Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tosefet Bracha Shelach Lecha

l'ilui nishmat R' Avraham ben Yona Ya'akov

"Send for yourself men” (13; 2)

Rashi points out the reason that the story of the spies follows immediately after the story of Miriam (at the end of Beha'alotecha), since they both speak about lashon hara.

It is not clear to me why Rashi has to point this out. There are many sections of the Torah that we never ask about the reason for their juxtaposition, so why does Rashi need to say anything here?

Perhaps we can say that this juxtaposition requires particular explanation, based on the Talmud in Shabbat (116a) that it is not correct to put two bad topics next to each other. Here we have the tragedy of the spies immediately after the tragedy of Miriam, and this requires explanation. Therefore Rashi explains that they both deal with the same topic of lashon hara.

"Moshe called Hoshea bin Nun - Yehoshua” (13; 16)

We must point out that every time in the Torah and Nach that the word 'ben' appears it has three dots (segol) under the 'bet'. However, every time it says Yehoshua's name there is only one dot (chirik) so that it is read as 'bin'. This is strange. There must be some special reason for this unusual vocalisation.

There is only one other time that the word 'bin' is used, and that is in Mishlei (30; 1) “These are the words of Agur, son of (bin) Yakeh...” when the 'bet' also has a chirik. [There is also another time in Parshat Ki Tetzei, Devarim 15; 2, but there it doesn't mean 'son', so perhaps that is why the author doesn't mention it.] The Sages have discussed this in the midrash, and explained it aggadically (metaphorically) in Shemot Rabba Parshat Va'era section 6. However the explanation there has no relevance to the verse here. The Sages appear to say nothing at all about our case. Nor have any of the commentaries discussed it, and this is extremely strange.

Perhaps we can explain based on the Talmud (Sanhedrin 107a) and midrashim that say that the 'yud' that was taken from Sarai (after he name was changed to Sarah) complained about being removed from the Torah. It was only consoled when Moshe took it and added it to Hoshea's name to make Yehoshua (by adding a 'yud'). In this way the 'yud' that was removed from Sarai was replaced into the Torah.

This Talmud still leaves a difficulty, because even though Moshe found the 'yud' to add to Hoshea's name, where did he find the vowel to go under it? The 'yud' from Sarai had no vowel under it, whereas the 'yud' of Yehoshua has a 'sheva', which is two dots. We know that the number of dots in the Torah is precise and exact, so how could Moshe add two dots to the 'yud'? Therefore he had to remove the two dots from the 'bet' of 'ben' and replaced the 'segol' with a 'chirik'. This left two dots extra which were used for the 'yud'.

Even though this explanation is subtle and unusual, nevertheless, because of the uniqueness of the vocalisation of this word you should accept it.
[This doesn't explain why he was called Hoshea 'bin' Nun before Moshe added the 'yud' (verse 8) – perhaps the 'segol' was already removed in advance of the name change?]

"Moshe called Hoshea bin Nun - Yehoshua” (13; 16)

Rashi explains here, based on the midrash, that Moshe's intention in changing his name was to add a 'yud' to the 'heh' so that it would spell G-d's name, and as if to say 'G-d should save you from the advice of the spies' (because Moshe saw in a vision that it was posssible that the spies would sin, and he prayed that it shouldn't happen). We have to explain why Moshe prayed for Yehoshua more than for all the other spies, that he should be saved from speaking lashon hara and saying bad things about the land of Israel.

Perhaps we can explain based on the Midrash Rabba in parshat Vayeshev (end of section 86) regarding the nature of people. 'Throw a stick to the ground and it will return to where it came from'. This is an analogy to people who inherit their behaviour patterns from their parents. Like we find in the Midrash Rabba, Parshat Miketz, that when the goblet was found in the sack of Binyamin, and the brothers thought that he had stolen it, they all called him 'thief, the son of a thief'. They thought he was following in the footsteps of his mother who had stolen the idols from her father (Vayetze 31; 32). We also find this as a common saying amongst people, 'the lamb follows the ewe, the actions of the daughter are like the actions of the mother' (Ketubot 63a). Also in Yechezkel (16; 44) we find “the daughter is like the mother”.
We know that Yehoshua was from the tribe of Ephraim ben Yosef. Yosef had the attribute of speaking badly about others, like we find at the beginning of parshat Vayeshev (37; 2) “Yosef brought evil reports (about his brothers) to his father”. Therefore Moshe was concerned that this attribute might be part of Yehoshua's genetic makeup. Since he was so close to him as his student, Moshe prayed for him in particular, like for something which is likely to cause damage [which explains why he didn't also pray for Gadi ben Sussi from the tribe of Menashe, who was also descended from Yosef.]

We gave a similar explanation to something which we find many times in the Talmud. When Rav Yosef was amazed about something he would say 'Master of Avraham' (for example look in Shabbat 22a, and the other places listed there). We don't find anyone else who used this expression, nor is it explained why Rav Yosef chose this phrase to express his surprise or amazement, or why it was unique to him.
Perhaps we can explain based on what the Ran brings in Kiddushin (chapter one on the Talmud 31a) in the name of an aggada. That Rav Yosef was careful not to look outside of his immediate four amot. For this purpose he damaged his eyes [which eventually led to him becoming blind]. This trait of never looking outside the four amot was also a trait of Avraham. Like Rashi explains in parshat Lech Lecha on the verse “Now I know that you are beautiful” [that until that moment Avraham had not noticed how beautiful Sarah, his wife, was]. Also in the Midrash Rabba on Vayera (parshat 53) they said that he fulfilled the verse “close his eyes from seeing evil” (Yishiya 33; 15). Because of this trait of not looking at things away from himself, he didn't notice the actions of Yishmael. Therefore Rav Yosef had the same trait as Avraham, and therefore used this expression of surprise 'Master of Avraham'.
We also explained similarly the Talmud in Chagiga 14b, which tells of Rabbi Elazar ben Erech who expounded upon kabbalistic secrets of the nature of G-d. After he finished, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai stood up and kissed him on his head, and said, 'Blessed is G-d who gave such a son to Avraham our father'. He meant this same idea, because we know from midrashim that Avraham explored these kinds of ideas, and as explained by Rambam at the beginning of his laws of idolatry. Therefore he connected Elazar ben Erech to Avraham because he followed in his footsteps.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But Yehoshua was called Yehoshua already in Pershat Beha'alotecha.