Monday, October 13, 2014

Minchas Shai introduces us to Ben Asher and Ben Naftali

Minchas Shai (Rabbi Yedidya Nortzi, 1560 – 1626), in a comment on the third pasuk of Bereishit, tells us about Ben Asher and Ben Naftali.

The pasuk in question is:
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִ֣י א֑וֹר וַֽיְהִי־אֽוֹר׃
He writes:

"יְהִ֣י א֑וֹר -- with a galgal [Minchas Shai's term here for munach], rather than with a makef [connecting yehi to or, which would retain the etnachta]. So is it in an early printing and in the Sefardic sefarim. And so it is to Ben Asher. However, Ben Naftali has it without a galgal but with a makef. And this is the first distinction between them.

And these people [Ben Asher and Ben Naftali] were two heads of yeshivot in Masorah. The name of one of them was Yaakov ben Naftali and the name of the second was Aharon ben Asher. And Rabbi Avraham of Balmes  (d. Venice 1523) called him Moshe ben Ashem. And in the Shalshelet Hakabbalah [from Rabbi Gedalya ben Yosef Ibn Yachya, pg 32] it is written that
after the generation of Rabbenu Saadia Gaon, there were two great Sages who disagreed regarding many words in the Torah and their trup, and they were called Rabbi Aharon ben Moshe of the tribe of Asher, and Rabbi Moshe ben David from the tribe of Naftali.
[Josh: note that the quote actually begins, בדור הזה היה לפי דעתי...]

And we rely on the reading of Ben Asher. And so did the Rambam za'l [Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Sefer Torah, 8:5] rely upon him, and this is like the custom of the Westerners. And the Easterners rely on the reading of Ben Naftali. And this is an important rule in the Scriptures. Therefore, know this, and I will not need to repeat it in every place."

End quote of Minchas Shai. As to why Minchas Shai refers to this as a galgal, William Wickes addresses this in his Ṭaʻame 21 sefarim: a treatise on the accentuation of the twenty-one so-called Prose Books of the Old Testament, in a footnote beginning on the bottom of page 23. Wickes writes:

I suppose we can see some of that angle rounded off in the Munach when we look at the Leningrad Codex:

Here is a larger context for Wickes' statement, where he describes the various names associated with the Munach.

Update: Interestingly, in the Minchas Shai edition by Tzvi Betzer, he notes that this is not mentioned in the standard list of differences between Ben Naftali and Ben Asher manuscripts, and so he must have found this in some manuscript list of differences:

חילוף ראשון שביניהם: החילוף הזה אינו נזכר בחילופים - ד, וכנראה מצא אותו נורצי ברשימת חילופים בכתב־יד.

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