Wednesday, January 02, 2013

posts so far for parashat Shemot


1. Shemot sources, 2013 edition.

2. YUTorah on parashat Shemot.

3. Why can't Moshe hit the water? How can we make sense of this ma'amar chazal? I think that just as you can't ask a kasha on a maaseh, you often can't ask a kasha on a midrash.

4. Did הבתים transform into ויבןAt first glance, it looks like Rashi miquoted a pasuk in Melachim. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains the steps in its transformation, such that Rashi cited the pasuk correctly and scribes corrupted it. But perhaps Rashi never gave this pasuk as prooftext. I have a manuscript to back this idea up. Also, the prooftext is not very persuasive, since the midrash is speaking of the kingly and levite families, while the pasuk is speaking about physical structures, a palace and a Temple.


1. Shemot sources, 2012 edition.

2. Why the dagesh in הַצְּפִינוֹAnd whether Ibn Ezra actually disagrees with the existence of the phenomenon. While our Ibn Ezra explains the phenomenon of the dagesh, Ohr Torah understands him as saying there is no dagesh!

3. Was the new king over Egypt from the zera hameluchaConsidering Ibn Ezra's fit of 'prophecy'. Ibn Ezra argues on midrash and Rashi, and asserts that the 'new' king means that the king was of a new dynasty. Abarbanel and Ibn Caspi question how Ibn Ezra can know this. We consider what the inputs can be to this peshat.

4. Why translate that Pharaoh did not *chakim* Yosef I disagree with the idea that Tg Yonasan is channeling Kli Yakar and saying that Pharaoh did not learn from Yosef's history. Rather, חכים simply means 'recognize' in Aramaic.

5. YUTorah on parashat Shemot.

6. Angels raising the Israelite children in Egypt -- In reply to an email from a regular reader: 

I have a question about Shemot. My son told me that his Morah told his 1st grade class that when the Egyptians threw the boys into the Nile, melachim took the babies and raised them in a cave and then returned them to their parents.

Have you heard of this before? I can't seem to find any references to it . . . .
7. Thoughts on the Short Vort of Shemos, which is this:

For my thoughts on it, follow the link.

8. Is marrying two sisters intrinsically or extrinsically obnoxiousWe consider the perspective of Rashi (intrinsically), Ibn Ezra (based on the land), and Ibn Caspi (who rejects Ibn Ezra and gives a rationalist reason for the prohibition). I suggest that it is extrinsically bad, based on intent and social mores.


  1. How did Moshe remove his shoes?  I saw this cute devar Torah the other day in aparsha sheet, about Hashem's instruction to Moshe to remove his sandals, at the burning bush. It is from Rav Chaim Kanievsky.
  2. The mercha kfula in parshas Shmini --  How shall we account for it? There is one towards the end of parashat Shemot as well.

December 2010

  1. Shemot sources - further improved.
  2. The Targum on וְלֹא בְּיָד חֲזָקָה -- What was Rashi's original girsa of the Targum on Shemot 3:19?
  3. Why did Pharaoh target Jewish male infants Philo and Josephus, with Josephus giving the famous midrash about astrology. What was bothering Josephus?
  4. Did Pharaoh command the Egyptians to kill their own children?  So goes a midrash. Does peshat follow? To an extent, I think. Plus, how the Samaritans over-correct and so tip their hand.
  5. When did the Bnei Yisrael say חֲדַל מִמֶּנּוּ?  It makes sense, chronologically, that it would fall somewhere in Va'era. I explore some approaches which are open and closed canon to varying degrees.
  6. "Rasha! Lama Sakeh Rei'echa?!"  This week, from Junior's school.

    Q: When Moshe saw Datan and Aviram fighting, what did he call the man who was about to hit the other man?
    A: Rasha.

    My thoughts regarding this -- not exactly, though it seems a common misconception.
  7. Moshe killing the Egyptian, and Destiny --  In answer to a 'ponderousparsha point', of just what Moshe expected when looking into the future.
  8. Yocheved His Aunt, and the Length of the Servitude --  If Yocheved was literally Amram's aunt, it is difficult to make the servitude 210 years, and even more, 400 years. Relax this and you have more leeway. Rav Saadia Gaon and the Targum Hashiv'im give us this leeway.
January 2010

