Monday, November 21, 2011

What in the world does נַחְשִׁרְכָן mean?

Summary: in all of its variants.

Post: In parashat Toledot, the following pasuk and Targum (cia mechon-mamre).

כה,כז וַיִּגְדְּלוּ, הַנְּעָרִים, וַיְהִי עֵשָׂו אִישׁ יֹדֵעַ צַיִד, אִישׁ שָׂדֶה; וְיַעֲקֹב אִישׁ תָּם, יֹשֵׁב אֹהָלִים.וּרְבִיאוּ, עוּלֵימַיָּא, וַהֲוָה עֵשָׂו גְּבַר נְחַשׁ יִרְכָן, גְּבַר נָפֵיק חֲקַל; וְיַעֲקוֹב גְּבַר שְׁלִים, מְשַׁמֵּישׁ בֵּית אֻלְפָנָא.

Note that יֹדֵעַ צַיִד is rendered נְחַשׁ יִרְכָן.

In our Mikraos Gedolos, it as rendered as a single word: נַחְשִׁרְכָן.

At, they render it just as mechon mamre does -- as might be expected. But they include the following note:

The Rashba writes in a teshuva, siman 164:
So do we give the Targum: גְּבַר נַח שַׁדְכָן, from the language of כשדכא which they say in Yesh Nochalin [the 8th perek of Bava Basra]. And its meaning is an idle man who has no work, but rather like one of the princes, where they rest [נחים; thus the נַח] and engage in hunt for enjoyment. And [similarly, in sefer Shofetim perek 3, 5 and 8] ותשקוט הארץ, 'and the land was quiet', ושדוכת ארעא. And there are of the gedolim who are gores שרכא with a ר [rather than a ד] and they give a Targum for ותשקוט as ושרוכת, and so too יֹדֵעַ צַיִד as נַח שִׁירְכָן.
End quote.

See Bava Batra 139a for שדכא for 'one at ease', 'retired from business'. This strikes me as strange, though, because while Esav might well have been at ease and therefore hunting for sport, nothing within the Targum explicitly targets the words יֹדֵעַ צַיִד. Yes, man of leisure, but therefore, it should go on, sporting for pleasure. At least Targum Yonasan continues with  למיצוד עופן וחיוון, 'a נַחְשִׁרְכָן to hunt birds and beasts'. Furthermore, this is a bit too midrashic for Onkelos, to diverge so drastically from the literal meaning for little cause. Unless he means that this is a secondary meaning developed from this original, primary meaning of the word.

We can see this Teshuvat HaRashba inside here:

I spot two interesting things here. First, those Gedolim are גדולים נוחי נפש. Second, the Rashba responds with his girsa and explanation in response to a different girsa and explanation forwarded to him by his questioner. And he writes:
You asked further how we translate (Bereishit 25) אִישׁ יֹדֵעַ צַיִד, and you said that you heard in it a לשון {rendering} and they explained it to you. And I say that that language and that which they explained to you, we have never ever heard of it, and they are things which are not appropriate.
This makes me wonder just what this other girsa was, and what the explanation was, that the questioner had.

Here is what Shadal has to say in Ohev Ger:
אִישׁ יֹדֵעַ צַיִד -- in all the seforim [Shadal looked at], נַחְשִׁירְכָן with a ר, and according to the words of the Metargeman [=Rabbi Eliyahu Bachur], it is a complete error, and the girsa is with a ד. And I have not find a meaning to either this one or that one. And Shmuel Leclerc says that perhaps the girsa is נחשירבן with a ב [rather than a כ], and it would be a Persian word, for he says that in the Persian language, they call a hunter כגירואן, and the fricative ghimel by them is close to a shin in pronunciation, and it is also the same by them to terminate some of their nouns with a ואן or with a בן. And blessed be he who knows the truth!
Dr. Marcus Jastrow has perhaps the same way, or perhaps another way, at arriving at the desired meaning of hunter, also from Persian:

He refers to Theodor Nöldeke's Mandaean Grammar, or Mandische Grammatik, page 63, for this. It is available at Amazon (see sidebar), or perhaps at your local library, so if you want to check it out and let me know, that would be great.

He refers us to Bereishit Rabba parasha 63 and Tanchuma Toledot 8, presumably to justify the shrewdness of Esav, in capturing people with his speech ("Who were your accomplices

One last point. I still wonder at the girsa and explanation of the Rashba's questioner. I suspect that the girsa might be that found in Teimani manuscripts. The theory would be that some scribe did not know what to make of the strange word נַחְשִׁירְכָן, as a single word, and instead of separating it into נַח שִׁירְכָן, as in the Rashba's girsa, they separated into נְחַשׁ יִרְכָן. As for inappropriate interpretations, nechash can mean diviner/whisperer/enchanter, and yarchan is the feminine plural of thigh. If so, Esav can be a different sort of hunter. And we can compare with one of the three sins attributed to Esav as he came in from the field.


Jr said...

You mean eighth chapter of bava basra

David Farkas said...

You're missing the funniest part of all this, which I noted in my book twenty years ago: According to the Rashba, a Shadchan is a hunter that likes to trap people, as well as an אדם בטל שאין לו מלאכה

Great stuff.

David Farkas


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