Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Genealogy is Worth a Thousand Words - Part II

About a week or so ago my friend Res Ipsa commented in a post he had entitled Jot and Tittle:

" . . . arriving at a correct understanding of how to interpret those jots, tittles and spaces between the letters isn't an easy task.  For about 4,000 years the Levites and rabbis have been preserving a tradition of interpretation and study that maintains that there is nothing insignificant in scripture."

His comment prompted me to illustrate the concept with an example from Genesis 5.

This is the book of the generations (toledot) of Adam.  In the English there is nothing particularly noteworthy about the word 'generations', but in the original Hebrew it is a different story all together.  The word toledot is usually spelled with two vavsVav is the sixth letter in the Hebrew alphabet and its numerical equivalent is 'six'.  This detail will be important later. 

There are only two places in all of the Scriptures where toledot is spelled with two vavs: Genesis 2:4 and Ruth 4:18.  So, beginning with the first verse of Genesis 5 right up to Ruth 4:18, there are seven more occurrences of the word toledot and all of them are spelled defectively with only one vav.  It is not until we reach Ruth 4:18 that toledot is once again spelled fully with two vavs.  There is a fascinating tradition recorded in the ancient rabbinic literature known as the Midrash Rabbah which will help shed some interesting light on our discussion:

Genesis Rabbah 12:6  All toledot found in Scripture are defective, except two, viz. These are the toledot (generations) of Perez (Ruth IV, 18), and the present instance. And why are they defective? R. Judan said in R. Abun's name: The six[which they lack corresponds to the six things which were taken away from Adam, viz., his luster, his immortality [lit. ‘life’], his height, the fruit of the earth, the fruit of trees, and the luminaries  . . . Though these things were created in their fullness, yet when Adam sinned they were spoiled, and they will not again return to their perfection until the son of Perez [viz. the Messiah] comes; [for in the verse] ’These are the toledot (generations) of Perez ‘, toledot is spelled fully, with a vav.

Exodus Rabbah 30:3  . . .  But you will find, with the exception of two places-’ These are the generations of the heaven and the earth’  (Gen. II, 4) and Now these are the generations of Perez  (Ruth IV, 18)- the word ’toledot' whenever it occurs in the Bible is spelt defectively, and for a very significant reason. Thus the word is spelt fully [with a vav] in the case of ’These are the generations of the heaven and the earth’, because when HaShem created His world, there was no Angel of Death in the world, and on this account is it spelt fully; but as soon as Adam and Eve sinned, HaShem made defective all the ’toledot’ mentioned in the Bible.  But when Perez arose, his ’generations’ were spelt fully again, because from him Messiah would arise, and in his days God would cause death to be swallowed up, as it says, He will swallow up death for ever (Isa.XXV, 8); on this account is the ‘toledot’ of ’ The heaven and the earth’ and of Perez spelt fully.

Ruth 4:18 identifies and pinpoints the lineage of the Messiah, Son of David. It is my contention that the Son of Perez, the Messiah, has indeed come and that through Him, G-d has most assuredly caused death to be swallowed up in life. How was this accomplished and what was His name? For, truly, not one yod or tittle shall by any means pass away from the book of the Law.

1 comment:

  1. The "misspellings" in scripture are a testament to the reverence the scribes had for the task of coping it. After centuries/millennium pass we see that a "misspelling" has contains message. How easy would it have been for a scribe to "catch a mistake and 'fix it'" centuries ago? We never would have known about it.

    Why is vav so often the culprit?

    In Lev 25:13 the vav is missing, again. Reading the plain text we are told that "in this year of the jubilee you shall return unto possession". Calculating the year we arrive at 5708, or 1948.

    Two things jump out at me over this:
    1. Only someone who sees the end form the beginning could know that,
    2. Only the very faithful copying of scripture, including the "mistakes" could transmit that detail of data over nearly 4,000 years.