Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Beshalach: The Five Midrashim Rashi Doesn’t Want You To Know

(Number Three Will Amaze You!)

At the start of parashat Beshalach, Rashi tells us that there are midrashic explanations of a certain pasuk, but that he isn’t going to tell them to us:

17It came to pass when Pharaoh let the people go, that God did not lead them [by] way of the land of the Philistines for it was near, because God said, Lest the people reconsider when they see war and return to Egypt
יז וַיְהִי בְּשַׁלַּח פַּרְעֹה אֶת הָעָם וְלֹא נָחָם אֱלֹהִים דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים כִּי קָרוֹב הוּא כִּי | אָמַר אֱלֹהִים פֶּן יִנָּחֵם הָעָם בִּרְאֹתָם מִלְחָמָה וְשָׁבוּ מִצְרָיְמָה:

for it was near: and it was easy to return by that road to Egypt. There are also many aggadic midrashim [regarding this].
כי קרוב הוא: ונוח לשוב באותו הדרך למצרים. ומדרשי אגדה יש הרבה:

It is unclear whether this is a recommendation and referral -- “There are many midreshei aggadah explaining karov, so check them out” -- or a dismissal -- “There are many midreshei aggadah explaining this, but our concern here is peshat and a certain kind of midrash, and those midrashim are not peshat oriented.”

I am of the opinion that it is more the latter. He is saying that these midrashim are outside the scope and concern of his own commentary. You can go to those midrashim if you want to see those midrashim, but here, the focus is on peshat and a certain kind of midrash. Note how he employs the word הרבה (many) regarding those midrashim he does not bring.

This calls to mind his wording in parashat Bereishit, where he wrote:

8And they heard the voice of the Lord God going in the garden to the direction of the sun, and the man and his wife hid from before the Lord God in the midst of the trees of the garden.
חוַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶת קוֹל יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהִים מִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּגָּן לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם וַיִּתְחַבֵּא הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ מִפְּנֵי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהִים בְּתוֹךְ עֵץ הַגָּן:
And they heard: There are many Aggadic midrashim, and our Sages already arranged them in their proper order in Genesis Rabbah and in other midrashim, but I have come only [to teach] the simple meaning of the Scripture and such Aggadah that clarifies the words of the verses, each word in its proper way.
וישמעו: יש מדרשי אגדה רבים וכבר סדרום רבותינו על מכונם בבראשית רבה (יט ו) ובשאר מדרשות ואני לא באתי אלא לפשוטו של מקרא ולאגדה המישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אופניו:

There as well, he said that there were many midrashim, which you can look to in Bereishit Rabba and elsewhere, but that isn’t the focus of his commentary. He will certainly bring midrashim -- I would estimate that 80% or more of Rashi is selected from midrashim. But he will bring only a certain type of midrash. And so, it pays to investigate what those midrashim were. By seeing what sorts of midrash he won’t bring down, we might get a better sense of what he sees in the midrashim he does bring down, and from there, his overall aim in producing his commentary. (See what I wrote briefly about those midrashim in Bereishit.)

We can see these midrashim in the Mechilta:

דרך ארץ פלשתים כי קרוב הוא -
הוא הדבר שאמר הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה: בהוציאך את העם ממצרים תעבדון האלהים על ההר הזה.

כי קרוב הוא -
קרוב הדרך לשוב למצרים, שנאמר: דרך שלשת ימים נלך במדבר.

דבר אחר:
כי קרוב הוא -
קרובה השבועה שנשבע אברהם לאבימלך: השבעה לי באלהים אם תשקור לי ולניני ולנכדי, ועדיין נכדו קיים.

דבר אחר:
כי קרוב הוא -
קרובה השבועה, מלחמה ראשונה לשניה.

דבר אחר:
כי קרוב הוא -
בקרוב ירשו כנעניים את הארץ, שנאמר: ודור רביעי ישובו הנה.

