Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ibn Ezra on Lower Biblical Criticism, part ii

Read part i here.

This is a presentation of Ibn Ezra's response to a commentator [perhaps Yitzchaki] who suggested switching more than one hundred words in Scriptures. Here, he considers and rejects a swap in parashat Yitro, based on a mismatch of הַגְבֵּל of the nation or the mountain.

Thus, Ibn Ezra continues with the second suggested swap:

"2) Shemot 19:12:

יב  וְהִגְבַּלְתָּ אֶת-הָעָם סָבִיב לֵאמֹר, הִשָּׁמְרוּ לָכֶם עֲלוֹת בָּהָר וּנְגֹעַ בְּקָצֵהוּ:  כָּל-הַנֹּגֵעַ בָּהָר, מוֹת יוּמָת.

12 And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying: Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it; whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death

vs. Shemot 19:23:

כג  וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה, אֶל-ה, לֹא-יוּכַל הָעָם, לַעֲלֹת אֶל-הַר סִינָי:  כִּי-אַתָּה הַעֵדֹתָה בָּנוּ, לֵאמֹר, הַגְבֵּל אֶת-הָהָר, וְקִדַּשְׁתּוֹ.

23 And Moses said unto the LORD: 'The people cannot come up to mount Sinai; for thou didst charge us, saying: Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it.'

He said that it [the word in the latter verse] ought to be הָעָם.

And he did not say anything, for if one were to הַגְבֵּל the nation, then the גבול [boundary] would be around the mountain, and if one said to place [?] a boundary around the mountain, then there would be not difference between them."

End quote of Ibn Ezra.

In other words, since since the later verse is a rephrasing of God's command, and perhaps because הַגְבֵּל should be taken cause to form a perimeter, both should be the 'the nation'. Ibn Ezra's response is that one need not harmonize to use the same noun in the command and the restatement of the command, because with either word choice, this is a valid way of describing the action.

The Samaritans were also interested in such harmonizations, and they freely emended the text to make it smoother. In this instance, they similarly emended the text. Here is Vetus Testamentum, with the Masoretic text on the right and the Samaritan text on the left. A - means the Samaritan text is identical to the Hebrew, and a * means a corresponding letter or word is missing.

Their solution was to modify only verse 12 so as to make both instances, ההר, rather than העם. This introduces a problem, because of the word לֵאמֹר in pasuk 12. If Moshe were to וְהִגְבַּלְתָּ the nation, then there could be a לֵאמֹר as he instructs the nation. But the text will not flow if Moshe were to וְהִגְבַּלְתָּ the mountain. Therefore, the Samaritan scribe added an extra phrase, ואל העם תאמר, "and you should say to the nation".

Update: Also see Ibn Ezra on the pasuk:

[יט, יב]
והגבלת -
שים גבול בהר. ע"כ כמוהו הגבל את ההר וקדשתו לשום גבול בהר. והארכתי כל כך בעבור שאמר המשוגע שהפך בספרו דברי אלוהים חיים, אמר: כי רצה משה לומ: הגבל את העם. ויצא מפיו ההר במקום העם.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ibn Ezra on Lower Biblical Criticism, part i

In Sefer Tzachot, Ibn Ezra writes at length against a grammarian [מדקדק] who proposed more than one hundred words which should be replaced in Scriptures. Ibn Ezra writes that the book is fit to be burned. (Elsewhere, in his commentary to Shemot 19:12, he labels this fellow a meshuga.) I've seen it asserted, but alas, as I write now can't find the source [update: see here] , that this grammarian is the same as Yitzchaki (whom people identify as Isaac Ibn Castar Ben Yashush of Toledo), who claimed fairly late authorship of a lengthy passage in sefer Bereishit, about whose book Ezra said that it deserved to be burned.

Ibn Ezra's opposition seems somewhat grounded in religious sensibilities --
"Forfend, forfend, for this is not correct, not in non-sacred words and certainly not in the words of the Living God. And his book is fit to be burnt." 
Further, this grammarian describes difficulties in the text which can only be resolved by emending the text. Ibn Ezra argues that with a bit of deeper thought and analysis, many of these difficulties are readily resolved, such that the radical course of emending the Biblical text is unwarranted.

