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“The Canaanites Were Then in the Land”: Ibn Ezra, Post-Mosaic Editorial Insertions, and the Canaanite Exile from the Land

Posted By Aryeh Klapper On October 30, 2009 @ 12:44 am In Tanach | 59 Comments

The Canaanites Were Then in the Land”:  Ibn Ezra,  Post-Mosaic Editorial Insertions, and the Canaanite Exile from the Land 

by Aryeh Klapper

 Genesis 12:1-7:

בראשית פרק יב
(א) ויאמר יקוק אל אברם לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך אל הארץ אשר אראך:
(ב) ואעשך לגוי גדול ואברכך ואגדלה שמך והיה ברכה:
(ג) ואברכה מברכיך ומקללך אאר ונברכו בך כל משפחת האדמה:
(ד) וילך אברם כאשר דבר אליו יקוק וילך אתו לוט ואברם בן חמש שנים ושבעים שנה בצאתו מחרן:
(ה) ויקח אברם את שרי אשתו ואת לוט בן אחיו ואת כל רכושם אשר רכשו ואת הנפש אשר עשו בחרן ויצאו ללכת ארצה כנען ויבאו ארצה כנען:
(ו) ויעבר אברם בארץ עד מקום שכם עד אלון מורה והכנעני אז בארץ:
(ז) וירא יקוק אל אברם ויאמר לזרעך אתן את הארץ הזאת ויבן שם מזבח ליקוק הנראה אליו:
 
JPS Translation
  1. The Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
  2. I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you; I will make your name great, And you will be a blessing.
  3. I will bless those who curse you, And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth Shall bless themselves by you.
4. Abram went forth as the Lord had commanded him, and Lot went with him. 
5. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the wealth they had amassed, and the persons they had acquire in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan.  When they arrived in the land of Canaan,
6. Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shekhem, at the terebinth of Moreh.  The Canaanites were then in the land.
7. The L-rd appeared to Abram and said: ‘I will assign this land to your offspring’.  And he built an altar there to the L-rd who had appeared to him.”

Spinoza argued that the last sentence, “The Canaanites were then in the land”, meaning “then as opposed to now”, could not have been written at the time of Moses, as the Canaanites were still in the land.  The sentence could only have been written at a time when the Canaanites were no longer in the land, so as to convey needed historical/ethnographic context to contemporary readers. 

            Spinoza did not see himself as having discovered this; he believed that he was following in the footsteps of the thirteenth century Spanish commentator Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra.  Let’s take a look then at Ibn Ezra’s comments to Genesis 12:6:

“והכנעני אז בארץ” – יתכן שארץ כנען תפשה כנען מיד אחר. ואם איננו כן יש לו סוד. והמשכיל ידום:

“The Canaanites were then in the land” – likely that the Land of Canaan was grabbed by Canaan from the hands of another.  But if this is not so, it has a secret, and the one who comprehends it will fall silent.

The “secret” Ibn Ezra alludes to here is the “secret of the twelve” that he refers to elsewhere in his commentary, and the other verses he mentions in those contexts also seem to raise the possibility of post-Mosaic editorial insertions.  As I have not yet understood any other attempt at explaining the secret, it seems to me fair to cite Ibn Ezra as someone who was theologically okay with there being post-Mosaic insertions in the Torah. 

            However, Ibn Ezra does not prefer this reading.  On literary rather than theological grounds, he suggests that the more likely correct interpretation is that the verse teaches us that the Canaanites had taken the land by force from someone else.  In other words, he thinks the better translation of the verse is “The Canaanites were then in the land”, meaning “then as opposed to previously”.  That translation allows the verse to be written at the time of Moses.

            Why does Ibn Ezra think this reading more likely?  I suggest that the answer can be found one chapter later, in Genesis 13:1-7.

בראשית פרק יג
(א) ויעל אברם ממצרים הוא ואשתו וכל אשר לו ולוט עמו הנגבה:
(ב) ואברם כבד מאד במקנה בכסף ובזהב:
(ג) וילך למסעיו מנגב ועד בית אל עד המקום אשר היה שם אהלה בתחלה בין בית אל ובין העי:
(ד) אל מקום המזבח אשר עשה שם בראשנה ויקרא שם אברם בשם יקוק:
(ה) וגם ללוט ההלך את אברם היה צאן ובקר ואהלים:
(ו) ולא נשא אתם הארץ לשבת יחדו כי היה רכושם רב ולא יכלו לשבת יחדו:
(ז) ויהי ריב בין רעי מקנה אברם ובין רעי מקנה לוט והכנעני והפרזי אז ישב בארץ:

 JPS Translation

  1. From Egypt, Abram went up into the Negeb, with his wife and all that he possessed, together with Lot. 
  2. Now Abram was very rich in cattle, silver, and gold.
  3. And he proceeded by stages from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been formerly, between Bethel and Ai,
  4. the site of the altar that he had built there at first; and there Abram invoked the L-rd by name.
  5. Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents,
  6. so that the land could not support them staying together; for their possessions were so great that they could not remain together.
  7. And there was quarreling between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and those of Lot’s cattle – the Canaanites and Perizzites were then dwelling in the land.

Here are Ibn Ezra’s comments to 13:7:

וטעם הכנעני והפריזי כרעו. ויתכן היות הפריזי מבני כנען והוא אחד מהנזכרים, ויש לו שני שמות כאשר מצאנו שני שמות לבן שמואל, וגם לאבי אביו:

The meaning of “The Canaanites and the Perizzites” is like its peer.  It is likely that the Perizzites were among the Sons of Canaan and that he was one of the sons mentioned, but that he has to names, as we found two names for Shmuel’s son, and also for his grandfather.

Ibn Ezra recognizes that this verse raises the same interpretive issue as its peer, 12:6.  In other words, one can either translate “then, as opposed to now”, or “then, as opposed to earlier”.

            But here a new issue intrudes.  Granted that each verse on its own can stand either translation, the new issue is how either translation accounts for the existence of both verses.  Should not readers of 12:6 have been aware by now that the Canaanites were then in the land?  Why is it necessary to inform them of this twice?

            Furthermore, it is reasonably clear why 12:6 is a good place to inform an otherwise ignorant reader of the Canaanite presence; Avram has just entered the land.  But what purpose does the information serve in 13:7?

            Finally, the two verses are not identical: 12:6 refers only to Canaanites, whereas 13:7 refers to both Canaanites and Perizzites, and 12:6 mentions Canaanite presence, whereas 13:7 refers to Canaanites and Perizzites as dwelling in the land.  Are these differences significant?

            To these questions, Ibn Ezra has no evident response.  Rashi, however, who shares Ibn Ezra’s preferred reading, addresses some of them directly and others implicitly.  Here are Rashi’s comments to 12:6 and 13:7. 

והכנעני אז בארץ – היה הולך וכובש את ארץ ישראל מזרעו של שם, שבחלקו של שם נפלה כשחלק נח את הארץ לבניו, שנאמר (בראשית יד יח) ומלכי צדק מלך שלם. לפיכך (פסוק ז) ויאמר ה’ אל אברהם לזרעך אתן את הארץ הזאת, עתיד אני להחזירה לבניך שהם מזרעו של שם:

 ויהי ריב – לפי שהיו רועים של לוט רשעים ומרעים בהמתם בשדות אחרים, ורועי אברם מוכיחים אותם על הגזל, והם אומרים נתנה הארץ לאברם, ולו אין יורש, ולוט יורשו, ואין זה גזל, והכתוב אומר והכנעני והפרזי אז יושב בארץ ולא זכה בה אברם עדיין:

“The Canaanites were then in the land” – he was in the process of conquering the Land of Israel from the descendants of Shem, as it fell into the portion of Shem when Noah divided the land among his sons, as Scripture says ‘And MalkiTzedek King of Shalem’[1] [1] (Genesis 14:18).  Therefore Hashem said to Avraham: “I will assign this land to your descendants” – I will ultimately return it to your children, who are from the descendants of Shem.

 “And there was quarreling” – because Lot’s herdsmen were wicked and would graze their cattle on other people’s land, and Avram’s herdsmen would rebuke them about this robbery, and they would reply: “The land is given to Avram, and as he has no heir, Lot will be his heir, so this is not robbery”.  So Scripture says “the Canaanites and Perizzites were then dwelling in the land”, and Avram had not yet acquired it.

Rashi takes these two verses as together making a complex point: promising the land to Avraham did not deprive the Canaanites as a class of their patrimony, but rather reversed an illegitimate conquest that occurred at just about the same time as his arrival (12:6), but that nonetheless the individual property rights of the Canaanites were valid so long as the conquest had not been reversed (13:7).  Thus the shift from “Canaanites” in 12:6 to “Canaanite and Perizzites” is intended to show that the conquest was ongoing and developing.  The same is true of the shift from present to “dwelling”. 

            It should be clear that Rashi’s interpretation of these phrases does not depend on the accuracy of his reconstruction of the argument between the shepherds.  I might argue, for instance, that the point of 13:7 in its specific context is to provide an ironic counterpoint: the land could not sustain both individuals, Avraham and Lot, and yet it could sustain two entire nations, the Canaanites and the Perizzites!  Nor is it necessary to believe that MalkiTzedek was in fact Shem, or that the original inhabitants of Canaan were Shemites.  The key point is that it was necessary for the text to provide two separated snapshots of the Canaanite presence so as to show that it was developing, and therefore that at the time Hashem promised it to Avraham, He was not taking it away from anyone.  Avraham’s claim is therefore morally legitimate.

            On these grounds it seems to me that Ibn Ezra was correct to prefer the first reading in 12:6, that “the land of Canaan was grabbed by Canaan from another”.[2] [2]

            We can now point out that the first reading brilliantly situates this story within the overall context of the book of Genesis. 

  1. In 15:16, as part of the brit ben ha-betarim (The Covenant among the Torn Pieces), G-d tells Avraham that His promise will not be fulfilled until the fourth generation because “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete”. In other words, Avraham cannot receive the land until his claim is just. 
  2. Nachmanides compellingly reads the pre-Abrahamic narrative in Genesis as an extended demonstration that the consequence of sin is exile.  Thus Adam sins and is exiled from the Garden of Eden; Cain sins and is sentenced to wander; the Flood Generation sins and is wiped off the land; and the Tower generation sins and is scattered from Babel. 

In the second reading, there is no thematic content to the editorial insertions, and the story of Avraham’s arrival is largely isolated from anything that happens before or after. 

 


*           This essay is part of a larger project, at the request of Gann Academy’s Tanakh department, to produce a literary argument for the unified authorship of the Torah.  http://www.torahleadership.org [3]

[1] [4] According to Rabbinic tradition MalkiTzedek was another name for Shem, and Shalem for Yerushalayim (Jerusalem)

[2] [5] I have two additional grounds for preferring the first reading.

a.  The second reading assumes that the editorial insertion was necessary for readers who were unaware that Canaanites had ever lived in the land of Israel.  This requires a quite astonishing feat of historical amnesia on the part of an Israelite of any time, as every cultural history of Israel mentions the Canaanites.

b.  Genesis 11:31 already refers to Israel as the Land of Canaan.  If the hypothetical editor’s intent was simply to provide background information for ignorant readers, s/he could have provided the information there rather than waiting for 12:6.


59 Comments (Open | Close)

59 Comments To "“The Canaanites Were Then in the Land”: Ibn Ezra, Post-Mosaic Editorial Insertions, and the Canaanite Exile from the Land"

#1 Comment By Dovid Shlomo On November 2, 2009 @ 11:12 am

You wrote:
“it seems to me fair to cite Ibn Ezra as someone who was theologically okay with there being post-Mosaic insertions in the Torah.”

Not exactly.

I believe that it would be more accurate to write that Ibn Ezra was theologically okay with there being a few EXTREMELY LIMITED post-mosaic additions, but ONLY through HASHEM’s revelation to a PROPHET.

The distinction between saying that Ibn Ezra was “okay” with post-Mosaic insertions that are non-prophetic as opposed to post-Mosaic insertions that ARE prophetic demarcates a critical distinction between Torah Judaism and Conservative/Reform/academic approaches.

I therefore feel that it might be a good idea to be a bit more precise when writing about this extremely delicate issue.

#2 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 2, 2009 @ 11:27 am

Shalom Aleikhem Rabbotai,
The Halakhah is crystal clear, as R. Moshe Feinstein rules in his Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De’ah III, nos. 114-115. A Jew is obligated to recognize the self-evident truth that every single word of the Sefer Torah we possess today was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu, Yishtabach Shemo, to Moshe Rabbeinu. Denial of this self-evident truth is fundamentally incompatible with Orthodox Jewish theology. Anyone who denies this self-evident truth has the halakhic status of a heretic. Yi’yasher kochakha to Rabbi Klapper for publicing this point. Bi’ezrat Hashem, through the efforts of Rabbi Klapper, we will see all of humanity unite to embrace Orthodox Jewish theology – “vi’ye’asu khulan agudah achat la’asot retzonkha bilevav shalem”.
Gratefully,
Shalom Spira
Montreal, Canada

#3 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 2, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

Shalom Aleikhem Rabbotai,
With your kind permission, I am pleased to report that R. Moshe Feinstein’s ruling is subsequently reiterated in his Iggerot Mosheh, Orach Chaim IV, no. 24.
Incidentally, R. Feinstein takes cognisance of the dispute among the Tanna’im in Bava Batra 15a as to whether G-d dictated the final eight verses to Mosheh Rabbeinu or to Yehoshua. But even if the latter was the case, emphasizes R. Feinstein, Yehoshua was simply serving to complete the revelation of the Torah by G-d, in order for the Torah scroll to be kosher. According to this latter opinion among the Tanna’im, this itself was an oral law that G-d revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu,viz., that there will be eight further verses added to the Torah scroll which were not shown to Mosheh Rabbeinu but which would be shown to Yehoshua, and that the mitzvah di’oraita of ketivat sefer torah cannot be fulfilled unless those eight verses are incorporated. [In any event, R. Feinstein points out that the Rambam rules like the Tannaitic position that even the last eight verses were dictated to Mosheh Rabbeinu, rendering the discussion purely academic.] Thus, there is no room to speak of post-Mosaic editorial insertions to the Torah. The case of the final eight verses of the Torah is unique, where it is possible according to some Tanna’im that HaKadosh Barukh Hu revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu an oral halakhah that those last eight verses will be transcribed instead by Yehoshua, as the agent of Mosheh Rabbeinu (and in any event this opinion is rejected by the Rambam).
Gratefully,
Shalom Spira

#4 Comment By Dovid Shlomo On November 3, 2009 @ 8:16 am

To encapsulate what I wrote above, I believe that it is incorrect and misleading to not distinguish between belief that later additions were directed by Hashem through subsequent prophecies versus saying that Ibn Ezra was “okay” with saying that there were later additions, prophetic or not.

This is a very delicate issue.

Interested readers should see the classic commentary on Ibn Ezra, Tzafnas Poneach, who deals with Ibn Ezra’s position at length.

#5 Comment By moshe simon shoshan On November 4, 2009 @ 3:55 am

Mr. Spira,

With all due respect to R’ Moshe zt”l, a statement from the Igros Moshe does not allow one to dismiss the Ibn Ezra or those who hold like him as apikorsim. I think a little humility is in order when discussing rishonim.

One can point to R. Moshe’s teshuva and argue that we be choshesh for it, but this does not discount the legitimacy of other positions. Rav Moshe was not Moshe Rabbeinu. Note that the Tzitz Eliezer strongly rejected R. Moshe’s call to censor statements in works of the rishonim and even of chazal, that seem to conflict with the Rambam’s 8th ikar. eyein sham v’dok.

#6 Comment By moshe simon shoshan On November 4, 2009 @ 4:00 am

Also the claim that the divine nature of every letter in our Torah schools is “self-evident” begs further clarification. How is it self evident? I always understood it as an ikkar emunah that by definition cannot be proven.

#7 Comment By lawrence kaplan On November 4, 2009 @ 11:52 am

Rabbi Klapper’s assumption that ibn Ezra preferred his first explanation is based on his translation of the word “ve-yitakhen” as “likely.” But this translation, in my view, is very UNlikely. My sense is that it means “and it is possible.” This is the dictionary translation of “yitakhen,” = “efshar, ulai, yakhol lihyot,” etc. One would have to ask an ibn Ezra scholar as to the precise meaning of yitakhen in ibn Ezra’s perush or do a computer word check of the perush. I note that there are places where ibn Ezera for “likely” uses “ve-hakarov eilai.”

Let me second Moshe Shoshan’s remarks. Rav Moshe is NOT the posek aharon on these matters, particularly now that there is more and more manuscript evidence that ashkenazi rishonim accepted the reality of post-Mosaic additions. I am surprised that Rabbi Spira, whom I know and respect, would be so precipitous as to refer to many yereim and sheleimim as heretics.

#8 Comment By lawrence kaplan On November 4, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

That “Yitakhen” means “possible” and NOT “likely” in ibn Ezra’s comment on Gen. 12:6 is only strengthened by his use of it in his comment on Genesis 13:7, where he uses it for his extemely speculative suggestion as to the possible identity of the Perizites.