ולמה לא הביאן הכתוב דרך פשוטה לארץ ישראל אלא דרך המדבר?
אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא: אם אני מביא עכשו את ישראל לארץ, מיד מחזיקים אדם בשדהו ואדם בכרמו. והן בטלים מן התורה, אלא אקיפם במדבר ארבעים שנה שיהיו אוכלים מן ושותים מי הבאר. והתורה נבללת בגופן.

מכאן היה ר' שמעון אומר:
לא ניתנה התורה לדרוש אלא לאוכלי המן. ושווין להם אוכלי תרומה.

דבר אחר:
כי קרוב הוא -
לא הביאן המקום בפישוטן, אלא כיון ששמעו כנעניים שישראל נכנסו עמדו ושרפו כל הזרעים וקבצו כל האילנות וסתרו את הבניינים וסתמו את המעיינות.
אמר הקב"ה: לא הבטחתים לאבותם שאכניסן לארץ חריבה אלא מלאה כל טוב, שנאמר: ובתים מלאים כל טוב, אלא הריני מקיפן במדבר ארבעים שנה עד שיעמדו כנעניים ויתקנו מה שקלקלו.

“By way of the land of the Philistines, for it is near [karov] -- This is what Hashem said to Moshe (Shemot 3:12 [by the burning bush, that the sign would be]), בְּהוֹצִיאֲךָ אֶת-הָעָם, מִמִּצְרַיִם, תַּעַבְדוּן אֶת-הָאֱלֹהִים, עַל הָהָר הַזֶּה, “when thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.”
[Josh: Thus, because the mountain is karov.]

For it is near [karov] - the path is near to return to Egypt, as is stated (Shemot 8:23) דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים, נֵלֵךְ בַּמִּדְבָּר, “We will go three days' journey into the wilderness.”

Another explanation, for it is near [karov] -- the oath which Avraham swore to Avimelech is near. (Bereishit 21:23) הִשָּׁבְעָה לִּי בֵאלֹהִים הֵנָּה, אִם-תִּשְׁקֹר לִי, וּלְנִינִי וּלְנֶכְדִּי, “swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son”. And his grandson was still alive.
[Josh: nearness as in proximity or applicability of the oath. Alternatively, perhaps ‘he is a karov’ as ‘he is a relative’.]

Another explanation: For it is near: The oath [sic] first battle is too close to the second one.
[Josh: The first war is properly that between the Philistines and the Children of Ephraim who left Egypt early. The Children of Ephraim were all slain. The second war is this second war which would likely occur if Hashem directed them דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים, and which is therefore being avoided.]

Another explanation: For it is near: [Only] recently, the Canaanites inherited the land, for it is written (Bereishit 15:16) [וְדוֹר רְבִיעִי, יָשׁוּבוּ הֵנָּה: [כִּי לֹא-שָׁלֵם עֲו‍ֹן הָאֱמֹרִי, עַד-הֵנָּה, And in the fourth generation they shall come back hither [for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full].

And why didn’t the Scriptures [sic] bring them in a straight path, but rather by way of the wilderness? Hashem said: If I bring them now to the land of Israel, each person will immediately take hold of his field or vineyard, and they will be disengaged from the Torah. Rather, I will take them around in the wilderness for forty years, while they eat manna and drink the water of the Well [of Miriam], and the Torah will be stirred into their bodies. From here Rabbi Shimon said: the Torah was given to be expounded only for those who ate the manna. And equivalent to them, those who eat Terumah.

Another explanation: For it is near: He did not take them in the straight way. For when the Canaanites heard that Israel was coming, they arose and burnt all the plants, cut down all the trees, broke all the buildings and sealed all the springs. Hashem said: I didn’t promise their forefathers that I would bring them [the descendants] to a barren land, but to a land filled with everything good, as is stated (Devarim 6:11) וּבָתִּים מְלֵאִים כָּל-טוּב, “and houses full of all good things”. Rather, I will take them around in the wilderness for forty years, until the Canaanites arise and fix what they ruined.”

It is possible that Rashi simply thought that these midrashim were too good to miss, and so he referred us to them. But it is also quite possible that he is rejecting these “many” midrashim from his peshat commentary because they don’t fit his criteria.

