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.


Anonymous said...

I don't get it. If you really believe the entire Sefer HaZohar to be a forgery by R' Moshe de Leon (and therefore not at all authentic, i.e. written by Rashb"i), why did you devote an entire post to "rescuing" it?

joshwaxman said...

please choose a pseudonym, because otherwise, it becomes near impossible to track conversations.

the answer is simple. besides that it is possible for it to be an "innocuous" forgery, it also attests to the state of some sifrei Torah in the late 13th century. because even in a forgery, the rabbinic author, a Rishon, is not going to make up pesukim for derashot. the text would not make sense to his readers, otherwise. if so, it is no different from the times Chizkuni diverges from the masoretic text. we should endeavor to explain this attestation to a different text, because of our interest in the correct masoretic text.

kol tuv,

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response. It helped open my eyes a bit. I just have one question, though: how do I choose a pseudonym? I don't see any such option below. If you could reply (and yes, I am the one who posted the first comment), that would be great, because you have an incredibly interesting blog, and I'd love to be able to comment on future posts.

joshwaxman said...


in terms of choosing a pseudonym, where it says "Choose an identity", select the Name/URL radio button. There, under name, you can put a pseudonym, and you can either choose a URL (website address) or leave it blank.

all the best,

Anonymous said...

Sorry it took so long for me to respond. Thank you for helping me out with this. I look forward to commenting on your blog in the future. (Don't worry, I am the same "Anonymous" that you've been communicating with here; I figured it would be pointless to choose a pseudonym now at this point here, but, G-d willing, in the future....)


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