Thursday, February 14, 2013

Is daber exclusively strong, harsh language?

It is a general running assumption that daber / vayedaber is strong, harsh language, while vayomer is soft language. This finds purchase, for example, in Makos daf 10b-11a:
א"ר חמא בר חנינא מפני מה נאמרה פרשת רוצחים 
בלשון עזה דכתיב (יהושע כ, א) וידבר ה' אל יהושע לאמר דבר אל בני ישראל לאמר תנו לכם את ערי המקלט אשר דברתי אליכם וגו' מפני שהן של תורה 
למימרא דכל דיבור לשון קשה אין כדכתיב (בראשית מב, ל) דבר האיש אדוני הארץ אתנו קשות והתניא (מלאכי ג, טז) נדברו אין נדברו אלא לשון נחת וכן הוא אומר (תהלים מז, ד) ידבר עמים תחתינו דבר לחוד ידבר לחוד: 

In English:
(a) (Rav Chama bar Chanina): The Parshah of Arei Miklat was said to Yehoshua in a harsh language ("*Va'Ydaber* Hash-m...", in the rest of Yehoshua it says "Va'Yomer Hash-m") because it is a Mitzvah of the Torah.
1. Question: Does this imply that va'Ydaber is a harsh language?
2. Answer: Yes - "Diber ha'Ish Adonei ha'Aretz Itanu Kashos".
3. Question (Beraisa): "Nidberu" (those who fear Hash-m spoke with each other) - this is a gentle language, "Yadber Amim Tachteinu".
4. Answer: Daber (or va'Ydaber) is harsh, Yadber (or Nidberu) is soft.
Thus, R' Chama bar Chanina makes a statement, contrasting the single usage of daber with the overwhelming usage of amira in sefer Yehoshua. The setama degemara takes this as evidence that the word daber, all by itself, implies harsh language, and asks based on a counter-example. And the setama degemara resolves the question by distinguishing between the two languages of daber.

I would imagine that one could resolve it otherwise, by saying that when there is a deliberate contrast and reason to assume harshness, one could read in harshness. But in other instances, follow what the derasha implies. And especially in midrash aggadda, don't expect such systematic consistency, within the meaning of a single word.

I saw an intersting midrash cited by the Baal HaTurim at the beginning of Teruma, on the first pasuk:
1. "The Lord spoke to Moses saying: א. וַיְדַבֵּר ה אֶל משֶׁה לֵּאמֹר:
2. "Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering. ב. דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ לִי תְּרוּמָה מֵאֵת כָּל אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ תִּקְחוּ אֶת תְּרוּמָתִי:

The Baal HaTurim writes:
Here, he takes daber as a language of piyus, implying conciliation. His prooftext is none of the above, but rather daber al lev Yerushalayim. And he cites a similar midrash, from Rabbi Avahu.

Make of it what you will.

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