In general, I believe that Rashi will include a midrash if it solves some peshat problem (where the “problem” is a grammatical or otherwise linguistic irregularity, often paired with something missing or off in the narrative.)

Here, there is a definite linguistic irregularity. Namely, the pasuk stated:

לֹא נָחָם אֱלֹהִים דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים כִּי קָרוֹב הוּא

If translated most literally -- and this entails selecting the most common meaning of each word -- the translation is: “And God did not take them by way of the land of the Philistines, for it was near.”

Rashi does not proffer the following peshat explanation: “And God did not take them by way of the land of the Philistines, though it was near.” This would require taking the word כִּי to mean “though”. Indeed, all of the midrashim take כִּי to mean “for”. In large part, this is because midrash is hyper-literal. Once כִּי means “for”, this introduces a problem. Why should the closeness be a reason to avoid the land of the Philistines? It should be a reason to go that way, rather than to avoid it. Therefore, they consider the various possible meanings, or rather allusions, of the next word, karov. In this way, ki karov is once a reason to avoid that way, and that land.

Rashi often repurposes midrash for his peshat commentary. And he takes כִּי to be for, just like the midrash. Once trapped by that choice, he needs to explain ki karov as a reason to avoid the land. And then from the six midrashim, he selects the one which fits in best with the flow of the narrative, and with the rest of the pasuk. That is, Rashi selects midrash #2:

כי קרוב הוא -
קרוב הדרך לשוב למצרים, שנאמר: דרך שלשת ימים נלך במדבר.
For it is near [karov] - the path is near to return to Egypt, as is stated (Shemot 8:23) דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים, נֵלֵךְ בַּמִּדְבָּר, “We will go three days' journey into the wilderness.”

This midrashic-peshat also works out with the rest of the pasuk, which has a second  כִּי. This second  כִּי  certainly means “for”. Thus, כִּי | אָמַר אֱלֹהִים פֶּן יִנָּחֵם הָעָם בִּרְאֹתָם מִלְחָמָה וְשָׁבוּ מִצְרָיְמָה. Thus, the two reasons are linked. Because it was near, and because Hashem was afraid they would return to Egypt.

In contrast, most of the other midrashic explanations have the first כִּי as a different reason. To give the land time to recoup, to allow the Canaanites their four generations, because the oath to the surviving grandson of Avimelech hadn’t passed, because Hashem wanted them to learn Torah.

I would suggest that when Rashi lists as a criterion (in Bereishit) for including a midrash aggadah, as ולאגדה המישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אופניו, the words דבור על אופניו means that it works out well with the rest of the words in that pasuk, and with the flow of the narrative and the text. And having the two explanations mesh together would then fulfill the criterion.

It is then perhaps surprising that Rashi doesn’t mention the battle waged by the Tribe of Ephraim who fled Egypt early, and were killed by the Philistines. This midrash might be a candidate for inclusion. One battle with the Philistines was too close to another battle with the Philistines. And this, in turn, would be a cause to flee back to Egypt. It fits in nicely with the specific mention of the land of the Philistines. And the milchama would be the milchama with the Philistines. (Or, alternatively, the milchama would be the result of the prior milchama, vis. the corpses of the Ephraimites, as one position in the Mechilta gives it: שלא יראו עצמות אחיהם מושלכין בפלשת ויחזרו להם.) I would answer that indeed, this might have been a selection, but Rashi already selected his one midrash and developed it at quite some length -- in his comment on this phrase as well as in the other phrases in this pasuk. Further, he was already dismissing a bunch of midrashim, and this one went with the bunch. And finally, the one Rashi in fact selected is much more of a peshat-oriented midrash than this one. We don’t have to bring in a whole other story which would be only hinted at / alluded to by a word here or there. Rather, we can make sense of the entire pasuk as a self-contained unit.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bo: How to spell ויהרג

Towards the end of parashat Bo (Shemot 13:15), we have the following pasuk, about Makkat Bechorot:

This pasuk, and the underlined word, comes into play in Menachot 29b.

