Friday, July 30, 2010

Posts so far for parshat Ekev

  1. Ekev sources -- revamped.
  2. Is Moshe's forty day (and night) fast super-miraculous? So says Ibn Ezra. And Ibn Caspi takes him to task. And besides speculating on Ibn Ezra's methodological motivation, I wonder if it is even so certain that the Torah describes a miraculous event.s
  3. Fee fi fo fum! Deviating from masorah because of a French homonym -- Fi means pooh! or bother! in French. When the word precedes Hashem, should we change it to Pi? And the implications for Baruch She'amar.s
  4. What is the tzir'ahHornet or sickness? Rashi, along with midrash, and Ibn Ezra.s
  5. Did the Israelites have shoes in the wildernessPretty clearly, they did. What, then, shall we make of Rashi's comment referring to כדרך הולכי יחף שרגליהם נפוחות?
  6. Luchat ketiv or Lachat ketivWith the repercussions being which pasuk Rashi is going on. Plus, what exactly is Rashi telling us with this midrash; or what is this midrash telling us?

  1. Ekev sources -- links by perek and aliyah to an online Mikraos Gedolos. Additionally, many, many links to meforshim on the parsha and haftara.
  2. God-granted power, and why it is not kefirah to believe in the water cycle. And perhaps also to believe in Darwinian evolution as well.
  3. Cleaving to Hashem, and different understandings of dveikus. Can one square the kabbalistic understanding, and Ibn Ezra's understanding, with the objections of the Sifrei? Meanwhile, on a peshat level, I would argue that it is meant metaphorically.
  4. What are the evil diseases of Egypt? Shadal identifies it as diseases particular to Egypt, based on the medical writings of Pliny. And I connect it to a midrash about Pharaoh bathing in blood.
  5. The variant trup on ad-avod, and why Shadal prefers our revii over the variant gershayim. And what each would mean.
  6. 100 blessings a day, but how many letters in the pasuk? There is one variant tradition of 100 letters, held e.g. by Baal HaTurim, but we only have 99, and Rabbenu Bachya for instance has 99. Minchas Shai discusses. This is slightly related to a post on parshat Devarim, about Rashi having a word as chaser where we have it malei.
  7. After you, or after them? Chizkuni makes a derasha off of a word that doesn't exist in the form he needs it to, in order to say that the water was chasing after the Egyptians, rather than the Egyptians chasing after the Israelites.
  8. Your feet did not develop calluses -- a followup to my 2008 post about whether the Israelites' clothing stayed fresh naturally; and how this relates to archaeological evidence, or lack there of, of a massive exodus from Egypt.
  9. Is the wickedness of the nations the cause, or the purported cause? Rashi and Rashbam against Ramban and Shadal about how to parse a pasuk.
  1. Did the Israelites' clothing stay fresh naturally? Three opinions: no, yes, and kind of.
  • Haftarat Ekev: In which there is an interesting poetic Biblical parallelism between YKVK and Adonai. And what this might mean.
  • Some Idioms in the Parsha
    • which shouldn't necessarily be taken literally. Ekev Tishmeun does not literally mean "that you will hear." Eating enemies, or "consuming" them, connoted destruction. The Finger of God; Circumcising the heart; Moshe not eating bread nor drinking water for 40 days and 40 nights.
  • I'm back!
    • After a short break in blogging, my return. In that post, I included a midrash from Ekev, about the scope of Noach's flood and whether it covered Har Gerizim, in which an animal driver gave a great response to a Samaritan, which caused the Pharisee Sages to apply the verse from Ekev -- בָּרוּךְ תִּהְיֶה, מִכָּל-הָעַמִּים: לֹא-יִהְיֶה בְךָ עָקָר וַעֲקָרָה, וּבִבְהֶמְתֶּךָ -- where בְהֶמְתֶּךָ is taken to mean "in your Beham," your animal driver. And a short grammatical analysis of Beham.
  • Man Does Not Live On Bread Alone
    • A main point of the verse is that Hashem wanted them to realize that He was the source of sustenance. Thus first He afflicted them, by exposing them to hunger, and then provided them with this food, the manna. Why? If they had bread, they would not have learned this all-important lesson. Bread is but one instance of it, but man does not live on bread. He lives on whatever Hashem deigns to grant - כָּל-מוֹצָא פִי-ה.
to be continued...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Luchat ketiv or Lachat ketiv?

