Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Yocheved's mother, whose name was Otah

Summary: Why don't Rashi, Bechor Shor, and Ibn Ezra leap at the cute derash as peshat? I am not convinced they even had access to this midrash, but they might reject it on peshat grounds -- that it does not feel like peshat -- rather than having to reject it on technical grounds of dikduk.

Post: I found the following rather interesting devar Torah in Birkas Avraham, and it involves dikduk, trup, and nikkud. We are told in parashat Pinchas of Yocheved's birth {Bemidbar 26:59}:

נט  וְשֵׁם אֵשֶׁת עַמְרָם, יוֹכֶבֶד בַּת-לֵוִי, אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה אֹתָהּ לְלֵוִי, בְּמִצְרָיִם; וַתֵּלֶד לְעַמְרָם, אֶת-אַהֲרֹן וְאֶת-מֹשֶׁה, וְאֵת, מִרְיָם אֲחֹתָם.59 And the name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and she bore unto Amram Aaron and Moses, and Miriam their sister.

Rashi explains:

אשר ילדה אתה ללוי במצרים: לידתה במצרים ואין הורתה במצרים. כשנכנסו לתוך החומה ילדתה, והיא השלימה מנין שבעים, שהרי בפרטן אי אתה מוצא אלא ששים ותשע:

No mention of just who gave birth to her in this Rashi, just that 'her birth was in Egypt but her conception was not in Egypt.' This is based on Sota 12a:
אפשר בת מאה ושלשים שנה הויא וקרי לה בת דא"ר חמא בר' חנינא זו יוכבד שהורתה בדרך ולידתה בין החומות שנאמר (במדבר כו, נט) אשר ילדה אותה ללוי במצרים לידתה במצרים ואין הורתה במצרים
However, according to some variant texts of Rashi, he does make a statement that someone gave birth to her. Thus, in our Mikraos Gedolos, the Rashi leads off with:
אשתו ילדתה במצרים

Then, in square brackets, [לידתה במצרים] and then proceeding as before. I wonder whether this represents a variant text in which אשתו ילדתה במצרים replaces that first statement.

But Munich, 1233 does not have the statement of אשתו ילדתה במצרים in Rashi at all:

And this Rashi from Rome, 1470, has even less:

which even glosses over the being born specifically between the walls, but just discusses how the finished the count of seventy souls.

Here is what I think is an early text, but I don't know its details, which has the statement, but with אשתו ילדתה במצרים replacing לידתה במצרים, as I suggested above:

Since the focus is a derasha on the word bemitzrayim and the verb of יָלְדָה rather than conceived', the introduction that it is his wife who birthed her seems out of place, especially as a divergence from the text of the gemara in Sotah. If Rashi was commenting on the specific actor of the verb, I would have expected it to be a separate statement.

But at any rate, other meforshim do take on the actor of the verb, specifically. Thus, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra writes:
והזכיר שם יוכבד בעבור כבוד בניה ולא הזכיר שם יולדתה, דרך קצרה.
וכן: אשריאל אשר ילדה.
and so too Rabbi Yosef Bechor Shor:

With all this set up, let us turn to R' Avraham Albert, in Birkas Avraham:

"In the verse וְשֵׁם אֵשֶׁת עַמְרָם, יוֹכֶבֶד בַּת-לֵוִי, אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה אֹתָהּ לְלֵוִי, בְּמִצְרָיִם, Rashi explains: 'his wife bore her in Egypt; her birth was in Egypt, etc.' {Josh: Thus, the girsa as established in our common Mikraos Gedolos.} It is implied to me in the beginning of the language of Rashi, 'his wife bore her', that he wishes to say that his wife whose name is not known to us bore her. And this is like the words of Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, zal, that the verse does not mention the name of the one who bore Yocheved, but rather writes in short form. And so is written in the commentary of Rabbenu Bechor Shor, zal, that this is a shortened verse, for 'whom his wife had born to Levi".
Howbeit, in Tosafot which is in Hadar Zekeinim {Josh: see here}, after it brings the language of the Bechor Shor, he adds 'and there is in the Midrash that אותה was the wife of Levi.' That is to say that {when the verse has the word אותה, it is not a pronoun designating Yocheved, but rather that} אותה was the name of the wife of Levi.
And that which Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Bechor Shor reject midrash, perhaps this is because of the reason that R' Zalman of Volozhin rejects it, as is brought in sefer Toldot Adam at the end, that if her name was so, the heh {of אֹתָהּ} would not need to be written with a mapik but rather יָלְדָה should be with a mapik, and אֹתָהּ without a mapik, see there.