#9 Comment By Aryeh Klapper On November 4, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

I will avoid the theological issue, which it seems to me is too significant to be dealt with tangentially – I deliberately avoided addressing the issue in the original post, and confess very shallow acquaintance with Ibn Ezra’s theology in general. My purpose in the larger project is precisely to make the literary argument as if the theological issue were inconsequential.
I’m happy as always to learn from Professor Kaplan, and he is correct (as was Michael Pershan implicitly in private correspondence) that my translation of “yitakhen” as “likely” was tendentious; yitakhen that I wished to be generous to Ibn Ezra, and translated so as to make clear what I believed to be his intent.
There are certainly many places in which yitakhen does not means “likely”, such as when Ibn Ezra says “yitakhen al shnei peirushim”. At the same time “it is possible” seems to me not to exhaust the meaning the term. I’ve now done an admittedly rushed Bar Ilan review, and so far as I can see Ibn Ezra very often offers no alternative to a comment introduced by yitakhen, several times offers an alternative but then says that the yitakhen one is “karov”, and does not ever say outright that an alternative to a yitakhen is preferable. (I cannot find a parallel to the “v’im einenu kein” structure used here; in fact, v’im einenu elsewhere in Ibn Ezra seems to mean “even though it is not”, rather than as here “if it is not”.) It therefore still seems to me likely that the introductory yitakhen in Ibn Ezra indicates preference, although I welcome counterevidence.
Aryeh Klapper

#10 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 5, 2009 @ 9:24 am

Shalom Aleikhem Rabbotai,
Thank you all for your kind words. I fully agree with Moshe Simon Shoshan and with Mori ViRebbi Rabbi Kaplan that the words of our Rishonim should be cherished with reverence. Indeed, the Ibn Ezra’s status as authentic exponent of the Oral Torah is established by his appearance within Tosafot to Kiddushin 37b, s.v. “mimachorat”, and so I would never gratuitously dismiss the holy words of the Ibn Ezra.
However, with my limited knowledge, kitalmid ha’yoshev bakarka vidan lifnei rabbotav, I see no contradiction between the words of the Ibn Ezra and the psak halakhah of R. Feinstein. All the Ibn Ezra says is that there is “a secret” about the phrase “vihakina’ani az ba’aretz”. The Ibn Ezra certainly makes no indication of what that secret is. Thus, R. Feinstein’s ruling may be accepted with peace of mind, particularly since it seems to be a recapitulation of the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a.

#11 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 5, 2009 @ 10:00 am

Shalom Aleikhem Rabbotai,
With your kind permission, I now see that R. Moshe Feinstein’s ruling is essentially endorsed as authoritative by R. Menashe Klein in the latter’s Shu”t Mishneh Halakhot XVI, no. 102. In context, R. Klein respectfully disagrees with R. Feinstein’s assertion that the newly discovered manuscript with a “commentary” on the Pentateuch ascribed to Rabbi Yehudah Hachassid is vacuous and should be burnt. R. Klein believes that the manuscript is not vacuous and need not be burnt, but is rather an authentic record of Rabbi Yehudah Hachassid’s insights on Pentateuch. At the same time, R. Klein emphasizes that R. Feinstein is obviously correct that the every word of the Sefer Torah we possess was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu, as per the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a. Rather, continues R. Klein, R. Feinstein simply misinterpreted what Rabbi Yehudah Hachassid was trying to say, and so there was really no need for R. Feinstein to be alarmed (claims R. Klein).
I confess total ignorance on this manuscript issue and am incompetent to adjudicate this dispute between R. Feinstein and R. Klein as to whether or not the “commentary” on Pentateuch ascribed to Rabbi Yehudah Hachassid is authentic. But either way, we see that the accepted Halakhah is that a Jew is obligated to recognize the self-evident truth that every word of the Sefer Torah we possess was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu.

#12 Comment By DF On November 5, 2009 @ 10:25 am

Mr. Spira –

I am sure anyone who reads your comment is thinking the same thing: Have you not read Marc Shapiro’s book, “The Limits of Orthodox Theology”? I would have thought that book was required reading by now. Certainly for readers of this blog, at least, if not everyone. In any event, read his book, and read all the sources cited, and then you may feel differently.

#13 Comment By Dovid Shlomo On November 5, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

Rabbi Klapper:
I understand why you would want to avoid theological issues and deal instead with textual ones.

I was wondering whether you would like to comment on my textual point, which is that, in my opinion, you have seriously misrepresented Ibn Ezra’s position.

You wrote that “it seems to me fair to cite Ibn Ezra as someone who was theologically okay with there being post-Mosaic insertions in the Torah.”

I indicated to you that, according to Tzafnas Poneach, the most significant commentary ever written on Ibn Ezra, what you wrote is simply not true.

While I understand why you would wish to avoid entering into a debate as to the theological boundaries of Orthodox Judaism, I am puzzled as to why you do not wish to address my point that you have seriously misrepresented Ibn Ezra’s position regarding a highly delicate issue.

This is especially troubling to me, given that you “confess” that your grasp of Ibn Ezra’s thinking on this matter is “shallow.”

I would be quite happy to send you a scan of Tzafnas Poneach, so that you might see for yourself what he has to say.

Please feel free to EMAIL me, if you would like to see it.

Kol Tuv

#14 Comment By lawrence kaplan On November 5, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

I would suggest that my very learned former student Rabbi Spira might wish to look at, in addition to Prof. Shapiro’s book, Prof. Haym Soloveitchik’s article in Turim, volume 2.

The lenghy comment of Tzafnat Paneah, which I also recommend to Rabbi Spira, is to be found as an excursus in Prof. Nehama Leibowitz’s volume on teaching the meforshim on Bereishit. To supplement Dovid Shlomo’s point: According to the Tzafnat Paneah, prophetic post-Mosaic additions to the biblical narratives are OK, but not to the mitzvot.

As to the meaning of “ve-yitakhen, I will get back to that.

#15 Comment By Dovid Shlomo On November 5, 2009 @ 8:30 pm

Prof Kaplan:
I don’t know what is Nechama Leibowitz’s excursus, but I have the complete edition of Tzafnas Paneach.

There, he not only limits these additions to prophetic, non-halachic additions, but limits them as well to very minor changes.

Additionally, he, like the Ibn Ezra, says that these things are not suited for public airing. Ibn Ezra’s term is V’HaMaskil Yidom.

Far from being “OK” with the idea, Ibn Ezra intentionally concealed his position and criticized those who took it too far, “Yitzhaki” being one.

I look forward to Rabbi Klapper’s comments.

#16 Comment By Dovid Shlomo On November 6, 2009 @ 9:08 am

As regards to Shalom Spira’s comments, I believe that the question as to Ibn Ezra’s position is more reliably determined by Tzafnas Poneach, who lived 100 years after the Ibn Ezra’s time and was an expert in his writings, than it would be by a contemporary Rav who dis not have that historical perspective.

To paraphrase another contemporary issue, the question is not what we are allowed to believe today, but what certain Rishonim believed THEN.

If you would like to understand what Ibn Ezra believed THEN, a far better source is Tzafnas Poneach coupled with in-depth study of Ibn Ezra’s writings.

I reiterate, though, that Ibn Ezra’s position, as I understand it, was far less radical than the characterizations here of him simply being unqualifiedly “OK” with post-sinaitic additions.

#17 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 6, 2009 @ 10:48 am

Shalom Aleikhem Rabbotai,
Thank you for the kind words and for illuminating my eyes with the sparkling mar’eh mikomot. I will make sure to consult Dr. Shapiro’s book and Dr. Soloveitchik’s article. For now I will only address the source that I know: the Tzofnat Pa’ane’ach (available to me through hebrewbooks.org).
As I see it, the Tzofnat Pa’ane’ach is an edition of the supercommentary of R. Yosef Tov-Elem (“Bonfils”) [1320-1390] which was published 98 years ago by R. David Herzog (Cracow 5672). [N.B. This R. Bonfils should not be confused with a different scholar bearing the identical name - R. Yosef Tov-Elem ("Bonfils") - who is cited by Rashi in Chullin 114b (third line from top) and by Tosafot to Pesachim 115a (s.v. "vihadar") and idem. 117b (s.v. "revi'i"). The R. Bonfils who is cited by Rashi and Tosafot lived three centuries earlier than the one who commented on the Ibn Ezra. The R. Bonfils who lived three centuries earlier was clearly a halakhic authority who is one of the ba'alei mesorah of the Oral Torah. Whether or not the second R. Bonfils is also one of our ba'alei mesorah remains to be determined, and may depend on the analysis that follows.]
In this Herzogian edition of R. Bonfils’ supercommentary, R. Bonfils indeed posits that the Ibn Ezra’s “secret” is that certain sections of the Pentateuch were indeed written by prophets after Moses [sic], including the phrase “vihakina’ani az ba’aretz”. He specifically raises the objection of the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a, answering that the gemara only deals with halakhic sections of the Pentateuch. But regarding narrative section of Pentateuch, it is possible for prophets – when they received a divine revelation commanding them to do so – to have added post-Mosaic interpolations. Since all prophecy emanates from G-d, it makes no theological difference (regarding the narrative difference) whether they were written by Moses or a subsequent prophet, says R. Bonfils. All prophecy is equally true vis-a-vis the narrative sections.
R. Bonfils cites proof to this effect from the gemara in Megillah 9a-b which records how the Sages changed the Pentateuch in thirteen locations before presenting a Greek translation of it to Ptolmy.

#18 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 6, 2009 @ 10:52 am

Alas, R. Bonfils’ words (as published by R. Herzog) are problematic. R. Bonfils claims that there are narrative sections of the Pentateuch as distinct from halakhic sections. But he is contradicted by the fact that the writing of a complete Torah scroll (“ketivah tamah”) is itself a halakhic topic on a biblical level, since writing a kosher Sefer Torah is a mitzvah di’oraita, and the reading from a kosher Sefer Torah every seven years at Hak’hel is also a mitzvah di’oraita. Thus, even the narrative sections of the Pentateuch are halakhic sections! [R. Bonfils evidently implicitly concedes to this remonstration when he cites the gemara in Menachot 30a and apologetically responds "vitzarikh iyun".] Moreover, the gemara in Megillah 9a-b is a total non-sequitur. All that gemara establishes is that one can change the *translation* of the Sefer Torah into Greek. The gemara never says that one can tamper with the actual words of the Sefer Torah. Indeed, some of the changes recorded by the gemara in Megillah actually involve (even what R. Bonfils would admit are purely) “halakhic” sections of the Torah: Deuteronomy 4:19, Deuteronomy 17:3 and Leviticus 11:6. Thus, R. Bonfils actually refutes himself with his own “proof”. One should seemingly conclude that R. Bonfils’ remarks (as published by R. Herzog) are without substantive merit.
Interestingly, there is an earlier edition of R. Bonfils’ supercommentary to Ibn Ezra called Ohel Yosef, published in Margali’yot Tovah (which was published by R. Yekutiel Lazi and R. Naftali Herz in Amsterdam 5482 – which is two hundred and eighty eight years ago). That edition of R. Bonfils’ supercommentary does not contain the remarks which speak of post-Mosaic interpolations. Rather, that edition of the supercommentary refers us to see the answer to the secret in Deuteronomy 1:2. Looking at Deuteronomy 1:2, one finds a footnote at the bottom of the page which explains that the “secret” is that G-d revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu what would happen in the future. This is entirely consistent with a straightforward reading of the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a Maimonides’ eighth principle.
Accordingly, is it not possible that the earlier published edition of R. Bonfils’ supercommentary is the more authentic one?
Moreover, yet a different supercommentary to Ibn Ezra, published by R. Shlomo Zalman Netter in the Rabbinic Bible of Vienna in 1859, explains the “secret” of “vihakina’ani az ba’aretz” in kabbalistic terms which avoid any issues of post-Mosaic editorial additions. Is it not possible that it is to this secret that the Ibn Ezra referred?
In summation then, it seems to me – kitalmid ha’yoshev bakarka vidan lifnei rabbotav – that although one manuscript of R. Bonfils’ supercommentary to Ibn Ezra speaks of post-Mosaic additions, its reasoning is highly problematic, and an earlier manuscript of R. Bonfils’ supercommentary does not contain any mention of post-Mosaic additions, and an entirely different supercommentary (by R. Netter) deciphers the Ibn Ezra’s “secret” in a completely alternate satisfactory manner. Thus, there is seemingly a valid reason to assume that the Ibn Ezra believed in a straightforward reading of the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a.

#19 Comment By Dovid Shlomo On November 6, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

Shalom Spira correctly points out that there are differences between the two published editions of Tzafnas Poneach.

The differences, however, are not due to there being two differing manuscripts, but because the Margolios Tovah edition removed those comments (secret of the twelve being one of them) that were deemed too controversial.

The Herzog edition is uncensored and complete.

Several commentators to Ibn Ezra were unaware of the deletions and wrote their own commentaries accordingly. Mechokekei Yehudah being one example.

AT the end of the day, the issue is whether anyone has come up with a more plausible explanation of Ibn Ezra’s sod, not whether those of us living in the twenty-first century feel comfortable with it.

I reiterate again, though, that I feel that Rabbi Klapper might have misunderstood Ibn Ezra’s position and therefore overstated it. Ibn Ezra is more radical than Rabbi Spira believes, but less radical than Rabbi Klapper believes, in my opinion.

Given that this Ibn Ezra is almost always overgeneralized (and sensationalized), Rabbi Klapper’s error is certainly understandable.

I await his comments as to whether he feels that it would be worthwhile to correct what he wrote, so as to avoid confusion.

#20 Comment By lawrence kaplan On November 7, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

Re the latest comment of Dovid Shlomo as it effects the positon of Rabbi Spira: While it is admirable that Rabbi Spira is educating himself regarding this issue as he goes along, perhaps he might wish to consider refraining from any more comments until he has had the chance to study the issue with the thoroughness it deserves.

Just two points: 1) As David Shlmo correctly points out it is certain that the passage in TP in the Herzog edition re the secret of the twelve is authentic; and 20 it is almost as certain that his explanation is the plain peshat of the ibn Ezra. The problems Rabbi Spira raises MAY be a reason for not accepting that view –which is maintained as well by several other Ashkenazi rishonim– but it is pointless and untrue to argue that they did not maintain it.

#21 Comment By lawrence kaplan On November 7, 2009 @ 6:35 pm

Dovid Shlomo: The fact that ibn Ezra (IE) was not OK with publicizing the idea of post-Mosaic additions does not mean that he was not OK with the idea itself. As to why IE was so critical of Yitzhaki: In addition to his objecting to Yitzhaki’s publicizing the matter, the examples that IE brings (with the exception of the last 12 verses, which is a special case) are, as TP points out , examples of a phrase or an individual verse added to clarify matters. This is different from Yitzhaki’s comment that an entire chapter was added.

The reference to Nehama Leibowitz is to :N.L. Limmud Parshenei ha-Torah u-Derakhim le-Hora’atam; Sefer Bereishit (Jerusalem, 1975), Excursus 3, pp.221-222.

#22 Comment By Dovid Shlomo On November 7, 2009 @ 8:22 pm

Rabbi Kaplan:

I am well aware of Tzafnas Poneach’s comments and of Ibn Ezra’s position, as you might have gathered.

My point was that Ibn Ezra considered this a very delicate issue and chose to state his position in an oblique way, so that it would be known only to “Maskilim” and not misunderstood by the general public.

My issue with Rabbi Klapper’s post is its lack of precision.

I have taken the time to write because I feel that Rabbi Klapper’s post, under the perceived auspices of an Orthodox Rabbinnic organization, misrepresents Ibn Ezra and contributes to the broader misunderstanding of this delicate topic.

I was merely suggesting that Rabbi Klapper might wish to change his “Ibn Ezra was OK” to a wording that is less broad, more accurate, and more cognizant of the responsibility entailed in discussing such matters in such a public forum when representing an Orthodox point of view.

I do not know Rabbi Klapper, but have enjoyed some of his essays and audio shiurim. I never intended my comments as a personal criticism.

#23 Comment By Dovid Shlomo On November 7, 2009 @ 8:31 pm

Rabbi Kaplan:

I am well aware of Tzafnas Poneach’s comments and of Ibn Ezra’s position, as you might have gathered.

My point was that Ibn Ezra considered this a very delicate issue and chose to state his position in an oblique way, so that it would be known only to “Maskilim” and not misunderstood by the general public.

My issue with Rabbi Klapper’s post is that its lack of precision adds to the very misunderstanding that Ibn Ezra wished to avoid.

I did not intend my comments as a personal criticism of Rabbi Klapper.

#24 Comment By lawrence kaplan On November 8, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

Dovid Shlomo: I have no problem with your last two posts. Though perhaps I should not presume to speak for him, I feel certain that Rabbi Klapper did not take your criticism as being in any way personal.

The only point I would add is that while, as you say, it is important to state ibn Ezra’s position with precision, there is no point any more in keeping it secret. The secret has been out there for a long time already.

#25 Comment By Dovid Shlomo On November 8, 2009 @ 5:04 pm

Prof Kaplan:
The secret is less “out there” than you might think. Rabbi Spira’s comments to this very entry is a case in point!

As someone who lives within the charedi world, I would venture to say that perhaps one charedi Rabbi in a hundred has even a clue as to what Ibn Ezra is talking about in the sod. I doubt that there is more than a minyan of guys in Lakewood — let alone Bnei Brak — that have ever heard of this.

I happen to find that unfortunate, but that’s another story.

My point was that this is a very, very delicate matter and should therefore be treated with precision and caution, lest readers draw the conclusion that Ibn Ezra was “OK” with post-mosaic authors blithely inventing new halachot, mitzvoth, narrative, etc and updating the Torah text accordingly.

As you and I both know, this was absolutely NOT the case, at least according to Tzafnas Poneach and all extant writings of Ibn Ezra.

#26 Comment By lawrence kaplan On November 8, 2009 @ 9:01 pm

Dovid Shlomo: I should have said that the secret is out in the educated Modern Orthodox world. Again, I agree with you on the need for precision.