Summary: With the repercussions being which pasuk Rashi is going on. Plus, what exactly is Rashi telling us with this midrash; or what is this midrash telling us?

Post: In the midst of parashat Eikev, we read the following pesukim and Rashi:

10. and the Lord gave me two stone tablets, inscribed by the finger of God, and on them was [inscribed] according to all the words that the Lord spoke with you on the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly.י. וַיִּתֵּן יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֵלַי אֶת שְׁנֵי לוּחֹת הָאֲבָנִים כְּתֻבִים בְּאֶצְבַּע אֱ־לֹהִים וַעֲלֵיהֶם כְּכָל הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְ־הֹוָ־ה עִמָּכֶם בָּהָר מִתּוֹךְ הָאֵשׁ בְּיוֹם הַקָּהָל:
tablets: [This word] is written לוּחֹת [in a singular form, and not, לוּחוֹת, to indicate that] both of them were identical. — [Tanchuma 10]לחת: לחת כתיב, ששתיהם שוות:
11. And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the Lord gave me two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant.יא. וַיְהִי מִקֵּץ אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְאַרְבָּעִים לָיְלָה נָתַן יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֵלַי אֶת שְׁנֵי לֻחֹת הָאֲבָנִים לֻחוֹת הַבְּרִית:

This combination of placement and commentary by Judaica Press is a bit perplexing. Rashi does not tell us upon which pasuk he comments. Rather, we rely on the dibur hamatchil. Yet the dibur hamatchil is לחת, spelled entirely chaser, when there is no such spelling in pasuk 10. And Rashi says לחת כתיב, yet there is no such spelling in pasuk 10. Why, then, do they place Rashi's commentary upon this pasuk?

More than that, in the next pasuk, pasuk 11, we have the fairly unique spelling לחת, entirely chaser. It seems that they should have placed Rashi's comment on pasuk 11.

Indeed, not only do they place Rashi's comment on pasuk 10, but in the translation, they refer to it as written לוחת rather than לוחות. In other words, only that the second vav is missing, not the first one.

I would guess that whoever wrote the commentary and decided on what pasuk to place it was different from the person who put in the Hebrew text of Rashi. And whoever took the Hebrew text of Rashi took it from some other place, without regard to the text chosen in the commentary. And if the author of the Judaica Press Rashi translation had his preference, he would have had initial vavs in לוחת in Rashi as well.

Meanwhile, in the nice Chumash printing with Gur Aryeh, they place this Rashi on pasuk 11, which after all has the word לחת.

Perhaps looking to Rashi's sources can help us resolve this. This was, after all, drawn from midrash Tanchuma. Does Tanchuma spell it לוחת or לחת?

Alas, the version at Daat isn't going to help us! They have:
אמר רבי חנינא:
לוחות כתיב: שלא היו גדולים זה מזה, אלא שניהם שוין, והייתה פסולת שניהם כאחד. 
It is certainly not spelled entirely malei. Besides not according to the spelling in any pasuk in context, we would not be able to make the derasha, which is based on chaser-ness.

This version of Midrash Tanchuma at HebrewBooks spells it entirely chaser, as לחת. This would indicate we should put Rashi as commenting on pasuk 11, since Rashi drew from this midrash. On the other hand, how much stock should we put in the precise spelling in the midrash. Was the scribe entirely careful? Maybe Rashi had a different version. But then point out that Rashi, as well, seems to have לחת, in accordance with this midrash.

But then, I will point out Berliner's printing of Rashi, based on manuscripts. He places it on pasuk 10; and the dibur haMatchil is לוחת, and Rashi says לוחת כתיב. And we can guess, along with this manuscript, that there was similarly a text of Tanchuma with this spelling. And so it makes sense to use this good text of Rashi, and place Rashi on pasuk 10, just as Judaica Press did.

Aside from any of this, maybe we can select the correct text on the basis of content. What recommends לחת is that it is the "strangest". Many of the others in context are spelled לוחת. Thus, two in pasuk 9, one in pasuk 11. The Samaritans indeed fix this one to accord with the rest. There is one הלחת in pasuk 17. Still, we might expect the derasha to be on the "stranger" of the two spellings.

However, if we consider the nature of the derasha, then we see that there is no need for the double-chaser. The idea of the derasha is that despite the kerei being לוחות, plural, it is written as (construct) singular. This singular instead of plural is based on the absence of the second vav, and has nothing to do with the first.

