Wednesday, October 28, 2009

His journey(s) -- when the masorah opposes the Zohar

In Lecha Lecha, we have a few instances in which rather old Rabbinic texts indicate something about a pasuk that goes against the masoretic notes as well as all our sefarim. In one instance, it is Zohar against the masorah; in another, the gemara; and in a third, Rashi.

This is interesting in and of itself, but what is also interesting is the way that the moseretic commentators handle this. In this first post, a contradiction between Zohar's version of a pasuk and our own.

ג וַיֵּלֶךְ, לְמַסָּעָיו, מִנֶּגֶב, וְעַד-בֵּית-אֵל--עַד-הַמָּקוֹם, אֲשֶׁר-הָיָה שָׁם אָהֳלֹה בַּתְּחִלָּה, בֵּין בֵּית-אֵל, וּבֵין הָעָי.3 And he went on his journeys from the South even to Beth-el, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Beth-el and Ai;

Now, Zohar on this parsha has:
164. Rabbi Shimon said, Come and behold: The verse, "And he went on his journeys... (Heb. lemasa'av)" (Beresheet 13:3) MEANS that he went to visit his place and his grade. In this verse, lemasa'av IS SPELLED WITHOUT THE LETTER YUD, INDICATING THE SINGULAR FORM. SO HE ASKS: Which journey? AND HE ANSWERS: This is the first grade that was revealed to him. Here, it is written: "masa'av (his journey)"; and in another place thither (Heb. masa): "was built of stone made ready before it was brought" (I Melachim 6:7). As we have already explained, assuredly it was "stone made ready (Heb. shlemah)" WHICH MEANS THAT THE STONE, WHICH IS MALCHUT, BELONGS TO THE KING TO WHOM THE PEACE (HEB. SHALOM) BELONGS. AND KING SOLOMON (HEB. SHLOMO) ALLUDES TO THE KING TO WHOM PEACE BELONGS, NAMELY ZEIR ANPIN. SO BY ANALOGY, IN THE FORMER VERSE AS WELL IT REFERS TO THE NUKVA OF ZEIR ANPIN. "Masa" has already been explained.
Thus, a derasha based on the ketiv being lemasao, but we don't have such a kerei / ketiv on this pasuk, in either new or old sefarim.

Minchas Shai takes note of this: that in new and old sefarim, it is malei, and הללי has malei. And not only that, but in Zohar itself, on Bereishit, it presents a contradictory account of the pasuk.

For Zohar on parshat Bereishit states:
223. Rabbi Shimon then opened a discourse by saying, "And he went on his journeys from the Negev" (Beresheet 13:3). It says "journeys" IN THE PLURAL, where it should have said "journey," IN THE SINGULAR. Why did the scripture say "journeys" IN THE PLURAL? Because there were two journeys, one his own, and the second that of the Shechinah. The dual journey indicates that everyone should be male and female, so that his faith may be strong and the Shechinah may never depart from him.
Thus, the assumption is that that same pasuk is written malei yud -- unless, I would add, what was meant in the derasha in Bereishit is the krei. And Meiri, and Rama have it as malei yud. Finally, Minchas Shai notes that Ohr Torah strives (tarach) to harmonize the two, but he leaves it as a tzarich iyun, implying that he is not really convinced by this.

Or Torah writes about this contradiction between two Zohars. But it is not so, but rather {as I was mechaven} even there Zohar agrees as to how it is written, but is worries about pronunciation, and the kametz under the yud rather than making the vav into a cholam.

But then he considers that it contradicts all the manuscript evidence we have of the pasuk, as well as masoretic commenters, we find that it is malei, and this is indeed how we resolve. If so, what do we make of the Zohar?

He suggests as a possibility that the Zohar actually also maintains that it is malei. And since in Raya Mehemna on Pinchas, the idea is introduced that even though it is written malei, kalot Mosheh, we will darshen it as if it were chaser. And so too, there is a derasha here as if it were chaser.

The reason that this is extremely farfetched is that the example given is a difference in revocalizing a word, as if it were spelled without the imot hakeriah. In terms of another derasha, we have אל תקרי בצלמון אלא בצלמות, thus changing even a letter which is not an em keria.

That is quite different from claiming that the vav isn't there and then making a separate derasha based on its weird absence, as if its absence is meaningful; rather than inspecting the meaning of the word were is spelled and thus revocalized differently. One is classic midrash; the other seems just silliness.

Some suspect that the Zohar was not written by Rav Moshe de Leon by himself, but by a group of mystics led by Rav Moshe de Leon. If so, it might be easier to account for the apparent internal contradiction.

I don't know how to resolve this, but this does not concern me overmuch. After all, that a particular medieval work makes reference to a various girsa in a pasuk, and makes a derasha on it, is not entirely surprising. And this is certainly not the only instance of a difference in malei / chaser between our masorah and Zohar. In this particular instance we follow Zohar, which is good.

More troubling is a seeming dispute between an instruction found in Bavli, and our masorah, regarding Kedarlaomer. Perhaps the next post.

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