Friday, September 15, 2017

Don't you worry


    In pasuk ל"א:ח, Moshe gives Yehoshua words of encouragement upon his taking over of Moshe's position. The pasuk ends off, לא תירא ולא תיחת. In pasuk א:כ"א, Moshe commands B'nei Yisroel, with regards to their seemingly imminent conquer of Eretz Yisroel, אל תירא ואל תיחת. The commands are almost exactly identical. The only difference is the exchange of the word אל for the word לא.


    Both לא and אל may both be translated as "don't." However, there is a difference between the two. The word אל is, for the most part, confined to a single meaning. Alternatively, the word לא is slightly more flexible. It can take on the form of a command, as in לא תרצח, thou shall not murder. However, it can also take on the form of a promise or assurance. Perhaps the clearest example of this is when HaShem commands Moshe to prevent בני ישראל from ascending the mountain to fight following the incident with the spies. Moshe is told (א:מ"ב) to declare "לא תעלו." The simple reading is clearly, "do not go up!" However, Rashi quotes from a Midrash, "לא עליה תהא לכם אלא ירידה," it will not be an ascent for you, rather a descent i.e. you will not succeed. Here we see clearly that the word לא can mean both a command and a promise, even at the same time.


    Therefore, in our parsha, Yehoshua is not being commanded not to fear, but rather being promised that he will have nothing to fear. In דברים, he is being told not to fear. Indeed, the expression in דברים is said in the context of other commands. In our parsha, however, it is stated in the context of other promises.


    I understand that the above distinction is not 100% clear-cut and there are numerous examples which might throw it into question. I'm open to suggestions.

     Recently, I heard a different approach from משך חכמה. In the פרשה of קרבן פסח - שמות י"ב:ט he explains that אל implies a certain tone of בקשה whereas לא is a more definite prohibitive commandment. Perhaps that explanation can be applied here as well. As leader of the nation it was imperative that יהושע show absolutely no fear whatsoever. Therefore it was delivered in the form of a commandment - לא תירא ולא תיחת. But when בני ישראל are being briefed prior to their imminent entry into ארץ ישראל it is simply stated in the form of a request. Or, alternatively, we can suggest that this "request" was made just prior to the demand for spies which had drastic consequences. With that now many decades in the past but its lessons still very clear, a mere request was no longer appropriate. It was clear that the to not fear and not tremble must be an outright commandment.

Name of the פרשה

I try not to be too nit-picky about transliterations. But this week's פרשה is very often mispronounced and mistransliterated Netzavim. It is חיריק under the ו so it should be Nitzavim. Hey, I'm just standing up for what's right. (You see what I did there?)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Shva vs. Kamatz?

In this week’s Parsha, the pasuk states (Devarim 24:6),

"לא יחבל רחים ורכב וגו'"

Tosefos discuss how there are actually two separate prohibitions, one for the רחים and one for the רכב. In the course of their discussion Tosefos mention that there was a possibility that some opinions could have thought that there was actually only one prohibition for the two, but since ורכב is written with a חטף it shows that these words are somewhat separated and are to be considered as two independent prohibitions. (Tosefos Menachos 58b) The Yaavetz mentions that Tosefos are referring to the lack of a שוא when they say חטף. (Yaavetz Menachos 58b)

The Rashash questions Tosefos’ assertion based on Targum Lashon Ivri (chapter 34). The rule as mentioned there, is that when the trop under the last word of a list of two or more items has a hard pause then the ו takes a קמץ instead. Based on this rule the lack of a שוא is not something that connotes a separation in our pasuk since וָרָכֶב clearly has an esnachta beneath it. Rather, it shows that the items are separated and that this is the last of the list. (Rashash Bava Metziah 115b)

I was wondering if one could possibly answer on Tosefos’ behalf that even though linguistically the pasuk does not demonstrate that two as being separate, on a level of drush one can see that they are. The Torah was given with an esnachta in this place instead of another trop formulation from the pasuk. The pronunciation conjures up the idea of the words being separate even if the actual reading does not mean that. Therefore, one can assume the words have a level of separation to the point that they can be considered independent prohibitions.

Shiluach Ha...

This week's פרשה contains one of my דקדוק pet peeves. The mitzvah of sending away the mother bird is very commonly referred to as "Shiluach haKan." However, the word is "kan" in the pasuk only because of סמיכות. When referring to the mitzvah, the proper term should be "Shiluach HaKein."

