Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Did Rashi sin in saying פרשה זו יפה נדרשת במדרש רבי תנחומא?

Summary: The Taz brings up a prohibition Rashi might have violated in this regard, and explains why it was not forbidden in this instance -- something to do with the nature of peshat and derash on this pasuk. I analyze the topic in greater detail, and think I have a better explanation.

Post: Rashi begins his commentary on parashat Korach as follows:

1. Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi took [himself to one side] along with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, descendants of Reuben.א. וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח בֶּן יִצְהָר בֶּן קְהָת בֶּן לֵוִי וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם בְּנֵי אֱלִיאָב וְאוֹן בֶּן פֶּלֶת בְּנֵי רְאוּבֵן:
And Korach took: This parsha is darshened will in the Midrash of Rabbi Tanchuma.ויקח קרח: פרשה זו יפה נדרשת במדרש רבי תנחומא:

He follows this up immediately with commentary on the actual substance of parshas Korach:

ויקח קרח: לקח את עצמו לצד אחד להיות נחלק מתוך העדה לעורר על הכהונה, וזהו שתרגם אונקלוס ואתפלג נחלק משאר העדה להחזיק במחלוקת, וכן (איוב טו, יב) מה יקחך לבך, לוקח אותך להפליגך משאר בני אדם. דבר אחר ויקח קרח משך ראשי סנהדראות שבהם בדברים, כמו שנאמר (במדבר כ, כה) קח את אהרן, (הושע יד, ג) קחו עמכם דברים:

The Taz is troubled by this. In his commentary on Rashi, Divrei David, he writes:

"This parasha is darshened well -- it appears to be difficult, for there is a prohibition in utilizing such language! For behold, Chazal said [Eruvin 64a; and here] that it is prohibited to say 'this halacha is good; this halacha is not good'. For one cannot say that specifically for saying both of them there is a prohibition to say. This is not so, for behold, 'this halacha is not good' one should prohibit by itself. Rather, perforce, this is what it means to say: Just as it is forbidden to say 'this halacha is not good', so is it forbidden to say 'this halacha is good', for from this it is implied that other halachot are not good, forfend! And if so, what does Rashi say 'this parasha...'?

And there is so say that here as well, there is an exclusion. For in other places, there are two paths -- one according to its peshat and the second according to the midrash. But here, there is only one path, for the midrash is the peshat, for there is no peshat here, but only the midrash is well darshened even according to its peshat, for there is no explanation on the word ויקח what he took, according to its peshat."

Before proceeding, a little biographical information about the Taz:
David ha-Levi Segal (c. 1586 – 20 February 1667), also known as the Turei Zahav (abbreviated Taz) after the title of his significant halakhic commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, was one of the greatest Polish rabbinical authorities...
Around 1641 he became rabbi of the old community of Ostrog, (or Ostroh), in Volhynia. There Segal established a famous yeshiva, and was soon recognized as one of the great halakhic authorities of his time. In Ostrog, Segal wrote a commentary on Joseph Caro's Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah), which he published in Lublin in 1646. This commentary, known as theTurei Zahav ("Rows of Gold"), was accepted as one of the highest authorities on Jewish law. Thereafter, Segal became known by the acronym of his work, the TaZ.
Thus, the Taz is a halachist, and so his random halachic concerns should probably be taken somewhat seriously. He also wrote a supercommentary on Rashi, Derech David, where he expresses his concerns about this Rashi.

I think I have a good response to this halachic concern, though my answer is different from his. Before proceeding further, I'd like to lay out a structure for analysis of this sugya, as a series of questions that I plan to answer systematically.
  1. Where is this gemara? What does it say, precisely?
  2. Is it brought down lehalacha by the Rif, Rosh, Rambam, Tur, Shulchan Aruch, or is it just a resurrected passing comment in the gemara which an acharon has now brought to prominence?
  3. Does Rashi indeed say this? When looking at the manuscripts of Rashi I have in my possession (in my source-roundup), is this comment consistently there?
  4. Assuming Rashi did indeed say this, how would I explain his intent? Why should he bother making such a comment?
  5. The analysis in (4) will likely differ from the analysis in the Taz. Does this save Rashi in a different way?
  6. What do I think of the Taz's explanation of Rashi and his saving of Rashi? Does it work out with Rashi's language, and the facts on the ground? Does Rashi really only say this about the single derasha  on ויקח קרח? Is there really no acceptable peshat here? Is the midrash here really peshat, to the exclusion of other places where Rashi channels midrash?
  7. Others in the conversation
I - The Gemara in Eruvin