I am going to separate Ibn Ezra's words into several posts, each tackling a different difficulty / proposed change from this grammarian. His words follow:

"Beware and guard your soul exceedingly, that you do not believe the words of the grammarian who mentioned in his book more than one hundred words and said that all of them need replacing. Forfend, forfend, for this is not correct, not in non-sacred words and certainly not in the words of the Living God. And his book is fit to be burnt.

And behold I will explain to you a few of the difficulties he mentioned, due to which he was unable to explain them in their straightforward manner. And they are:

1) [Yirmeyahu 33:26]

כו  גַּם-זֶרַע יַעֲקוֹב וְדָוִד עַבְדִּי אֶמְאַס, מִקַּחַת מִזַּרְעוֹ מֹשְׁלִים, אֶל-זֶרַע אַבְרָהָם, יִשְׂחָק וְיַעֲקֹב:  כִּי-אשוב (אָשִׁיב) אֶת-שְׁבוּתָם, וְרִחַמְתִּים.  {פ}

26 then will I also cast away the seed of Jacob, and of David My servant, [so that I will not take of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; for I will cause their captivity to return, and will have compassion on them.'] {P}
[Note: Ibn Ezra writes יעקב as chaser but it should be malei.]

He says that in place of "Yaakov" [at the beginning of the verse] should be "Aharon", because it states earlier [in verse 24] two families


כד  הֲלוֹא רָאִיתָ, מָה-הָעָם הַזֶּה דִּבְּרוּ לֵאמֹר, שְׁתֵּי הַמִּשְׁפָּחוֹת אֲשֶׁר בָּחַר יְהוָה בָּהֶם, וַיִּמְאָסֵם; וְאֶת-עַמִּי, יִנְאָצוּן, מִהְיוֹת עוֹד, גּוֹי לִפְנֵיהֶם.  {ס}24 'Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying: The two families which the LORD did choose, He hath cast them off? and they contemn My people, that they should be no more a nation before them. {S}

and the reference should be therefore be to two distinct families, not one within the other, and those should be the Davidic dynasty and the Aharonic priesthood.]

And the correct explaination is to leave it in its simple implication [of Yaakov], and the proof is [the continuation of pasuk 26]

מִקַּחַת מִזַּרְעוֹ מֹשְׁלִים
so that I will not take of his seed to be rulers

and its explanation is as follows: 'how shall I [אֶמְאַס] cast away one who is of the seed of Yaakov, after it is stated in the Torah that there shall be no ruling king in Israel except Yaakov? And further, that he is of the family of David.' And so, there are two positives.

And behold, I will show him the like, against his will, which he will not be able to swap out at all, namely [Tehillim 77:16]:

טז  גָּאַלְתָּ בִּזְרוֹעַ עַמֶּךָ;    בְּנֵי-יַעֲקֹב וְיוֹסֵף סֶלָה.16 Thou hast with Thine arm redeemed Thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

See also Ibn Ezra's interpretation of this verse in Tehillim, where he also makes mention that this is a good response to Yitzchaki:
[עז, טז]
גאלת, עמך -
הוא הפעול כאילו כתוב: גאלת עמך בזרוע נטויה.וטעם להזכיר יוסף עם יעקב כי הוא החיה ישראל, ככתוב משם רועה אבן ישראל. 
והטעם: כי בזכות יעקב ויוסף פדית בניהם וכמוהו גם זרע יעקב ודוד עבדי אמאס, שהטעם מי שהוא מבני נדיבים והעד שאמר מקחת מזרעו מושלים והאומר כי יעקב תחת אהרן, לא דבר נכונה.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A troubling minhag

I have heard reports of a troubling minhag this coming Shabbos [edit: the Shabbos immediately following Pesach], one with seeming pagan origins -- a minhag which has become widespread in recent years -- to bake or eat challah.

