Monday, May 31, 2010

The trup on kol

Summary: The trup, and nikkud, on the word kol of kol nasi bahem is evidence for Rashbam of the expression's meaning. He is right, but it is the words in the pasuk which determine this trup and nikkud.

Post: This is one of these posts which state the obvious, yet there is something to be said for speaking it out. The pasuk at the start of Shelach describes those chosen to be scouts:

ב  שְׁלַח-לְךָ אֲנָשִׁים, וְיָתֻרוּ אֶת-אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, אֲשֶׁר-אֲנִי נֹתֵן, לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:  אִישׁ אֶחָד אִישׁ אֶחָד לְמַטֵּה אֲבֹתָיו, תִּשְׁלָחוּ--כֹּל, נָשִׂיא בָהֶם.2 'Send thou men, that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel; of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a prince among them.

In the phrase which ends this pasuk, there is a cholam in the word kol instead of a kametz katon.

This is appropriate, for according to the trup, which puts the disjunctive accent of tipcha, there is a pause here. If there were no pause, the nikkud would be to have the kametz under the kaf and the disjunctive accent -- probably tipcha, under the word nasi which follows.

For Rashbam, this trup is dispositive.
כל נשיא בהם - הטעם שתחת כל מוכיח פירושו. 
כל אלה הי"ב הנה יהיה נשיא באותם המתנדבים ללכת, כמו: 
כל שתה תחת רגליו. 
"Every nasi among them" - the trup {of tipcha} under the word kol proves its meaning -- all of these 12 are a nasi {elevated} from those who offered to go, just as in  Tehillim 8:7:

ז  תַּמְשִׁילֵהוּ, בְּמַעֲשֵׂי יָדֶיךָ;    כֹּל, שַׁתָּה תַחַת-רַגְלָיו.7 Thou hast made him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet:

The bit about those who offered to go fits in to a different portion of his understanding of this pasuk. See inside Rashbam.

The nikkud and trup indicate that kol here is not a construct, but rather an absolute noun. If so, it means "all" rather than "all of". Thus, all, meaning all of them, those 12 spies, were nesiim {whatever that means}.

If instead there were different nikkud and trup, then kol would be construct. And then it would mean "every nasi among them" went. If we assume the typical meaning of nasi, and further assume that at this time, these were the princes, nesiim, of the tribes, then it is possible for it to mean that all of the nesiim were sent. (If nasi means volunteer, as I think Rashbam claims, then it is more awkward and much less likely, for then everyone who offered would constitute precisely 12 people, one from each tribe.) Even so, semantically, it makes more sense to say that each of those who were sent had a specific quality, namely being a "nasi". And the trup and nikkud are in accord with this meaning as well.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Shelach sources

by aliyah
rishon (Bamidbar 13:1)
sheni (13:21)
shelishi (14:8)
revii (14:26)
chamishi (15:5)
shishi (15:17)
shevii (15:27)
maftir (15:37)
haftarah (Yehoshua 2), with Ralbag and Malbim

by perek

Judaica Press Rashi in English
Shadal (here and here)
Daat -- with Rashi, Ramban, Seforno, Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, Rabbenu Bachya, Midrash Rabba, Tanchuma+
Gilyonot Nechama Leibovitz (Hebrew)
Tiferes Yehonasan from Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz
Toldos Yitzchak Acharon, repeated from Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz
Even Shleimah -- from Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Ehrenreich
R' Saadia Gaon's Tafsir, Arabic translation of Torah (here and here)
Rashbam (and here)
Zohar, with English translation
Baal Haturim (HaAruch)
Imrei Shafer, Rav Shlomo Kluger
Aderet Eliyahu (Gra) -- not until Korach
Sefer Zikaron of Ritva -- not until Chukas
Chiddushei HaGriz -- not until Chukas

The following meforshim at JNUL. I've discovered that if you click on the icon to rotate sideways, change to only black and white, select only the portion which is text, it is eminently readable on paper.
Ralbag (pg 302)
Chizkuni (118)
Abarbanel (294)
Shach (221)
Yalkut Reuveni (pg 137)
Sefer Hachinuch (pg 115)
Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite (201)

