Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tikun Sofrim: Did Rashi think Scribes changed the Torah?

Genesis 18:22, with Rashi

And the men turned from there and went to Sodom, and Abraham was still standing before the Lord.כב. וַיִּפְנוּ מִשָּׁם הָאֲנָשִׁים וַיֵּלְכוּ סְדֹמָה וְאַבְרָהָם עוֹדֶנּוּ עֹמֵד לִפְנֵי יְ־הֹוָ־ה:
And [the men] turned from there: from the place to which Abraham had escorted them.ויפנו משם: ממקום שאברהם ליוום שם:
and Abraham was still standing, etc.: But is it not so that he did not go to stand before Him, but the Holy One, blessed be He, came to him and said to him (above verse 20): “Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, etc.,” and it should have been written here: “and the Lord was still standing beside Abraham?” But this is a scribal emendation (Gen. Rabbah 49:7).ואברהם עודנו עומד לפני ה': והלא לא הלך לעמוד לפניו אלא הקב"ה בא אצלו ואמר לו (פסוק כ) זעקת סדום ועמורה כי רבה, והיה לו לכתוב וה' עודנו עומד לפני אברהם, אלא תיקון סופרים הוא זה (אשר הפכוהו ז"ל לכתוב כן):

See the discussion after the jump.


There's an old argument about what is meant by tikun sofrim, or scribal emendations. The phrase first appears (I think) in the Mechilta, and even there its not perfectly clear what the author intended. Some say he meant the scribes, presumably the religious leaders during the Persian period had the authority to modify the Torah; others say he meant only that sometimes God wrote the Torah in the manner of a scribe, that is He, in the original document, made the sort of changes a scribe might make, for the same reasons a scribe might make them. A few Rishonin (notably the Aruch) take the former position; the rest emphatically disagree. (The Ibn Ezra disagreed not with the position defended by the Aruch, but with the Mechilta itself, frequently saying אין צורך לתיקון סופרים, that is he thought the verses worked fine, as written)

The questions gets (more) interesting when you attempt to determine Rashi's position. In the selection above, Rashi (based on Gen. Raba) identifies "and Abraham was still standing" as a tikun sofrim, that is, the writer chose to say Abraham was standing in front of God because that sounds more respectful, even though it would have been more correct to say God was standing in front of Abraham, as it was God who came to Abraham and initiated the conversation.

Those of you who read Hebrew, will notice something interesting in at the end. It says, This is a tikun sofrim, and in parenthesis "that the rabbis changed to be written this way." The words in parenthesis do not appear in the Mikraot Gedolot and aren't even mentioned in the footnotes of Artscroll's supposedly scholarly Saperstein edition, but they are found in early printed editions and in the Gutnick. To the best of my knowledge, there's no way to establish if the words were Rashi's or added by a copyist. I imagine they were dropped from most contemporary editions because they carry the whiff of heresy, but have no explanation for Gutnick's decision to include them.

Though we can't conclusively assign to Rashi the words "that the rabbis changed to be written this way," there are other clues that Rashi agrees with Aruch that the tikun sofrim were actual emendations.

Numbers 11:15

If  this is the way You treat me, please kill me if I have found favor in Your eyes, so that I not see my misfortune."טו. וְאִם כָּכָה אַתְּ עֹשֶׂה לִּי הָרְגֵנִי נָא הָרֹג אִם מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ וְאַל אֶרְאֶה בְּרָעָתִי:
If this is the way You treat me: Moses’ strength became weak like a woman’s when God showed him the punishment He was going to bring upon them. Because of this, he said to Him, “Kill me first….” - [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:14] ואם ככה את עשה לי: תשש כחו של משה כנקבה כשהראוהו הקב"ה הפורענות שהוא עתיד להביא עליהם על זאת. אמר לפניו, אם כן הרגני תחלה:

so that I not see my misfortune: 
Scripture should have written, “their misfortune,” [or “Your misfortune,” according to Divrei David] but it euphemizes. This is one of the scribal emendations in the Torah, [such as writers make] for the purpose of modifying and adjusting the text. — [Midrash Tanchuma Beshallach 16; Mechilta Beshallach, parashah 6]

ואל אראה ברעתי: 
ברעתם היה לו לכתוב, אלא שכינה הכתוב. וזה אחד מתקוני סופרים בתורה לכינוי ולתקון הלשון:

Here, Rashi's point of view seems plain. On the basis of this verse, Avigdor Bonchek, the contemporary champion of Rashi concluded  that Rashi agreed with Aruch and thought the siofrim modified the Torah. You can find his discussion here. (Gil Student, who writes Hirhurim, disagrees with R. Bonchek, and dismisses the idea that Rashi agreed with the Aruch)

Another place where Rashi's point of view is clearly made in in his commentary on Job.

Job 32:3

3. He became angry with his three friends because they found no answer and condemned Job.
and condemned Job: This is one of the verses wherein the Scribes rectified the language of the Scripture. “And they condemned,” as directed against the Omnipresent, by remaining silent, should have been written, but Scripture euphemized. Similarly (Num. 11: 15), “and do not let me see my misfortune.” It should have been written: “and do not let me see their misfortune,” but Scripture euphemized, and so many [other] instances, in Sifrei (ad loc.) and in the Great Masorah.

( the website supplying the Rashi only has English here)

Note what Rashi says: "This is one of the verses wherein the Scribes rectified the language of the Scripture", or in Hebrew: זה אחד מן המקומות שתקנו סופרים את לשון הכתוב.

This would seem to make the case that Rashi is with the Aruch.

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