26 November 2006

A Gut Vort

Sometimes you hear such a good Vort that it makes even a skeptic like me wonder. I just heard this last week. First, I'll tell you the vort and then I'll give my rebuttal.

א"ר חייא בר אבא אמר רבי יוחנן: בשעה שאמר לו פרעה ליוסף (בראשית מא,מד) [ויאמר פרעה אל יוסף: אני פרעה] ובלעדיך לא ירים איש את ידו וגו' [ואת רגלו בכל ארץ מצרים] אמרו איצטגניני (אצטגנינות: חכמים וחוזים בכוכבים ויודעים בחכמת המזלות) פרעה: עבד שלקחו רבו בעשרים כסף תמשילהו עלינו? אמר להן: גנוני מלכות אני רואה בו (גנוני מלכות: גווני מלכות בחכמה, גבורה ויופי). אמרו לו: א"כ יהא יודע בשבעים לשון? בא גבריאל ולימדו שבעים לשון; לא הוה קגמר - הוסיף לו אות אחת משמו של הקב"ה ולמד, שנאמר (תהלים פא,ו) עדות ביהוסף שמו בצאתו על ארץ מצרים (סיפיה דקרא: 'שפת לא ידעתי אשמע');


The Gemara in Sotah 36:b states that when Pharaoh wanted to appoint Yosef as viceroy over Egypt, his astrologers objected that it would be a disgrace to have Yosef rule over Egypt.... does Yosef know all seventy languages (as required of royalty)? So the angel Gabriel came down and attempted to teach Yosef all 70 languages. But Yosef could not grasp it. So the angel added a "Heh" from God's name and then Yosef grasped the new languages. This is alluded to in Tehilim.... "He imposed it as a testimony for Joseph when he went forth over the land of Egypt - I understood a language I never knew".

In this Passuk we see that Joseph, is spelled with an extra "heh", Yehosef.

In addition to the regular meaning, I read in the word Beehosef the concept of "addition". The words "I understood a language I never knew" is in parenthesis in the Gemara as if it's an afterthought. It would have sufficed to simply prove that the spelling of Jeseph is altered, but instead the Gemara bring proof that in addition to Yosef learning Egyptian he also learned other languages. But why was it necessary to add this little piece, the gemara's intent was simply to show that Joseph receieved an extra "Heh".

And the punchline is (I don't remember who said it though), that the Gemara wanted the complete passuk, because a keen observer will note that both the First letter and the Last letter in the Passuk is an Ayin and all numerologists are aware that Ayin=70 which represents the languages Yosef learned!


Geshmack, no?


What a great vort! How many pesukim are there in the Torah that begin AND end with an Eyin? I might be wrong but I'd venture to say this is the only such passuk in Tannach.


Now, please don't read the end of this right away. Think about it and come up with your own rational explanation.

************************************************************************************
The point in these vorts is to show that the gemara and or pesukim have some predictive power.

So here's my take on this and I think it's obvious when you think about it. The gemara is putting the cart before the horse. There already existed a tradition about Yosef and the Heh. This tradition dated way back to Tehillim times. The author of Psalms created that Possuk as a brilliant play on the tradition and thus composed the sentence to reflect that tradition. My proof or support of this, is that the sentence is so awkwardly constructed because the author tried to force the Eyin.

Your thoughts?

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    35 Comments:

    At November 26, 2006 11:48 AM, Blogger Moshe Kappoya said...

    Very nice vort, I enjoyed it, thanks.

    Does this mean that you are losing some of your skeptesisim?

     
    At November 26, 2006 11:50 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Huh? How'd you come to that conclusion? Farkert.

     
    At November 26, 2006 1:58 PM, Blogger Moshe Kappoya said...

    You acknowledge that the Talmud is based on true tradition M'Sinai...

     
    At November 26, 2006 2:29 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    MK, tradition does not acknowledge it's from Sinai. Tradition, can be folklore. So don't read into my words more than I say. I'm not a Rishon, you know.

