Tuesday, December 03, 2013

ACH in אַךְ טָרֹף טֹרָף -- an expression of certainty, doubt, or reduction?

Famously, אך and רק midrashically come only to exclude, to be memaet. And this is interesting because according to Biblical scholars, this usage of אך is only in Rabbinic Hebrew, while in Biblical Hebrew it means "surely", or "indeed". If so, this is an anachronistic sort of derasha, and so one reads in alternate meanings to what would have been intended by the Biblical author.

You could argue and say that the meaning in Rabbinic Hebrew is also the meaning in Biblical Hebrew. This would require analysis of how it is used across Tanach.

There is an אך in Vayigash that caught my eye. Yaakov relates the loss of Yosef, in Bereishit 44:28:

 The one went away from me, and I said, "He has surely been torn to pieces, and I have not seen him since."כח. וַיֵּצֵא הָאֶחָד מֵאִתִּי וָאֹמַר אַךְ טָרֹף טֹרָף וְלֹא רְאִיתִיו עַד הֵנָּה:
Or HaChaim is therefore impelled to interpret it as an exclusion:

"ACH TAROF etc.: He hints, by saying אך, that it is a reduction of טָרֹף טֹרָף, for he [Yosef] is not in the distress of servitude nor in the distress of prison. And that is why he concludes וְלֹא רְאִיתִיו עַד הֵנָּה, behold he is relating that he does exist, but he has yet to see him until now.

Further is intended by אַךְ טָרֹף טֹרָף etc. to explain that אך is a reduction specifically in the tearing [טָרֹף], but regarding that which he said 'a wild animal ate him", which they za'"l said was intended as a reference to the wife of Potifar, in this, there is no reduction, for he was already [????] that which she caused him [Yosef] to lose 10 seons, for he had been destined to raise 12 tribes, as they za'l said, and via this wickedness [??] ten drops [of semen] fell from him and thus only two [Ephraim and Menashe] came from him."

OK, not exactly what I would call peshat, even though it comes from the Or HaChaim. But this sort of close reading / midrashic reading makes a great deal of the Rabbinic understanding of אך.

Onkelos translates this אך as ברם. But is he saying "only" or "indeed"?

Look at Jastrow, who shows that in Aramaic it has both meanings:

Though maybe we should restrict our investigation to Targum.

Rabbenu Yonah Ibn Janach writes as follows, taking this אך as a doubt -- thus, perhaps, a miut -- as opposed to the usual "surely":

"The word אך here does NOT come to relate that it is a certain thing, as it meant in [Bereishit 29:14, Lavan speaking to Yaakov]

יד  וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ לָבָן, אַךְ עַצְמִי וּבְשָׂרִי אָתָּה; וַיֵּשֶׁב עִמּוֹ, חֹדֶשׁ יָמִים.14 And Laban said to him: 'Surely thou art my bone and my flesh.' And he abode with him the space of a month.

but rather for a doubt. And a proof to this is [the end of the pasuk] וְלֹא רְאִיתִיו עַד הֵנָּה. And had it been the case in truth, it would not have been correct to say this." (Sefer HaShorashim 28)

Presumably, Ibn Janach's reason is that "I have not seen him" indicates some uncertainty. Well, I haven't seen him, so presumably he is dead. And why say this if you saw his bloody clothing? Of course you would not be expecting to see him after this.

But one (meaning Josh) could argue in the opposite direction. For instance: Yaakov is saying that this was what he was convinced of, based on the evidence, at the time. Yes, maybe Yosef could have lost the clothing and survived the attack. But Yaakov is further convinced that his interpretation of Yosef's death was true because Yosef never did surface.

Moreover, one should not ignore the emotion of the statement. This loss / disappearance of Yosef profoundly affected Yaakov, and a grieving father confronted with this loss would say, emotionally, surely this has happened. Whether or not there is absolute hard evidence.

Ibn Ezra, I think, says much of the same thing, though projecting the certainly to the present day:

אך טרף טרף. והעד כי לא ראיתיו עד הנה:

He has אך [certainly] been torn. And the evidence of this is that I have not seen him until now.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Yosef Ibn Caspi argues, and introduces a safek into the proceedings:

"The import is 'I said, and estimated [J: back then] that he was torn, though this had an element of doubt. But regardless, I have not seen him until now.' And see [says Ibn Caspi] the difference between my position and that of the Chacham Ibn Ezra who said 'and the evidence is לא ראיתיו עד הנה. For this is no evidence at all!"

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin