Friday, January 14, 2011

All the king's horse(s)

Summary: Considering the singular, and how Rashi deviates from the midrash.

Post: In parashat Beshalach, we have the following pasuk {Shemot 14}:

9. The Egyptians chased after them and overtook them encamped by the sea every horse of Pharaoh's chariots, his horsemen, and his force beside Pi hahiroth, in front of Ba'al Zephon.ט. וַיִּרְדְּפוּ מִצְרַיִם אַחֲרֵיהֶם וַיַּשִּׂיגוּ אוֹתָם חֹנִים עַל הַיָּם כָּל סוּס רֶכֶב פַּרְעֹה וּפָרָשָׁיו וְחֵילוֹ עַל פִּי הַחִירֹת לִפְנֵי בַּעַל צְפֹן:

Rashi says nothing about this. A bit later, we have the following pasuk, :

23. The Egyptians pursued and came after them all Pharaoh s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen, into the midst of the sea.כג. וַיִּרְדְּפוּ מִצְרַיִם וַיָּבֹאוּ אַחֲרֵיהֶם כֹּל סוּס פַּרְעֹה רִכְבּוֹ וּפָרָשָׁיו אֶל תּוֹךְ הַיָּם:

Every horse of Pharaoh: Now did he have but a single horse? Rather this informs that all of them were only reckoned before the Omnipresent as one horse.
כל סוס פרעה: וכי סוס אחד היה אלא מגיד שאין כולם חשובין לפני המקום אלא כסוס אחד:

Then, in the shirat haYam, perek 15, again sus appears with nary a comment from Rashi:

1. Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and they spoke, saying, I will sing to the Lord, for very exalted is He; a horse and its rider He cast into the sea.א. אָז יָשִׁיר מֹשֶׁה וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת לַי־הֹוָ־ה וַיֹּאמְרוּ לֵאמֹר אָשִׁירָה לַי־הֹוָ־ה כִּי גָאֹה גָּאָה סוּס וְרֹכְבוֹ רָמָה בַיָּם:

Yet, Rashi often draws his comments from midrash, and this is not the exception. On the pasuk in perek 15, the Mechilta had:
ובמלכה מהו אומר?
ותתן לבך וגו'. 
וכתיב: על צור הנני אליך צור.
ובמלכה נאמר: מותי ערלים תמות.
הא למדת במה שנתגאו אומות העולם בו נפרע מהם, שנאמר: כי גאה גאה סוס ורוכבו רמה בים. 
וכי סוס א' הוא ורכבו א' הוא והלא כבר נאמר: ויקח שש מאות רכב בחור?! 
אלא כשישראל עושין רצונו של מקום אויביהן אין עומדים לפניהם, אלא כסוס א' ורכבו.

כיוצא בו אתה אומר: כי תצא למלחמה על אויבך וראית סוס ורכב. 
וכי סוס א' הוא ורכב א' הוא?
אלא כשישראל עושין רצונו של מקום וכו

Unless Rashi has some midrashic source which has since disappeared, it seems that Rashi has moved the midrash from one location to the other. Instead of being commentary on the shirah, it is commentary of a pasuk in an earlier perek.

Rashi does do this sort of thing on occasion. In this case, I would say that the midrash itself allows for it. For this is not the only application of sus as one. Look at how they say
כיוצא בו אתה אומר: כי תצא למלחמה על אויבך וראית סוס ורכב
Thus, they are clearly open to saying this wherever one encounters sus varechev in the apparent singular. And, especially in the context of prevailing in war, which is shared in both cases. The pasuk to which Rashi moved this midrash has kol sus Par'oh and even follows it with richbo.

