Monday, June 27, 2016

B'ha'aloscha: why "nochal" in future tense; kri\kesiv of "anav;" the two meanings of "na"

1) “Zacharnu es ha’dagah asher NOCAL b’Mitzrayim chinam…” (11:5) I saw the following question quoted in R’ Shteinman’s name: why use the word “nochal,” future tense, e.g. “mah NOACHAL ba’shanah hashevi’is…?” (Vayikra 25:20), when we are talking about what was eaten in the past in Mitzrayim? Shouldn’t it be past tense?

I am surprised that none of the meforshim I took a look at dealt with this issue. My wife suggested that Bnei Yisrael here were planning to rebel and turn back to Mitzrayim. The people remembered the good stuff they saw in Egypt, but never could have.  Now, with the defeat of Egypt, they anticipated returning and being able to indulge. 

2) Moshe is described in our parsha as “ANAV me’od.” (12:3) The word “anav” is a kri/kesiv. The kesiv is without a yud; the kri is with a yud before the final vav. Can someone who knows more about grammar than I do please explain the difference? How is anav without a yud pronounced differently than anav without a yud? (See Minchas Shai)

R’ Bachyei explains that the missing yud is a punishment. When Moshe was about to draw water from the rock to give to Bnei Yisrael in response to their complaints, he said to BN”Y, “Ha’min ha’sela ha’zeh NOTZI lachem mayim?” (Bamidbar 20:12) He should have said “YOTZI,” referring to Hashem. Since Moshe left out the yud there, the yud is missing here – there is a little something missing from the anivus (we are talking about infinitesimal degrees here, not a noticeable chisaron). Apparently even though had not uttered those words yet, the minute pgam was part of his personality at this point (or you could say the Torah is speaking from the perspective of the omniscient reader, as discussed last week.)

3) There is an interesting machlokes between Targum Onkelus and Targum Yonasan as to how to translate Moshe’s tefilah of “K-l NA refa NA lah” (12:13) Targum Yonasan explains both words “na” the same way, as a supplication. Targum Onkelus explains the second “na” as “immediately.” We find this same use in a few other places (see the notes to R’ Cooperman’s edition of the Meshech Chochma). Ibn Ezra explains that the issur of eating the korban pesach “na” means undercooked – it was taken off the fire too quickly. When the malachim come to Sdom, Lot tells them “suru na” and enter his home. He’s not saying “please” to them – he is telling them to rush, because it was dangerous to welcome guests into your home in Sdom.   I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Artscroll translation of “Ana Hashem hoshi’a na” captures this meaning. We are not just saying, “Please Hashem help us” (as the Koran siddur explains it, but we are asking, as Artscroll translates, “Please Hashem help us NOW.”


  1. This is likely Pshat in Eisav asking HaLiteini Na Min HaAdom HaAdom. He wasn't asking nicely. He wasn't saying please. He is asking for it now, even raw.

  2. Partial agreement with your Rebbetzin.

    Learning chumash, we tend to overlook the reality that a nation of several million people had internal politics.
    [And don't try to tell me that an Am Kodosh like Klal Yisroel was above that. Read the chareidi news for a few days and come away enlightened/disappointed].

    There were community organizers who told people "Listen to me. Go back to Egypt and they'll so glad to see you that they will give you everything you want. [We won't talk about who'll pay for all that; just raise the taxes on the wealthy.]

    Mainstream media was also spreading the word. [After all, if everyone was satisfied with the Mon, there would be no income from advertising.] They painted beautiful pictures of the future in the workers' paradise of Mitzrayim.

    When the dam finally broke, because of the continuous pressure from the erev rav, the Jews didn't realize that they were buying into an artificial picture and a false philosophy. They cried because by following Moshe, the would lose the future they were promised - "how can we follow Moshe when we remember the promise of free sushi for everyone when we get back to Egypt?"

    And note that "mi ya'achileinu basar" is not a question of how can we get meat? As Rashi points out, before you complain, start on the meat you already have in abundance. The demand is, we want somebody else to feed it to us. We want to be served.