#27 Comment By Steve Brizel On November 11, 2009 @ 2:36 pm

Like it or not, the Talmud records a dispute as to the authorship of the last eight verses of the Torah. Ramban, who takes IE to task on IE’s views re the hekesh of Zacor/Shamor, writes in more than one place that some verses refer to events that transpired years after the Generations of the Exodus and the Desert. Abarbanel and ( possibly Kli Yakar or Ohr HaChaim as well) has very sharp words about Ramban’s comments.

IE quotes Karaite based comments, but in at least one place, strongly suggests that one such comment deserves to be burned. IE was the author of one of the Shabbos Zmiros that IMO suggests a total fealty to Chazal. As far as the comments of the commentaries on IE, I would cautiously suggest that one must first have a working knowledge of IE preferably from the best Kisvei Yad based editions well before one relies on supercommentaries and their perspectives.

#28 Comment By Steve Brizel On November 11, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

For those interested, Ramban never hesitates to either acknowledge IE when IE is correct or to criticize IE, sometimes in quite vociferous terms. Look at Breishis 24:1 where Ramban quotes IE verbatim, tackles the issue of the meaning of Bakol and then vehemently critiques IE for his looking for Pshat elsewhere than in Chazal. In our Ramban Chaburah, we were shown one outstanding example-IE’s commentary on the Akedah as to the age of Yitzchak ( 13, not 37) and why Avraham restrained Yitzchak-to prevent Yitzchak from escaping and running away.

#29 Comment By David W On November 15, 2009 @ 9:06 pm

I am not a scholar or a talmid chacham, but I do know how to read a Passuk. When Deuteronomy 3:14 says the city was called CHAVOT YAIR UNTIL THIS VERY DAY. The Pasuk is obviously referring to a change of name that happened quite a while ago. No one would say that the Triboro Bridge was called the Robert F Kennedy Bridge until this day. The name change was less than a year ago. The kingdom of Og was conquered only a little bit before the death of Moses.
Everyone admits that our Masoretic text differs from the gemara in malei and chaseir. Dr. Shnayer Leiman did an article where he proves that Rashi had a different girsa than we do. So what? I have no problem with the possibility that there were later editorial insertions in the text. Halacha is sacred wheter the text supports it or not. The issue is whethe there was a Torah Misianai, not whether over the course of generations our text has come down to us in perfect form.

#30 Comment By Aryeh Klapper On November 24, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

My apologies – I had not been aware until just now of this long and spirited conversation. What I can say is only this – I tried to formulate my position regarding Ibn Ezra with great care, but nonetheless seem not to have succeeded. So with less optimism I’ll try again.
What I wrote was
“The “secret” Ibn Ezra alludes to here is the “secret of the twelve” that he refers to elsewhere in his commentary, and the other verses he mentions in those contexts also seem to raise the possibility of post-Mosaic editorial insertions. As I have not yet understood any other attempt at explaining the secret, it seems to me fair to cite Ibn Ezra as someone who was theologically okay with there being post-Mosaic insertions in the Torah.”
I tried to make clear that I myself do not know what Ibn Ezra held, but that on the available evidence, others who cited him as claiming this were not being unfair. I also made clear that I had not, last time I read them (which was a very long time ago), succeeded in understanding the various attempts to explain Ibn Ezra as unrelated to later editorial insertions, kabbalistically or otherwise, but that precisely because I had failed to understand them, I could not dismiss them.
Finally, I did not and do not take a position as to the extent of post-Mosaic editorial insertions Ibn Ezra could tolerate theologically. The limitation to non-halakhic material makes sense to me theologically, and the word “editorial” is itself a major constriciton, and certainly one should not derive from my words any claim that Ibn Ezra accepted unlimited editorial insertions, and I would have made thatpoitn explicitly had I thought it necessary. But I repeat that I am not an expert on Ibn Ezra’s theology, and therefore prefer not to impose my theological sensibility on him as to precisely which limitations to adopt.

#31 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:08 pm

Yi’yasher kochakha, R. Klapper. The excellent research with which the Rav has benefited the public has further inspired me to make my own small contribution [to be posted momentarily]. Thank you for making it possible.
Gratefully,
Shalom Spira

#32 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:10 pm

Shalom Aleikhem Rabbotai,

Thank you very much for patiently waiting for me to survey Dr. Shapiro’s book and Dr. Soloveitchik’s article. I am grateful to Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan for his kindness and scholarship in guiding me on the right path by referring me to the wealth of sources and gems of wisdom contained in these precious volumes.
I have also consulted with R. J. David Bleich to somewhat compensate for the major lacunae that may be created by my limited knowledge. R. Bleich personally encouraged me to publish my findings, given the centrality of this topic to “Chovot Halevavot”, i.e., the halakhic duties of the heart of an Orthodox Jew.
Accordingly, kitalmid ha’yoshev bakarka vidan lifnei rabbotav, I will first offer my summary thesis in this posting, and then proceed to offer a detailed explanation in subsequent postings.

Thus, I present the thesis that:

(a) Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan is absolutely correct that R. Moshe Feinstein’s responsa on this subject (Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De’ah III, nos. 114-115; Orach Chaim IV, no. 24) need to be supplemented and amplified, as is evident from the issues raised by Dr. Shapiro’s outstanding book and Dr. Soloveitchik’s beautiful article. Indeed, it is not disrespectful to R. Feinstein to say so, for R. Feinstein himself (Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De’ah III, no. 88) applies the same methodology to revisiting the Chazon Ish’s rulings, where R. Feinstein emphasizes that this is actually a source of great honour to the Chazon Ish to re-examine his rulings.

(b) At the same time, when one further analyzes the issues correctly raised by Dr. Shapiro and Dr. Soloveitchik, it emerges that the Halakhah is in accordance with R. Moshe Feinstein. Namely, a Jew is obligated to recognize the self-evident truth that every single word of the Torah scroll we possess was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu. An Orthodox Jew, by definition, accepts this recognition. The final eight verses are unique in that there is a legitimate opinion among the Tanna’im (cited by the gemara in Bava Batra 15a) that they may have been dictated to Yehoshua rather than Mosheh Rabbeinu. But even according to this opinion, it means that HaKadosh Barukh Hu revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu an oral halakhah that the Sefer Torah is only kosher once the eight verses that will be dictated to Yehoshua (as Moshe Rabbeinu’s extended “agent”) will be incorporated into the Sefer Torah. Accordingly, there is no room within Orthodox Judaism to speak of post-Mosaic editorial changes to the Sefer Torah.

(c) Although there are suggestions to the contrary, there is no compelling evidence that Ibn Ezra necessarily disagreed with any of the above in (b). Ibn Ezra clearly endorses the tanna’itic position in Bava Batra 15a that the final verses were dictated to Yehoshu’a, but he surprisingly substitutes the “last twelve verses” for the “last eight verses”. The reason for this surprising substitution is elusive but can apparently be attributed to a different girsa in the Sifrei from which the gemara in Bava Batra 15a is taken. Thus, giving Ibn Ezra the benefit of the doubt, it can be assumed that the Ibn Ezra was an Orthodox Jew who is indeed one of the Rishonim (and therefore one of our ba’alei mesorah), as befits someone who is quoted by Tosafot in Rosh Hashanah 13a and Kiddushin 37b.

#33 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:11 pm

Let us now examine chapter 7 of Dr. Shapiro’s tour de force book, point by point, to demonstrate that the contents of the chapter are compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.

(1) On pp. 92-97, Dr. Shapiro correctly observes that the gemara in Kiddushin 30a submits that we are not proficient in the plenary and defective orthographic forms of words in the Sefer Torah. As Dr. Shapiro also notes, R. Feinstein himself incorporates this information into his own ruling. Thus, there is no contradiction between this and the ruling of R. Feinstein that a Jew is obligated to recognize that every single word in our Sefer Torah was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu. We might not be proficient in chaseirot vi’yiteirot, but we are proficient in every single word.
(2) On p. 94, Dr. Shapiro cites R. Jacob Hagiz as declaring that there is even uncertainty regarding words. This is indeed so, but an examination of R. Jacob Hagiz reveals that R. Hagiz is discussing the words in the Megillah scroll that is read on Purim. R. Hagiz is not discussing our Sefer Torah. Thus, R. Hagiz’ statement is compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling, which is uniquely addressing our Sefer Torah.
(3) On p. 95, Dr. Shapiro notes that the Dead Sea Scrolls, Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint, Peshitta, and Targumim, differ from our Sefer Torah. This is indeed so, but those items are not our Sefer Torah, and – of all of them – only the Targumim are part of the Orthodox Jewish mesorah. The Targumim themselves are obviously not a verbatim translation of the Sefer Torah, and so no epistemological proof can be brought from the Targumim. Indeed, Dr. Shaprio refers us to the remarks of R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg in the latter’s Shu”t Seridei Esh, IV, p. 103. There, R. Weinberg unequivocally affirms that authenticity of the words of our Sefer Torah, and rejects the legitimacy of any variations suggested by outside sources. Thus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint, Peshitta, and Targumim are all compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.
(4) On p. 96, Dr. Shapiro discusses the variation in Rabbi Meir’s Sefer Torah. This issue is addressed by R. Yitzchak Blau in the Torah u-Madda Journal 2004 (p. 187), in the latter’s response to Dr. Shapiro’s book. Thus, Rabbi Meir’s Sefer Torah is compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.

#34 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:12 pm

(5) On p. 97, Dr. Shapiro points to the differences between the Yemenite Sefer Torah and the Sefer Torah used by all Sefardim and Ashkenazic. Dr. Shapiro insightfully suggests that this raises the question: Can one genuinely speak of a real Sefer Torah, now that there is competition between the Yemenite edition and the Ashkenzic/Sefardic edition? He directs us to see R. Ovadiah Yosef’s ruling in the latter’s Shu”t Yechaveh Da’at VI, no. 56 for a resolution.
Fortuitously, an examination of the Yechaveh Da’at reveals that R. Ovadiah Yosef rules in the affirmative: there is indeed a real Sefer Torah which we possess which word for word was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh. We are not proficient in chaseirot and yiteirot emphasizes R. Yosef, but we are proficient in the words. Thus, although he does not explicitly mention R. Feinstein, R. Yosef evidently agrees with R. Feinstein, for this is indeed the position of R. Feinstein, as per section 1 above.
However, R. Yosef’s responsum is confusing because he seems to pursue two distinct approaches to the question of reconciling the Yemenite orthography with the Sefardic/Ashkenazic orthography. On p. 292 (second and third lines of the page), he appears to declare that the differences between the Yemenite Sefer Torah and the Sefardic/Ashkenazic Sefer Torah are so trivial that they are halakhically considered as mere cases chaseirot and yiteirot, and therefore the Yemenite scroll and Sefardic/Ashkenazic scroll are both equally word-perfect, and thus halakhically one and the same. Both scrolls are therefore equally suitable for synagogue use. By contradistinction, on p. 293 (starting from the twelfth line), he suddenly and unexpectedly switches gears by asserting that the two scrolls are *not* halakhically the same, and that it is the Sefardic/Ashkenazic scroll which is the true Sefer Torah. [In other words, R. Yosef evidently appreciates that it is this Sefer Torah used by Ashkenazim and Sefardim alike today which HaKadosh Barukh Hu dictated to Mosheh Rabbeinu word for word, for it is the textus receptus of the decisive majority of contemporary Jewry. The Yemenites – while being completely righteous and scholarly – constitute a minority who (through no fault of their own) were isolated from the balance of world Jewry and from the normative pesak halakhah process of the Oral Torah for centuries, and therefore do not possess an accurate Sefer Torah.] Accordingly, according to this second approach of R. Yosef, the Yemenite scrolls are all disqualified and require correction. Nevertheless, R. Yosef possesses a practical solution in case the Yemenite community is unwilling to heed this second approach: The Rambam (Shu”t Pe’er Hador no. 9) holds that one can recite Birkot HaTorah even on a disqualified Sefer Torah. R. Yosef opines that although we do not normally rely on this Rambam, it can be used as a mitigating leniency when combined with another factor. The other factor cited by R. Ovadiah Yosef is that we want the Yemenite and Sefardic/Ashkenazic communities to co-exist in peace and harmony. Although R. Yosef neglects to elaborate the legal reasoning why peaceful co-existence should justify reciting a benediction over a disqualified Sefer Torah, the answer emerges in a subsequent responsum published by the same author (Shu”t Yabi’a Omer VIII, Yoreh De’ah no. 32). There, R. Yosef demonstrates that the majority of poskim hold that reciting a berakhah livatalah is a rabbinic (rather than biblical transgression), and therefore that for the sake of maintaining peace among people it is permissible to refrain from stopping others from inadvertently reciting a berakhah livatalah. [See there at length for the Talmudic basis of this leniency.] Therefore, we can now understand the responsum in Yechaveh Da’at: if publicly announcing that the Yemenite Torah scrolls are disqualified (so as to rescue people from reciting a berakhah livatalah over those scrolls in the synagogue) will be incompatible with maintaining peace among all members of the Jewish community, then it is not necessary to issue such a public announcement.
Apparently, the key point of internal dispute between R. Yosef’s two different approaches hinges upon the one and only truly glaring difference between the Yemenite scroll and the Sefardic/Ashkenazic scroll For Genesis 9:29, the Yemenite scroll reads “Va’yihihu kol yimei Noach”, whereas the Sefardic/Ashkenazic scroll reads “Va’yehi kol yimei Noach”. Apparently, R. Yosef’s first approach is to say that since – in the context of Genesis 9:29 –“Va’yihi” and “Va’yihiyu” mean exactly the same word, this is just a case of chaseirot and yiteirot, and thus the two scrolls are truly one and the same. R. Yosef’s second approach is to say that since one word is technically singular and the other is technically plural, they are two different words, and so the Yemenite scroll is disqualified. [These two approaches also seem to be transposed by R. Yosef’s son to the latter’s Yalkut Yosef, Dinei Sefer Torah Uveit Hakenesset, p. 146.]
In any event, it emerges from R. Yosef’s responsum that the Yemenite Torah scrolls are no contradiction to the ruling of R. Feinstein.

#35 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:15 pm

(6) On pp. 98-102, Dr. Shapiro discusses the case of Tikkunei Sofrim. But as Dr. Shapiro himself notes, R. Chaim Hirschensohn in his Nimukei Rashi to Genesis 18:22 cogently elucidates Tikkunei Sofrim to mean that the Sofrim (based on an oral tradition) taught the Jewish People to understand these verses in a more enlightened manner, and not – chas vishalom – that the Sofrim ever tampered with the text of the Sefer Torah. To R. Hirschensohn’s remarks, I would add the following support from the gemara in Sukkah 41b: “Mai hitkin? Darash vihitkin”. That gemara establishes that “tikkun” can sometimes mean – not to change, but to arrive at a better understanding.
Similarly, when Avot DiRabbi Natan 34:5 discusses the dots that Ezra placed over words in the Sefer Torah, it can simply be understood to mean that Ezra placed the dots to indicate that he is not certain that the words should be taken literally, but rather perhaps should be taken in a non- literal or special manner. Thus, Avot DiRabbi Natan is *not* suggesting that Ezra was uncertain whether or not these words belong in the Sefer Torah. Ezra was certain that they do belong, and he was just uncertain whether they should be taken literally. This is the implication of Rashi to Pesachim 93b (s.v. “nakud al hay”) who posits that the dot over the “hay” in “biderekh rechokah” is placed to indicate that “rechokah” should be deleted. I.e., it is to be “deleted” from being taken literally, but the word “rechokah” itself obviously belongs in the Sefer Torah and was certainly dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu.
In this manner, our text of Avot DiRabbi Natan 34:5 is saying exactly the same as the variant text quoted by R. Feinstein in Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De’ah III, no. 114, in the name of the Piskei Tosfot to Menachot no. 231 and the Taz to Shulchan Arukh Yoreh De’ah no. 274. Now, R. Feinstein believed that only the latter text (i.e. the text of Piskei Tosfot and Taz) is legitimate, and therefore he criticized R. Joshua Falk for adopting our text. Fortuitously, with our understanding now, R. Feinstein’s criticism disappears, because R. Falk and R. Feinstein are actually saying the same thing – both agree that every single word in our Sefer Torah was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu. The same can be said for the Hizkuni, Matnot Kehunah (commenting on Bemidbar Rabbah 49:12) and Pnei David cited by Dr. Shapiro.
When I asked R. Bleich on this point, he responded by e-mail on Nov. 16, 2009 that “I thoroughly agree with your understanding of Avot de-Rabbi Nathan. I understood the text precisely that way before becoming aware of R. Moshe’s variant reading.” [N.B. “R. Moshe” in this e-mail refers to R. Feinstein.]
There are only two sources that contradict R. Feinstein by understanding Avot DiRabbi Natan as having actually declared that Ezra was uncertain about the authenticity of some of the words in the Sefer Torah: Hatorah Vihamada (p. 267) by R. Jacob Levinson and Shu”t Malki Bakodesh (II, no. 6), by R. Chaim Hirschensohn. Of these two, R. Levinson explicitly adds that our Shas Bavli clearly rejects the contention of Avot DiRabbi Natan because our Shas Bavli holds that the dots only imply non-literal interpretation but that the words still definitely belong. R. Levinson further concludes that we must believe like our Shas Bavli.
Thus, in the end, R. Chaim Hirschensohn is the sole rabbinic opinion to actually believe that Ezra harboured doubts about the authenticity of certain words in the Sefer Torah. It should be noted that R. Hirschensohn is subsequently rebuked by two interlocutors (Shu”t Malki Bakodesh VI, nos. 25 and 32) for his daring theological position, and R. Hirschensohn apologetically responds in a manner that might be construed to be a retraction. Moreover, Dr. Shapiro insightfully notes (p. 91) that R. Hirschensohn explicitly affirms that the Halakhah follows Maimonides’ Eighth Principle, and that if R. Hirschensohn had possessed the Kafih translation of Maimonides which we now possess today, then R. Hirschensohn would have realized that Maimonides requires a Jew to accept that every word in our Torah scroll was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu. [Dr. Shapiro believes that the Kafih translation of Maimonides’ Arabic is more accurate that the Ibn Tibbon translation. To my chagrin, I am totally ignorant of the Arabic language and thus I am unable to comment.] Dr. Shapiro’s appreciation of the Kafih translation certainly lends credence to the assumption that R. Hirschensohn’s opinion should be rescinded. But even if R. Hirschensohn did not and would not actually retract his opinion, R. Bleich told me that R. Hirschensohn’s view can be ignored with equanimity, evidently because the consensus of rabbinic opinion affirms R. Feinstein’s ruling [which rejects R. Hirschensohn’s reading of the Avot DiRabbi Natan.] See also R. Menachem Kasher’s Torah Shelemah, Vol. 19, Milu’im no. 33, ch. 9, and idem., Vol. 29, pp. 133-136, where R. Kasher demonstrates that Tikkunei Sofrim are not post-Mosaic changes that any human being effectuated to the Sefer Torah, but rather refer to the notion that the Sofrim taught us (based on oral tradition) to understand certain passages in a non-literal way.
Incidentally, although Dr. Shapiro correctly notes on p. 101 that R. Feinstein’s willingness to diagnose a manuscript as being erroneously copied is challenged by both R. Waldenberg and R. Moshe Bleich, it is worth mentioning that the comments of R. Waldenberg and R. Bleich address topics that are completely unrelated (both to one another and to the present issue). R. Waldenberg discusses abortion, whereas R. Moshe Bleich discusses reward for mitzvot that Noahides voluntarily fulfill. Thus, it is entirely possible that R. Waldenberg and R. Moshe Bleich agree with R. Feinstein regarding Tikkunei Sofrim. [Tangentially, with all due respect to R. Moshe Bleich, I believe his citation of Tosfot to Bava Metzi’a 71a poses no challenge to R. Feinstein. R. Feinstein explicitly recognizes that Noahides do receive reward for voluntarily fulfilling mitzvot where the ethical rationale is apparent (as distinct from voluntarily fulfilling ritual mitzvot, where R. Feinstein claims that there is no reward for Noahides). Refusing to charge interest on a loan is clearly an act of kindness to the borrower, where R. Feinstein might logically agree that the Noahide is entitled to reward.]

