Thursday, January 05, 2012

Chasam Sofer on מִטֶּרֶף בְּנִי עָלִיתָ

Summary: Parsing it as referring to tarof toraf yosef, he interprets it in a consistent, positive, manner.

Post: In parashat Vaychi:

9. A cub [and] a grown lion is Judah. From the prey, my son, you withdrew. He crouched, rested like a lion, and like a lion, who will rouse him?ט. גּוּר אַרְיֵה יְהוּדָה מִטֶּרֶף בְּנִי עָלִיתָ כָּרַע רָבַץ כְּאַרְיֵה וּכְלָבִיא מִי יְקִימֶנּוּ:

The Chasam Sofer writes:

"Presumably, that he did not know of the sale of Yosef all his days, as I wrote. And the Ramban proves, still, that one needs to say that Yaakov suspected in his heart these four, or one of them: Reuven, Shimon, Levi, and Yehuda, and not the others at all, for he was not chas veshalom, choshed b'ksherim.

However, these four were not k'sherim in his eyes: Reuven, in the incident with Bilhah; and Shimon and Levi in the incident in Shechem; and Yehuda in the incident with Tamar.

However, now he saw and understood via ruach hakodesh that the kingdom of the house of David would come from Tamar, and that from Him, Yisbarach Shemo, has come out this pickely situation {:-) ?}. Therefore, he says, from now, מטרף בני עלית, you have gone out from under the suspicion, just like the rest of the brothers, except for those three."

To provide a bit of context to all of this, the phrase מִטֶּרֶף בְּנִי עָלִיתָ is somewhat ambiguous. The trup on it is: מִטֶּ֖רֶף בְּנִ֣י עָלִ֑יתָ. That is, a tipcha separating off miteref from the rest, and then a munach joining beni to alita.

The two possible parses are:

  1. From the teref of my son Yosef you, Yehuda, arose
  2. From teref, my son Yehuda, you arose
The former is negative, and refers to the sale or killing of Yosef. But it seems to be against the trup. The latter is positive, talking about what lions do, and no reference is made to Yosef. And it is in accordance with the trup.

Another consideration when disambiguating between these two options is whether other cryptic parts of Yaakov's blessing refer to incidents throughout sefer Bereishit. For example, the destruction of Shechem by Shimon and Levi, or the incident with Tamar in עד כי יבוא שילה, or the incident with Bilhah for Reuven.

Once we interpret it as מִטֶּרֶף בְּנִי, referring to tarof toraf yosef, one can spin it positively or negatively. Rising up from the teref of his son sounds like an accusation. But see how Rashi interprets it:
from the prey: From what I suspected of you, (namely) that“Jospeh has surely been torn up; a wild beast has devoured him” (Gen. 37: 33). This referred to Judah, who was likened to a lion. - [from Tanchuma Vayigash 9]מטרף: ממה שחשדתיך (לעיל לז לג) בטרף טרף יוסף חיה רעה אכלתהו, וזהו יהודה שנמשל לאריה:
my son, you withdrew: Heb. עָלִיתָ, you withdrew yourself and said, “What is the gain [if we slay our brother and cover up his blood]?” (Gen. 37:26) (Gen. Rabbah 99:8). Similarly, [Judah withdrew] from killing Tamar, when he confessed, “She is right, [it is] from me…” (Gen. 38: 26) (Aggadath Bereshith 83). Therefore, “he crouched, lay down, etc.” [This was fulfilled] in the time of Solomon,“every man under his vine, etc.” (I Kings 5:5) (Gen. Rabbah 98:7).בני עלית: סלקת את עצמך, ואמרת (שם כו) מה בצע וגו'. וכן מהריגת תמר שהודה (לעיל לח כו) צדקה ממני, לפיכך כרע רבץ וגו' בימי שלמה (מ"א ה ה) איש תחת גפנו וגו':
Thus, while miteref beni is negative, alita is positive. And this is that they were actually going to slay him, and he withdrew from that. And note how Rashi already (citing Tanchuma on Vayigash) talks about the chashad of which Yaakov suspected Yehuda.

The Chasam Sofer's parse and explanation is along the same lines. He suspected them of the disposal of Yosef, whether through killing or (eventually) sale. But, Yehuda has taken himself out of that chashad. While the two midrashim Rashi cites are perhaps somewhat contradictory, the Chasam Sofer consistently explains it as chashad and moving out of the realm of that chashad.


Nachman Levine said...


Just to clarify the ambiguity, in the Rashbam's cooments that whoever explains מטרף בני about the sale doesn'tknow anything about Peshat or Trop parsing at all: Rosin thinks he's referring to Rashi. This is unsustainable, because the Rashbam woulnn't speak about the zayde that way no matter what, especially since the zayde certainly knew about Trop parsing syntax and disambiguation, but mostly because Rashi clearly reads it as: BENI ALISA, Yehudah, my son, you took the high road. I am happy to see that the Lockshin edition understands the Rashbam here in the same way.

Nachman Levine said...

I think the real (multivalent) Peshat in the Pasuk is that Yaakov, following the Ramban, etc., not knowing of the sale and by whom, has in mind the reading of Rashbam, Rashi, Chasam Sofer, or anybody, etc. that the parsing is:

"meteref// beni (=Yehudah) alisa"

while we, the readers, are all too well aware that there is another perfectly legitimate lexical reading and parsing:

"miteref beni (=yosef) /alisa"

which is in fact exactly what had happened.

(and see the Or HaChaim Hakadosh ad.loc who raises the possibility of a multiple reading.

Good Shabbos

Snag said...

"Rosin thinks he's referring to Rashi. This is unsustainable, because the Rashbam woulnn't speak about the zayde that way..."

Except that a few pesukim later, on Don Yadin Amo, he uses similarly strong language against those who explain the passuk as referring to Shimshon. And his grandfather Rashi is clearly among those.


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