Sunday, October 09, 2011

Elohei Neichar-HaAretz

Summary: Why does the makef connect neichar to ha'aretz, rather than to elohei? How Ibn Ezra, Onkelos, and Shadal deal with this strange phenomenon. This on Vayelech, but I neglected to post it in its time.

Post: In revii of Vayelech, we encounter a strange makef:

I would have expected a makef to join elohei to neichar, not neichar ha'aretz. As written, it almost seems that it means that they are foreign to the land, rather than them being foreign gods. (Going along with the makef, the kametz under the chaf reduces to a patach. Thus, neichar rather than neichaar. This is the construct form, rather than the absolute.)

Ibn Ezra says about this:
אחרי אלהי נכר הארץ -ידענו כי השם אחד והשנוי יבוא מהמקבלים והשם לא ישנה מעשיו, כי כולם בחכמה. ומעבודת השם לשמור כח הקבול כפי המקום, על כן כתוב: את משפט אלהי הארץ, על כן אמר יעקב: הסירו את אלהי הנכר והפך המקום הדבק בעריות, שהם שאר. והמשכיל יבין.
"We know that Hashem is One, while any change comes from the recipients. And Hashem does not change His actions, for all of them are is wisdom. And it is of the service of Hashem to preserve the receiving force in accordance with the place. Therefore it is written, 'the mishpat of the Elohei of the land.'

{This in 2 Melachim 17:21:

כו  וַיֹּאמְרוּ, לְמֶלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר לֵאמֹר, הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר הִגְלִיתָ וַתּוֹשֶׁב בְּעָרֵי שֹׁמְרוֹן, לֹא יָדְעוּ, אֶת-מִשְׁפַּט אֱלֹהֵי הָאָרֶץ; וַיְשַׁלַּח-בָּם אֶת-הָאֲרָיוֹת, וְהִנָּם מְמִיתִים אוֹתָם, כַּאֲשֶׁר אֵינָם יֹדְעִים, אֶת-מִשְׁפַּט אֱלֹהֵי הָאָרֶץ.26 Wherefore they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying: 'The nations which thou hast carried away, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land; therefore He hath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land.'


and therefore Yaakov said, 'cast off the Elohei HaNeichar'. And it {meaning Bet El where Yaakov was now} is the opposite of the place which was connected in indecency, which was incest. And the maskil will understand."

When Ibn Ezra writes in this cryptic manner, it is difficult for the uninitiated to understand. (I based my translation above on Yahel Or, in Mechokekei Yehudah.) Indeed, as I discussed two years ago, Mekor Chaim understands this comment by Ibn Ezra as a partial endorsement of idols outside the land of Israel.

I think this is associated with the strange placement of the makef. It is the neichar-ha'aretz, that they are foreign to the specific land. But otherwise, it (either the actions or the idols) might have been OK, from Hashem's perspective.

Onkelos deals with the makef in a different way, I think. He writes:

לא,טז וַיֹּאמֶר ה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, הִנְּךָ שֹׁכֵב עִם-אֲבֹתֶיךָ; וְקָם הָעָם הַזֶּה וְזָנָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵי נֵכַר-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר הוּא בָא-שָׁמָּה בְּקִרְבּוֹ, וַעֲזָבַנִי, וְהֵפֵר אֶת-בְּרִיתִי אֲשֶׁר כָּרַתִּי אִתּוֹ.וַאֲמַר יְיָ לְמֹשֶׁה, הָא אַתְּ שָׁכֵיב עִם אֲבָהָתָךְ; וִיקוּם עַמָּא הָדֵין וְיִטְעֵי בָּתַר טָעֲוָת עַמְמֵי אַרְעָא, דְּהוּא עָלֵיל לְתַמָּן בֵּינֵיהוֹן, וְיִשְׁבְּקוּן דַּחְלְתִי, וִישַׁנּוֹן יָת קְיָמִי דִּגְזַרִית עִמְּהוֹן.

That is, neichar is a stand-in for nochri. And so neichar ha'aretz are the 'nations of the land', amemei ar'a. And elohei means 'idols of'. If he thought that elohei neichar meant foreign gods, then I would have expected the word עממי to be in absolute, rather than construct form. That is, עממיא. How would it join to the next word, ארעא? I would say that it would be with a joining ד, as in דארעא. Related, check out Targum Yonasan, which has טעות עממיא. It strangely omits the word ארעא, perhaps because of this very difficulty.

Shadal approaches the issue as follows:
טז נכר אין ענינו עם נכרי, אבל הוא דבק עם אלקי ( אלקי הנכר של אותה הארץ) ובאה מילת נכר מדובקת במקף ע"ד ( ישעיה נ"ו ד') בית תפלתי, שענינו בית תפלה שלי, שאעפ"י שהיחס הוא לבית ולא לתפלה, הנה הוא מדובק למילת תפלה, וכן ( למטה ל"ב י"ד) חלב כליות חטה. ומילת בקרבו חוזרת לעם הארץ, יושב הארץ אעפ"י שלא נזכר.
"Neichar does not mean a foreign nation, but rather it is connected with elohei (that is, the elohei neichar of that particular land). And the word neichar comes connected with a makef in the same sense as (Yeshayah 56:7), בְּבֵית תְּפִלָּתִי, whose meaning is 'my house of prayer' {J: rather than 'house of my prayer'}, for even though the association to the house and not to the prayer, behold it is connected {morphologically} with the word 'prayer'. And so too (below, in Devarim 32:14, in Haazinu):

יד  חֶמְאַת בָּקָר וַחֲלֵב צֹאן,  {ס}  עִם-חֵלֶב כָּרִים וְאֵילִים  {ר}  בְּנֵי-בָשָׁן וְעַתּוּדִים,  {ס}  עִם-חֵלֶב, כִּלְיוֹת חִטָּה;  {ר}  וְדַם-עֵנָב, תִּשְׁתֶּה-חָמֶר.  {ס}14 Curd of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and he-goats, with the kidney-fat of wheat; and of the blood of the grape thou drankest foaming wine.

{where perhaps he is focused on the makef preceding? Regardless, it is the [chelev of the kelayot] [of the wheat] , not the [chelev] [of the kelayot of the wheat].}

And the word בקרבו (in אֲשֶׁר הוּא בָא-שָׁמָּה בְּקִרְבּוֹ) refers to the nation of the land, residents of the land, even though it is not {explicitly} mentioned."

Thus, the makef does not imply an association between nechar and ha'aretz which is stronger than between elohei and neichar.

This sounds to me plausible. But even if it is not true, Shadal has explained elsewhere that trup is not dispositive. And so, which the trup might parse it one way, we can still explain it in other ways.

1 comment:

J. C. Salomon said...

See also Rav S. R. Hirsch on this topic. (I recall he writes about it; I just can’t remember what he said. ☹)


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