Daat, Rashi In Hebrew (perek 13)
Judaica Press Rashi in English and Hebrew
MizrachiMizrachi (on Rashi, 248)
Gur Aryeh (Maharal of Prague)
Berliner's Beur on Rashi
Commentary on Rashi by Yosef of Krasnitz
R' Yisrael Isserlin (on Rashi, 14)
Two supercommentaries on Rashi, by Chasdai Almosnino and Yaakov Kneizel
Rav Natan ben Shishon Shapira Ashkenazi (16th century), (JNUL, pg 129)
Yeriot Shlomo (Maharshal)
Moda L'Bina (Wolf Heidenheim)
Mekorei Rashi (in Mechokekei Yehuda)
Also see Mikraos Gedolos above, which has Rashi with Sifsei Chachamim

Daat, Ramban in Hebrew (perek 13)
R' Yitzchak Abohav's on Ramban (standalone and in a Tanach opposite Ramban)
Rabbi Meir Abusaula (student of Rashba)

ibn ezra
Daat, Ibn Ezra in Hebrew (perek 13)
Mechokekei Yehudah (HebrewBooks)
R' Shmuel Motot (on Ibn Ezra, pg 42)
Ibn Kaspi's supercommentary on Ibn Ezra, different from his commentary (here and here) -- not until Balak
Mekor Chaim, Ohel Yosef, Motot
Also see Mikraos Gedolos above, which has Ibn Ezra with Avi Ezer

Targum Onkelos opposite Torah text
Shadal's Ohev Ger
Avnei Tzion -- two commentaries on Onkelos
Or Hatargum on Onkelos
Commentary on Targum Yonatan and Targum Yerushalmi

Tanach with masoretic notes on the side
Rama (but based on alphabet, not parsha)

Midrash Rabba at Daat (13)
Midrash Tanchuma at Daat (13)
Bamidbar Rabba, with commentaries
Midrash Tanchuma with commentary of Etz Yosef and Anaf Yosef
Commentary on Midrash Rabba by R' Naftali Hirtz b'R' Menachem
Matat-Kah on Midrash Rabba
Nefesh Yehonasan by Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz

haftarah (Yehoshua 2:1-2:24)
Haftarah in Gutnick Edition
Rashis in English
In a separate Mikraos Gedolos, with Targum, Rashi, Mahari Kara, Ibn Ezra, Radak, Metzudat David.
Daat, which includes Yalkut Shimoni
Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite

Friday, May 28, 2010

How the Zohar spells matzos

Summary: How shall we spell מצות here in Behaaloscha? The Zohar seems to indicate that it is chaser, which goes against all known sefarim as well as the masores. But I rescue the Zohar's statement.

Post: In the laws of Pesach Sheni, in Behaaloscha, we read {Bemidbar 9:11}:

יא  בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר יוֹם, בֵּין הָעַרְבַּיִם--יַעֲשׂוּ אֹתוֹ:  עַל-מַצּוֹת וּמְרֹרִים, יֹאכְלֻהוּ.11 in the second month on the fourteenth day at dusk they shall keep it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs;
Meanwhile, the Zohar, on parashat Bo, appears to cite this pasuk, but declares that matzos is spelled chaser:

194. "In one house shall it be eaten, you shall not take any of the meat outside, out of the house" (Shemot 12:46). This (29th) commandment is to eat the Passover with Matzot and bitter herbs. Matzot is spelled without a Vav. HE ASKS: What is MATZOT with regard to BITTER HERBS, THAT THE VERSE OBLIGATED TO EAT THEM TOGETHER? HE ANSWERS: It is only to show the exile of the Shechinah with Yisrael in their bitterness, as written: "And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage..." (Shemot 1:14). When the Pascal sacrifice is eaten, it shows everything that was done to them in Egypt in that exile and that bondage. THEREFORE, IT IS EATEN WITH MATZOT AND BITTER HERBS.

That is, looking at the second line in the Hebrew / Aramaic, it cites the words al matzos umerorin, which is a phrase which only occurs here in parashas Behaaloscha. Minchas Shai addresses this as follows:

ש(יא) על מצות ומררים • זוהר פ׳ בא דף
מ״א פקודא דא למיכל האי פסח על מצות ומרורים מצת כתיב
ע״כ • ואולם בכל הספרים מלא וא"ו וכן דינו מכח המסורת
כי אין זה מן ד׳ חסרים שבאו במסורת פרשת בא ועיין עוד
מ״ש שם:

That is, he cites this Zohar on parashas Bo, and then notes that in all our sefarim, the word matzos is spelled malei rather than chaser vav. And furthermore, there is a masoretic note about the four chasers in this word, and this instance is not one of them.

