Sunday, August 02, 2009

The parsing of Temunat Kol

I was planning on posting this last week, but did not get a chance.

In the middle of parshat vaetchanan, in Devarim 4:23:
כג הִשָּׁמְרוּ לָכֶם, פֶּן-תִּשְׁכְּחוּ אֶת-בְּרִית ה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, אֲשֶׁר כָּרַת, עִמָּכֶם; וַעֲשִׂיתֶם לָכֶם פֶּסֶל תְּמוּנַת כֹּל, אֲשֶׁר צִוְּךָ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ.23 Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which He made with you, and make you a graven image, even the likeness of any thing which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee.
There is a slight weirdness. The word kol is spelled with a cholam rather than a kametz or kametz katon. And indeed, Targum Onkelos and Yonatan translates it as kola, which is a word by itself, rather that kal, as a construct. Compare with earlier in the perek, such as:
טז פֶּן-תַּשְׁחִתוּן--וַעֲשִׂיתֶם לָכֶם פֶּסֶל, תְּמוּנַת כָּל-סָמֶל: תַּבְנִית זָכָר, אוֹ נְקֵבָה.16 lest ye deal corruptly, and make you a graven image, even the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
יז תַּבְנִית, כָּל-בְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר בָּאָרֶץ; תַּבְנִית כָּל-צִפּוֹר כָּנָף, אֲשֶׁר תָּעוּף בַּשָּׁמָיִם.17 the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the heaven,
יח תַּבְנִית, כָּל-רֹמֵשׂ בָּאֲדָמָה; תַּבְנִית כָּל-דָּגָה אֲשֶׁר-בַּמַּיִם, מִתַּחַת לָאָרֶץ.18 the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth;
And Rashi makes note of this:
the likeness of anything: Heb. תְּמוּנַת כֹּל, the likeness of anything. תמונת כל: תמונת כל דבר:
which the Lord… commanded you: Which He commanded you not to make. אשר צוך ה': אשר צוך עליו שלא לעשות:
And so does Ibn Ezra:
תמונת כל -
כל דבר.
אשר צוך. כאשר צוך או מלת צוך שלא לעשות כמו ועל העבים אצוה ויש אומר על צורת הככבים וזה רחוק בעיני:

except he sees three possibilities in asher tzivecha: either don't do it, just as Hashem commanded you; or that it refers to the particular items which Hashem has forbidden; the third idea is farfetched and outside the focus of my post.

The key point of interest for me here is in these two first explanations. It depends slightly on how one parses the pasuk. There is a great temptation to see תְּמוּנַת כֹּל אֲשֶׁר צִוְּךָ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ and read it against the trup and the nikkud, as "the likeness of: anything which Hashem commanded you {against}." kol asher would flow naturally. And this is like the JPS translation above, though we will see that this is not the only parse to yield this translation.

So why is the nikkud as it is, and the trup as it is, influencing Rashi and Ibn Ezra in their commentaries? Because of a later pasuk which reveals that temunat kol can and does stand by itself. Thus:
כה כִּי-תוֹלִיד בָּנִים וּבְנֵי בָנִים, וְנוֹשַׁנְתֶּם בָּאָרֶץ; וְהִשְׁחַתֶּם, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם פֶּסֶל תְּמוּנַת כֹּל, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם הָרַע בְּעֵינֵי ה'-אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לְהַכְעִיסוֹ.25 When thou shalt beget children, and children's children, and ye shall have been long in the land, and shall deal corruptly, and make a graven image, even the form of any thing, and shall do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke Him;
Since the phrase temunat kol cannot continue on, and be construct to, vaasitem, it must stand by itself. And if it can stand by itself here, it can stand similarly above, and indeed plausibly would. If so, we should sever temunat kol from the word asher above.

This parse is then slightly awkward, for what does one do with the phrase which starts asher? Which is why both Rashi and Ibn Ezra grapple with it after taking pains to note that temunat kol is its own entity, and stands for temunat kol davar.

The two possibilities are as follows: First, that it means the same thing. Thus, "and make the likeness of any thing: {that is,} that which Hashem has forbidden you." Second, that it means kaasher, in "accordance with", in which case it can stand as its own phrase.

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