Sunday, December 02, 2012

Vayishlach parsha stumpers?

Maybe. DovBear (originally posting back in 2009) raises these parsha stumpers "you can share with friends, neighbors, and anyone else you wish to annoy."

  1. Why does Bethel have two naming stories? Twice we are told that Yaakov named the place "Bethel". Each time he erected a marker, and poured on it some oil, from the flask he conveniently had in his pocket. Why did it happen twice? (Of course, this smells like a doublet.)

It is called framing. The first naming story happens on his way to Charan, in Bereishit 28, and the second naming story appears on his return from Charan, in Bereishit 35. Heck, within the Biblical narrative, the second naming story makes it explicit that it is aware of the events of the first naming story, and that it is indeed a fulfillment of the promises made in that first naming story.

To lay out the case for this, in the first naming story, in Vayeitzei, Yaakov makes a promise:
טז  וַיִּיקַץ יַעֲקֹב, מִשְּׁנָתוֹ, וַיֹּאמֶר, אָכֵן יֵשׁ ה בַּמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה; וְאָנֹכִי, לֹא יָדָעְתִּי.16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said: 'Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.'
יז  וַיִּירָא, וַיֹּאמַר, מַה-נּוֹרָא, הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה:  אֵין זֶה, כִּי אִם-בֵּית אֱלֹהִים, וְזֶה, שַׁעַר הַשָּׁמָיִם.17 And he was afraid, and said: 'How full of awe is this place! this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.'
יח  וַיַּשְׁכֵּם יַעֲקֹב בַּבֹּקֶר, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-הָאֶבֶן אֲשֶׁר-שָׂם מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו, וַיָּשֶׂם אֹתָהּ, מַצֵּבָה; וַיִּצֹק שֶׁמֶן, עַל-רֹאשָׁהּ.18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
יט  וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-שֵׁם-הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא, בֵּית-אֵל; וְאוּלָם לוּז שֵׁם-הָעִיר, לָרִאשֹׁנָה.19 And he called the name of that place Beth-el, but the name of the city was Luz at the first.
כ  וַיִּדַּר יַעֲקֹב, נֶדֶר לֵאמֹר:  אִם-יִהְיֶה אֱלֹהִים עִמָּדִי, וּשְׁמָרַנִי בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי הוֹלֵךְ, וְנָתַן-לִי לֶחֶם לֶאֱכֹל, וּבֶגֶד לִלְבֹּשׁ.20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying: 'If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
כא  וְשַׁבְתִּי בְשָׁלוֹם, אֶל-בֵּית אָבִי; וְהָיָה ה לִי, לֵאלֹהִים.21 so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then shall the LORD be my God,
כב  וְהָאֶבֶן הַזֹּאת, אֲשֶׁר-שַׂמְתִּי מַצֵּבָה--יִהְיֶה, בֵּית אֱלֹהִים; וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר תִּתֶּן-לִי, עַשֵּׂר אֲעַשְּׂרֶנּוּ לָךְ.22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house; and of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee.'

He names the place Bet El (house of God), and promises that when he comes back in peace, Hashem shall be his God and the pillar will be God's house, that is, a temple.

In the second naming story, in Vayishlach:
א  וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל-יַעֲקֹב, קוּם עֲלֵה בֵית-אֵל וְשֶׁב-שָׁם; וַעֲשֵׂה-שָׁם מִזְבֵּחַ--לָאֵל הַנִּרְאֶה אֵלֶיךָ, בְּבָרְחֲךָ מִפְּנֵי עֵשָׂו אָחִיךָ.1 And God said unto Jacob: 'Arise, go up to Beth-el, and dwell there; and make there an altar unto God, who appeared unto thee when thou didst flee from the face of Esau thy brother.'
ב  וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ, וְאֶל כָּל-אֲשֶׁר עִמּוֹ:  הָסִרוּ אֶת-אֱלֹהֵי הַנֵּכָר, אֲשֶׁר בְּתֹכְכֶם, וְהִטַּהֲרוּ, וְהַחֲלִיפוּ שִׂמְלֹתֵיכֶם.2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him: 'Put away the strange gods that are among you, and purify yourselves, and change your garments;
ג  וְנָקוּמָה וְנַעֲלֶה, בֵּית-אֵל; וְאֶעֱשֶׂה-שָּׁם מִזְבֵּחַ, לָאֵל הָעֹנֶה אֹתִי בְּיוֹם צָרָתִי, וַיְהִי עִמָּדִי, בַּדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר הָלָכְתִּי.3 and let us arise, and go up to Beth-el; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.'
ד  וַיִּתְּנוּ אֶל-יַעֲקֹב, אֵת כָּל-אֱלֹהֵי הַנֵּכָר אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדָם, וְאֶת-הַנְּזָמִים, אֲשֶׁר בְּאָזְנֵיהֶם; וַיִּטְמֹן אֹתָם יַעֲקֹב, תַּחַת הָאֵלָה אֲשֶׁר עִם-שְׁכֶם.4 And they gave unto Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hand, and the rings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth which was by Shechem.
ה  וַיִּסָּעוּ; וַיְהִי חִתַּת אֱלֹהִים, עַל-הֶעָרִים אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבוֹתֵיהֶם, וְלֹא רָדְפוּ, אַחֲרֵי בְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב.5 And they journeyed; and a terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.
ו  וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב לוּזָה, אֲשֶׁר בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן--הִוא, בֵּית-אֵל:  הוּא, וְכָל-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-עִמּוֹ.6 So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan--the same is Beth-el--he and all the people that were with him.
ז  וַיִּבֶן שָׁם, מִזְבֵּחַ, וַיִּקְרָא לַמָּקוֹם, אֵל בֵּית-אֵל:  כִּי שָׁם, נִגְלוּ אֵלָיו הָאֱלֹהִים, בְּבָרְחוֹ, מִפְּנֵי אָחִיו.7 And he built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el, because there God was revealed unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.