     
    At November 26, 2006 4:30 PM, Anonymous jewishskeptic said...

    Welcome back,B.H.
    About the punchline of the gut vort,whoever said it forgot the maamar chazal:
    האומר דבר בשם אומרו מביא גאולה לעולם
    The "Minchat Shai"(17th c.)ad loc.(Mikraot Gedolot) writes that en passe,not as a gut vort:
    פסוק זה מתחיל בעי"ן ומסיים בעי"ן רמז למה שאמרו בסוטה בא גבריאל ולמדו שבעים לשון
    & he continues with another "gut vort"
    א"נ (=אי נמי לפי שלא נהנה מן הערוה זכה שלא ישלוט בו ובזרעו ע"ה = עין הרע
    thereby explaining the additional 'he' & the 'ain'.
    As for your rebuttal,I don't buy it.I don't think the author of the pasuk who probably lived centuries before,had this "gut vort in mind"!

     
    At November 26, 2006 7:19 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    bhb
    before i read the comments and the end of your post, the first thing that hit me is that the very idea of 70 languages is made up. so if the posuk had ended with a samech of a peh, the gemera would say there 60 or 80 languages?

    now i will go back after i submit this for the record.

     
    At November 26, 2006 8:33 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    JS, thanks, good to be back. I was hoping you'd chime in. Before I forget, I wanted to ask you, but I did not have your E-mail, if you had seen Irvinver Chassid (Daganev) anywhere. After that last set of words between you and him (Religious Ferver) , I have never seen him post again, anywhere.

    Anyhow, the one who told me the vort did reference Minchas Shai, I said I did not recall in who's name it was quoted. But I don't follow the Eee Nami about Ain Hora, thre is no "extra Ain".

    As for your not buying it, then what are you saying, it was just a co-incidence that the passuk started and ended with an Ayin?

    Happy, it does not make a difference if the concept of 70 is made up or not. 70 is a consistent number of languages in the bibilical literature.

     
    At November 26, 2006 9:08 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    minor quibble, the pasuk starts with an ayin, but the last word starts with an ayin, not ending in an ayin.

    secondly,
    i honestly dont remember a verse in chumash that refers to 70 languages.

     
    At November 26, 2006 10:42 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    "סיפיה דקרא: 'שפת לא ידעתי אשמע'

    Happy, it ends in Ayin.

    It's a common thread in the literature. All members of Sanhedrun knew all 70 languages, I.e. Mordecha was able to foil the plot against Achashverosh.

     
    At November 26, 2006 11:00 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    its common in literature, but thats because the gemera says so.

    maybe they decided it was 70 from the two ayins. if they found a pasuk that started and ended with a nun, it would be 50 languages in the literature.

    unless you find me a posuk that actually talks about 70 languages.
    it could be out there, i just dont have enough knowledge to know so.

    anyway, i misread the pasuk, i have mild form of dyslexia.

     
    At November 26, 2006 11:07 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

    'שפת לא ידעתי אשמע'

    Doesn't that mean "I heard a language that I didn't understand" and not "I understood a language I never knew"?

    "Eshmah" means 'heard' not 'understand.'

    Or am I missing some poetic nicety?

     
    At November 26, 2006 11:10 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

    Or more specifically: "I heard a language that I didn't know."

     
    At November 26, 2006 11:55 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Daniel, check the simple artscroll translation in a siddur - Shir shel Yom Chamishi. "I understood a language I never knew". I guess it's a poetic form.

    And that's seems to be as the Gemara understands it.

    Do you think my insight into this makes any sense? If not, you are forced to say its either a co-incidence or something in the holiness. Co-incidence is unlikely. so unless you agree with my explanation, you must say that it's due to Tehillim's holiness. Unless you have some other explanation.

