Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is Vayakirah Malei or Chaser?

Summary: An instance in which our Masoretic text is malei while the Samaritan text is chaser. This goes against the grain. Should we therefore lend credence to the Samaritan text?

Post: In  parashat Vayeishev, when presented with Yosef's coat, Yaakov laments:

לג  וַיַּכִּירָהּ וַיֹּאמֶר כְּתֹנֶת בְּנִי, חַיָּה רָעָה אֲכָלָתְהוּ; טָרֹף טֹרַף, יוֹסֵף.33 And he knew it, and said: 'It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn in pieces.'

The word וַיַּכִּירָהּ is spelled with two yuds, and thus there is a chirik malei. Yet, the Samaritans have it spelled chaser yud. The Samaritan text is to the left. Note, on the first line, the asterisk representing the missing yud.

This goes against the grain. After all, we would expect the Samaritans to simplify the text, and make it easier to read, by inserting this em hakria. It would possibly be somewhat strange for them to strip it out. Thus, lectio difficilior works somewhat in their favor here.

I would add that there is even a dispute within our own Masorah as to whether the word is spelled malei or chaser. To quote Minchas Shai:

Thus, in Hilleli it is spelled chaser. So too wrote the Meiri, and so is found in a few safarim, in manuscript. However, the Rama wrote that וַיַּכִּירָהּ וַיֹּאמֶר is malei yud, in the precise nuschaot. Further, the masora supports him. There is a masoretic note upon this that this is unique, and chaser, but this is in error, for precise nuschaot argue on it. Further, in the Masoret, there is the statement that there are three which are chaser, namely ויכרם ויתנכר והם לא הכרהו and ויכרהו ויפל על פניו of Eliyahu and Ovadyahu. Thus, the one under discussion here must be malei. Or Torah, as well, says that this is primary.

Indeed, Or Torah says more of less the same,

though he adds that though he found in old sefarim the word chaser, and furthermore found that in a few corrected sefarim it is chaser, he does not believe one needs to worry about this.

I {=Josh} wonder, though. If we add this dispute within our own Masoretic texts to the Samaritan text, which goes against the grain, then perhaps there is something to think about.

However, I would make the point that adding malei spelling is not the only thing on the agenda of the Samaritans. Indeed, they don't make everything malei. And meanwhile, another thing fairly high on the Samaritan scribes' agenda is harmonization. They harmonize details, names, and even spellings. If elsewhere in Torah or Nach is the same word, but spelled chaser, then it is eminently possible that they are just regularizing the spelling.

And indeed, among the chasers mentioned by Minchas Shai is the following, from parashat Miketz {Bereishit 42}:

ז  וַיַּרְא יוֹסֵף אֶת-אֶחָיו, וַיַּכִּרֵם; וַיִּתְנַכֵּר אֲלֵיהֶם וַיְדַבֵּר אִתָּם קָשׁוֹת, וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם מֵאַיִן בָּאתֶם, וַיֹּאמְרוּ, מֵאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן לִשְׁבָּר-אֹכֶל.7 And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spoke roughly with them; and he said unto them: 'Whence come ye?' And they said: 'From the land of Canaan to buy food.'
ח  וַיַּכֵּר יוֹסֵף, אֶת-אֶחָיו; וְהֵם, לֹא הִכִּרֻהוּ.8 And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew him not.

Not just the similarity to vayakireim, but the general absence of the yud in this word after the kaf forms a pattern. And, as I've seen elsewhere, this could then lead the Samaritans to emend the local instance of this verb to match.

(Meanwhile, either the malei or chaser is in error in our Masoretic texts, and we can well imagine reasons for it to be emended, in either direction.)

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