Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mishpacha tackles gender identity issues

in a sophisticated manner. From their Jr. magazine, last week:

I wonder how Dina will react when she realizes that she is only going to get to wear that white dress for one day...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

YUTorah on parashat Re'eh

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Monday, July 29, 2013

The Jewish Home is very progressive

From last week's issue, July 25, 2013, pg 58:

Presumably, it wasn't tznius for a boy to eat ice cream with two girls. And so, Robert became Rachel...

Could Devarim be subjective? Or is this theologically treif?

In a previous post, I explained how apparent differences between Devarim and the rest of Torah might be due to the agenda of author.

For example, in Shemot, in a narrative section about Yitro, it makes sense to mention Yitro's input into setting up the court system. Whereas, in Devarim, where the authorial agenda is placed elsewhere (e.g. movement of power from Moshe to others), there is no purpose in mentioning Yitro, and so he is not mentioned. Yitro is simply irrelevant, and his omission is not a contradiction. Since this is a retelling, rather than a first telling, and the audience already is expected to be familiar with the Torah, there is no fear that Yitro's role will be lost to posterity, and so the author of Devarim can focus on what he wants. Devarim is thus an agenda-driven interpretation of the previous text, rather than a dry Biblical history based on otherwise unknown sources.

The reaction, by some, was that this would not be palatable to an uber-frum audience. [This is somewhat beyond the point, because my main thrust was that from an academic perspective, this theory is more nuanced, and the competing theory is simplistic and non-nuanced. Further, who says we care about this uber-frum audience.] But, I am not so convinced that this would not be so palatable to a frum audience.

Let us look at some of the objections people raised:
Charedi TMS [ed: Torah miSinai] means that everything was given to Moses. It would be impossible to say that Moses had some fancy intent to explain why he made certain choices.
I can simply point to a pasuk from last week's parsha, in a perek from which many apparent differences came, Devarim 10:12-13:
יב  וְעַתָּה, יִשְׂרָאֵל--מָה ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, שֹׁאֵל מֵעִמָּךְ:  כִּי אִם-לְיִרְאָה אֶת-ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לָלֶכֶת בְּכָל-דְּרָכָיו, וּלְאַהֲבָה אֹתוֹ, וְלַעֲבֹד אֶת-ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשֶׁךָ.12 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul;
יג  לִשְׁמֹר אֶת-מִצְו‍ֹת ה, וְאֶת-חֻקֹּתָיו, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ, הַיּוֹם--לְטוֹב, לָךְ.13 to keep for thy good the commandments of the LORD, and His statutes, which I command thee this day?
Yeah, that's all Hashem wants. No biggie!

Turn to Berachot 33b:
R. Hanina further said: Everything is in the hand of heaven except the fear of heaven,25  as it says, And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee but to fear.26  Is the fear of heaven such a little thing? Has not R. Hanina said in the name R. Simeon b. Yohai: The Holy One, blessed be He, has in His treasury nought except a store of the fear of heaven, as it says, The fear of the Lord is His treasure?27  — Yes; for Moses it was a small thing; as R. Hanina said: To illustrate by a parable, if a man is asked for a big article and he has it, it seems like a small article to him; if he is asked for a small article and he does not possess it, it seems like a big article to him.
In other words, Moshe said this from his own, subjective, perspective. This idea should not be earth-shattering. It is a pasuk, that this is a report of Moshe's speech. Devarim 1:5:

ה  בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן, בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב, הוֹאִיל מֹשֶׁה, בֵּאֵר אֶת-הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת לֵאמֹר.5 beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, took Moses upon him to expound this law, saying:

Or, for example, in Devarim 1, we see that a blessing Moshe gave the Israelites was his own blessing, rather than a blessing from Hashem.

May the Lord God of your forefathers add to you a thousandfold as many as you are, and may He bless you, as He spoke concerning you!יא. ה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵכֶם יֹסֵף עֲלֵיכֶם כָּכֶם אֶלֶף פְּעָמִים וִיבָרֵךְ אֶתְכֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר לָכֶם:
May… add to you a thousandfold as many as you are: What is [the purpose of] repeating further [in the verse]: “And He will bless you, as He has spoken concerning you?” They [the Israelites] said to him, “Moses, you are limiting our blessings [i.e., our numbers being multiplied only a thousandfold]. The Holy One, blessed is He, already promised to Abraham (Gen. 13:16), 'so that if a man will be able to count [the dust of the earth, so will your seed be counted]!’” [Moses] replied to them: “This [blessing of a thousandfold] is mine, but He will bless you as He spoke concerning you!” (Sifrei)יוסף עליכם ככם אלף פעמים: מהו שוב ויברך אתכם כאשר דבר לכם, אלא אמרו לו משה אתה נותן קצבה לברכתינו, כבר הבטיח הקב"ה את אברהם (בראשית יג, טז) אשר אם יוכל איש למנות וגו', אמר להם זו משלי היא, אבל הוא יברך אתכם כאשר דבר לכם:

Were this all Moshe merely speaking Divine speech, this distinction would make no sense!

