Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Animal husbandry and wifery

Summary: Are the animals husband and wife? Are the birds explicitly pure birds? How Onkelos does not reflect a different textual tradition, and how another textual tradition might have developed.

Post: In Targum Onkelos on parashat Noach, we have the following switch:
ז,ב מִכֹּל הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּהוֹרָה, תִּקַּח-לְךָ שִׁבְעָה שִׁבְעָה--אִישׁ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ; וּמִן-הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא טְהֹרָה הִוא, שְׁנַיִם--אִישׁ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ.מִכֹּל בְּעִירָא דָּכְיָא, תִּסַּב לָךְ שִׁבְעָא שִׁבְעָא--דְּכַר וְנֻקְבָּא; וּמִן בְּעִירָא דְּלָיְתַהָא דָּכְיָא, תְּרֵין--דְּכַר וְנֻקְבָּא.

In both places in the pasuk, the words ish veIshto are translated not as anash ve'intetei, but as dechar venukba. Not 'man and wife' or 'husband and wife', but 'male and female'. This is unsurprising since the purpose of the Targum is to translate and thus, to some extent, provide explanation. Add to this that ish ve'ishto is somewhat idiomatic, but that it means male and female pairs. And add to that that the idiom might not exist in Aramaic, as Beirei Onkelos (Shimon Baruch Schefftel) explains, for non-humans.

The Peshitta also translates similarly to Onkelos, but I don't believe that it reflects an alternative girsa.

Might it reflect an alternate version of the pasuk which stood before Onkelos. It might, but I would discount this, even in the face of hard evidence that such an alternate girsa exists.

Here is the hard evidence. In the Samaritan Torah, we encounter the following.

The text to the left is from the Samaritan Torah, while the text to the right is our Masoretic text. We can readily observe that they have zachar unekeiva in both locations in the pasuk replacing ish veIshto.

Yet as alternate girsaot go, I don't find this compelling. Recall that this is the Samaritan text, which makes a regular program of "fixing" up the text, simplifying it and eliminating ambiguities and apparent textual difficulties. The most plausible scenario is that a Samaritan scribe saw the Masoretic text and was bothered by the idiom, which seems to refer to humans, and also saw fit to smooth the text so that it matched the many other instances in close proximity, of zachar unekeiva. (See pasuk 3 and 9.)

Why use the idiom of ish veIshto precisely here, and not elsewhere? Because here is where we hear about bringing seven and bringing two. We might think that this meant a total of seven of each kosher species, some of which were male and some female, and a total of two of each non-kosher species, one male and one female. By specifying ish veIshto, it becomes clear that we are speaking of seven sets and two sets, respectively. (Rashi says otherwise. See 6:19.) The Samaritan text solves this problem by repeating the word shnayim at the end of the pasuk. (One could try to use this to reverse the lectio difficilior in favor of the Samaritan text. Perhaps, but the reason for the Masoretic text being irregular and yet still working is more subtle, which is a strong point in its favor.)

In the next pasuk, the Samaritans add the word hatahor to make a distinction between pure and non-pure birds. This is something left implicit in the Masoretic text. It makes sense that the dichotomy would exist, but it is left implicit, and aided by a derasha. Thus, Rashi writes on the pasuk:

Also, of the fowl of the heavens, etc.: Scripture speaks of the clean [fowl], and we learn that which is not explicit from that which is explicit. [i.e., Just as in the case of the animals, seven pairs of clean ones were to be brought into the ark, so was it in the case of the fowl, that seven pairs of clean ones were to be brought in, while of the unclean species, only one pair was to be saved.]גם מעוף השמים וגו': בטהורים הכתוב מדבר. וילמד סתום מן המפורש:

This strikes me as similar to the statement of Rabbi Eleazar beRabbi Yossi to the Samaritans, on daf 33b of Sotah:

תניא אמר רבי אלעזר ברבי יוסי בדבר זה זייפתי ספרי כותיים אמרתי להם זייפתם תורתכם ולא העליתם בידכם כלום שאתם אומרים אלוני מורה שכם אף אנו מודים שאלוני מורה שכם אנו למדנוה בגזרה שוה

In which they changed their Torah text to make something explicit (though this was something to help Samaritan religious claims), while Chazal agreed to the idea but derived it via Oral Law, something the Samaritans lacked.

So too here and in countless other places, they changed the Biblical text to explicitly state something which the Masoretic text leaves implicit but which can be derived hermeneutically.

These other changes (pairs for the word "shnayim" and clarification of "pure" birds are not found in either Targum Onkelos or the Peshitta.

Both of these changes, though, are present in the Septuagint. See here:

2 And of the clean cattle take in to thee sevens, male and female, and of the unclean cattle pairs male and female. 3 And of clean flying creatures of the sky sevens, male and female, and of all unclean flying creatures pairs, male and female, to maintain seed on all the earth.

2 ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν κτηνῶν τῶν καθαρῶν εἰσάγαγε πρὸς σὲ ἑπτὰ ἑπτά, ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ, ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν κτηνῶν τῶν μὴ καθαρῶν δύο δύο, ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ, 3 καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν πετεινῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ τῶν καθαρῶν ἑπτὰ ἑπτά, ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ, καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν πετεινῶν τῶν μὴ καθαρῶν δύο δύο, ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ, διαθρέψαι σπέρμα ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν.

Thus, they change ish veIshto to male and female. This might just be an artefact of the translation process. But they also specify the word "pairs" by the unclear cattle. And they specify "clean" flying creatures. They add one extra element over the Samaritan text. The Samaritan text, with its clarification, still left the Biblical text with a disparity in the bird pasuk, in that seven clean were mentioned while two unclean were not mentioned. The Septuagint text "corrects" this problem.

Because of all of this, my strong inclination is that the Septuagint text was based on a Hebrew original similar or identical to the text in the Samaritan Torah. Yet this Samaritan text was not original, but was a typical emendation of the Masoretic text by the Samaritan scribe. And still, the instances of Onkelos et al. rendering ish veIshto as male and female is just good translating, rather than a reflection of this alternate girsa.


Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

See the Pirush HaTur (Genesis 7:2) who writes that there is no אישות by birds because they are not מוציא זרע rather they are only מטיל ביצים.

joshwaxman said...

thanks. that's fascinating. he says that עופות דלא שייך בהו רביעה, which is fairly close, though not the same thing. male birds certainly have sperm, which they are motzi. but it is arguable whether the particular act is one of revia.

thanks for the tip,


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