This doesn't mean that it couldn't be based on לחת, but we might as well use it at the earlier opportunity, in pasuk 10.

As an aside, I am not certain what is "bothering" or motivating Rashi. Even if true that the two luchot were so equivalent, why should it really matter? Is this truly something necessary for Rashi to include in his commentary, when he selects from a set of many other midrashim?

Perhaps the idea is to indicate the perfection of these stone tablets, carved out and engraved by God Himself, such that this tells of of Hashem's awesomeness.

In terms of the midrash itself, perhaps it is this idea of perfection. Alternatively, consider the context of this midrash:

שני לוחות אבנים כנגד חתן וכלה,
כנגד שני שושבינין,
כנגד שמים וארץ,
כנגד שני סופרים,
כנגד שתי תורות,
 תורה שבכתב ותורה שבעל פה,
כנגד שני עולמות, העולם הזה והעולם הבא. (שנאמר): שני לוחות. 
אמר רבי חנינא:
לוחות כתיב: שלא היו גדולים זה מזה, אלא שניהם שוין, והייתה פסולת שניהם כאחד. 
Maybe the idea is the equalization of the aspects of each of the two tablets. If one tablet has bein adam laMakom and the other bein adam lachaveiro,  perhaps Rabbi Chanina is promoting equal stress. Or it could be the equality of importance of Oral Torah and Written Torah.

Did the Israelites have shoes in the wilderness?

Summary: Pretty clearly, they did. What, then, shall we make of Rashi's comment referring to כדרך הולכי יחף שרגליהם נפוחות?

Post: In parashat Ekev:

4. Your clothing did not wear out upon you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.ד. שִׂמְלָתְךָ לֹא בָלְתָה מֵעָלֶיךָ וְרַגְלְךָ לֹא בָצֵקָה זֶה אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה:

Rashi writes:

Your clothing did not wear out: The clouds of glory would rub their [the Israelites’] clothes and clean them so that they looked like freshly laundered clothes. And also their children, as they grew, their clothes grew along with them, like a snail’s shell, which grows along with it- [Pesikta d’Rav Kahana p. 92a]שמלתך לא בלתה: ענני כבוד היו שפים בכסותם ומגהצים אותם כמין כלים מגוהצים, ואף קטניהם כמו שהיו גדלים היה גדל לבושן עמהם, כלבוש הזה של חומט שגדל עמו:
nor did [your foot] swell: Heb. לֹא בָצֵקָה [This means:] Neither [did your foot] swell like dough בָּצֵק, as [usually happens] with those who walk barefoot, that their feet swell.לא בצקה: לא נפחה כבצק, כדרך הולכי יחף שרגליהם נפוחות:

One might interpret that second comment as indicating that the Israelites did not wear shoes, and yet there was this special protection from the clouds of glory that their feet did not swell. The problem with such an interpretation is that there is a pasuk, in Devarim 29:4, in parashat Ki Tavo, which clearly indicates that they indeed wore shoes:

4. I led you through the desert for forty years [during which time] your garments did not wear out from upon you, nor did your shoes wear out from upon your feet.ד. וָאוֹלֵךְ אֶתְכֶם אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה בַּמִּדְבָּר לֹא בָלוּ שַׂלְמֹתֵיכֶם מֵעֲלֵיכֶם וְנַעַלְךָ לֹא בָלְתָה מֵעַל רַגְלֶךָ:

If they wore shoes, why should we think that their feet would swell? Based on this particular understanding of Rashi's point, there is an apparent contradiction between Rashi and that distant pasuk, or else between the two pesukim.

The Taz discusses this, mentions that many discuss this problem and propose solutions, but that he doesn't like any of them. Rather, the idea is that the ananei hakavod were rubbing and cleaning the clothing, including the shoes. But if the ananei hakavod represent Hashem's glory, it is not fitting for them to have rubbed the soles of the shoes. And so those soles wore away. Despite this, via Divine favor, their feet did not swell. And so we can establish both pesukim in this manner.

[Now back to my = Josh's = analysis.]

I don't know what the other proposed solutions were -- I could come up with some nice harmonizations myself -- but this strikes me as an extremely unlikely explanation of the pesukim and of Rashi. Partial shoes? Really?

