R"Y Kara & Rashbam
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לגרסה בעברית של יחידת לימוד זו, לחצו
One of the hallmarks of Northern French Peshat exegesis is a recognition of
("the ways of the text") and a sensitivity to
literary phenomena and patterns
in the Biblical text.
One such phenomenon is the principle of
, the idea that certain statements appear in the text not because they are needed at that point in the narrative, but rather to prepare the reader for what is to come.
How do various commentators
apply this principle
? How might it help resolve certain difficulties in the text?
2. "וְחָם הוּא אֲבִי כְנָעַן"
We'll begin by illustrating the principle through a classic example of the phenomenon, the phrase
"וְחָם הוּא אֲבִי כְנָעַן"
in Bereshit 9:18. Access the
Mikraot Gedolot on Bereshit 9
and scan the story of Noach's drunkenness in verses 18-27.
about the presence of the words "וְחָם הוּא אֲבִי כְנָעַן" in
, why does the text share this fact? How, in contrast, does
explain the presence of the phrase in the story's introduction?
on the page. Who agrees with Rashi's reading? Who concurs with Ibn Ezra? Why might that be?
3. Development of the Principle: R"Y Kara
While Ibn Ezra suggests that the phrase "וְחָם הוּא אֲבִי כְנָעַן" serves to
the evils of
father and son
, Rashi suggests that it plays a purely
. Rashi employs here the principle of
, though without referring to it as such. Since Canaan is to be cursed in the continuation of the story, the text needs to
already at the beginning so that the reader will know who he is.
Rashi does not apply this approach of "Hakdamot" methodically throughout his commentary, but subsequent Northern French commentators such as
R. Yosef Kara
(Rashi's student/colleague) and
(Rashi's grandson) develop the idea, turning "Hakdamot" into a
principle of exegesis
Let's look at R"Y Kara's comments to
Shemuel I 1:3
("ד"ה "ושם שני בני) where he describes the principle, noting that it is
"דרך מקראות רבים"
, applicable in many verses throughout Tanakh. How does he
define the concept?
4. Chofni and Pinechas
R"Y Kara suggests that anticipatory phrases or verses come
"to condition the ear"
(לשבר את האוזן), introducing information needed for later, lest the reader be perplexed and not understand something in the continuation of the narrative.
How does he apply the concept to
Shemuel I 1:3
? What seems
out of place
in the verse? Why is this information, nonetheless, relayed here?
How is this case similar to the case of "וְחָם הוּא אֲבִי כְנָעַן"? What nonetheless
the two examples?
In the Sefer Shemuel case, is there no other place that the information could have been relayed? What, then, is the advantage of stating it here?
5. Chofni & Pinechas: Other Explanations
According to R"Y Kara, the reader is introduced to Chofni and Pinechas already in Chapter 1 so as to understand their presence in Shiloh in Chapter 2.
The example differs from the above in that there is a
between the anticipatory statement and what it serves to introduce. Moreover, there seems to be
ample room in Chapter 2
to introduce the characters (see verse 12 there), making it difficult to understand why the fact needed to be presented earlier.
What alternative explanation does
give to explain the mention of Chofni and Pinechas? Is this approach more convincing? What assumptions must it make?
suggest? How is his approach similar to that of R"Y Kara? How, though, might he be attempting to
address our difficulty
6. "וַחֲמֻשִׁים עָלוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל"
Let's now explore a
where R"Y Kara makes use of the concept, this time suggesting that the literary anticipation serves to introduce narratives that will be discussed only many chapters later. Click
to access the Mikraot Gedolot on
Commentators are troubled by the phrase
"וַחֲמֻשִׁים עָלוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל"
, questioning both the meaning of the word "וַחֲמֻשִׁים" and why this fact is being mentioned specifically now, as the nation leaves Egypt.
Rashi's second explanation
(beginning "דבר אחר"), where he adopts the interpretation of
Mekhilta DeRabbi Yishmael
(accessible by pressing the "Show Additional Commentaries" button on the bottom of the verse). How does he explain the phrase and its placement?
In contrast, what does
7. Concordance Work: "וַחֲמֻשִׁים"
suggest that the word "וַחֲמֻשִׁים" means
and that the verse is stating
who merited to leave Egypt
, an immediately relevant point.
, in contrast, asserts that the word means
and that the verse is introducing this fact already now only so that when we later read of the
nation's military victories
in the Wilderness, we will not be perplexed as to how they had become equipped to wage war.
Which definition of "וַחֲמֻשִׁים" matches the simple sense of the text? Click on the word
to access the
One Click Concordance
to see how the word is used throughout Tanakh.
Whose explanation do your findings support? [To exit the concordance, click outside of the popup or click on the corner x.]
Given this, what appears to be
driving the debate
between the Midrash and R"Y Kara?
8. Derash vs. Peshat
The Midrashic approach assumes that every verse in Torah must have
value in and of itself
, and therefore prefers to explain the phrase "וַחֲמֻשִׁים עָלוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל" in a way in which it will have inherent relevance and lessons to teach, even if this means employing a somewhat
of the word "וַחֲמֻשִׁים".
The Midrash might also not be bothered by the question of provenance of military equipment, as the Midrash may be assuming that the battles were completely
R"Y Kara, in contrast, having identified a general
literary pattern of "Hakdamot"
, is not bothered by the lack of immediate relevance, allowing him to maintain the
of the word. It is also likely that he prefers to explain that Hashem performs most of his miracles through
This difference of opinion regarding whether the Biblical text is
and to what extent it can be said to employ standard
, is a key point of dispute between
Midrashic and Peshat exegesis
Can you think of other examples where this general difference of opinion affects the reading of a verse or story?