#36 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:16 pm

(7) On p. 98, Dr. Shapiro correctly cites the Arukh as submitting that the Sofrim actually changed the text of the Bible. However, the Arukh only says this with respect to Zechariah 2:12, *not* with respect to any verse in our Sefer Torah. Thus, the Arukh is compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.
(8) On p. 99, Dr. Shapiro quotes the Mizrachi as acknowledging that Genesis 18:22 was changed by the Sofrim. Actually, as Dr. Shapiro carefully notes this is the way Mizrachi is interpreted by Nimukei Rashi, Yefer To’ar, Tsedah Laderekh and Minchat Shai: Namely, these four scholars interpret Mizrachi to have accused Rashi of claiming that the Sofrim tampered with Genesis 18:22, and they proceed to explain how the Mizrachi is wrong, because Rashi never intended such a heretical claim. But even according to them, the Mizrachi did not himself believe that the Sofrim tampered with Genesis 18:22 – he just accused Rashi of thinking so. Moreover, it seems to me (Shalom Spira) that the Mizrachi could be interpreted in a more bland manner, for here is what he says [translation mine]:

“But Rashi za”l adds [here in Genesis 18:22] and says that it is a Tikkun Sofrim which our Sages reversed…”

Perhaps Mizrachi is not accusing Rashi at all, and is simply noting that Rashi added here [which Rashi never happens to mention in the context of any other Tikkun Sofrim] that “our Sages reversed it”. But “our Sages reversed it” may simply mean that our Sages reversed our understanding of it, and not that they actually reversed the writing of the Sefer Torah words. Accordingly, even the Mizrachi is compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.

(9) On p. 100, Dr. Shapiro observes that R. Joseph H. Herz claims that the “aleph” in “Vayikra” in Leviticus 1:1 was not written by Moses but was added at a later date. However, as Dr. Shapiro notes, R. Herz misinterpreted R. Samuel David Luzzatto in making this preposterous claim. Moreover, I would add that R. Herz was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary, an institution which transcends the parameters of Orthodox Judaism. Thus, R. Herz’ remarks may have been intended for an audience that transcends the parameters of Orthodox Judaism. As such, R. Herz’ comments pose no challenge to R. Feinstein’s ruling.

#37 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

(10) On p. 101, Dr. Shapiro correctly quotes the Me’iri in his introduction to Kir’yat Sefer as saying that the kri u’khtiv system exists because the Sofrim were uncertain which way the word should be written. Thus, it is the Sofrim who instituted kri u’khtiv. However, the Me’iri’s comments are cryptic, for he proceeds to note that the kri u’khtiv Deuteronomy 28:27 and 28:30 are different. As I understand the Me’iri, then, he is saying that the kri u’khtiv was instituted by Sofrim, but only when the kri and the khtiv involve two forms of the word that are almost identical. But when the words are completely different (as in Deuteronomy 28:27 and 28:30), the kri u’khtiv system was not ordained by the Sofrim, but was rather revealed originally to Mosheh Rabbeinu. If my interpretation of the Me’iri is correct, then the Me’iri is saying that we are not proficient in chaseirot and yiteirot, as per item (1) above. Thus, I think we can say that the Me’iri is compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling (although, coincidentally, R. Feinstein himself did not rely on the Me’iri anyway, since the Me’iri is a recently discovered manuscript, as described by R. Moshe Bleich in the article cited by Dr. Shapiro on p. 101).
I believe my interpretation is compelling because the Mei’ri in his Beit Habechirah commentary to Chullin 65a explicitly recognizes the derashah of “asher lo khera’ayim” (which is a derashah operating on a di’oraita level) as being predicated upon a kri u’khtiv in Leviticus 11:21. There, the kri and khtiv involve two diametrically opposite words. How can both words be incorporated into the derashah, which is teaching a din di’oraita? It must be that – even according to the Me’iri that the typical kri u’khtiv was instituted by the Sofrim – such a kri u’khtiv (where the words are completely different) was actually revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu. Thus, I think we can say that the Me’iri is compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.
Incidentally, Dr. Shapiro also quotes Steinschneider as citing R. Joseph Ibn Waqar as agreeing with the Me’iri. When I consulted Steinschneider, I found the following

“It is worth mentioning that Joseph Ibn Wakkar… designates the variations of keri and ketib as “variae lectiones” (nus’cha’ot)”.

I am not sure whethere this means R. Ibn Waqar agrees with the Me’iri. Perhaps R. Ibn Waqar meant that the two nus’cha’ot were themselves revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu. In any event, having established that the Me’iri is potentially compatible with R. Feinstein, I will leave the point of whether or not R. Ibn Waqar agrees with Me’iri for further analysis.

(11) On p. 102, Dr. Shapiro cites the Ginzei Mitzrayim as quoting “miktzat midrashot” (some midrashim) which attribute the extra inverted “noon” letters in Numbers ch. 10 to the Sages [seemingly denying Mosaic authorship of these “noon” letters, contrary to the gemara in Shabbat 115b]. Firstly, as Dr. Shapiro notes, the work of Ginzei Mitzrayim is of unknown authorship. Accordingly, I (Shalom Spira) would say that it seems difficult to gauge how much credence this work is to be granted. Secondly, it could very well be that when the midrashim refer to the Sages, it means the same as “Tikkun Sofrim” (see section 6 above). I.e., the Sages explained to us what the inverted “noon” letters mean, but the obligation to write them originated with Mosheh Rabbeinu. Thirdly, since the Ginzei Mitzrayim itself records the fact the our Shas Bavli disputes the midrashim in question, it could be that it is favouring our Shas Bavli. [Cf. the remarks of R. Jacob Levinson in section 6 above that we must reject Avot DiRabbi Natan in favour of our Shas Bavli.] Finally, even if we are to grant these midrashim credence, one might simply explain that the question of inverted “noon” letters is irrelevant to the word-for-word text of the Torah scroll, since those letters are completely silent – like dots. Thus, the Ginzei Mitzrayim does not contradict R. Feinstein’s ruling.

(12) On p. 102, Dr. Shapiro further cites a dispute among the poskim how the “noon” letters are to be formed. But this is no worse that a doubt about chaseirot and yiteirot, and so is no contradiction to R. Feinstein’s ruling.

#38 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

(13) On p. 103, Dr. Shapiro quotes R. Abraham ben Mordekhai Halevi (the Ginat Veradim) as stating that “once the halakhah has been decided we treat our Torah text as if (ke’ilu) it is from Sinai, even though in reality it is the product of our scholars’ decision.” But a careful examination of the Ginat Veradim reveals that he explicitly says “Vinimtza bazeh shedivrei ha-Rambam ba’u al nakhon…. Zeh chashiv lan kenetinato mi-Sinai…” I.e. Maimonides is correct, our Sefer Torah is indeed the Sefer Torah, literally word for word, as the scroll revealed by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu at Mount Sinai. We are not proficient in chaseirot and yiteirot, but we are proficient in the words, and the Oral Torah tells us to follow the majority in determining how to write chaseirot and yiteirot. Therefore, he continues “vikhol chaser vi’yeter shenimtza hefekh mimenu havei pasul min hatorah ligamrei vi’ein bo kedushat sefer torah klal”.
I guess the tricky part of this Ginat Veradim is how we apply this principle to the “za’atutei” vs. “na’arei” question of Exodus 24:5 raised by Mesekhet Sofrim 6:4. Apparently, the Ginat Veradim is saying that “za’atutei” and “na’arei” are really the same word, even if some of the consonants orthographically differ. The “za’atutei” vs. “na’arei” question was also a case of chaseirot and yiteirot. Thus interpreted, the Ginat Veradim accepts an expansive understanding of what “chaseirot” and “yiteirot” mean.
However, there is another approach to interpret the Ginat Veradim, one which enjoys the significant advantage of avoiding having to understand “chaseirot” and “yiteirot” in an expansive manner. R. Menachem Kasher, in his Torah Shelemah, Vol. 19, p. 377, explains that the Sefer Torah that read “Za’atutei” was a Sefer Torah whose scribe-writer held that words in the Sefer Torah may be written in Aramaic. [As R. Kasher further notes, the normative Halakhah does not follow this position, and a Sefer Torah must be written in its pristine original Lishon Hakodesh.] Thus, there never was a divergence of opinions whether the word should be written “Za’atutei” or “Na’arei”. It is definitely “Na’arei”, and the only question is whether it is permissible to substitute an Aramaic word for clarification purposes.
Either way, the Ginat Veradim is entirely compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.

(14) On pp. 103-104, Dr. Shapiro cites a proof from the Megadim journal that the prohibition against intermarriage was written in the Sefer Torah by a prophet after Mosheh Rabbeinu. This proof is refuted by R. Yitzchak Blau in the Torah u-Madda Journal 2004 (p. 188), in the latter’s review of Dr. Shapiro’s book. Thus, the Megadim journal does not contradict R. Feinstein’s ruling.
(15) On p. 104, Dr. Shapiro recapitulates the tanna’itic dispute regarding the final eight verses of the Sefer Torah. Indeed, R. Feinstein builds this dispute into his ruling. [Incidentally, I apologize when I erred in my previous post on this forum (post #3 – Nov. 2) in suggesting that the Tanna’itic ruling is purely academic since the Rambam rules that even the final eight verses were written by Mosheh Rabbeinu. It is true that the Rambam rules that way, and it is true that R. Feinstein portrays the final conclusion in this manner, but the Mishnah Berurah in Orach Chaim no. 428 (se’if katan no. 21) actually leaves both options open. In any event, R. Feinstein fully accounts for both possibilities in his ruling. ] Thus, there is no contradiction between this Tanna’itic dispute and R. Feinstein’s ruling.
Dr. Shapiro proceeds to note that, according to Louis Jacobs, the opinion that holds that Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote the final eight verses will hold that Yehoshu’a wrote the laws of the Cities of Refuge (Numbers 35:9-34 and Deuteronomy 19:1-13) in our Sefer Torah. However, as identified by Jonathan Ostroff in his contribution to this topic at the AishDas website, the gemara explicitly rejects Louis Jacobs’ assertion, and declares that everyone agrees that the laws of the Cities of Refuge – like every single other verse of the Sefer Torah (other than the final eight verses) – was definitely written by Mosheh Rabbeinu at the word-by-word command of HaKadosh Barukh Hu. The only section of the Cities of Refuge that was written by Yehoshu’a is the section found in the Book of Joshua. Thus, Louis Jacobs’ remarks are no contradiction to R. Feinstein’s ruling.

#39 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:21 pm

(16) On p. 106, Dr. Shapiro quotes R. Shalom Schwadron (Shu”t Maharsham III, no. 290) to the effect that “Moses’ prophetic level in the revelation of Deuteronomy was a t a lower level than when the rest of the Torah was revealed.” However, an examination of the Maharsham indicates that what R. Schwadron actually writes is that Mosheh Rabbeinu’s “hasagah” – understanding of what was being told to him, was on the level [ki’viyakhol] of G-d for the first four books of Pentateuch, and on the level of what Moses himself has personally attained for the fifth book of the Pentateuch. While this Maharsham is definitely a refreshing and novel insight which was previously unknown to me, this is not altogether surprising or upsetting, since the gemara in Rosh Hashanah 21b derives from Scripture that Mosheh Rabbeinu only had access to forty nine out of the fifty portals of understanding that exist in the universe. Thus, even Mosheh Rabbeinu did not grasp everything with absolute clarity. Only HaKadosh Barukh Hu, Yishtabach Shemo, has omniscient access to all fifty gates of understanding. Evidently, the Maharsham is telling us that Mosheh Rabbeinu lacked clarity in understanding all the lofty meanings of Deuteronomy. But this does not mean there is anything lacking in the reliability of Mosheh Rabbeinu writing the words of Sefer Devarim as dictated word for word by HaKadosh Barukh Hu. Thus, the Maharsham is compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.
(17) Most significantly, on p. 106, Dr. Shapiro correctly cites the Ibn Ezra and Rabbeinu Me’yuchas as commenting that the final twelve verses of Deuteronomy were written by Yehoshu’a. This is astonishing, for the gemara at most allows saying this regarding the final eight verses, as per section 14 above. There is no easy answer to account for the Ibn Ezra and Rabbeinu Meychas’ remarks – how can they contradict a clear gemara? How can they contradict the rule “she’ein hanavi rasha’i lichadesh davar me’ata” [as per Megillah 2b]? [I.e., if a prophet after Mosheh Rabbeinu cannot add Mantzipa”kh to the Torah scroll, how could they add four verses?] It’s very perplexing and bizarre, particularly since the Ibn Ezra himself pours fire and brimstone upon the heretical explanation in Genesis 36:1-9 which claims that a prophet after Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote that parashah. If a prophet after Mosheh Rabbeinu cannot write Genesis 36:1-9, then why can a prophet after Mosheh Rabbeinu write Deuteronomy 34:1-4? Writing nine new verses is terrible, and writing four new verses is not so terrible?
Dr. Shapiro further insightfully notes that R. Moses Sofer also sympathized the position that Deuteronomy 34:1-4 was written by Yehoshua. But let’s take a look how far that sympathy really extends. In Mahadura Kamma of Torat Mosheh, R. Sofer indeed wonders how Moses could have written 34:1-4, when he had already ascended the mountain. [The Ibn Ezra faced precisely the same quandary.] Asks R. Sofer: Did perhaps Moses write 34:1-4 while on top of Mont Nevo, and then he died and was buried – leaving the Sefer Torah unattended on the mountain peak, and then Jews later ascended to the mountain peak to retrieve the Sefer Torah? R. Sofer concludes that the matter requires analysis.
However, in the Mahadura Telita’ah of Torat Mosheh, R. Sofer sings a different tune. He has no doubts about Deuteronomy 34:1-4: those words were definitely written by Mosheh Rabbeinu. The only question is the last eight verses. R. Sofer proceeds to philosophically explain both sides of the dispute [in a manner precisely mirroring the explanation of R. Feinstein.]
Then, in Mahadura Revi’a of Torat Mosheh, R. Sofer declares unequivocally that “Torat Hashem Temimah” such that even the final eight verses were definitely written by Mosheh Rabbeinu.
Accordingly, R. Sofer said three different things on three different occasions. Either one must explain “ein vilav vi’raf’ya bi’yadeih” (i.e. he vacillated as an indication of indecisiveness), or one must say that R. Sofer retracted his original position and concluded that Deuteronomy 34:1-4 (and even 5-12) were written by Mosheh Rabbeinu.
As for the Ibn Ezra himself, I would suggest as follows. If one examines the text of the Sifrei which is the source for the Tanna’itic dispute in Bava Batra 15a, the Vilna Ga’on’s edition has the words “Rabbi Eliezer Omer: Shneim Assar….” This alternate edition is also found on p. 427 of the Sifrei Al Sefer Devarim Im Chilufei Girsa’ot Vihe’arot (published by Eliezer Aryeh Finskelstein, Beit Midrash Lirabbanim Bi’america, New York: 5729).
Although – in this alternate edition of the Sifrei – Rabbi Eliezer is referring to something else completely (i.e. that a heavenly voice travelled twelve millin in order to announce the passing of Mosheh Rabbeinu) – and *not* a complement of twelve verses – it could be that the Ibn Ezra possessed a girsa of the Sifrei identical (or similar) to that of the alternate edition, and that the Ibn Ezra read it (or misread it) to mean that Rabbi Eliezer is offering a *third* opinion in the tanna’itic dispute, which holds that the final twelve verses were written by Yehoshu’a. And the Ibn Ezra may have found this view (or pseudo-view) of Rabbi Eliezer to be compelling, since the Ibn Ezra shared the concerns expressed by R. Moses Sofer in his Torat Mosheh, Mahadura Kamma.
This seems to be the only way to reconcile the Ibn Ezra’s approach to Deuteronomy 34:1-4 with Genesis 36:31-39. Here one cannot claim that there is a “secret” which Ibn Ezra did not want to reveal to the public [as some commentators have asserted regarding Ibn Ezra’s attitude toward other parts of the Pentateuch, discussed in section 21 below], because here the Ibn Ezra clearly stated in public that he thinks Deuteronomy 34:1-4 were indeed written by Yehoshu’a, even though he simultaneously publicly decries the claim that Genesis 36:31-39 were written by a prophet after Mosheh Rabbeinu.
In any event, one way or another, the Ibn Ezra and Rabbeinu Me’yuchas to Deuteronomy 34:1 do not refute R. Feinstein’s ruling. R. Feinstein’s ruling is the logical extension of the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a and the gemara in Megillah 2b.The Ibn Ezra and Rabbeinu Me’yuchas, by contradistinction, are quite strange and are apparently at variance with the overwhelming majority of rabbinic consensus. There is a possible hypothetical solution to reconcile the Ibn Ezra and Rabbeinu Me’yuchas with the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a and Megillah 2b, (i.e. through the different reading of Rabbi Eliezer’s words in the Sifrei, as indicated). We do not know – and we cannot possibly know – what the Ibn Ezra and Rabbeinu Me’yuchas were thinking when they wrote what they wrote. It is a matter of “Hanistarot La-Hashem E-lo(k)einu.” But since one must judge one’s fellow Jew favourably, I believe we should judge the Ibn Ezra and Rabbeinu Me’yuchas to the side of merit and assume that they adopted a variant reading in the Sifrei.

