Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The azla geresh on ve'et ha'elef

Summary: Two theories to explain this nikkud, one mechanical and the other quasi-midrashim. I lean heavily towards the former.

Post: In parashat Pekudei, in Shemot 38:28, we encounter the following pasuk with the following trup:

Note the red-underlined beginning two words. The trup on ve'et haEleph is a conjunctive accent, which is commonly called today the kadma. This from a chumash with Shadal's commentary. In our own Mikraos Gedolos, the trup is a bit different:

Note the red-underlined beginning two words. The trup on ve'et haEleph is a disjunctive accent, a melech rather than a mesharet, which is commonly called today the azla geresh, since it is not joined with a kadma. (The Leningrad Codex also has this azla geresh.)

What would prompt the azla geresh, or perhaps the kadma, on this word? For this, I would turn to William Wickes' treatise on the cantillation of the 21 prose books of Tanach. He has a consistent and tested theory of a continuous dichotomy of each verse, in which the major dichotomy (split into two) is made on logical semantic grounds, usually by an etnachta, and the phrases in the verse are continuously split in two, again and again, so long as a clause contains three words or more, this time on purely syntactic grounds. The specific disjunctive (melech) trup symbol used is mechanically based on the trup symbol which stands at the end of the clause under consideration and the number of words from the end of the clause. The azla geresh will thus split a phrase which ends with pashta, especially when it is only two words away from that pashta. Thus, the azla geresh stands there on the word ve'et-ha'eleph because of the pashta on hame'ot. This all makes much more sense if you read through Wickes in its entirety, rather than if you rely on my explanation which is just al regel achat.

Wickes writes, about phrases that end with pashta, tevir, or zarka:

This is precisely our case. A pashta stands at the end of the clause, and the dichotomy stands at the second word away from that pashta. Therefore, it is marked with geresh, which we call azla geresh, just as he writes in (1). Still, it also matches the case he writes about in (2), for there are only three words in the clause, since ve'et-ha'eleph, joined by the makef, counts as only one word, just as in his first example of mei'al-sefer. If so, it can often take the lighter melody of a mesharet, namely kadma. And this is precisely what we saw in this pasuk in the chumash with Shadal's peirush, above.

Even more than that, see above in Wickes, footnote 4. He writes that codices, as we might expect, often vary from one another, with one having kadma and the other having azla geresh. And this is precisely the situation under discussion.

Thus, I agree with Wickes that most often, the particular trup on a particular word is more or less mechanical. Therefore, I don't usually believe that there is specific semantic content associated with these trup symbols. (Shalshelet might be one of the few exceptions to the rule, and even Wickes believes there to be semantic meaning there.) Still, the trup has much to tell us, for by clearly delineating the syntactic division of the pasuk, it also excludes certain semantic interpretations which only work with a particular syntactic interpretation. Further, the major dichotomy (usually marked with etnachta) is made on logical rather than syntactic grounds.

Nature abhors a vacuum, as to Biblical commentators. Without knowledge of Wickes' comprehensive explanation, the trup cries out darsheini! And one could even come up with novel systems of interpretation. The test of such a system, I think, is whether it can be applied consistently and systematically without kvetch. In Birkat Avraham, by R' Avraham Albert, the author appears to apply such a system of interpretation to trup. Though it is difficult to see if it can indeed be systematically applied, since he just takes one example per parsha, and associates it with some existing midrashic explanation. I would like to see a convincing application to an entire parsha or perek, trup symbol by trup symbol. Otherwise, it is pick-and-choose for the easy examples with which one can associate a midrash from out of left field. For more, see my thoughts about the pesik in Et | Mizbach HaOlah.

At any rate, this is what he writes about the azla (or perhaps kadma!) under discussion:

Thus, he asserts that the azla geresh (always) denotes great emphasis. And thus it appears that it hints to what is in Shemot Rabba (perek 51:4) that Moshe was performing an accounting of the donated raw materials to show an honest application to the completed Mishkan and its vessels, and he forgot regarding to 1775, etc., and he sat not knowing what to do, and Hashem enlightened his eyes and he saw that they were made into hooks (vavim) for the pillars.

