Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How Chazal assume a malei טְהוֹרָה, against the masorah (and Torah Codes)

Summary: According to the Masorah, אֲשֶׁר אֵינֶנָּה טְהֹרָה is chaser. According to the letter count in the gemara in Pesachim, it in malei. See how Minchas Shai attempts to resolve this. Plus, evidence from the Samaritan Pentateuch as well as from masoretic variants.

Post: In Hashem's instruction to Noach of what to take onto the ark:

2. Of all the clean animals you shall take for yourself seven pairs, a male and its mate, and of the animals that are not clean, two, a male and its mate.ב. מִכֹּל הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּהוֹרָה תִּקַּח לְךָ שִׁבְעָה שִׁבְעָה אִישׁ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ וּמִן הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא טְהֹרָה הִוא שְׁנַיִם אִישׁ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ:

and then later, in the fulfillment, in pasuk 8:

8. Of the clean beasts and of the beasts that are not clean, and of the fowl, and all that creeps upon the earth.ח. מִן הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּהוֹרָה וּמִן הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר אֵינֶנָּה טְהֹרָה וּמִן הָעוֹף וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר רֹמֵשׂ עַל הָאֲדָמָה:

Minchas Shai writes on this later pasuk:

"In the first perek of Pesachim [3a],
דאמר ר' יהושע בן לוי לעולם אל יוציא אדם דבר מגונה מפיו שהרי עקם הכתוב שמונה אותיות ולא הוציא דבר מגונה מפיו שנאמר (בראשית ז, ח) מן הבהמה הטהורה ומן הבהמה אשר איננה טהורה
'For Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: One should never send out an indecent statement from his mouth, for behold the Scriptures twisted [out of its way] eight letters in order not to put forth from its mouth an indecent statement, as it stated מִן הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּהוֹרָה וּמִן הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר אֵינֶנָּה טְהוֹרָה.'

{Josh: Note טְהוֹרָה spelled malei vav in this gemara, while our Masoretic text has it chaser vav.}

And behold, so is it in Vayikra Rabba at the start of parashat Emor. And Rashi explains:
אשר איננה טהורה - ולא כתיב הבהמה הטמאה כי אורחיה הרי שמונה אותיות עקם הטמאה חמש אותיות הן אשר איננה טהורה שלש עשרה אותיות ואע"ג דבאורייתא כתיב טמא שני אורחיה בחד דוכתא ללמדך לחזר על לשון נקיה:
'And it is not written 'the unclean beasts' in its normal fashion. Thus, eight letters it diverted, for הַטְּמֵאָה is five letters, while אֲשֶׁר אֵינֶנָּה טְהוֹרָה is thirteen letters. And even though in the Torah there is written the word טָמֵא, it changes it manner in one place to teach you to seek after the clean language.'
And this is difficult, for the word טְהֹרָה of אֲשֶׁר אֵינֶנָּה is chaser vav, just as I gave over the masorah above [on Bereishit 7:2] upon אֲשֶׁר לֹא טְהֹרָה. And if so, it is seven letters [difference, not eight as the gemara and Rashi stated].

And one cannot say that it was not precise here in the gemara between malei and chaser, for behold we see that they are plenty precise afterwards in the word טָהוֹר, of [Devarim 23:11] כִּי יִהְיֶה בְךָ אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִהְיֶה טָהוֹר מִקְּרֵה לָיְלָה. For [the gemara in Pesachim continued immediately with]
רב פפא אמר תשע שנאמר (דברים כג, יא) כי יהיה בך איש אשר לא יהיה טהור מקרה לילה 
Rav Pappa said [it diverted] nine, for it is stated  כי יהיה בך איש אשר לא יהיה טהור מקרה לילה
For it should have written איש טמא [and the difference between טמא, three letters, and אשר לא יהיה טהר, twelve letters, with tahor spelled chaser vav, is nine]. And [the gemara continues]:

רבינא אמר עשר וי"ו דטהור
Ravina said: ten -- the vav of tahor.
for it is malei vav. And further, they are precise as well afterwards in the word רֹכֶבֶת, of וְהָיָה הִיא רֹכֶבֶת עַל הַחֲמוֹר in I Shmuel 25:20. For after we conclude that wherever דכי הדדי נינהו משתעי בלשון נקיה, {where they are equal length one chooses the cleaner language}  that is to say where one need not go longer, he should choose the honorable language. See the Ran.

