Friday, November 11, 2011

Did Nimrod and Company, or Hashem, perform the הִתְעוּ אֹתִי to Avraham?

Summary: Considering a trup dvar Torah in Bikras Avraham.

Post: In Bereshit 20:13, we read:
13. And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said to her: This is your kindness, which you shall do with me: whither we come, say about me, 'He is my brother.'"יג. וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר הִתְעוּ אֹתִי אֱ־לֹהִים מִבֵּית אָבִי וָאֹמַר לָהּ זֶה חַסְדֵּךְ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשִׂי עִמָּדִי אֶל כָּל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר נָבוֹא שָׁמָּה אִמְרִי לִי אָחִי הוּא:
While there is apparently a dispute as to whether אלהים is kodesh or chol -- see Minchas Shai -- there is a masoretic tradition that it is kodesh. The trup of this pasuk is:

and Birkas Avraham cites a dvar Torah that darshens this trup in an interesting way, though under the label of peshat:

ולתשלום פירוש הפסוק, אביא מה שכתב במדרש שכל טוב על פי פיסוק
הטעמים, ובשיטה ששם אלקים כאן הוא קודש. וז"ל. ויהי כאשר התעו, עזרא כהן
צדק נביא ה'  [עזרא הסופר] ציין עלינו טעם הפסוק להבין פשוטו, חוץ ממדרש
[רבותינו. מן ויהי עד אותי הוא ענין אחד, שעל תי"ו אותי יש מפסיק [טעם רביעי
ומן אלהים עד אבי ענין אחר, וטעם הזרקא וסֶגלתו מודיע. וכך יאמר לה כפשוטו
וכך הפסוק מדובר על הפשיטו, ויהי כאשר התעו אותי נמרוד ועמו לכבשן האש
וניצלתי, אלקים מבית אבי לקחני, ואמר לה כשלקחתיה ללכת עמי וכו' עכ"ל שכ"ט

"And to complete the explanation of the verse, I will bring that which is written in Midrash Sechel Tov {J: from Rabbi Menachem ben Shlomo of Italy} based on the division of the trup, and in the position that the name of אלהים here is holy. And this is his language:
וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר הִתְעוּ -- Ezra the righteous kohen, prophet of Hashem [=Ezra the Scribe] demarcated for us the trup of the verse in order to understand the peshat, separate from the midrash of our Sages. From ויהי until אותי is one matter. [Thus, וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר הִתְעוּ אֹתִי.] For upon the tav of אֹתִי is a disjunctive, separating accent [the trup of revii]. And from אלהים until אבי is another matter. [Thus, אֱ־לֹהִים מִבֵּית אָבִי.] And trup of zarka and segolta inform about this. And so is 
And so you shall say it in its peshat {J: perhaps this is a typo for וָאֹמַר לָהּ -- the next words in the pasuk, is in its simple meaning}, and so the pasuk is speaking as peshat as follows: And it was, when Nimrod and his nation caused me to be lost [תעו] to the fiery furnace and I was saved, Elokim took me from the house of my father, וָאֹמַר לָהּ, I said to her, when I took you to go with me, etc.
End quote from Midrash Sechel Tov."

To quickly summarize: There is a revii at אותי; a segolta at אבי. Both are dividing accents. Therefore, we get וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר הִתְעוּ אֹתִי as one sentence, אֱ־לֹהִים מִבֵּית אָבִי as a separate sentence, and then the continuation as a third sentence. And he explains how to parse it.

An interesting idea, but there is a critical flaw, IMHO. Revii and segolta are not equal in their pausal value. The first level is: etnachta and silluq. The second level is: tipcha, zakef, and segolta. The third level is: tevir, pashta, revii, and zarqa. Each later level subdivides clauses which have been divided already at the earlier level, and which have the earlier level symbol at the end of it.

Therefore, the revii and segolta don't stand on equal footing such that we could say that we should read it as was suggested. Rather, this is what we have. Start with the pasuk up to the etnachta:

וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר הִתְעוּ אֹתִי אֱ־לֹהִים מִבֵּית אָבִי וָאֹמַר לָהּ זֶה חַסְדֵּךְ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשִׂי עִמָּדִי

We then look at the second level, which is tipcha, zakef and segolta. The segolta is just a special form of zakef which manifests itself when we are quite distance from the end of the clause (marked by etnachta or silluq). The word אָבִי is seven words distant, and therefore we have the segolta. And if there are multiple divisions on the same level, the earlier ones in the verse take place first. Therefore, the division is:

וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר הִתְעוּ אֹתִי אֱ־לֹהִים מִבֵּית אָבִי
וָאֹמַר לָהּ זֶה חַסְדֵּךְ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשִׂי עִמָּדִי

Note how וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר הִתְעוּ אֹתִי אֱ־לֹהִים מִבֵּית אָבִי is a single statement. Had it been as Midrash Sechel Tov suggested, I might have expected the segolta earlier, on the word אֹתִי.

Now, both of the above clauses (starting with וַיְהִי and starting with וָאֹמַר) will need to be further subdivided. But the clause to the right of the segolta (וַיְהִי) will use level three trup-markers, because the clause is ruled over by the segolta at the end, and the clause to the left of the segolta (וָאֹמַר) will use level two trup-markers, because the clause is still ruled over by the etnachta at the end. Thus, to the right we will see revii and zarka, and to the left we will see zakef and tipcha. But both are doing the same job of further subdivision of their clause.

Our concern is just the וַיְהִי clause, so let us subdivide it. It is subdivided at the revii. Therefore we have:

וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר הִתְעוּ אֹתִי
אֱ־לֹהִים מִבֵּית אָבִי

This would be in line with what Midrash Sechel Tov said, except that I feel like the entire clause was already linked together at the previous level. And this is just the regular syntactic dichotomy, which continues so long as there are still three words left in a clause. And it works to sever noun phrases and propositional phrases from the end of a clause.

Then, within the second subclause, the zarka works to create:

מִבֵּית אָבִי

and within the first subclause, the gershayim severs off the vayhi:

כַּאֲשֶׁר הִתְעוּ אֹתִי

Read what Wickes has to say about the disjunctive accents which subdivide clauses which end in segolta, and specifically, the function of revii and zakef:

I'll just end by noting the attribution by Midrash Sechel Tov of the trup to Ezra haSofer. It is possible he means to Ezra and no earlier, such as halacha leMoshe miSinai.

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