Thursday, September 20, 2012

Does Ibn Ezra deny resurrection of the dead from the Torah?

In parashat Vayelech, the following pasuk:
טז  וַיֹּאמֶר ה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, הִנְּךָ שֹׁכֵב עִם-אֲבֹתֶיךָ; וְקָם הָעָם הַזֶּה וְזָנָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵי נֵכַר-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר הוּא בָא-שָׁמָּה בְּקִרְבּוֹ, וַעֲזָבַנִי, וְהֵפֵר אֶת-בְּרִיתִי אֲשֶׁר כָּרַתִּי אִתּוֹ.16 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Behold, thou art about to sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go astray after the foreign gods of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake Me, and break My covenant which I have made with them.

There is a famous gemara in Sanhedrin 90b:
Sectarians [minim]17  asked Rabban Gamaliel: Whence do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, will resurrect the dead? He answered them from the Torah, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa, yet they did not accept it [as conclusive proof]. 'From the Torah': for it is written, And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers and rise up [again].18  'But perhaps,' said they to him, '[the verse reads], and the people will rise up?'
This pasuk is also listed in Yoma 52b as one of five pesukim which Issi ben Yehuda considers ambiguous, in the sense that it can be read associating both forward and backwards. Which to me shows that one is not obligated to believe it only binds to what follows and not what precedes.

It seems important that resurrection of the dead be deduced specifically from the Torah. To cite the Mishna in Sanhedrin 90a:
Of course, there are many such derivations of this from the Torah. With "from the Torah" taken to mean Nach as well, in some sources from Chazal. Thus:
R. Yehoshua ben Levi[25] said: "Where is Resurrection derived from the Torah? - From the verse,[37] Ashrei Yoshvei Beisecha, Od Yehalelucha Selah ('Happy are those who dwell in Your house; they shall praise You forever'). The verse does not say, 'they praised You,' but 'they shall praise you.' Thus Techiyas HaMeisim is taught in the Torah.
Ashrei is not in the Pentateuch. At any rate, on our verse of vekam, Ibn Ezra writes:
וקם העם הזה -לא יתכן היותו דבק עם אשר לפניו, כי מה טעם העם הזה וזנה?!ש

"and this nation shall arise: it is not possible for it [the word וקם] to be joined to what precedes [namely, הִנְּךָ שֹׁכֵב עִם-אֲבֹתֶיךָ], for then what would be this import of 'this nation and it will go astray."

In other words, considered alone, וקם could either connect to the preceding or following phrase. But there is context in the verse, and the entire verse, rather than just the single phrase, needs to be parsed. And so it is not ultimately ambiguous. And this is against Chazal's derasha or reading, that this is a support, from the Torah, for resurrection of the dead.

This is how Mekor Chaim (middle of the way down, right side) understands it. So too Mechokekei Yehuda. And so too this Perush al Ibn Ezra.

Meanwhile, Avi Ezer is ever vigilant to defend Ibn Ezra against charges of heresy. And he makes here a good point. Consider the trup on the pasuk. Note how there is an atnachta on the word et-avotecha, such that it binds with the preceding phrase, rather than the following phrase. This is how it has to be, because this is the peshat meaning of the pasuk.

Avi Ezer comments:
"Forfend for the Rav [Ibn Ezra] to take a position opposite the words of Chazal, where they said 'from where is the resurrection of the dead from the Torah? For it states 'and this nation shall arise', etc.'

Rather, he is explaining on behalf of the author of the trup, that he did not connect it to with the trup of a melech and its great ones, and why did it split off the word אֲבֹתֶיךָ with an etnachta. And he answers that it is impossible in any alternate fashion, and one who knows the trup, their pattern and function knows that the words of the Rav are correct.

And it is astonishing that the author of Mekor Chaim explained the words of the Rav in their plain sense, and did not worry for the honor of Chazal."

I think that concern for the honor of Chazal may be misplaced. As the pasuk states, לא תכירו פנים במשפט. Chazal can stand up for themselves. And quite probably, they knew that on a peshat level, the verse cannot read straight if one associates vekam with what precedes. Rather, it is clearly a derash. And Chazal (I would argue) can maintain that a derash operates independently of what the pasuk says on a peshat level.

While Ibn Ezra could be referring to the trup, which of course must give a straight parsing of the pasuk, even Avi Ezer realizes that this reading is a bit forced. Was he referring to the gemara in Sanhedrin? Perhaps. He might have also been referring to Issi ben Yehuda's five, as we see in Vayigash that Ibn Ezra plays with this idea and even suggests his own ambiguous parse, to add to the five. But Ibn Ezra will often give a peshat at odds with Chazal, which occasionally will cause Avi Ezer to say that an erring talmid of Ibn Ezra must have written that particular comment.

It is to the greater honor of both Ibn Ezra and Chazal to have them say what they really say.


Reese said...

It's very strange that Chazal insist that it is crucial to accept techiyas hameisim from the Torah, and yet there is no apparent clear source for it. The Gemara brings lots of different possibilities, all of which are disputed and none of which are clear-cut.

joshwaxman said...

see the two footnotes in the hyperlinked Soncino, which address this.

kol tuv,


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