relevant, in terms of the previous post on Vayigash.

10) He says that reason Yosef wanted them to be shepherds off in Goshen, rather than hanging around Pharaoh, is that he was worried for his position. See what they did just because of his ketonet passim! Imagine what they would do if in Pharaoh's house. They would compete politically with him and take him down from his position of power.

11) On sarei mikneh, perhaps because it was the toavat mitzrayim (meaning they venerated it, with toavat as the Torah's name for idolatry), he says it means watching the camels and horses.

He points to Divrei Hayamim:
א וַיַּקְהֵל דָּוִיד אֶת-כָּל-שָׂרֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שָׂרֵי הַשְּׁבָטִים וְשָׂרֵי הַמַּחְלְקוֹת הַמְשָׁרְתִים אֶת-הַמֶּלֶךְ וְשָׂרֵי הָאֲלָפִים וְשָׂרֵי הַמֵּאוֹת וְשָׂרֵי כָל-רְכוּשׁ-וּמִקְנֶה לַמֶּלֶךְ וּלְבָנָיו עִם-הַסָּרִיסִים וְהַגִּבּוֹרִים, וּלְכָל-גִּבּוֹר חָיִל--אֶל-יְרוּשָׁלִָם.
where earlier it said "upon the camels."

12) He has a very interesting (the ultimately unconvincing) parse of the following pasuk. Pharaoh says:
ו אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, לְפָנֶיךָ הִוא--בְּמֵיטַב הָאָרֶץ, הוֹשֵׁב אֶת-אָבִיךָ וְאֶת-אַחֶיךָ: יֵשְׁבוּ, בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן--וְאִם-יָדַעְתָּ וְיֶשׁ-בָּם אַנְשֵׁי-חַיִל, וְשַׂמְתָּם שָׂרֵי מִקְנֶה עַל-אֲשֶׁר-לִי. 6 the land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and thy brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell. And if thou knowest any able men among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.'
He reads it as:
בְּמֵיטַב הָאָרֶץ, הוֹשֵׁב אֶת-אָבִיךָ -- in the best of the land make thy father dwell
אֶת-אַחֶיךָ יֵשְׁבוּ, בְּאֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן -- and your brothers, let them dwell in the land of Goshen.

This certainly appears against the trup. After all, there is an etnachta on אֶת-אַחֶיךָ. Furthermore, it appears to me awkward, syntactically. And later on, he would need to also kvetch:
יא וַיּוֹשֵׁב יוֹסֵף, אֶת-אָבִיו וְאֶת-אֶחָיו, וַיִּתֵּן לָהֶם אֲחֻזָּה בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, בְּמֵיטַב הָאָרֶץ בְּאֶרֶץ רַעְמְסֵס--כַּאֲשֶׁר, צִוָּה פַרְעֹה. 11 And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded.
In terms of the etnachta, he says not to worry, because we have something to pattern this after. Namely, in Shofetim 5:18, we have:
יח זְבֻלוּן, {ר} עַם חֵרֵף נַפְשׁוֹ לָמוּת-- {ס} וְנַפְתָּלִי: עַל, מְרוֹמֵי {ר} שָׂדֶה. {ס} 18 Zebulun is a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death, and Naphtali, upon the high places of the field.
That trup is:
יַמִּ֔ים {ס} וְעַ֥ל מִפְרָצָ֖יו יִשְׁכּֽוֹן׃ {ס} יח זְבֻל֗וּן {ר}
עַ֣ם חֵרֵ֥ף נַפְשׁ֛וֹ לָמ֖וּת {ס} וְנַפְתָּלִ֑י עַ֖ל מְרוֹמֵ֥י {ר}
שָׂדֶֽה׃ {ס} יט בָּ֤אוּ מְלָכִים֙ נִלְחָ֔מוּ {ס} אָ֤ז {ר}

Thus, the etnachta is on veNaftali, when clearly it is part of the next clause.

{Though I would point out that this, which is part of Shirat Devorah, is Biblical poetry, rather that Biblical prose. And anyway, Naftali certainly also jeoparded their lives unto the death, and upon the high places of the field can go on both of them. So we can conceivable parse this according to the trup. Though that is not what Chizkuni is saying.

Is he saying that trup can work weirdly this way, such that one is free to say things at odds with etnachta while claiming fealty to the trup? Or is he saying {less likely, IMHO} that when giving a perush, one is free to diverge from the trup?

I would also point on that the Karaite scholar Aharon ben Yosef gives two explanations of this pasuk in Shirat Devorah, and chooses one on the basis of the correct position of the etnachta -- that they (rather than the enemies) were on the high places of the field.

I don't see anything in Radak or Ralbag to help; but the Targum there might well help, and put Naftali and Zevulun together.

Regardless, the spacing seems to be against the trup. That is fine. The issue is whether the trup there can make sense, and can it be used as a basis for disregarding etnachtas in other places.

See also Rashi:
Zebulun is a people that jeopardized… He scorned himself and submitted himself to die in battle with Barak, and likewise Naphtali on the high places of the field, on Mount Tabor.
and make of it what you will. It seems the part after the etnachta is particular to Naftali, though Naftali also scorned himself, etc. How does this work with, or against the trup, make of it what you will.


Anonymous said...

Re: 8

Why would Chazal include Chizkuni? Chazal is normatively understood to refer to sages through chasimas haTalmud.

joshwaxman said...

You are right. I was inexact in my language.

There are actually two (or more) formulations of this belief. One is about the Chachmei haTalmud. And there is a stronger, more broad version which encompasses Rishonim. (And there is an even broader version in which Daas Torah means that even rabbonim nowadays are mystically aware of all of science, such that they are able to appropriately pasken and advise.)

And there are indeed people who hold by the broader version. A prime example of this manifested a few years back when Rabbi Slifkin suggested that Tosafot were mistaken in believing that elephants could jump. (See here.

But disproving the broader version does not disprove the narrower version, so we cannot necessarily apply the same to the Talmudic Sages. (Though there are other examples in the Talmud I believe I can point to to disprove this.)



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