Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Why does Onkelos translate Yid'oni as Zechuru?

Summary: Though it might be obvious for those who like Hebrew puns, why the zayin? And why the mismatch, against the famous derasha of Chazal?

Post: In parashat Kedoshim, we encounter this pasuk and translation by Onkelos, at the very very end:

כ,כז וְאִישׁ אוֹ-אִשָּׁה, כִּי-יִהְיֶה בָהֶם אוֹב אוֹ יִדְּעֹנִי--מוֹת יוּמָתוּ; בָּאֶבֶן יִרְגְּמוּ אֹתָם, דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם.  {פ}וּגְבַר אוֹ אִתָּא, אֲרֵי יְהֵי בְּהוֹן בִּדִּין אוֹ זְכוּרוּ--אִתְקְטָלָא יִתְקַטְלוּן; בְּאַבְנָא יִרְגְּמוּן יָתְהוֹן, קַטְלָא חַיָּבִין.  {פ}

For those who would prefer an English translation:

כז  וְאִישׁ אוֹ-אִשָּׁה, כִּי-יִהְיֶה בָהֶם אוֹב אוֹ יִדְּעֹנִי--מוֹת יוּמָתוּ; בָּאֶבֶן יִרְגְּמוּ אֹתָם, דְּמֵיהֶם בָּם.  {פ}27 A man also or a woman that divineth by a ghost or a familiar spirit, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones; their blood shall be upon them. {P}

Though this is possibly translating differently. Also, earlier in the parasha, he renders ov and yid'oni in the same way:

יט,לא אַל-תִּפְנוּ אֶל-הָאֹבֹת וְאֶל-הַיִּדְּעֹנִים, אַל-תְּבַקְשׁוּ לְטָמְאָה בָהֶם:  אֲנִי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם.לָא תִּתְפְּנוֹן בָּתַר בִּדִּין וּזְכוּרוּ, לָא תִּתְבְּעוּן לְאִסְתַּאָבָא בְּהוֹן:  אֲנָא, יְיָ אֱלָהֲכוֹן.

Shadal, in Ohev Ger, analyzes this Onkelos:

"The Metargeman writes: Onkelos translates zechuru, and the Targum Yerushalmi dechuru, end quote. And in Targum Yonatan (which itself is Targum Yerushalmi) I have found zechuru with a zayin, so so too in most of the nuschaot (except for ...). And the author of sefer יא"ר was astonished at this, for the root ZKR is Hebrew, while in Aramaic it is only DKR; and secondly, because in perek Daled Mitot (in Sanhedrin 65b) we learn in a brayta that the one who brings it {=the spirit} up with his zechuru  {=membrum, according to Rashi, but this is irrelevant} is the baal ov, not the baal yid'oni! And meanwhile, Onkelos translates yidoni as zechuru! And this demands investigation. At the end of the parasha, yidoni = zechuru as well."

The brayta he is speaking of reads as follows:
Our Rabbis taught: Ba'al ob denotes both him who conjures up the dead by means of soothsaying11  and one who consults a skull.
Or, in Hebrew:
ת"ר בעל אוב אחד המעלה בזכורו ואחד הנשאל בגולגולת מה בין זה לזה מעלה בזכורו אינו עולה כדרכו ואינו עולה בשבת נשאל בגולגולת עולה כדרכו ועולה בשבת
Meanwhile, what is the definition there of a yid'oni?
Our Rabbis taught: A Ba'al ob is one who speaks from between the joints of his body and his elbow joints. Ayidde'oni is one who places the bone of a yidoa'  in his mouth and it speaks of itself.
In terms of the second objection, that this should have a daled because it is Aramaic, I think I can readily dispense with this. We can consult the Christian Syriac Targum, namely the Peshitta, and find the same word, with a zayin:

Note that they consistently have with the zayin, even though in one place there is a daled which is passed over (thus no nikkud) for the one with the zayin.

Are we convinced that it must be a daled in this word rather than a zayin? I don't see why. Yes, the word zachar, "male", indeed has a zayin in Hebrew and a daled in Aramaic. And this parallels many other Hebrew / Aramaic cognates, such as zahav / dehav. But this is not because it always must be so. Rather, there were three sounds: D, Z, and DH. And there were two consonant symbols in the written alphabet. This middle sound, DH, in Hebrew was mapped to a Zayin and in Aramaic was mapped to a Daled. Thus, the fairly regular switch-off. But still, there are some words which are both daled in Hebrew and Aramaic, and there are some words which are both zayin in Hebrew and Aramaic, because the sound to be recorded was a daled or a zayin, not this middle consonant of DH.

Why would we think it must switch? Perhaps because we adopt the etymology proffered by Rashi, on the daf:
בזכורו - מעלה ומושיב את המת על זכרותו:
Thus, if he is making use of his membrum, that is, his male organ, in his divination or sorcery, this is the word zachar, which is a daled in Aramaic.

But it seems that in Syriac and Aramaic is it simply the word for sorcery. (And thus the Soncino translation above as "sorcery" rather than "membrum", in opposition to "skull", as is noted in a footnote there.) And that would explain why the Peshita has a zayin. Meanwhile, the false etymology or the regular transition from Hebrew zayin to Aramaic daled could readily spark a spurious dechuru.

In terms of the first point, since dechuru is not a reference specifically to sorcery via the penis, but rather to sorcery in general, the first question -- of why call the yidoni, rather than the ov, a zechuru -- can also be answered. Consider the gemara in Sanhedrin once again:
Our Rabbis taught: Ba'al ob denotes both him who conjures up the dead by means of soothsaying11  and one who consults a skull.
The idea is that baal ov is a conjurer, who conjures up the dead so that you can see it, or perhaps generally consults the dead. One strong basis for this is the story of Shaul consulting a baalat ov in order to summon up Shmuel Hanavi. The means that this conjurer will summon up a speaking image of the dead is via zechuru, sorcery. And the baal ov who uses a skull will possibly conjure up an image as well (according to the first reading in the gemara) or else have the dead merely answer (according to the stama de-gemara's emendation).

Meanwhile, a yid'oni might not even be someone who consults the dead. The bone of the yidoa is an animal or bird bone. And this might be a method of consulting random spirits or demons.

If the baal ov uses zechuru, sorcery, that does not mean that the baal ov is the only one who uses sorcery. The yid'oni might make use of sorcery as well. The purpose of the brayta was to talk about two types of ov rather than to assert that zechuru, sorcery, is the exclusive domain of baalei ov.

This root of ZKR then applies to many magical aspects of divination. For example, Jastrow notes:

Thus, we have it refer to necromantic apparitions and necromantic incantations. (I don't know if we need to associate it with a membrum specifically, as he does.)

So too, בִּדִּין and זְכוּרוּ are simply types of magicians. And this does not contradict the gemara in Sanhedrin in any way.

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