Monday, June 02, 2008

Moshe hosif yom echad me'da'ato

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…


  1. I have to speak on Shavu'os too. I'm thinking of talking about geirus-- milah, tevillah, and hartza'as domim/koran. I saw an interesting Rogotchover-- that kabolas mitzvos after the milah and tevillah helps lemafrei'ah, which would answer why the kabala in the time of Achashverosh helps to take off the problem of kofo aleihem at mattan torah. And maybe I'll talk about the EJF, Druckman, Rav Sheinberg, and the RCA also.

  2. Anonymous7:51 PM

    Also since its shavous you can Talk about about when Rus was Megayer

  3. Anonymous7:53 PM

    That is her and her sister in law its a machlokes the zohar and the Gemura if before marrige or not and the questions back and forth like how could she say go back to your Avodah Zara and why she told her not to join us to later meaning discourage the Gerus aspect.

  4. That's true. What most people don't know is that Arpah, who agreed to just go home, was the mother of the two people who almost killed David Hamelech-- Golias and Yishbi. Same thing with Timna, whom we convinced to not join Klal Yisrael, and who ended up being the mother of Amalek. Only two pshating possible, but they are opposites: either that they were rotten to begin with, and that's why we rejected them, or that they resented being rejected and so they raised their children to hate the Jews.

  5. Anonymous8:54 AM

    The problem is there are those who say she was Megayer first the Medrash says about One of rus sister in law on that day is Intreging and I dont think well known but i doubt it is somthing you would talk about in a shiur vhamavin yavin

  6. >>>And maybe I'll talk about the EJF, Druckman, Rav Sheinberg, and the RCA also.

    You like to live dangerously!
    Though the truth is that when you are giving shiur at 2 in the morning you can basically say anything you want and get away with it.

  7. Another incident in which Moshe used his own judgment was in breaking the luchos. Hashem did not command him to do so, but, according to the Midrash, He applauded Moshe's actions with a yosher koach for the breaking. A more minor instance is of Moshe's dropping the double lashon of Eheye asher Eheye to not have to remind Yisrael of future tzaros.