In parashat Bo, he does not address this Zohar and this pasuk, but rather, a different Zohar as a commentary to Shemot 12:15:

טו  שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, מַצּוֹת תֹּאכֵלוּ--אַךְ בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן, תַּשְׁבִּיתוּ שְּׂאֹר מִבָּתֵּיכֶם:  כִּי כָּל-אֹכֵל חָמֵץ, וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל--מִיּוֹם הָרִאשֹׁן, עַד-יוֹם הַשְּׁבִעִי.15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; howbeit the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses; for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
Minchas Shai writes:
 שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, מַצּוֹת תֹּאכֵלוּ -- בספר הזוהר אמר רבי שמעון
מצת כתיב כד״א מראת אלהים וגו׳ ומסורתא וספרי דילן
פליגי בתרוייהו

That both our masorah as well as our sefarim is at odds with that Zohar. Which Zohar is that? A different one in parashat Bo:

169. Rabbi Shimon said: Matzat (unleavened bread) is spelled WITHOUT VAV, as, "visions (Heb. mar'ot) of Elohim" (Yechezkel 1:1) IS WITHOUT VAV; THEREFORE, IT ALLUDES TO JUDGMENT. Why were they called Matzat-for their being of Judgment, Holy Judgment, Judgment that is attached to the Holy Name, Judgment that was not strong throughout that time among Yisrael, because the moon was flawed. And since the moon was flawed, it is written: "The bread of affliction" (Devarim 16:3).

Despite no explicit pasuk being cited in this section, in the section and statement immediately preceding it, we have Therefore, it is written: "Seven days shall you eat unleavened bread."As such, it is a natural, likely, minimal, and convincing leap to make.

Yet I am not convinced that the Zohar, in either instance, is really at odds with the masorah. Or if it not, not necessarily in the way it seemed at first.

Let us first examine the Zohar on Bo, which references the pasuk in Behaaloscha, again:

Note how it cites the pasuk. Sure, it says al matzos umerorin. But that is with a nun at the end of umerorin! The pasuk itself spells it with a final mem. Further, this is discussing the korban Pesach using pesukim in Parashat Bo. Yet suddenly it cites a pasuk from a completely different sefer of chumash? And furthermore, it is a different topic. If this is the pasuk being cited, from Behaaloscha, then that pasuk is discussing Pesach Sheni, not Pesach Rishon or Pesach Mitzrayim. (This citation from the wrong area actually has precedent in the derashot of Chazal on this and related pesukim.)

Rather, I would say, against the parsing provided in the image, which puts a period before al matzos umerorin, that instead it is a single statement, discussing the parameters of the mitzvah of eating this Pesach. As the English translation provided above, the commandment is not to eat the Pesach period, and then a citation of the pasuk, but instead the commandment is to eat the Pesach upon matzos and bitter herbs. And that is why it says umerorin in Aramaic, with the Aramaic nun ending. Yes, the phrase is al matzos umerorin, which is a famous melitza, but I would guess that it is just being used because it is the common phrase.

And that if so, it is more likely that the Zohar is referring to a pasuk local to parshas Bo, in Shemos 12:

ח  וְאָכְלוּ אֶת-הַבָּשָׂר, בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה:  צְלִי-אֵשׁ וּמַצּוֹת, עַל-מְרֹרִים יֹאכְלֻהוּ.8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Now here, it does not say matzos, but rather umatzos. And even in that instance, it is written for us malei rather than chaser.

I would answer that the Zohar used the famous expression, which rolls off the tongue. And further, would note that while it says matzat ketiv, this does not appear to be the basis for the derasha; but just as an aside. The derasha is about the eating together with the bitter herbs.

If so, perhaps the matzat ketiv in this instance is a scribal error, transferred from the other statement, by Rabbi Shimon, in Zohar on Bo. Or else, indeed, it meant umatzat ketiv, and/or it was not precise, and was noting that many/all instances of the word in Bo is spelled chaser. Indeed, there are two instances of it spelled chaser in Bo, even in our sefarim.