Another example of Moshe having fancy intent when making certain choices in presentation is the distinction Chazal make between Devarim and the rest of the Torah in interpreting juxtapositions:
The Gemara (in several place, e.g. BT Yevamot 4a) notes that although there is a dispute among the Tannaim as to whether or not it is appropriate to make contextually-driven inferences (known as "S'mukhin") in the Torah, this dispute only obtains in reference to the first four books of the Torah. In other words, whether we can infer details of one law from a "neighboring" law simply by virtue of their juxtaposition is subject to debate among the scholars of the Mishnah. This is, however, not true with regards to Sefer D'varim - there is a consensus that juxtaposition is meaningful in D'varim and that such inferences are valid. This principle is known as "Darshinan S'mukhin b'Mishneh Torah" - we allow for juxtapositionally-driven inferences in "Mishneh Torah" (D'varim).

(Of course, that does not mean that one cannot darshen in Devarim, which then reflects Divine word choice. Also, who says that Moshe's authorial intent did not reflect Hashem's will?)

Another objection, from a chareidi perspective (or from non-chareidim attributing this to chareidim) is that any imprecision is theologically unpalatable, since it would be a falsehood. For instance, in response to the idea that Moshe is giving a quick summary of the masaot after Har Sinai, to show that Aharon died elsewhere, but that the reader is expected to know that of course Aharon died at Hor Hahar, the following comment:
That would be fine with a human writer living in the 7th century BC, yet i find this hard to reconcile with the concept of torah min hashamayim. What sort of a God is this, who doesn't care about creating accurate historical recounts of the past? isn't he the one who is supposed to have said "midvar sheker tirchak"?
Or, in response to the general idea of changed wording or details, e.g. the omission of Yisro's role:
1. Given that our tradition views the Torah as very precise document i.e. every single word and maybe even every letter is not supposed to be redundant, so whether one says different traditions or applies your suggestion, the question remains how does our traditional view allow for conflicting details of narratives. Was Moishe being disingenuous? Did Moishe never hear of “ha-omer dover b’shem omro”? or did he simply forget details? I really don’t see how this works.
From a chareidi perspective where every word or letter is meaningful to the extent that this answer would be a problem, the question does not even start. That same chareidi perspective has midrashic explanations, based on these slight divergences. And one uses these meaningful extra letters as a basis for a parallel Oral tradition which answers up any contradictions.

From a less extreme perspective, for the frum perspective I was never saying that these accounts were sheker, or that Moshe was being disingenuous. I was simply saying that he focused on what he focused on, and spoke in the language of man. Dibra Torah kilshon benei adam.

For an example from Midrash, let us consider the manna. As I discussed in a previous post, the Torah says that it became wormy and rotten:

20. But [some] men did not obey Moses and left over [some] of it until morning, and it bred worms and became putrid, and Moses became angry with them.כ. וְלֹא שָׁמְעוּ אֶל מֹשֶׁה וַיּוֹתִרוּ אֲנָשִׁים מִמֶּנּוּ עַד בֹּקֶר וַיָּרֻם תּוֹלָעִים וַיִּבְאַשׁ וַיִּקְצֹף עֲלֵהֶם מֹשֶׁה:
Rashi writes regarding this as follows:

and became putrid: This verse is transposed, because first it became putrid and later it bred worms, as it says: “and it did not become putrid, and not a worm was in it” (verse 24), and such is the nature of all things that become wormy. — [from Mechilta]ויבאש: הרי זה מקרא הפוך, שתחלה הבאיש ולבסוף התליע, כענין שנאמר (פסוק כד) ולא הבאיש ורמה לא היתה בו, וכן דרך כל המתליעים:

And that Mechilta:

וירם תולעים ויבאש - הרי מקרא זה מסורס. וכי מרחיש ואח"כ מבאיש, אלא מבאיש ואח"כ מרחיש, כענין שנאמר: ולא הבאיש וגו'. 

The driving force behind this midrash is a belief in spontaneous generation. Obviously, first something must become putrid and only afterwards become wormy.

One might well ask regarding this midrash:
What sort of a God is this, who doesn't care about creating accurate historical recounts of the past? isn't he the one who is supposed to have said "midvar sheker tirchak"?

