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Parsha and Manuscript - Devarim - 'Deciphering the place Di-Zahav in the Rashi manuscripts at the Bodleian Library'

Friday, 24 July, 2020 - 2:09 pm

MS. Canon. Or. 81, fol. 160 (1396) Devarim.pngIn the Torah portion of Devarim, it discusses how Moses rebuked the Jewish people and reviewed the laws of the Torah before his passing. The rebuke of the Jewish people comes in two stages: the first, hinting the misdemeanours by mentioning them only in connection with the names of the places they sinned, followed by a more detailed recounting of their sins throughout the portion of Devarim. Reasons for this differentiation is due to the fact that the first encrypted rebuke was spoken only to the leaders of the Jewish people and that it was Moses’ own decision to rebuke them at this time, thus it was done with deference to the dignity of the people, whereas the more detailed rebuke was to all the people and by the command of G-d.

 

In this essay, we will decipher the meaning behind the names of the places that Moses mentions in his encrypted rebuke. These names are particularly difficult to comprehend through the classic commentaries of the Talmud and Midrash and the medieval commentaries, including Rashi. In particular, we will focus on the variants found in the manuscripts of Rashi at the Bodleian Library.

 

The Torah states in the opening of the book of Deuteronomy:[1] ‘These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on that side of the Jordan in the desert, in the plain opposite the Red Sea, between Paran and Tofel and Lavan and Hazeroth and Di Zahav.’ The identification of the places Tofel and Lavan (lit. white) are interpreted as referring to the complaints of the Jewish people about the manna.[2] Due to its colourlessness (white) it was not satiating and therefore subject to complaint. In this essay, we will focus on the final place listed: Di-Zahav, which, like Tofel and Lavan, is also not found previously in the listing of the journeys of the Jewish people or anywhere else in the Torah.

 

Seven interpretations to Di-Zahav

 

There are seven interpretations to the meaning of the place Di Zahav: 1. Rashbam, Ibn Ezra and Chizkuni[3] say that it is a place name. Indeed, some places are not mentioned more than once and some of the places of the journeys of the Jewish people after the Exodus have more than one name. 2. The Talmud[4] explains that Di-Zahav (literally translates as enough gold) refers to the sufficient abundance (Di) of gold (Zahav) the Jewish people were granted by G-d at the time of Exodus and the crossing of the sea that served as temptation to the sin of the golden calf. 3. The Midrash explains:[5] It refers to G-d saying to Israel: The golden calf weighs upon Me more than all the other sins they committed. 4. A further interpretation in the Midrash:[6] It refers to Moses saying to Israel: You gave “an abundance of gold” (Di-Zahav) for the tabernacle and you gave “an abundance of gold” (Di-Zahav) for the golden calf - without differentiation between sin and virtue. 5. The Tosafists explain it refers to the statement of G-d to Moses that his rebuke of the Jewish people is sufficient (Di) and he should desist. 6. Rabbi Nathan of Rome explains that the word v’Di-Zahav is from the Greek word for ox: Vódi, alluding to the ox (Vódi) that was made from gold (Zahav).

 

The above interpretations may be divided into two categories: 1. rebuke for the sin of the golden calf and 2. mitigation of the sin of the golden calf. While the Talmud interprets the name Di-Zahav as a term informing the mitigation of the sin of golden calf, due to provoking temptation, the other four interpretations understand Di-Zahav as part of the rebuke, either the name of the place, alluding to the sin of the golden calf, G-d’s limiting Moses’ rebuke of the Jewish people, or emphasising the gravity of the sin.

 

Rashi

 

Rashi fits into the second category where he follows the view that the phrase Di-Zahav refers to rebuke - that the Jewish people were given abundance of gold but were ungrateful and used it to create a golden calf for idolatry. Rashi states: ‘and Di-Zahav: (lit., enough gold). He rebuked them for the calf they had made as a result of their abundance of gold, as it is said:[7] “and I gave her much silver and gold, but they made it for Baal.”’

