Thursday, July 01, 2010

Was Pinchas descended from Yisro or Yosef?

Summary: Or both? Should we indeed follow the gemara's harmonization? A study in Rashi, and in approaches to midrash aggada.

Post: In praising Pinchas, Hashem gives his lineage through his father Eleazar and his grandfather Aharon:

11. Phinehas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the kohen has turned My anger away from the children of Israel by his zealously avenging Me among them, so that I did not destroy the children of Israel because of My zeal.יא. פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן הֵשִׁיב אֶת חֲמָתִי מֵעַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקַנְאוֹ אֶת קִנְאָתִי בְּתוֹכָם וְלֹא כִלִּיתִי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקִנְאָתִי
Rashi explains:

Phinehas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the kohen:Since the tribes were disparaging him, saying, Have you seen the son of Puti, whose mother’s father [Jethro] fattened (פִּטֵּם) calves for idols (See Rashi, Exod. 6:25), and who killed a chieftain of an Israelite tribe? For this reason, Scripture traces his pedigree to Aaron. — [Sanh. 82b, Num. Rabbah 21:3, Mid. Tanchuma Pinchas 2]פינחס בן אלעזר בן אהרן הכהן: לפי שהיו השבטים מבזים אותו, הראיתם בן פוטי זה שפיטם אבי אמו עגלים לעבודה זרה והרג נשיא שבט מישראל, לפיכך בא הכתוב ויחסו אחר אהרן:

But how could Rashi state categorically that Yisro was his mother's father? After all, there is a conflicting midrash that understands Putiel as Yosef, and a gemara in Sotah which harmonizes it? Gur Aryeh writes all this.

Thus, he explains that mother's father is not necessarily precise. In Sotah 43a they said that either the mother's father was of Yitro and his mother's mother was of Yosef, or the reverse. And furthermore, in Sifrei on pasuk 31:6, it states "why did Pinchas go to take vengeance upon Midian? For he went to take vengeance for Yosef his mother's father." And if so, his mother's father was from Yosef. Rather, its explanation is either "mother's father" or "mother's mother's father", for even the mother's mother's father is called "mother's father, as is written (Shemot 2:16) "and they came to Reuel their father."

I don't know whether any of this entered Rashi's mind. Though likely if he were pressed or challenged on the point, he would give this answer, which is the answer the gemara in Sotah more or less gives.

Indeed, Rashi does give the harmonized peshat of the gemara Sotah. For on parashat Ve'ara, the pasuk, Shemot 6:25, stated:
כה  וְאֶלְעָזָר בֶּן-אַהֲרֹן לָקַח-לוֹ מִבְּנוֹת פּוּטִיאֵל, לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה, וַתֵּלֶד לוֹ, אֶת-פִּינְחָס; אֵלֶּה, רָאשֵׁי אֲבוֹת הַלְוִיִּם--לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם. 25 And Eleazar Aaron's son took him one of the daughters of Putiel to wife; and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers' houses of the Levites according to their families. 
And Rashi wrote:

[one] of the daughters of Putiel-: Of the seed of Jethro, who fattened (פִּטֵּ ם) calves for idolatry (see Rashi on Exod. 2:16) and [who was also] of the seed of Joseph, who defied and fought (פִּטְפֵּט) against his passion [when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife]. — [from B.B. 109b]מבנות פוטיאל: מזרע יתרו שפטם עגלים לעבודה זרה. ומזרע יוסף שפטפט ביצרו:

(See my discussion of the pasuk and Rashi here). So certainly he would agree to a harmonized peshat here. It was not on Rashi's mind, and isn't necessary to bring up here, because only the negative etymology is necessary for the point in context, which was Hashem's defense via genealogy.

Yet I would disagree with this harmonization, for three reasons.

(1) The individual sources make no mention of the other position. That is, Tanchuma only has the Yitro genealogy and Sifrei only has the Yosef genealogy. Tanchuma has:
פנחס בן אלעזרמה ראה הקדוש ברוך הוא ליחס פנחס אחר מעשה זה?שבשעה שנדקר זמרי עם כזבי, עמדו השבטים עליו ואמרו, ראיתם בן פוטי זה שפטם אבי אמו עגלים לעבודה זרה, הרג נשיא שבט מישראל. לפיכך בא הכתוב ליחסו, פנחס בן אלעזר בן אהרן הכהן. 
but it makes no claims, anywhere I can find, as to Pinchas descending from Yosef. And the Sifrei has, regarding the war against Midian:
מה הלך פינחס ולא הלך אלעזר לפי שהלך
פינחס לנקום נקמת אבי אמו שנאמר
והמדנים מכרו אותו אל מצרים

but it makes no claims, anywhere I can find, as to Pinchas descending from Yisro. When we have two distinct sources, which make two claims of genealogy regarding the same person, the אבי אמו, and are interpreting the word Putiel, there is absolutely no reason to try to harmonize! This is a clear case of machlokes between midrashic sources, Sifrei and Tanchuma, just as we can have a machlokes between Rav and Shmuel, or between Rashi and Ibn Ezra.

