Sunday, February 14, 2010

A boring dvar Torah about doors and doorposts, on Mishpatim

Summary: Unlike some of pashtanim discussed in this previous post on Mishpatim, the Vilna Gaon is extremely willing to interpret a pasuk against the established halachah. Just how he does that. And what the Karaites think. Plus, the example under consideration, about the door and the doorframe, leads us to a girsological variation in Onkelos, which we may attempt to resolve.

Post: What happens when a slave wishes to stay with his master? The pasuk in the beginning of Mishpatim states:

ו  וְהִגִּישׁוֹ אֲדֹנָיו, אֶל-הָאֱלֹהִים, וְהִגִּישׁוֹ אֶל-הַדֶּלֶת, אוֹ אֶל-הַמְּזוּזָה; וְרָצַע אֲדֹנָיו אֶת-אָזְנוֹ בַּמַּרְצֵעַ, וַעֲבָדוֹ לְעֹלָם.  {ס}6 then his master shall bring him unto God, and shall bring him to the door, or unto the door-post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever. {S}

Thus, he is brought to the door (delet), or to the door-post (mezuzah). Rashi clarifies for us:

to the door or to the doorpost: I might think that the doorpost is [a] qualified [place] on which to bore [the servant’s ear]. Therefore, Scripture says: “and you shall thrust it into his ear and into the door” (Deut. 15:17), [meaning] “into the door,” but not “into the doorpost.” What then does or to the doorpost mean? [The text is] comparing the door to the doorpost. Just as the doorpost is upright [i.e., attached to the house; otherwise it is not called a doorpost], so is the door upright. [A detached door may not be used for the ritual of ear boring.]-[From Mechilta, Kid. 22b]אל הדלת או אל המזוזה: יכול שתהא המזוזה כשרה לרצוע עליה, תלמוד לומר (דברים טו יז) ונתתה באזנו ובדלת, בדלת ולא במזוזה, הא מה תלמוד לומר או אל המזוזה, הקיש דלת למזוזה מה מזוזה מעומד אף דלת מעומד:

Thus, Chazal maintain that it is only a door, and not a doorpost. And they make use of the words "or a doorpost", to clarify just what sort of door. And this on the basis of harmonizing with pesukim in sefer Devarim.

Rashbam is willing to argue:
הדלת או אל המזוזה - לעין כל רוצע אזנו לסימן עבדות. ומזוזה אפילו בבית אבנים של עץ הם, ויכול לרצוע באזנו ובדלת. 
It is only important that the doorpost is made of wood if one would bore into it, together with the ear.

Ibn Ezra sidesteps the issue, by making the delet or mezuzah the place he is brought to. That does not mean that the boring must be done into the doorpost, as opposed to a door. Thus:
והמנהג להיותם בשער העיר יושבים, שיש לה דלתים ובריח וזה טעם אל הדלת או אל המזוזה, שיעשה זה לפני יושבי השער.

I think it interesting that Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite does not maintain it means "either or". Rather, it means "and". Karaites would certainly not be expected to give weight to Pharisee tradition, just as tradition. Yet he writes:

או is simply a connective, and sometimes it can be used for "and" instead of "or". He points to Mishlei 30:31:

לא  זַרְזִיר מָתְנַיִם אוֹ-תָיִשׁ;    וּמֶלֶךְ, אַלְקוּם עִמּוֹ.31 The greyhound; the he-goat also; and the king, against whom there is no rising up.

and Vayikra 26:

מא  אַף-אֲנִי, אֵלֵךְ עִמָּם בְּקֶרִי, וְהֵבֵאתִי אֹתָם, בְּאֶרֶץ אֹיְבֵיהֶם; אוֹ-אָז יִכָּנַע, לְבָבָם הֶעָרֵל, וְאָז, יִרְצוּ אֶת-עֲו‍ֹנָם.41 I also will walk contrary unto them, and bring them into the land of their enemies; if then perchance their uncircumcised heart be humbled, and they then be paid the punishment of their iniquity;
Still, while an admissible translation, what is bothering Aharon ben Yosef to compel him to translate it thus? Perhaps the parallel pasuk in Devarim, which mentioned only a door? But that could just be a single example, and this verse is being expansive! I would guess, rather, it is that of course a door would be right by a doorpost, in most instances. If so, why give these as alternate options? This is nothing like באבן או באגרוף. Rather, it must be to the door and doorpost; or the door, that is to the doorpost. And this makes plenty of sense on a peshat level, and is compelled by good peshat sensibilities.

The Vilna Gaon maintains that that the door, independently, and the mezuzah, independently, is peshat. But that the derash supersedes the peshat. Even so, there is value in and of itself in learning the peshat.

Thus, we see in Aderet Eliyahu as follows {my rough translation}:

to the door, etc. -- for they are by the gate {of the city}; and see Rashbam.

or to the mezuzah -- the peshat of the Scriptures is that also the mezuzah {by itself} is valid. But the halacha uproots the Mikra. And so too, in most of this parashah, as well as in many parshiyot in the Torah. And this is the greatness of our Oral Law, which is transmitted Halacha Le-Moshe MiSinai, and it turns over like the substance of a seal outside the commandments, which came via menatzpach {the final letters; min tzophach? ??}, which are straight. And as is written in Makkot 22b {Rava speaking}: How foolish are those people who stand up before a sefer Torah but not before a Torah scholar... and the Sages came {and reduced the lashes}, etc., and so too by Pigul and most of the Torah. Still, one needs to know the peshat of the Torah in order to know the seal.