The answer is that the transposed order is not "sheker" and it is not an "[in]accurate historical [ac]count". Rather, it is a way of speaking, a dibra Torah kilshon benei adam. See how many times Rashi writes that something is mikra mesuras or is mikra katzer.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

posts so far for parshat Re`eh


1. Hillel Hazaken's establishment of prozbul -- was not the nullification of a mitzvah deOraysachas veshalom. Just the opposite! It was akiyum of a mitzvah!

2. Reeh sources, 2012 edition.

3. YUTorah on parshas Reeh.

4. Bal Tosif in context -- It relates to changes in sacrificial worship. How can adding positive things turn out negative? Shadal gives an example.


  1. Re'eh sources -- I improve this from year to year. I gather a nice group of meforshim on the parsha and haftarah, and link to a mikraos gedolos, by perek and aliyah. This is a very useful starting point for learning through the parsha with meforshim. In subsequent years, I added more meforshim. This year, I added even more, in several different categories. For instance, there are many more meforshei Rashi and even a few manuscripts of Rashi.
  2. How has the eved ivri served you 'twice as much as a hired servant'Considering the approaches of a group of meforshim on this phrase, and pasuk. Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Ibn Caspi, Seforno, Rashbam, and Shadal. While I add a bit of my own analysis to Rashbam's analysis, the topic is not yet settled in my mind, so I don't end up taking sides. Plus, in the comment section, Rav Chaim Kanievsky's take on the issue.
  3. YU Torah for parashat Reeh.
  4. The movement of the Shalach -- Targum Yonasan on Re'eh is unduly influenced by the Targum and pasuk in parashat Shemini. Or is it working from a Samaritan text? Based in part on a comment in Taama de-Kra, from Rav Chaim Kanievsky.
  5. The hyrax as ruminant -- in which I explain, in a systematic manner, how to read the pasuk in this week's parasha with shafan as hyrax, even if hyrax is not a true ruminant, but ancient people just thought it was. And in the comment section, a lot of discussion, given video evidence that it is actually maaleh gerah, brings up the already chewed food, to rechew, in that it practices merycism.

  1. The Gra on the trup of asser ta'aser -- Part of a series focusing on the Vilna Gaon's interpretation of trup, this one focuses on the pasuk in Re'eh, 'asser te'asser, and works the trup into the famous derasha on those words.
  2. The trup on acharei derech mevo hashemesh -- An analysis of the trup on acharei derech mevo hashemesh, according to Rashi, Rashbam, and Shadal. Does Rashi have a complete theory of trup?
  3. The other side of the Jordan -- A pasuk which must have been written in the midbar. What about the reference to Gilgal, then?
  4. Hashem testing you with false signs, or is this just dibra Torah kilshon bnei AdamThe Torah indicates that the signs of a false prophet of idolatry are really simply Hashem testing you, which seemingly indicates that the signs are real, and that Hashem would mislead in this way. While theologically possible, is this indeed so? Ibn Caspi gives another way, in which this is a (near-) false statement in the Torah, for the hamon am who would not otherwise understand.
  5. Korbanos as compromise -- Ibn Caspi. If so, do we really desire them in messianic times?
  6. Deah vs. Reah in Re'eh -- I respond to a snarky guest-post at DovBear.
  7. How did the Samaritans falsify their Torah?  Let me count the ways. It turns out, in two or three ways, not just one. And there might be an over-correction or two in the Yerushalmi and Bavli.

In 2009, in Re'eh sources, I gather a nice group of meforshim on the parsha and haftarah, and link to a mikraos gedolos, by perek and aliyah. This is a very useful starting point for learning through the parsha with meforshim.

In One understandable, and one perplexing, instance of censorship in Baal Haturim, I explore how certain controversial text was edited out or modified in different versions. It is perplexing what one would find offensive in an injunction not to raise pigs.

In Why shouldn't we eat the chassidah, I consider the gemara which explains its traits, and draw a rationalist / non-rationalist distinction regarding timtum halev in whether to agree with the Kotzker Rebbe's premise that the bird would only be non-kosher if its had an undesirable trait.

In A good friend will help you move; a true friend will help you move the body, I manage a tie-in to the parsha, in that a meisis to Avodah Zarah who is a friend who is like your soul should nevertheless be reported rather than concealed. The main body of the post consists of tracing the history of story which appeared in Rabbi Bibi's article in the Jewish Star, about how none of the youngster's friends would assist him when he came to them claiming that he had killed someone, but his father's half-a-friend did.

In The target of Re'eh, I grapple with why Re'eh is singular but the remainder of the verse is plural. Ibn Ezra says it is distributive; Ibn Caspi suggests it refers to the entire nation, and Avi Ezer says that it is a ziruz and hazmana and thus does not take gender or number.