     
    At November 27, 2006 2:12 AM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

    Baal,

    I really don't know. I've been looking at this thing a dozen different ways and I cannot understand what the Pslam means in context. Could "Joseph" be Jospeh the person or the tribe? Could there really be something significant about the extra hay in this context, or is it just a variant on the name like Yoash and Yehoash? Could it be "as he went throughout the land of Egypt" or when "he went _against_ the land of Egypt" as other translators give it? Who is the one who is hearing the language and does he understand it or not? Could "he" be God or could it be Joseph or some other possibility?

    I don't know the answers to any of these questions. I always find the poetry of Psalms to be maddeningly confusing because they can mean so many different things if you want to look at it in detail.

    But we are left with two possibilities, ok. Either the story with Gabriel and Jospeh learning all the languages is an old story or not. If it was an old story then the Pslamist would have known about it and it would prove nothing regarding predictive power or even holiness since it would just be referring to a known story. If it wasn't an old story then what is the Psalm predicting? That Rabbis in a thousand years would make up a story about Joseph?

    Now, I believe that it in fact did not happen and I also suspect that the Psalmist meant something else by this verse - something I cannot figure out - since if he meant this story, he referred to it in a very subtle way. I don't think Psalmists referenced aggadic stories like these. But even that it is an old story is more likely than it actually being history.

    But still your answer doesn't satisfy me.

     
    At November 27, 2006 3:22 AM, Blogger Billie Jean said...

    In the broad sense, I think that this kind of folklore neither proves nor disproves tradition. As you said earlier, BHB, there is certainly an ancient tradition. It was obviously scholarly, interested in folklore and wordplay.

    I don't think the verse in Tehillim really means what they mangle it to mean. I'm not sure what it means, but reading the English translations on bibegateway.com was interesting. In particular, the Amplified version, which is meant to include multiple meanings:

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=תהילים%2081%20;&version=45;

    It has a footnote on this verse (which is 5, not 6, since they don't count the first verse as a verse) which is interesting. Not necessarily helpful, but an interesting alternate exegesis I guess.

     
    At November 27, 2006 6:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    70 languages comes from 70 names mentioned post flood and prior to tower of babel

     
    At November 27, 2006 7:33 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Orthoprax, eloquence is not one of my strong points so I'm not certain if my thoughts are understood.

    I'll try again.

    The Gemara cites an extra Hey as proof to the notion that Yosef mastered 70 languages. Certainly, it did not happen, despite the assertions of LY. Very often the Gemara beings down a possuk of as proof, but rarely does it fit in so well to the legend it purports to back up. In this case, granted there is ambiguity as to the plain meaning, it fits in extraordinary well to this contrived meaning. It fits in so well, that it seems to imply some supernatural aspect if it just turned out that this possuk in so many ways contains allusions to this event recorded about Joseph. My explanation, is that R' Chiya Bar Avva, did not stumble onto this sypporting Hey. Rather, the notion of the event and the extra hey was passed down as a single tradition. And furthermore, the psalmist expressed that tradition when composing this possuk! (Which as you state, appears incomprehensive, out of place in psalm and awkwardly constructed, much like my writing.

     
    At November 27, 2006 7:34 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    BJ, I'll check your comment out later.

     
    At November 27, 2006 7:43 AM, Anonymous jewishskeptic said...

    >if you had seen Irvinver Chassid (Daganev) anywhere. After that last set of words between you and him (Religious Ferver) , I have never seen him post again, anywhere.


    I was wondering about that myself. No I havn't seen his name anywhere. I had a few previous exchanges with him.
    I was under the impression that he was a 'chozer biteshuvah by being attracted to Kabalah bordering on New Age stuff.
    & that he got his knowledge by reading some English books on the above & Judaism.
    Of course,I MIGHT BE WRONG on the above.It's just my impression.
    I find it difficult to have a meaningful discussion with people of such backround.
    I doubt very much that he disappeared on account of our exchange.I am not such an influential commenter...
    He disappeared for whatever reason.Coincidences do happen...


