Thursday, January 08, 2009

Yaakov's Maggid

In the beginning of perek 48:
א וַיְהִי, אַחֲרֵי הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, וַיֹּאמֶר לְיוֹסֵף, הִנֵּה אָבִיךָ חֹלֶה; וַיִּקַּח אֶת-שְׁנֵי בָנָיו, עִמּוֹ--אֶת-מְנַשֶּׁה, וְאֶת-אֶפְרָיִם. 1 And it came to pass after these things, that one said to Joseph: 'Behold, thy father is sick.' And he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
ב וַיַּגֵּד לְיַעֲקֹב--וַיֹּאמֶר, הִנֵּה בִּנְךָ יוֹסֵף בָּא אֵלֶיךָ; וַיִּתְחַזֵּק, יִשְׂרָאֵל, וַיֵּשֶׁב, עַל-הַמִּטָּה. 2 And one told Jacob, and said: 'Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee.' And Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.
Who is this "one"?

Rashi explains:
that [someone] said to Joseph One of the tellers, and this is an elliptical verse. Some say, however, that Ephraim was accustomed to study with Jacob, and when Jacob became ill in the land of Goshen, Ephraim went to his father to Egypt to tell him.
And [someone] told The teller [told] Jacob, but [the text] does not specify who [it was], and many [Scriptural] verses are elliptical.
So too Ibn Ezra:
[מח א]
ויאמר -
האומר ליוסף.
וכן: אשר ילדה אותה ללוי במצרים:

[מח, ב]
ויגד -
המגיד ליעקב.
או האומר ליוסף, או היה שליח מיעקב.

and Rashbam:
ויאמר ליוסף -
אדם אחד אמר וכן ויגד המגיד ליעקב.
And so too Shadal:
ויאמר : האומר : וכן (פסוק ב') ויגד ליעקב ; והיה עולה על הדעת לפרש ויאמר על ידי שליח, כמו ויאמר אל משה אני חתנך יתרו בא אליך ( שמות י"ח ו' ), אך לפי זה היל"ל אני אביך חולה ; גם היה עולה על הדעת לקרוא ויאמר ויגד, אלא שלפי זה היל"ל ויגד ליעקב לאמר, אבל ויגד ליעקב ויאמר היא מליצה זרה.
Rashi even identifies, on a midrashic level, the one who told -- Ephraim. What is bothering all of them is that it seems that in general, when ויגד appears, it can take two forms. Based on a survey on the 66 times it occurs:
  1. It can be passive, vayugad le-, and then there need not be an explicit actor.
  2. It can be active, in which case we should have an explicit actor as well.
  3. The actor can be implicit, so long as he occurred in a previous verse, so that we know in this pasuk who he is.
Sometimes, where the particular person is not important (as here), the Biblical style will be to first say that a naar or an ish came, and told. Of all these cases, and in two pesukim in a row, we have an implicit actor.

This may indeed be said to be acceptable Hebrew. Ibn Ezra gave an example, and Rashi said that many verses are elliptical like this. Something else can be proposed -- that we should revocalize, as in (1). But then vayomer in pasuk 1 and 2 are difficult. Though we can say that the example in pasuk 1 may be passive as well, as in Yeshaya 4:3. I have seen some Biblical translations say "and Yosef was informed." But that need not mean that they are revocalizing. It might simply be that they are trying to make their translation clearer.

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