A Guide for Rabbis, Teachers and Torah Students to Study and Teach the Parashat Hashavua through the Eyes of its Most Important Translator By Stanley M. Wagner and Israel Drazin Based on the five volume, Onkelos on the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy),
Understanding the Bible Text , by Israel Drazin and Stanley M. Wagner, published by Gefen Publishing House,Jerusalem/New York, 2006
BEHA’ALOTKHA (CHAPTER 8:1)
12:16)SUMMARY OF THE TORAH PORTION
The kindling of the menorah after its construction according to the vision of Moses; theLevites are consecrated before assuming their sacred responsibilities; the Israelitesobserve the Passover in the wilderness for the first and only time; the laws pertaining to
the “Second Passover,” for those who could not observe it at its appointed time; the journeys of the Israelites in the wilderness would be determined by the movement of the cloud that hovered over the Tabernacle; how the silver trumpets were sounded and for what occasions; the order and procedure for dismantling the Israelite camp and marching on the Israelite’s first trek during their sojourn in the wilderness; the people complain about their conditions and are punished by God; unmoved by the punishment, the people crave meat, precipitating another Israelite opposition and objection that frustrates Moses;God punishes the Israelites again; God orders Moses to appoint seventy elders to assist him; Miriam and Aaron speak ill of Moses, and Miriam is punished; Moses beseeches God to cure her, but she must first be quarantined for seven days.
VERSES INCORPORATED IN THE LITURGY BIBLICAL CONTEXT AND CONTEMPORARY RELEVANCE
There are many biblical phrases and passages that have been incorporated into Jewish liturgy. To cite a few examples:
vayechulu hashamayim (Genesis 2:1-3); az yashir (Exodus 15:1-18); the three paragraphs of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:49;)
Deuteronomy 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41); and mah tovu
(Numbers 24:5). They were selected, it must beassumed, because they convey reminders of important Torah principles, historical events,or lofty descriptions of the Jewish people that the compilers of the Siddur felt requiredconstant reinforcement.There are two such verses in our parashah.The first is recited every time the Torah is taken out of the Ark for a public reading and the second is read when the Torah is returned to the Ark. This recitation endows these verses with a prominence that merits ourattention, and it will be worthwhile to focus on how the targumist treats these verses.Furthermore, a Masoretic addition to the Torah text in the form of inverted nuns, one before the verses and one immediately following the verses, a phenomenon not repeated elsewhere in the Pentateuch and found only in Psalms
107:21-26, where there are sixinverted nuns
, also encourages our understanding.These verses appear after the Torah informs us that the Israelites traveled in the wilderness only “whenever the cloud departed from the Tent . . .
and in the place where the cloud settled, there the Israelites settled” (9:17 pages 82 and 83).
The two verses are:
It happened that when the ark set out, Moses said: “Reveal Yourself, Lord , and scatter your enemies. Let your foes flee before you” (10:35). When it rested, he said: “Return, Lord. Let your glory reside among the ten thousand thousands of Israel” (10:36) (Onkelos translation).
Some of the differences of opinion concerning the reason for the inverted nuns are outlined in our commentary (page 93, continuing on page 92):Two inverted letters (both times “nun”) enclose verses 35 and 36, but they are not recorded or noted by Onkelos. While it is obvious that the letters were inserted toinform the reader of a problem, or to supply some information, we no longer know with any degree of certainty what the letters signify. Various ideas have beenpresented. The following are some of them: (1) Sifrei relates that Rabbi Judah theprince, who compiled the Mishnah around 200 CE, understood that the two versesconstituted a separate book. This would make Numbers consist of three books (i.e.,the book up until the first “nun,” the book consisting of the two verses enclosed by the “nuns,” and the book after the second “nun”) and the entire Torah of seven volumes. No satisfactory reason has been given for the number seven other than that Proverbs 9:1 speaks about wisdom housing seven pillars. The name “Pentateuch,” meaning “five books,” as does the Hebrew equivalent Chumash, show that this idea of seven books of the Torah did not gain acceptance. However, Baruch Epstein (TorahTemimah) suggests that the Midrash may only mean that these two verses are sosignificant that they could be a separate book. (2) Sifrei suggests that the inverted “nuns” inform us that these two verses belong after Numbers 2:17, which speaks about the march of the Israelites “each in position, by their standards.” (3) Ehrlich (Mikra Ki-Pheschuto) suggests combining items 1 and 2 as follows: Rabbi Judah was
All page numbers refer to the Drazin-Wagner
Onkelos on the Torah
saying that the rabbis are correct in noting that these two verses do not belong inchapter 10 (item 2), but the rabbis are incorrect when they say it belongs in Numbers2:17. Actually, Ehrlich states, Rabbi Judah contends that verses 35 and 36 do not belong in the book of Numbers at all. (4) Rashi states that the verses were placed here “in order to make a break between one description of evil and another.” Rashi isreferring to the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 116a. The Israelites deviated from God’s laws during the three-day march and when they rested they began to complain about lack of food. “The Talmud states that God ordered the placement of the ‘nuns.’” However, this statement may mean only that the lesson is significant, even though the “nuns” were insertions of the Masorites. (5) Mishnah Yadayim 3:5 states that these verses contain 85 letters, the minimum required to make a scroll sacred, and the “nuns” are informing us of this law. (6) The inverted “nuns” may also indicate that the two verses are reversed; the second should come first (Olam Hatanakh). (7)The two verses actually belong after Numbers 20:21 (Chazkunee) or (8) after Numbers 11:17 (Rabbenu Bachya). (9) The secular scholarly view is that the twoverses are an ancient Israelite song that was inserted in chapter 10 because of thesimilar theme, but that the Masorites later indicated that it actually does not belonghere (Olam Hatanakh). There is only one other place where the Masorites placed inverted “nuns”: the six verses of Psalms 107:21– 26, where there are six inverted “nuns.” The reason for these “nuns” is also unknown.
In the context of our chapter, the two verses are requests that God protect the peoplefrom their enemies and that when the Ark rested they would be assured of the divinepresence. Since, during the last two millennia the Jewish people had myriad enemies whileseeking nothing but peaceful relationships with their neighbors, the verses had specialmeaning to worshipers and were therefore placed in the Siddur.The changes that our targumist made in the two verses were only for the purpose of removing anthropomorphic depictions of God: instead of “arise,” he rewrites it as “revealYourself” (by your deeds), which is its obvious intent (as indicated in our commentary).
Also Onkelos circumvents the poetic but anthropomorphic
mipanekha, “Your face,” byreplacing it with “before You.”
In verse 36, the targumist adds a phrase that explains the anthropomorphic “Return,” as explained by our commentary (page 95):
Onkelos supplies the implied connecting phrase “let your glory reside among.” By “glory,” our targumist means the feeling that the Israelites have of the significance and majesty of the divine. Sifrei; the Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 64a and BavaKamma 83b; and Saadiah have Moses request the return of the Shekhinah. Saadiahunderstands Shekhinah as a divine creation of a special light to impress the people. Incontrast, when our targumist uses Shekhinah, he is referring to the feeling that people have of a divine presence. Thus, Shekhinah refers to the people’ s feelings, and not to God. Onkelos uses “glory” four times in Numbers, in 10:33, 34, 36, and 12:8. In
the latter verse, Moses is said to have been impressed by the “glory of the Lord.”
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