    I was wondering about that myself. No I havn't seen his name anywhere. I had a few previous exchanges with him.
    I was under the impression that he was a 'chozer biteshuvah by being attracted to Kabalah bordering on New Age stuff.
    & that he got his knowledge by reading some English books on the above & Judaism.
    Of course,I MIGHT BE WRONG on the above.It's just my impression.
    I find it difficult to have a meaningful discussion with people of such backround.
    I doubt very much that he disappeared on account of our exchange.I am not such an influential commenter...
    He disappeared for whatever reason.Coincidences do happen...


    >But I don't follow the Eee Nami about Ain Hora, thre is no "extra Ain".


    Yes,of course you are right.What I meant is the extra 'heh' together with the 'ayins' is according to him a remez that
    לא שלטה בו ע"ה =עין הרעה That's what I understand him to mean.I admit that his first remez of 'ayin' lashon is stronger & geshmaker..

     
    At November 27, 2006 7:45 AM, Anonymous jewishskeptic said...

    Sorry about the repeat.

     
    At November 27, 2006 10:27 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    JewishSkeptic, thanks.

    > I doubt very much that he disappeared on account of our exchange.I am not such an influential commenter...

    It's possible he was highly agitated. Of course, it could be anything.

    > He disappeared for whatever reason.Coincidences do happen...


    Naw ;)

    That reminds me, As anyone in IT can attest. A user will enter something into a system, which has been hanging for the past hour, and of course the system fails to respond to him as well. Invariably, the user believes that it's his transaction that brought the system to a halt. After all, everything was fine until he hit "enter".

    I take it you're still not convinced about my interpretation.

     
    At November 27, 2006 12:37 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

    Baal,

    "It fits in so well, that it seems to imply some supernatural aspect if it just turned out that this possuk in so many ways contains allusions to this event recorded about Joseph. My explanation, is that R' Chiya Bar Avva, did not stumble onto this sypporting Hey. Rather, the notion of the event and the extra hey was passed down as a single tradition. And furthermore, the psalmist expressed that tradition when composing this possuk!"

    No, I understood you, I'm just not so convinced with the answer. How come this story isn't recorded anywhere else before the Gemara wrote about it? It was oral? Could be. Could the verse have been written with the intention of being clever? Could be.

    Or it could have been that the extra hay and the thing about the language in the verse could have meant something totally different with the ayins being a coincidence - or them meaning something else as well.

    The thing is, if the event really did happen then the author of the Psalm would have known about it and then the could have tailored the Pslam as you said. So within the Orthodox assumption, it actually proves nothing amazing about the text in it of itself.

    Maybe your answer is better than a series of coincidences that fit into this vort, but still, you don't have any independent sources and it could very well have been coincidence. Or rather it wasn't coincident, but it was co-opted to mean something different than the intention.

    If I could figure out what it meant and look inside the mind of the Psalmist, this whole thing would become very clear.

     
    At November 27, 2006 1:18 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >The thing is, if the event really did happen then the author of the Psalm would have known about it and then the could have tailored the Pslam as you said. So within the Orthodox assumption, it actually proves nothing amazing about the text in it of itself.

    That's true as well. Whether the event happened or not, is not important. It's not such a great vort, because I contend, the possuk was composed with that tradition in mind.

     
    At November 27, 2006 1:35 PM, Anonymous jewishskeptic said...

    >'שפת לא ידעתי אשמע'

    Doesn't that mean "I heard a language that I didn't understand" and not "I understood a language I never knew"?

    "Eshmah" means 'heard' not 'understand.'

