Monday, August 02, 2010

Yet more on the tzir'ah

Summary: How the Maharsha explains the brayta's statement that the hornets did not pass over, in terms of tying it in with the pesukim; whether his problem is the same as ours; and thus, whether his solution works.

Post: Thanks, to Meir, for suggesting looking at the Maharsha on the daf in Sotah 36a. In an earlier post on parashat Eikev, I wondered just what the midrashist in the brayta in Sotah saw in pesukim to arrive at the conclusion that the hornets did not pass over the Yarden river.

In that post, and since, I have developed what I believe is a good answer -- that the statement in the brayta assumes no hornets at all over the Yarden; that the Divine promises were not fulfilled (perhaps yet), just as not all the residents were driven out nor was all of Greater Israel captured; and that a pasuk in the last perek of sefer Yehoshua indicates (if interpreted right) that hornets aided Moshe in fighting Sichon and Og, but did not aid Yehoshua. This is one possible consistent reading of the pesukim, and the author of this brayta was taking a stand. His intent differs from what was suggested by the harmonization of either Resh Lakish or Rav Pappa. Meanwhile, Rav Papa and Resh Lakish are not concerned with the meaning of the pesukim which prompted the midrashic statement; they just wish to harmonize the midrash statement (which now has the status of tradition) with a straightforward read of pesukim in Chumash. See my earlier posts for an expansion of this idea.

Maharsha, when he addresses this difficulty of just what was bothering or motivating the author of the brayta has a much more difficult task, IMHO. He must explain what the brayta, as interpreted by Resh Lakish and Rav Pappa, saw in the pesukim to arrive at that conclusion.

The gemara, once again, is:
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.
Maharsha writes as follows (but the image is pretty bad -- see it inside your gemara.)

He begins by suggesting an answer based on looking at Rashi on Chumash, on parashat Mishpatim. This indeed provides insight into how Rashi was able to form a consistent peshat, despite the explicit pesukim indicating otherwise:

28. And I will send the tzir'ah before you, and it will drive out the Hivvites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you.כח. וְשָׁלַחְתִּי אֶת הַצִּרְעָה לְפָנֶיךָ וְגֵרְשָׁה אֶת הַחִוִּי אֶת הַכְּנַעֲנִי וְאֶת הַחִתִּי מִלְּפָנֶיךָ:
the tzir’ah: [This was] a kind of flying insect, which would strike them [people] in their eyes, inject venom into them, and they would die (Tanchuma 18). The tzir’ah did not cross the Jordan, and the Hittites and the Canaanites are [those of] the land of Sihon and Og. Therefore, out of all the seven nations [the Torah] did not count [any] but these. As for the Hivvites, although they were on the other side of the Jordan, in tractate Sotah (36a) our Rabbis taught: It stood on the bank of the Jordan and cast venom upon them.הצרעה: מין שרץ העוף, והיתה מכה אותם בעיניהם ומטילה בהם ארס והם מתים, והצרעה לא עברה את הירדן, והחתי והכנעני הם ארץ סיחון ועוג, לפיכך מכל שבע אומות לא מנה כאן אלא אלו. וחוי אף על פי שהוא מעבר הירדן והלאה, שנו רבותינו במסכת סוטה (סוטה לו א) על שפת הירדן עמדה וזרקה בהם מרה:

Thus, Rashi points put that while all seven nations were mentioned a few pesukim earlier:

23. For My angel will go before you, and bring you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivvites, and the Jebusites, and I will destroy them.כג. כִּי יֵלֵךְ מַלְאָכִי לְפָנֶיךָ וֶהֱבִיאֲךָ אֶל הָאֱמֹרִי וְהַחִתִּי וְהַפְּרִזִּי וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי הַחִוִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי וְהִכְחַדְתִּיו:

here in pasuk 28 only these three are mentioned. This could be understood as the impetus behind the Tanna's statement, or else as merely consistent with the Tanna's statement, such that this explains the problem of only three mentioned. Regardless, I would note that it is strange that the Emori, mentioned in 23, are missing in 28. After all, at the end of Yehoshua the two Emorite kings were mentioned, who were Sichon melech haEmori and Og melech haBashan. It is curious that the Emori were not mentioned, if these of pasuk 28 are meant to refer to those. And in terms of the Chivi, the third group of pasuk 28, as Rashi writes, those are those just across the Yarden river, such that the hornets threw their venom across. Rashi thus maintains like Resh Lakish over Rav Papa, and explains this pasuk.