(2) The first to harmonize is the setama de-gemara, which is post-Ravina and Rav Ashi. And this harmonization is part of a general harmonizing trend by the setammaim.

In Sanhedrin 82b, where we only have the Yitro genealogy, there is no harmonization:
 התחילו שבטים מבזין אותו ראיתם בן פוטי זה שפיטם אבי אמו עגלים לעבודת כוכבים והרג נשיא שבט מישראל בא הכתוב ויחסו פנחס בן אלעזר בן אהרן הכהן
The tribes now began abusing him: 'See ye this son of Puti [= Putiel] whose maternal grandfather fattened [pittem] cattle for idols,  and who has now slain the prince of a tribe of Israel!' Therefore Scripture detailed his ancestry: Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the Priest.
Where we have mention of the Yosef genealogy, they bring up Yisro and harmonize. Thus, in Sotah 43a:
תנא לא לחנם הלך פינחס למלחמה אלא ליפרע דין אבי אמו שנאמר  (בראשית לז, לו) והמדנים מכרו אותו אל מצרים וגו' למימרא דפינחס מיוסף אתי והא כתיב  (שמות ו, כה) ואלעזר בן אהרן לקח לו מבנות פוטיאל לו לאשה מאי לאו דאתי מיתרו שפיטם עגלים לעבודת כוכבים לא מיוסף שפיטפט ביצרו והלא שבטים מבזין אותו ראיתם בן פוטי זה בן שפיטם אבי אמו עגלים לעבודת כוכבים יהרוג נשיא מישראל אלא אי אבוה דאימיה מיוסף אימיה דאימיה מיתרו ואי אימיה דאימיה מיוסף אבוה דאימיה מיתרו דיקא נמי דכתיב מבנות פוטיאל תרי משמע שמע מינה:
A Tanna taught: Not for naught did Phinehas go to the battle [against Midian] but to exact judgment on behalf of his mother's father [Joseph]; as it is said: And the Midianites sold him into Egypt etc. 
Is this to say that Phinehas was a descendant of Joseph? But behold it is written: And Eleazar Aaron's son took him one of the daughters of Putiel to wife; [and she bare him Phinehas]!  Is it not to be supposed, then, that he was a descendant of Jethro who fattened [pittem] calves for idolatry? — No; [he was a descendant] of Joseph who mastered [pitpet] his passion. But did not the other tribes despise him [saying], 'Look at this son of Puti, the son whose mother's father fattened calves for idolatry; he killed a prince in Israel!' But, if his mother's father was descended from Joseph, then his mother's mother was descended from Jethro; and if his mother's mother was descended from Joseph, then his mother's father was descended from Jethro. This is also proved as a conclusion from what is written: 'One of the daughters of Putiel', from which are to be inferred two [lines of ancestry]. Draw this conclusion.
There is a division between the brayta, and the setama digmara's analysis and harmonization. And the dual derivation from "of the daughters of Putiel", indicating that there are two daughters of Putiel, one the daughter of Yisro, and one the daughter of Yosef; and Eleazar took of both of them, one as his wife, and one because the wife was descended from the other, is clever, but not found in earlier sources. There is no indication that the Tannaim or Amoraim maintained this.

(3) But most of all, the harmonization seems to go against the simple meaning of one of the Tanaaim. In Bava Batra 109b - 110a, there is a similar harmonization:
אמר רבי אלעזר לעולם ידבק אדם בטובים שהרי משה שנשא בת יתרו יצא ממנו יהונתן אהרן שנשא בת עמינדב יצא ממנו פנחס ופנחס לאו מיתרו אתי והא כתיב  (שמות ו, כה) ואלעזר בן אהרן לקח לו מבנות פוטיאל לו לאשה מאי לאו דאתי מיתרו שפיטם עגלים לע"ז לא דאתי מיוסף שפטפט ביצרו והלא שבטים מבזים אותו ואומרים ראיתם בן פוטי זה בן שפיטם אבי אמו עגלים לע"ז יהרוג נשיא שבט מישראל אלא אי אבוה דאמיה מיוסף אמה דאמיה מיתרו אי אבוה דאמיה מיתרו אמה דאמיה מיוסף דיקא נמי דכתיב מבנות פוטיאל תרתי שמע מינה
R. Eleazar said: One should always associate with good [people]; for behold, from Moses who married the daughter of Jethro,  there descended Jonathan  [while] from Aaron, who married the daughter of Amminadab, there descended Phinehas. But did not Phinehas descend from Jethro? Surely it is written, And Eleazar Aaron's son took him one of the daughters of Putiel to wife;  does not this mean that he descended from Jethro who crammed calves for idol worship? — No; [it means] that he descended from Joseph who conquered  his passions. Did not, however, the tribes sneer at him and say. 'Have you seen this Puti-son? A youth whose mother's father crammed calves for idol-worship should kill the head of a tribe in Israel!' But [this is really the explanation], if his mother's father [descended] from Joseph, his mother's mother [descended] from Jethro; if his mother's father [descended] from Jethro, his mother's mother [descended] from Joseph. [This may] also [be confirmed by] deduction, for it is written, of the daughters of Putiel, from which two [lines of ancestry] are to be inferred.
Again, a harmonization when someone suggested that his maternal grandfather, Putiel, was Yosef. The "problem" is that all this started by Rabbi Eleazar talking about associating with the wicked and getting wicked descendants. Thus, Moshe married the daughter of Yisro while Aaron married the daughter of Aminadav. But if Pinchas indeed was descended from the daughter of Yisro, much closer, as his mother, then it disproves this thesis. That is why a rejection that he came from Yisro is in order. And this is what the gemara first provides. But then, in the interest of harmonization, they agree that the midrash which argues is simultaneously true. If so, then there is the association with the wicked! This makes no sense, and in fact Rabbi Eleazar would be very upset at the mangling of his midrashic statement. For now Pinchas is at least as distant from Yisro as is Yonatan, whose father's mother's father was Yisro. (At least, if Yisro is his mother's mother's father. But the gemara actually gives the flipside as a possibility, that he is more closely related to Yisro.)

