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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shlach and Kavod Hatorah

In scholarly journals, the first citation of an individual's name is complete: Mr./Dr./Professor/Rabbi/Cantor Ploni Baumvulshpinner. Thereafter, the citation is only to the surname-- Baumvulshpinner. Some Modern Orthodox scholarly journals adhere to this protocol as well, which is why we often see citations to Karelitz, Soloveitchik, Kotler, Kamenetsky, and Feinstein.

I have always found this unpleasant, certainly not kevod hatorah, perhaps even bizayon hatorah. Yes, it is the standard form of citation in scholarly papers and journals, but I felt that because in our tradition one always refers to an Adam Gadol by his given name and with an honorific (Sanhedrin 82a and 100a and the Margalios Hayam on Sanhedrin 102a; Bamidbar Rabba 18:7; Shemos Rabba 52:2; Shmuel I:20; Sotah 35a* ), to not do so was just another example of a mah yafiskideh aping (aping: shameless mimicry, often with absurd result; Yiddish- Nochmachen vi a malpeh) of foreign manners and mores. Like saying imitatio dei instead of ve'halachta bidrachav.

BUT, eventually I realized how unfair and provincial a criticism this is. In this week's parsha we actually find that Moshe Rabbeinu's own brother in law, one of his greatest disciples, does exactly this: see Rashi in Bamidbar 13:30. From here we see that this form of referring to Gedolei Yisrael has an ancient provenance among the Jews.

*Mar'ei me'komos credit to Beis Aharon from R. Aharon Maggid, NY tof shin choph zayin, vol 4 p. 265.

Here is another example: The leader of the Shevet of Shimon, also refers to Moshe Rabbeinu by his last name: The Gemara in Sanhedrin 82a says that Zimri ben Salu, the Nasi of the tribe of Shimon. and no doubt an honorable man, called Moshe Rabbeinu "Ben Amram."

Coincidentally, Rabbi Yitchok Adlerstein just posted an article on a similar topic: the monstrous and, ultimately, sterile Chimera created by the application the methodology and attitudes of modern scholarly analysis to issues of Hashkafa and halacha.
And for you horror buffs-- for a skin-crawling experience, here's a download of a recent article that illustrates the problem of iconoclasts masking as preservationists- ironically, Kalev's strategy employed in pursuit of exactly the opposite result.
The basic idea is that Rashi, nebach neither a historian nor a scholar of Greek or Latin, didn't understand the Gemara, the Amora'im didn't understand the Tana'im, and the Tana'im didn't have clue as to the sociological mileu of the Dor Hamidbar and therefore misunderstood Moshe Rabbeinu, and really, Hashem also probably didn't really mean a lot of what He said literally, so in the name of intellectual honesty we, the enlightened, really ought to toss 90% of the mesora in favor of scientific analysis of what happened on Har Sinai, and the fact that we don't is only out of bemused loyalty to Klal Yisrael's quaint habits. I, on the other hand, think that the idea that interpretation and application of a religion is best left to its most loyal practitioners is so elementary that even a sheigitz like Augustine understood it-- "Securus judicat orbis terrarum". Or, as GB Shaw once said, there is such a thing as a fundamental rectitude that can bear any quantity of superficial aberrations.


Anonymous said...

And as we know It was meant as an insult do say Moshe was nothig himself but a Ben Amram, but then again there are gemara's that do the same thing but include Moshe?

Anonymous said...

Like the Gemara in Nedarim:
דרש רבא ואמרי לה אמר ר' יצחק מאי דכתיב (חבקוק ג) שמש ירח עמד זבולה שמש וירח בזבול מאי בעיין והא ברקיע קביעי מלמד שעלו שמש וירח מרקיע לזבול ואמרו לפניו רבונו של עולם אם אתה עושה דין לבן עמרם אנו מאירים ואם לאו אין אנו מאירי
Then the Yidden said it By Kriyas Yam SUf "ein Lanu Rak MOshe BEn AMram"

Barzilai said...

6:10, I prefer to do the dai le'chakima thing.

7:18, considering the implication of our Rashi, I am confident that there was a specific reason his name was ellided and only his father was mentioned in that story. What that reason is, I don't know. Yet. And I'm only talking about dropping his given name and using ONLY Ben Amram. Otherwise, his full name is used to show that his father was also a tzadik. Anyway, that's why I just put in a list of proofs to my premise. The Medrashim I bring say it be'feirush.

Rabbi Doctor G said he enjoyed the post but it is wrong. Ve'ha raya, the Abarbenel, Mizrachi, Ibn Ezra, Abudraham, and Sforno. I say, close, but no cigar. Besides the clear rayos I listed, the kashe is not shver at all. Those names refer not to the individuals but rather to the sefarim they wrote. It's no different than calling Rabbi Yisrael Kagan the Chafetz Chaim. The Abarbanel wrote the Pirush Harav Abarbanel on whatever, so we refer to him as the Abarbanel. Proof: we don't say Abarbanel. We add the article "the..." It's The Abarbanel, not Abarbanel.

Anonymous said...

Ben Sira.

Barzilai said...

The thing with those Sfardim is that their pirushim didn't have good names. They just called them Pirush on Chumash, Pirush on Rashi, and so forth. So their personal names came to refer to their Sefarim. One exception I can think of is the Alshich, whose pirush on Chumash is called, like the Chasam Sofer's, Toras Moshe. I suppose saying "The Toras Moshe says..." was too strange, so we ended up using Alshich.

Anonymous said...

They could have called him the Tomo. If it works for the yeshiva...

Anonymous said...

Ben Sira is Because his genealogy is questioned SInce He was born through ancient IVF (vhamaskil Yavin)

great unknown said...

Same with Avuha d'Shmuel, which seems to be an even greater denigration, but was necessary for yichus issues.

Barzilai said...

I hear the pshat with Ben Sira. Minor correction: it wasn't, IVF, where both zygotes are joined outside the body. It was AI. And I don't know that Avuha De'Shmuel is such a denigration; Bra mezakeh Abba; a son's accomplishments are attributed to his father, whereas Abba lo mezakeh Bra in spiritual matters.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the wrong use of terminology But isint that the teshuvah that Reb Moshe used it for?My idea was taken from
The Magid Mishna raises the possibility of a child born as the result of something other than a normal sexual act. He cites sources that note that Ben-Sira, the author of one of the works of the Apocrypha from the Second Temple period, was said to have been conceived when his mother took a bath in water that had previously been used by his father. As such there was seemingly no one to take credit for having performed the mitzva of pru u'rvu. However, the Magid Mishna notes that the Beit Shmuel takes up this topic and is initially unsure if the father can claim to have fulfilled the mitzva. Ultimately, the Beit Shmuel notes that Ben-Sira was considered to be a legitimate (non-bastard) child and was obligated to respect the man who was his father, even though he was not actively involved in the conception.

Barzilai said...

Yes, of course you are right! I agree that is the basis of calling him Ben Sira. I was just correcting the terminology. IVF stands for in vitro fertilization, which involves taking the reproductive cells from the father and the mother and combining them in a laboratory dish, and then implanting the fertilized eggs into the mother. Ben Sira was a case of artificial insemination, where the male reproductive cells were left in the mikva and entered the mother's body where they fertilized her.