In Why specifically the son of your mother?, I continue on a point started last year (2008) about "your brother, the son of your mother." Ibn Ezra's remarks seem to contain some cryptic, philosophical derash. Avi Ezer dismisses this idea and provides a straightforward explanation, but I would side with Mechokekei Yehuda and Ibn Caspi who say otherwise. However, I don't think I agree with the substance of their interpretation of Ibn Ezra's philosophical derash.

In Chizkuni and You are not *Able* to Eat, I consider Chizkuni's explanation of Rashi's midrashic remarks about the identity of the Yevusi, in different places as descendants of the Chiti with whom Avraham dealt when purchasing the Cave of the Patriarchs, or as descendants of Avimelech. I disagree with him in one or two points.

In Rav Papa Stumbles, I consider a curious gemara in which Rav Pappa's stumbling upon a ladder is blamed on possible lack of charity. I consider the Gra's tie-in to the names of the trup symbols on a pasuk, but then give an explanation I believe is more likely, based on the symbolism of ladders.

In Why pour out the blood like water, I consider the explanation of Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz, and then my own suggestion on the level of peshat, that it is spilling it rather than sprinkling it on the mizbeach.

In Who Was The Baal HaTurim's Woman, I consider just who she was. I have reasons to doubt Rabbi Akiva Eiger's explanation that it is a reference to Mary and her son, and instead believe that he is referring to the Intellect.

In 2008, in Shadal on Tithes, I note an interesting explanation Shadal has about tithes -- that there is only one, which is to be eaten in Jerusalem. And that at the end of the third year, if the produce has not been eaten in Yerushalayim, it should be distributed to the Levi or to the pauper. Shadal claims that the practice of giving all the produce of that year to the pauper rather than taking it to Yerushalayim is a rabbinic enactment so that people should not lie to the paupers and tell them that it was all already consumed in Yerushalayim. And the Biblical vidui maaser is also to ensure that the maaser is distributed correctly, for people would not lie to God.

In Would Hashem Empower A False Prophet, I discuss an interesting theological question which relates to a sequence of psukim in Reeh. If a false prophet makes an os or mofes, and it comes to pass, yet he says to worship idols, we do not believe him. This, states the next verse, is Hashem testing us. Does this mean that Hashem is granting this false prophet actual power to predict the future or to perform wonders? Different commentators offer their different takes on the question, and how to read peshat in those pesukim.

In Your Brother, The Son of Your Mother, I consider this case of apparent duplication from the perspective of the gemara, Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite, Targum, and trup. Is this an instance of poetic duplication or is it dealing with two separate individuals?

In 2004, in The Blessing and the Curse, I cite the opening words to Re`eh: רְאֵה, אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם--הַיּוֹם: בְּרָכָה, וּקְלָלָה.
אֶת-הַבְּרָכָה--אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְעוּ, אֶל-מִצְו‍ֹת ה אֱלֹקֵיכֶם
and suggest that the keeping of the Torah, and living a life of Torah and mitzvot, is the blessing. Homiletical, I know, but clearly marked as such, and I think the message behind it is true.

In 2003, I focused on false prophets, as well as a bal tosif/bal tigra issue.

In Parshat Re`eh: Don't Add Nor Subtract: Mitzvot or Avodah? - I focused on the specific language of the prohibition of adding/subtracting something in this week's parsha (to the exclusion of elsewhere).
I point out that based on the context, although the pasuk in Devarim 13:1 mentions that which Hashem commands, the intent seems to be not that one should not add or subtract commandments, but rather methods of worshipping Hashem. That is, do not see idolatrous practices and do similar things for Hashem, nor remove modes of worship which Hashem has commanded. This context is the preceding chapter. The perek division, imposed later by Christians, contradicts the Jewish subdivisions of the text in the form of whitespace breaks (petuchot and setumot) makes it seem to have another meaning, either mitzvot in general, or related to whether a prophet can add or subtract mitzvot (the juxtoposition of which doubtless forms a basis of drashot that a prophet cannot do this.)

One point I did not make at the time is that there is another bal tosifu/tigre'u, in Devarim 4: 2 which is more explicitly about commandments in general, based on the context.