Another difficulty comes from parashat Ekev, where is another promise of help by Tzir'ah. In Ekev, Devarim 7:20:

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:

The difficulty here is that this is part of an encouraging speech made by Moshe at the end of the 40 years in the wilderness, after he had fought Sichon and Og. This almost must be reference to future wars, wages by Yehoshua. Rashi has no real difficulty with this. If he is consistent and assumes like Resh Lakish, then these cast their venom across the Yarden river into those Canaanites, presumably the Chivi. It is only I, who want to read the midrash of the brayta as standing alone, without Resh Lakish's resolution, who would have a problem with it. (Though as above, I have my answer. Also, Rav Papa would be difficult to understand, for why divide the pasuk in this way for two types of hornet?)

Anyway, back to Maharsha, and how he uses Rashi to understand each step in the give and take in the gemara. The author of the brayta said that the tzir'ah didn't cross, because not all seven nations were mentioned. The setama de-gemara protests that the pasuk in Mishpatim, pasuk 28, says that it will send the tzir'ah before you. The question of the gemara is very nuanced, and is hidden in that the most relevant part of the pasuk isn't cited. (Admittedly, this happens on occasion with prooftexts.) That is, the question is predicated not on the pasuk as a whole which says that Hashem will send forth hornets, but is rather predicated on the listing of the Chivi as one of the nations. This prompts the harmonization.

Maharsha then questions whether the Chiti were truly in the land of Sichon and Og. After all, Chevron was owned by the Bnei Cheit, and Rivkah complained to Yitzchak about the Bnot Chet. This was over the Yarden!

(I, Josh, would answer that they could be in both locations, on both sides of the Yarden, but the pasuk was taken to refer to only some of the Chiti and Canaani, and the partial list indicates this. Thus, we can readily salvage it -- even though I disagree with this reading for other reasons.)

Maharsha then suggests, therefore, that the derasha is from the pasuk in the last perek of Yehoshua, 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. 
And only they are mentioned, implying not others. This is as I understood the source of the derasha in the other posts. And then, the pasuk in Mishpatim, 23:28, would use both Chivi and Chiti as evidence. (Thus, at this point, Maharsha appears to be deviating from Rashi's reading of the pasuk.) And the pasuk in Amos, which refers to the Emori, certainly refers to the land of Sichon and Og.

This all works out nicely, but it seems to me that there is still a point of difficulty. Namely, we now have a derivation or two (Yehoshua and Amos) as to hornets in the time of Moshe; and we have derivation as to hornets in the time of Yehoshua. But it then appears that Resh Lakish is arguing with the Tanna of the brayta. For the derivation from sefer Yehoshua was for only in the time of Moshe, not specifically that hornets didn't physically cross over. If hornets did help them out at other times, then what exactly was derived from sefer Yehoshua, and how? And how does Rav Papa work out? Fine, there were two sets of hornets, which miraculously aided the Israelites. But why does Yehoshua distinguish between the two, and only mention those from the time of Moshe, with the implication that hornets did not help them out? There might be answers, even good ones, but it seems to me that that this is a difficulty which remains unresolved.

(Unless, of course, one interprets the gemara as I did above, such that there is no need specifically to understand the pasuk in Yehoshua according to Resh Lakish and Rav Papa, just the harmonization of other pesukim with a disconnected statement in a brayta, as well as the brayta by itself.)


DovBear said...

The Bar Ilan website has an article identifying the hornet with Egypt (Bee was a symbol for king of Lower Egypt from about 3500 Bc till Roman times) The suggestion is the verse neans God will send Egypt to pave the way for our conquest.

joshwaxman said...

interesting theory. my reservation is the context of Devarim 7:20 about punishment of Egypt. It is strange to have such a shift, and leave it as allegory. but perhaps. i have to think about it more...



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