However, I was very intrigued to find this point actually discussed in this article by R' Zvi Goldberg of the Star-K. See footnote #1 (it's linked at the very beginning.)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Clean Blood

In פרשת שופטים, there are three instance where the term דם נקי, or a variation thereof, appears. If the vowel underneath the ד is a פתח, it would indicate סמיכות and the translation would be, "the blood of a clean (innocent) person." If it were a קמץ, it would simply mean clean blood. Although one might argue that the connotation is ultimately the same, I would say this is still a rather significant difference. Oh, wouldn't it be nice and simple if it were always the same. Alas, not only is it not always the same, there is not always 100% clarity as to which way it should be pronounced.

In שופטים, we have the following:
י"ט:י וְלֹא יִשָּׁפֵךְ דָּם נָקִי
י"ט:י"ג וּבִעַרְתָּ דַם הַנָּקִי
כ"א:ח וְאַל-תִּתֵּן דָּם נָקִי
The latter two appear to be undisputed. However, someone came over to me about the first one suggesting the בעל קריאה had said it wrong. I was certain he had not. But sure enough his (Artscroll) חומש had a פתח while mine (חורב) had a קמץ. I have embedded a snippet from the ספר אם למקרא למסורת below which should bring some clarity to the subject.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Two of a kind

In the beginning of the פרשה, י"ז:ו, regarding the giving of capital punishment, the pasuk says "על פי שנים עדים...", that we require at least two witnesses. Later on, (י"ט:ט"ו), regarding monetary matters, it states "על פי שני עדים...", again that two witnesses are required. Although the words שנים and שני both seem to mean 2, there is still a difference between the two. What is the difference, and why is one used over the other in each instance?

נצי"ב writes, in העמק דבר, that שני means two identical objects whereas שנים doesn't mean 2, but rather a pair. In ירושלמי סנהדרין, quoted in the .רא"ש כ"ג, it says that if two witnesses give absolutely identical testimony, they must be investigated further for something is a little suspicious. It is told that the גר"א would disqualify witnesses who gave absolutely identical testimony based on a משנה in סנהדרין. Therefore, with regards to capital cases, since there is a requirement to deeply investigate the witnesses (דרישה וחקירה), it says שנים, because identical testimony is not accepted. But in monetary matters, where there is no requirement of דרישה וחקירה, it says שני, because they are allowed to be identical.

[I was once asked why when we count the omer we say שני שבועות or שני ימים instead of שבועיים or יומיים. I answered based on the above, that שבועיים or יומיים would mean a pair of weeks, or a pair of days and therefore, would not be a real counting of two and for the sfira, we require a genuine count.]

מהרי"ל דיסקין offers an alternate explanation. The word שנים means not only two, but two at the same time. Just as רגליים or ידים refers to a presence of two hands or feet, שנים means two together. Therefore, for capital matters, it says שנים because the two witnesses must be present together. Two witnesses who observe a capital crime, but don't see each other are not valid witnesses. This is referred to in the gemara as עדות מיוחדת. However, for monetary matters, עדות מיוחדת is still valid. So the תורה wrote שני instead of שנים over there.

ר' יעקב Kaminetzky, in אמת ליעקב offers yet another approach. He suggests that the proper wording would usually be שני עדים. However, the :גמרא סוטה ב teaches that the word עד by itself implies two witnesses - because only the testimony of two witnesses is valid - unless the תורה makes it clear that it means one. Therefore, I might have thought that שני עדים means that two groups of two witnesses are required to build a capital case. Therefore, the term שנים עדים is used, implying שנים שהם עדים, two individuals who are witnesses, to dispel any such notion. Then, once it is clear that capital cases do not require two groups but rather simply two individuals, it is obvious that no more is needed for monetary cases and so the conventional wording, שני עדים, is used.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Don't Feed the Animals

We have previously discussed the possible mix-up of כבש and כשב. Whether or not the two words mean the exact same thing, it definitely needs to be corrected. I actually had to do just that this past שבת when I'm pretty sure the בעל קריאה said שה כבשים instead of י"ד:ד - שה כשבים. But while I was contemplating that, something arose on the very next פסוק which I was unsure of. Someone claimed that instead of אַיָּל, a deer, he said אַיִל, a ram. Whether he did or he didn't is not particularly relevant at this point, I suppose, but it is worth pointing out how similar these two words are while they refer to two completely different animals. And by posting this now, hopefully it will jog my memory to be en garde in coming years.