Monday, February 24, 2014

Followup to the bloody earlobes

I've been looking for the midrash of the bloody earlobes, as described in this previous post. You know, that the wives refused to surrender their earrings for the evil purpose of the eigel; that the husbands then ripped the earrings off their wives' ears.

In the prior post, I showed what Rashi and the standard Midrashim had: that Aharon had this as a delaying tactic because women and children are fond of jewelry and would be reluctant, for that reason, to part with it. And that in response, so as not to delay, the men offered their own earrings from their own (male) ears. Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer adds that the reluctance of the women stemmed from righteousness (rather than love of jewelry). And a large part of the midrash stems from the difference from Aharon's command to take the jewelry of the women, boys and girls, on the one hand, and the next pasuk which describes it as earring אֲשֶׁר בְּאָזְנֵיהֶם, which is the masculine. I suggested the phantom midrash got the idea from the shift from active verb to the passive וַיִּתְפָּרְקוּ .

In a comment, AryehS pointed me to the Torah Shleimah, by Rav Menachem Kasher, who discusses this. I'll provide a translation here.

First he cites Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, which has the objection as religiously motivated. Then he cites the midrash Lekach Tov, which gives the standard explanation for refusal:
19] פָּרְקוּ נִזְמֵי הַזָּהָב אֲשֶׁר בְּאָזְנֵי נְשֵׁיכֶם בְּנֵיכֶם וּבְנֹתֵיכֶם -- he [Aharon] said perhaps the women will wish to spare their adornments and the adornments of their sons and daughters, and the matter will not come to fruiting before Moshe arrives. But this did not help at all, because it states [next pasuk] וַיִּתְפָּרְקוּ .
That is, that the gave. I would say that this might mean that the women gave. Or else that it might mean, as in Rashi, that the men gave their own.

In his gloss on [19] Rav Kasher writes:
From the language 'but this did not help at all', it is unclear whether they [the women] gave of their own accord or whether they [the women] gave against their will. And in Lekach Tov later on (35:22) [on the donations to the Mishkan]: וַיָּבֹאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים, עַל-הַנָּשִׁים, what does this come to teach us? Since it was stated [regarding the donation to the golden calf] פָּרְקוּ נִזְמֵי הַזָּהָב אֲשֶׁר בְּאָזְנֵי נְשֵׁיכֶם בְּנֵיכֶם וּבְנֹתֵיכֶם וְהָבִיאוּ אֵלָי, Israel said, "By what will be atoned the sin of the removal of the golden earrings from our wives, sons and daughters, which we stripped them of their adornments to fashion golden gods. However, when Moshe gathered them to bring silver and gold for the work of the Mishkan, they brought all the adornments of their wives, sons and daughters, to take them by force." And likewise in Midrash Aggada, volume 1, Kapach 188.
And it seems that they it darshens that also by the eigel they took them by force. And that it derives it from וַיִּתְפָּרְקוּ. And so is explained in דעת זקנים and הדר זקנים in parashat Vayakhel, and these are their words:
"Therefore the women merited not to perform melacha on Rosh Chodesh, for by the incident of the Eigel their adornments were taken from them against their will, as is the implication of  what is written וַיִּתְפָּרְקוּ etc.. And meanwhile, in the construction of the Mishkan they rejoiced in its giving. Therefore Rosh Chodesh was given to them as a Yom Tov.
And it seems to me that this is Rosh Chodesh Nissan, on which the Mishkan was erected, and along with that Rosh Chodesh they keep all the Rosh Chodeshs of the years. End quote."
And see above note [18] and later on 23-24. And so explains Ibn Ezra as the simple meaning of the verse, that the words בְּאָזְנֵיהֶם refers to the women, etc., and these are his words:
"It was the custom of Egypt that the women had rings in their ears (that is to say, not in their nose as in Bereishit 24:47, 'And I placed a ring in her nose'). And so is written about the Midianites (Shofetim 8:24 'for they have golden rings'). For they are Ishmaelites.  אֲשֶׁר בְּאָזְנֵיהֶם, namely in the ears of the sons [Josh: males], daughters and wives who were mentioned above."
And a third position appears in Rashi here, that the women as well removed from themselves..." 
So it seems that we can source the "against their will" part in Midrash Aggadah, at least one Lekach Tov, and Daas Zekeinim. I don't know about Ibn Ezra.

Bloody ears might be a graphic extrapolation based on the idea that they forced them. If one forces בזרוע, then that might imply ripping the ears. But there are other ways to compel remove jewelry than causing bloody injury...


Anonymous said...

Kapach is with an alef, it's probably a number.

joshwaxman said...


Anonymous said...

Torah Sheleima is on hebrewbooks btw


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