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From: rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel) Date: Wed, 18 Dec 1996 11:55:49 -0500 Subject: Commentaries on Variant Biblical Readings Akiva Miller (V25n44) writes >>Isn't is ironic? The margins of every Gemara are packed with loads of >>variant readings to help the student be sure of reading the gemarrah >>correctly. ... The vast majority of Chumashim offer absolutely no >>information about their sources and decisions.... Actually there are 2 excellent commentaries on Textual minutae. 1) MESORAH GEDOLAH and KETANAH: This is a rather technical commentary printed in very small font and listed in many Chumasim. It gives lists of similar or contrasting Posookim from which one can infer correct texts. The MESORAH itself is technical; the Minchath Shai is semi Midrashic. 2) MINCHATH SHAI: This is an actual Bibilical Commentary which quotes Mesorahs and/or variant texts and tries to arrive at correct readings. Very often however it skillfully uses Midrashim to defend correct readings. For example: There are 4 people who were called by citing their name twice: ...And (the angel) said Abraham, Abraham (Gen 22:11), And (God) said Yaakov, Yaakov(Gen 46,2), ...and (God) said Moses Moses(Ex 3:4), ...and (God) called Shmuel, Shmuel (Sam 1:3:10) The Mesorah lists these 4 times so that we shouldn't err into thinking that the repeated name is a "typo". The Mesorah also discusses the pause sign between the two names (a vertical line in the text which I have indicated with a comma in the above citations). The pause sign however occurs only for Abraham, Yaakov and Shmuel but not for Moses. The Minchath Shai on Ex 3:4 cites several Midrashim and a Zohar to explain the absence of the Pause sign for "Moses Moses": "Moses' prophecy never ceased (= paused) hence there is no pause sign; the other 3 however were ordinary prophets who eventually ceased having prophecies." This example gives a flavor for the type of information guarded by the Mesorah, how it is guarded as well as how a technical domain can flower into Midrashic insights. Unfortunately, I must agree with Akiva that it is "ironic" that even many Mikraoth Gedoloth editions lack the Michath Shai. As a Baal Koray I warmly recommend it. I have spent many Friday nights enjoyably reading the Minchath Shai and discovering how technical points which I must memorize are connected with elegant Midrashic ideas. Russell Jay Hendel, Ph.d., ASA, rhendel @ mcs drexel edu