Monday, December 12, 2011

Targum Yonasan in support of a minhag taus

Summary: Birkas Avraham debunks a support to a minhag taus from Targum Yonasan. The targum states 'and she called his name Onan, for ברם upon him his father would in the future mourn.' However,
they should not interpret it as  'and she called his name Onan, for ברם [only] upon him [and not his older brother Er] his father would in the future mourn.' Rather, it should be understood as  'and she called his name Onan, for ברם [also] upon him [just as upon older brother Er] his father would in the future mourn.'

He explains and I agree. Then, I add a bit of my own analysis.

Post: I don't always pick on Birkas Avraham. Indeed, I like his style, and I like his subject matter. Just like Birkas Avraham, I enjoy analysis of 'non-standard' rabbinic texts, such as Targum Yonasan. And I enjoy divrei Torah centered on analyzing trup. Perhaps, as a result, I direct more attention to what he writes. And then, when I do find cause to disagree, I disagree.

At any rate, here is one analysis is Birkas Avraham with which I pretty much disagree agree. He is a bit harsh in his last sentence, but I agree with that sentiment as well.

He writes, on parashat Vayeshev:

"In Targum Yonasan ben Uziel upon the verse (Bereishit 38:4) ותהר עוד ותלד בן ותקרא שמו אונן, there is the translation of וקרת ית שמיה אונן, ארום ברם עלוי עתיד  אבוי לאתאבלא -- 'and she called his name Onan, for ברם [only] upon him [and not his older brother Er] his father would in the future mourn.'
{Josh: I interjected above in [bold] according to the interpretation offered in the next paragraph.}
And in Sefer Gan Raveh [from R' Hanoch Henich Ersohn], citing Yesod Ohel Moed, as well as in the Chidushei Maharil Diskin, and in Sefer Pardes Yosef,  and other sefarim as well, and preceding all of them, in Sefer Naftali Seva Ratzon -- they write that from these words of Targum Yonasan ben Uziel there is a source for the minhag which was rejected in the responsa of the Rivash, siman 95; and the Rama in Yoreh Deah (siman 374 seif 13) he brings the Rivash, that there were those who had the custom not to mourn upon a firstborn son, for he was holy to Hashem.
However [ברם -- heh], with apologies to the honor of these Gedolim, it is an error to deduce this from the Targum Yonasan. And just the opposite, there is from this Targum Yonasan an explicit contradiction to the rejected custom.
For in many places in Targum Yonasan, the Targum utilizes the word ברם to say גם ['also']. Such as on the verse (Bereshit 7:3) גם מעוף השמים, in the Targum of Yonasan ben Uzziel there is translated ברם מן צפרי. And so too in the verse (Bereishit 35:8 [about the death of Devorah, Rivkah's maidservant]), וברם תמן אתבשר יעקב על  מיתת רבקה אמיה, see our words there. And on the verse (Shemot 36:7) דים לכל המלאכה לעשות אותה  והותר, there is in the Targum Yonasan ועבדו יתה וברם  שיירו, and its meaning is וגם {and also} left over. And in parashat Naso, in the matter of the Sotah, that the water which she drinks tests also the male adulterer, there is in Targum Yonasan (Bemidbar 5:27) ברם לגיורא בדקין מיא {with ברם meaning also}. And in the verse (Bemidbar 11:4), ויבכו גם בני ישראל, it translates ובכו ברם  בני ישראל. And so too on the verse (Devarim 23:4) גם דור עשירי לא יבא, it translates in Targum Yonasan ברם דר עשיראי לא ידכי.
And so too on the word לחוד, whose simple meaning is one of reduction, of אך and רק, we find in Targum Yonasan and Targum Yerushalmi that they offer it as translation of the word גם, such as (Bereishit 3:22) ולקח גם מעץ החיים, the Targum Yerushalmi renders 'לחוד מן פירי אילנא חייא '. And in Targum Yerushalmi on the verse (Bereishit 31:16) הלא נכריות, etc., ויאכל גם אכול את כספנו, upon the גם is rendered לחוד כתובתין. And in Targum Yonasan on the verse (Shemos 1:10) ונוסף גם הוא על שונאינו, it translates  לחוד
הינון על סנאינן. And on the verse (Shemos 2:12) וגם דלֹה דלה לנו, it translates לחוד מדול. And in Targum Yonasan on the verse (Devarim 7:20) וגם את הצרעה, it translates ולחוד ית מחת.
And the words of the Targum Yonasan here are straightforward, that after he saw with ruach hakodesh that also upon him, his father would require to mourn and the mourning would thus increase, he called his second son based on the increase of aninut, and Hashem Yisbarach should shower upon us double joy. 
And this as well is a model to that that some suspend derashot of hevel in the Targumim, from lack of understanding and lack of knowledge of their basis in lashon hakodesh and in midrashim."
I would add that perhaps in some of these cases, or in others, it is not that ברם and לחוד mean 'also'. Rather, גם was being used in Biblical Hebrew as an intensifier -- 'indeed', 'truly', 'surely' -- and the word ברם and לחוד are used as intensifiers as well. Thus, Jastrow renders ברם as:

  1. besides
  2. however
  3. (the interjection): truly, surely!

I would add one further point that the words אך and רק, according to modern Biblical scholars, serve a similar function in Biblical Hebrew. That it, they never mean 'only' and 'but', as exclusions. This was Mishnaic Hebrew usage, which was then read back into the Biblical verses for the sake of midrash aggadah and midrash halacha(!). But אך and רק really mean 'truly' and 'surely'. This would then possibly account for many of the uses of ברם and לחוד even as translations of אך and רק -- though I don't know that that would have necessarily been the intent of the Targumist.

Finally -- and this is perhaps a slight nitpick -- it was not Yehuda who named Onan, and could do so with ruach hakodesh. Rather, it was the daughter of Shua, the Canaanite (or else, merchant). And she did not have ruach hakodesh, I would think. Therefore, it would just be a providential name pick.


Jr said...

Prof. Sperber in minhagei yisroel vol 1 has a nice discussion about this minhag taus, and in regards to that targum he mentions the Torah temima (finds support from targum) and Torah shlaima ( rejects it).

You wrote: "pretty much disagree" - I think you mean "agree".

joshwaxman said...



Blog Widget by LinkWithin