Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Parahat Vayera, 5775/Nov'14: the "yeled or na-ar?" edition

This'll be a standing-on-one-foot edition, because I'm so crazy busy at the office that I haven't left yet.

Link to my previous Vayera posts.

B'reshit/Genesis, Parashat Vayera, Genesis 21:

יד  וַיַּשְׁכֵּם אַבְרָהָם בַּבֹּקֶר וַיִּקַּח-לֶחֶם וְחֵמַת מַיִם וַיִּתֵּן אֶל-הָגָר שָׂם עַל-שִׁכְמָהּ, וְאֶת-הַיֶּלֶד--וַיְשַׁלְּחֶהָ; וַתֵּלֶךְ וַתֵּתַע, בְּמִדְבַּר בְּאֵר שָׁבַע. 14 And Abraham arose up early in the morning, and took bread and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away; and she departed, and strayed in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
טו  וַיִּכְלוּ הַמַּיִם, מִן-הַחֵמֶת; וַתַּשְׁלֵךְ אֶת-הַיֶּלֶד, תַּחַת אַחַד הַשִּׂיחִם. 15 And the water in the bottle was spent, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
טז  וַתֵּלֶךְ וַתֵּשֶׁב לָהּ מִנֶּגֶד, הַרְחֵק כִּמְטַחֲוֵי קֶשֶׁת, כִּי אָמְרָה, אַל-אֶרְאֶה בְּמוֹת הַיָּלֶד; וַתֵּשֶׁב מִנֶּגֶד, וַתִּשָּׂא אֶת-קֹלָהּ וַתֵּבְךְּ. 16 And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow-shot; for she said: 'Let me not look upon the death of the child.' And she sat over against him, and lifted up her voice, and wept. 

Notice that, in the above verses, Yishmael (Ishmael) is described as a yeled, a child (a boy, to be grammatically precise).  Yet, up to this point, and in the very next verse, the text has described/describes Yishmael as a youth (na-ar) in his mid-teens--just last week,we read about his circumcision at the age of thirteen.   Are we dealing with texts that have been spliced together from two different oral traditions?  I mean, seriously, folks, since when does one (a) place a 15-year-old under a shrub and (b) expect him/her to stay there?

If you ask me, 'tis a classic case of "visible seams."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's embarrassing you've reduced Hillel to a silly thing to mean "here's my quick take because I'm too lazy to do anything else." But not surprising.

Thu Nov 13, 06:49:00 AM 2014  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Laziness has nothing to do with this. I'm currently working on a major project of over 200 pages, with 3 more major projects to follow immediately. I barely have time to say hi, much less write blog posts. But if my "Hillel" note is offensive, I won't use it anymore.

Thu Nov 13, 10:50:00 AM 2014  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

That said, do you intend to comment on the content of my post, or are you just here to yell at me?

Thu Nov 13, 10:53:00 AM 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stop reading when you use the Hillel shorthand.

Thu Nov 13, 04:17:00 PM 2014  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I've deleted Hillel's name from the post, out of respect.

Thu Nov 13, 06:48:00 PM 2014  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

Stop feeding anonymous trolls... That said, using a great Sage's name to mean "I'm short on time" is pretty disrespectful.

But ignore trolls.

Fri Nov 14, 11:07:00 AM 2014  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Workin' on the respect part--I'll get it right eventually. (Sorry, no disrespect to Hillel intended.) Also workin' on the troll part. Shabbat Shalom.

Fri Nov 14, 02:04:00 PM 2014  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

So, nu, is *anyone* gonna comment on the content?

Fri Nov 14, 02:04:00 PM 2014  
Anonymous Miami al said...

My guess on some of this is less splicing and more evolution of language. The inconsistencies seem more likely to be ancient... As more modern editors would likely have edited better...

But evolution of grammar, language, and story telling style would make more sense.

My issue with the multiple author splicing theory is that the editing is so bad I don't see how it could be spliced together.

Sat Nov 15, 09:55:00 PM 2014  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Miami Al, my husband agrees with you, based on what's he's learned in the Biblical Hebrew course that he's currently taking (in the hope of being better prepared to undertake Talmud studies). He told me that, in biblical Hebrew, "na-ar" can mean everything from a day-old infant to a young man of roughly 25.

But my originally question still stands: Since when does one place (a) a 15-year under a shrub and (b) expect him/her to stay there? And while we're on the subject, why was only Hagar looking for water--why wasn't Yishmael looking for water, too?

"My issue with the multiple author splicing theory is that the editing is so bad I don't see how it could be spliced together." Nu, you've never read Parashat B'reshit? I'm not the only one who sees two totally different creation stories in that parashah, and you can see for yourself how well--or badly--the two stories were spliced together. See my "Visible Seams" post, linked in this post.

Tue Nov 18, 05:27:00 PM 2014  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

Also, remember what we know of Biblical Hebrew is what has made it down through commentaries written by people that didn't actually speak the language and they hadn't in centuries.

I mean, I'm forgetting where, but there is one Torah line that references another but negates what was said. That doesn't seem like splicing, it seems like bad editing.

The two creation stories look like splicing... but in a weird way... It doesn't come across like two separate versions were combined, it reads to me like one version, then over the centuries deviated, then the editor wasn't sure which was correct and listed both.

In terms of the ages, I'd remind you the P'shat Torah certainly doesn't imply that they are the ages that the Midrash gives them. I actually presume that the ages in the Midrash are given as allegorical, teaching a totally second story by putting them with ridiculously large ages, that somehow became literal in the intervening centuries.

I think the insistence of the literal aging of the Patriarchs in these stories is more a response to Christian domination, which led to a desire of the Jewish minority to feel superior because they knew the truth... at least that's how it sounds when the modern Yeshivish crowd "giggles" about it. :)

Wed Nov 19, 10:11:00 PM 2014  

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