The correct and straightforward solution to this is as Minchas Yehuda (note 3*) gives it. There was never a problem, or contradiction. Rashi isn't saying that the Israelites went about barefoot. Rather, he is explaining this local pasuk in light of that distant pasuk in Devarim 29:4. Because their shoes were kept fresh and didn't wear out -- וְנַעַלְךָ לֹא בָלְתָה מֵעַל רַגְלֶךָ -- they did not have to walk barefoot. And because they did not have to walk barefoot, their feet did not swell --  וְרַגְלְךָ לֹא בָצֵקָה. Because only the feet of barefoot walkers swell -- כדרך הולכי יחף שרגליהם נפוחות -- and these Israelites did not need to walk like those barefoot walkers.

Gur Aryeh says the same straightforward explanation.

If we look in Siftei Chachamim, we see the following two answers: The ones with shoes were those who left Egypt, but those who were born in the midbar did not possess shoes. Mizrachi suggests something rather sensible, that Rashi never said that they barefoot, but just that their feet did not swell in the same manner as those who go barefoot. Thus, the purpose is only to describe the manner of swelling. (And also that they did not come to this manner of swelling because they were not barefoot. This appears to be the same as Gur Aryeh.)

So too does Bartenura explain it.

Torah Tour of Bronx Zoo with Rabbi Slifkin

This coming Sunday:

Ekev sources

by aliyah
Rishon (Devarim 7:12; in mechon-mamre: lineartruptargum)
Sheni (8:11)
Shlishi (9:4)
Revii (10:1)
Chamishi (10:12)
Shishi (11:10)
Shevii, maftir (11:22)
Haftara (yeshaya 49:14)

by perek
perek 7 ; 8 ; 9 ; 10 ; 11

Rashi, in English and Hebrew
Shadal (here and here)
Daat -- with Rashi, Ramban, Seforno, Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, Rabbenu Bachya, Midrash Rabba, Tanchuma+, Gilyonot
Gilyonot Nechama Leibovitz (Hebrew)
Tiferes Yehonasan from Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz
Chasdei Yehonasan -- not until Shofetim
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)
Collected commentary of Saadia Gaon on Torah
Zohar, with English translation
Imrei Shafer, Rav Shlomo Kluger
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 (324)
Chizkuni (139)
Abarbanel (346)
Shach (286)
Yalkut Reuveni (pg 162)
Sefer Hachinuch (pg 132)
Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite (228)

Daat, Rashi In Hebrew (perek 7891011)
Judaica Press Rashi in English and Hebrew
MizrachiMizrachi (289, JNUL)
Gur Aryeh (Maharal of Prague) -- and here
Berliner's Beur on Rashi (here and here)
Commentary on Rashi by Yosef of Krasnitz
R' Yisrael Isserlin (on Rashi, 16, JNUL)
Two supercommentaries on Rashi, by Chasdai Almosnino and Yaakov Kneizel
Rav Natan ben Shishon Shapira Ashkenazi (16th century), (JNUL, pg 159)
Yeriot Shlomo (Maharshal)
Moda L'Bina (Wolf Heidenheim)
Dikdukei Rashi
Mekorei Rashi (in Mechokekei Yehuda -- also Minchat Yehuda)
Yosef Daas
Nachalas Yaakov
Medayek HaRashi
Prachei Rashi
Pi Habe'er on Mizrachi
Baalei HaTosafot al HaTorah
Also see Mikraos Gedolos above, which has Rashi with Sifsei Chachamim

Daat, Ramban in Hebrew (perek 7891011)
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 7891011)
Mavaser Ezra (nothing on Ekev)
R' Shmuel Motot (on Ibn Ezra, pg 48, JNUL)
Ibn Kaspi's supercommentary on Ibn Ezra, different from his commentary (and here)
Avi Ezer
Tzofnas Paneach
Ezra Lehavin
Also see Mikraos Gedolos above, which has Ibn Ezra with Avi Ezer

Targum Onkelos opposite Torah text
Shadal's Ohev Ger on Targum Onkelos
Chalifot Semalot
Avnei Tzion -- two commentaries on Onkelos
Or Hatargum on Onkelos
A critical edition of Targum Yonatan
Commentary on Targum Yonatan and Targum Yerushalmi
Tanach with masoretic notes on the side
Commentary on the Masorah
Taamei Masoret (nothing on Ekev)

