Monday, October 10, 2011

Why is Shimon missing from Moshe's blessing?

Summary: That Shimon is missing is obvious, and something many meforshim deal with. Here are three; and I answer on Ibn Ezra's behalf, to Ramban's objections.

Post:  In parashat veZos Haberacha, the tribe of Shimon does not get a bracha. This is certainly strange, and various meforshim address this.

Shadal writes, on Reuven's blessing, יְחִי רְאוּבֵן, וְאַל-יָמֹת; וִיהִי מְתָיו, מִסְפָּר, 'Let Reuben live, and not die in that his men become few,' that there might be a coded reference to Shimon here:
ו ויהי מתיו מספר: שיהיו נחשבים בפני עצמם מפני ריבויים וגבורתם ולא יהיו טפלים לשבט אחר; ואולי כאן רמז לשמעון, שיהיה טפל לשבט יהודה, ולפיכך לא הזכירו.
"That they should be accounted for themselves, because of their multitudes and power, and should not be secondary to another tribe. And perhaps here is a hint to Shimon, who is secondary {tafel} to the tribe of Yehuda."

Ibn Ezra suggests two answers:
יחי ראובן -הנה החל מהבכור כי כן המשפט ולא הזכיר שמעון, בעבור בעל פעור כי העובדים היו שמעונים ומספרם לעד גם נשיאם נהרג, או הלך על דרך יעקב שלא ברך שמעון ולוי, ובעבור כבוד אהרן נתלה השבט ממנו ולא היה בשבט שמעון גדול כמותו. 
"Behold, he started from the firstborn, for so is the law. And he did not mention Shimon, because of Baal Peor, for those who served it were of Shimon. And their number is a proof, as well as that it was their nasi who was killed. Or he followed in the way of Yaakov, who did not bless Shimon and Levi. And because of the honor of Aharon, the tribe was suspended from him {thus, תֻּמֶּיךָ וְאוּרֶיךָ לְאִישׁ חֲסִידֶךָ}, and there was not in the tribe of Shimon one who was great like him."

The Tur simply cites the Ramban at length, omitting only a passing reference to a midrash:

"The Ramban wrote: Rabbi Avraham {=Ibn Ezra} said: He began with Reuven, who is the firstborn, and he did not mention Shimon because of the sin of Peor, for those who worshiped Peor were of the tribe of Shimon. And a proof to the matter is that their number in the second counting {Bemidbar 26} reduced, and this is from those who died in the plauge in the matter of Peor. And furthermore, since the one smitten {=Zimri} was their nasi. And so is the opinion of Rashi (a bit further, pasuk 7) and the meforshim.

And according to my opinion, the reduction is not a proof, for behold, they lost 13,000 aside from those who died in the plague. And further, also the other tribes lost a bit, for the children of Gad lost five thousand and the children of Ephraim five thousand.

And further, the pasuk which states {Bemidbar 25:3} וַיִּצָּמֶד יִשְׂרָאֵל, לְבַעַל פְּעוֹר, "And Israel joined himself unto the Baal of Peor...", and states {next verse} קַח אֶת-כָּל-רָאשֵׁי הָעָם, "'Take all the chiefs of the people...", it appears that there were of them from all the tribes, and all their judges were judged among them. And from the one smitten {by Pinchas} there is no proof, for he was the nasi of a bet av {smaller family unit}, not the nasi of a tribe.

And the mizmor mentioned the matter of Datan and Aviram by their names {Tehillim 106:17}, תִּפְתַּח-אֶרֶץ, וַתִּבְלַע דָּתָן; וַתְּכַס, עַל-עֲדַת אֲבִירָם. "The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram." And it mentioned {28} וַיִּצָּמְדוּ, לְבַעַל פְּעוֹר, "They joined themselves also unto Baal of Peor", together with {24} וַיִּמְאֲסוּ, בְּאֶרֶץ חֶמְדָּה, "Moreover, they scorned the desirable land", regarding the entirety of the nation.

