Thursday, December 24, 2009

A patach in La`ish, according to Chizkuni

Summary: A brief discussion of a troubling Chizkuni, about the nikkud under a certain letter. And the inclination to emend Chizkuni to make everything all right, which we should reject. This might relate to the idea of lectio difficilior, the "rule" that the more difficult word is more likely original.

Post: In Vayigash, in Bereishit 45:22:

כב  לְכֻלָּם נָתַן לָאִישׁ, חֲלִפוֹת שְׂמָלֹת; וּלְבִנְיָמִן נָתַן שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת כֶּסֶף, וְחָמֵשׁ חֲלִפֹת שְׂמָלֹת.
22 To all of them he gave each man changes of raiment; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver, and five changes of raiment.

Chizkuni writes:

לכלם נתן לאיש חליפות שמלות • הלמ״ד בפתח

This is mystifying. Which lamed is he speaking about? For none of the lameds in that pasuk have a patach! I doubt be meant the lamed of lechulam, since a patach there would be the definite article, which grammatically should not exist there. And there should be no patach under the lamed in chalifot, and indeed Chizkuni writes it malei yud to show the chirik is there. It must be under the lamed of la`ish.

Indeed, a patach under the lamed of la`ish makes partial sense. We would want the definite article there, and that would indeed normally be lamed patach + a dagesh in the next letter. However, there is a guttural letter aleph which follows. This should lead to tashlum dagesh, compensatory lengthening of the short vowel patach to become the longer kametz. But perhaps in this instance, the general rule was not followed (just as, IIRC, it isn't followed for the guttural chet). This would be extremely weird, but it within range of acceptable weirdness. And Chizkuni would have seen fit to take note of it.

Under lectio difficilior, if two alternatives are presented, and one makes sense with some apparent "difficulty", it is more likely to be original, because a copyist would "correct" it in one direction but not the other. On the other hand, if kamatz and patach are pronounced more or less the same, it is quite possible that this patach could be a mere scribal error which crept in, and became part of the masorah available to Chizkuni. I would not pass judgement upon this either way.

This statement by Chizkuni would be quite perplexing and troubling to others who followed him. He makes a masoretic statement which is not in line with our masorah. Do we say that he had an alternate masorah, or do we assume that not only is our own masorah 100% accurate, but Chizkuni must have had the same masorah?

Well, embedded right after Chizkuni's comment, in the printing I am using, we get the following in square brackets:

ש[אולי צ"ל בקמץ וקאי על לאיש:]ש

That is, it might seem that the patach was in the lamed which has under it (according to us) a sheva. Or in chalifot. But the suggestion of this supercommentator is that perhaps we should emend the text of Chizkuni to read "with a kamatz" rather than with a patach, and that it goes of laIsh.

Perhaps, I say, but if so, and it is all in accordance with the regular rule, would Chizkuni have felt the need to point this out? It makes more sense as an irregularity. Unless, of course, his point was that laIsh had the definite article, even though we would have expected it to not be definite. If so, patach might be shorthand for the definite article, which, indeed would be kamatz in this particular case. I personally doubt it, and think by patach he meant patach, and that sometimes Rishonim have alternate masoretic traditions we do not have. For example, I recently covered an Ibn Caspi which made a great diyuk based on a kamatz rather than the expected patach in the word haOd. See there.

This is what Minchas Shai has to say:

לכלם נתן לאיש• כתב התזקוני הלמ״ד בפתח ולא ידעתי מהו כי בכל
הספרים הלמ״ד בקמץ כמשפט:

That is, he understands which lamed is under discussion, and so searches for a masoretic tradition in accordance with it. For on every page, Minchas Shai takes note of differing traditions in things such as this. But he finds no such tradition, and so doesn't know what to do with this. Rather, in all sefarim he found, it has the kamatz that we would expect according to the general rule.

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