Midrash Rabba at Daat (perek 7891011)
Midrash Tanchuma at Daat (perek 7891011)
Devarim 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 (nothing on Ekev)
Nefesh Yehonasan by Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz
Midrash Aggada (Buber)
Yalkut Shimoni
Tanach with Sifrei and HaTorah veHamitzvah
Midrash Lekach Tov

haftara (Yeshayahu 49:14)
In a separate Mikraos Gedolos, with Targum, Rashi, Mahari Kara, Radak, Ibn Ezra, Metzudat David.
As a haftara in a chumash Devarim, with Malbim and Ibn Ezra
Haftarah in Gutnick Edition
Daat, which includes Yalkut Shimoni
Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rabbi Slifkin lecture in Flatbush -- Dinosaurs and Evolution -- tonight

Rabbi Natan Slifkin will be speaking tonight, Wednesday, July 28th, in Flatbush.

Subject: Dinosaurs and Evolution
Time: 7:30pm
Place: Talmud Torah Learning Program
1305 Coney Island Avenue (between Ave I & J)
In the Simcha Hall

Men and women are welcome.
$7 suggested donation

Rabbi Slifkin's books will also be on sale at the lecture, including the New
Edition of "The Challenge of Creation" which is not yet available in USA stores

There will also be a special offer available at the lecture of all 4 of Rabbi
Slifkin's books currently in print for just $90 which is a $25 savings.

What is the tzir'ah?

Summary: Hornet or sickness? Rashi, along with midrash, and Ibn Ezra.

Post: From parashat Eikev, with Rashi, about how Hashem will aid the Israelites in conquering the Canaanites once they cross over the Yarden:

20. And also the tzir'ah, the Lord, your God, will incite against them, until the survivors and those who hide from you perish.כ. וְגַם אֶת הַצִּרְעָה יְשַׁלַּח יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בָּם עַד אֲבֹד הַנִּשְׁאָרִים וְהַנִּסְתָּרִים מִפָּנֶיךָ:
The tzir’ah: Heb. הַצִּרְעָה, a species of flying insect which injected poison into them [the Canaanites], making them impotent and blinding their eyes wherever they hid. — [Sotah 36a]הצרעה: מין שרץ העוף, שהיתה זורקת בהם מרה ומסרסתן ומסמאה את עיניהם בכל מקום שהיו נסתרים שם:

(Also from Midrash Aggadah.) Midrash Aggadah's version:

וגם את הצרעה.  מלמד שהצרעה עברה עמהם בירדן ׳ וכל אותם
אורבים שהיו מטמינים עצמם במערות כדי להרוג, היתה הצרעה נכנסת לשם ומכה
אותם בעיניהם והיו מתים

That is, there was already a hornet that aided them in the time of Moshe. The gam is perhaps inclusive, telling us that Hashem will also send the tzir'ah. And the known tzir'ah that they have already seen.

The version in Sotah states that the tzir'ah, this special hornet, did not pass over the Yarden with them. Rather, this only happened in the time of Moshe. The reference seems to be to Yehoshua 24:12:
יב וָאֶשְׁלַח לִפְנֵיכֶם אֶת-הַצִּרְעָה וַתְּגָרֶשׁ אוֹתָם מִפְּנֵיכֶם שְׁנֵי מַלְכֵי הָאֱמֹרִי לֹא בְחַרְבְּךָ וְלֹא בְקַשְׁתֶּךָ:

where the two kings of the Emorites would be taken to be Sichon and Og, from the time of Moshe. If this is contrasted with the wars the Israelites must wage, with sword and bow, then it didn't pass.

At any rate, in Sotah 36a:
A Tanna taught: The hornet did not pass over [Jordan] with them; but behold it is written: And I will send the hornet before thee! {Shemot 23:28, referring to the land of Canaan!}  — R. Simeon b. Lakish said: It stood by the bank of the Jordan and injected a virus [into the Canaanites] which blinded their eyes above and castrated them below; as it is said: Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above and his roots from beneath etc. {Amos 2:9} R. Papa said: There were two hornets, one in the period of Moses and the other in the period of Joshua; the former did not pass over [Jordan] but the other did.
I am unsure what the basis is for saying that the hornet did not pass, as in that brayta, such that this needs resolution. If anyone knows, please drop me a comment. Otherwise, I will leave it as an open question. The answer is alternatively separate hornets or that the hornets attacked but did not pass over.

Onkelos translates it as ערעיתא, hornet.