To explain, etymologically, to call the braided Shabbos bread bchallah is a bit confusing. Chazal referred to Challah, but as the portion which was removed from the dough and given as a present to the kohen. (See Bamidbar 15:20 -- maybe it refers Biblically to a type of bread itself, as Philologos wrote.) It is only some time later (in a 15th century German work) that the Shabbos bread itself was called "Challah". (See also here for Otzar Ta'amei Haminhagim's explanation.)

To cite Menachem Mendel, who cites others:
I mentioned this to my colleague Rabbi Jill Hammer, and she suggested that I look into the connection between ḥallah and goddess worship. Not really knowing what to expect, I found the following in The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects (p. 482):
The braided bread loaves of Germanic tradition were invented by the women of Teutonic tribes, who used to make offerings of their own hair to their Goddess. Eventually they learned to preserve their braids by substituting the imitative loaf, which was called Berchisbrod or Perchisbrod, bread offered to the Goddess Berchta, or Perchta. The name of the braided Sabbath loaf among German Jews, Berches or Barches, was copied from this tradition.

Could it be that those nice braids that my wife makes when she bakes ḥallah really have their source in pagan goddess worship? The linguist Paul Wexler thinks that the original name was actually the German Holle which was
the name of a pagan Germanic goddess to whom braided bread was once given in offering. [The German] Holle was replaced at a later date-under the pressure of Judaization-by the [Hebrew] ḥallah, which bore formal and semantic similarity. (See his book The Non-Jewish Origins of the Sephardic Jews, pp. 68-69 and numerous other places in his writings.)

If so, we must protest this perversion of Judaism and introduction of pagan rites into our Shabbos festivities.

Yes, I am kidding. (Though given history, people will likely not read this far and assume I am speaking in all seriousness.)

What I wrote above wasn't made up. And it seems at the very least plausible that braided loaves for the pagan Germanic goddess Holle is the basis of both the name and form of the bread.

But some people are up in arms this week about shlissel challah, because of its similarity to hot cross buns. Perhaps. As I wrote in the past about this:
In the minds of the hamon am who practice this, there certainly are no such idolatrous intentions. Instead, they regard it as a holy segulah, and maybe associate all sorts of Torah-based justifications for the practice. So I would not condemn it as the worst thing in the universe.
My primary objection to shlissel challah -- besides of course poisoning yourself with lead leeching from the keys -- has to do with the adoption of the minhag by people for whom it was never a family minhag. As I wrote (same post):
What I find more problematic is what the widespread acceptance of this minhag means.

A) Initially, people's practice was more or less mimetic.
B) Then, people turned to texts and away from their mimetic traditions.
C) Then, with the advent of the Internet, each group's personal mimetic traditions become text (or become memes?) and become the expectation for the global Jewish community.
When you combine this chain-mail type of spread with the minhag's questionable background and somewhat negative messaging (of segulah-ism), there is what to oppose.

Anyway, it feels good to "oppose" something. It gives people something to do and something to talk about, heatedly. It is a fun way of channeling one's religious beliefs into a public statement.

Just realize that not just shlissel challah, but regular challah is well, can be subject to many of the same attacks.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The 2000 year old prophecy in Yalkut Shimoni

With recent nerve-wracking events involving Iran and their quest for nuclear weapons, Shirat Devorah reposts a post from JewFacts, about a 2000 year old prophecy. The post reads in part:

A piece of rabbinic literature [written 2000 years ago] known as the Yalkut Shimoni touches on many future scenarios both for the nation of Israel and for the world. In its section on the biblical Book of Isaiah and the prophecies contained therein, a rabbi cited by the Yalkut Shimoni states:

“That the year the Messiah will arrive when all the nations of the world will antagonize each other and threaten with war. The king of Persia (Iran) antagonizes the King of Arabia (Saudi Arabia) with war. The King of Arabia goes to Edom (The Western Countries, headed by USA) for advice. Then the King of Persia destroys the world (and since that cannot be done with conventional weapons it must mean nuclear which can destroy most of the world). And all the nations of the world begin to panic and are afraid, and Israel too is afraid as to how to defend from this. G-d then says to them “Do not fear for everything that I have done is for your benefit, to destroy the evil kingdom of Edom and eradicate evil from this world so that the Messiah can come, your time of redemption is now.”