I did my best to track down this gemara, and I believe that the Taz is referring to this gemara in Eruvin, 64a:
אמר ליה אביי לרב יוסף היו שם חמשה שכירו וה' לקיטו מהו אמר ליה אם אמרו שכירו ולקיטו להקל יאמרו שכירו ולקיטו להחמיר גופא אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל אפילו שכירו ואפי' לקיטו נותן עירובו ודיו אמר רב נחמן כמה מעליא הא שמעתא אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל שתה רביעית יין אל יורה אמר רב נחמן לא מעליא הא שמעתא דהא אנא כל כמה דלא שתינא רביעתא דחמרא לא צילא דעתאי אמר ליה רבא מאי טעמא אמר מר הכי האמר ר' אחא בר חנינא מאי דכתיב (משלי כט, ג) ורועה זונות יאבד הון כל האומר שמועה זו נאה וזו אינה נאה מאבד הונה של תורה אמר ליה הדרי בי
For the English, I will simply cite the Point by Point Summary:
(g) Question (Abaye): If there are five Sechirim or Lekitim [of a Nochri; Ra'avad - or of a Yisrael], must they all give to the Eruv (Rashba - must we rent from all of them) [as if it was their house]?
(h) Answer (Rav Yosef): The law of Sachir or Lakit is a leniency, so do not derive stringencies from it (we are lenient regarding Eruvin).
(i) (Rav Yehudah): It suffices if the Sachir or Lakit gives towards the Eruv.
(j) Rav Nachman: This is a superb teaching!
(a) (Rav Yehudah): One who drinks a Revi'is of wine may not give Halachic rulings.
(b) Rav Nachman: This is not a good teaching - my mind is not clear until I drink a Revi'is!
1. Rava: It is not proper to say that a teaching is not good!
2. (R. Acha bar Chanina): "V'Ro'eh Zonos Ye'abed Hon" - if one says that some teachings are nice and others are not, he will lose the glory of Torah (forget his learning. Rashi - Zonos is like 'Zo Na'eh (this one is nice)'; Me'iri - he is attracted only to some teachings, like men find some women more attractive than others. Rashash - one may disapprove of teachings that oppose other teachings.)
3. Rav Nachman: I retract.
And Rashi writes there:

מאי טעמא אמר מר הכי - זו נאה וזו אינה נאה:
הונה - כבודה של תורה וסופה להשתכח ממנו:
רועה זונות - נוטריקון זו נאה וארענה ואעסוק בה כדי שתתקיים בידי:
הדרי בי - לא אוסיף עוד:
If this is indeed the only gemara that makes such a statement, then there are a few differences between it and what the Taz brought down, and perhaps those differences can provide us with an answer. First, it does not speak of saying that one הלכה is nice and another is not nice, but rather that one שמועה is nice and the other not nice. Perhaps this could refer to only a specific type of teaching. Second, the two examples brought down are approval or disapproval of halachot, so perhaps midrash aggada is different. We indeed see distinctions in accepting or rejecting midrash aggada from Chazal, in Shmuel Hanagid's Mevo HaTalmud. Third, maybe we can say like the Rashash, above, that given competing traditions, one can select one over the other.

While there is room from the gemara to argue with the Taz about whether saying that a tradition is nice is unacceptable, or only  the reverse, there is enough in the gemara to support the Taz's position. After all, Rav Nachman said both, and then retracted. True, the retraction was listed only after him taking a negative position, but it seems like the entire process of approval / disapproval was being frowned upon. Perhaps this is only when one is engaging in both positive and negative review, that an approval would carry such an implication.

I also don't know that we should read a prohibition, and issur, into this. It could just be rather frowned upon, hashkafically, with the derasha from Mishlei as a support to such disapproval.

II - The Rishonim

Is this gemara brought down lehalacha in halachic literature, or is the Taz resurrecting a position which had been ignored until his time?

