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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Breishis 3:1 Ahf Ki Amar Elokim

A3:1. Af ki amar Elokim, the Nachash. The Chasam Sofer here brings the Medrash Rabbah here (19:2) that says that four began with ‘Ahf’, and were destroyed with the Ahf of Hashem. They are the Nochosh (Ahf ki omar Elokim), the Sar Ha’ofim (Ahf ani b'chalomi), the Adas Korach (Doson and Avirom's Ahf gam bonu dibbeir Hashem), and Haman (Ahf lo hevi'oh Esther). He points out that the way to remember this is the Mishna in Bameh Beheima (Shabbos 51b,) that says “Hana’ako bechatom”. The Gemora asks what a Na’ako is, and explains that it is a female camel, and that the Mishneh is saying that a female camel may be allowed to go out on Shabbos with a nose ring, and there is no problem of shvisas b'heimoh, which limits what an animal owned by a Jew may carry on Shabbos. The question is, why did the Mishneh use such an obscure terms? He explains that Na’ako also stands for Nochosh, Ofim, Korach, and Haman; and the chatom is its nose (its 'ahf'). So the words Na’ako bechatom incorporate the whole medrash.

I am torn between thinking on the one hand that the tzushtell is just an amazing coincidence, and, on the other hand, recognizing that the Tannah of the Medrash must at least have had the Mishnah in mind, and possibly the Tannah of the Mishnah might have had the Medrash in mind. Pshat in the Medrash, as far as I know, just means that the word ‘Ahf’ was a foreshadowing (pihem hichshilom) of Hashem’s charon af, like one of the Meforshim there says.

I think, in the end, that this shows that as we learn the words of Chazal, we are sailing an ocean, skimming unfathomable depths to which we remain oblivious.

 ויאמר אל האשה אף כי אמר אלקים אמר רבי חנינא בן סנסן ארבעה הן שפתהו באף ונאבדו באף ואלו הן נחש ושר האופים ועדת קורח והמן נחש (בראשית ג) ויאמר אל האשה אף שר האופים (שם ח) אף אני בחלומי עדת קרח (במדבר ד) אף לא אל ארץ המן (אסתר ה) אף לא הביאה אסתר

By the way, as far as I could tell, our baal memra,  רבי חנינא בן סנסן, appears nowhere else, not him and not any סנסן.