we see in pasuk 1 that it is already called Bet El by Hashem in the instruction. And in that same instruction in pasuk 1, we are told that this alter is to be made to God who had appeared to him in Vayeitzei, in the ladder / ziggurat dream, when he was fleeing from Esav.

Pasuk 2, telling his household to put away the strange gods, is a fulfillment of his promise in Vayeitzei that Hashem shall be his God, to the exclusion of any other deity. Pasuk 3 is explaining their purpose, and why they are doing it. Pasuk 4 is the fulfillment; pasuk 5 fixes it in the aftermath of the Dinah episode. Pasuk 6 reminds us of the former name, Luz, which might help readers locate it. Pasuk 7 is the possible renaming, put together with a reference to the cause being that Hashem had revealed himself to Yaakov there back in Vayeitzei.

If it is a "doublet", in the sense of two separate authors who are unaware of one another and giving two etymologies or separate causes, then this has to be the most awkward one in all of Tanach! There are certainly plenty of better candidates, such as two namings for Yosef, two namings for Yissachar, two namings for Yisrael, two causes for the name of Yitzchak. And so we are on the lookout for plausible doublets.

But here, what are you going to say. The second author was aware of the events described by the first author, and casts it as the fulfillment of the promises in the narrative of the first author, but messed up when Yaakov specifically gave the name?

Maybe. But if I were the type to get annoyed by this, I wouldn't get annoyed by it. (Of course, those who would get annoyed are often not sophisticated enough to mount such a counter-argument, but would be annoyed by the simple idea.)

Instead, I would point out the above; and point out the possible difference between בֵּית-אֵל and אֵל בֵּית-אֵל, such that this could be a renaming of Bet El to El Bet El; and point out in Vayeitzei, he was a fugitive and pauper and no-one cared the slightest bit what he called a place, whereas now, he is accompanied by a host of people who listen to his words, such that this could be the actual successful naming of the place, which was foreshadowed / alluded to earlier in Vayeitzei.

  • 2) How can Rashi say Yaakov kept "taryag mitzvos?" Never mind the usual objections (he married sisters, he robbed from Esav, etc.) and instead recall that only a king- woman-kohen- farmer hybrid could actually fulfill all 613 commandments. If it means he kept the "spirit" of the 613 as one Rashi super-commentator says, well, what does that mean, and why would Yaakov need to keep the "spirit" of the a law like "slaughter all the Amalekites" when the Amalakites hadn't yet committed the crime that made the law necessary?

That Rashi reads:
And he commanded them, saying, "So shall you say to my master to Esau, 'Thus said your servant Jacob, "I have sojourned with Laban, and I have tarried until now.ה. וַיְצַו אֹתָם לֵאמֹר כֹּה תֹאמְרוּן לַאדֹנִי לְעֵשָׂו כֹּה אָמַר עַבְדְּךָ יַעֲקֹב עִם לָבָן גַּרְתִּי וָאֵחַר עַד עָתָּה:
I have sojourned: Heb. גַּרְתִּי. I did not become an officer or a dignitary, but a stranger (גֵּר) . It is not worthwhile for you to hate me on account of your father’s blessing, [with] which he blessed me (27:29):“You shall be a master over your brothers,” for it was not fulfilled in me (Tanchuma Buber Vayishlach 5). Another explanation: גַּרְתִּי has the numerical value of 613. That is to say: I lived with the wicked Laban, but I kept the 613 commandments, and I did not learn from his evil deeds.גרתי: לא נעשיתי שר וחשוב אלא גר, אינך כדאי לשנוא אותי על ברכות אביך שברכני (לעיל כז כט) הוה גביר לאחיך, שהרי לא נתקיימה בי. דבר אחר גרתי בגימטריא תרי"ג, כלומר עם לבן הרשע גרתי ותרי"ג מצות שמרתי ולא למדתי ממעשיו הרעים:

