Thursday, January 30, 2014

Home pagancy test

A guest post by Y. Bloch
OK, maybe I oversold this. It's not a test of paganism, but of heresy. At least according to the neoharedim who daily tell us that you just can't be a good Jew unless you believe that the text of the Torah doesn't and has never changed. This is not the first time that I've addressed the issue, but it's relevant because of this week's Torah portion, Teruma. Teruma describes (most of) the vessels and the structure of the Tabernacle, with one shining (shiny?) example being the Menorah. This is the same one featured prominently in the Emblem of the State of Israel, not to be confused with the one we light on Hanukka, which is technically a hanukkia (with an extra set of branches). In fact, the Temple Institute has a new Menorah all set to go.
 Now, I'm not here to tell you that Maimonides would say that they made it wrong--although he would (see Menahot 3:7), and he even drew a picture of what it should look like.
Source: Wikipedia, from Kafih's edition of Perush Hamishnayot, 1967
Source: Wikipedia, from Kafih's edition of Perush Hamishnayot, 1967
No, I'd like to talk about the text of the command to make the Menora, which will be read in the second or third reading this Shabbat--depends on your Humash. What depends on your Torah scroll is what the sixth word of the Menora passage will be: תעשה or תיעשה? A minor difference? Certainly; it doesn't even change the pronunciation of the word "tei-aseh." But the presence or absence of that letter yud, that literal iota, is significant. Remember, Maimonides says that a one-letter difference is enough to invalidate a Torah scroll (Laws of Torah Scrolls 7:11). Still, it's more than that. Centuries after Moses' Tabernacle, Solomon builds his Temple in Jerusalem, featuring ten Menorahs.
He made ten gold candelabras according to the specifications for them and placed them in the temple, five on the south side and five on the north. (II Chronicles 4:7; cf. I Kings 7:49)
Where does he get this idea? Commentators attribute this to the extra yud, the tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
So, too it says concerning the Menorah, "teiaseh ha-menorah," with a yud, and this is why Solomon makes ten candelabras, for it is inconceivable that the Torah would command to make one Menorah and Solomon would then make ten. (Rabbeinu Bahya, Ex. 25:10) I have seen copies examined by the scholars of Tiberias, and fifteen of their elders testified that they inspected every word and every dot three times, every plene and every defective, and a yud is written in the word teiaseh. However, this is not what I found in the French, Spanish and English scrolls. And the ancients expounded that the additional yud alludes to the ten candelabra made by Solomon. (Ibn Ezra, Ex. 25:31)
These two medieval Spanish exegetes refer to the same Midrash, which is not known to us. R. Bahya b. Asher does not seem to be aware of any variation; ibn Ezra, who lived earlier but was far more well-traveled, seems well aware of this issue. Maimonides is not conflicted at all: his Yemenite Torah text has no yud. What does yours have? And which Torah do you have, the authentic Mosaic one or the corrupted one? The theological and philosophical questions of how we relate to the Bible are complex and convoluted. But a good place to start is the realization that there is only one One. Everything else is commentary.

 Search for more information about the Menorah

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