I would also note that in Vetus Testamentum, on this pasuk in Bo, he finds two variants in the Hebrew (as opposed to Samaritan, which in this instance is identical to the Masoretic) text. One makes it al matzos umerorim, but this is almost obviously an accidental shift towards that "famous" version from Behaaloscha. The other variant (found in one sefer) preserves the phrasing, but indeed has the umatzos as chaser, as ומצת. See inside.

I can see arguments, based on lectio difficilior, made in both directions towards the original text being either one or the other. Yes, malei is the "easier" spelling, so we should suspect it. But on the other hand, there are two instances of matzot spelled chaser in context in Bo, so it is easier as a harmonization / regularization of the spelling within this parasha. (Despite several other ones spelled malei.) And so I don't find an indication, based on this, on which way to lean.

It is possible that the Zohar knew that it was at odds with the masoretic note, which is why it stated this here, even though it does not form the basis of a derasha. And so it would be a testimony as to how it should be spelled, and as it perhaps existed in a few sefarim, even though it is at odds with others and with the masoretic note. Then, this would be testimony either from Tannaitic times or, since the Zohar is a late forgery by Rabbi Moshe de Leon, a testimony as to the proper spelling from the late 13th century.

Another possibility is that, even though it does not seem it, the matzat ketiv is the basis for some aspect of this derasha, but it refers to one of the other matzot in the parsha, where it is indeed written chaser. Thus, in Bo, Shemot 12:18:

יח  בָּרִאשֹׁן בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר יוֹם לַחֹדֶשׁ, בָּעֶרֶב, תֹּאכְלוּ, מַצֹּת:  עַד יוֹם הָאֶחָד וְעֶשְׂרִים, לַחֹדֶשׁ--בָּעָרֶב.18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.

or 13:6:

ו  שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, תֹּאכַל מַצֹּת; וּבַיּוֹם, הַשְּׁבִיעִי, חַג, לַה'.6 Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD.

To turn to the other instance in parshat Bo, mentioned in Zohar, that is the statement by Rabbi Shimon, I could suggest that this is the start of a new section. And then, despite the juxtaposition, it is really making the derasha based on one of these other pesukim, where it is indeed spelled chaser.

If so, in neither place does the Zohar contradict our masorah  or our sefarim.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why the warlike language when the aron traveled?

Summary: Is the description of what Moshe said when the ark went out and returned really about simple travel in the wilderness? Isn't the warlike topic somewhat tangential? I suggest an answer regarding these moved pesukim.

Post: In Behaalotecha, at the end of the second perek, we have a section bracketed with inverted nuns.

These nuns are likely signs to the scribe. And the Greeks made similar signs in their books. That is what we find in Shabbat 115b-116a:
Our Rabbis taught: 'And it came to pass when the ark set forward that Moses said, [etc.]': for this section the Holy One, blessed be He, provided signs above and below, to teach that this is not its place. Rabbi said: It is not on that account, but because it ranks as a separate Book...  
Who is the Tanna that disagrees with Rabbi? It is R. Simeon b. Gamaliel. For it was taught, R. Simeon b. Gamaliel said: This section is destined to be removed from here and written in its [right place]. And why is it written here? In order to provide a break between the first [account of] punishment and the second [account of] punishment. What is the second [account of] punishment? — And the people were as murmurers, [etc.]. The first [account of] punishment? — And they 'moved away from the mount of the Lord, which R. Hama b. R. Hanina expounded [as meaning] that they turned away from following the Lord. And where is its [rightful] place? — Rav Ashi said: In [the chapter on] the banners.
I would note that, context-wise, there is a nice flow from the preceding verse. Thus:

לד  וַעֲנַן ה' עֲלֵיהֶם, יוֹמָם, בְּנָסְעָם, מִן-הַמַּחֲנֶה.  {ס}  34 And the cloud of the LORD was over them by day, when they set forward from the camp. {S}

Notice the word benaseam, and compare to binsoa.

I would also note that there are two distinct statements even within R' Shimon ben Gamliel. One was that Tanna's statement, that it is not in its rightful place. The second is the statement of Rav Ashi, a rather late Amora, explaining just where the rightful place is. No one in the intervening generations, apparently, bothered to specify the rightful place.

