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Friday, August 12, 2011

Va'eschanan, Devarim 6:13. Honoring Hashem and Talmidei Chachamim

"את ה' אלוקיך תירא"  tells us that we must fear Hashem, and that our behavior must reflect that fear.  For example, the Mishna Berura in 215:20 says that because of this passuk, one who casually enunciates Hashem's name, one who says Hashem's name in a manner that evinces a lack of fear and awe of Hashem, transgresses an issur De'Oraysa.   (I mention this to anticipate the argument that the passuk only discusses the emotion, and that an act is merely a symptom of a lack of fear.  From here we see that the passuk (as a whole) addresses equally heart, mind, and action.)

This passuk is the subject of a famous difference of opinion between Shimon (or Nechemiah) Ha'Amsoni and Rebbi Akiva.  This is in several places in Shas, and the first in Kiddushin 57a.

שמעון העמסוני ואמרי לה נחמיה העמסוני היה דורש כל אתין שבתורה כיון שהגיע (דברים ו) לאת ה' אלהיך תירא פירש אמרו לו תלמידיו רבי כל אתין שדרשת מה תהא עליהם אמר להם כשם שקבלתי שכר על הדרישה כך קבלתי על הפרישה עד שבא רבי עקיבא ולימד את ה' אלהיך תירא לרבות תלמידי חכמים

Shimon the Amsoni made a career of interpreting the word "Es" as a term that expands the explicit terms of the passuk.  For example:  We are all familiar with the rule that Tevilla requires that our hair be in the mikva as well as our body.  This is not explicit anywhere in the Torah.  However, the Gemara (Eiruvin 4a) says 
שערו נמי דאורייתא הוא דתניא ורחץ את כל בשרו את הטפל לבשרו וזהו שער
that from the words "Es b'saro" we learn that not only does his body, his Basar, require tevilla, but even that which is secondary to his body, namely his hair, requires Tevilla as well.
 But when he came to Parshas Va'eschanan, and he saw our passuk, he abandoned his thesis that "Es" expands the passuk.  Rashi explains that Reb Yishmael thought, מה ארבה לירא עמו?  What can I possibly include in fear of G-d?   There is nothing that can possibly be compared to the fear of Hashem!    His talmidim asked him, Rebbi, what of all the drashos you've taught us?  He answered, just as I was rewarded for interpreting, so too shall I be rewarded for relinquishing.  But then (in the next generation) came Reb Akiva and interpreted that our passuk teaches us to fear talmidei chachamim.

Reading the Gemara immediately elicits some obvious and important questions.  What did Reb Akiva know that Reb Yishmael did not?  Or, alternatively, what is the machlokes between Reb Yishmael and Reb Akiva?  And more interesting, what did Reb Yishmael do with the many, many instances prior to this passuk that use the word "Es" with Hashem's name?  In fact, right in our parsha, eleven psukim before, the passuk says לְמַעַן תִּירָא אֶת ה' אֱלֹקיךָ.  What did he do with that "Es" that he couldn't do with this one?

Rabbi Shain, a Rebbi in Yeshiva of Staten Island, in his excellent sefer "Birkas Ish" (in Parshas Miketz), shows us a clear answer to this question that ironically answers nothing at all.

We find, he says, that Onkelos translates אֶת in several ways.  In Breishis 37:2 by הָיָה רֹעֶה אֶת אֶחָיו בַּצֹּאן, וְהוּא נַעַר אֶת בְּנֵי בִלְהָה וְאֶת בְּנֵי זִלְפָּה he translates both Eses to mean עם, with.  In Shemos 9:29, he translates ויאמר אליו משה כצאתי את העיר as from/מן.  Of course, most of the time Onkelos translates את as ית.    It is clear that when את  has a function in the passuk, Reb Yishmael doesn't darshen it as a ribui at all.  It is only the את that means ית that Reb Yishmael darshens as a ribui.

In the context of Hashem's name, he notes that in Breishis 44:18, Yosef said to his brothers .אֶת הָאֱלֹקים אֲנִי יָרֵא; In Shemos 1:17 it says וַתִּירֶאןָ הַמְיַלְּדֹת אֶת הָאֱלֹקים; and in Shemos 14:31 it says וַיִּירְאוּ הָעָם אֶת .  Examining these cases, we find that in every iteration of   "את השם", Onkelos translates it either as מן קדם השם or קדם השם.  The first and last time that Onkelos translates it differently is "את השם", where he translates it to mean ית השם.

So this definitely answers the question.  It is only את that means ית that Reb Yishmael darshens as a ribui.  Even the  קדם and מן קדם have a function in pshat in the passuk.  The one and only time that את means ית in the context of Hashem's name is our passuk, which Reb Yishmael would have had to darshen as a ribui.

The question remains, what is the difference in this passuk from every other similar passuk that made Onkelos translate it to mean ית and not מן קדם or קדם.

Reb Yonah Valler, in his Kanfei Yona in this week's parsha, says that he understands the Machlokes between Reb Akiva and שמעון העמסוני as similar to the machlokes between the Rambam and the Geonim on chatzitza of hair.  We mentioned above that from the words ורחץ את כל בשרו we learn that when you go to the mikva, you are required to be tovel your hair as well as the rest of your body.  Thus, dirt or knots in the hair that prevent contact with the water raise a  Chatzitza issue.

