Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The large samach, because the spies were 60 cubits tall

Summary: So Rav Chaim Kanievksy. I offer that it is enlarged because the word וַיַּהַס is an onomatopoeia.

Post: In parashat Shelach, the following pasuk (and Rashi):

30. Caleb silenced the people to [hear about] Moses, and he said, "We can surely go up and take possession of it, for we can indeed overcome it."ל. וַיַּהַס כָּלֵב אֶת הָעָם אֶל מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמֶר עָלֹה נַעֲלֶה וְיָרַשְׁנוּ אֹתָהּ כִּי יָכוֹל נוּכַל לָהּ:
Caleb silenced: Heb. וַיַּהַס, he silenced them all [the spies so that the people could what he was going to say].ויהס כלב: השתיק את כולם:

Minchas Shai notes that in some sefarim, the samech at the end of וַיַּהַס is enlarged.

"In precise manuscript sefarim, the samech is not large. So too in the Masorah Gedolah, it is not. And there is in one place, a samech at the end of sefer Kohelet. Howbeit, in one manuscript nusach of the Alfa Beta Rabbati {enlarged letters} it is, and so too in the Tikkun Sefer Torah Yashan."

Rav Chaim Kanievsky, in Taama deKra, offers a reason for this enlarged samech.

וַיַּהַס כָּלֵב -- בספרים אחדים  הס׳ רבתי כמו שהביא במנחת שי, וי״ל טעם משום שהשתיק את המרגלים שגבהן ס׳ אמה כדאי׳ במדרש מובא בהדר זקנים מבעה״ת ר״פ שלח.

"And Calev silenced -- in certain sefarim, the samach is enlarged, as Minchas Shai brings down. And there is to say a reason, because he silenced the spies whose height was 60 cubits, as it stated in the midrash brought down in Hadar Zekeinim from the Baalei HaTosafot, at the start of parashat Shelach."

That is, sixty is the gematria of samach.

See Hadar Zekeinim here:

"They said, one time the daughter of a giant entered an orchard, ate a pomegranate, and cast the skin of it. And the spies hid in the skin and the spies thought that the skin was a cave, and the 12 spies entered into it. After some time, the daughter recalled that she had eaten a pomegranate and so she cast its skin outside the orchard, so that her father would not see the skin. And she did not sense the 12 spies who were in it.

They said to one another: see how great is the strength in the women, all the more so, in the men. Therefore, they slandered.

And Rabbi Yochanan said: All those spies, their height was 60 cubits."

Rav Kanievsky thus draws a nice connection between two disparate and little known facts.

Some analysis:

In terms of 60 cubits, I am tempted to perform some arithmetic. Divrei Hayamim has a really tall person at 5 cubits. I Divrei Hayamim 11:

כג  וְהוּא-הִכָּה אֶת-הָאִישׁ הַמִּצְרִי אִישׁ מִדָּה חָמֵשׁ בָּאַמָּה, וּבְיַד הַמִּצְרִי חֲנִית כִּמְנוֹר אֹרְגִים, וַיֵּרֶד אֵלָיו, בַּשָּׁבֶט; וַיִּגְזֹל אֶת-הַחֲנִית מִיַּד הַמִּצְרִי, וַיַּהַרְגֵהוּ בַּחֲנִיתוֹ.23 And he slew an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits high; and in the Egyptian's hand was a spear like a weaver's beam; and he went down to him with a staff, and plucked the spear out of the Egyptian's hand, and slew him with his own spear.
כד  אֵלֶּה עָשָׂה, בְּנָיָהוּ בֶּן-יְהוֹיָדָע; וְלוֹ-שֵׁם, בִּשְׁלוֹשָׁה הַגִּבֹּרִים.24 These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and had a name among the three mighty men.

Each spy could be 5 cubits, times the twelve spies = 60 cubits. And despite all of them being so big themselves all together, they still were like nothing. But that does not seem to be the meaning of the midrash.

Is this the only place this statement from Rabbi Yochanan appears, that Rav Kanievsky turns to this place for the midrash being brought down? Maybe, then we can explain it as along the lines of Adam HaRishon being 60 cubits high, in a Muslim Hadith. That is, out of context of its application in Hadar Zekeinim to the pomegranate midrash, it may speak to their righteousness before their sin.

Most simply, it was stressing how tall the spies were in order to highlight how tall the Canaanites were (or perhaps were not), in line with the pasuk:

33. There we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, descended from the giants. In our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.לג. וְשָׁם רָאִינוּ אֶת הַנְּפִילִים בְּנֵי עֲנָק מִן הַנְּפִלִים וַנְּהִי בְעֵינֵינוּ כַּחֲגָבִים וְכֵן הָיִינוּ בְּעֵינֵיהֶם:

I don't know about the association of the samach with this midrash. The association seems pretty random. Calev would also be 60 cubits, and why mention their great stature here, from a semantic perspective?

I would rather explain the large samach as associated with the onomatopoeic aspect of the word  וַיַּהַס. It means "he hushed". And the word is formed as Hussssssssssssssssssh, when spoken. The enlarging of the sibilant letter is a way of acting out the onomatopoeia.


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