    Or am I missing some poetic nicety"


    The word 'shama' שמע has several meaning. 1) to hear e.g 'shema Israel 2) to understand, know,recognize.There are very many ex. of the 2nd meaning,I'll just give 3. a) לשמע הטוב ו הרע (ii Sam.14:17)=to discern good & bad
    b) ושאלת לך הבין לשמע משפט (i Kings 3:11)=but you asked for yourself to UNDERSTAND judgment.
    c)יעיר לי אזן לשמע כלמודים (Is 50:4)=to hear or to understand.
    'shama' also means to obey.there are many ex.
    Even in modern Heb. we say 'shamati otecha' just like in English 'I heard you' which has the meaning "I understood"

     
    At November 27, 2006 3:32 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    BJ, I checked out that reference.

    >The speech of One Whom I knew not did I hear [saying],


    The capitalization of "One", seems to imply he's talking about hearing God. It really is all very cryptic.

     
    At November 27, 2006 4:00 PM, Anonymous jewishskeptic said...

    >Do you think my insight into this makes any sense? If not, you are forced to say its either a co-incidence or something in the holiness. Co-incidence is unlikely. so unless you agree with my explanation, you must say that it's due to Tehillim's holiness. Unless you have some other explanation.



    Well,B.H. I don't see on what basis you assert that "Co-incidence is unlikely." Let me illustrate by giving you another well known ex of a "gut vort",which you probably know.it's ascribed either to Ramban or Gra.I am not going to write it out in full because it's going to be too long & tedious for me.I'll just give the outline.
    It tries to prove that the Torah predicted the Rambam & his Mishneh Torah

    In Ex 10:9 you find רבות מופתי בארץ מצרים acronym= רמב"ם ,in the same place there is the word 'mitsrayim',most of Rambam's work was done there,next to it you have the word Moshe,& that's rambams first name. & nearby in ch.11 pasuk 9 to ch.12 :13 ויאמר יהוה אל משה from the 'mem' start counting 49 letters ,the 50th is a ש count again 49 letters & the 50th will be נ & again you will get ה spelling out משנה & if you do the same at the of the ch. you'll get תורה,spelling out משנה תורה Rambam's opus magnum. & if you count from the 'mem' of mishnah to the tav of torah,you get 613,taryag mitsvot!

    That's very impressive.What does it mean ? Does it mean that the Torah actually hints about the future Rambam?!
    NO.If you take the works of Shakespeare,translated into Hebrew,& for well over 2000 yrs,the brightest & smartest of the nation devote all their time & energy into deciphering & darshening the text in all possible ways,sometimes letting their fancy run wild,I am sure you would end up with similar "amazing" things "that point to the Divine"
    That,B.H.goes also for what you wrote "that coincidence is unlikely"
    I'll finish with a general remark about coincidences & statistics,which many people don't seem to comprehend.
    Lets say you take out a $ bill with a certain seriel No.on it or you pick up a pebble on the beach.The chances that you should have that bill with that seriel no.or pick up that particular pebble with the exact amount of atoms & shape etc is more than astronomical... & yet you have the bill or the pebble! Does it have any meaning? Absolutely none! Thats because after the fact it's meaningless.It would have been a different matter if beforehand you would have predicted that you are going to have that bill or pick up that pebble.

    That in general,is an answer to all the codes found in the Bible,the many derashot & "gute verter"

     
    At November 27, 2006 4:21 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Jewish Skeptic. Thanks. I understand that ELS and $ bill in hand (anthropic principal?). Yet, it really seems like many co-incidences in one. I also understand that strange things do happen all the time. In a city of 8 million people like NYC, 1 in a million events happen 8 times a second).

    Yet for people who don't believe in coincidence, it points to a great Vort as if there is some divine aspect to it. My explanation, which I don't see as unreasonable, puts a nice rational feel to it and I don't think is even far fetched.

    Anyhow, thanks for commenting (again).

     
    At November 29, 2006 2:49 PM, Anonymous mikeskeptic said...