Ibn Ezra understands it as a type of sickness of the body, along the lines of צרעת. So does Ibn Janach, that it is כליון ודבר. Perhaps this makes more sense in context, of killing off the remnants in hiding. See also Ibn Ezra on parashat Mishpatim, on Shemot 23:28, as well as Yahel Or and Karnei Or there.

Digressing to a Radak I saw on that pasuk in sefer Yehoshua:
[כד, יב]
שני מלכי האמורי -
פירש: וגרשה שני מלכי האמרי גם כן, והם סיחון ועוג.

וכן אמרו רבותינו ז"ל:

שתי צרעות היו חדא דמשה וחדא דיהושע והצרעה היא מין זבוב רע מטיל ארס.
ואמרו: כי הייתה הצרעה מכה בעיניה ומסמא עיניהם ולא היו יכולין להלחם ובאין ישראל והורגין אותם, כמו שאמר: לא בחרבך ולא בקשתך .

צרעה ארעיתא.
ואמר למה נקרא שמה ארעיתא?
שעומדת לקראת אדם ומכה בפניו.

אשר קרך דארעך.
This is a bit strange. In our Onkelos, tzir'ah is consistently translated as ערעיתא with a leading ayin rather than aleph. This is an extremely straightforward translation. It is near transliteration. That is, there are two ayins in Aramaic, one corresponding to the ayin of Hebrew and one corresponding to a tzadi of Hebrew. (Or rather, when this strong letter was to be encoded, it was mapped in Hebrew to the letter tzadi and in Aramaic to the ayin.) Thus, the leading ע in Aramaic is equal to the leading צ, and so it is the word צרעה. If there is indeed a Targum which renders it with a leading aleph, this would come from a relaxing and switching of these two gutturals, not from דארעך. Our version of Targum local to sefer Yehoshua does not have this, but I suppose Radak did.

Although interestingly, from the language of ארעא as mishap, occurrence, there is the masculine plural ארעייא which means evils, diseases. (See Jastrow, pg 125.) This is just coincidence, though.

I would also note Shadal. He does not take the two kings of sefer Yehoshua to be Sichon and Og. Therefore, it is rather fulfillment of the promise in Chumash, in the land of Canaan, even though the specifics are not found elsewhere:
וגם את הצרעה יהושע כ " ד י " ב הזכירה לישראל א " כ בהכרח נתאמת הדבר אע " פ שלא נזכר המאורע הזה בפירוש הסיפור כיבוש הארץ .

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Interesting Posts and Articles #274

  1. First, some blog roundups. Life In Israel has a nice one. And this week's Haveil Havolim is here.
  2. From Life In Israel's roundup, Dixie Yid with a story of the Steipler's deep knowledge. This is predicated on accepting the veracity of the theory of souls given by the Baal HaTanya.
  3. Haaretz has a story about a law code, similar in style to the Code of Hammurabi, discover at Tel Hazor, in Israel.
  4. Life In Israel about violent protests in Geulah, with the violence being smashing windows of stores selling purportedly "untzniusdik" clothing. As he writes, bein hazemanim has begun. This makes me think of the Chelkas Mechokek in Even HaEzer, siman 23, seif katan 1, citing Sefer Chassidim, and wonder whether there should be a concerted effort to get all these kids MP4 players, with all this might entail, since the alternative is boredom and then this sort of behavior in the name of religiosity.

    Alternatively, just confront them, like in this instance.
  5. Also at Life In Israel, as well as Mother In Israel, how the veiled women from Rabbanit Keren movement are threatening to pull their kids out of cheder because the wives of the rabbeim don't veil themselves, and therefore aren't tznius enough.
  6. At Hirhurim, Rabbi Ari Enkin on the segulah of 40 days at the kotel:
  7. Avakesh with a funny ad regarding arranged marriage, and choice.
  8. Emes veEmunah doesn't like the sefer published by Rav Yitzchak Shapira, which includes discussions of under what situations killing a non-Jew is permissible. And this rav has been arrested for incitement. I don't know enough about the situation, but I don't think I agree. The sefer was called Torat Melachim, or something like that, which presumably is discussing the laws of a Jewish government, just as in the Rambam's hilchot melachim. And religions often have what to say about war, what is moral and ethical, and what is out of bounds. Consider how the Catholic Church has the Just War Doctrine, for when one may engage in war. Certainly the halachics and hashkafics of this should be fair game to discuss, and to discuss in a scholarly manner based on Torah sources.
  9. Glatt Kosher cheese and cake.
  10. Here at parshablog, check out the Ibn Ezra as a round-Earther.

