Friday, April 03, 2009

And Even You Shall Break His Teeth, pt v

Candle Lighting in KGH: 7:04 PM

See part one, part two, part three and part four.

There are three final sources I wish to mention in terms of hakheh et shinav. Two are courtesy of Wolf2191, who pointed them out in a comment. I am not really sure what to make of them, and so this will likely disappoint, since I do not really have any deep analysis. I just note the use of the phrases.

First, in terms of the pasuk. This is not really the use of the phrase in the wild, but is rather something like an Aesop's fable, making the use of the Biblical phrase as a type of punch line. And so I don't know that this really will tell us about how Chazal intended it when they say hakheh et shinav. On the other hand, the pasuk does use such language,

The pasuk, again, in Yirmeyahu 31, reads:
כח בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם--לֹא-יֹאמְרוּ עוֹד, אָבוֹת אָכְלוּ בֹסֶר; וְשִׁנֵּי בָנִים, תִּקְהֶינָה. 28 In those days they shall say no more: 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.'
כט כִּי אִם-אִישׁ בַּעֲו‍ֹנוֹ, יָמוּת: כָּל-הָאָדָם הָאֹכֵל הַבֹּסֶר, תִּקְהֶינָה שִׁנָּיו. {ס} 29 But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man that eateth the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge. {S}
The gemara in Bava Batra 38b - 39a reads (translation from Soncino):
R Johanan also said: R. Meir had three hundred parables of foxes, and we have only three left, [as illustrations to the verses]. [a] The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge;1 [b] Just balances, just weights,2 [c] The righteous is delivered out of trouble and the wicked comes in in his stead.3
On this, Rashi explains (once again, translation from Soncino):
Rashi gives the parables in question, as follows, combined in a single story. [Cf. however, Ms.M.: 'We have only one'.] A fox once craftily induced a wolf to go and join the Jews in their Sabbath preparations and share in their festivities. On his appearing in their midst the Jews fell upon him with sticks and beat him. He therefore came back determined to kill the fox. But the latter pleaded: 'It is no fault of mine that you were beaten, but they have a grudge against your father who once helped them in preparing their banquet and then consumed all the choice bits.' 'And was I beaten for the wrong done by my father?' cried the indignant wolf. 'Yes,' replied the fox, 'the fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge. However,' he continued, 'come with me and I will supply you with abundant food. He led him to a well which had a beam across it from either end of which hung a rope with a bucket attached. The fox entered the upper bucket and descended into the well whilst the lower one was drawn up. 'Where are you going?' asked the wolf. The fox, pointing to the cheese-like reflection of the moon, replied: 'Here is plenty of meat and cheese; get into the other bucket and come down at once.' The wolf did so, and as he descended, the fox was drawn up. 'And how am I to get out?' demanded the wolf. 'Ah' said the fox 'the righteous is delivered out of trouble and the wicked cometh in in his stead. Is it not written, Just balances, just weights'?
I don't know whether this parable, in all its details, was what the gemara referred to. (See here.) It does seem to have all three elements from the pesukim. But maybe details were added and changed, and we do after all have the alternate parable from Rav Hai Gaon (next). So this might only show how Rashi regarded the phrase.

In this parable, the fox was beaten, and this was the equivalent of וְשִׁנֵּי בָנִים תִּקְהֶינָה. This does not mean that the phrase means "break his teeth," since it is after all a parable, and so it may be intended allegorically. On the other hand, just weights and measures, and the wicked in place of the righteous, are taken quite literally in this interpretation. So we would expect the same for וְשִׁנֵּי בָנִים תִּקְהֶינָה. This would then likely refer to some physical harm, rather than emotional harm, and so perhaps breaking the teeth would be an appropriate rendition, at least in terms of the literal reading of that pasuk.

What about the phrase in common speech? Well, these pesukim were being taken hyperliterally, while idioms are often intended otherwise, so I don't know. It is indeed an interesting data point.

Meanwhile, Rav Hai Gaon has a different version of the parable:
There once was a hungry lion who was eyeing a fox with desire. The fox said to him: "What do you want with a scrawny little fox like me? Standing yonder is a well-rounded gentleman, who will make a much more satisfying dinner for you." The lion replied: "Don't you know that animals are forbidden to kill and eat human beings? I could be severely punished for that!" Said the fox: "Not to worry--the punishment will not overtake you, but rather your children; as you know, 'the fathers eat sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge'." The lion was seduced by this argument and ran towards the man to tear and eat him. As he was running, however, he was caught by a trap and found himself at the bottom of a deep pit. The fox gleefully ran over and looked into the pit. The lion cried from the bottom: "Liar! You said that only my children would be punished for my Sin!" The fox then said: "Fool! This punishment is not for what you just did, but rather for that which your father did. He once ate a human being himself." The lion cried out: "But that's not fair! Why should I have to suffer from my father's sins?" The fox answered with a sardonic laugh: "You yourself were just prepared to sin even though you knew that your children would suffer for it. How, then, do you dare to complain about what's fair!"
Here as well there is a punishment, but it is not as literal/physical.

Finally, we can see how Shadal used the phrase in his Vikuach al Chochmat HaKabbalah:
I {=the author} said to him: It is what it is, I do not wish to argue with you, for I am a youth, and you are a man of war from your youth; and behold I see in you that spirit of cleverness and trickery who only existed in days of old in the accursed serpent, who distanced us from the Garden of Eden, and this is the spirit found today in all the philosophers who throw off from themselves the yoke of Torah and the yoke of derech eretz, and all their words are in deception, to take in their trap the souls of the whole {/simple} of heart, to bring them down to the underworld.

Are you not also like one of them? And how not? The disputation of yesterday, in which you widened your mouth without bound against the faith of all of Israel that the night of Hoshana Rabba is the night of the sealing {/signing}, and I in my poverty did not immediately remember the answer which is to your side, and I heard your blasphemies and I did not blunt your teeth, as was fitting for me {to do}.
This usage is certainly borrowed from the Haggadah, and the idea is that when the rasha says something, giving a solid and forceful response is called hakheh et shinav.

So now, after all these words, have we got anywhere? I don't know. There might be dispute as to the Biblical meaning, and the meaning throughout different sources in Chazal and in later Rabbinic writing is mixed. Part of this may be different understandings of the actual word hakheh, but part of it may be the literal/figurative aspect of it.

At the end of the day, whatever it means, it surely means to give a forceful and perhaps somewhat insulting response that undermines the rasha's question. And certainly it is not meant literally here.


Wolf2191 said...

Nice! I will email you a PDF of Iyei HaYam on the R' Hai, you will like it.

joshwaxman said...

maybe i can even make a part six.




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