1) I don't know if I would call this "prophecy". This is a midrash, and so is presumably an interpretation by the midrashic author (Rabbi Yizchak) of pesukim, perhaps from Sefer Yeshaya. The prophet was Yeshaya, and the rabbis took it upon themselves to carefully analyze the words to come to some concrete meaning. And that is how different rabbis might argue with one another about the meaning, without calling one another false prophets. The rabbis of the Talmud themselves said that prophecy was removed, and that the last prophets were Chagai, Zecharia, and Malachi.

2) It is not "2000 years old". Yalkut Shimoni is a Yalkut, a collection. While many of the sources are old (though they may be processed versions of the older material), some of the material is more recent. Yalkut Shimoni was composed either in the 11th century or (more likely) the 13th century. Even though this is attributed to a "Rabbi Yitzchak", I would not jump to say that this is older material, nor 2000 year old material, from the time of the earliest Tannaim.

3) The actual text of the midrash in Yalkut Shimoni is this:
א"ר יצחק שנה שמלך המשיח נגלה בו כל מלכי אומות העולם מתגרים זה בזה, מלך פרס מתגרה במלך ערבי והולך מלך ערבי לארס ליטול עצה מהם וחוזר מלך פרס ומחריב את כל העולם וכל אומות העולם מתרעשים ומתבהלים ונופלים על פניהם ויאחוז אותם צירים כצירי יולדה, וישראל מתרעשים ומתבהלים ואומר להיכן נבוא ונלך להיכן נבוא ונלך להיכן נבוא ונלך, וואומר להם בני אל לתתיראו כל מה שעשיתי לא עשיתי אלא בשבילכם מפני מה אתם מתיראים אל תיראו הגיע זמן גאולתכם, ולא כגאולה ראשונה גאולה אחרונה כי גאולה ראשונה היה לכם צער ושעבוד מלכייות אחריה אבל גאולה אחרונה אין לכם צער ושעבוד מלכיות אחריה:
The identifications of the melech aravi with Saudi Arabia and melech Paras with Iran, and ארם (censored for אדום or רומי) for the US represents the guesswork of the author.

So too, the statement that
destroys the world (and since that cannot be done with conventional weapons it must mean nuclear which can destroy most of the world)
is a presumption of the author. I think those countries conquered in the Muslim Conquests would beg to differ. I think those countries conquered in the Mongol invasions would beg to differ.

4) We are dealing with a 13th century midrash. And the midrash makes reference to empires, rather than countries. From Talmudic times, these were understood as empires rather than countries.

Paras is the Persian empire. Edom is the Roman empire. Aravi is the Arabian empire. These each, in their time, conquered and ruled over wide swaths of the settled world.

While Paras is modern-day Iran, and that country is a potential threat, it is a nothing compared with the Persian empire.

If this is early 13th century, this might refer to the Ilkhanate.
The Ilkhanate, also spelled Il-khanate (Persianایلخانان‎, IlkhananMongolian: Хүлэгийн улс, Hulagu-yn Ulus), was a breakaway state of the Mongol Empire, which was ruled by the Mongol House of Hulagu. It was established in the 13th century and was based primarily in Iran as well as neighboring territories, such as present-day Azerbaijan, and the central and eastern parts of present-day Turkey. The Ilkhanate was based, originally, on Genghis Khan's campaigns in the Khwarazmian Empire in 1219–1224 and was founded by Genghis's grandson, Hulagu Khan. In its fullest extent, the state expanded into territories which today comprise most of IranIraq,TurkmenistanArmeniaAzerbaijanGeorgiaTurkey, western Afghanistanand southwestern Pakistan. Later Ilkhanate rulers, beginning with Ghazan in 1295, would convert to Islam.
This strikes me as a plausible interpretation of the midrash (rather than "prophecy"), of applying pesukim to contemporary events and predicting the resurgence of a mighty empire rooted in Persia.

But it depends on the actual composition date of this midrash. Find the date of composition, and find the people engaged in empire-building and conquest in its proximity, and then see if it fits.