I would consider Rav Ashi's suggestion to be a solid one, and a guess based on a rather compelling reason. There, by the banners, is precisely where we should expect to see this short segment. However, I still would maintain that the late Amora's explanation is an educated guess.

There are other positions as to where these verses actually belong. For example, the Septuagint (LXX) has them moved one verse earlier, before verse 34 which I cited just above. This is possible, and could well account for R' Shimon ben Gamliel's statement.

(This would go against Rav Ashi, though. It would also seem to go against the explanation provided in the gemara for the movement. It was to be an interruption between the first and second account of punishment, and where the second punishment is in next perek, and the first punishment is verse 33,

לג  וַיִּסְעוּ מֵהַר יְהוָה, דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים; וַאֲרוֹן בְּרִית-יְהוָה נֹסֵעַ לִפְנֵיהֶם, דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים, לָתוּר לָהֶם, מְנוּחָה.33 And they set forward from the mount of the LORD three days' journey; and the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them three days' journey, to seek out a resting-place for them.

where leaving Har Hashem was taken as negative. But moving it below is rather unhelpful; it could have provided the same gap in its initial place.)

Alternatively, not adopting the Septuagint's placement as original, perhaps there was this tradition without knowledge of where precisely, and the Septuagint just made this guess as to the proper location.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Dr. Shnayer Leiman, in this article, page 3, footnote 23, notes the Septuagint, and refers us to S. Leiberman, Hellenism, page 38-43 for a summary of current scholarly discussion regarding the inverted nuns. I have yet to check that out.

I would ask a related question. If this is really moving camps around the wilderness, why the subject choice? "Arise, Hashem, and scatter your enemies"?!

The answer I would suggest is that this indeed not the proper place for these pesukim. Neither here, nor by the degalim, is the proper place, because the intent is not the moving about of the entire Israelite people from one encampment to another.

Rather, we see that there is a role for the aron in war. In Shmuel I, 4:3, we read:

ג  וַיָּבֹא הָעָם, אֶל-הַמַּחֲנֶה, וַיֹּאמְרוּ זִקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לָמָּה נְגָפָנוּ ה' הַיּוֹם לִפְנֵי פְלִשְׁתִּים; נִקְחָה אֵלֵינוּ מִשִּׁלֹה, אֶת-אֲרוֹן בְּרִית ה, וְיָבֹא בְקִרְבֵּנוּ, וְיֹשִׁעֵנוּ מִכַּף אֹיְבֵינוּ.3 And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said: 'Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to-day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that He may come among us, and save us out of the hand of our enemies.'

What if this were not such an innovation, but a somewhat regular feature of battle. Perhaps this was how they waged war even in the midbar. And if so, when the aron was taken up to go to battle, Moshe Rabbenu said X. And when it returned from battle back to the Mishkan, Moshe Rabbenu said Y. But then it was moved from its original context (or, if Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi is right, perhaps its own separate sefer), and juxtaposed with regular movements of the Israelite encampment in the midbar.

Alternatively, given that they travel with banners, the encampment in the midbar was figuratively an army, and so these statements by Moshe Rabbenu were intended figuratively.

Posts so far for parshat Behaalotecha

  1. Behaaloscha sources -- revamped, with more than 100 meforshim on the parasha and haftara.
  2. When you cause to ascend the lamps -- What is bothering Rashi? He explains בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ in a particular way, but is inconsistent elsewhere in explaining לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד. Meanwhile the derasha is not initially on Behaalotecha. I consider Gur Aryeh, and then differ, and explain my own take on the matter.a
  3. Ibn Caspi and the magic trumpets -- Does Ibn Caspi have an expansive definition of the term dibra Torah kilshon benei Adam which includes falsehood in line with common  misperception? I consider one possible example.a
  4. Take the Levites -- should 'take' have more than null value? According to Rashi and according to Ibn Ezra, why does "take the Levites" mean anything? Can't it be a sort of preparatory verb for the purification found later in the pasuk? An answer, I think.

