Individual Postings 1st appeared(& were copied in html form) on the Email List Mail Jewish

From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@saber.towson.edu> Date: Sun, 11 Jun 2000 23:00:32 -0400 (EDT) Subject: RE: The Style of the Mesorah I would like to answer 2 arguments made by Ben Katz in mj-v32n33 about the Mesorah. First Ben states that "The idea (I had cited 5 rishonim for this) that the Biblical text wasn't changed but rather that the Sages enumerated texts that LOOK as if they should read otherwise, this idea, is the standard apolegetic response--the truth is that these text were too anthromorphic and hence they were changed..." Actually ANTHROPOMORPHISM could not be the reason for the change since the Bible abounds with literally 100s of anthropomorphic statements about God which have not been changed (eg "God was upset", "I have changed my mind about the creation of man", "If people will be shocked I (God) too will be shocked"). Indeed compare the Talmudic statement "And now leave me alone (Said by God to Moses) and I will destroy them (Said after the sin of the Golden calf)". The Talmud says that Moses grabbed God by the collar and refused to let him go till God forgave them. Thus I don't see how ANTHROMORPHISM could be a reason for this alleged change. More importantly Ben cites numerous texts that seem to explicitly say that the Sages changed the text of the Bible in these 18 cases. What Ben doesn't realize is that IT IS NORMAL STYLE FOR THE MESORAH TO INDICATE POSSIBLE SOURCES OF CONFUSION BY USING LANGUAGE THAT ON FIRST READING SUGGESTS VARIANT READINGS. Once one realizes this it becomes apparent that the strong language arguments that Ben uses are not relevant.Let me give a simple example. For example on Ex16-34 it says "As God commanded TO Moses". But The normal phrase for commands in the Bible is "As God commanded ETH Moses" To avoid the possible error that a scribe would change the word "TO", a typical Mesorah would say on this verse "NO(Les)" or "SOME THINK ETH (svirin eth)" These mean as follows: "NO"="NO OTHER EXCEPTION (But this one is an exception)"; similarly "SOME THINK ETH" means "YOU MIGHT THINK IT SHOULD SAY ETH BUT THIS IS WRONG". The fact that these are the correct interpretations can be inferred from the numerous verses on which such mesorahs occur. I could go on and give lists but the main point is that the mesorah has adopted a very terse shorthand for indicating verses WHICH YOU MIGHT THINK HAD AN ERROR CREPT IN. Since this style is normal for the mesorah it would follow that no inference can be drawn from the language the mesorah used (eg "the fixings of the scribes"). In fact that is why the Minchat Shai brought down the half dozen authorities who state that no one ever changed the Biblical text. Hope this clarifies this Russell Jay Hendel;Phd ASA RHendel@Towson.Edu; Math Towson Moderator Rashi is SImple http://www.shamash.org/rashi/