I recall how I once was (temporarily) labelled a doresh Torah shelo kehalachah by a YU Rosh Yeshiva. I insisted that, in terms of the peshat of the pasuk in Ki Tavo, velo natati mimenu le-meit meant not giving it as an offering in ancestor worship. But once I clarified that I clarified my understanding of ain mikra yotzei miydei peshuto, and that it was a general rule, but that the one or two exceptions in the gemara were representative, he no longer felt this label was applicable.

We should focus some attention on the other examples in which the Gra explains peshat as odds with halacha, but this suffices for this post.

On the same topic, of the mezuzah and the delet, we have a girsological dispute within Onkelos. According to mechon-mamre, based on a Yemenite manuscript, we have:

כא,ו וְהִגִּישׁוֹ אֲדֹנָיו, אֶל-הָאֱלֹהִים, וְהִגִּישׁוֹ אֶל-הַדֶּלֶת, אוֹ אֶל-הַמְּזוּזָה; וְרָצַע אֲדֹנָיו אֶת-אָזְנוֹ בַּמַּרְצֵעַ, וַעֲבָדוֹ לְעֹלָם.  {ס}וִיקָרְבִנֵּיהּ רִבּוֹנֵיהּ, לִקְדָם דַּיָּנַיָּא, וִיקָרְבִנֵּיהּ לְוָת דַּשָּׁא, אוֹ דִּלְוָת מְזוּזְתָא; וְיַרְצַע רִבּוֹנֵיהּ יָת אֻדְנֵיהּ בְּמַרְצְעָא, וִיהֵי לֵיהּ עֶבֶד פָּלַח לְעָלַם.  {ס}

This is the same as we have in our Mikraos Gedolos. Thus, Onkelos provides a straightforward literal translation. HaDeles = Dasha; O = O; el-HaMezuzah = di-levat Mezuzta. But that is only one version of Onkelos. There is a different girsa, which is not as literal.

As Shadal notes in Ohev Ger:

אל הדלת או אל המזוזה , ברוב הספרים לות דשא או לות מזוזתא ,
ובסביוניטה ובג"ת  דלות מזוזתא וכן בתרגום יונתן ; ורמב״ן מקיים
הנוסח הראשון . ובקע"א היה כתוב או לות, והגיהו דלות.

That is, the literal translation is what is found in most sefarim. But in dfus Savyonita and in Gimel Targumim (read the definitions of these two sources here), the או is replaced with ד. {J: Thus, it is no longer literal, and against halacha, but precisely in line with the midrash halacha which Rashi cited.} Ramba"n {by which he means Mendelssohn} establishes as correct the first nusach. Meanwhile, in Kuf-Ayin-Alef (=Codex 1411) has first written with או, with an emendation to ד.

Thus, Mendelssohn writes:

He has a nusach as ד rather that או. The idea is to take the Hebrew word in the pasuk out of its simple implication, and interpret it instead in according with the derasha.

He claims that this interpretation, also found in Targum Pseudo-Yonatan, need not compel this translation of the pasuk away from its simple meaning. Thus, effectively though not explicitly, he defends the version with או as not being against the derasha, since the pasuk is only speaking about coming to the proximity of the door or mezuzah, not the actual boring of a hole. While true, I don't find this entirely compelling, as after all the derasha is being made on this very pasuk. Instead, I would just note that this is a literal translation, and literal translations need not be understood as definitively taking a position that the pasuk should be taken literally. Rather, it can be read as leaving the pasuk in its uninterpreted and quasi-ambiguous state, ripe for whatever interpretations may come. And that is why the derasha of Chazal need not compel the translation with ד.

In the end, he maintains that the version of Targum Onkelos with the word או preserved is the original. I agree, for the following reason. Lectio difficilior should inform our decision in this case. The version with ד admittedly has the slight "difficulty" of not matching the literal Hebrew text. But not every Targum is absolutely literal. But the version with או has a seeming religious difficulty, and those are much more compelling. It seems more likely that some scribe would think that the Targum, miSinai, should not have the literal translation which is against Rashi and Chazal. Such a scribe would emend it. And perhaps, in manuscript קע"א, mentioned by Shadal, that is precisely what went on with the correction. (Unless the correction was from some other existing text...)


גילוי said...

I believe the "word" in Aderet Eliyahu you had trouble with is the listing of sofit letters.

joshwaxman said...

yes; they certainly are, and i knew that, which is why I said the final letters. i just don't know how the concept fits in. the midrash says that menatzpach are min tzofach, established by the neviim, and perhaps this is the idea he was hinting at by mentioning it. (what does the mitzvos which come with the final letters mean? it seems to be an allusion to a deep and kabbalistic concept...)


elie said...

According to the Gra, who is it that is changing the pshat? Is it Moshe (since he says it's halacha l'moshe misinai) or is it the Rabanan (since at the end he says one must stand for Rabbis because they reduced the no. of lashes)?



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