#40 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:22 pm

(18)On p. 106, Dr. Shapiro reports that the Tosafist work called Hadar Zekeinim (to Deuteronomy 32:44) submits that Yehoshu’a participated in the writing of the Ha’azinu song. The actual language of the Hadar Zekeinim is that “shneihem tzivah HaKadosh Barukh Hu likhtov hatorah”. This does not deny that the entire Torah was written word for word by Mosheh Rabbeinu. It simply adds that Yehoshu’a was also commanded to write a Sefer Torah. Indeed, there is no indication that Yehoshu’a’s instruction was limited to Ha’azinu. Rather, Hadar Zekeinim is saying that right before the song of Ha’azinu – when HaKadosh Barukh Hu revealed Himself to both Mosheh Rabbeinu and Yehoshu’a [-which was a first, since until then Mosheh alone would receive the revelation and Yehoshua would stay behind in Mosheh’s tent, as per Exodus 33:11. N.B. I am indebted to R. Ovadiah Yosef who, in a Saturday night lecture last year, pointed out that this is the deeper meaning of Exodus 33:11] – HaKadosh Barukh Hu commanded both of them to write a Sefer Torah. Thus, the Hadar Zekeinim is compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.

(19) On pp. 106-107, Dr. Shapiro cites the Machzor Vitri in the name of R. Nissim Ga’on to the effect that the Ha’azinu song was written by Mosheh Rabbeinu together seventy-seven elders of Israel. Indeed, the Machzor Vitri explains that Ha’azinu is read in synagogue with the aliyot corresponding to the mnemonic “HAZIV LAKH” because the gematri’ya of those letters is seventy eight, “corresponding to the seventy eight righteous individuals on whose account Parashat Ha’azinu was written”. The Machzor Vitri proceeds to enumerate Mosheh Rabbeinu and seventy-seven others. This may be taken to mean that Mosheh Rabbeinu sang the song in the presence of those seventy-seven individuals [but only wrote it himself]. This interpretation would correspond to the verse in Deuteronomy 31:28, where Mosheh Rabbeinu instructed “Assemble unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to witness against them.” Thus, Mosheh Rabbeinu wanted an audience of seventy-seven elders before which he would sing Ha’azinu, whereas he wrote Ha’azinu only himself. Even according to the alternate possibility that the Machzor Vitri is submitting that the seventy-seven elders actually wrote Ha’azinu, this does not deny the notion that Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote all of Ha’azinu in the Sefer Torah (like all the other sections of the Torah) word for word. It may simply mean that the other elders wrote their own copies of Ha’azinu. Perhaps there is a special value in people having their own personal copies of this song. [As a contemporary example, there is a Moroccan practice of reciting Ha’azinu during Pesukei Dizimra of Tish’a B’av (instead of Az Yashir). Accordingly, Moroccan siddurim contain an excerpt of Ha’azinu for this purpose.] Alternatively, even if the Machzor Vitri means that the seventy-seven elders actually wrote the words of Ha’azinu in a Sefer Torah, this may refer to the twelve Torah scrolls that were distributed to the various tribes, but that Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote all of Ha’azinu word for word (like every other section of Pentateuch) in at least one Sefer Torah, i.e. the *official* Sefer Torah that would be stored in the Holy of Holies. According to any of these possibilities, the Machzor Vitri in the name of R. Nissim Ga’on can be understood as compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.

#41 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:23 pm

(20) On p. 107, Dr. Shapiro quotes the Maharam Schik Al Taryag Mitzvot, no. 613, as remarking that “according to one opinion”, Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote the Torah until Ha’azinu, and Yehoshu’a wrote afterward. Dr. Shapiro takes this to mean that over forty verses of the Pentateuch were added after the death of Mosheh Rabbeinu. Dr. Shapiro notes that there is no known source for this “one opinion”, although there are midrashim (Devarim Rabbah 11:10 and Midrash Tanchuma Ha’azinu no. 5) which speak of Mosheh Rabbeinu dying in the middle of writing Ha’azinu.
A careful examination of the Maharam Schik reveals an even stranger phenomenon. The entire piece in the Maharam Schik is dedicated to explaining the Rambam’s position on Hilkhot Ketivat Sefer Torah. Thus, there is no way that the Maharam Schik could possibly mean that over forty verses were written by a prophet other than Mosheh Rabbeinu, when in fact the Rambam’s position is emphatic – every single word in the Sefer Torah [including the last eight verses] was dictated to Mosheh Rabbeinu!
Additionally, the midrashim cited by Dr. Shapiro actually say as follows. While Mosheh Rabbeinu was writing the song of Ha’azinu, “the hour for Mosheh’s death had arrived”. I.e., the midrashim do not say Mosheh actually died while writing Ha’azinu; the midrashim rather say that the time for Mosheh’s death had arrived. Therefore, the Ribbono Shel Olam began a conversation with the angels trying to convince one of them to take Mosheh Rabbeinu’s soul. In the end, only the angel of death agreed. He approached Mosheh Rabbeinu, but his efforts were defeated by Mosheh Rabbeinu. Finally, HaKadosh Barukh Hu addressed Mosheh Rabbeinu directly, and asked him to surrender his soul. After some negotiating, Mosheh Rabbeinu agreed. The midrash does not indicate how much time elapsed between the “hour for Mosheh’s death had arrived” and the actual agreement of Mosheh Rabbeinu to surrender his soul. It is entirely conceivable that this process took an extended duration – such as many hours – during which Mosheh Rabbeinu had ample opportunity to complete the writing (dictated word for word by HaKadosh Barukh Hu) of the Sefer Torah, and ascend Mount Nevo. Indeed, it seems impossible to understand otherwise since the Torah makes clear that Mosheh Rabbeinu’s death was no surprise. He knew he was ascending Mount Nevo for his final terrestrial experience. Thus, one assumes that the efforts of the angel of death to seize Mosheh’s soul occurred before Mosheh had ascended Mount Nevo. [Why the angel of death was sent on this futile mission is itself a question for midrashic investigation, but “ein li essek binistarot”.]
Accordingly, the only way to understand the Maharam Schick is that Yehoshua was instructed to write his own copy of Ha’azinu, or perhaps Ha’azinu in one or more of the twelve Torah scrolls that were distributed to the tribes. But the Maharam Schick must perforce agree that there was at least one Sefer Torah where Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote all the words, including Ha’azinu, for the Maharam Schick is elucidating the position of the Rambam. In terms of what is the source for the Maharam Schick saying this, he may be referring to either the Hadar Zekeinim (as per section 18 above) or the Machzor Vitri (as per section 19 above)
Thus, the Maharam Schick is compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.

#42 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:24 pm

(21) On pp. 107-109, Dr. Shapiro enumerates a list of scholars – beginning with “R. Solomon ben Samuel” – who understood the Ibn Ezra as having believed that there are post-Mosaic interpolations in the Pentateuch (such as “vihakina’ani az ba’aretz”), but that Ibn Ezra did not want to openly announce this belief, so that he refers to it obliquely as a “secret”.
With Dr. Shapiro’s kind permission, let’s take a look at some of the names on the list.
(i) It must be emphasized that, according to the Oral Torah, there is a concept of a scholar who exists outside the parameters of Orthodox Judaism and therefore who is not one of our ba’alei mesorah. Such a person knows a great deal of technical Torah information but is actually a heretic and so has no theological authority. Such individuals include the 250 Sanhedrin heads described by Numbers 16:2, Do’eg Ha’adomi and Elisha ben Avuyah. They were all great geniuses (-Do’eg, for instance, knew 300 halakhot of a “tower flying in the air”, as per the gemara in Sanhedrin 106b), but they are not our ba’alei mesorah.
Accordingly, if the manuscript evidence cited by Ta-Shma (referenced by Dr. Shapiro) is accurate, then the lead name of the list, “R. Solomon ben Samuel”, was a scholar of precisely this sort: a genius who was not an Orthodox Jew and who was not at all one of the Rishonim, but was rather a heretic who happened to live in the time of the Rishonim. This clearly emerges from Ta-Shma’s verbatim quotation of Solomon ben Samuel’s position: Solomon ben Samuel argues that Mosheh Rabbeinu was denied ru’ach hakodesh regarding the future for events that are too trivial to be recorded in Pentateuch, such as “halo hi birabat bnei amon”. Alas, Solomon ben Samuel is parroting the textbook case of heresy that the gemara in Sanhedrin 99b applies to King Menasheh, where King Menasheh argued that “vitimna haitah pilegesh” is too trivial a detail for Mosheh Rabbeinu to have written. The gemara diagnoses King Menasheh as a “migaleh panim batorah shelo kahalakhah”, Obviously, then, Solomon ben Samuel can be granted no credence in interpreting the views of Ibn Ezra, for the Ibn Ezra is established as being an Orthodox Jew who is one of the Rishonim.
(ii) Likewise, “R. Benjamin Ze’ev ben Solomon”, another scholar on the list, must apparently be identified as a heretic. In his Ben Yemini to Deuteronomy 34:6, he contradicts the gemara in Makkot 11a (discussed above in section 15) by asserting that if the last eight verses in the Pentateuch were written by Mosheh Rabbeinu, then Yehoshua wrote the section of the Cities of Refuge elsewhere in Pentateuch (Numbers 35:9-34 and Deuteronomy 19:1-13). Such a denial of the tradition of the Talmud – which explicitly states that everyone agrees that the section of the Cities of Refuge in Pentateuch were written by Mosheh Rabbeinu – is apparently heretical. Indeed, this diagnosis is seemingly confirmed by Dr. Shapiro himself in footnote 129, where Dr. Shapiro remarks “For some reason, this is a very rare book; the only copy I was able to locate in the United States is at Yeshiva University.” The reason that this book is very rare is probably this: a heretical book does not gain wide circulation among observant Jewish readers. Thus, “R. Benjamin Ze’ev ben Solomon” should not be granted credence in interpreting the Ibn Ezra.
(iii) Another name on the list is R. Solomon Netter. But Dr. Shapiro notes that R. Solomon Netter’s supercommentary to Deuteronomy 34:6 simply copied the Yad Yemini. Moreover, Dr. Shapiro further notes that R. Solomon Netter’s supercommentary elsewhere actually rejects the Yad Yemini. Namely, R. Netter on Genesis 12:6 and Deuteronomy 1:2 specifically explains the “secret” of Ibn Ezra in kabbalistic terms, and R. Netter explicitly rejects the idea of post-Mosaic additions as heretical falsehood. Apparently, then, R. Solomon Netter copied the Yad Yemini in Deuteronomy 34:6 but did not actually believe the claim of the Yad Yemini, recognizing Yad Yemini to be an absurd heretic.
(iv) Another name on the list of people who think the Ibn Ezra believed in post-Mosaic interpolations is an anonymous student of the Rashba. The source for this information is p. 235 of Dr. Michael Friedlander’s “Essays on the Writings of Abraham Ibn Ezra”. Let’s take a look at what this anonymous student has to say:
“Moses wrote this on his own account; he was not commanded by the Almighty to do so, for it is a remark for no purpose.”
In other words, this anonymous student of the Ibn Ezra simply parroted the textbook case of heresy that the gemara in Sanhedrin 99b attributes to King Menasheh [as per subsection “(i)” above)]. Thus, this anonymous student of the Rashba – who is never actually claimed by the Rashba – was actually a heretic who is to be granted no credence in interpreting the Ibn Ezra.
(v) The list also identifies Ibn Kaspi as having interpreted the Ibn Ezra as believing in post-Mosaic interpolations. But this is contrafactual according to the text of Ibn Kaspi presented at [6] . See p. 4 of download, where Ibn Kaspi presents a kabbalistic elucidation of the Ibn Ezra’s secret. Ibn Kaspi definitely understands the Ibn Ezra to have believed that Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote these verses. [I thank the “Curious Jew” web log for bringing this valuable information to my attention and for benefitting the public by posting the material on the internet.]
(vi) The list also identifies R. Moses Ibn Tibbon as having interpreted the Ibn Ezra to believe in post-Mosaic additions. But an examination of Dr. Shapiro’s reference reveals that we have no actual first-hand evidence from R. Ibn Tibbon to this effect. Rather, R. Ibn Tibbon is *accused* by R. Judah Ibn Mosconi of having attributed heretical post-Mosaic-authorship beliefs to the Ibn Ezra. R. Mosconi himself vociferously denounces such beliefs as falsehood that has been wrongly attributed to the Ibn Ezra. Moreover, R. Mosconi’s comments are themselves only available to us through manuscript, so let’s take a look what Dr. Uriel Simon (in his excellent “Interpreting the Interpreter” article cited by Dr. Shapiro) has to say about the reliability of this manuscript:

“We cannot know whether Mosconi was exaggerating when he said he had seen nearly thirty supercommentaries on Ibn Ezra, but his inclination to inflate their number and denigrate their quality is evident.” (p. 95)

“Mosconi seems to be trying to persuade himself and us that the bio-bibliographical data he took from R. Avishai’s writings are absolutely reliable… It is hard to determine where the uncritical naivite that is swept away after one’s heart’s desire ends and where pseudo-scholarly pretense (some manifestations of which have been exposed by Steinschneider and Friedlaender) begins.” (pp. 96-97)

“…Ta-Shema has refuted all the information Mosconi provides on the matter.” (p. 100)

“While the naïve understanding of this mystery in terms of Maimonidean thought can buttress the attribution of the supercommentary to R. Moses Ibn Tibbon, the basically correct assertion concerning Ibn Ezra’s position on the question of post-Mosaic additions to the Pentateuch reawakens suspicions concerning this attribution… Although it is hard to assume that R. Moses Ibn Tibbon is the father of this critical theory, we may easily suppose that as the author of a supercommentary on Ibn Ezra he felt obliged to respond to and cope with it on a fundamental level.” (pp. 104-105)

In other words, the manuscript of R. Mosconi is not entirely reliable, and it is possible that it misquotes R. Moses Ibn Tibbon regarding the issue of post-Mosaic additions. As a student of the Maimonidean school, R. Ibn Tibbon may have raised the issue of the claim of post-Mosaic additions, but – far from embracing it – would have actually denounced such a claim as presposterous.

Admittedly, Dr. Simon goes on to say (pp. 105-106) that – despite the manuscript’s unreliability and despite the fact that R. Moses Ibn Tibbon was a student of the Maimonidean school – he personally believes there to be a plausible possibility that R. Moses Ibn Tibbon did subscribe to the position that post-Mosaic additions exist in the narrative of the Torah, because such a position is compatible with Maimonides’ understanding of the divine revelation of the Torah. However, by Dr. Simon’s own concession, his assumption on what Maimonides would hold is purely speculative. Dr. Simon apparently freely concedes to the contrary possibility as well:: viz., that pursuant to the plain meaning of the gemara in Megillah 2b regarding “she’ein hanavi rasha’i lichadesh davar me’atah”, Maimonides believed that it is impossible for a prophet after Moses to change anything in the text of a Torah scroll.

Moreover, even in one were to hypothetically override Dr. Simon’s objections about the manuscript’s reliability and argue that R. Mosconi’s manuscript should be granted total credence, all it would establish is that R. Moses Ibn Tibbon thought that the Ibn Ezra believed in post-Mosaic additions, but not R. Ibn Tibbon himself believed in post-Mosaic additions. In other words, R. Ibn Tibbon may have simply been accusing Ibn Ezra of being a heretic, whereas R. Mosconi himself is rushing to the Ibn Ezra’s defence and saying that no – chas vichalilah – the Ibn Ezra never intended to speak of any post-Mosaic additions, and the Ibn Ezra was no heretic, but is rather a Rishon who is one of our ba’alei mesorah.