Well, the Rif cites it as part of the discussion from the gemara:
Abaye said to Rav Yosef: What if there were five hired laborers or retainers {in the gentile's house, each of whom occupied a room in it, and one had forgotten to contribute his share in the eruv of the alley}?
He said to him: Even if they said the law of hired laborers and retainers to be lenient, do you think they spoke of hired laborers or retainers to be stringent?! {But rather, there is no problem.}

Gufa: {to return to the main text}
Rav Yehuda cited Shmuel: even his hired laborer or retainer may contribute on his {=the gentile's} behalf to the eruv, and it is sufficient.
Rav Nachman said: How excellent a ruling is this!

And Rav Yehuda cited Shmuel: One who has drunk a reviit of wine should not pray {our gemara: should not render a legal ruling}.
Rav Nachman said: This ruling is not excellent, for until I drink a reviit of wine, my mind is not clear.

Rava said to him {=Rav Nachman}: Why does Master speak in such a manner? Did not Rav Acha bar Chanina state: What is meant by what is written {Mishlei 29:3}:
ג אִישׁ-אֹהֵב חָכְמָה, יְשַׂמַּח אָבִיו;וְרֹעֶה זוֹנוֹת, יְאַבֶּד-הוֹן.3 Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father; but he that keepeth company with harlots wasteth his substance.

{where זוֹנוֹת is reread as zo naot = this is beautiful.}
Whoever says this {zo} ruling is beautiful {naeh} and this ruling is not beautiful, it is as if he loses the substance of Torah.
He {Rav Nachman} said: I withdraw.
The Rosh also brings it down. It could just be a less selective editing, but we can also take it as evidence that one indeed should not do this, lehalacha. However, looking on the daf of the gemara, in Ein Mishpat, Ner Mitzvah, there is no lettered footnote. That would strongly suggest that it does not appear in Rambam, Tur, or Shulchan Aruch. This might have been an oversight, but on the other hand, there is some element of resurrecting a position mentioned merely in passing in the gemara.

III - Does Rashi actually say this?

My earliest Ktav Yad of Rashi (I think), from Munich, 1233, indeed has this statement of Rashi. On the other hand, this statement follows a large mass of inserted material, as is the general derech of this particular manuscript. Perhaps one could assert that this statement, as well, is an insertion. Personally, I don't think it is an insertion, because as we shall see, it serves an important methodological function, tied closely to what  Rashi himself is doing here.

I did find one manuscript -- which I think is early, but I am not sure from precisely when -- in which this first comment of Rashi does not appear. Thus, we find in the following Ktav Yad:

See how the parsha starts and it jumps immediately to Rashi's second comment. This might be an indication that this first Rashi is a later insertion, and is not from Rashi's hand.

IV - Rashi's Intent

Yet, I do think that Rashi made this comment. And here is how I would explain it. We should look to the Mekoros of Rashi, either in Avraham Berliner's critical edition of Rashi, or in Mekorei Rashi in Mechokekei Yehuda.

What were Rashi's sources for the previous segment, at the end of parashat Shelach? From Berliner's Beur:

In other words, Rashi relies heavily of the Sifrei, and also on scattered gemaros in Sanhedrin and Menachos.

The beginning of parashat Korach represents a shift in where Rashi gets his midrashim:

There is this sudden shift in which Rashi draws all of his midrashim from Midrash Tanchuma. This continues throughout perek 16, continues through perek 17, and then finally, in perek 18, we see a shift back to the Sifrei:

Why does Rashi abandon the Sifrei for the span of two whole perakim? It turns out that Rashi did not abandon the Sifrei so much as the Sifrei abandoned him. That is, there is no Sifrei on these two perakim, but rather Sifrei on Korach begins in chapter 18. And at the first opportunity, on Bemidbar 18:1, Rashi resumes citing the Sifrei,

V - Saving Rashi from Sin

Now we can understand Rashi's remark of פרשה זו יפה נדרשת במדרש רבי תנחומא. He is indicating, for those interested, that he has shifted his source for midrashic material. And why does he do it? Not because he prefers the content of Tanchuma over Sifrei, but because there is content in Tanchuma but not in Sifrei. When he says יפה נדרשת, he does not mean to praise the content, but rather means that it is consistently darshened, on a pasuk by pasuk-basis. He is praising coverage. And I suppose instead he could have looked through Shas and found midrashic material, but it is easier to get a consistent read when you pull material from a single source.