ראמי בר תמרי דהוא חמוה דרמי בר דיקולי איפסיקא ליה כרעא דוי"ו דויהרג בניקבא אתא לקמיה דרבי זירא א"ל זיל אייתי ינוקא דלא חכים ולא טפש אי קרי ליה ויהרג כשר אי לא יהרג הוא ופסול

Rami bar Tamrei, who was the father-in-law of Rami bar Dikulei encountered a vav in ויהרג whose leg was severed with a hole [so that it looked like a yud]. He came before Rabbi Zera, who said to him: bring a child who is neither wise nor foolish. If he reads it ויהרג then it is kosher. If not, then it is יהרג and it is pasul.

To explain, if the vav is severed, then it perhaps looks like a yud. And recall that there are no nekudot in a Sefer Torah, only consonants. If the word is written ויהרג, then the word would be וַיַּהֲרֹג , vayaharog, “and He killed”. Meanwhile, if the verb were a passive verb, meaning “and he was killed”, then it would be וַיֵּהָרֵג. This is because the imperfect would be of the form yikkatev, יִכָּתֵב, with a chirik under the yud, gemination (doubling via dagesh) of the first root letter (kaf), kametz, second root letter (tav), tzeirei, and final root letter (vet). With a root of הרג, the first root letter is a guttural and so cannot receive gemination to double it. Instead, due to a process of compensatory lengthening, the chirik under the yud is lengthened to a tzeirei. And the vav hahipuch (va + gemination of the yud via a dagesh) turns the imperfect into a perfect.
If the word were ייהרג, then it would not conform to the typical spelling of words in Tanach. However, that would be valid in Mishnaic Hebrew as a way of writing יֵיהָרֵג, as a way of making the nikkud clear. We find this in the Mishna in Sotah 9:7 and Makkot 1:10, as well as in a few Yerushalmis and Bavlis.

Further, there is only a single instance of the word ויהרג in the Torah -- the pasuk in parashat Bo cited above. There are instances of the word in Nach, but recall that the question was whether the text was kasher or pasul, which makes more sense in the context of Torah.

Further, when looking only at the two words in sequence, one is a straightforward reading and the other is blaspheming. In the former, Hashem kills. In the latter, Hashem is killed. Putting aside any blasphemy, in the context on the pasuk, for someone who can read fluently and understand context, it is obvious that it is Hashem killing the firstborn of Egypt, rather than vice versa.

Rashi explains:
וי"ו דויהרג - כל בכור אירע במקום נקב ונראה כמין יו"ד:
דלא חכים - דאי חכים מבין שמחרף הוא לומר יהרג כלפי מעלה ואומר ויהרג:
לא טפש - שאם טפש אינו יודע לקרות אלא אות שלימה:

That is, because of the hole, it appeared something like a yud. If the child were wise, he would know that the passive reading was blasphemy and he would be influenced, perhaps inappropriately, to read it it as וַיַּהֲרֹג. And if the child were foolish, he would only know how to read a complete letter, and so couldn’t weigh in as to what the letter / word appears most like.

Tosafot there comments:
ואי לא יהרג הוא ופסול. יש לדקדק מכאן דכתיב ויהרג חסר בלא וי"ו. מ"ר:
“And if not, then it is יהרג and is pasul: There is to deduce from here that it is written [consonantally, in the Torah] as ויהרג chaser without a vav [between the resh and the gimel for the cholam]. From the mouth of the Rav [=the Ri, Rabbi Yitzchak ben Shmuel HaZaken; See here.]

The implication of this deduction of Tosafot appears to be that, in the time of the Ri, there was some doubt as to the correct spelling of the Torah text, with some [all?] Sifrei Torah spelling the word malei. Otherwise, why bother to make such an observation.

To explain Tosafot, if the word in the Torah were spelled malei vav, with a vav between the resh and the gimel, then it would have to be the active verb, with a cholam, because if it were the passive verb, then there should be a tzeirei between the resh and the gimel. Since the gemara implies some ambiguity, the word must have been spelled chaser vav.

