Thursday, November 18, 2010

How is Nachal Yabbok 'This Jordan'?

Summary: So asks the Baal HaTurim, on the basis of geographical knowledge. And so he suggests that hazeh refers to the staff. We can answer this question by looking at a map, which was not available to the Tur.

Post: In parashat Vayishlach, Yaakov tells Hashem that he crossed over "this Jordan" with but a staff:

11. I have become small from all the kindnesses and from all the truth that You have rendered Your servant, for with my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.יא. קָטֹנְתִּי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ אֶת עַבְדֶּךָ כִּי בְמַקְלִי עָבַרְתִּי אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה וְעַתָּה הָיִיתִי לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת:

What troubles the Tur is that he is, after all, speaking these words by the stream of Yabbok:

23. And he arose during that night, and he took his two wives and his two maidservants and his eleven children, and he crossed the ford of [the] Jabbok.כג. וַיָּקָם בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא וַיִּקַּח אֶת שְׁתֵּי נָשָׁיו וְאֶת שְׁתֵּי שִׁפְחֹתָיו וְאֶת אַחַד עָשָׂר יְלָדָיו וַיַּעֲבֹר אֵת מַעֲבַר יַבֹּק:

which, as Rashi says, is the name of the river:

Jabbok: The name of the river.יבק: שם הנהר:

Not only is this a different river than the Jordan, but it is in a different, distant, location, for the Yarden forms the border of Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, he brings an explanation from his brother, Rabbi Yehuda, that the word הַזֶּה does not refer to הַיַּרְדֵּן but binds distantly, to מַקְלִי. As an alternative, hazeh does not need to be something immediately before him -- and he gives other Biblical examples of this -- but to me, this seems somewhat farfetched. While hazeh as something you can point to, in front of you, is a pattern in derash, it still is strange to be at one river and referring to 'this Name_of_Other_River'. And if the item is not immediately before you, there should still be some reason given for selecting it with a "this".

כי במקלי עברתי את הירדן
הזה. הוקשה לי על מה שאמר הירדן הזה, כי
הרבה היה רחוק ממנו כי הירדן גבול ארץ ישראל,
ותירץ לי אחי הרב ר׳ יהודה שהוא הפוךְ
ופירוש כי במקלי הזה עברתי, ויש כאן רמז
למה שאמרו ז״ל שנתן מקלו על הירדן ונבקע,
על כן אמר במקלי הזה שאירע על ידו נם. ומיהו
דרךְ הכתוב לומר כך אע״פ שאין הדבר לפניו,
כמו (שמות לב, א) כי זה משה האיש, זה ה׳
קוינו לו(ישעיה כה, ט):

He refers to Chazal's explanation (cited by Rashi):

for with my staff: I had with me neither silver nor gold nor livestock, but only my staff. The Midrash Aggadah states: He placed his staff into the Jordan, and the Jordan split. — [from Tanchuma Buber, Vayetze 3; Aggadath Bereishith 45:2]]כי במקלי: לא היה עמי לא כסף ולא זהב ולא מקנה אלא מקלי לבדו. ומדרש אגדה נתן מקלו בירדן ונבקע הירדן:

to bolster this idea, that it refers to the staff.

I believe that since we are armed with better geographical and cartographical knowledge of Eretz Yisrael, we can offer a far better answer to this puzzle.

See how the river labeled the Jordan flows North-South, while the Jabbok River flows East-West. However, the Jabbok river is a tributary to the Jordan. It is the second-largest tributary. A tributary is a river or stream which flows into (and thus contributes, or pays tribute) to the other river. Thus, since these rivers are connected, and since Yabbok flows into the Yarden, it might well make sense to talk of them as a single river. Indeed, who is to say that this earlier flow is not also to be labelled the Jordan?

This is likely the meaning of the pasuk, and thus the Tur's brother's question is undermined, and thus answered extremely well.


Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Or maybe Ya‘aḳov simply crossed the Yabboḳ in a place where he could see the Yardein from there...

joshwaxman said...

maybe. it sounds good. still, i've got to think a bit about this. because if it were close enough to see, then he would once again be at the border of Eretz Yisrael. why does the Baal HaTurim believe that he is not at the border? i wonder also if we have a Succot, to place this better...


Blog Widget by LinkWithin