Friday, July 23, 2010

Distant binding for Eretz Zavas Chalav Udvash?

Summary: How should eretz zavat chalav udvash bind? Distantly, or close by? There are irregularities in each, but why this might be another instance of distance binding. Ibn Ezra and Ibn Caspi.

Post: Consider the following pesukim from the beginning of perek 6, in parashat VaEtchanan:

א  וְזֹאת הַמִּצְוָה, הַחֻקִּים וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים, אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, לְלַמֵּד אֶתְכֶם--לַעֲשׂוֹת בָּאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ.1 Now this is the commandment, the statutes, and the ordinances, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it--
ב  לְמַעַן תִּירָא אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לִשְׁמֹר אֶת-כָּל-חֻקֹּתָיו וּמִצְו‍ֹתָיו אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּךָ, אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבֶן-בִּנְךָ, כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ--וּלְמַעַן, יַאֲרִכֻן יָמֶיךָ.2 that thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.
ג  וְשָׁמַעְתָּ יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְשָׁמַרְתָּ לַעֲשׂוֹת, אֲשֶׁר יִיטַב לְךָ, וַאֲשֶׁר תִּרְבּוּן מְאֹד:  כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֶיךָ, לָךְ--אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב, וּדְבָשׁ.  {פ}3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD, the God of thy fathers, hath promised unto thee--a land flowing with milk and honey. {P}

There is some awkwardness in the phrase אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ at the end of pasuk 3. How does it fit into the pasuk. It does not seem to do so straightforwardly, since the results of veShamarta laasot is that it may be well and that you might increase mightily. That is what was promised to you. If so, אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ comes out of nowhere. What is the syntactic and logical transition to this last phrase?

Ibn Ezra gives two suggestions:

ארץ זבת חלב -דבק עם לרשתה 
והנה הוא רחוק ממנו, או יהיה חסר בי"ת כמו הנמצא בית ה':

That is, (second answer) these promises will be fulfilled in an eretz zavat chalav udvash, but the beis is implicit, and so not present explicitly. Or else (his first answer) this is an instance of distance binding, such that eretz zavat chalav at the end of pasuk 3 continues and modifies the word lerishta at the end of pasuk 1. (Indeed, that appears to be how JPS renders it, above; note the two dashes at the end of pasuk 1 and at the end of pasuk 3.)

Ibn Caspi promotes this distant binding explanation:

ארץ זבת חלב ודבש. דבק עם (א) לרשתה, ואם
הוא רחוק, והלשון טיב מאד:

I'm interested in instances of distant binding because of the cases where it makes more of an impact. For example, by an amah ivriya, we say that if he doesn't do "these three" she goes free without money. Those three might be the nearer she'eirah kesuta ve'onata which he might deprive her of, e.g. if he takes an additional wife; or it might be the more distant three ways of leaving servitude.

Or by the korban Pesach, the distant binding of the words hadavar hazeh, as I discuss in this parshablog post.

There are alternatives. One which I thought up, which might have promise, is that the phrase eretz zavat Chalav udvash is idiomatic, and refers to the promise of not just a land, but success and fertility in that land. As such, it is the perfect summing of the promise within pasuk 3, of prospering and increasing mightily.

Ramban has a few grammatical suggestions, I see, which avoids the need for distant binding or the implicit beis:
ארץ זבת חלב ודבש - דבק עם "לרשתה" (בפסוק א), ואם הוא רחוק. או יהיה חסר בי"ת, כמו הנמצא בית ה' (מ"ב יב יא), לשון ר"א. ואם כן, יחסר עוד "מאשר תרבון מאד" "בו" או "בעבורו". ואין צורך, כי "למען יאריכון ימיך" נמשך לכאן, וטעמו "למען אשר ייטב לך". או מלת "אשר" בעצמה תשמש כן, כמו ויסירה מגבירה אשר עשתה מפלצת (מ"א טו יג), בעבור שעשתה, וכן באשר את אשתו (בראשית לט ט), בעבור שאת אשתו, וכן הכתוב אשר אנכי מצווך היום אשר ייטב לך וגו' ולמען תאריך ימים על האדמה (לעיל ד מ):ש

1 comment:

Balashon said...

I wrote here about a verse in Yeshayahu where "chalav u'dvash" isn't a positive thing:


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