If Rashi moved the midrash, I would posit that he did this for thematic purposes. In pasuk 9, the first potential place he could list it, the Egyptians were encamped, but they hadn't begun their attack. In pasuk 23, where Rashi places this midrash, they actively pursue the Israelites in order to smite them, and the consequence is Hashem casting confusion amongst them, sticking their wheels, and finally drowning them. Read these pesukim with Rashi:

23. The Egyptians pursued and came after them all Pharaoh s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen, into the midst of the sea.כג. וַיִּרְדְּפוּ מִצְרַיִם וַיָּבֹאוּ אַחֲרֵיהֶם כֹּל סוּס פַּרְעֹה רִכְבּוֹ וּפָרָשָׁיו אֶל תּוֹךְ הַיָּם:
24. It came about in the morning watch that the Lord looked down over the Egyptian camp through a pillar of fire and cloud, and He threw the Egyptian camp into confusion.כד. וַיְהִי בְּאַשְׁמֹרֶת הַבֹּקֶר וַיַּשְׁקֵף יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶל מַחֲנֵה מִצְרַיִם בְּעַמּוּד אֵשׁ וְעָנָן וַיָּהָם אֵת מַחֲנֵה מִצְרָיִם:
25. And He removed the wheels of their chariots, and He led them with heaviness, and the Egyptians said, Let me run away from the Israelites because the Lord is fighting for them against the Egyptiansכה. וַיָּסַר אֵת אֹפַן מַרְכְּבֹתָיו וַיְנַהֲגֵהוּ בִּכְבֵדֻת וַיֹּאמֶר מִצְרַיִם אָנוּסָה מִפְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כִּי יְ־הֹוָ־ה נִלְחָם לָהֶם בְּמִצְרָיִם:
26. Thereupon, the Lord said to Moses, Stretch out your hand over the sea, and let the water return upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemenכו. וַיֹּאמֶר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶל מֹשֶׁה נְטֵה אֶת יָדְךָ עַל הַיָּם וְיָשֻׁבוּ הַמַּיִם עַל מִצְרַיִם עַל רִכְבּוֹ וְעַל פָּרָשָׁיו:
27. So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and toward morning the sea returned to its strength, as the Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord stirred the Egyptians into the sea.כז. וַיֵּט מֹשֶׁה אֶת יָדוֹ עַל הַיָּם וַיָּשָׁב הַיָּם לִפְנוֹת בֹּקֶר לְאֵיתָנוֹ וּמִצְרַיִם נָסִים לִקְרָאתוֹ וַיְנַעֵר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶת מִצְרַיִם בְּתוֹךְ הַיָּם:
28. And the waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, the entire force of Pharaoh coming after them into the sea; not even one of them survived.כח. וַיָּשֻׁבוּ הַמַּיִם וַיְכַסּוּ אֶת הָרֶכֶב וְאֶת הַפָּרָשִׁים לְכֹל חֵיל פַּרְעֹה הַבָּאִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם בַּיָּם לֹא נִשְׁאַר בָּהֶם עַד אֶחָד:

Thematically, then, this is the perfect place to introduce the midrash. The midrash makes the point of the seeming might of the Egyptians being as if nothing -- one horse, and one chariot -- to Hashem, and this is where they attack and Hashem crushes them like a bug. Not so earlier, on pasuk 9.

There are good reasons to place it in the next perek, by the Shirah, where the pasuk talks about how exalted Hashem is -- אָשִׁירָה לַה' כִּי גָאֹה גָּאָה סוּס וְרֹכְבוֹ רָמָה בַיָּם. Hashem is exalted, so much so that it was as if casting one horse and rider into the sea. Even so, Rashi's selection is a good place for it. Further, Rashi cites a different midrash on that pasuk, in a nice running commentary on the Song, and so perhaps it is good not to overwhelm the reader:

סוס ורכבו: שניהם קשורין זה בזה והמים מעלין אותם לרום ומורידין אותם לעומק ואינן נפרדין:

To give a sample of how some meforshei Rashi might handle it, let us consider the Taz:
"All horse of Pharaoh -- Now did he have but a single horse?" Earlier, {in pasuk 9,} "and overtook them encamped by the sea, all horse of Pharaoh", he {=Rashi} did not ask this. For there there is to say this it is coming to tell us something extra, that each and every horse by itself overtook Israel and saw them, which is not so over here. However, it is difficult, for perhaps upon the species of horse it is speaking, upon which the plural is fitting, as is written at the end of Yeshaya (60:7), כָּל-צֹאן קֵדָר יִקָּבְצוּ לָךְ,  "All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee." And there is to say this it is difficult {to Rashi and thus demanding an explanation} for behold it {=that pasuk, 23} finishes with וּפָרָשָׁיו, which is plural language, and does not use singular language. Rather, there is a reason for this, that it states sus in singular language."