In summation, then, R. Moses Ibn Tibbon may not have ever said what is attributed to him, may not have believed what is attributed to him, and in any event is certainly disputed by R. Mosconi.

(vii) The list also identifies R. Isaiah of Trani as having believed that the Ibn Ezra accepted the concept of post-Mosaic additions. Here, too, the source for this contention is the manuscript of R. Mosconi. Dr. Simon (pp. 100-101) specifically rejects the plausibility that R. Isaiah of Trani ever said what the R. Mosconi manuscript attributes to R. Isaiah of Trani. Thus, the manuscript should be granted no credence in reporting the position of R. Isaiah of Trani. [Moreover, although it is superfluous in making the point, even if one were to hypothetically override Dr. Uriel’s rejection of the manuscript, the manuscript itself vociferously rejects this position as the meaning of the Ibn Ezra.]

(viii) The list also identifies R. Samson Kino as having believed that the Ibn Ezra accepted the concept of post-Mosaic additions. Here, too, the source for this contention is the manuscript of R. Mosconi. Dr. Simon (p. 102) seriously questions the reliability of the manuscript’s report of R. Kino’s position. He calls the manuscript “not very helpful… we know he did not purchase it, but settled for a hasty examination of a copy he saw in the house of his host in Perpignan…” [Moreover, although it is superfluous in making the point, even if one were to hypothetically override Dr. Uriel’s objections to the manuscript, the manuscript itself vociferously rejects this position as the meaning of the Ibn Ezra.]

(ix) The list also identifies R. Shem Tov ben Joseph Shaprut as having interpreted the Ibn Ezra as believing in post-Mosaic interpolations. The source for this information is p. 223 of Dr. Michael Friedlander’s “Essays on the Writings of Abraham Ibn Ezra”. However, an examination of that reference reveals that R. Shem Tov ben Joseph Shaprut actually contradicts himself on this matter. At one point, he claims the Ibn Ezra believed in post-Mosaic interpolations, but at another, he denies this claim. Indeed, on p. 222, Dr. Friedlander cites R. Shem Tov as explaining that all references in the Ibn Ezra that are incompatible with Chazal are merely posited as a ruse in order “to point out that the Oral Law is based on true and direct tradition, and does not depend on the interpretation of the words of the Law.” In other words, R. Shem Tov is saying that one should pay no attention to anything Ibn Ezra writes when he ostensibly contradicts Chazal; Ibn Ezra only wrote it in order to emphasize that this is the incorrect way Scripture would have been understood if deprived of the true meaning of the Oral Torah. Thus, when – in one place – R. Shem Tov writes that the Ibn Ezra believed in post-Mosaic interpolations, what he may have meant is that this is the way the verse appears in a simple literary manner, but that the truth is that everything was written by Mosheh Rabbeinu as dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu, pursuant to the gemara in Megillah 2b that “she’ein hanavi rasha’i lichadesh davar me’atah”. And this might explain why in a separate context R. Shem Tov denies that the Ibn Ezra believed in post-Mosaic additions.

(x) The list also identifies R. Yedidyah Solomon Norzi and R. Aviad Sar-Shalom Basilea as having interpreted the Ibn Ezra as believing in post-Mosaic interpolations. But (as Dr. Shapiro himself notes), a careful examination of R. Norzi and R. Basilea’s remarks reveals that they do not mention the Ibn Ezra altogether. They simply warn the reader not to believe the heresy of anyone who claims that there are post-Mosaic interpolations in the Pentateuch, such as Genesis 12:6. That is a far cry from actually interpreting the Ibn Ezra as having believed in post-Mosaic interpolations. Quite the contrary: perhaps R. Norzi and R. Basilea mean to say that one should *not* interpret the Ibn Ezra in this manner. Thus, I do not think R. Norzi or R. Basilea belong on the list.

(xi) The list also identifies the anonymous author Avat Nefesh (fourteenth century) as having interpreted the Ibn Ezra to have believed in post-Mosaic interpolations. Let’s take a look at the source of this information: it is a PhD dissertation at Hebrew Union College. Since Hebrew Union College is an institution that transcends the parameters of Orthodox Judaism, one may seriously question whether the information contained in the dissertation poses a challenge to R. Feinstein’s ruling. Moreover, by definition, an anonymous work from the fourteenth century can hardly be regarded as serving as the mesorah of Orthodox Judaism.

(xii) The list also identifies R. Moses ben Judah ben Moses Nearim, R. Azariah dei Rossi, R. Eliezer Ashkenazi and R. Samuel David Luzatto as interpreting the Ibn Ezra as having believed in post-Mosaic interpolations. This identification is definitely accurate, but those four scholars do so in the course of attacking the Ibn Ezra (some more harshly than others). Evidently, according to those four, it is not the authorship of the verses in Pentateuch that is on trial but rather the Ibn Ezra himself. The authorship of the verses is clearly Mosaic; the only question is whether Ibn Ezra was a Rishon or whether he was a heretic who lived in the time of the Rishonim. According to those four, one might question whether Tosafot in Rosh Hashanah 13a and Kiddushin 37b should never have cited the Ibn Ezra altogether, because he might not have been one of the Rishonim. Of the four, though, R. Moses ben Judah ben Moses Nearim is clearly the most apologetic, insisting that Ibn Ezra was fundamentally wrong about a principle of Orthodox Jewish faith but that – nevertheless – Ibn Ezra should be forgiven for his error and still be regarded as “meshi’ach Hashem”. Evidently, he thinks that inadvertent heresy is not as serious as intentional heresy (-which, as Dr. Shapiro discusses in the introduction of his book, is subject to a dispute among the poskim).
Nevertheless, many other commentators did not understand the Ibn Ezra to be asserting that there are post-Mosaic interpolations, and –therefore – did not think that the Ibn Ezra should be slandered as a heretic. Rather, the “secret” of the Ibn Ezra is a kabbalistic secret. “Hanistarot La-Hashem E-lo(k)einu” means that there is no way to know what Ibn Ezra meant by his “secret” – it may be a matter beyond most readers’ understanding. When Ibn Ezra writes in Genesis 12:6 that “vihamakil yidom” – he might simply mean that one should be silent because the secrets of kabbalah should not be widely disseminated to unprepared audiences, as per the mishnah in Chagigah 11b. It is surely on the strength of this alternate kabbalistic approach that Orthodox Jewry does accept the Ibn Ezra as one of the Rishonim who is one of our ba’alei mesorah. Indeed, the obligation to judge a fellow Jew to the side of merit aparently requires taking this approach to the Ibn Ezra – to assume that he was indeed righteous and that Tosafot were correct to cite him.
(xiii) Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan affirms that the Herzog edition of the Tzofnat Pa’aneach – which speaks of post-Mosaic interpolations into the Pentateuch -is the more accurate manuscript.
Likewise, Dr. Shapiro cites R. Eleazar be Mattathias, R. Samuel Motot and R. Solomon Franco as believing that the Ibn Ezra accepted post-Mosaic interpolations. [Dr. Shapiro asserts that the traditional edition of R. Motot’s supercommentary – which omits any reference to post-Mosaic interpolations – has been forged.]
Even so, neither R. Bonfils, R. Eleazar, R. Motot nor R. Franco ever met the Ibn Ezra; none of them ever communicated with the Ibn Ezra, and hence their approach is conjectural. Ta-Shma candidly admits to this in footnote no. 22 of his article (referenced by Dr. Shapiro), where he writes: “ulima’an ha’emet, rasha’i adam lifalpel bisodotav ulifarsham bi’ofanim shonim” – for the sake of honesty, one is authorized to delve into Ibn Ezra’s secrets, and to explain them in various ways, ways totally unrelated to the claim of post-Mosaic interpolations. Indeed, an examination of the source of Dr. Shapiro’s information for R. Franco (viz. the manuscript presented in Dr. Dov Scwartz’ chapter) reveals that R. Franco [or at least the position that the manuscript attributes to R. Franco] was solidly opposed by his contemporary R. Abraham Al-Tabib, precisely on the grounds that it is heretical to assert that a prophet after Moses changed the text of the Sefer Torah. R. Al-Tabib insisted that it was never the Ibn Ezra’s intent to suggest such a heretical notion. [R. Al-Tabib’s words are also described on pp. 113-115 of Dr. Simon’s article.]
The Tzofnat Pane’ach’s fallacious extrapolation from the Targum Hashiv’im, and his neglect to realize the writing of a kosher Sefer Torah is itself a bona fide halakhic subject because it impacts on the mitzvoth di’oraita of Hak’hel as well as Ketivat Sefer Torah [as described in my previous post of Nov. 6], is itself sufficient reason to seriously question whether the position of R. Bonfils, R. Eleazar, R. Motot and R. Franco accurately captures the meaning of the Ibn Ezra. Indeed, do we have any evidence that R. Bonfils, Eleazar, R. Motot or R. Franco are considered to be genuine Rishonim, other than the fact that they wrote supercommentaries on the Ibn Ezra? Perhaps their supercommentaries are not theologically authentic supercommentaries, and thus neither of those four individuals are actually Rishonim, just individuals who happened to live in the time of the Rishonim. I think more research on this subject is needed.
In light of the above, the Ibn Ezra’s oblique reference to a “secret” appears potentially compatible with the ruling of R. Feinstein.

#43 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:25 pm

(22) On pp. 109-110, Dr. Shapiro cites the commentary of R. Yehudah Hachassid – recently published on the basis of manuscripts – to the effect that there were post-Mosaic editorial changes to the Torah scroll. In response: the commentary attributed to R. Yehudah Hachassid is either a forgery (as per R. Feinstein in his Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De’ah III, nos. 114-115) or is indeed authentic but was referring to a separate book that Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote besides the Sefer Torah (as per R. Klein in his Shu”t Mishneh Halakhot XVI, no. 102). Either way, the commentary of R. Yehudah Hachassid is compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling that a Jew must recognize that every single word in our Sefer Torah was dictated to HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinue, with no post-Mosaic changes of words.
Intriguingly, as a potential support to R. Feinstein’s contention that the manuscript is forged, Meir Levin comments as follows at the AishDas website: “This assumption of R. Moshe that an unknown heretic ascribed these views to the reknown R. Yehuda Hachasid received unexpected (and unintended) support when Professor I. Ta Shema published an article in which he identified a little known student of R. Yehuda Hachasid (1240-1160) who apparently held views similar to the ones ascribed to R. Yehuda Hachasid in the manuscript under discussion. He discovered in a manuscript of R. Shlomo ben Shmuel Hatsarfati, a student of various Ashkenazic rabbis in the generation after R. Yehudaj Hachasid and an author of various works extant primarily in manuscript form. In a series of notes on Chumash, he offers similar views in the name of R. Yehuda Hachasid.“ Shlomo ben Shmuel was indeed a heretic, as demonstrated above in section 21.
In any event, for purposes of historical clarity, it is important here to illuminate the interplay between R. Feinstein and R. Klein. Originally, R. Klein’s response to R. Fenstein was published in Shu”t Mishneh Halakhot XII, no. 214, after R. Feinstein had already ascended to the Heavenly academy. R. Klein asserted that he cannot believe that a great scholar like R. Feinstein would accuse the commentary of R. Yehudah Hachassid of being a forgery. Therefore, R. Klein suggested that perhaps R. Feinstein had never written those responsa, and that perhaps someone mistakenly inserted those responsa into R. Feinstein’s writings after R. Feinstein ascended to the Heavenly academy. Subsequently, however, in Shu”t Mishneh Halakhot XVI, no. 102, R. Klein retracts his original claim, and concedes that R. Feinstein’s responsa are indeed authentic, and that the Iggerot Mosheh publishers are trustworthy. Although R. Klein does not elaborate on the reason for his retraction, there seem to be two logical reasons for his doing so:

(a) The expert testimony of Dr. Shnayer Z. Leiman who was personally involved in facilitating the negotiations between R. Feinstein and the publisher of R. Yehudah Hachassid’s commentary. Dr. Leiman is able to affirm from first-hand knowledge that these responsa were indeed written by R. Feinstein.[Dr. Leiman’s lecture on this topic is available at [7] ]
(b) As R. Shabtai Rappaport explains (in his interview at [8] ), Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De’ah vol. III was published during R. Feinstein’s lifetime, and thus there is no way for errant responsa to have entered the work. Indeed, in the unlikely and hypothetical event that an errant responsum would have accidentally entered Yoreh De’ah vol. III, R. Feinstein could have easily issued a public retraction in the next volume of Iggerot Mosheh which was also published in his lifetime: Choshen Mishpat II/Even Ha’ezer IV. Thus, it is evident that the responsa of R. Feinstein are totally authentic.

I must also add that R. Klein only accounts for the comment of R. Yehudah Hachassid regarding Hallel Hagadol. R. Klein is unable to account for the comment of R. Yehudah Hachassid regarding “vi’eleh hemelakhim” and “va’yasem et efrayim lifnei menasheh” (i.e. the two other passages that R. Feinstein identified as heretical). Thus, it seems clear that R. Klein agrees with R. Feinstein that these latter two comments have been forged in the commentary attributed to R. Yehudah Hachassid. R. Klein is available for questioning, and so I welcome any curious interlocutor to approach him.
In summation, the discovery commentary attributed to R. Yehudah Hachassid is potentially compatible with the ruling of R. Feinstein, in the manner explained by R. Feinstein and R. Klein.

#44 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:26 pm

(23) On pp. 109-110, Dr. Shapiro cites the recently published manuscript of R. Avigdor Katz – teacher of the Maharam of Rothenburg – as submitting that post-Mosaic editorial changes were made to our Torah scroll. But as Dr. Shapiro notes, R. Katz (or one of his students) apparently copied the commentary word for word from the manuscript of R. Yehudah Hachassid. Thus, whatever explanation suffices for R. Yehudah Hachassid will suffice for R. Avigdor Katz.

(24) On p. 110, Dr. Shapiro quotes the Moshav Zekenim of the Ba’alei ha-Tosafot as having quoted the Rashbam to that Genesis 36:31-39 was added by a prophet after Mosheh Rabbeinu. However, no such reference appears in the Moshav Zekeinim published by Salamon Sassoon. Dr. Shapiro takes cognizance of this refutation and refers us to Isaac Lange’s manuscript of Moshav Zekeinim, published in the “Hama’ayan” journal of Tammuz 5732. Although the “Hama’ayan” journal archives are available at hebrewbooks.org , that particular volume is missing. Moreover, it seems that the only library in the world which is registered to possess this journal is the National Library of Israel, beyond my travel capacity at the present time. I have contacted hebrewbooks.org and await an answer. In any event, the Lange manuscript is obviously suspect since it is contradicted by Salamon Sassoon’s manuscript. In Dr. Leiman’s lecture on this topic (referenced earlier), he specifically refers to the Sassoon manuscript as being authoritative. This issue should not be confused with the general question of whether newly discovered manuscript evidence (such as the Me’iri) be accepted into halakhic discussion, an important question surveyed by R. Moshe Bleich and referenced by Dr. Shapiro on p. 101. There, there is only one manuscript, but a manuscript which has been concealed from Jewish scholars for centuries. There is room to argue that such a manuscript can be accepted [subject to the limitations outlined by R. Moshe Bleich.] Here, by contradistinction, we have a conflict between manuscripts as to what the Moshav Zekenim actually wrote. Why should Lange’s manuscript be granted greater credence than Sassoon’s manuscript?

(25) On p. 110, Dr. Shapiro cites the Rashbam’s commentary to Numbers 22:1 as evidence that the Rashbam believed in post-Mosaic editorial changes to the Torah scroll. That evidence is effectively addressed by R. Zev Leff in his review of Dr. Shapiro’s book in Jewish Action (summer 2007). In Dr. Shapiro’s counter-response (letter to the editor of Jewish Action, winter 2008), Dr. Shapiro explains that R. Leff is correct according to the standard edition of Rashbam printed in our Chumashim, i.e. the David Rosin edition. However, continues Dr. Shapiro, according to the critical edition of Rashbam published by R. Martin Lockshin in 2001 (“Rashbam’s Commentary on Leviticus and Numbers: An Annotated Translation”), the Rashbam is actually to be translated as follows:
The phrase “across the Jordan” is appropriately written after they [i.e., the Israelites] had crossed [to the west side of] the Jordan. From their point of view the plains of Moab [on the east side of the Jordan] are called “across the Jordan.”

[End of quotation from translation of critical edition]

However, with all due respect, I do not see how this refutes R. Leff. [There are other issues where Dr. Shapiro does refute R. Leff, but this is not one of them.] Even according to this critical edition of the Rashbam, all the Rashbam is saying is that Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote the words “across the Jordan” in prophetic anticipation of what the Jews would experience after they would traverse the Jordan in the Book of Yehoshua. Thus, R. Leff appears entirely correct and so the Rashbam appears compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.