In Re`eh #2: Can a false prophet perform miracles? - I focus on a dispute in the Sifre. Devarim 13:2-3 states that a false prophet can do miracles, and Hashem lets this happen/causes the miracles to happen to test us if we will be true to Him.
Two opinions: either Hashem is actually doing this as a test, or else this is a true prophet who performed miracles for true prophecies in the past, and is now relying on his chazaka, established precedent as a true prophet, {and , I would fill in, Hashem let this happen even though He knew the prophet would later do this.}

Re`eh #3: How can you tell if a prophet is false? - I detail the criteria for declaring a prophet false, on the basis of the Rambam in his peticha to his perush HaMishnayot. In short, he has to give a public, positive prophecy which does not come to pass. This is because Hashem can backtrack on negative prophecy if the people repent (think Yonah in Ninveh). Further, Hashem can recant a promise to an individual not made public, if the merits of the person are reduced (think of Yaakov's fear when about to confront Esav, according to the midrash on katonti miKol hachadasim). Another major precedent/source-text: Yirmiyahu's showdown with the false prophet Chananya ben Azur in Yirmiyahu perek 28. This should form the basis for determining a true and false prophet, and in fact, in Shofetim, next week's parsha, in the devar torah entitled Dvar torah for Shoftim #4: Was the Lubavitcher Rebbe a Navi Sheker?, I dealt with the fact that if we accept (which we don't), as many Lubavitchers claim, that the Rebbe said certain things as prophecy, then he would be a false prophet, rather than that those things must be true even though it is readily apparent that they are not.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

posts so far for parashat Eikev

1. Rav Saadia Gaon on Ashterot Tzonecha -- with a bit of help from Ibn Janach in understanding the Arabic

2. The general and specific of Hashem's love -- which accounts for the placement of the etnachta.

3. As a follow-up to this post about how to approach discrepancies between Devarim and the rest of Torah in a nuanced way, grappling with the question of the where and when of Aharon's death.

4. The trup on Ushmartem vaAsitem Otam, and considering the difference between our Mikraos Gedolos and what the Teimanim have.

1. Ekev sources, 2012 edition.

2. A land of oil producing olives and honey -- According to Chazal, the word דְבָשׁ in our pasuk refers to dates, rather than specifically the honey of those dates (or the honey of bees). Rav Chaim Kanievsky is troubled by this, sincehalachically, they have the status of zeiah bealma. And he explains how it is not synechdoche, but rather, devash is a generic name for sweet fruit. I am not entirely convinced by this. I also give two novel ways of interpreting this pasuk, at the end, the latter of which will indeed produce an interpretation of dates rather than date honey.

3. YUTorah on parshas Eikev.

4. Running commentary to parshas Eikev, part one.


  1. Ekev sources, 2011 edition. Links by perek and aliyah to an online Mikraos Gedolos. Additionally, many, many links to meforshim on the parsha and haftara. In the 2011 edition, many further additions, including many more meforshei Rashi.
  2. Why does Rashi wait until Ekev to explain gedolim va'atzumimThe Taz has his explanation of this phenomenon. And I offer my own, based on an analysis of Rashi's sources.
  3. Does the prohibition of suppressing urine apply also to womenRav Chaim Kanievsky considers a reason it should not, and a reason it should, based on a derasha on parashat Ekev.
  4. How should we translate הַנֹּתֵן לְךָ כֹּחַ in Onkelos? Eitzah vs. Chailah, and some analysis from Onkelos' commentators.
  5. A follow-up to 'After you, or after them' -- A follow-up to a 2009 post on Ekev about how Chizkuni makes a derasha assuming a heh rather than a kaf. Now, considering evidence from the Septuagint and from Vetus Testamentum.
  6. The land of Tov, and the need to bless Eretz Yisrael -- In a fascinating construction by Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz, the blessing of the land, lack of barrenness, etc., was needed to combat the natural negative nature of Eretz Yisrael, as accurately described by those well-known tzaddikim, the meraglim. Or else there was 'natural' blessing, as a result of taking off maaser, and the 'supernatural' blessing, of exceedingly large amounts, which was all the more impressive and a demonstration of love, since it violated the 'natural order' of blessings.
  7. Why was Hashem furious with AharonAfter all, the narrative in Ki Tisa, especially as explained by the midrash, would seem to entirely excuse Aharon. Why, then, was Hashem furious with him?
  8. YUTorah on parshas Eikev.

  1. Is Moshe's forty day (and night) fast super-miraculous? So says Ibn Ezra. And Ibn Caspi takes him to task. And besides speculating on Ibn Ezra's methodological motivation, I wonder if it is even so certain that the Torah describes a miraculous event.s.
  2. Fee fi fo fum! Deviating from masorah because of a French homonym -- Fi means pooh! or bother! in French. When the word precedes Hashem, should we change it to Pi? And the implications for Baruch She'amar.s
  3. What is the tzir'ahHornet or sickness? Rashi, along with midrash, and Ibn Ezra.s
  4. Did the Israelites have shoes in the wildernessPretty clearly, they did. What, then, shall we make of Rashi's comment referring to כדרך הולכי יחף שרגליהם נפוחות?
  5. Luchat ketiv or Lachat ketivWith the repercussions being which pasuk Rashi is going on. Plus, what exactly is Rashi telling us with this midrash; or what is this midrash telling us?
  6. The Gra's theory of two hornets fighting in Canaan -- It creates a nice elu ve'elu, and works out nicely with the pesukim, but does it reflect original intent of the midrash?
  7. Yet more on the tzir'ah -- How the Maharsha explains the brayta's statement that the hornets did not pass over, in terms of tying it in with the pesukim; whether his problem is the same as ours; and thus, whether his solution works.
  8. Is the command to bentch peshat or derash Is the command to bentch peshat or derash? Ramban and tradition (and the Karaites!), vs. Shadal. And how to consider it if we accept Shadal's premise.