Indeed, people unfortunately swallow this wholesale in its most literal form. Here is how I have explained this Rashi in the past:
I believe Rashi is actually modifying the midrash and giving a perush here. He writes רתי בגימטריא תרי"ג, כלומר עם לבן הרשע גרתי ותרי"ג מצות שמרתי ולא למדתי ממעשיו הרעים. It seems as if ולא למדתי ממעשיו הרעים is by way of explanation of ותרי"ג מצות שמרתי. The point of the midrash is not that he literally kept 613 commandments, but "613 commandments" are a stand-in for Torah true attitude and middot. Thus, he stayed true to Torah ideals, as symbolized by תרי"ג, though it would be difficult to do in proximity of the wicked Lavan.
This is different from the "spirit" described above, which seems to be fulfilling the spirit of each and every one of the individual laws, as it was applicable, rather than Taryag Mitzvos being a stand-in for "being an upright guy".

  • 3) Let's stipulate: All midrashim are true and from Sinai. So did Dina marry Shimon or did she marry Iyov? Both possibilities are represented in the midrashim, and both hang on scriptural pegs. But how can both be true? Obviously, one opinion is wrong. (and compounding the difficulty, if Dina did marry Job, it follows that nine different Tannaic guesses about the dates of Job's era are wrong. On BT: Bava Basra 15a, we find the following possibilities advanced. Job was from the time of (1) Moshe, (2) spies (3) Judges (4) Esther (5) David (6) Queen of Sheba (7) Chaldeans, (8) Return from Exiles and (9) Javob. One other opinion says (10) he never lived at all. Clearly, not all of these are correct, which seemingly imperils, or better yet, demolishes, the typical yeshiva guy's view of the Tannaim and their infallibility.

I've discussed these midrashim in depth here. In terms of the question, "how can both be true?", we can turn to Rav Moshe HaDarshan:
בראשית רבתי פרשת ויגש
[מו, י] ושאול בן הכנענית. מהו ושאול בן הכנענית, על דעתיה דמאן דאמר לאחיותיהם נשאו השבטים לכך פרט בזה, שזה לבדו היה בן כנענית ולא האחרים.
על דעתיה דמאן דאמר מבנות הארץ לקחו השבטים מה עביד ליה ושאול בן הכנענית. אמרו זו דינה בת לאה,
דא"ר הונא בשעה שהביאו שמעון ולוי את דינה אחותם מבית שכם לא רצתה לצאת אמרה ואני אנה אוליך את חרפתי (ש"ב י"ג י"ג) עד שנשבע לה שמעון אחיה שהוא יקחנה לאשה ואח"כ יצאה, הה"ד ושאול בן הכנענית.
ור' יהודה אומר שעשתה כמעשה הכנענים,
ר' נחמיה אמר שנבעלה [מחוי] שהוא בכלל כנענים,
ואחר שנתעברה גרשה שמעון לאחר שנפטר מן השבועה, וכשירדו ישראל למצרים נתנה יעקב לאיוב וכו'. ורבנין אמרו נטלה שמעון וקברה בארץ כנען. ד"א ושאול בן הכנענית אמרו זה היה זמרי בן סלוא, וששה שמות נקראו לו, שאול בן הכנענית, זמרי בן סלוא, שלומיאל בן צורישדי, ומה שמו שלומיאל וכו'.

Thus, he cites the different midrashim about it, and while noting various disputes (e.g about whether shevatim in general married their sisters), he harmonizes the two, saying that he [Shimon] promised to marry her and did, and then after she became pregnant, divorced her, for he was now exempt from his oath, having fulfilled it. Then, in Egypt, Yaakov gave Dinah off in marriage to Iyov. After all, I would note, from other midrashim we know that Iyov was in Egypt as one of Pharaoh's three advisors, so that would be where they met.
Of course, it should be obvious that this was not the original intent of the authors of the respective midrashim. Likely each of those authors had a single vision of the events, and believed that vision to be historically accurate.