#45 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:28 pm

(26) On pp. 110-111, Dr. Shapiro cites two Rishonim – the Arugat Habosem III (p. 136) and the Rosh (commentary to Nedarim 37b) – who understand “Itur Sofrim” in Nedarim 37b as meaning that the Sofrim altered the text of the Torah scroll by changing “vi’achar ta’avoru” in Genesis 18:5 to “achar ta’avoru”. Dr. Shapiro further observes that the Rosh is quoted by the Meromei Sadesh without objection.
Regarding the Arugat Habosem, Dr. Shapiro correctly notes that he specifically comments that this was done “Al pi kabbalah” – based on tradition. Thus, it emerges that the Arugat Habosem never envisaged the Sofrim as having (chas vishalom) tampered with the text of our Torah scrolls. Rather, the Arugat Habosem simply understood the Sofrim to have corrected a mistake in the Torah scrolls, based on a tradition that was itself revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu. It’s exactly like the case of Mantzipa”kh: The gemara in Megillah 2b-3a explains that Mantzipa”kh was revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu, was later forgotten by Jewish scribes (who consequently erred in the writing of Torah scrolls that were disqualified), and was reinstated by prophets who had the authentic Oral Torah tradition from Mosheh Rabbeinu. [See Iggerot Mosheh, Orach Chaim I, no. 14, for further elaboration.] By the same token, the Sofrim taught the scribes to write “achar ta’avoru”, exactly as it was pristinely revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu.
Insofar as the Rosh is concerned, he does not at all say that the Scribes did anything to change the text of our Torah scroll. Rather, the Rosh explains that the Sofrim taught us according to the mesorah to understand “achar ta’avoru” to actually mean vi’achar ta’avoru” Thus, the Rosh’s explanation of “Itur Sofrim” is analogous to the treatment of “Tikkunei Sofrim” presented above in section (6).
In conclusion, then, although the Arugat Habosem and the Rosh propound different explanations what “Ittur Sofrim” means, they agree that HaKadosh Barukh Hu dictated to Mosheh Rabbeinu the words “achar ta’avoru” (as they are written in our Torah scroll today) and not “vi’achar ta’avoru”.

(27) On p. 111, Dr. Shapiro cites the medieval commentary attributed to Rashi on Nedarim 37b as understanding “Itur Sofrim” to mean that originally the verse was written “ta’avoru achar”, which was later switched by the Sofrim to be written as “achar ta’avoru”. However, an inspection of the actual Rashi (or pseudo-Rashi) reveals that Rashi (or pseudo-Rashi) posits as follows:
“And it is not written ‘ta’avoru achar’, and this is the Ittur [i.e. decoration] that we decorate the statement because this sounds beautiful.”
Thus, Rashi (or pseudo-Rashi) never said that the verse was originally written “ta’avoru achar”. All he said is that it is *not* written “ta’avoru achar” – not now, and not ever. For Rashi (or pseudo-Rashi) then, all “Itur Sofrim” means is that there is a din di’oraita that scribes must write “achar ta’avoru” as a linguistic form that is superior to “ta’avoru achar”. And, presumably, this din di’oraita was revealed by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu.
As such, Rashi (or pseudo-Rashi) is compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.
(28) On p. 112, Dr. Shapiro cites a certain R. Shneur Zalman Dov Anushiski as commenting “Ezra the Scribe also added material to Moses’ Torah as he saw fit”. I cannot presently find R. Anushiski’s book in order to verify this citation, but in other words, R. Anushiski would have no problem identifying any number of sections in the Pentateuch (including the Decalogue, the verse “Vi’ahavta lire’akha kamokha”, or the Shema) as – chas vishalom – pure fabrications of a post-Mosaic author. R. Anushiski is clearly contradicted by the gemara in Megillah 2b-3a regarding “she’ein hanavi rasha’i lichadesh davar me’atah”. It is obvious that R. Anushiski followed in the footsteps of the 250 Sanhedrin heads, Do’eg Ha’adomi and Elisha ben Avuyah, in transcending the parameters of Orthodox Judaism. Thus, R. Anushiski was a heretic who cannot be granted any credence. Indeed, this point is implicitly rendered by R. Yitzchak Blau in the Torah u-Madda Journal 2004 (p. 187), in the latter’s response to Dr. Shapiro’s book.

#46 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:29 pm

(29) On p. 112, Dr. Shapiro cites R. Solomon Zvi Schueck in the latter’s Torah Shelemah as maintaining that Mosheh Rabbeinu indeed wrote the entire Pentateuch, but that the portion of Bilaam was inserted into the Sefer Torah by the “zekenim u’nevi’im” after the Children of Israel entered the land.
First, to appreciate the importance of Dr. Shapiro’s proof, permit me to cite its context: R. Schueck homiletically elaborates upon the custom to appoint three grooms on Simchat Torah: Chatan Torah, Chatan Bereisheet and Chatan Maftir. R. Schueck inquires why the gemara in Bava Batra 14b asserts that Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote the Pentateuch as well as the portion of Bil’am, when the portion of Bil’am is essentially part of the Pentateuch. Similarly, the Yerushalmi at the end of the fifth chapter of Sotah reports that Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote the Pentateuch, and then he wrote Parashat Bil’am. What does this mean? R. Schueck responds that there are actually three parts to the Pentateuch: (i) From the birth of Mosheh Rabbeinu until the end of Vizot Haberakahah, events which the entire People of Israel collectively witnessed and so which the People of Israel obviously knows to be true. (ii) From Bereisheet until the birth of Mosheh Rabbeinu, events which the People of Israel did not collectively witness but which were told to them by their ancestors. And even the creation of the universe itself was witnessed by Adam in the sense that he saw he was created without parents of his own. Since there is a chazakah that our ancestors always tell us the truth, the People of Israel know that these events are all true. (iii) The events of Parashat Balak, which all happened behind the scenes, concealed from the knowledge of the People of Israel. On these events, the People of Israel has no inside information. [Incidentally, this tripartite approach to the Pentateuch already appears in the words of the Shu”t Chatam Sofer, Yoreh De’ah no. 356, and may indeed have been borrowed by R. Schueck from the Chatam Sofer.]
R. Schueck asserts that Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote Parashat Balak in a separate book than the Pentateuch because there was no way for him epistemologically convince the People of Israel of the veracity of its contents [in contradistinction to items (i) and (ii).] But after Yehoshu’a inherited the land of Israel and the borders amazingly corresponded to everything that Mosheh Rabbeinu had predicted, the people realized that Mosheh Emet Vitorato Emet, and so the elders and prophets decided to incorporate Parashat Balak into the Pentateuch. And this is why there are three grooms on Simchat Torah; a Jew is married to the Torah (as per the gemara in Sanhedrin 59a), and there are actually three components to the Pentateuch: (i) – corresponding to the Chatan Torah (“li’eini kol yisra’el” – events that the People collectively witnessed), (ii) – Bereisheet – corresponding to events that were told to our People by their ancestors, (iii) – Maftir – corresponding to the book of Joshua, which is what verified that the portion of Bil’am is true, which inspired the prophets and elders to incorporate Parashat Balak into the Sefer Torah.
Thus, we see that R. Schueck regarded as tenable a post-Mosaic modification of the Sefer Torah.
However, R. Schueck’s contradicts himself elsewhere in his same “Torah Shelemah” book. For, in fact, the entire theme of R. Schueck’s book, as he repeatedly emphasizes, is to demonstrate that our Torah scrolls are letter-perfect, i.e. letter for letter the very same Sefer Torah that HaKadosh Barukh Hu revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu. Thus, by the very creed that R. Schueck professes, there is no way that after the time of Mosheh Rabbeinu the Sefer Torah was editorially changed.
Here’s what R. Schueck writes on page 3b of the Bereisheet volume:
“See and hear! The believer must believe with perfect faith that the Torah which is now in our hands is the Torah which Moses gave to Israel, and from then until now no one had added or subtracted [even so much as] one letter from it…”

Then, on p. 47a, R. Schueck writes:

“And behold in the Torah Shelemah that I set before you today you have merited to see with proofs that are as clear as the sun at midday that anyone who says that the Sages of the Talmud disputed the Masoretic text that is in our hands today is mistaken, and never did the Sages of the Mishnah and Talmud possess before them a different formulation from the formulation that is before us today in any of the twenty-four books of holiness, for the Torah that Moses received at Sinai is the Torah which Moses gave to Joshua without addition or subtraction, and from Joshua until the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah…”

Then, on p. 49a, R. Schueck writes:

“Our mesorah is true, that the Sefer Torah which Moses handed Joshua always was 304,805 letters…”

Then, on p. 126a, R. Schueck writes, in rejecting our edition of Tosafot to the gemara in Shabbat 55a, an edition which has Tosafot clearly declare that there are times when the Talmud disagrees with our Masoretic text:

“A mistaken student wrote these words in the margin of the Talmud, or one of the students of Bil’am wrote this in the margin, and by mistake and with lack of knowledge the printers published these words among the [genuine] words of Tosafot…”

Thus, R. Schueck is actually more stringent than R. Feinstein. R. Feinstein, as discussed in section (1) above, permits a Jew to believe that we are not proficient in the chaseirot and yiteirot [which would, incidentally, account for Tosafot in Shabbat 55a], as long as a Jew recognizes that every single word in our Sefer Torah is the same that HaKadosh Barukh Hu dictated to Mosheh Rabbeinu. But for R. Schueck, this is inadequate. For R. Schueck, an Orthodox Jew must not only recognize that our Sefer Torah is word-perfect (as R. Feinstein rules), but even letter-perfect! [As for the gemara in Kiddushin 30a, R. Schueck advances a brilliant disquisition in which he completely reinterprets that passage in order to uphold his thesis.]

Accordingly, R. Schueck’s novel approach to Parashat Balak is inconsistent with his own thesis. [Parenthetically, it is striking that R. Schueck employs the term “one of the students of Bil’am” on p. 126a, almost alluding as though he is aware of the contradiction in his own work.]

When I presented the question to R. Bleich – particularly since R. Bleich analyzes a responsum of R. Schueck in his own publication (Contemporary Halakhic Problems, Vol. 5, pp. 248-250) – R. Bleich responded as follows by e-mail on Nov. 23, 2009:

“As a matter of halakhah he is wrong on yesiros and chasiros. A Torah scroll will definitely not be removed on that account. He is also wrong as matter of Hilchos De’os regarding bila’am. Why could he have not simply said that after writing that section in [a] separate work[,] Moshe incorporated it in the Torah at the divine command?”

If I understand R. Bleich’s words correctly, the consensus of rabbinic opinion [not to mention R. Schueck’s own overall thesis throughout his own book] rejects the claim of R. Schueck that a post-Mosaic editorial change could be made to the Pentateuch. R. Schueck’s homily about the three grooms is a nice insight, but can be simply adapted to an explanation that Mosheh Rabbeinu himself during his own life incorporated Parashat Balak into the Pentateuch when so instructed by HaKadosh Barukh Hu.

#47 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:30 pm

(30) On p. 112, Dr. Shapiro observes that the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a only brands someone a heretic if he claims that Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote a verse in the Pentateuch at his own human initiative. But there is no evidence from the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a that it is heretical to claim that another prophet wrote a verse in the Pentateuch at the divine command. Thus, the argument is presented that if one believes that prophets after Mosheh Rabbeinu changed the text f the Sefer Torah, this is still compatible with a belief in Torah Min Hashamayim.
In response, I would submit that it is clear from the gemara in Megillah 2b-3a regarding “she’ein hanavi rasha’i lichadesh davar me’atah” that a prophet who would attempt to change the parameters of a mitzvah – including the mitzvah of writing a kosher Sefer Torah – is a false prophet. As such, any prophet who would claim that he received a prophecy to change the text of the Sefer Torah is a false prophet. By definition then, one who thinks that so much as even a word of the Sefer Torah was changed by a prophet after Mosheh Rabbeinu has denied the principle of Torah Min Hashamayim and is a heretic.

(31) On pp. 113-115, Dr. Shapiro presents evidence that Mosheh wrote certain phrases in the Pentateuch at his own initiative. This evidence is effectively countered by R. Leff in his review of Dr. Shapiro’s book in Jewish Action (summer 2007). I would add that the Midrash Hagadol cited by Dr. Shapiro on pp. 114-115 means that, as a reward for his diligent efforts in building the Mishkan, Mosheh Rabbeinu was granted permission to enter the Mishkan and bask in the envelopment of the shekhinah. But the Midrash Hagadol does not necessarily imply that Mosheh Rabbeinu was ever permitted to write anything in the Sefer Torah at his own initiative.

#48 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

And now, let us examine the contents of Dr. Soloveitchik’s article in Turim, Vol. 2:

(32) On p. 242, Dr. Soloveitchik posits “that the composition is that of R. Yehudah he-Hasid there can be little question: there are too many citations from this commentary, specifically attributed to him, in medieval writings to leave room for doubt.”
I would ask for specific sources from medieval writings to prove this. It is true that the medieval Sefer Tzi’yoni does contain the discussion of David Hamelekh taking Hallel Hagadol from Mosheh Rabbeinu. However, that reference is either a mistaken copy from a forgery (as R. Feinstein submits), or is a reference to a separate book that Mosheh Rabbeinu wrote, unrelated to the Pentateuch (as R. Klein submits), as per section 22 above. As for the manuscript of R. Avigdor Katz’ insights, this is addressed in section 23 above. Thus, without further information, I believe that R. Feinstein’s position stands.

(33) On pp. 242-243, Dr. Soloveitchik submits that if an individual were to say “Frankly, I think, Obadiah was a greater prophet [than Moses]. After all, he made it into the Bible on the basis of a single chapter, whereas Moses had to write five books to get in”, he would be regarded as eccentric, but not a heretic. Therefore, concludes Dr. Soloveitchik, a person is only a heretic when he espouses a belief that causes him to leave Orthodox Judaism for a foreign religion that is practiced by the neighbouring non-Jews. Since the non-Jews that neighboured R. Yehudah Hachassid practiced a religion which would not gain any new adherents by a claim of post-Mosaic editorial changes, the claim of post-Mosaic editorial changes was not heretical for R. Yehudah Hachassid.
However, I think we can agree that a person who speaks in the above manner about Obadiah is simply playing a game of semantics, and is not really saying anything substantial, which is why he is not a heretic. By contradistinction, a person who believes in post-Mosaic editorial changes is denying Torah Min Hashamayim, as explained above in section (30) based on the gemara in Megillah 2b-3a, and so is indeed heretic according to Halakhah. As it is inconceivable that R. Yehudah Hachassid espoused a heretical notion, R. Feinstein and R. Klein’s response to the manuscript attributed to R. Yehudah Hachassid appears appropriate.
Indeed, this point is potentially confirmed by Dr. Soloveitchik himself on the penultimate page of his article, where he writes that the commentary attributed to R. Yehudah Hachassid was not actually authored by R. Yehudah Hachassid but by his son, Saltman, who “understood nothing; he had not a glimmer of what underlay any of his father’s interpretations.” In other words, the commentary attributed to R. Yehudah Hachassid should not be granted credence.

#49 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 24, 2009 @ 11:33 pm

In conclusion, then, I think that a survey of the sources marshaled by Dr. Shapiro and Dr. Soloveitchik indicates that R. Feinstein’s ruling (viz. that it is the obligation of a Jew to recognize that every word in our Sefer Torah was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu) enjoys a reasonable and authoritative basis. I wish to emphasize my hakarat hatov to R. Klapper, Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan, Dr. Shapiro and Dr. Soloveitchik, whose erudition and guidance has made this investigation possible. Yi’yasher kochakhem.

#50 Comment By Dovid Shlomo On November 25, 2009 @ 10:12 am

I had difficulty following Rabbi Spira’s logic, as it seems to me that the issue at hand is how to read Ibn Ezra, not what the official position of Judaism should be.

I have the same problem with Rabbi Klapper’s new post, as he seems to be running it through his personal conception of what is acceptable according to his own theological perspective.

As I have tried to stress, the only issue I raise is whether Rabbi Klapper’s original post misrepresents Ibn Ezra’s theology,in light of the preeminent commentary Tzafnas Paneach.

The issue is careful scholarship.

#51 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 25, 2009 @ 10:14 am

With your kind permission, since this a topic of halakhah lima’aseh regarding chovot halevavot, I would like to invest the above conclusion with a language that presents the dogmatic certainty which the subject deserves, for purposes of public education.
Accordingly, to recapitulate the above conclusion: The Halakhah definitively follows R. Feinstein that a Jew is absolutely obligated to recognize the self-evident truth that every single word in our Sefer Torah was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu. The only exception to this is the set of final eight verses in the Sefer Torah, where there is a legitimate divergence of opinions in Bava Batra 15a whether they were also dictated to Mosheh Rabbeinu, or whether – because the Torah is absolute truth and so a living scribe of the Torah cannot truthfully write about his own passing – Mosheh Rabbeinu was given an oral halakhah by HaKadosh Barukh Hu that these verses which complete the writing of a kosher Sefer Torah will be dictated to Yehoshu’a instead, with Yehoshu’a acting as Mosheh Rabbeinu’s specially appointed agent. Furthermore, it is not necessary for an Orthodox Jew to believe that our Torah scrolls are letter-perfect (for it is indeed quite possible that we are not proficient in chaseirot and yiteirot). Rather, it is sufficient for an Orthodox Jew to believe that our Torah scrolls are word-perfect, having been dictated word for word by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu. There has never been any post-Mosaic editorial change to any word in the Sefer Torah: no word has ever been added and no word has ever been subtracted.
Hopefully, with this information, every Jew will be able to fulfill the exhortation of the prophet Chavakuk “vitzaddik be’emunato yich’yeh”, which – as per the gemara in Makkot 24a – encapsulates all 613 commandments of the Torah.
Thank you very much.

#52 Comment By lawrence kaplan On November 29, 2009 @ 11:22 am

I do not know if anyone is still following this exchange, but let me make a few comments.

1. I congratulate my former student, Rabbi Spira for his thorough review of the issue.

2. Rabbi Spira appears to have committed the “No true Scotsman” fallacy. That is, he assumes the point to be proven, namely, that Rav Feinstein’s position on this issue is normative, and therefore he draws the conclusion that anyone who dissents from it cannot be a genuine rishon, but must be a heretic. Rabbi Spira even says that if it could be shown, which he does not believe to be the case, that ibn Ezra (IE) did in fact believe in post-Mosaic additions, then he could no longer be considered to be a genuine rishon. WADR, that way madness lies.