  1. God-granted power, and why it is not kefirah to believe in the water cycle. And perhaps also to believe in Darwinian evolution as well.
  2. Cleaving to Hashem, and different understandings of dveikus. Can one square the kabbalistic understanding, and Ibn Ezra's understanding, with the objections of the Sifrei? Meanwhile, on a peshat level, I would argue that it is meant metaphorically.
  3. What are the evil diseases of Egypt? Shadal identifies it as diseases particular to Egypt, based on the medical writings of Pliny. And I connect it to a midrash about Pharaoh bathing in blood.
  4. The variant trup on ad-avod, and why Shadal prefers our revii over the variant gershayim. And what each would mean.
  5. 100 blessings a day, but how many letters in the pasuk? There is one variant tradition of 100 letters, held e.g. by Baal HaTurim, but we only have 99, and Rabbenu Bachya for instance has 99. Minchas Shai discusses. This is slightly related to a post on parshat Devarim, about Rashi having a word as chaser where we have it malei.
  6. After you, or after them? Chizkuni makes a derasha off of a word that doesn't exist in the form he needs it to, in order to say that the water was chasing after the Egyptians, rather than the Egyptians chasing after the Israelites.
  7. Your feet did not develop calluses -- a followup to my 2008 post about whether the Israelites' clothing stayed fresh naturally; and how this relates to archaeological evidence, or lack there of, of a massive exodus from Egypt.
  8. Is the wickedness of the nations the cause, or the purported cause? Rashi and Rashbam against Ramban and Shadal about how to parse a pasuk.
  1. Did the Israelites' clothing stay fresh naturally? Three opinions: no, yes, and kind of.
  • Haftarat Ekev: In which there is an interesting poetic Biblical parallelism between YKVK and Adonai. And what this might mean.
  • Some Idioms in the Parsha
    • which shouldn't necessarily be taken literally. Ekev Tishmeun does not literally mean "that you will hear." Eating enemies, or "consuming" them, connoted destruction. The Finger of God; Circumcising the heart; Moshe not eating bread nor drinking water for 40 days and 40 nights.
  • I'm back!
    • After a short break in blogging, my return. In that post, I included a midrash from Ekev, about the scope of Noach's flood and whether it covered Har Gerizim, in which an animal driver gave a great response to a Samaritan, which caused the Pharisee Sages to apply the verse from Ekev -- בָּרוּךְ תִּהְיֶה, מִכָּל-הָעַמִּים: לֹא-יִהְיֶה בְךָ עָקָר וַעֲקָרָה, וּבִבְהֶמְתֶּךָ -- where בְהֶמְתֶּךָ is taken to mean "in your Beham," your animal driver. And a short grammatical analysis of Beham.
  • Man Does Not Live On Bread Alone
    • A main point of the verse is that Hashem wanted them to realize that He was the source of sustenance. Thus first He afflicted them, by exposing them to hunger, and then provided them with this food, the manna. Why? If they had bread, they would not have learned this all-important lesson. Bread is but one instance of it, but man does not live on bread. He lives on whatever Hashem deigns to grant - כָּל-מוֹצָא פִי-ה.
to be continued...

Ekev: The trup on ושמרתם ועשיתם אתם

In our Mikraos Gedolos, we have the following on the first pasuk in Ekev, a mercha tipcha:
The mercha joins to the next word, the tipcha separates. So it is: ושמרתם ועשיתם || אתם
But the Teimanim have this:
That is, a tipcha munach. The tipcha separates from the next word while the munach joins. So it is: ושמרתם || ועשיתם אתם.
Chelek HaDikduk makes note of this difference in Teimani manuscripts:
Does either make sense? After all, in “and you shall keep and you shall perform them”, the word “them” is the object of both “you shall keep” and “you shall perform”. If so, shouldn’t “and you shall keep and perform” be one unit?
William Wickes, page 59 of Two Treatises on the Accentuation of the Old Testament, in the chapter entitled Syntactic Dichotomy, writes as follows:
This would appear to be the case under consideration. And so, the regular construction would be as in our Mikraos Gedolos. Yet the Teimani alternative is possible, and not infrequent, and indeed, often motivated by a consideration (emphasis).
Under the rule of lectio difficilior, I would assume that the seemingly more difficult word is the original, since a scribe will be more likely to change it in the direction of the easier reading. So that would favor the Teimani reading as more original.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Where did Aharon die?