 

Talmud – source of Rashi

 

This view of Rashi is a rewording of the interpretation of the Talmud that also quotes the verse from Hosea about the abundance of gold being used for idolatry but the Talmud phrases it in the context of the mitigation of the gravity of the sin. The Talmud states:

 

What is the meaning of ‘and Di-Zahav’? The Sages of the school of Rabbi Yannai said that Moses said the following before the Holy One, Blessed be He, to atone for Israel after the sin of the Golden Calf: Master of the Universe, because of the gold and silver that you lavished upon Israel during the exodus from Egypt until they said enough [dai]; it was this wealth that caused Israel to make the Golden Calf. Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: From where in the Torah is it derived that the Holy One, Blessed be He, ultimately conceded to Moses that the reason for the sin of the Golden Calf was indeed the riches lavished upon Israel? As it is stated in Hosea:[8] “And I gave them an abundance of silver and gold, which they used for the Ba’al.”’

 

Rashi takes the above text of the Talmud and utilises it together with the quotation from Hosea:[9] “And I gave them an abundance of silver and gold, which they used for the Ba’al” - not as a reason for mitigating the sin but rebuke for the gravity of the sin: they were given abundance of gold but misused it for idolatry.[10]

 

MS. Huntington 445 Devarim .pngVariations in the Rashi

 

While the Rashi commentary in Deuteronomy interprets the phrase Di-Zahav as rebuke, emphasising not just the sin itself but the gravity of the sin, as opposed to the Talmud that the phrase is to mitigate the sin, the commentary of Rashi as found in the manuscripts appears to reflect an approach that is less harsh. There are five variations in the commentary of Rashi in the manuscripts: three show the interpretation that appears in all the versions of Rashi reflecting the gravity of the sin of the golden calf and two versions that bring an additional interpretation not found in the printed edition and most of the manuscripts:

 

1. Making of the calf

 

In the printed edition and the majority of the manuscript versions it states: ‘He rebuked them for the calf they had made.’ In MS. Canonici Or. 35, Fol. 196 (1401-1425), it states: ‘He rebuked them for the making of (ma’aseh) the calf they had made.’

 

2. The (sh’hishpia l’hem) abundance of gold given to them

 

In the printed edition and the majority of the manuscripts, it states: ‘He rebuked them for the calf they had made as a result of their (sh’hayah l’hem) abundance of gold.’ In MS. Huntington 445, Fol. 67 (1376-1400) it states:‘as a result of the abundance of gold that was given to them (sh’hishpia l’hem).’

 

3. Hosea verse – her, you, them

 

In the printed edition it quotes from the verse in Hosea:[11] “I gave her much silver and gold, but they made it for Baal.” In MS. Huntington 445, Fol. 67 (1376-1400) and MS. Oppenheim 35, fol. 91 (1408), it states: ‘and I gave you much silver and gold, but they made it for Baal.” In MS. Oppenheim 34, fol. 98 (1201-1225) it states: ‘and I gave them much silver and gold, but they made it for Baal.”

 

4. Additional interpretation 1

 

In MS. Canon. Or. 81, fol. 160 (1396), an additional interpretation appears after the first interpretation, not found in any of the other manuscripts or printed edition: ‘An alternative interpretation: Rabbi Aba said: What is ‘and Di-Zahav? G-d said to Moses: it is enough for you Moses, do not rebuke my son.’

 

4. Additional interpretation 2

 

In MS. Huntington 445, Fol. 67 (1376-1400), a further additional interpretation appears after the first interpretation, not found in any of the other manuscripts or printed editions: ‘Another interpretation: ‘and Di-Zahav’ - in the Greek language they call an ox: ‘Vódi.’ That is how Rabbi Nathan of Rome explained in Aruch (dictionary).’

 

MS. Michael 384, fol. 119 (1399) Devarim.pngSignificance of the variations

 

What is the significance of these variations? I would like to argue that the variations in the manuscript reflect a question that is difficult in the text, posed by 16th century Talmudist Rabbi Shmuel Eidels, known as the Maharsha (1555 – 1631).[12] He explains the difficulty in the text is not the name Zahav (gold) that refers to the rebuke about the golden calf - similar to Lavan (white) that refers to the complaint about the manna - but rather the question is regarding the word: ‘Di,’ before the word ‘Zahav.’ If the phrase Di-Zahav is merely meant to rebuke to the Jewish for the sin of the golden calf, it should have just stated ‘Zahav’ (gold), alluding to the sin of the golden calf, similar to the phrase “Lavan’ (white), alluding to the manna. Why does it state ‘Di’ before ‘Zahav’?

