Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Would Moshe's death pain Yocheved if she was already deceased?

Summary: There are two ways of interpreting the Yalkut Shimoni, and Rav Chaim Kanievsky supports each one. Then, I bring in some girsological evidence.

Post: In Taama Dikra, Rav Chaim Kanievsky discussed a midrash from Yalkut Shimoni.

"In Yalkut: 
Moshe said before Hashem, 'Yocheved my mother, whose teeth were blunted by the death of her two children, her teeth will be blunted by my death.'
And in Zayit Raanan {=the Magen Avraham's commentary on Yalkut Shimoni, though I am not sure where, since I have not found the specific midrash in Yalkut Shimoni}:
And one is compelled to say that even the righteous feel anguish in the grave.
(And this is clear explicitly in Berachot 18b:
Meanwhile his father came. Samuel observed that he was both weeping and laughing. He said to him: Why are you weeping? He replied: Because you are coming here soon. 

However, in Seder Olam, perek 9, there is, according to the girsa of the Gra, that Yocheved was of those who entered the land. {J: in which case she would have been alive to have her teeth blunted by Moshe's death.} And see in the kuntres beShaar haMelech, we have gone on at length about this."

Here is the short kuntres, written by Rav Chaim Kanievsky, as a commentary upon the introduction of the Rambam, all about the chain of tradition of the Oral law. I am uncertain on what page he discusses this at length -- presumably he discusses just when Yocheved died. He certainly discusses who died in whose lifetime, and who is considered among the zekeinim who received from Yehoshua.

I did not find this midrash yet in Yalkut Shimoni. But it does appear in Midrash Tanchuma on parashat Vaetchanan:
אמר לפניו: ריבון העולמים, יוכבד אמי שהוקהו שיניה בחייה בשני בניה, יקהו עוד שיניה במיתתי. 
אמר לו: כך עלתה במחשבה וכן מנהגו של עולם, דור דור ודורשיו, דור דור ופרנסיו, דור דור ומנהיגיו. עד עכשיו היה חלקך לשרת לפני, ועכשיו אבד חלקך והגיע שעה של יהושע תלמידך לשרת. 
According to this text, the word בחייה, 'in her lifetime' is present in the death of her two sons {presumably Eldad and Medad}. And so there is the implicit contrast to Moshe's death, which would then not be in her lifetime. If so, there is no need to turn to Seder Olam, according to the girsa of the Gra, for confirmation.

However, it is not so clear that this is the correct girsa of Midrash Tanchuma. This edition of Midrash Tanchuma strips out the word בחייה, because the Midrash Tanchuma as quoted by Rabbenu Bachya is missing it. If so, the ambiguity resurfaces, and Seder Olam can help prop up one of the interpretations.

I would have to see what the manuscript evidence was in favor of one girsa vs. the other. Without this, I can only grope around in relative darkness. Now, I generally consider it more difficult for a scribe to insert a word than to delete it, since deletion can occur accidentally. Here, for such an insertion, a scribe would have to see the ambiguity that Rav Kanievsky discussed and decide to deliberately change the text to clarify that only the death of Yocheved's two sons were in her lifetime.

Another interesting girsological observation is that the Yalkut Shimoni, as quoted by Rav Kanievsky, has במיתת שני בניה, with the word במיתת inserted. I don't see this in either of the two variants of Midrash Tanchuma. What might have occurred was a sofer, or perhaps the author of Yalkut Shimoni, changed בחייה to במיתת and stripped out the leading ב from בשני.

This appears to revolve around the question of what the parallel is. It is a parallel of the death of two sons vs. the death of Moshe, or is the parallel between Yocheved's teeth blunting in her lifetime vs. Yocheved's teeth blunting further (in her death) from Moshe's death? The former makes for a better parallelism than the latter, and this might drive such an emendation.

Which leads me to my completely unsupported suggestion of textual emendation of the Tanchuma. I would propose that maybe במיתתי was originally במיתתה, and the ending was knocked off and replaces by a striechel (a single quote indicating the end of the word). Moshe's death was implicit, because it was the subject of the conversation. And the death of her two sons was the topic, but death was not explicitly mentioned. Thus,
אמר לפניו: ריבון העולמים, יוכבד אמי שהוקהו שיניה בחייה בשני בניה, יקהו עוד שיניה במיתתה
"Yocheved my mother, whose teeth were blunted in her lifetime because of her two sons, her teeth will be further blunted now that she is deceased."

This makes for a perfect parallel.

But I don't know, and at the moment, all this is speculative and unsupported. Tzarich iyun.

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