Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Karaites fire a return salvo!

In a previous post, I focused on Ibn Ezra's insult to (Yaakov) ben Ephraim the Karaite. He said that ben Ephraim was chaser aleph, such that he was Ben Parim, or else that he was deficient in wisdom. See my post inside.

This was on the pasuk about Leah's eyes:

יז וְעֵינֵי לֵאָה, רַכּוֹת; וְרָחֵל, הָיְתָה, יְפַת-תֹּאַר, וִיפַת מַרְאֶה.
17 And Leah's eyes were weak; but Rachel was of beautiful form and fair to look upon.
יח וַיֶּאֱהַב יַעֲקֹב, אֶת-רָחֵל; וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶעֱבָדְךָ שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים, בְּרָחֵל בִּתְּךָ, הַקְּטַנָּה.
18 And Jacob loved Rachel; and he said: 'I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.'

where the Karaite commentator Ben Ephraim claimed that rakos was missing an aleph and thus meant long (somewhat along the lines of Rabbi Eleazar in the gemara). And in response, Ibn Ezra leveled the aforementioned insult.

Meanwhile, many years later, Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite gave a different interpretation. He says that rakot mean צעירות, afflicted, weak, or tender. He points to a pasuk in parshas Vayishlach, where Yaakov explains why he cannot accompany Esav:

יג וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, אֲדֹנִי יֹדֵעַ כִּי-הַיְלָדִים רַכִּים, וְהַצֹּאן וְהַבָּקָר, עָלוֹת עָלָי; וּדְפָקוּם יוֹם אֶחָד, וָמֵתוּ כָּל-הַצֹּאן.
13 And he said unto him: 'My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and that the flocks and herds giving suck are a care to me; and if they overdrive them one day, all the flocks will die.

Thus, tender and weak. His supercommentator explains that this is intended as contrary to Rashi, that they were not weak, but were teary:

tender: Because she expected to fall into Esau’s lot, and she wept, because everyone was saying,“Rebecca has two sons, and Laban has two daughters. The older [daughter] for the older [son], and the younger [daughter] for the younger [son]” (B.B. 123a).
ועיני לאה רכות: שהיתה סבורה לעלות בגורלו של עשו ובוכה שהיו הכל אומרים שני בנים לרבקה ושתי בנות ללבן, הגדולה לגדול והקטנה לקטן:

Perhaps. But he regards it as a deficiency. Aharon ben Yosef continues, that the one who explains that it means that her eyes were beautiful, pointing to the pasuk in Vayera:

ז וְאֶל-הַבָּקָר, רָץ אַבְרָהָם; וַיִּקַּח בֶּן-בָּקָר רַךְ וָטוֹב, וַיִּתֵּן אֶל-הַנַּעַר, וַיְמַהֵר, לַעֲשׂוֹת אֹתוֹ.
7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it unto the servant; and he hastened to dress it.

, that commentator is rach halevav. That commentator would appear to be Rashbam:

פסוק יז

רכות -
נאות וור"ש בלע"ז. וכלה שעיניה נאות אין כל גופה צריך בדיקה. ועיניים שחורות אינן רכות כלבנות.

I've seen this type of insult, playing on some element of the questioned derasha itself, elsewhere, most recently in Ibn Ezra. I don't know whether the insult levied at another Karaite by a Pharisee influenced this, but I wonder.

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