Fee fi fo fum! Deviating from masorah because of a French homonym

Summary: Fi means pooh! or bother! in French. When the word precedes Hashem, should we change it to Pi?

Post: I saw a fun Minchas Shai for parashat Ekev this week. The pasuk in question:

There is a kametz aleph at the end of מוצא and a conjunctive accent, the mercha. Therefore, the peh in פי-ה is fricative, without a dagesh. This is as it should be, following a general rule.

However, Minchas Shai records a different developed tradition:

That this "fi-Hashem" among others was changed to "Pi Hashem" because "fi" is a negative statement in Frenchm and chalila to say this about Hashem. Minchas Shai elaborates that he heard that, in French, "fi" means nothing and zero. And that meanwhile, in all the sefarim, it is a fei without a dagesh, according to its law, and we should not worry about the French language, for we do not nullify the normal way of the Holy Tongue because of other languages. Further, he refers to another fi Hashem in the first perek of Michah.

This is indeed an interesting tradition which developed, even if it was discarded. I can think of theories of krei and ketiv along similar lines - that some of the krei and ketiv, such as yishkavena / yishgalena, developed because the original yishgalena developed a rather crude connotation. So too techorim / afolim. That people would organically suggest modifications to the way it should be read for such practical concerns of implications in the mind of present-day listeners is a nice example of a living tradition of developing masorah. Still, I can understand why reject it.

(Also, I don't know enough French or Old French; but I don't get nada, nothing. Perhaps 'pas', an adverb meaning 'not'? But I would guess that what was meant was "fi", corresponding to English "pooh!" and "fie".)

Perhaps this is a reach, but I would propose something else. In Baruch She'amar, there is a rather strange variant nusach. Instead of hamehullal be-fi amo, that Hashem is praised in the mouth of His people, some have it as be-feh amo. This is mystifying. Feh is the absolute form, whereas we should have the construct form, based on the rules of dikduk.

But maybe this is the solution. I don't know where people began saying it, but what if it came from this negative meaning of fi in French. Because of the preceding bet, and the preceding sheva, the letter פ would indeed be fricative. It is be-fi rather than be-pi. It is mildly insulting, in a poem about praising Hashem, to say that He is praised in the "fi" of His nation. And so, perhaps rather than adding a dagesh, as in the pasuk Minchas Shai discusses, someone changed it to the absolute instead of construct. They knew that this violated the rules of dikduk, slightly, but there is good cause for this deviation, because of the negative implication for French speakers.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ibn Ezra as a Round-Earther

Summary: While there is a seeming Rashi / midrash, and an explicit Mizrachi, in Va'etchanan that the earth is flat, Ibn Ezra on that parasha's haftorah indicates that the earth is round.

Post: In this week's haftorah, we encounter the following pasuk:
הַיֹּשֵׁב עַל-חוּג הָאָרֶץ, וְיֹשְׁבֶיהָ כַּחֲגָבִים; הַנּוֹטֶה כַדֹּק שָׁמַיִם, וַיִּמְתָּחֵם כָּאֹהֶל לָשָׁבֶת
22. It is He Who sits above the circle of the earth, and whose inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heaven like a curtain, and He spread them out like a tent to dwell.
the circle: Heb. חוּג, an expression similar to (infra 44:13) “And with a compass (וּבַמְּחוּגָה),” a circle (compas in O.F.).
and whose inhabitants: are to Him [lit. before Him] like grasshoppers.
like a curtain: Heb. כַדֹּק, a curtain, toile in French.

What is the chug ha'aretz? Ibn Ezra explains that it means the curvature of the earth. Thus:

He points us to Yeshaya 44, just as did Rashi.
ישעיהו פרק מד
  • פסוק י"ג: חָרַשׁ עֵצִים, נָטָה קָו, יְתָאֲרֵהוּ בַשֶּׂרֶד, יַעֲשֵׂהוּ בַּמַּקְצֻעוֹת וּבַמְּחוּגָה יְתָאֳרֵהוּ; וַיַּעֲשֵׂהוּ כְּתַבְנִית אִישׁ, כְּתִפְאֶרֶת אָדָם לָשֶׁבֶת בָּיִת. 