Here is a fascinating variant text that the Samaritans have, in Ekev (Devarim 10): The text on the right is our Masoretic text, while the text on the left is the Samaritan text.
The Samaritan text is obviously not the original. It is a harmonizing effort, to bring in the material from Bemidbar 33 and make it harmonious.

That is, we have in Bemidbar 33:
לא  וַיִּסְעוּ, מִמֹּסֵרוֹת; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בִּבְנֵי יַעֲקָן.31 And they journeyed from Moseroth, and pitched in Bene-jaakan.
which on a surface level seems the opposite direction than in Ekev. And in Bemidbar, it is clear that Aharon died at a much later encampment, at Mt. Hor, rather than in Mosera.

לז  וַיִּסְעוּ, מִקָּדֵשׁ; וַיַּחֲנוּ בְּהֹר הָהָר, בִּקְצֵה אֶרֶץ אֱדוֹם.37 And they journeyed from Kadesh, and pitched in mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom.--
לח  וַיַּעַל אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן אֶל-הֹר הָהָר, עַל-פִּי ה--וַיָּמָת שָׁם:  בִּשְׁנַת הָאַרְבָּעִים, לְצֵאת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַחֲמִישִׁי, בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ.38 And Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the LORD, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fifth month, on the first day of the month.
לט  וְאַהֲרֹן, בֶּן-שָׁלֹשׁ וְעֶשְׂרִים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה, בְּמֹתוֹ, בְּהֹר הָהָר.  {ס}39 And Aaron was a hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor. {S}

(So too in Bemidbar 20, the first recording of Aharon's death.)

The Samaritans seem untroubled by it, and just insert the intervening encampments, and put Aharon's death at Mt. Hor.

The contradiction between these two texts (Devarim and Bemidbar) is indeed a difficult one. Someone raised it in the comment section on my previous post, "Deuteronomy based on a different Biblical tradition? Simple vs. Simplistic", as evidence that Devarim was based on different source material.

But Shadal writes something very important, and instructive, about it:
פסוק זה ושלאחיו קשים מאד. 
It is OK to admit that something presents a great difficulty.

Shadal writes:

ו, ז ובני ישראל נסעו וגו ': פסוק זה ושלאחיו קשים מאד. כי לא ידענו מה ענינם במקום הזה. ורשב " ם וראב " ע אמרו שהם להודיע כי אהרן לא מת מיד, וזה לא יועיל ולא יציל, כי יודעים היו ישראל כי אהרן לא מת רק זה זמן מועט, ואם היה משה רוצה להזכירם זאת, למה לו להזכיר המסעות ולא אמר כי חי עד שנת הארבעים? ולדברי האומרים כי נוספו אחר זמן, לא הרווחנו מאומה, כי לא יובן מה ראה המוסיף להוסיפם. ואם בטעות לוקחו ממקום אחר, לא נודע מהיכן נלקחו ואיה מקומם. והשומרונים הוסיפו: ובני ישראל נסעו ממוסרות ויחנו בבני יעקן. משם נסעו ויחנו ביטבתה ארץ נחלי מים. משם נסעו ויחנו בעברונה. משם נסעו ויחנו בעציון גבר, משם נסעו ויחנו במדבר סין היא קדש. משם נסעו ויחנו בהר ההר. וימת שם אהרן ויקב שם ויכהן אלעזר בנו תחתינו . - כל זה להשוות הענין למה שכתוב בפרשת מסעי, אבל מה ענין כל זה לכאן?
"And the Israelites traveled...: this verse, and the one after it, are extremely difficult. For we do not know what their function is in this place. And Rashbam and Ibn Ezra said that they are to inform that Aharon did not die immediately. And this does not help or save, for the Israelites knew that Aharon had only died a short while before; and if Moshe wanted to mention this, why should he mention the traveled and not say that he lived until the fortieth year?
And according to those who say that this [text] was added after a time, we gain nothing, for it is not understood what the added saw to addthem.
And if they were taken from another place, we do not know from whence they were taken and where is their [proper] place.
And the Shomronim add [Josh: as above, see text that they add]. And all this is to make the matter equal to what was written in parashat Masei. But what relevance is this matter here?"

End quote.