  1. Adi"r Bamarom -- an explanation of a masoretic note on parshat Behaalotecha.
  2. Behaalotecha sources -- links by aliyah and perek to an online Mikraos Gedolos, and links to many meforshim on the parshah and haftarah.
  3. Oo as Oh: a reanalysis of Ibn Ezra on ובדרך, discussed last year. I present a translation of Mechokekei Yehuda, and end up agreeing that Ibn Ezra is likely reading the Rambam into the pasuk, and thus it is that he missed Pesach Rishon beshogeg, and now incurs karet if he dismisses Pesach Sheni.
  4. Who was the Kushite woman, and how did she turn black? Relating Ibn Ezra to contemporary science.
  5. Eldad and Medad's prophecy -- translated, and how it relates to the context.
  6. The dot on the heh of rechokah, and how it might relate to the gender ambiguity of the word derech.
  7. Should shatu have the stress on the first or the last syllable? And see the comment section for clarification.
  8. Did the hand of the LORD or the spirit of God rest on Elisha? A discussion of competing nuschaot in a pasuk in Melachim, and whether we should even consider emending in favor of one.
  1. Rabbenu Bachya's position on nikkud and the ambiguity inherent within pesukim -- I cite him in full, and explain why I think Shadal in his Vikuach is mischaracterizing his position. Based on a pasuk in Behaalotecha, וְאִם-כָּכָה אַתְּ-עֹשֶׂה לִּי, where the word את is a kinnui for the Attribute of Judgment
  2. "And is not on a journey" as "Or is not on a journey" -- where when Ibn Ezra says או בדרך he is making either a phonological or a logical point. Shadal faces off against Avi Ezer, and then we have a Karaite supercommentary and finally my own suggestion. It is a difficult Ibn Ezra, all in all. Perhaps I should check out other supercommentaries of Ibn Ezra this year.
  3. "Their prophecy did not cease" -- Was the prophetic gift to Eldad and Medad just temporary, or permanent? I would suggest a third possibility. It means that they were not gathered.
  4. Pesach Sheni, if a convert converts -- should he bring the korban pesach offering immediately, even not in its proper time? I suggest it means that converting in between Pesach Rishon and Sheni, he still brings Pesach Sheni, and this depending on whether the second chag severed from the first. But see inside for details.
  5. "Miracle Grow" -- Did the shemen hamishcha have the effect of making people miraculously grow taller, or is that ridiculous. What is the true intent of the midrash that says that this was a special mark of distinction.
  1. Parsha Punning Puzzle: What feature of Behaalotecha Am I? an easy one, but I was just getting started, IIRC
  2. An Important Grammatical Form -- cross-posted from Ki Tavo. וַתְּדַבֵּר מִרְיָם וְאַהֲרֹן בְּמֹשֶׁה in Bahaaloscha shows that a singular verb can apply to multiple individuals (Miryam and Aharon) and even to people of the opposite gender (Aharon). It all follows the identity of the first person mentioned.
  1. Rashbam's Midrashic Literalism? that Moshe married the queen of Kush.
  2. Why the Repetition of Isha Kushit Lakach? within the open-canon approach, it is saying, "Oh yeah, we didn't mention this earlier, but he married a Kushite woman." And what those following a closed-canon approach do.
  3. Why Was Miriam, and Not Aharon, Punished? Perhaps only Miriam spoke. a grammatical analysis.
  4. Roundup -- What other blogs are saying about the parsha
  5. Why Couldn't the Manna Taste Like X
    1. And what does it mean to say that nursing mothers could not have it? I argue that it does not mean that everyone is restricted because of nursing mothers. And discuss ADDeRabbi's post on the subject.
    2. Then, in Manna Redux, I reexamine the issue after having seen Rashi in the gemara, which sheds light on Rashi in Chumash. And add a bit to the above discussion.
  1. Parsing Moshe's Prayer
    • based on trup. I argue that na in kel na refa na la means different things. Thus, God, please heal now, her. Also, a keri and ketiv at play here, to parallel Aharon's earlier speech.
  2. Who Is The Naar?
    • considering Yehoshua and Gershom as candidates.
  3. "Na" Only Connotes Please
    • What does this phrase mean? Does it mean it can only mean this and not something else, or does it mean that in certain instances for midrashic purpose, we can read the meaning of "please" into it? I argue for the latter, and that others hold this as well. Indeed, no one ever says achila only means eating, because this is obvious. There must be some alternative, or else there is no purpose to the statement.
  1. Chovav As A Witness, or Guide?
    • Moshe asked Chovav to stay to be their eyes. Is this as a witness or a guide? I suggest the latter. Also, was he successful?
  2. Who Was Chovav? Who Was Yisro? And Who Was Moshe's Father-In-Law?
    • Perhaps they are the same person, and perhaps not. I lot hinges on the definition of chotein moshe.
  3. Related to the Above: Another Interesting Cognate from "Hebrew Cognates In Amharic"
    • in that in Amharic, the same Semitic word means both father-in-law and brother-in-law.
  4. No More, No End, Not Gathered
    • Three possible meanings of וְלֹא יָסָפוּ as regards Eldad and Medad.
  5. BeKetuvim (Eldad and Medad)
    • The midrashic derivation of the contents of Eldad and Medad's prophecies. And how either Eldad and Medad, or their prophecies, were recorded in the "ketuvim."
  6. Would You Go Back To Slavery In Egypt For This?
    • Illustrations of the foodstuffs that the Israelites looked back fondly to.
  7. The Manna, On the Other Hand
    • useful to compare to the above.
  8. cross-listed from parshat Chukas: For What Sin Was Moshe Punished?
    • perhaps he was actually commanded to strike the rock, and his sin was in his initial reaction to the people's complaint.
to be continued...