That Midrash Rabbi, 51:6, can be seen here:
משכן העדות אשר פקד על פי משה כל מה שהיו עושין עושין על פי משה, שנאמר: אשר פקד על פי משה.
וכל מה שהיה משה עושה על ידי אחרים, שנאמר: עבודת הלוים ביד איתמר בן אהרן הכהן, לא עשה אלא משנגמרה מלאכת המשכן.
אמר להם: בואו ואני עושה לפניכם חשבון!
אמר להם משה: אלה פקודי המשכן, כך וכך יצא על המשכן עד שהוא יושב ומחשב, שכח באלף ושבע מאות וחמשה ושבעים שקל, מה שעשה ווים לעמודים.
התחיל יושב ומתמיה אמר: עכשיו ישראל מוצאין ידיהם לאמר: משה נטלן.

מה עשה? 
האיר הקב"ה עיניו וראה אותם עשוים ווים לעמודים, אותה שעה נתפייסו כל ישראל על מלאכת המשכן.

מי גרם לו? 
ע"י שישב ופייסן.
הוי, אלה פקודי המשכן.
ולמה עשה עמהם חשבון?
הקב"ה יתברך שמו מאמינו, שנאמר: (במדבר יב) לא כן עבדי משה בכל ביתי נאמן הוא, ולמה אמר להם משה בואו ונעסוק במשכן ונחשב לפניכם?!
אלא ששמע משה ליצני ישראל מדברים מאחריו, שנאמר: (שמות לג) והיה כבוא משה האהלה ירד עמוד הענן ועמד פתח האהל ודבר עם משה ... והביטו אחרי משה. 
ומה היו אומרים? 
ר' יוחנן אמר:
אשרי יולדתו של זה.

ומה הוא רואה בו? 
כל ימיו הקב"ה מדבר עמו כל ימיו הוא מושלם להקב"ה זהו והביטו אחרי משה. 
I {=Josh} am not sure we need to resort to the trup to derive the midrash. Rather, it is based first on pekudei, that Moshe was making an accounting, coupling with the heh of  וְאֶת הָאֶלֶף וּשְׁבַע הַמֵּאוֹת וַחֲמִשָּׁה וְשִׁבְעִים. You don't really find the heh hayidia on the other numbers in the surrounding context. Thus, this is explaining just what this particular sum went to. Or maybe meforshim explain this in another way.

Perhaps we can say that the choice of azla geresh rather than the optional kadma shows greater pausal value and thus greater emphasis. Maybe. But again, this is just me not buying into his interpretive system.

He continues that he found further in the sefer Tosafot Hashalem, here, from ktav yad Hamburg, that those who are precise regularly read in a loud voice the words ve'et haeleph ushva me'ot vachamisha vishiv'im asa vavim {=the entire phrase}, because of this reason. {Which reason? The midrash about the resolution of Moshe's confusion, or the trup? I haven't see it inside, but I would guess the midrash. Does someone have access to this sefer to check?}

Here is someone who says that Moshe said this in a loud voice:
Moshe said, "I know that Bnei Yisrael are complainers. Therefore, I will give an accounting of all of the donations that were given to the Mishkan." However, he forgot what he had done with 1,775 shekel, and he felt bad. Later Hashem enlightened him, and he felt better. Then he announced in a loud voice (verse 28), "And from the one thousand seven hundred seventy-five [shekel] he made hooks for the pillars, covered their tops and banded them."
R' Albert continues that one should see Rabbenu Bachya who established it based on their mention using the heh hayedia, the definite article (Baruch shekivanti!), and who wrote that this is because they were already mentioned above in the half-shekels and further brings the midrash that Moshe forgot where they were placed.

At the end of the day, I think Chazal were darshening as Rabbenu Bachya assessed, rather than darshening the trup.

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