And forfend that Moshe would abstain from blessing Shimon, and a tribe should not be obliterated from Israel, for those who had joined to Baal Peor had already been obliterated, as was stated {above, Devarim 4:3}, כִּי כָל-הָאִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר הָלַךְ אַחֲרֵי בַעַל-פְּעוֹר--הִשְׁמִידוֹ ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, מִקִּרְבֶּךָ, 'for all the men that followed the Baal of Peor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from the midst of thee'. And those who were left over, upon all of them was stated {next verse}, 'וְאַתֶּם, הַדְּבֵקִים, בַּה, אֱלֹהֵיכֶם--חַיִּים כֻּלְּכֶם, הַיּוֹם', 'But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day.' And so why should he not bless them? Behold all of them made the eigel and sinned with the scouts, and they were atoned for and he blessed this!

And what is correct in my eyes is that the Scriptures only ever lists twelve among the tribes of Israel. And so was said in the blessing of Yaakov, {Bereishit 49:28} כָּל-אֵלֶּה שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר, "All these are the twelve tribes of Israel". And behold Yaakov mentioned twelve, and mentioned Yosef in a single tribe. And Moshe saw and mentioned Yosef in two tribes, as he said  {Devarim 33} רִבְבוֹת אֶפְרַיִם, 'the ten thousands of Ephraim', and אַלְפֵי מְנַשֶּׁה, 'the thousands of Manasseh'. And this was because of two things. First, because since Hashem commanded him to make of him two tribes in the inauguration of the altar {Bemidbar 7:48, 54}, in the flags {there, 2:18-21}, and in the inheritance of the land {there, 34:23-24}, he needed to count them again in their blessings. And further, he needed to mention Yehoshua who would inherit the land for them, and he was from Ephraim, the older, he needed as well to mention his older brother. And behold, he wished to bless Levi since from his blessing all of Israel are blessed, for his korbanot were leratzon  for them before Hashem, and he needed to leave out one of the tribes for there are only, in every place, twelve, parallel to the twelve constellations {of the zodiac} in the rakia, and the twelve months in the year. And so too on Har Gerizim and Har Eival, where he counted the tribe of Levi {above, 27:12} he did not mention Yosef as two tribes. And so will you see in the division of Yechezkel {Yechezkel 48:4-5} that he counts in the division of the land Yosef to be two tribes, and does not mention Levi. And when he lists the exits of the city {Yechezkel 48:31} he mentions the gate of Levi as one, and does not count Yosef as two tribes, but says {next verse} 'the gate of Yosef, one'. For always, only twelve tribes will be listed. And the tribe of Shimon is left over, for his tribe was not large, and the blessing of Yaakov their father was not great, but rather he distributed them in Yaakov and scattered them in Israel {Bereishit 49:7}, and behold they will be blessed as well from the blessing of the other tribes."

What could Ibn Ezra possibly answer to Ramban's objections? First, he gave two reasons, so he could always appeal to his second reason, of the parallel to Yaakov's blessings. Second, while other shevatim indeed lost population, Shimon's is the most drastic. And though Zimri ben Salu was not the nasi of the shevet, he still stands as a prominent example, such that we might leap to the conclusion that others in his shevet acted likewise.

As to the listing of the sins in Tehillim, it is an interesting diyuk, but into the words of a much later author.  And one need not make that diyuk, but rather, one can reply that the focus throughout is on the collective sins of klal Yisrael, and Datan and Aviram's sin was attributed to them and their eidah only in following what the Torah itself explicitly mentioned.

What of the fact that others in Israel sinned, at the eigel, or at the meraglim? They were all equal in this, so if Moshe was going to bless them, he would bless all of them. Meanwhile, the sin of Baal Peor, if specific to, or even heavily-weighted towards, Shimon, stands as a stain on the record of that shevet. Even though everyone alive today did not sin by joining to Baal Peor, it is an embarrassment. What in their upbringing made this shevet prone to this sin? And so, that stain can stand in the way of their shevet getting a blessing at the time of Moshe's death.

Did other shevatim sin? What about Reuven, in the sin of Datan, Aviram, and On Ben Pelet? Ibn Ezra addresses this objection explicitly, in the part immediately following where I quoted:
ואם יטעון טוען: למה בירך ראובן?
התשובה: כי יעקב ברכו והברכה היא: אל תותר, שיהיה כאחד מאחיו. 
So, Reuven is explicitly excluded from being excluded.

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