Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Was El Bet El named for Hashem, or for Angels?

Summary: A dispute between Rashi and Targum Onkelos, or possibly not.

Post: In parashat Vayishlach, we read the following pasuk, and Rashi:

7. He built there an altar, and he called the place El Beth el, for there God had been revealed to him when he fled from before his brother Esau.ז. וַיִּבֶן שָׁם מִזְבֵּחַ וַיִּקְרָא לַמָּקוֹם אֵל בֵּית אֵל כִּי שָׁם נִגְלוּ אֵלָיו הָאֱ־לֹהִים בְּבָרְחוֹ מִפְּנֵי אָחִיו:

had been revealed to him: Heb. נִגְלוּ, the plural form. In many places, the noun referring to godliness or mastership appears in the plural form, like“Joseph’s master (אִדוֹנֵי יוֹסֵף)” (Gen. 39:20),“if its owner (בְּעָלָיו) is with him” (Exod. 22:14), and it does not say בַּעִלוֹ. Likewise, אֱלָהוּת (godliness), an expression of judgment and lordship, is mentioned in the plural form, but none of the other names [of the Deity] are found in the plural form. — [from Sanh. 38b]נגלו אליו הא-להים: במקומות הרבה יש שם אלהות ואדנות בלשון רבים, כמו (להלן לט כ) א-דני יוסף, (שמות כב יד) אם בעליו עמו, ולא נאמר בעלו, וכן אלהות שהוא לשון שופט ומרות נזכר בלשון רבים, אבל אחד מכל שאר השמות לא תמצא בלשון רבים:

Thus, despite the plural form of the verb, it is referring to the One God, Hashem. This is the plurality of judgment and lordship. So too Onkelos, if we look at the text at Mechon Mamre, from the Teimanim:

לה,ז וַיִּבֶן שָׁם, מִזְבֵּחַ, וַיִּקְרָא לַמָּקוֹם, אֵל בֵּית-אֵל:  כִּי שָׁם, נִגְלוּ אֵלָיו הָאֱלֹהִים, בְּבָרְחוֹ, מִפְּנֵי אָחִיו.וּבְנָא תַּמָּן, מַדְבְּחָא, וּקְרָא לְאַתְרָא, אֵל בֵּית אֵל:  אֲרֵי תַּמָּן, אִתְגְּלִי לֵיהּ יְיָ, בְּמִעְרְקֵיהּ, מִן קֳדָם אֲחוּהִי.

However, as Onkelos is presented in our Mikraos Gedolos, it instead speaks of the plural angels of Hashem:

I am pretty sure that the verb אִתְגְּלִי is that of the singular, such that this inconsistent text of Onkelos shows signs of tampering. That is, if I understand this correctly, someone saw the plural in the pasuk and so stuck in this extra word in Onkelos, but wasn't careful (or knowledgeable) enough with the Aramaic to smooth out the language, so as to even match the plurality to reflect the plurality in the actual pasuk.

Compare with Targum Pseudo-Yonatan (here and here):
ארום תמן אתגליאו ליה מלאכייא דה'ר

Apparently, however, as Shadal notes, in many texts of Onkelos we actually have אתגליאו, which would undermine this point, at least. This teaches me to not just rely on the Mikraos Gedolos. Really, I should consult with a bunch of printings and manuscripts to see what emerges.

The Peshitta, as well, is plagued with these competing translations:

Note how malachaya daHashem and Hashem are offered as competing translations, but as the verb, only אִתְגְּלִי appears. The Peshitta is written in Syriac, and is an early Christian Targum. Yet we see the same things happening as to our text of Onkelos.

I would add that at Bet El (previously Luz), Hashem appeared to Yaakov, but so did all those angels climbing up and down the ziggurat (or ladder, if you prefer).

Here is what Shadal thinks about the matter, in Ohev Ger:

He makes the point that this pasuk, of building an altar to HaElokim who appeared to him in Bet El is a reference to what we see earlier in this perek, that:

1. And God said to Jacob, "Arise and go up to Beth el and abide there, and make there an altar to the God Who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau."א. וַיֹּאמֶר אֱ־לֹהִים אֶל יַעֲקֹב קוּם עֲלֵה בֵית אֵל וְשֶׁב שָׁם וַעֲשֵׂה שָׁם מִזְבֵּחַ לָאֵל הַנִּרְאֶה אֵלֶיךָ בְּבָרְחֲךָ מִפְּנֵי עֵשָׂו אָחִיךָ:

and in that instance, it is clearly the singular. And forfend that that altar would be to an angel. By extension, he would not call the place Bet El because of the angels. And thus, it turns out that the girsa of these sefarim is chiruf and giduf.

I think that Shadal is being a bit hasty in labeling this blasphemous, or rather, accidentally blasphemous. I don't think there is any dispute about what Targum Pseudo-Yonasan has, and still I don't think there was any intention of arriving at Shadal's conclusion of what this would mean.

Yes, it makes sense that these two pesukim (1 and 7) are referring to the same Divine Entity. Similarity of sentence structure and meaning give this away. Shadal thus makes a compelling argument, which could perhaps only be unconvincingly countered with an attempt to say that there is a dual etymology in play, just as there is for Machanayim (the two camps of angels and the splitting of Yaakov's camp in two). But saying that an explanation is mistaken, or doesn't work out, is not the same as saying it is blasphemous. And it also does not prove that the girsa is wrong. It is possible that Onkelos erred, just as Pseudo-Yonatan erred.

(Or HaTargum also believes that Hashem, and not angels, is the correct girsa. He refers us to this pasuk in Vayeitzei as evidence:

13. And behold, the Lord was standing over him, and He said, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac; the land upon which you are lying to you I will give it and to your seed.יג. וְהִנֵּה יְ־הֹוָ־ה נִצָּב עָלָיו וַיֹּאמַר אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ וֵאלֹהֵי יִצְחָק הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה שֹׁכֵב עָלֶיהָ לְךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה וּלְזַרְעֶךָ


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