  1. The Gra on the trup of Vayemararu et Chayeihem -- There is a famous commentary by the Gra on the trup of Vayigash Elav Yehuda. Here is one on וימררו את חייהם, from parashat Shemot.
    This is actually part of a series of such posts I am doing right now, considering all of the Vilna Gaon's interpretations of trup, to try to deduce just how serious he intends them, among other things. Here is the "famous" one on Vayigash. And here are his comments on the trup of he`ashir lo yarbeh, on Ki Tisa. And here are his comments on asser taaser, in Reeh. And one of megillat Esther. And there is still more to come.
  2. Shemot sources -- links to over a hundred meforshim on the parsha and haftorah, plus links to an online Mikraos Gedolos by perek and aliyah.
  3. An exciting yet possibly nonexistent variant in the spelling of amatah -- Gur Aryeh come up with a variant masorah in order to defend the tradition, and so perhaps confuses Minchas Shai. I investigate, and take a tour of Rav Saadia Gaon's translation, Dunash Ibn Labrat's attack, Ibn Ezra's defense as well as commentary, and Mizrachi and Gur Aryeh's suggestion. Then an analysis, as to why I think Gur Aryeh's suggestion is rather unlikely.
  4. The repercussions of Moshe's oath -- Regarding a midrash that Moshe promised his first son would be dedicated to idolatry, and a midrash that the Levite priest by pesel Micha was Moshe's descendant. The Baal HaTurim seems to be dan a gezeira shava le'atzmo, something quite likely permitted for aggadah, though not for halacha. I investigate the background to this derasha. Also, what merited censorship in all this? Finally, considering and challenging Rav Chaim Kanievsky's take on this.
  5. How could Rashi say that animals don't need midwives?! -- Challenging a midrash, brought by Rashi, that animals don't need midwives. With an obvious, and not so obvious answer. But more deeply, what makes for a silly question, and what makes for a legitimate question, in Rashi studies?
  6. Why should Ibn Ezra assert that the word "Am" is not constructIbn Ezra has a seemingly strange comment, that in am benei Yisrael it is duplication, rather than construct form. What could compel this? I examine two reactions, and consider a semantic, rather than syntactic cause. Also, the trend across Tanach such that this is a common expression. Then, I consider that it just might be the influence of trup.
  7. The chronological problem in the saving of Moshe -- This chronological difficulty struck me (ouch!) when reading through parshat Shemot.
  8. What does ויעש להם בתים mean? To determine the peshat in this one phrase requires understanding of so much else in context. Namely, should we understand them as Hebrew midwives, or Egyptian midwives for the Hebrews? When they feared Elohim, was this Hashem or was it the local Egyptian deity? Were they individual midwives, or the heads of widwife guilds? And so on and so forth. This context will allow for different plausible answers to the question of just what vayaas lahem batim means.

  1. Ramses vs. Raamses -- one as the land of Goshen, and the other as the treasure-city they built for Pharaoh. Cross-listed from Vaychi.
  2. The long-lived donkey -- how old was the donkey Moshe put his family on?
  3. Shemot sources -- useful for preparing the sedra: links to an online Mikraos Gedolos and meforshim on the parsha and haftara.
  4. 6 in one birth? Discussing Rashi's source, and Shemot Rabba's source for this midrashic claim; how Ibn Ezra partially endorses it based on contemporary science; an explication just what that contemporary science was; how Ibn Ezra and Rashbam cope with the multiple languages of fecundity, and how I would; then, how multiple births shorten term, and how we might read that into midrash and pesukim. And more.
  5. Six in one womb simultaneously, or sequentially? Considering a suggestion / theory by Rabbi Medan that when Chazal said 6 in one womb, they meant it sequentially over the woman's entire lifetime -- and this as a part of a response to Shadal about chronology and generations in Egypt. I don't think it fits well with Chazal intent in the midrash, and so we would be sacrificing one maamar Chazal to save another.
  6. What are the evil diseases of Egypt? On Ekev, Shadal discusses a malady particular to Egypt of elephantiasis. And while Shadal does not make the connection, Pliny notes that when it affected the kings of Egypt, they treated it by tempering their sitting-baths with human blood. Which then fits well with the famous midrash.
  7. Is the three-fold ambiguity of  וְרַב יַעֲבֹד צָעִיר deliberate? Early theories of multi-valence -- really focused on parshat Toledot, but long the way I discuss the ambiguity inherent in Moshe's killing of the Egyptian taskmaster.
  1. Who Made "Houses" From Whom? And Why? A rundown of the many different explanations of this ambiguous phrase, and how it connects to the context.
  2. The Age of Trup -- from Shadal's Vikuach Al Chochmat haKabbalah, the beginning of a discussion of how old trup is, and how old the orthography of trup is. With implications as to whether a parshan can argue on trup and nikkud. Here, he claims Rashi does so on occasions, and gives examples. But also that Rashi at times brings proof from trup and nikkud. The pasuk from Shemot, of stretching out her hand (see next post on Shemot) is such an example, where Rashi states that the peshat must be maidservant, because of the nikkud on "amata."