 

The Talmud answers this question by arguing that ‘Di’ (abundance) before ‘Zahav’ is meant to mitigate the sin of the golden calf (Zahav). While Rashi argues that the text ‘Di-Zahav’ is a rebuke,[13] and ‘Di’ (abundance) may be understood as a part of the rebuke - emphasising the gravity of the sin, the question, as posed by Rabbi Shmuel Eidels, remains: for the purpose of rebuke it could have just stated ‘Zahav’ (gold), alluding to the sin of the golden calf itself.

 

This problem, as posed by the Maharsha, regarding the superfluous phrase ‘Di’ (abundance) may explain the variations and the additional alternative interpretations in the manuscripts, all consistent with the understanding that the verse is indeed a rebuke but not in connection with the description of the gold (Zahav). The interpretation found in MS. Canon. Or. 81, fol. 160 (1396) suggests ‘Di’ (abundance) refers to restraining Moses in his rebuke: ‘G-d said to Moses: it is enough for you Moses, do not rebuke my son.’ Similarly, in MS. Huntington 445, Fol. 67 (1376-1400), ‘Di’ has a separate meaning to the word ‘Zahav’ (gold), as in the Greek language they call an ox: ‘Vódi,’ thus ‘Di’ refers to the ox, as opposed to describing the gold.

 

Mitigating

 

The other variations may be understood as aiming to mitigate in some way the rebuke of the sin of the golden calf within the first interpretation of Rashi. Emphasising the making of the golden calf, MS. Canonici Or. 35 focus the criticism on the aspect of the sin of the golden that, while prohibited in Jewish law, is not as severe as the serving of the golden calf.[14]

 

Similarly, in MS. Huntington 445, Fol. 67 (1376-1400) where it states:‘as a result of the abundance of gold that was given to them (sh’hishpia l’hem),’ this may subtly allude to the Talmudic interpretation that the sin of the golden calf was in part due to the fact that the gold was given to them in abundance.[15] This hint to the mitigation of the sin within the commentary of Rashi may be further alluded to in the wording of Rashi: He rebuked them for the calf they had made as a result of their abundance of gold, as argued by Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, in Likkutei Sichot.[16]

 

Finally, the variation in the quotation of the verse in Hosea[17] may also be seen in this light. Retaining the wording of the verse in Hosea:[18] ‘I gave her much silver and gold, but they made it for Baal,’ leaves it similar to the interpretation and use of this verse in the Talmud that in fact understands the phrase ‘Di-Zahav’ as informing a mitigation of the sin of the golden calf. The rephrasing of the verse: ‘I gave you or them much silver and gold, but they made it for Baal,’ emphasises the use of this verse in the context of Rashi’s interpretation of ‘Di-Zahav’ as rebuke.[19]

 

Conclusion

 

In conclusion, we explored the phrase ‘Di-Zahav’ through numerous interpretations in the context of the rebuke of the Jewish people by Moses and argued that the commentary of Rashi follows the view that ‘Di-Zahav’ is a rebuke about not just the sin of the golden calf but its gravity that despite being given abundance of gold, it was used for idolatry. We explained, however, that the variants in the manuscripts reflect a lessening of the criticism, suggesting that based on the question by Rabbi Shmuel Eidels in the 16th century about the superfluous word ‘Di,’ in addition to ‘Zahav’ in the biblical text, the manuscripts appear to lower the degree of criticism by adding alternative interpretations and minor subtle changes in the text of the commentary.

 

 


 

[1] Deuteronomy 1:1-5.

[2] Rashi on Deuteronomy 1:1: ‘Between Paran and Tofel and Lavan: Rabbi Yochanan said: We have reviewed the entire Bible, but we have found no place named Tofel or Lavan! However, [the explanation is that] he rebuked them because of the foolish things they had said (תָּפְלוּ) about the manna, which was white (לָבָן) , saying “And our soul loathes this light bread” (Num. 21:5), and because of what they had done in the desert of Paran through the spies. [from Eileh Hadevarim Rabbah , Lieberman].’