In my prior post, I discussed many of the supposed contradictions between Devarim and the rest of Torah. To offer a taste of this, here is one purported contradiction:
2. The Court System 
According to Deuteronomy (1:9-13), the court system devised in the desert was Moses’ idea. However, according to Exodus (18:17-22), the idea was not Moses’ but that of his father-in-law Jethro.
I noted that whether or not one believes in Mosaic authorship of Devarim, it makes good sense that Devarim was written for an audience already familiar with the Torah, and that the author has a religious or political agenda to advance.
Since it is not meant as a parallel first-telling of the Biblical story, but as a retelling of the existing Biblical story, the author of Deuteronomy does not have to retell every single darned historical point...
In Exodus 18, the agenda is Jethro's role as visitor and influencer of the Israelites. And so, Jethro proposes this, and in the end, 18:24, וַיִּשְׁמַע מֹשֶׁה, לְקוֹל חֹתְנוֹ; וַיַּעַשׂ, כֹּל אֲשֶׁר אָמָר. We are not told there Moshe's words in instructing the Israelites.

In Deuteronomy 1, Moses does not claim exclusive credit for the idea. He does not mention Jethro because Jethro is irrelevant. Jethro would be a distraction to Moses' exhortation. Rather, he is reporting what he said to the Israelites when he implemented this action (or even, a portion thereof). And the purpose of mentioning this is not dry history, but of the transitioning of power from Moshe to others, in this cases, lower judges.
 This approach works well in the general case. But it does not work so smoothly when it comes to this Ekev /  Masei divergence.

I cannot claim to be able to solve every single divergence. Still, my general observation, about the lameness of many of the purported divergences, holds true.

Here is how I might begin to approach this divergence:

#1, the Samaritans are right. Not that they have the original text -- of course they falsified their Torah text in order to harmonize. But that the author of Devarim was looking to Masei and pulling in selections of that text. And that even though when read literally and uncompromisingly, the text in Devarim says Aharon died in Moserah while in Bemidbar (20 and 33) the text says he died on Hor HaHar -- that is not what the author of Devarim intended.

Further, Devarim is pulling from both Bemidbar 20 and Bemidbar 33, because Bnei Yaakan is only mentioned in Bemidbar 33 and Eliezer replacing is only mentioned in Bemidbar 20.

#2, Ibn Ezra and Rashbam are right about the agenda of the author of Devarim. In the previous perek, Devarim 9, Hashem was wroth with both the Israelites and Aharon:
יט  כִּי יָגֹרְתִּי, מִפְּנֵי הָאַף וְהַחֵמָה, אֲשֶׁר קָצַף ה עֲלֵיכֶם, לְהַשְׁמִיד אֶתְכֶם; וַיִּשְׁמַע ה אֵלַי, גַּם בַּפַּעַם הַהִוא.19 For I was in dread of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the LORD was wroth against you to destroy you. But the LORD hearkened unto me that time also.
כ  וּבְאַהֲרֹן, הִתְאַנַּף ה מְאֹד--לְהַשְׁמִידוֹ; וָאֶתְפַּלֵּל גַּם-בְּעַד אַהֲרֹן, בָּעֵת הַהִוא.20 Moreover the LORD was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him; and I prayed for Aaron also the same time.

Yet Moshe interceded, and both were spared. And Moshe continues in that perek with other times he interceded on behalf of the Israelites. Perek 10 returns us to Har Sinai, "at that time", and the chance of a do-over.

And so, the point in bringing in that Aharon died is that he died later, not just there at Har Sinai.

#3, As to Shadal's objection -- why not just say "and Aharon died in the 40th year"?

Recall that this is not a parallel first-telling, but rather a re-telling. The audience is already familiar with the Biblical text, and by channeling parshat Masei, it is effectively quoting to them parashat Masei. This sounds more Biblical, and is along the lines of "as you well know". Thus also the parallel of שם Aharon died.

#4, If so, one could imagine that there is a "Yada Yada Yada" in play, to introduce that they traveled on to other encampments.

With Aharon's death, and the transition of power to Eleazar being the priority, and the death being specifically in הר ההר not really being relevant. This is then mentioned after the first movement in the chain, and is followed by others in the chain to show the movement continued.

After writing this, I looked at Ibn Caspi, who says it is a sort of yada yada yada. Perhaps I will present him

#5, בעת ההיא in Devarim 10:7 means at Har Sinai, not Yatva, just as it does in the first pasuk of the perekm Devarim 10:1. See Bemidbar 3.

#6, Many times, making too much of divergences does not lead us to peshat but to derash. I don't know that it applies here, but maybe.

At the end of the day, I am not entirely happy with this, but I do think that it may form the beginning of an answer.


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