And in Yalkut, parashat Noach, we ask: 'But רוכבת and יושבת are equal in length, and it states רוכבת.' And we resolve רכבת כתיב {is written}, that is to say that it is chaser vav. And though one could also have written ישבת chaser, however, all chasers in the Torah come for the sake of derash, as we darshen 'and Lot ישב {instead of יושב = was sitting} at the gate of the city', that ישב is written; that day they appointed him as a judge. And here it teaches you with this chaser that you should grab the shortened language, even if it is degraded {מגונה}, for here they grabbed the degraded language and thus shortened.

And yet, in Bereishit Rabba, parasha 32 [siman 4] they do not mention the letters at all, but just the words. 

מכל הבהמה הטהורה וגו' 
ר' יודן בשם ר' יוחנן, ור' ברכיה בשם רבי אליעזר, ור' יעקב דכפר חנין בשם ר' יהושע בן לוי: מצינו שעיקם הקב"ה שתים ושלוש תיבות בתורה, כדי שלא להוציא דבר טומאה מתוך פיו, הה"ד: מכל הבהמה הטהורה תקח לך שבעה שבעה איש ואשתו, ומן הבהמה הטמאה אין כתיב: כאן, אלא אשר לא טהורה היא. 

And so appears there, in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi himself: 'We find that the Scriptures divert two or three words in the Torah in order not to put out a matter of impurity from its mouth. That it what is written [and citing pasuk 2, not pasuk 8]: מִכֹּל הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּהוֹרָה תִּקַּח לְךָ שִׁבְעָה שִׁבְעָה אִישׁ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ, and then וּמִן הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּמֵאָה is not written, but rather אֲשֶׁר לֹא טְהֹרָה הִוא'. End quote.

And it referred to two because of the verse of [pasuk 8] אֲשֶׁר אֵינֶנָּה טְהֹרָה, and three because of the verse [2] of וּמִן הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא טְהֹרָה הִוא. And here as well, the Scriptures diverted seven letters. And so appears by the explanation of 'two or three' in Bemidbar Rabba [19:3], at the start of parashat Chukat, and similarly, in Tanchuma parashat Vayishlach [siman 9] {that it says two or three, rather than a number of letters}."

This ends the Minchas Shai. He does not really resolve the question that the gemara explicitly says eight, and is being precise, while this is at odds with the Masoretic text, and the Masorah. It does seem that he is hinting that this is corruption of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's statement, for Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi was initially speaking about words, not letters.

Yet, statements change. I am not convinced, firstly, that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi was ever speaking about pasuk 8. He only discussed pasuk 2. 'Two or three' words could mean two and three, that it not only goes two words, but even three words, out of its way. Or one could say that the word היא at the end could have appeared even with הטמאה, so one could choose whether to count it.

Regardless -- even if Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi meant to also discuss pasuk 8 -- by the time it reached the Talmud Bavli it was discussing letters. And the Amoraim testified to the existence of eight extra letters, not seven. And it seems to have been precise, since we have a run of numbers. RYBL says eight; Rav Pappa says nine; Ravina says ten. And between nine and ten they are medayek in malei vs. chaser. (One can counter that a bit later, there is a skip, as Rav Acha bar Yaakov one-ups Ravina's ten with his sixteen.)  Further, Rashi should be aware of whether the pasuk is malei or chaser. Maybe he erred in missing this, but maybe he had a similar text before him. I can point to the dibur hamatchil of pasuk 2:

הטהורה: העתידה להיות טהורה לישראל, למדנו שלמד נח תורה:

where he spells it malei, even though in our Torah it is not malei. Perhaps this is significant. Perhaps not.

Looking at the Samaritan Pentateuch, we see they have chaser. And if anything, they would have a tendency to make a word malei.

On the other hand, they also have a tendency to harmonize spellings, and note how they consistently make טהרה chaser. So that both the Masoretic and Samaritan have טהרה, in pasuk 2 and 8, chaser, might just reflect this harmonizing tendency, and presents no proof.

We do find Jewish, meaning 'Masoretic' rather than Samaritan, texts which have טהרה in pasuk 8 spelled malei. Thus, the following is also from Vetus Testamentum. I underlined in red the word טהורה as a variant spelled malei. Note that quite a number of texts have it malei.

It stands to reason that the Amoraim could have had a similar Masoretic text in front of them, and that they therefore understood that the word was spelled malei.

If they were right, then this messes up any Torah code that passes through this word.

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