If so, the Taz has no reason for concern, because that is not what Rashi meant!

VI - Considering Taz's Analysis

In my estimation, we are standing on fairly firm ground in our understanding of Rashi. But what about the Taz's explanation? Recall that he explained it as follows:
And there is so say that here as well, there is an exclusion. For in other places, there are two paths -- one according to its peshat and the second according to the midrash. But here, there is only one path, for the midrash is the peshat, for there is no peshat here, but only the midrash is well darshened even according to its peshat, for there is no explanation on the word ויקח what he took, according to its peshat."
Here is why I would disagree with it. There are actually quite a number of derashot of ויקח קרח, even in Tanchuma. Thus, for example:
ויקח אין ויקח אלא משיכת דברים רכים, שמשך כל גדולי ישראל והסנהדראות אחריו. 
ויקח קרח לקח טליתו והלך ליטול עצה מאשתו. 
See inside for others. And Ibn Ezra gives a peshat explanation of ויקח. And so can Ibn Caspi. And I can offer a peshat explanation of ויקח, that it is a null value, selecting all the participants in an action prior to the mention of the action, in ויקומו in the next pasuk. Still, Rashi might well argue and think the midrash he presents is peshat, and only that.

But another problem is how often Rashi channels midrashim. I would say it is greater than 80% of the time, and not always does he present it alongside a 'peshat'. If so, why is this place different from all other places, especially if Taz buys into the idea (as I expect he does) that Rashi is almost always saying 'peshat'?

And another problem is that Rashi does not say that this pasuk was darshened well in Tanchuma. He says this 'parsha'. This does not mean sidra, but certainly it means a good portion of the following text. So how can the Taz just speak about the single midrash on ויקח קרח as something that excludes a separate path of peshat and of derash?

Perhaps this is salvageable, but in light of a more straightforward explanation, based on the shift in Rashi's sources and the lack in Sifrei, I would prefer the explanation I offered.

VII - Others in the Conversation

There are many other meforshei Rashi engaged in this conversation. Just to give a taste, Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi writes that Rashi means that the midrash in Tanchuma is close to peshuto shel Mikra:

And Maharshal, in Yeriot Shlomo, interprets this interpretation of Mizrachi as compelled by that gemara in Eruvin. for otherwise it would be forbidden to say:

This is along the same lines as the Taz. And see Levush HaOrah who claims a different motivation for Rashi, but with a similar conclusion, that he means that it is derash close to peshat. And see what Maharsha says, and so on and so forth.


Jr said...

I don't usually comment just to give my approval of a post, but this one is too good to resist. Your analytical skills are amazing and this is such a nice discovery. Just one question: is this the only instance that rashi uses this phrase?

Sochatchover said...

Excellent post!

joshwaxman said...


it is a good line of inquiry. i am not enough of a baki in Rashi to know for certain. i did a site search of chabad's tanach with Rashi site, and did not find other instances of the phrase, but i might have missed it.

Rashi does give occasional cues as to his sources. One possible approach, taking it from the other direction, would be to scan through Mekorei Rashi or Berliner and look for the major shifts in sources, and then check for what, if anything, Rashi says at each juncture.

kol tuv,

Z said...

I agree with Jr and want to take this opportunity to thank you for all the effort you put into this blog and to let you know that it is greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

thank you for a fascinating article.

One correction: i beleiev the Taz's sefer is called 'divrei dovid' not darchei dovid'

joshwaxman said...

you're right. i'll correct it.


Anonymous said...

Is the Divrei Dovid available in English?

ba said...

I happened to read this the week of P' Korach, and was impressed by your answer. Now that it is P' Balak, I see that Rashi's sources are almost ENTIRELY Tanchuma, but he never says anything about it. Do you have something to say about this?

Possibly, Sifri has something to say and Rashi chose to ignore it, that which isn't true in Korach, where Sifri had nothing to say; however, I didn't check.


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