    The vort is cute but weak. The gemara needed the second part of the posuk because the first part says nothing about why the extra hey was added. The second part of the posuk is the only reference to understanding a strange language and the gemara's interpretation wouldn't make any sense without the second part of the posuk. There is no reason to believe that the gemara was referring to the placement of the ayins in the posuk at all. It is fair to ask why the gemara interpreted the posuk as referring to all of the "70 languages" chazal believed to be exist, rather than just the Egyptian language, but the obvious answer to that question is that the biblical account makes it pretty clear that Joseph was fluent in Egyptian long before he was appointed viceroy. (He is described as having conversation with Potifar's wife and he fellow prisoners, for example.) Bottom line, the placement of the ayins doesn't have much significance to the gemara's interpretation and is therefore easy to dismiss as coincidental.

     
    At November 29, 2006 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I haven't learned that much gemarah, but I thought you were supposed to ignore the stuff in the parentisthis - bc it's there bc there was a different girsa or something, but not anything imporant.

     
    At November 29, 2006 6:51 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Mikes. I just can't see the Ayin being co-incidental. How may Pesukim in the Torah start AND end with an Ayin. But sentiment seems to be running in your favor.

    Miri welcome. It may be in Parenthesis, but it *is* there.

     
    At November 29, 2006 9:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Miri, the parenthesis could suggest it was added later in gaonic or pre-gaonic times. BH, the two ayins may be rare, but once one concludes that the meaning of the gemara is perfectly clear without resorting to the two ayins, the rarity loses its significance.

    Mikeskeptic

     
    At November 30, 2006 9:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Not bad for a Ball Habos! lol

     
    At November 30, 2006 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    ok so I checked with my resident expert; square brackets you read, parentisthes you ignore; mistakes and whatnot. so was it parenthesis or brackets?

     
    At November 30, 2006 10:53 AM, Anonymous jewishskeptic said...

    >"I just can't see the Ayin being co-incidental. How may Pesukim in the Torah start AND end with an Ayin. But sentiment seems to be running in your favor."


    B.H.
    I really don't understand why you are so impressed with the pasuk starting & ending with an a'yin.
    I think it has to do with the indoctrination you received since chilhood that every letter,keri uchetiv,otiyot akumot,etc. & even the nekudot contain sodei sodot & razei razim.
    Of course,if one really believs that,& is ingenious with lots of time on his hand, one can "find" many such "gute vertlach"
    I know from experience that it's very difficult to get rid of childhood indoctrination.

    The pasuk had to start with a letter...(in this case an ayin),it also ended with an ayin. BIG DEAL!
    Maybe there is no other such pasuk,so what?
    & let's not forget we are talking about ketuvim & not even the torah,but it woudn't matter.
    (I suppose there is some software which could give this kind of info.Maybe you should inquire of the bible codes experts...they should know. BTW. sometimes the mesorah gedolah gives it.)

    If you read an English book & you find that only 1 sentence begins & ends with the same letter,would you start to darshen it & maybe makeup a gut vort?...

    Here,I just opened up randomly the tanach.The 1st pasuk I see is Prov.26:1 begins with a kav & ends with a daled,are there any other pesukim like that? what if there aren't-is there any significance to it? Here my eye caught a better one. In the same ch.v.15 it begins with a 'tet'& ends with a vav. Tet is a rare letter & I doubt there is another pasuk that begins with a tet & ends with a vav(but I wouldn't swear to it.As I wroteI dont have the software,if there is such)
    Does that mean anything? Absolutely zilch!
    It becomes a child's game,& not a very interesting one.

     
    At November 30, 2006 6:47 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >I really don't understand why you are so impressed with the pasuk starting & ending with an a'yin.
    I think it has to do with the indoctrination you received since chilhood that every letter

    Jewish Skeptic. Maybe. The point being here that I would imagine non-skeptics and even I, take it as a good vort. I believe I have a rebuttal to that.

    But, no need to belabor the point.

    Miri, it's in paranthesis,. Interestingly enough, Rashi highlights the fact that the end of the posuk is "Sfas Lo Yaddati Eshma". The implication being it was not in his Girsa, yet he still saw fit to point it out.

     

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