    At the back of my mind, this reminds me of something. I just can't seem to put by finger on it.

    1. Does this mean you are not a Bernie or Shrillary supporter? : )

      (from Chaim)

    2. You have a smiley at the end of your comment. If I was into that, I would put
      a mourney at the end of mine.

  3. There's a famous Chasidishe joke about נאכל being proof to eating סעודת לויתן in the future and the word מצרים being written חנם, for nothing. :)

  4. On "nochal" - I suspect it's similar to saying "that we would eat ..." in English, versus "that we ate ..." It's a softer, more fluid form of past tense, suggesting something like: when we felt hungry in Egypt, we could then go and eat fish.

    But I like your wife's reading very much. More interesting and worth saying over.

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  6. On the issue of Nochal let me suggest the following.

    Chazal (Yoma 74b) brings two opinions as to what the affliction (inui) of the mann was. One opinion is that it is not the same to see and eat as to not see and eat. Rashi explains that while the mann could taste like any food, it still looked like the same thing, mann.
    There is an additional sensual experience in experiencing the food visually before eating it. (Gourmet chefs know this well – presentation is critically important to their craft.)

    The acharonim (Chida, Ritzba) explain that this was the complaint of the asafsuf about the mann – וְעַתָּה נַפְשֵׁנוּ יְבֵשָׁה, אֵין כֹּל--בִּלְתִּי, אֶל-הַמָּן עֵינֵינוּ. They wanted the additional experience of seeing the delicious-looking appearance of their food, not just tasting it.

    As I understand what Chazal are saying, the experience of seeing delicious food is anticipatory – the sensual experience of eating is extended by the person seeing and expecting to eat the food. As one person I saw explained it: “The experience of eating involves much more than the taste of the food. As anyone who cares for fine dining can attest, presentation is more important than taste. The expectation that great food will follow makes the food taste that much better.”

    This would then explain the use of future tense in nochal. They were saying, we remember in Egypt that we could see our food and look forward in eager anticipation to what we were about to eat – nochal. Now we lack that experience with the mann.

  7. Re Mrs. Brown's pshat, this reminds me of what Reb Yaakov says on this very passuk. He talks about how our words sometimes are influenced by our subconscious mind, and we ourselves are totally unaware of it. He says this in several places, but also here. If so, it's very possible that the choice of Nochal was wishful thinking.
    י"א ה זכרנו את הדגה אשר נאכל במצרים חנם
    הנה בפסוק מפורש שהם התאוננו על זה שחסר להם האוכל שהיה להם במצרים אמנם רש"י להלן פ"י הביא מחז"ל שעיקר טענתם ובכייתם היה על עסקי משפחות היינו על העריות שנאסרו להם ויש להבין את זה דמנא להו לחז"ל לתת מילים בפיהם שלא הזכירו הם בעצמם ומה היה כאן חסר לחז"ל שהצריכו להמציא להם טענות

    אבל נראה שכאן ירדו חז"ל לעומק נפש האדם והיינו שישנן באדם הכוחות הכהים שהם פועלים הרבה בהנהגת האדם ואין האדם מרגישם עדיין והם כבחינת הכליות או הלב והרי זה יצירות של מחשבות בשכל האדם שלא נתגשמו עדיין אבל הם משאירים את רושמם בצורת המעשה של האדם וביאור הדבר הוא שחז"ל בין ברוח קדשם בין מצד המדע והשכל העריכו שאין הדבר כפשוטו דהרי זה אינו מסתבר כלל שאנשים יבכו על שלא הרגישו טעם בצלים ושומים בו בזמן שהיה אצלם את המן שהיה כל כך טעים ומשובח ועל כרחך שאף שהן בעצמן בכו על טעם השומים והבצלים שנעדר מהם אבל מכל מקום בכוחות הכהים היתה תביעה אחרת עסקי עריות ודו"ק היטב בזה