9. "שלא תתמה"
When explaining the principle of literary anticipation, R"Y Kara often employs
, saying "לשבר את האוזן" and "שלא תתמה". As such, searching for these terms is a helpful way of finding other cases in which he utilizes the methodology. Highlight the words
in his commentary, and press
Scroll down to scan the results relating to R"Y Kara (beginning with search result #12). Click on the link on top of each result to see the full comment.
In which cases does the
serve to introduce a fact which is relevant later in the
, and how often does it refer to something in a totally
or even book?
How frequently does R"Y Kara employ the principle of "hakdamot"? Does the
quantity of examples
make his case for the existence of such a literary phenomenon more convincing?
10. Rashbam's Application of Hakdamot
Let's now move to
who develops the principle of "Hakdamot" even further.
defines the concept
in his comments to the very first verse of Torah. Access his
commentary to Bereshit 1:1
, and scan the paragraph beginning, "אך זה הוא עיקר פשוטו".
How does Rashbam's definition
to that of R"Y Kara? [Note, too, where their language overlaps.]
What are the first
that he brings to explain the principle?
11. "וַיִּשְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל"
As we analyzed above the case of "וְחָם הוּא אֲבִי כְנָעַן", let's explore Rashbam's second example:
Yaakov's reaction to Reuven's misdeed
In order to compare Rashbam with other commentators, let's access the verse in the Mikraot Gedolot on
. What difficulties are raised by the second half of the verse,
"וַיִּשְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיִּהְיוּ בְנֵי יַעֲקֹב שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר"
According to Rashbam, why does the verse share that
if it does not include his response? What
does the fact that "Yaakov's sons numbered twelve" have for the story?
(in his third commentary) suggest? How does
While Rashbam asserts that the text shares Yaakov's recognition of Reuven's act only to
prepare the reader
for Yaakov's later rebuke in Bereshit 49, both Ibn Ezra and Ramban assert that the words "וַיִּהְיוּ בְנֵי יַעֲקֹב שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר" themselves
reveal Yaakov's reaction
, hinting either to his ensuing abstinence or forgiving of Reuven.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?
Does the fact that Yaakov's rebuke will be discussed only at the
very end of the book
make this example of Rashbam less convincing than others? Why or why not? How is it
from the case of Chofni and Pinechas above? How does it
to the case of "וַחֲמֻשִׁים עָלוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל"?
For further discussion of the story of Reuven and Bilhah and how commentators understand Yaakov's reaction, see
Reuven and Bilhah
Let's now return to Rashbam on
, where he brings a third, somewhat
more radical example
of the phenomenon. We'll resume from the last paragraph beginning, "גם כל הפרשה הזאת".
What verses does Rashbam suggest constitute a "Hakdamah"? What do they serve to
How does this example
from previous examples?
What in the text is
him to make his claim?
Rashbam maintains that the
entire Creation story
comes only to
to the truth of Hashem's statement in the Decalogue: "כִּי שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים עָשָׂה י״י אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ". The entire chapter, and not just an individual phrase or verse, comprises a "Hakdamah".
Is it problematic to suggest that an entire chapter might be included in Tanakh only so as to provide background to but one verse (which appears over a book away)?
Moreover, why does Rashbam think that the story of Creation is otherwise
Scan the opening paragraph of
to Torah. Where does Rashi suggest the Torah should really
? What does this imply about how Rashi views the
of Torah? Might Rashbam agree?
15. Torah's Focus
Though not explicit, Rashbam, like Rashi, might assume that the
portions of Torah are
subservient to the halakhic sections
. If so, Rashbam disagrees with his grandfather only regarding why the Torah nonetheless begins with the story of Creation.
Whose answer do you find more compelling, Rashbam's literary approach, that the chapter serves to
verify that Hashem created the world
, or Rashi's argument that it serves to
buttress the nation's claims to the Land of Israel
Compare both Rashi and Rashbam with
on verse 1. According to him, why does the Torah open with Creation? What does he think is the
primary goal of Torah
Northern French Peshat commentators such as
R"Y Kara and Rashbam
methodically employing the
principle of "Hakdamot"
to resolve difficulties in the Biblical text.
They note how "Hakdamot" might serve many functions, preparing the reader by
characters, places or concepts,
later information, and preventing possible misconceptions.
While some "Hakdamot" are obvious expository statements, appearing at the beginning of a unit to introduce information which will be needed later in the
, others are less obvious as they might refer only to a much
, chapters or even books away.
Similarly, while many assume that a "Hakdamah", by nature, is a
, meant to elucidate a unit of equal or larger length, Rashbam claims that the opposite is possible as well. At times, an
or more might serve to introduce but one verse or phrase.
Though a fairly simple concept, employing the principle of "Hakdamot" when learning and using it as a
to more Midrashic types of explanations, often yields
new readings and insights
, enriching one's Torah study.
17. Additional Reading
For more about the story of Cham and Canaan, see
For more about Reuven's sin and Yaakov's reaction, see
Reuven and Bilhah
For differing takes on the Torah's purpose in including the story of Creation and Sefer Bereshit as a whole, see
Overview – Sefer Bereshit
the beginning of this module
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