Both Rashi and Tosafot offer answers to this profound difficulty. Tosafot:
אלא אי אבוה דאמיה מיוסף אמה דאמיה מיתרו. וא"ת א"כ היאך פנחס בן טובים טפי מיהונתן שהרי אימיה דאמיה דפנחס מיתרו אתיא כי היכי דאמיה דאבוה דיהונתן מיתרו אתיא וי"ל משום שיהונתן היה מצד האב שהיה אביו בן בת יתרו ופנחס מצד האם
That is, as the mother's mother's father, it comes from the mother's side, for Pinchas's mother was such a descendant. But for Yonatan, his father was the descendant of Yisro. This is somewhat arbitrary. Besides, the gemara doesn't resolve whether Yosef or Yisro was the closer grandfather.

And Rashi:
אלא אי אבוה דאמיה כו' - אלא לעולם לאו מבת יתרו ממש נולד פנחס שהרי גם מיוסף היה כדדרשינן לקמן פוטיאל שני פיטפוטין משמע מיוסף שפיטפט ביצרו ומיתרו שפיטם עגלים והלכך אי אפשר שתהא אמו בת יתרו ממש דמה ענין בת יתרו אצל שבט יוסף אלא ה"ק ואלעזר לקח לו אשה מבנות פוטיאל כלומר שאשתו נולדה מיתרו ומיוסף ומהשתא מצינן למימר שדור רביעי או דור חמישי היה פנחס לבת יתרו ולא היה קרוב ליתרו כיהונתן בן גרשם ולהכי אהני מה שדבק אהרן בטובים ואותו זקינו של פנחס מצד האם שדבק ביתרו ואעפ"כ יצא ממנו פנחס ליכא לאקשויי מיניה למאי דבעינן למילף ממשה שיצא ממנו יהונתן שהרי פנחס היה רחוק מיתרו יותר מיהונתן:
He adds a few generations to make it even more distant. Both explanations are rather forced, but Rashi and Tosafot are forced into this because they are trying to explain the gemara as written.

I would rather simply recognize that the setama is harmonizing where it should not, where we see disparate sources which were unaware of the other interpretation, and where the harmonization is rather late. Let us leave them as midrashim which argue with one another, and thus keep the meaning of these midrashim at their truest.


E-Man said...

There is also a yalkut shemoni on mattos 31 I believe on vayishlach osam.

joshwaxman said...

thanks. yes, right here:
וישלח אותם משה אלף למטה לצבא אותם ואת פינחס. אותם זו סנהדרין, פינחס זה משוח מלחמה, וכלי הקדש זה ארון ולוחות שבו, וחצוצרות התרועה אלו השופרות. תנא לא לחנם הלך פינחס למלחמה אלא ליפרע דין אבי אמו שנאמר והמדנים מכרו אותו אל מצרים. למימרא דפינחס מיוסף אתי והכתיב ואלעזר בן אהרן לקח לו מבנות פוטיאל וגו' מאי לאו דאתי מיתרו שפיטם עגלים לאלילים, לא דאתי מיוסף שפטפט ביצרו. והלא השבטים מבזין אותו ראיתם בן פוטי זה שפיטם אבי אמו עגלים לאלילים יהרוג נשיא שבט מישראל, אלא אי אבוה דאימיה מיוסף אימה דאמיה מיתרו. ואם אימה דאימיה מיוסף אבוה דאימיה מיתרו, דיקא נמי מדכתיב מבנות פוטיאל תרי משמע ש"מ:

this midrash is late, so it is effectively a repeat of the gemara and its harmonization.

Unknown said...

Perhaps the m
lineage is not meant to be taken literally
Pinchas displayed the strength of Yitro who was the most famous baal teshuva in our history as well as Yosef who was a tzdadik and didn't require teshuva
Jay Lerman


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