Thursday, January 5, 2017

Pain in the Neck

After יוסף reveals his identity to his brothers, he and his only full brother, בנימין, embrace each other. The pasuk (45:14) recounts that יוסף fell upon בנימין’s neck and cried, while בנימין cried on יוסף’s neck as well. Although, it is simply understood that they were crying tears of joy, רש"י quotes the :גמרא מגילה ט"ז stating that יוסף cried on בנימין’s neck over the two temples that would be built in בנימין’s portion of ארץ ישראל and ultimately destroyed, while בנימין was crying over the משכן in שילה which was in יוסף’s portion and would ultimately meet the same fate.

There is a discussion among the commentaries concerning the logistics of this גמרא. Some suggest that the plurality of the word neck with regards to צוארי בנימין, is what led the גמרא to interpret it as referring to two temples. However, this approach is disregarded for two reasons. First, it is not uncommon for the Torah to refer to the neck in plural, just as it always does with the face. Many commentaries (רד"ק, רבינו בחיי, חזקוני, העמק דבר) interpret “צוארי” to simply refer to the two sides of the neck. Moreover, the word used in regards to יוסף’s neck, “צואריו,” is also plural. In the end, the only sensible approach among the commentaries on רש"י seems to be that, although יוסף cried with all his other brothers as stated clearly in the following pasuk, the necks are only mentioned with בנימין. This indicated that there was something special about the crying with בנימין. The fact that יוסף cried over two temples while בנימין cried over only one משכן is purely incidental, as it were. It just so happened that two temples were built in בנימין’s portion and one משכן in יוסף’s but it has no relation to the grammar of the pasuk.

Although in רש"י’s version of the גמרא, there is no indication that the plurality of necks plays any part in the drashah, the text of the מדרש בראשית רבה צ"ג:י"ב, seems to indicate that it did when it asks, “did בנימין have two necks?” שערי אהרן offers a viable approach to justify the מדרש. The word “צואריו,” translated literally, can only mean the many necks of one person. However, the word “צוארי” can be used to mean the many necks of one person or the many necks of many people. It is this point that lead the מדרש, and perhaps the גמרא as well, to infer that יוסף was crying over two tragedies, and בנימין over one.

See the comments below and a link to a fascinating discussion on this by R' Wolf Heidenheim in his ספר מודע לבינה.
I understand his questions but he loses me a little when answering them. If I understand correctly, in a nutshell: Tzavarav is plural, which is normal. Tza-va-rei would also have been plural and normal. But the word as it is written, tza-ve-rei, with a שוא, is the possessive form of tzaverayim which would mean not many necks but exactly two. This is what is driving the inference of the מדרש.

2 comments:

MG said...

See here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=33231&st=&pgnum=33

Shtikler said...

MG's link points to a fascinating discussion on this by R' Wolf Heidenheim in his ספר מודע לבינה.
I understand his questions but he loses me a little when answering them.
If I understand correctly, in a nutshell:
Tzavarav is plural, which is normal.
Tza-va-rei would also have been plural and normal.
But the word as it is written, tza-ve-rei, with a sheva, is the possessive form of tzaverayim which would mean not many necks but exactly two. This is what is driving the inference of the midrash.