Friday, June 17, 2011

Another Example of Rashi Changing a Midrash (Shlach)

Here's the Tanchuma on the verse in Numbers in which we are told that tassles on the end of our garments (i.e. tzitzis) will prevent us from "prostituing ourselves after the lusts of our eyes and hearts."

הלב והעיניים הן סרסורין לגוף, שהן מזנים את הגוף
The eyes and the heart are agents of the body, that lead the body astray

And here is Rashi on the same verse
הלב והעינים הם מרגלים לגוף ומסרסרים לו את העבירות, העין רואה והלב חומד והגוף עושה את העבירות
The heart and the eyes are spies of the body; they introduce him to sin: the eye sees, the heart desires, and the body performs the transgressions

As you can see Rashi has altered the Tanchuma, changing "agent" to "spies". I believe he does this for the purpose of drawing our attention to a thematic link between the beginning and ending of the parsha.

The first part of the sedra deals with the sin of the spies, who were led astray by their eyes and hearts; at the end of the parsha Tzitzis are instituted specifically to prevent such errors. The spies explored (tur [13: 16,17,21,and 25); tzistiz prevent us from the same (v'lo taturu [15:39])

By changing"agent" to "spies" Rashi makes the link explicit.

PS: Would Rashi permit himself to do this if he imagined that Midrashim were from Sinai?

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