Then he says that this pasuk is ecidence that the earth is round and not square (/flat), despite there not being a requirement for the pasuk to prove this, for the matter is known with complete proofs.

This strikes me as somewhat out of the ordinary. While Chazal certainly take pains to make derashot or bring pesukim to show known things, such as the direction of Bavel or that the sun rises in the East, they had their own reasons for this. But I don't expect Ibn Ezra to be doing such.

Indeed, given that he mentions the competing theory (of רבועה), I would guess that he is trying to convince contemporaries. There are two methods of proof. There is scientific proof, and there is textual proof from Tanach. And different groups would respond differently to these different types of proof. (Rationalists vs. non-rationalists?) And so he brings the pasuk as evidence, while noting the extreme obviousness of this even without the pasuk.

(See the midrash cited by Rashi, and Mizrachi on that Rashi, for the view that the earth is not round but rather flat.)

While I am convinced by the scientific proofs, I am not convinced by the textual proof from this pasuk in Yeshaya. Radak on the pasuk writes:

היושב - כאלו אמר על השמים כי הם חוג הארץ כמו שיעשה אדם במחוגה העגולה, כי למחוגה יש שתי אצבעות האחת יעמוד ובשנית יקיף העגולה והנה הנקודה בתוך העגולה והארץ כמו הנקודה, כי היא התחתון שבעגולה והשמים סביב הארץ כמו העגולה.

ואמר: היושב 
דרך משל, כי אין לו מקום יתעלה מכל דמיון אלא כאדם היושב על מקום גבוה מאד ומביט במקום השפל ידמה לו הדבר הגדול קטן, לפיכך אמר ויושביה כחגבים, כמו שאמר: ונהי בעינינו כחגבים וכן היינו בעיניהם. 

The circle of the earth refers to the heavens. And because of this distance, the inhabitants are like grasshoppers. And even according to flat-earthers such as Mizrachi, the rakia is curved, over the earth.

I don't know about the flat-earth / round-earth beliefs of Radak, but regardless, there is much to recommend this interpretation of the pasuk as it referring to the rakia, on its own merits provided by context.

Update: To counter claims that he was talking of a flat disk, besides what I wrote in the comment about this not being contemporary Muslim astronomy, see also this, from Ibn Ezra's Sefer haTeamim:

He discusses Ptolemy, who works with a spherical Earth, and refers to the earth as a galgal. He clearly knows the Earth is a sphere.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mosquito Control Notice: Health Department To Spray Tuesday, July 27

To reduce mosquito activity and the risk of West Nile virus, the Health Department will spray pesticide from trucks in the following parts of Queens on Tuesday, July 27, 2010, between the hours of 8:30 P.M. and 6:00 A.M the following morning, weather permitting. In case of bad weather, spraying will be delayed until the night of July 28 during the same hours. 

While the virus has been detected in mosquitoes in New York City, no human cases of West Nile virus have been identified this season. 

Neighborhoods:Parts of Pomonok, Queensboro Hill, Kissena Park, Murray Hill, Fresh Meadows, Flushing Cemetery and Saint Mary’s Cemetery

Boundaries:Bordered by 188th Street, Long Island Expressway, Utopia Parkway to the East; 160th Street, Parsons Boulevard, 45th Avenue, Kissena Boulevard, Elder Avenue, Main Street, Dahlia Avenue, Blossom Avenue, College Point Boulevard, and Crommelin Street to the North; Booth Memorial Avenue and Main Street to the West; and Jewel Avenue to the South.

Zip Codes:11355, 11358, 11365, 11367

For this spraying, the Health Department will use a very low rate of Anvil®, a synthetic pesticide. When properly used, this product poses no significant risks to human health, but the Health Department recommends that people take the following precautions to minimize direct exposure:
• Whenever possible, stay indoors during spraying. Persons with asthma or other respiratory conditions especially are encouraged to stay inside during spraying since direct exposure could worsen these conditions.
• Air conditioners may remain on. But if you wish to reduce the possibility of indoor exposure to pesticides, set the air conditioner vent to the closed position, or choose the re-circulate function.
• Remove children’s toys, outdoor equipment, and clothes from outdoor areas during spraying. If outdoor equipment and toys are exposed to pesticides, wash them with soap and water before using again.
• Wash skin and clothing exposed to pesticides with soap and water. Always wash your produce thoroughly with water before cooking or eating.

Proposed spraying area:


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