Tuesday, October 21, 2014

aiyei vs aifoh (and some other thoughts on Braishis)

Sorry for not writing much lately -- I have a bunch of things going on occupying my attention.  Have to keep things brief for now.

1. The Ksav v’Kabbalah always has interesting insights into language.  Both "ayei" and "aifoh" can be used to ask where someone is; however, there is a major difference in connotation.  “Aifoh” is used when the question “Where are you?” means “What is your location?”  Yosef was sent to find his brothers and figure out, “Aifoh heim ro’im” – he did not know where they were.  “Ayei” is used when the “Where are you?” is meant to imply “Why are you not here?”  When Avraham is asked “Ayei Sarah ishtecha?” the meaning was, “Why is Sarah not here with you serving us like you are?”   G-d asks Adam, “Ayeka?”  G-d certainly knew where Adam was -- it was an "ayei," not an "aifoh" question -- but he wanted to know how Adam had gotten to such a spiritually distant place.  “Why are you no longer here with me?” is teh question G-d addresses to man.  The Ksav v’Kabbalah doesn’t say it, but in light of his distinction I think the question of the malachim, “Ayei mekom k’vodo?” does not mean that the melachim don’t know where G-d’s presence is.  What the malachim are wondering is why G-d is not immanent, why he seems so distant and transcendent. 

2. How did the nachash convince Adam to eat from the eitz hada’as?  “Ki yode’a Elokim ki b’yom achalchem mimenu v'nifkechu eineichem…” (3:5)   The Alshich explains that the nachash argued that if G-d knows ("yodei Elokim") that something will occur, then the outcome is predetermined.  Without bechirah, there can be no punishment.   

3. The Midrash on the parsha of “vayechulu” compares the world to a bath that had beautiful fixtures submerged below the water.  It was only once the water was removed that they became visible and could be admired.  So too, the tohu va’vohu had to be removed for the beauty of creation to be seen. 

Why is this derush given on the parsha of Shabbos?   Tohu va’vohu was removed already on the first day of creation! 

What Chazal are telling us is that the physical tohu va’vohu may have already receded, but the real beauty of the world shines only when the spiritual tohu va’vohu is removed as well.  That happens only once there is Shabbos.  “Vayechulu” is like the word klal – a general rule.  Each day of creation and each item created is like a piece from a puzzle – by itself, it has little meaning.   It’s only once you finish the puzzle that you see how each piece fits together with the others to create the larger picture.  So too, Shabbos is the klal that gives meaning and context to each individual prat in creation.

4. The Torah gives us very little clue as to why Lemech suddenly pleaded with his wives that he is innocent of wrongdoing and would not be punished as Kayin was.  Rashi fills in the gaps with a Midrash that says that Lemech was blind and accidentally committed murder while out hunting with his son (my wife was wondering why a blind person would be out hunting to begin with.)   Ramban sticks closer to the text and connects Lemech’s plea with the previous information the parsha gives us:  Lemech’s children were the first musicians and the first metalsmiths.  It was a short jump from learning to work with metal to learning to fashion spears and swords.  Lemech’s wives blamed him for training his children in a craft that would bring more bloodshed into the world.  Lemech rejected their argument.  Spears and swords don’t kill people; people kill people.  And thus the gun debate started...

5. I noticed that the format used for each successive generation in the genealogy list at the end of Braishis is basically identical, ending with “Vayihiyu [plural] kol y’mei Ploni…” some number of years.  The exception is Chanoch, where it says, “Vayehi [singular]kol y'mei.”  (5:3) I don’t have a clue as to why the syntax is changed. Any ideas?

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