Take the Levites -- should 'take' have more than null value?

Summary: According to Rashi and according to Ibn Ezra, why does "take the Levites" mean anything? Can't it be a sort of preparatory verb for the purification found later in the pasuk? An answer, I think.

Post: Towards the start of Behaalotecha, we have:

ו  קַח, אֶת-הַלְוִיִּם, מִתּוֹךְ, בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל; וְטִהַרְתָּ, אֹתָם.6 'Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them.
Rashi writes:

Take the Levites: Take them with words: You are fortunate in that you have merited to become attendants of the Omnipresent. — [Torath Kohanim 8:165, Midrash Aggadah]קח את הלוים: קחם בדברים, אשריכם שתזכו להיות שמשים למקום:

This may be peshat, or may be midrash. It responds to a peshat concern, as we shall see -- Ibn Ezra addresses the phrase. But the explanation is drawn from a midrash, and is not the most apparent explanation from the simple text. Compare with parashat Korach, and Rashi there:

1. Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi took [himself to one side] along with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, descendants of Reuben.א. וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח בֶּן יִצְהָר בֶּן קְהָת בֶּן לֵוִי וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם בְּנֵי אֱלִיאָב וְאוֹן בֶּן פֶּלֶת בְּנֵי רְאוּבֵן:
Korah… took: This portion is beautifully expounded on in the Midrash of R. Tanchuma, [as follows]:ויקח קרח: פרשה זו יפה נדרשת במדרש רבי תנחומא:
Korah… took: He took himself to one side to dissociate himself from the congregation, to contest the [appointment of Aaron to the] kehunah. This is what Onkelos means when he renders it וְאִתְפְּלֵג,“and he separated himself.” He separated himself from the congregation to persist in a dispute. Similarly, מה יקחך לבך, “Why does your heart take you away?” (Job 15:12) meaning, it removes you, to isolate you from others (Midrash Tanchuma Korach 2). Another explanation: He attracted the heads of the Sanhedrin among them with amicable words. Similarly, “Take Aaron [with words]” (20:25); “Take words with you” (Hosea 14:3) (Midrash Tanchuma Korach 1). - [Num. Rabbah 18:2]ויקח קרח: לקח את עצמו לצד אחד להיות נחלק מתוך העדה לעורר על הכהונה, וזהו שתרגם אונקלוס ואתפלג נחלק משאר העדה להחזיק במחלוקת, וכן (איוב טו, יב) מה יקחך לבך, לוקח אותך להפליגך משאר בני אדם. דבר אחר ויקח קרח משך ראשי סנהדראות שבהם בדברים, כמו שנאמר (במדבר כ, כה) קח את אהרן, (הושע יד, ג) קחו עמכם דברים:

This is not just a midrashic concern, giving Rashi an excuse to cite a midrash. Ibn Ezra appears concerned by this as well. Thus, Ibn Ezra writes:
[ח, ו]
קח את הלוים מתוך בני ישראל -
כי מעורבים היו וכן כל השבטים קודם שיסעו אל הדרך מהר סיני.

Take them from amidst the Bnei Yisrael, because they are mixed together when encamped.

