Friday, October 30, 2009

Does Rashi darshen a non-existent chaser? The masorah on chanichav

This week, we have been focusing on apparent disputes between Rabbinic texts and the masoretic notes. We focused on an apparent contradiction with Zohar, and with a gemara in Chullin. Now, a contradiction with Rashi.

The pasuk {Bereshit 14:14} states:

יד וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָם, כִּי נִשְׁבָּה אָחִיו; וַיָּרֶק אֶת-חֲנִיכָיו יְלִידֵי בֵיתוֹ, שְׁמֹנָה עָשָׂר וּשְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת, וַיִּרְדֹּף, עַד-דָּן.14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued as far as Dan.


his trained men: Heb. חִנִיכָיו It is written חִנִיכוֹ [in the singular], his trained man, (other editions: It is read). This is Eliezer, whom he had trained to [perform the] commandments, and it [חִנִיכָיו] is an expression of the initiation (lit. the beginning of the entrance) of a person or a utensil to the craft with which he [or it] is destined to remain, and similarly (Prov. 22: 6):“Train (חִנ‏ֹ) a child ;” (Num. 7:10):“the dedication of (חֲנֻכַּת) the altar ;” (Ps. 30:1):“the dedication of of (חֲנֻכַּת) the Temple,” and in Old French it is called enseigner [to instruct, train]. חניכיו: חנכו כתיב זה אליעזר שחנכו למצות והוא לשון התחלת כניסת האדם או כלי לאומנות שהוא עתיד לעמוד בה, וכן (משלי כב ו) חנוך לנער, (במדבר ז יא) חנכת המזבח, (תהלים ל א) חנכת הבית ובלע"ז קורין לו איניציי"ר [לחנוך]:

But of course, it is not written chaser. Of course, other texts have that it is read as chanicho. But of course, we have no tradition to do this in terms of krei and ketiv, that we know of. And it is not a typical al tikrei X ela Y because the vowel pattern does not really support such a revocalization. My unsupported guess is that someone tried to fix the ketiv by making it say krei, which at least does not impugn the integrity of the Masoretic text.

Minchas Shai considers this issue.
He cites Rashi in our versions that chanicho is written, but there is one sefer of Rashi in which it states "chanichav is written". {perhaps with the implication that chanicho would then be the krei.} And he finishes citing Rashi.

These are extremely confounding words, for he does not see any midrash as basis of it; nor is the word found in any sefer he has seen, new or old -- only with two yuds, one before the kaf and one after it. And the Rama writes that it is malei with two yuds, one before the kaf and one written after it.

And Minchas Shai endeavored to find in an early manuscript of Rashi for many years, and in one of them he found the following:
chanichav: baalei chanichato {those trained by him}, and their names were Avraham just like his name, because they were converts.

And this is from Midrash Rabba parasha 43. {This is a precise citation from Bereshit Rabba:
חניכיו, בעלי חניכתו. שמם אברם, כשמו.

And from other manuscripts, it is written chanichav, that he instructed {שחינך} them to the precepts. And also in the commentary of Rashi printed in Isbona, in the year 251, it is written chanichav, that he instructed them to the precepts.

And these variant texts are have good quality in his eyes, and a consistent line of approach to them, in which does not occur the language in our sefarim. And whoever adds detracts.

And also the Rav Mizrachi and those like him, the supercommentators of Rashi did not write anything about this. It is thus apparent that this language was not written in their sefarim. And from the content, we can learn its extraneousness. For behold, Rashi writes after this that:

three hundred and eighteen: Our Sages said (Gen. Rabbah 43:2, Ned. 32a): It was Eliezer alone, and it [the number 318] is the numerical value of his name. שמונה עשר ושלש מאות: רבותינו אמרו אליעזר לבדו היה, והוא מנין גימטריא של שמו:

We deduce from here that until here no part of this topic had been broached.
He makes a persuasive argument. Of course, I could point out counterarguments. For example, this might be a point that Rashi is developing, reading into the pesukim. So first, read it into chanicho, and then when encountering the matter which would seem to contradict it, show how Chazal read this in as well. If there is no midrash, Rashi may have discovered this krei / ketiv as an additional basis to the Midrash that it was Eliezer alone.

And under lectio difficilior, it is possible that people grappling with this Rashi, at odds with the masorah of our verse, would have substituted another explanation of the word, and gravitated towards the one in midrash rabba. (A similar process, I would guess, more likely caused that chanichav ketiv variant.)

Also, the argument from silence is not so persuasive. It is an argument from silence. The question is whether they would necessarily have noticed and commented on it. Though perhaps they would have.

I don't find my own counterarguments entirely convincing either. And it is a lot easier to attribute the erroneous girsa to Rashi rather than to the Biblical text, especially where we actually have reports of those variant girsaot.


Yosef Greenberg said...

My take on this possuk here, only somewhat related.

I won't, bli neder, plug my blog again here if not totally related.

joshwaxman said...


an very interesting idea. and it is not just avadav (perhaps we could read avdo?) but when they do the chaluka of the *spoils*, he wants a chelek for his nearim who went with him, and rashi clearly says there that these were his avadim.

i have an idea or two about this, so perhaps i'll develop it into a post as well.

kol tuv,

Yosef Greenberg said...

I thought of the Avado idea as well. It might be that Rashi doesn't mention it because he has no reason to say differently. Regardless, the later Rashi refutes this.

It is still quite possible that Rashi is just using to explain the reasoning behind a drash, though.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin