I have to prepare a shiur for Shavuos, so I’m afraid blogging the next few days is going to be a first draft before going live (though reality blogging is really never more than a draft). I also have to beg longtime readers’ indulgence because the shiur will cover some ground we have done before (see here and here for starters), but I hope to spin things off in a new direction.
The gemara (Shabbos 87) tells us that Moshe Rabeinu did three things “me’da’ato”, based on his own reasoning, with which G-d concurred. One of the three is “hosif yom echad me’da’ato”. On the Wednesday before mattan Torah Moshe was given the command of hagbalah, to cordon off Mount Sinai for three days. One might have figured that Wednesday, Thursday count as the first two days of hagbalah, and the Torah would be given on Friday, the third day. Moshe Rabeinu reckoned the count differently. As the gemara describes, since he was told to do hagbalah “hayom u’machar”, today and the next day, he used the derash principle of hekesh to reason that the first day must be an identical block of time as the second. Just as the second day consist of a night + an ensuing day, so too must the first. Therefore, the count could not start on Wednesday, as the night had already passed. Instead, the count must start on Thursday and extend to Shabbos. The gemara concludes that the Torah was in fact given on Shabbos, showing that G-d concurred with Moshe’s reasoning.
Tosfos and the Maharal (Tif Yisrael ch 37) are bothered by the description of Moshe’s action as “me’da’ato”, something that was a product of his own reasoning. Moshe did not intuit or logically deduce the need to start counting on Thursday instead of Wednesday. He used the rules of torah sheba’al peh, a hekesh, to interpret the command he was given. If Hashem intended the Torah sheb’ksav to be read though the lens of Torah sheba’al peh, then isn’t the interpretation inherent in the text? And isn’t it obvious that any interpretation using those hermeneutical rules would be concurred with by Hashem?
This issue is interesting in its own right: to what degree is interpretation inherent in the text and to what degree is it a product and creation of our own reading? Tosfos writes that the hekesh the gemara refers to must not be a real derasha, otherwise it makes no sense to label it “me’da’ato” of Moshe. According to Tosfos, the 13 middot are inherent within the text's meaning and not products of our own mind. Maharal, on the other hand, writes that derashos are always a product of human interpretation and can be called "me'da'ato". Why is this instance of derash more noteworthy than any other? Maharal explains that Hashem’s agreement demonstrated that although derash usually is an external interpretation read into the text, in this particular case the derash was inherent in the original command. I would suggest by way of analogy that the pasuk “ayin tachas ayin” is of a similar nature. The interpretation of the pasuk as referring to compensation and not literally the taking of "an eye for an eye" is more than derash, but is quasi-pshat, a part of the inherent meaning of the text itself (yes, my example is debatable as well).
Stay tuned for more…