[3] Rashbam, Ibn Ezra and Chizkuni on Deuteronomy 1:1.

[4] Talmud Brachot 32a: The Sages of the school of Rabbi Yannai, however, say proof that Moses spoke impertinently toward G-d on High is derived from here, Moses’ rebuke at the beginning of Deuteronomy: “And Di Zahav” (Deuteronomy 1:1). This is an entry in a list of places where Moses had spoken to Israel. As there was no place encountered by that name, it is interpreted as an allusion to another matter. We must clarify: What is the meaning of and Di Zahav? The Sages of the school of Rabbi Yannai said that Moses said the following before the Holy One, Blessed be He, to atone for Israel after the sin of the Golden Calf: Master of the Universe, because of the gold and silver that you lavished upon Israel during the exodus from Egypt until they said enough [dai]; it was this wealth that caused Israel to make the Golden Calf. Establishing a general moral principle, the Sages the school of Rabbi Yannai said: A lion does not roar standing over a basket of straw from which he derives no pleasure, but he roars standing over a basket of meat, as he only roars when satiated. Similarly, Rabbi Oshaya said: This is comparable to a person who had a lean, but large-limbed cow. At one point, he fed it lupines, a choice food, and soon thereafter the cow was kicking him. He said to the cow: Who caused you to begin kicking me if not the lupines I fed you? Here, too, the sin was caused by an abundance of good. The Gemara offers another analogy: Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: This is comparable to a person who had a son; he bathed him and anointed him with oil, fed him and gave him drink, and hung a purse of money around his neck. Then, he brought his son to the entrance of a brothel. What could the son do to avoid sinning? On a similar note, Rav Aḥa, son of Rav Huna, said that Rav Sheshet said: That is what people say in a popular maxim: Filling his stomach is a type of sin, as it is stated: “When they were fed and became full they were sated, and their hearts were lifted and they have forgotten Me” (Hosea 13:6). Rav Naḥman said: This principle is derived not from the verse in Hosea, but from here: “And your heart is lifted and you forget the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:14). And the Rabbis say that this principle is derived from here: “And they will have eaten and been sated and fattened, and they will turn to other gods” (Deuteronomy 31:20). And if you wish, say instead that it is derived from here: “And Jeshurun grew fat and kicked” (Deuteronomy 32:15). Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: From where in the Torah is it derived that the Holy One, Blessed be He, ultimately conceded to Moses that the reason for the sin of the Golden Calf was indeed the riches lavished upon Israel? As it is stated: “And I gave them an abundance of silver and gold, which they used for the Ba’al” (Hosea 2:10).

[5] Sifra Devarim 1.

[6] Sifra Devarim 1.

[7] Hosea 2:10.

[8] Hosea 2:10.

[9] Hosea 2:10.

[10] The use of the Talmudic teaching that abundance of gold granted to the Jewish people is a reason for mitigation of the sin of the golden calf is indeed found in Exodus (32:30-32), where the Torah states: Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people is guilty of a great sin in making for themselves a god of gold,’ and Rashi comments: ‘a god of gold: [Moses is saying to God:] It was You Who caused them [to sin], for You lavished upon them gold and whatever they desired. What should they have done so as not to sin? [This may be illustrated by] a parable of a king who gave his son to eat and drink, dressed him up, hung a coin purse on his neck, and stationed him at the entrance of a brothel. What can the son do so as not to sin? -[from Ber. 32a]’

[11] Hosea 2:10.

[12] Maharsha on Berachot 32a.

[13] In Likkutei Sichot 14: Devarim 1, it argues that perhaps for this reason Rashi repeats the word hochichan at the beginning of his commentary.

[14] Mishneh Torah, laws of idol worship 3:9.

[15] This may equally suggest that the emphasis is on the fact that G-d gave them the gold and they misused it, thus emphasizing the gravity of the sin. As argued in Likkutei Sichot, Rashi also desired to hint to the mitigation of the sin by the phrase ‘as a result of’ one may apply this also to the variation in the mentioned manuscript.

[16] Likkutei Sichot 14: Devarim 1.

[17] Hosea 2:10.

[18] Hosea 2:10.

[19] Likkutei Sichot 14: Devarim 1, footnote 1.

 

 

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