I would not have felt compelled to say this. Rather, I would have simply understood kach as having almost a null value, where the point is to designate a group before describing the action to it. "Take an egg and beat it", as opposed to "beat an egg". That is, that it plays a syntactic role but no semantic role. Yet Ibn Ezra doesn't say this, and instead interprets it. What is bothering Rashi, and what is bothering Ibn Ezra?

It could simply be that he doesn't regard this as a linguistic possibility, and so there must be some meaning to this. Alternatively, something in context informs him that this has more than null value.

If we are looking at context, I would assume that the following is what drives it. Firstly, the words מִתּוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל in the pasuk appear to indicate that it is not just selection of the object in preparation for introducing the verb. Secondly, later in that perek we encounter

טז  כִּי נְתֻנִים נְתֻנִים הֵמָּה לִי, מִתּוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:  תַּחַת פִּטְרַת כָּל-רֶחֶם בְּכוֹר כֹּל, מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--לָקַחְתִּי אֹתָם, לִי.16 For they are wholly given unto Me from among the children of Israel; instead of all that openeth the womb, even the first-born of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto Me.

The words at the end of this bracketing, of כִּי נְתֻנִים נְתֻנִים הֵמָּה לִי מִתּוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל indicates that there was indeed a taking and giving from among the children of Israel.

(As to why Rashi does not understand this as literal taking, besides the fact that this is a midrash he is citing, the most literal is not always the best peshat. One does not literally take the person to some location, doesn't lift them up, and doesn't really acquire that person. Even though it is arguable here that that is precisely what happens in this instance. Rather, it means to gather them to your purpose, something often done with words.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Agudah, the Internet, and Hypocrisy

More than a few weeks back, for Shevii shel Pesach, a certain Parsha Sheet published in Bnei Brak put out a parsha sheet discussing the importance of listening to Daas Torah. You can read it in Hebrew here. They always have a rather colorful illustration, often amusing, though not always deliberately so. I reproduce the illustration below:

It is of a group of religious Jews listening to Daas Torah, and leaning after the words of the Chachamim, and so tossing their computers (and what appears to be a cell phone) into the river. Certainly there are echoes of Tashlich -- and spot the fellow in the center reading something. There is an additional yellow warning sign, reading "Internet Sartanet", where Sartan is the Hebrew word for Cancer, implying that connecting to the Internet is the cause for cancer.

And on the back page of this parsha sheet were instructions for contacting them, in case you want to subscribe. You could email them; or else you could visit their web site!

Of course, this was only on the English version of their parsha sheet. On the Hebrew version, all of this information was absent. (Still, their website itself is all in Hebrew.) Thus, the frum chareidim of Bnei Brak would not know that they have a website and email address.

This smells a lot of hypocrisy. How could they encourage everyone to listen to "Daas Torah" about the Internet and computers, when they themselves do not abide by it?!

The answer, in large part, is that they are not being hypocrites. The artist is a separate fellow from the ones who put out this parsha sheet, and they seem to contract him for jobs like this. And so he, of his own initiative, must have expanded on the idea of listening to Divrei Chachamim to make an anti-Internet, anti-cell phone, anti-computer cartoon. And they just included it.

But still, for those who don't know this, and even for those who do, this comic juxtaposed with not keeping true to it themselves makes them look rather silly.

I was thinking about this today because of the discussion over at Hirhurim and subsequently at Emes veEmunah about Agudah not having a web presence. Thus, as Rabbi Gil Student writes at Hirhurim:
I may be mistaken but my impression is that the official policy of Agudath Israel of America is not to have any web presence. This is, I believe, in order to avoid the appearance of legitimating usage of the internet or looking hypocritical by telling others not to go on the internet but still maintaining a presence there. This is a principled stand that demonstrates how strong they consider the well-known dangers of the internet...
But, as he writes, is severely restricts their ability to get their message across. As someone he cites cites the Agudah paper, the Jewish Observer, from early on:
"The ability... to master the new media has become the key to success -- or failure -- to win the allegiance of the masses.... Jewish leadership is in the hands of those who can best make use of the new techniques of communication."
And so they make themselves somewhat irrelevant to the ongoing discussion about many important things in the Jewish world. But I don't know that they can simply establish a web presence. Not when one important aspect of their stance is that the Internet is assur.


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