3 Perhaps with regard to IE’s comment on Gen. 12.6 one could with difficulty offer another explanation as to what the sod might be. But from his comment on Deut. 1.3, “be-ever hayrden” it is as clear as day that the sod there is the existence of post-Mosaic additions, and any other explanation regarding supposed kabbalistic secrets is so so strained as to be simply unbelievable.

#53 Comment By Shalom Spira On November 30, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

I am very grateful to Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan for his kind words and for his insightful response. The formidable concerns that he raises are indeed correct and deserve careful halakhic consideration. Yet R. Feinstein did believe that the Ibn Ezra was on his side; he specifically cites the Ibn Ezra as the posek upon whom he is relying in demanding that the alleged commentary of R. Yehudah Hachassid be censored.
The issue at hand is as weighty an issue as could ever be discussed in the pages of Tradition: we are dealing with the very essence of what Orthodox Judaism means.
Accordingly, I have asked my contact in Eretz Yisra’el, Yonasan Sigler of the Kollel Iyun Hadaf (www.dafyomi.co.il) to urgently present this question before R. Joseph Shalom Eliashiv. I think it is legitimate to consult R. Eliashiv’s opinion on this matter for two reasons:

(a) He is one of the scholars to whom R. Feinstein addressed the original alarm call that R. Yehudah Hachassid’s alleged commentary is a forgery that is endangering the spiritual welfare of the public.
(b) He is reputed to be a kabbalist, and so perhaps he can offer a better account that I regarding the Ibn Ezra’s “secret of the twelve”.

Thank you very much for patiently waiting whatever amount of time this consultation process will take.

#54 Comment By S. Holtz On December 2, 2009 @ 9:03 am

For additional historical perspective on precisely this question, see Richard C. Steiner, “A Jewish Theory of Biblical Redaction from Byzantium: Its Rabbinic Roots, Its Diffusion and Its Encounter with the Muslim Doctrine of Falsification,” Jewish Studies Internet Journal 2 (2003), 123-167. A permanent link to the article is available at the following URL: [9].

#55 Comment By Shalom Spira On December 2, 2009 @ 6:03 pm

Yi’yasher kochakha to S. Holtz for presenting the illuminating new source written by Dr. Steiner.
If I may summarize Dr. Steiner’s excellent article as it pertains to our halakhic discussion, we find that the article makes the following points, to be designated A, B, C and D:

(A) Dr. Steiner reports substantial evidence regarding textual emendations that the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah effectuated in various books of the Prophets and Hagiographa.
My personal analysis is that this substantial evidence identified by Dr. Steiner is entirely consistent with R. Feinstein’s ruling. R. Feinstein affirms the authenticity of the Masoretic text of our Sefer Torah, but is certainly amenable to editorial changes having been orchestrated to the Prophets and Hagiographa. Cf. points (2) and (7) above, where I apply this to the Book of Esther and the Book of Zechariah, respectively.

(B) Dr. Steiner reports that the dots on words in the Sefer Torah are taken by one non-halakhic source to indicate a doubt that Ezra entertained whether the words belong in the Sefer Torah. This non-halakhic source is identified by Dr. Steiner on p. 139 in footnote no. 49 as “De Lange, Greek Jewish Texts, 95 (3 recto 11-3)”. The non-halakhic source states as follows in its Commentary on Genesis and Exodus (at Genesis 33:4):

“Why is וישקהו dotted? Some say that Ezra found a manuscript in which (the word) was written and another in which it was not written, and so he dotted it, and if you take it (the word) out, the verse is not detached from its plain meaning. And so it is with all of the dotted words (in Scripture).”

By contradistinction, continues Dr. Steiner on pp. 140-141, the rabbinic sources regard the dots as a sign that the text belongs, but that it should be interpreted in a special way. In Dr. Steiner’s words, the rabbinic tradition teaches that the dots cast aspersion “not about the correctness of the text but about its literal truth or about the sincerity of the action it describes” [E.g. Esav did not kiss Jacob sincerely, or – alternatively (to the converse extent) – Esav experienced an uncharacteristic moment of repentance and therefore kissed Jacob.]
This certainly confirms what I wrote in point (6) above. Accordingly – as further elucidated in point (6) – there was no actual need for R. Feinstein to take umbrage at R. Joshua Falk’s interpretation of Ezra’s soliloquy in Avot Di-Rabbi Natan, for R. Falk and R. Feinstein are actually saying the very same thing. They both agree that every single word in our Sefer Torah was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu to Mosheh Rabbeinu. Thus, Dr. Steiner’s treatment of the dots on the Sefer Torah is fully consistent with R. Feinstein’s ultimate ruling. Although the one non-halakhic source Dr. Steiner quotes does contradict R. Feinstein’s ruling, this is of no concern to Orthodox Jewish theology, which gleans its information from halakhic sources.

(C) On pp. 148-149, Dr. Steiner cites the Radak in his commentary to II Samuel 15:21 regarding kri u’khtiv. [Actually, this information is also correctly marshalled by Dr. Shapiro on p. 101 in ch. 7 of his own book “The Limits of Orthodox Theology”. I apologize that I neglected to ever relate to this Radak in point (10) above. I will now make restitution for that omission.]
The Radak, as translated by Dr. Steiner, states that:

“As for these words, which are written but not read or read but not written, as well as that which is written and read (differently), it seems that in the first exile books were lost and moved around, and the scholars who knew Scripture died, and the men of the Great Assembly who restored the Torah to its original state found disagreement among the extant manuscripts, and they followed the majority in (dealing with) them, in accordance with their understanding. And in places where their understanding did not attain clarity, they wrote one thing but did not point it, or they wrote it outside but not inside, or they wrote one thing inside (in the text) and another outside (in the margin).”

The Radak offers the above remarks in his commentary on Na”kh (and specifically in reference to the first appearance of the word “Im” in II Samuel 15:22) and not in his commentary on the Torah, apparently indicating that the Radak is only referring to the kri u’khtiv of the Prophets and Hagiographa. After all, if the Radak had intended to claim that there are words in the Sefer Torah itself whose Masoretic authenticity is questionable, then the Radak should have offered these remarks in his treatment of the Pentateuch, on the very first kri u’khtiv that appears in the Pentateuch. Indeed, this supposition that Radak refers only to Na”kh is seemingly confirmed in the fact that the Radak combines his analysis of kri u’khtiv with ktiv vilo kri and kri vilo ktiv. The latter two phenomena only exist in the Prophets and Hagiograpaha, *not* the Pentateuch. Thus, it makes sense to assume that the Radak refers only to the Prophets and Hagiographa. The Me’iri, by contradistinction [whose approach is explained in point (10) above] specifically advises his reader that he will be addressing the Pentateuch in addition to the Prophets and Hagioagrapha, and therefore that one should by aware that the 2 anomalies of kri vilo ktiv and ktiv vilo kri do not exist in the Pentateuch. Thus, the Radak appears consistent with R. Feinstein’s ruling.

However, for the sake of intellectual honesty, I must add that I do not know whether the article itself would agree with my reading of the Radak. I say this because of one sentence that the article proffers on p. 150:

“Thus, one suspects that the words אנשי כנסת הגדולה שהחזירו התורה לישנה מצאו מחלוקת בספרים may be Radaq’s expansion of ג’ ספרים מצא עזרא.”

On the one hand, the article might simply be positing that just as the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah adjudicated the validity of three Torah scrolls – as cited in Mesekhet Sofrim 6:4 [and as explained in point (13) above] – so too the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah took upon themselves the task of correcting the extant manuscripts of Prophets and Hagiographa. If so, the article is not contradicting my understanding of the Radak, and is therefore consistent with R. Feinstein’s ruling

Nevertheless, one might alternatively interpret the article as understanding the Radak to maintain that even in the Sefer Torah itself the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah entertained doubts regarding the authenticity of its Masoretic text of the words. Such a reading of the Radak would contradict R. Feinstein’s ruling that one must believe that our Sefer Torah is word-perfect. The basis for this alternative reading of the Radak is the Radak’s comment that the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah “restored the Torah to its original state”.

In my opinion, I do not think that the Radak actually meant to assert with his phrase “shehecheziru ha-Torah li’yoshnah” that the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah discovered doubts regarding the legitimacy of any of the words in our Sefer Torah. In addition to the considerations raised earlier (viz. that the Radak makes this comment only in Na”kh and not in Chumash, as well as the Radak’s equation of kri u’khtiv with kri vilo ktiv and ktiv vilo kri which is only relevant to Na”kh), I would observe that the Radak says in context “Anshei Knesset Hagedolah shehechizru ha-Torah li’yoshanah matz’u machaloket basefarim”; there is a letter “sheen” at the beginning of “shehecheziru”. The Radak is apparently simply explaining who the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah are – what is their background. If the Radak actually meant that the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah discovered problems with the legitimacy of the Masoretic text of the Pentateuch, then the Radak should seemingly have omitted the “sheen” and instead have written “Anshei Knesset Hagedolah hecheziru ha-Torah li’yoshnah umatz’u machaloket basefarim…” [-adding a “vav” to “matz’u”]. I.e., while attempting to restore the authentic Masoretic text of the Torah scroll, the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah discovered insoluble doubts.

Accordingly, it would seem to me that the Radak is compatible with R. Feinstein’s ruling.

D) There is one further topic of interest in Dr. Steiner’s article, which – while peripheral to the article – is central to the halakhic discussion of R. Feinstein’s ruling. In footnote no. 117, Dr. Steiner writes that “This is not the place to deal with Ibn Ezra’s use of the expression והמשכיל ידום (cf. Amos 5:13) in his commentary to Gen 12:6…”
Indeed, the Ibn Ezra’s views on the authenticity of the Masoretic text lie at the very heart of this halakhic discussion. Accordingly, I hope we will soon hear a response from R. Eliashiv, as indicated in my previous post (Nov. 30).

#56 Comment By Aharon Cassel On December 8, 2009 @ 4:18 am

I read your very interesting article and the responses and would like to make three comments in the meantime.

1. The issues brought up are very important to Jews today.

2. There’s a great drash (I don’t remember who wrote it) on the verse
ויהי ריב בין רעי מקנה אברם ובין רעי מקנה לוט והכנעני והפרזי אז ישב בארץ:
It says that the Canaanites and Perizzites were then dwelling in the land to stress that they were dwelling in the land together in peace with one another, but the shepherds of Abraham and Lot could not manage to do that.

3. In his article in the Israeli magazine “Shabbaton” on parshat Vayishlach, R. Yuval Sherlo tackles the very same issues being tackled in your post. He discusses whether today the Rabbis should deal with the post-Mosaic belief conflict raised by the verse
ואלה המלכים אשר מלכו בארץ אדום לפני מלך מלך לבני ישראל:
and Ibn Ezra’s comments on it.
He says that the policy of not dealing with the issue is not a good one for two reasons. Firstly, many people encounter the issue only when they are young men or women and are not equipped to deal with it, and then lose faith in their Rabbis. He writes that many students feel they’ve been duped and the Rabbis have concealed from them true faith by burying complex questions deep in the ground. Secondly, we are demanded to believe with open eyes not shut eyes. When there is a big question, true faith is strengthened by a tough meaningful answer. We are not allowed to hide anything of G-d’s true Torah. Doing so is deviating from the path of the Chachamim and Rishonim. They didn’t conceal – they asked, they struggled with the issues and found answers.

#57 Comment By Aharon Cassel On December 12, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

Shalom once more. I would like to make several more comments on this blog.

1. There are three areas which have caused dispute as to the “correct” text of the Torah:
a. the differences in the three formulations of the Torah: the traditional, the Samaritan and the Hebrew original of the Greek translation
b. the changes introduced intentionally by Soferim: Itturei Soferim and Tikkunei Soferim, changes such as those described by Ibn Ezra and Yehudah He-Chasid (as in this blog), and the kri/ketiv family of changes as stated by Radak and Aphodi. [By the way, R Spira refers us to Radak’s comment in Samuel II (repeated in his introduction to Prophets) and says Radak’s comments on kri/ketiv do not refer to the Torah, but Abarbanel says Radak’s comments refer to the Torah]
c. text transmission problems (mainly, but not only malei/chaser)

2. The differences between the two texts of the Torah in use today (the Ashkenazi/Sephardi and the Yemenite) result only from transmission problems. The Yemenite method was to always copy from the one correct master-copy (the Aleppo Codex). The Ashkenazi/Sephardi method was, in every place in the text where there is a dispute between scrolls, to go according to the majority of available authoritative scrolls. The Ramah (Abulafia) was the father the Ashkenazi/Sephardi text, with the Or Torah and Minchat Shai putting the polishing touches to his work. It’s important to note what disarray the text of the Torah was in, in the days of the Ramah. He writes in his introduction to Masoret Seyag Letorah:
“ספרים מוגהים בידינו גם הם נמצאו בהם מחלקות רבות ולולי המסרות שנעשו סייג לתורה כמעט לא מצא אדם ידיו ורגליו במחלקות … ואם יאמר אדם לכתוב ס”ת כהלכתו ילקה בחסר וביתר ונמצא מגשש כעור כאפלת המחלקות … ואני מאיר הלוי … וללכת אחרי הישנים הנאמנים ולנטות בהם אחר הרוב”
He settles thousands of disputes over predominantly (but not only) malei/chaser.

3. I have not seen a treatment of how and when the various Ashkenazi and Sephardi versions coalesced into one. If anybody can refer me to such a treatment I would appreciate it.

4. There are two articles I recommend reading on the faith issue of this blog:
• האידיאה בדבר קדושת הנוסח לאותיותיו וביקורת הטקסט, מאת מנחם כהן
His discussion of the three “types” of text of the Torah in use towards the end of Second Temple times and his discussion of the texts of the Torah in various locations (Israel, Babylon, Spain, Ashkenaz) in the Middle Ages, are particularly illuminating.
• Encounters between Torah min Hashamayim and Biblical Criticism, by Ilana Goldstein Saks. She discusses how four contemporary thinkers handle this encounter: Rabbi David Tzvi Hoffmann, Rabbi Mordechai Breuer, Rabbi David Weiss Halivni and Dr. Tamar Ross.

5. Each of today’s leading Rabbis determines his policy on whether, and how, to grapple publicly with the problems of faith raised by the proposition that parts of the Torah are post-Mosaic. His policy is determined by his theological, religio-political and sociological framework.

6. R. Feinstein forbade (unsuccessfully) the publication of R. Yehudah He-Chasid’s commentary to the Torah, and after it was published, wanted to burn the whole book. All this was because of a few dubious references in the commentary to post-Mosaic changes to the Torah (see R. Feinstein’s answers nos. 114 and 115). Following Haym Soloveitchik’s idea, the reason for R. Feinstein’s vehement reaction to the commentary is that he saw it in the framework of the twentieth century and orthodox Jewry’s battle with the Documentary Hypothesis and with the Reform/Conservative approach to Torah min hashamayim. If some famous twelfth century or twentieth century Rabbi would have written that G-d created the whole universe except black holes, R. Feinstein would not have had such an extreme reaction, but would have dismissed it as weird. And this, even though such a proposition goes against Rambam’s first principle as much as R. Yehudah He-Chasid goes against his eighth.

Unlike R. Feinstein, the Tzitz Eliezer and R.Sherlo, for instance, are definitely in favour of publicising the comments of Ibn Ezra and R. Yehudah He-Chasid and dealing with the issues they raise.

7. Another point to be taken into account by the Rabbis in their decision whether to publicise the issue or not, is from whom are they trying to conceal it. With twenty-first century communications, the “secret” is going to get out. This is true even for charedi Rabbis trying to conceal it from their communities. As R. Sherlo points out, concealing it is wrong in principle and, in the long run, harmful in practice.

Furthermore, any “baal habayit” who learns the secret is faced with the choice of propagating it or not. Many will choose to propagate it.

8. Ibn Ezra and R. Yehudah He-Chasid wrote their comments in the framework of the 11-12th centuries and the surrounding cultures in their localities. R. Spira judges them from the perspective of 21st century Orthodoxy, for instance when he says “thus, giving Ibn Ezra the benefit of the doubt, it can be assumed that the Ibn Ezra was an Orthodox Jew who is indeed one of the Rishonim (and therefore one of our ba’alei mesorah), as befits someone who is quoted by Tosafot”. This is inappropriate time-wise and culture-wise. It is also inappropriate to view the issue purely through the spectacles of Halachah. R. Spira strains to, one by one, dismiss and explain away many Rishonim and Achronim who do not agree with R. Feinstein’s halachic ruling. One can be surprised that various Rishonim had certain views but one should not bend over backwards to try to deny they had those views because it goes against what is politically correct today in certain circles.

#58 Comment By Shalom Spira On December 13, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

Typographical correction to my previous post: nine lines from the end, the line should read

“cannot receive a commandment to change even the slightest detail (e.g. Mantzipa”kh)”

Thank you very kindly.

#59 Comment By לימודי הנדסת מחשבים On April 30, 2013 @ 6:06 pm

I do not know whether it’s just me or if perhaps everyone else experiencing problems with your website. It appears as though some of the text within your content are running off the screen. Can somebody else please comment and let me know if this is happening to them as well? This could be a problem with my web browser because I’ve had this happen previously.
Many thanks


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[3] http://www.torahleadership.org: http://www.torahleadership.org/

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[6] : http://www.seforimonline.org/seforimdb/pdf/236.pdf

[7] : http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/725856/Dr._Shnayer_Leiman/Torah_Min_Hashamayim:_Recent_Perspectives_on_the_Divine_Origin_of_Torah

[8] : http://www.hods.org

[9] : http://www.biu.ac.il/js/JSIJ/2-2003/Steiner.pdf

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