4) If Iran got nuclear weapons, and used them, they would be wiped out instantly. There are other countries (such as the US) who would automatically retaliate. If there were worldwide nuclear war, then even in Israel it would not be a good place to live. None of this corresponds nicely to the events described in the midrash. My explanation (IMHO) besides being rooted historically works better with the scenario described in the midrash.

5) All this "ancient prophecy" gets mixed in with other nonsense such as this:
Another interesting fact recently published in the world press is that astrologers see this winter as the “Nuclear Winter” in which the Western world will be destroyed by Iran with Nuclear weapons [which matches up with ancient prophecy].

Monday, April 06, 2015

A Haggadah from 1527

This year, I printed out a Haggadah from JNUL from 1527 to use for the seder.

1527הגדה של פסח. רפ"ז. פרג
[הגדה של פסח : עם ציורים].
(פראג : גרשם בן שלמה הכהן, כו טבת רפ"ז).

Here are a few interesting things I found in it.

1) The rabbit hunt.

It has kiddush three times. The first for a regular seder. The second for a seder on Friday night. The third for a seder on motzei Shabbos. The illustration for that third type of kaddesh has a picture of a rabbit hunt (bottom of page):

The reason is that the order of brachos is Yakzehaz (yayin kiddush ner havdalah zeman). And the German "jag den haz" means "hunt the hare". (Recall that German j is pronounced /y/.)

2) Early Photoshop:

By Chacham mah hu omer, the pasuk ends אתכם, just as in our Masoretic text. Meanwhile, the Mechilta on this derasha has אותנו, as does the Septuagint and (I think) the Dead Sea Scrolls.

But wait a minute! Look carefully at that word in this Haggadah. I'll zoom in:

Look at how long the ת is. Look at the roof of the ת and how it used to be split. Look in the middle of the ת and see the rubbed out initial leg.

They took ות and changed it into a ת.

Look also at the rubbed out kamatz. And look at the end of the word, how squeezed the כם. They have overwritten נו with כם!

This seems to be based on an earlier version (woodcut?) where it had אותנו but because they believed this to be an error, they corrected it to match our masoretic text. (Unless this was done after printing...)

And here is the unedited version, from another Haggadah printing (I think from later) without the correction. For this section, it is a match, even unto the placement of the letters, except for this correction.

With אותנו:

With אתכם, in our Haggadah:

3) But they missed v'atzum:

Yet a bit later, they missed correcting ועצום, which is found in both the Samaritan text and in the basic midrash in the Sifrei, though not in our Masoretic texts (I discuss this point here.)

(To look at the other Haggadah we used for comparison above, see this:)

4) Illustrated Revava Ketzemach Hasadeh:

This is the sort of thing that would be unlikely to be included in many modern Haggadot.

(As to the propriety of including this in a Haggadah, consider the justification found in Pesachim 116a.)

Look at that wild growing hair. This is presumably as a demonstration of ושעריך נכונו. However, considering the context of שדים נכונו, it seems likely that simple peshat in the pasuk is that it is referring to pubic hair.

5) Point to one's wife

They mention a custom of pointing to one's wife (or a woman) when reaching maror zeh, as a pasuk states isha raa mar mimaves. See this post at the Seforim blog for a greater discussion of this "custom".

6) The Shefoch Chamascha is missing a bit

in the middle. I checked though and R' Shmuly wasn't behind this.

7) Beis Hamikdash instead of Beis Habechira in Dayenu:

But in the following, sum-up paragraph, it is what we expect, namely Beis Habechira.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Haggadah of the Ri m'Josh

Bumped to top. This was originally published in 2012. I haven't had the time to update it since as I wanted, but it is still good stuff.

To download, click here. (If that does not work, try visiting this Google site.)

Author's note:

I present here the first edition of my running commentary on the Haggadah shel Pesach. It can certainly use extensive editing. I composed it over the course of about three years as a series of blogposts. But as a result, I may be repetitious or inconsistent. And there may be many typographical and formatting errors. Likewise, I cannot guarantee that the ideas presented in here are correct, but at the least, I hope that they are thought-provoking.

