Friday, April 02, 2010

Some thoughts on Harei Ani KeVen Shivim Shana

The Haggadah continues with a statement by Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaria about the midrashic basis for the obligation to mention Yetzias Mitzrayim at night.

If the previous segment, discussing the obligation of sippur instead of engaging in the actual sippur, was slightly tangential, this goes even further along the same tangent. Here, the discussion is not about an obligation of sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim at all. Rather, it is about a debate as to whether one is obligated to mention the exodus from Egypt only during the daytime, or during day and night. This obligation is fulfilled during Krias Shema, and if we rule that it is only during the daytime, there is no reason for the third perek of Shema in Krias Shema at night.

Ben Zoma gives a derasha based on Devarim 16:3:

ב  וְזָבַחְתָּ פֶּסַח לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, צֹאן וּבָקָר, בַּמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר-יִבְחַר יְהוָה, לְשַׁכֵּן שְׁמוֹ שָׁם.2 And thou shalt sacrifice the passover-offering unto the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the LORD shall choose to cause His name to dwell there.
ג  לֹא-תֹאכַל עָלָיו חָמֵץ, שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל-עָלָיו מַצּוֹת לֶחֶם עֹנִי:  כִּי בְחִפָּזוֹן, יָצָאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם--לְמַעַן תִּזְכֹּר אֶת-יוֹם צֵאתְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ.3 Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for in haste didst thou come forth out of the land of Egypt; that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.

This might indeed be entirely tangential, at least insofar as the mitzvah under consideration is concerned, as I wrote above. Yet, there are two elements which connect it. One is that regardless, Yetzias Mitzrayim is still what is being recalled, and this is the night of the seder, where we discuss it in great detail. The other is the prooftext, which is a pasuk about the reason for eating matzah. On a peshat rather than derash level, this has nothing to do with mentioning (tizkor) the exodus from Egypt every single day. Rather, on a peshat level, it is how lack of chametz and eating matzah causes one to remember (tizkor) the Exodus.

And on a peshat level, what is meant by kol yemei chayecha? See Ibn Ezra, who writes:
כל ימי חייך -בכל שנה.

That is, every year; thus, throughout the span (yemei) of your life. Or alternatively, see yamim meaning years in connection with the sale of houses in walled cities. And see Nazir 4b, where Avshalom used to poll his hair every 12 months, based on a similar understanding of a pasuk that uses the term yamim.

In terms of the derasha, the word tizkor now means to mention the Exodus. And the word kol is a ribbuy. What does it add to? From ימי חייך, the word ימי. Add to ימי, to add night. (Or else interpret it as the more complete day of 24 hours rather than mere daylight days.)

How, and why, do the Chachamim differ? They maintain that kol modifies chayecha {or yemei chayecha}, not just yemei. How do we add to the life under discussion? Another life. And this would be techiyat hameitim, in messianic days.

There is a "famous" interpretation about harei ani keven shivim shana -- that Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaryah was only 17 at this time, and thus he is only like he is 70. And this relates to the incident with Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Yehoshua, with Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaryah's beard turning white overnight. This is nice derash, but takes us away from the peshat of the segment.

I've heard an interesting interpretation of the previous segment (mesubin be-venei Berak) and this one. In the previous segment, it only says that they were mesaper biytzias mitzrayim all that night, but does not specify which night it was. On that night, Rabbi Akiva et al. were talking about a revolt against Rome. And the students said at the end that the time has come for action. In which case, this is code. So too here: He is like one who is 70 years old. What does this mean? A reference to the 70 year galus after the destruction of the first Temple. And as such a person, with a destroyed second Temple, he wasn't zocheh to understand the point of mentioning yetzias Mitrayim at "night." But the derasha tells us that even at such times, remember that prior redemption. And the Chachamim say that the derasha is to include the times of mashiach. It can work out nicely, but I am not entirely persuaded that this is peshat either.

That he is like one who is 70... I would interpret the כ not as the כף הדמיון, of comparison, but rather of approximation. Compare to kachatzi halayla. And to Rambam's כשש שעות. He is already about that old and does not yet know the derivation of this halacha.

In terms of this sort of expression, compare to Rav Kahana with ain mikra yotzei miydei peshuto. From Shabbat 63a:
מ"ט דר"א דאמר תכשיטין הן לו דכתיב (תהילים מה) חגור חרבך על ירך גבור הודך והדרך א"ל רב כהנא למר בריה דרב הונא האי בדברי תורה כתיב א"ל אין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו א"ר כהנא כד הוינא בר תמני סרי שנין והוה גמירנא ליה לכוליה  תלמודא ולא הוה ידענא דאין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו עד השתא מאי קמ"ל דליגמר איניש והדר ליסבר:

He was eighteen and had already learned all the Talmud and did not know this principle. So too here, and so we should make no big deal of it.

It seems also that Rabbi Eleazar ben Azarya already knew the halacha via tradition, but had no Scriptural basis -- lo zachiti. And that is what he learned from Ben Zoma.

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