In terms of whether one can say eilu ve'eilu on midrash aggadah, I personally think that the Gemara is pretty explicit that in most cases, it cannot be. That is, they point to an exception which proves the rule:
 Such as we find in Gittin 6b about the Pilegesh beGiveah:
R. Abiathar said that the Levite found a fly with her, and R. Jonathan said that he found a hair on her. R. Abiathar soon afterwards came across Elijah and said to him: 'What is the Holy One, blessed be He, doing?' and he answered, 'He is discussing the question of the concubine in Gibea.' 'What does He say?' said Elijah: '[He says], My son Abiathar says So-and-so, and my son Jonathan says So-and-so,' Said R. Abiathar: 'Can there possibly be uncertainty in the mind of the Heavenly One?' He replied: Both [answers] are the word of the living God. He [the Levite] found a fly and excused it, he found a hair and did not excuse it. Rab Judah explained: He found a fly in his food and a hair in loco concubitus; the fly was merely disgusting, but the hair was dangerous. Some say, he found both in his food; the fly was not her fault, the hair was.
How can there be Elu veElu on a dispute about metziut? The answer is that first one happened, and then the other. (Though there is special praise for R' Aviatar about this, so it may well not apply in the general case.) So too here, she either married one or the other. So Rav Moshe haDarshan has Shimon divorce her.
I think, as I wrote above, that this is the exceptional case, but the operating assumption of Chazal was that there was no eilu ve'eilu on metzius. Surely people quote this gemara (incorrectly) to argue the opposite, for eilu ve'eilu in the general case.

In terms of all these ages for Iyov's life, indeed, the gemara raises this point explicitly, that you can't say X if you date Iyov to Y. (Of course, Iyov could have been exceptionally long-lived. :-] ) I'm not sure about the position that he didn't exist. I think that was clarified a bit later as that he did exist, but that the story as described lo haya velo nivra, and it was attributed to the great tzaddik Iyyov who would have reacted in this way had the events actually occurred.

  • 5) Let's stipulate: All midrashim are true and from Sinai. On Gen 35:8 Rashi quotes an aggada based on a Greek pun. Are Greek and Hebrew co-Holy? This is not so crazy as it sounds. Go to BT Sanh 76b and you will find a Talmudic debate about the meaning of the following words: ואיש אשר יקח את אשה ואת אמה זמה הוא באש ישרפו אתו ואתהן Rabbi Yishmoel darshens the pasuk -- in fact he learns the Halacha-- based on what a Hebrew word means in Greek. In other words, Rabbi Yishmoel believed that God's law was hidden in a Greek/Hebrew homonym.
That Rashi is:
And Deborah, Rebecca's nurse, died, and she was buried beneath Beth el, beneath the plain; so he named it Allon Bachuth.ח. וַתָּמָת דְּבֹרָה מֵינֶקֶת רִבְקָה וַתִּקָּבֵר מִתַּחַת לְבֵית אֵל תַּחַת הָאַלּוֹן וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ אַלּוֹן בָּכוּת:

beneath the plain: [Onkelos renders:] at the bottom of the plain, for there was a plain above, on the incline of the mountain, and the grave was below, and the plain of Beth-el was called Allon. The Aggadah [tells us that] he was informed there of another mourning, for he was told about his mother, who died (Gen. Rabbah 81:5), and Allon in Greek means“another.” For the following reason, the day of her death was concealed, viz. so that people should not curse the womb whence Esau had emerged. Therefore, neither did Scripture publicize it.תחת האלון: בשפולי מישרא, שהיה מישור מלמעלה בשפוע ההר והקבורה מלמטה, ומישור של בית אל היו קורין לו אלון. ואגדה נתבשר שם באבל שני, שהוגד לו על אמו שמתה. ואלון בלשון יוני אחר. ולפי שהעלימו את יום מותה, שלא יקללו הבריות הכרס שיצא ממנו עשו, אף הכתוב לא פרסמו:

Well, other midrashim refer to words in Arabic, or other languages, perhaps as a way of discovering a new sense in Biblical Hebrew, and so maybe this is so here. And Chazal did consider Greek to have a special sanctity. Consider the opinion of R' Shimon ben Gamliel, in Megillah daf 9, who permitted writing a sefer Torah in Greek. The derivation, in part, is as follows:

(a) (R. Avahu): The Halachah follows R. Shimon ben Gamliel.
(b) (R. Yochanan): He learns from "Hash-m will Yaft (beautify) Yefes and dwell in the tents of Shem" - the words (language) of Yefes (the father of Yavan) will be in the tents of Shem.
(c) Question: Perhaps this refers to Gomer and Magog (other children of Yefes)!
(d) Answer (R. Chiya bar Avin): "Yaft" refers to the most beautiful of Yefes.

(Also see the discussion on daf 18 about a Megillah written or read in Greek.)

If so, maybe the midrashic author indeed treats Greek with special sanctity.

However, I doubt it. Rather, the idea is that Scripture here was concealing something, which experts in expounding the Torah would be able to discover. And so yes, there was a Greek pun, which Hashem or Yaakov made here.


SPACE said...

This city of Luz or Beth-El is interesting, there people don't died: 'tradition says that the Angel of Death had no power in Luz (v. Sotah. 46b).
Also there's midrash: emperor Hadrian said: so how will happen resurrection of dead? and some rabbi answered: from Luz bone.

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