My focus here is on issues of girsa and its implications; close reading of pesukim and the Haggadah text to try to better understand the details of the derasha; the composition of the Haggadah; and differing approaches of Chazal to the obligations on the seder night.

חֲסַל סִדּוּר פֶּסַח כְּהִלְכָתוֹ, כְּכָל מִשְׁפָּטוֹ וְחֻקָתוֹ. כַּאֲשֶׁר זָכִינוּ לְסַדֵּר אוֹתוֹ כֵּן נִזְכֶּה לַעֲשׂוֹתוֹ.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Absolut Haggadah, updated for 2015

Once again, The Absolut Haggadah is out. It is downloadable from this website.

It has been thoroughly updated for 2015, with both changes to the text and some professional typesetting. I discussed an idea from it in 2007, reviewed it and its general approach in 2009. discussed an excerpt in 2010.

But there have been many updates since I mentioned it last.

Here is an excerpt from this year's edition, to give you a sense of its flavor and style.

בָּרוּךְ שׁוֹמֵר הַבְטָחָתוֹ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, בָּרוּךְ הוּא
שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא חִשַּׁב אֶת הַקֵּץ,
לַעֲשׂוֹת כְּמַה שֶּׁאָמַר לְאַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ בִּבְרִית
בֵּין הַבְּתָרִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיֹּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם, יָדֹע
תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם,
וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה. וְגַם
אֶת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבֹדוּ דָּן אָנֹכִי וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן
יֵצְאוּ בִּרְכֻשׁ גָּדוֹל.

"Blessed is He who keeps His promise to Israel, blessed be He!
For the Holy One, blessed be He, calculated the end [of
the bondage], in order to do as He had said to our father
Abraham at the “Covenant between the Portions,” as it is
said: “And He said to Abraham, `You shall know that your
seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they
will enslave them and make them suffer, for four hundred
years. But I shall also judge the nation whom they shall
serve, and after that they will come out with great wealth.’
How many years were the Jews in slavery in Egypt? Most calculations have it at around
210 years.[6]6 Based on the promise God made to Abraham, the Jewish people should have been in Egypt for 400 years. What happened to the missing years?  
Many commentators feel that since Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were considered aliens while they lived in Canaan, the calculation of the 400 years begins right after the ,ברית בין הבתרים (the covenant between the pieces), with the birth of Isaac.[67]
We still find it difficult to explain the verse (Exodus 12:40) that clearly states that the
Jewish people lived in Egypt (and not Canaan) for 430 [68] years. One explanation offered is that Canaan was considered a part of Egypt in the time of Abraham. Truth be told, this problem is internal to the verses in Genesis which predict 400 years of servitude and then say “and the fourth generation shall return here.” How could they only be up to the fourth generation after 400 years! We are forced to conclude that since this verse is dramatizing years of suffering, it counts the overlapping years of ancestor and descendant. In other words, when we calculate the years of servitude spent in Egypt, we sum the years of each member of a lineal genealogy who lived in Egypt, even though the ages of the generations overlap; a type of concurrent sentence.[69] [70]
65 The Comics Passover Haggadah: Shay Charka. This tradition continues, as is evident from the hotel towels that are ubiquitous in Israeli homes.
66 Kehas, one of the group that went down to Egypt, lived 133 years, his son Amram lived 137 and his son Moses was 80 at the time of the Exodus. Thus, we have 350 years, before reducing the sum for years when the lives of these three individuals overlapped.
Clearly, according to the biblical genealogies, the Israelites were in Egypt for fewer than 400 years!
הגדה של ר’ אברהם חדידה ד’’ה מתחלה 67
68 We are not bothered by the difference of 30 years between verses. Many times the Torah will round off a number to the nearest 100.
69 The Brody Family Haggadah.
70 Rav Amnon Bazak suggests a variation on this approach: If we add the years of Kehas, Amram and of Moses, we get 390 (and this number is easily rounded to 400). If we add the 40 years in the desert, we reach 430. The prophet Ezekiel is told to lie on one side for 390 days and the other for 40 (in expiation of Israel’s sins). The way the 40 days are described in Ezekiel (“a day for each year”), they are clearly a reference to the desert period, it would therefore follow that the 390 relates to the period in Egypt.
What are they doing here?