Generally, the rule of Chatzitza is that רובו ומקפיד, something that covers a majority of the object, and the person doesn't want it there, it is a chatzitza mid'oraysa.  How do we define majority of the surface of a person?  The Rambam holds that we add the surface area of the hair to that of the body, and a majority of that sum is called a majority.  The Geonim hold that the hair is viewed separately, and if a majority of the hair is covered, even though it's a tiny minority of hair plus body, it is a chatzitza de'oraysa.  (We pasken like the Geonim.)

The Ran in the Rif's hilchos Niddah explains the machlokes like this:
The Geonim hold that since we darshen Es to mean hair, it's like two pesukim:  an explicit passuk for "body" and an implicit one for "hair".  Therefore they hold that if the majority of the hair is covered, it's a chatzitza.  The Rambam holds that even after the drasha, all we know is that the hair is counted as appurtenant to the body, so we add the surface of both to determine if the chatzitza covers a majority.

Thus, he says, if you say like the Rambam that the Ribui of Es to add another implicit but coequal and equivalent element, there's no way that we can include talmidei chachamim in our passuk.  Talmidei Chachamim are not coequal with the Ribono shel Olam.  This is the shitta of שמעון העמסוני.  If, however, you say like the Geonim, that the ribui of Es only says that along with A you have to also consider B, then there's nothing wrong with saying that Es by Hashem includes Talmidei Chachamim.  This is the shitta of Reb Akiva.

He adds that this explains why the Rambam in Shoresh II in Mitzvos brings that the Bahag holds that the fear of Talmidei Chachamim is counted as a mitzva separate from fear of Hashem.  The Rambam argues and says that it is appurtenant, not coequal.  This, of course, is the Rambam leshitaso by tevilla of hair.  Es is only appurtenant, not coequal.

So now, let's get back to our question.  שמעון העמסוני knew of our passuk when he started darshening the word Es back in Breishis, and it apparently never bothered him.  What changed?  There can only be two explanations:  That he used to think it meant מן קדם, so you don't have to darshen it as a ribui at all, or that he always knew it meant ית and that it was a ribui, but he used to hold like Reb Akiva that it means appurtenant, not coequal.


(just to get this Yetzer Hara out of the way, I need to mention that in Yeshivos, they say pshat in Reb Akiva's  chiddush of לרבות תלמידי חכמים is that even a Talmid Chacham needs to be a Yarei Shamayim.)


micha said...

I think R' Yishmael's underlying complaint had nothing to do with this derashah. R' Yishmael is the one who said "diberah Torah belashon benei Adam" and thus had no place for darshening an "es". This is the battle between R' Aqiva darshening even the tagin on the letters and R' Yishmael telling you that derashos have to do with meaning, not syntax. RY had no reason to force-fit a resolution since he didn't agree with the underlying assumptions of the whole project!

And for that matter, I think R' Aqiva was as much talking about the derashah the awe (yir'ah) he had for someone intellectually honest enough to be willing to throw away a life's work, the explanations given to the thousands of "es"s he had for the first four books and the beginning of Devarim, if he could find one case that was impossible. Perhaps it was experiencing this level of intellectual honesty that suggested to RA his resolution!


b said...

I heard exactly what you suggested from Rav Gifter. Reb Yishmael's willingness to abandon a lifetime of drashos out of bikush ha'emes and humility inspired Reb Akiva to say that true talmidei chachamim are G-d's voice in this world, and as such, comprise His revelation and must be honored as His emissaries.

Daniel said...

1- I'm familiar with Shimon HaAmsuni darshening את.. where did R' Yishmael come from?

2- I know you didn't mean it negatively, but it's a little ironic how after having just finished discussing the parameters of את ה אלקיך תירא and it's including talmidei chachaim, you then blithely write "Shimon the Amsoni made a CAREER of interpreting the word "Es"". Do you think he would have appreciated that line?

3- I'm not offering a solution to all the good points and pesukim you raised. However, just to add more color on one point, the two pesukim you bring of מן קדם use the word אלהים, which is different than הויה.
את האלהים אני ירא and ותיראן המילדות את האלהים.

I point this out because the word את is often a reference to the female שכינה aka מלכות (i can offer some proofs/remazim if you'd like). Since אלהים though is also a female component, how to interpret an את alongside it will be different than an את alongside a male הויה. Furthermore, an את alongside a הויה אלהיך will need also to be interpreted differently.

Daniel said...

For what it's worth, re: the great question from the pasuk למען תירא את ה אלקיך... my feeling is that the particular difficulty Shimon HaAmsuni has with את ה אלקיך תירא and not the למען תירא is because (as the Malbim holds as a rule in his peirush to VaYikra) the normal syntax is Subject, Verb, Object and yet with את ה אלהיך תירא the Subject and Verb (תירא) is AFTER the object of את ה' אלהיך.

I've seen this distinction as a reason for a derasha elsewhere in the Zohar as well but unfortunately could not tell you the place.

Barzilai said...


1. Oooops. I've been thinking about too many of the machloksin Reb Akiva and Reb Yishmael, like Nechira bamidbar and many others. I'm going to fix it now.

2. A career is a good thing. אם תבקשינה ככסף.....

3. The third one is Hashem, not Elokim, which I see you address in your next comment.

As for the next comment about normal structure, maybe you're right, but the difference would have to be developed more.