Thursday, December 08, 2011

A censored Sporno on Vayishlach?

Summary: It would seem so. They did not like the talk of worldwide Jewish domination.

Post: An anonymous commenter pointed out a fascinating Seforno on parashat Vayishlach. The pasuk (Bereshit 35:13) states:

יב  וְאֶת-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לְאַבְרָהָם וּלְיִצְחָק--לְךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה; וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ, אֶתֵּן אֶת-הָאָרֶץ.12 and the land which I gave unto Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.'

Note how there is specification at the beginning of the pasuk just which land is being given to Yaakov -- the one which Hashem gave to Avraham and Yitzchak. However, there is no such specification regarding the אָרֶץ at the end of the pasuk, given to the descendants of Yaakov.

Therefore, we can take אֶת-הָאָרֶץ at the pasuk's end to refer to the entirety of the Earth, rather than a specific land. And this is what Seforno says:
פסוק יבוּלְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ אֶתֵּן אֶת הָאָרֶץ. לְקֵץ הַיָּמִין אֶתֵּן לְזַרְעֲךָ כָּל כַּדּוּר הָאָרֶץ לא אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּלְבַד, כְּאָמְרו "וּפָרַצְתָּ יָמָה וָקֵדְמָה וְצָפנָה וָנֶגְבָּהּ" (לעיל כח, יד), וּכְאָמְרו "וְקַרְקַר כָּל בְּנֵי שֵׁת" (במדבר כד, יז). ש
"At the end of days, I will give your descendants the entire globe of the earth, and not the land of Israel alone, as it states (earlier, 28:14), "and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south." And as it states (Bemidbar 24:17, {in parashat Balak, about the end of days}), "[I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh; there shall step forth a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite through the corners of Moab,] and break down all the sons of Seth."
One might imagine that such world-wide domination, which would encompass also domination of Edom, might spark concern from the censors. And then consider what appears in our Mikraos Gedolos for this Sporno:



yaak said...


Y. said...

I second Yaak

Joe in Australia said...

Sporno? S'typo?

joshwaxman said...

actually, it was deliberate. iirc, i read something a few months back that this was likely how he pronounced it.

S. said...

The issue concerns the fact that treating פ as rafeh (ph, or f) seems forced by the sheva nach from the samech. But of course ספורנו is not a Hebrew word at all.

However, I am not sure at all what the origin of the name is. Looking in early Christian sources he is given as "Abdias Sporno," but also "Sphorno" and "Sporno." Not only that, in a letter by Johann Reuchlin himself - who was taught Hebrew by R. Ovadya Sforno - he writes the following "Abdia filio Jacobi Sphurno" (Johann Reuchlins Briefwechsel p. 92). This letter is dated 1506, when the rabbi in question was still only 30 or 31 years old, very much alive, with nearly 45 years left to go.

However, I do know that there is a text of the medical diploma awarded to the Sforno, which was published in 1962. Presumably it is in Latin. I don't know if it spells it with a P or a PH. Perhaps with a P and this may be the source for the name. Personally, I suspect it is simply the awareness that it is *not* Hebrew, and in fact the real name seems to have began with a sheva na, which is impossible in Hebrew, while such a consonant cluster is very much possible in Italian.

Also, the family was very real and persisted for many generations, perhaps into recent times. So it is possible that there is a living tradition of how to pronounce the name, and maybe it is "Sporno." That said, consider the Abarbanels, who have people who pronounce it Abarbanel and Abravanel (and other pronunciations besides). So family traditions aren't necessarily so strong either. I know, for example, that my own last name - which begins with an S - was pronounced /sh/ in the old country, but it became Americanized, and now it is pronounced /ss/. If I myself didn't know this, then what good would my conviction that my family name always began with an /ss/ be? Not very good at all.

S. said...

"sheva nach" = na, of course.


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