Thoughts on Judaism

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The disappearing vav

In parshas T'rumah, Rashi explains the vav in "v'ait kol asher atzeveh et bnei yisroel" that it is extra and that it does not mean that G-d promised to speak and then command something additional. The speaking is the commanding.

However, when one looks at the text, there is no such vav. Rashi has a vav in his sefer Torah and we do not. So was his sefer wrong or is ours? Or are both of them legitimate versions of the text? (Fundamentalists hold that there is one and only one correct version of the Torah, so they may be disturbed by considering this possibility.) Fortunately, there is a fairly easy way to solve the question. We should look at references to the verse before and after Rashi and see if they show one or both versions on a regular basis, across geographic and philosophical lines.

And the winner is ...
Sorry, but I have not done enough research to answer conclusively, but I have a preliminary feel for an answer. The Targum Onkolos and Targum Yonatan that we have before us both omit the vav. While these were attributed as being previous to Rashi, I would have to say that Rashi also had access to them and that the missing letter would have at least merited a comment or forced to him to do some research, so it is hard to say that Rashi just missed this. Other mikraot gedolot commentaries do reference this verse, nor did I find reference in Torat Aharon that might link us to a Gemora. This implies to me that the sefarim before them showed a single version. And I have little choice, given the versions of the Targumim in front of us, but to say that they had our version, without the vav. So, by this incomplete research, Rashi has the wrong version and he has evidence to suspect that his version is wrong. I will add that druing rashi's time, there was no mass printing technology, and no way that one might check multiple sources easily. Books were expensive and hard to come by, and geographic distances between the sources made research prohibitive, a circumstance that it is hard for us to fathom in our times when we can look up any source, anywhere, and easily obtain multiple copies, to compare potential version differences. There was also a greater probability of version differences entering their world, as all written sources were manuscript copies, rather than set machine printing. This even goes for the chumash. Now, we have multiple copies of the chumash for sofrim to copy, even though the sefer Torah itself is a manuscript copy. In Rashi's time, the manuscript copies were, in fact, copies of copies of copies, a lot of room for error to creep in. A bad Torah in Troyes would have raised no eyebrows, but it might have given birth to several other bad Torahs.

However, given no other evidence, Rashi saw his Torah, with the vav, saw the targumim without it, decided that they agreed with him that the vav was actually there, but they had intentionally left it out of the Targumim, and darshaned the pshat from the pasuk itself that the vav indeed was extra, that it had no Targum and that it does not belong, and he was correct by our sefer Torah. Of course, this is only speculation, as Rashi does not mention the Targum Onkolos, as he often does, but I might not expect it, since the Targum is not darshaning anything here directly. I also do not know what Rashi has in his version of the Targumim, but I have no reason to conclude that they were different from ours, so that's that. Rashi interprets as we do, even given a misleading textual error in his sefer Torah.

Now, what did they read on Shabbos Trumah in Rashi's shul? Can of Worms Alert!!!!!


  • אנו בקיאים בחסרות ויתרות

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:48 AM  

  • That refers to vavs and yuds as vowels. This vav of chibur is not considered yeter.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:15 PM  

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