Because the basic text of the Haggadah discusses the brit bein habesarim, and of the ketz of 400 years, and that Hashem was chishev et hakeitz, the authors of this Haggadah give a scholarly analysis of how the 400 years are reckoned, and how it accords with the actual 210 years. How was this havtacha fulfilled?

The authors of this Haggadah chose to be brief in their presentation here, in order to keep the discussion moving and to for space considerations on the page. But they bring the issue to the reader's attention and choose one of the several resolutions which works well with their approach -- that the purpose is dramatizing the suffering.

Here are some further ideas about the issue they raised:

1) Note that the Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch changes the text of one pasuk to explicitly split the 430 between Egypt and Canaan. And that this is an emendation in the interest of solving a problem, and so is not original.

2) Among the various resolutions to this issue, there is a nice one mentioned by Shadal, that these names (Kehat, Amram, etc.) are the names of families at the time of split-offs rather than individuals, such that it really is 210.

3) Once they have brought this up, we can contemplate how this is related to chishev et hakeitz. Recall that the basic Haggadah text is written by a midrashist, and he is citing midrashim. When he writes "chishev et hakeitz", what does that mean? Does it perhaps mean that Hashem used a quicker method of calculating the keitz, as some explanations have it? Such that it was a nice thing Hashem 400did to transform the 430 into a mere 210?

Or is Shomer Havtachato mean that Hashem kept careful watch, that he was anticipating the time he would be able to redeem them. Just as we see in the gemara, אמר ר' יונתן תיפח עצמן של מחשבי קיצין, where it means people who are predicting (or by extension, watching) the end-time.

Or is it just that He kept His word, and this entire discussion (of 400 vs 210) is tangential to what the Baal HaHaggadah meant?

4) We can tie this in in to Arami Oved Avi. Are we really saying about יָדֹע תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם that at about half of those 400 years was when they were in Canaan? If so, we can understand how Avraham, Yizchak and Yaakov were truly wandering Arameans.


I'll close by reposting the praise from other people from years past:

They did not do any good marketing, so I will do it for them. Here is what some people are saying about the Absolut Haggadah:

Abacaxi Mamao wrote:
Absolut Haggadah [PDF]. I know nothing about it. Maybe you'll find it interesting. Josh Waxman, about whom I also know nothing, introduced it and gave a short review here. I liked what he said, though, so I downloaded it. I haven't had a chance to look at it in depth yet, though. Who has time? Pesach is coming!
Rabbi David Sedley wrote:
I found this excellent Haggadah. It deals with many of the same issues that I spoke about in the shiur (which is in the previous post) and answers some of the outstanding questions, such as when the Haggadah was put into its present form (some time in the Gaonic period, though we have fragments from the Cairo Geniza which are pretty similar to todays Haggadah). They also have a nifty chart which shows the parallels and differences between Rav and Shmuel in the way that the Haggadah is set out (and how we do both). They have also given the verses which we will spend most of the Seder explaining, and discuss why the authors of the Haggadah chose those verses (from Devarim) instead of the story itself which is in Shemot. There is then a commentary on the Haggadah which will serve you well on the Seder night (if you so desire). I think it is an excellent piece of work, but don't just take my word for it. Have a look yourself.

And Elsewhere:
Fantastic Hagadah. Just the right mix of seriousness and comedy. Well done.
larryv wrote:
Searching for a Haggadah to use for my own first Seder I came across this. I was very amused.

A blogger, unsure whowrote:
a refreshing blend of humor and commentary trying to uncover the pshat (basic meaning) of the Haggadah.
Neil Harris wrote:
Great Haggadah…and you used my favorite Far Side!! Thanks!
Josh M. of HaProzdor wrote:
I downloaded it ... and started reading through it - it has some very interesting stuff on the structure of the haggadah. Kol HaKavod to the authors!
ADDeRabbi wrote:
very nice.
Steg wrote:
i agree... the only problem is the expense of printing it out in full color :-P


Blog Widget by LinkWithin