While this proof is pretty solid, one might have some doubt as to the strength of this proof. For one thing, if the gemara wanted to say that the implication is ייהרג, it could have easily put in an extra yud. Elsewhere, in Mishnayot and Gemarot, it makes use of the double-yud. Also, the idea that it is blaspheming is present in Rashi, but not in the gemara itself. Maybe it would have been interpreted as a smudge or dot, rather than being reinterpreted as a yud. It depends how vavs were written back then. E.g. from Bar Kochba’s letters, look at the vav of Shimon.

If so, then we could say that ואי לא יהרג הוא ופסול means that if not, it is yaharog, just without the initial vav. The word איפסקיה and the word כרעא imply a severing of part of it, though.

Looking at some manuscripts, we see that Ktav Yad Vatican has what we have in our gemara:

However, if we look at the Munich manuscript (top of the page),

we discover that the alternate reading is not provided. That is, while our printed texts have:

אי לא יהרג הוא ופסול
the Munich text has:

ואם לאו פסולה

such that we don’t know exactly how the non-ויהרג Torah text is to be read.

Looking at the Leiberman database, we see the following additional variants:

MENAHOT 29b Oxford - Bodl. heb. c. 17 (2661) 84-85 this:
דרבי זורא אמ ליה זי איתי ינוקא דלא חכים ולא טפיש אי קארי ליה ויהרג כשיר ואילא ייהרג

So it actually has ייהרג with two yuds. The others are not particularly interesting.

Vilna and Venice: essentially the same as Vatican, with the יהרג given.

There also is a variation whether it is the כרעא of the vav, or just the vav, which is severed.

Before moving on from the variant Talmudic texts, I’ll just note this. Our printed gemara has:

ראמי בר תמרי דהוא חמוה דרמי בר דיקולי

If I recall correctly, this was one of the examples the Noda BiYehuda gave of marrying someone who’s father had the same name -- thus, Rami married Rami’s daughter. But Soncino translates here “also known as” and comments in a footnote (2) that:

And we indeed see the word דהוא rather than דהוא חמוה. Also, I would note, this should be obvious. Tamrei and Dikulei both mean date-palm.

Minchas Shai comments on this pasuk, gemara, and Tosafot. (Indeed, the above was my own expansion after seeing Minchas Shai.)

ויהרג -- “There are sefarim which have it [ויהרוג] malei, with a vav after the resh, but it is apparent that it is chaser, from that which they say in Hakometz Rabba [that is, Menachot 29b:

רמי איפסיקא ליה כרעא דוא"ו  ויהרג בנוקבא -- to explain, the vav [in the beginning of ויהרג] occurred in the place of a hole [in the parchment] and it seemed like a yud.
אתא לקמיא דר’ זירא א”ל זיל אייתי ינוקא דלא חכים ולא טיפש -- to explain, that if he was wise, he would understand that it would be blaspheming to say ייהרג regarding the One On High, and so would say ויהרג

אי קרי ויהרג כשר ואי לא ייהרג הוא ופסול.
[End quote of the gemara.]

And the Ri [in Tosafot] comments that from here it is implied that ויהרג is chaser, without a vav between the resh and the gimel, end citation in the Aguda [?]. And see as well in the Mordechai, perek Hakometz.

And so too in the Masoret, it states: there are four which are malei in the language of hariga, namely:
  1. וכל שריה אהרוג in Amos [2:3]
  2. עת להרוג [in Kohelet 3:3]
  3. כי נמכרנו אני ועמי להשמיד להרוג ולאבד [in Esther 7:4]
  4. ולהרוג בשונאיהם [in Esther 9:16 -- we have וְהָרוֹג בְּשֹׂנְאֵיהֶם without the lamed. Thanks to MG.]

And it does not reckon ויהרג of here [in Shemot]. We thus deduce that it is chaser. And so too in sefer haTerumah and the Rama, za”l.

The Rama says this here:

The Mordechai (siman תתקנ”ג) to which Minchas Shai referred reads:

The Mordechai writes that it is spelled chaser in most sefarim, and that the ambiguity is evidence that it is chaser. And though it is not concrete proof [raayah], it is a zecher [supporting evidence].


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