    Also see Rabbenu Bachya on the same.
  3. Why Did The Daughter of Pharaoh Stretch Out Her Hand? If it was so many cubits away? The Lubavitcher Rebbe gives an answer, which I think may well accord with the peshat of the midrash. Plus a comment section.
  4. Vayifen Ko vaCho -- Why Did Moshe Look Around? I suggest it is to see if anyone else will intervene. Plus, some comments.
          1. The Dangers of Midrashim? A Fisking -- discussing, in part, whether the daughter of Pharaoh's hand really extended several cubits, and what to make of a midrash which says it did.
          2. Finally Arriving in Egypt -- How could parshat Shemot say they arrived in Egypt when they already did in sefer Bereishit? This is no question on a peshat level. However, the midrash answers that they began to feel the oppression with the death of Yosef. I show how this midrash shows a sensitivity to theme in the text of the parsha. Finally, I reiterate my explanation of habaim mitzrayma that may well clarify a several difficult chronological/genealogical points.

            • Vav HaChibbur vs. Vav HaHippuch And How It Applies To וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת
              • Hirhurim had a question about the statement that that sefer Shemot is unique in that it leads off with a vav, showing several other seforim that do the same. The answer is grammatical - va does not (need) mean "and," but most often just transforms what would otherwise be an imperfect into the perfect (past tense). I go through each instance, demonstrating this.
            Dec 2004
            1. Who Was Chovav? Who Was Yitro? And Who Was Moshe's Father-in-law? In this post on parshat Behaalotecha, I consider these questions. It is not at all clear that these were all alternate names for the same person. See various resolutions.
            2. Vayakam Melech Chadash Al Mitzrayim -- Besides the standard "and a new king arose over Egypt," there are at least three other parses and translations, depending on whether vayakam is transitive or intransitive, whether it means "arose" or "enacted," whether chadash modifies king or arose. It could mean that Pharaoh decreed new decrees on Egypt which did not recognize Yosef. This is the dispute between Rav and Shmuel, cited by Rashi. It could be that the (same) king rose anew over Egypt (the view of the Rabanan). It could mean that a new counsel (melech) was established over Egypt, which fits well with the pasuk as fits in with some midrash as well.
            3. Who were Shifra and Puah? A relatively unknown identification alternative to Miriam as the second midwife.
            4. Pharaoh the Leper -- In association with the post above about Vayakam Melech Chadash, I point out one midrashic motivation for saying that Pharaoh did not die -- in that the pasuk says a new king arose but does not state that he died.. Another pasuk that states that the Pharaoh died is interpreted as not that he died but was struck with leprosy. Parallels to two other kings struck with leprosy, Uzziya and Pharaoh, where the former is also an instance in which leprosy = death. Also a suggestion that וַיָּמָת מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם is parsed as if the word was metzora'im, lepers, such that "the king died the death of lepers."
                    Jan 2004
                    1. Moshe/Kayin parallels, and the midrashic vs. pshat narrative -- Two murders, but the one perpetrated by Moshe is good. And in both instances, the matter becomes known. Both murderers must go into exile, and the ground plays a role in concealing the deed. Parallel focus on potential descendants of the murdered. Plus a non-contradiction between two midrashim about the Egyptian's descendants, or lack thereof.

                      Finally, a distinction between the theme and mood of the narrative within the peshat and within the drash retelling.
                    2. Multivalence -- With the famous example of who echav is that Moshe goes out to -- the Egyptians or the Israelites?
                    3. Shifra & Puah == Yocheved & Miriam? Shifra actually appears on a list of Egyptian slave names from the 18th century. Are these midwives Egyptians who cater to Israelites, or are they Israelites themselves. Plus why the midrash equates them with Shifra and Puah. Plus a possible textual derivation I propose, doubling to mem to make miyaldei haIvrim, about Moshe, become mimeyaldei haIvrim. See inside. And a precedent for such doubling.
                    4. A Bunch of Chayos! And how to translate it -- animals, midwives, intelligent...
                    5. The derivation of Moshe's name -- The one given in the pasuk, and the one offered by some Biblical scholars. And my analysis of the overall picture, such that the one offered by some Biblical scholars is not really compelling (IMHO).
                    6. Moshe's Name -- cross-listed from Vayikra, 2005. An expansion on the above.
                                  to be continued...

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