{Josh: To interject, the idea is that יָלְדָה is a simple feminine verb, 'she gave birth'. The idea is that with a mapik, יָלְדָהּ, that final heh would function as an indicator of the object of the verb, 'her'. Thus, 'she gave birth to her'. And אֹתָהּ usually means 'her', as the direct object. If it were someone's name, we would not necessarily expect a mapik heh as part of the name, such that אֹתָה might be expected. He continues:}

And yet is it a wondrous this, that in Paneach Raza, and the Chida brings it in sefer Devash Lefi, {on the word?} אותה, and adds that in the Hagahos of R' Yitzchak Katz, za'l, the son-in-law of the Maharal, that the mofes {spark? support? evidence?} of this is that in all the precise manuscripts, there is no mapik in the word אותה, and also that the trup symbol of tevir is on the word אותה, to divide it from the word לוי, see there. And that is that before them, the masorah of the mapik was different from the one which stands before us."

And he continues from there on a related tangent, that another midrash names Levi's wife Adina, and whether this conflicts.

The sefer Paneach Raza is here, from R' Yitzchak ben Yehuda HaLevi of France, 13th century:

He credits sefer haGan, which is even earlier, from R' Aharon ben Yose HaKohen of Northern France, 1240. He is citing Bechor Shor to start commenting, rather than citing Rashi. This may indicate something about the correct girsa of Rashi. And sefer HaGan derives it not from trup or the absence of the mapik in אותה, but from the entire word אותה being extraneous. Thus, at the least, this might indicate that this variant lack of mapik was not present before the sefer HaGan, nor before the Paneach Raza.

(I would add that another spark is certainly the lack of actor in the word ילדה. While it is not strictly necessary, its absence is strange enough to warrant comment by Ibn Ezra and Bechor Shor.)

Rather, it is noted first by R' Yitzchak Katz, za'l, the son-in-law of the Maharal. The Maharal lived from 1520-1609, so this is where it is first noted. Of course, he could have indeed had the same girsa as the author of this midrash, even though neither sefer HaGan nor the Paneach Raza had it. Or perhaps they had it but did not note it.

The idea is ילדה אותה with no mapik at all would mean that Ota bore, without any object (mapik heh) mentioned at all.

Now, what of these two proofs? Well, the lack of mapik is certainly nice support for the midrash. But it is not incontrovertible proof. For the variant text might have arisen out of the midrash, rather than acting as support for the midrash.

In terms of the tevir, I am pretty sure this is what we would expect by the rules of continuous syntactic dichotomy as defined by William Wickes. That at, the clause is:

אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה אֹתָהּ לְלֵוִי בְּמִצְרָיִם

We ignore the asher (it is connected with the next word, as Wickes writes later), and since ילדה is a verb, the following applies:

Thus, first we chop off בְּמִצְרָיִם with a tipcha on לְלֵוִי. Then, in the clause אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה אֹתָהּ לְלֵוִי, we chop off לְלֵוִי from the end with a tevir on אֹתָהּ. And the tevir is determined to be the proper trup because of the tipcha which lies at the end of the clause. It is rather straightforward.

Still, perhaps this was the spark to the midrash.

In terms of the lack of the mapik in this alternate masorah, I would note that Minchas Shai does not mention this variant in any of his manuscripts, nor does CD Ginsberg. And the Leningrad Codex has like our Masorah, with the mapik:

There are instances of the word לה, lah, with no mapik, so otah with no mapik would not necessarily force an interpretation in which Otah is the woman's name.

Finally, as to what led Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Bechor Shor to 'reject' this midrash.

In terms of Rashi, I am not convinced that Rashi says anything to reject or accept it. It depends upon our girsa, and even with this girsa which has it, it is somewhat ambiguous.

Assuming that Rashi did say it and did mean it, though, I don't have evidence (yet) that Rashi knew of this midrash, to reject it. Rashi lived from February 22, 1040 – July 13, 1105. That is a century or two before sefer haGan. That this Tosafist mentions a midrash does not mean that this midrash existed in the time of Rashi. People were writing midrashim all the time, even in Ibn Ezra's time. I have not seen it demonstrated that, for example, this midrash was a Midrash from Chazal. I don't see it in Tanchuma, Sifrei, or the rather last, post-Rashi, Bamidbar Rabba.

And even if the midrash stood before Rashi, this is not necessarily the sort of midrash that Rashi would bring. It is a clever kvetch on the words of the pasuk, but it does not really strike one as peshat. One need not appeal to whether it can work out based on dikduk, and presence or absence of mapik, to arrive at this conclusion.

Certainly for Ibn Ezra. He would likely laugh at the suggestion that this midrash makes for good peshat, even if the mapiks all lined up. Ibn Ezra lived (1092 - 1167), so it is possible that he, too, did not see this midrash. But one need not even say this, because it is so, so obvious, that Ibn Ezra would not offer this up as peshat.

Bechor Shor lived in the second half of the 12th century, meaning approximately 1150-1199. This brings us closer to the sefer HaGan's time, but there is still no hard evidence that he would have seen this midrash. I don't know enough of Bechor Shor's methodology to assert that he would categorically deny this midrash peshat status. But I still would guess that he would do so.

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