This is straight out of the Mah Kasheh LeRashi school. Rashi always is saying peshat. After all, he told us so, that he is only coming to tell us the peshat -- “va’ani lo bati elah l’peshuto shel mikrah...” If so, there must be a peshat motivation for saying this. Something is bothering Rashi, to borrow a phrase. And so, the Taz wants to know why this didn't bother Rashi on the earlier pasuk, and so answers that one can readily say, in this first instance, that it is coming for the sake of a ribusa. And then, this is the first opportunity. But, one could ask -- again, on a peshat level -- that it could simply be a reference to the species, or a collective noun. And one can give other instances of collective nouns in Tanach, although one might find problems with the specific example. This is a challenge which needs to be answered, for there must be a peshat problem. And so, point to וּפָרָשָׁיו, which is plural in form as well. Therefore, something is wrong, and Rashi saves the day, on a peshat level, with this.

From my perspective, even though Rashi to Bereishit 3:8 says "ואני לא באתי אלא לפשוטו של מקרא ולאגדה המיישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אופניו", people overapply it. I am not at all convinced he meant it as people take it. How precisely to take it is another story, but it does NOT mean that Rashi always imagines that he is saying peshat. I've heard some Rashi scholars say that he only meant it in that instance. I would say that he is rejecting a specific type of midrash. The full pasuk, and Rashi, there, is:

8. And they heard the voice of the Lord God going in the garden to the direction of the sun, and the man and his wife hid from before the Lord God in the midst of the trees of the garden.ח. וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶת קוֹל יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱ־לֹהִים מִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּגָּן לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם וַיִּתְחַבֵּא הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ מִפְּנֵי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱ־לֹהִים בְּתוֹךְ עֵץ הַגָּן:
וישמעו: יש מדרשי אגדה רבים וכבר סדרום רבותינו על מכונם בבראשית רבה (יט ו) ובשאר מדרשות ואני לא באתי אלא לפשוטו של מקרא ולאגדה המישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אופניו:
וישמעו: מה שמעו, שמעו את קול הקב"ה שהיה מתהלך בגן:
לרוח היום: לאותו רוח שהשמש באה משם וזו היא מערבית, שלפנות ערב חמה במערב, והם סרחו בעשירית:

If we look at these specific midrashim that Rashi is declining to bring, we see that they involve the voice walking, or better -- reading וישמיעו such that the trees are speaking, or that the angels were talking. Instead, he explains that they heard Hashem who was walking in the garden. This, then, might be a rejection of a specific type of midrash.

Yet, Rashi brings plenty of midrashim. I would estimate that more that 80% of Rashi is citations from midrash. Which is not surprising, since he does not rule out midrash, writing that he will bring ולאגדה המישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אופניו.

So, nothing was bothering Rashi. That question that he led off with, "now does Pharaoh only have one horse?" Recall that that was in the midrash itself. So Rashi wasn't bothered by that question, but was citing the midrash in full, as much as was applicable.

Why didn't he bring it earlier, in pasuk 9? Not because it didn't bother him there. Rather, because he was already moving it, and he was moving it to the place it worked best for him thematically, such that it would best be מישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אופניו.

What about the fact that we could identify a difficulty? Of course we can! Midrashim are always prompted by some textual irregularity, which Chazal latch on to. If you disagree, the likelihood is that it is because you are not as proficient in Hebrew grammar, and midrash as I am. (And Dr. Richard Steiner, a prominent Semitic philologist, agrees with me on this; or rather, I agree with him.)

Does Rashi need the וּפָרָשָׁיו  to make it back into a difficulty? No, because it does not have to be a difficulty. It is certainly an irregularity, but it is one Ibn Ezra would surely tell you -- and Rashi would immediately agree -- is resolvable on a peshat level, as a collective noun. But paying careful attention to language, and selection of terms, is either a midrashic, or a peshat/midrash-level pursuit.

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