Friday, August 14, 2009

As It Were, So To Speak

Everyone knows that the word k'vyachol means "as it were," "so to speak." These in turn mean that the idea being conveyed is not actually true, but is being spoken of "as it were" i.e. as if it were true, or "so to speak," following a manner of speaking. So, when the Gemara says that God is, k'vyachol, not wanting the offerings of the Jewish People, or that He is standing up, it means that although God did not actually not want the offerings of the Jewish People, and He does not actually stand up, we are only saying this following a manner of speaking, as if it were true.

But not according to Rashi!

The first instance in the Talmud where k'vyachol appears is in Yoma 3b:

קח לך משלך ועשה לך משלך ויקחו אליך משל צבור דברי רבי יאשיה רבי יונתן אומר בין קח לך בין ויקחו אליך משל צבור ומה תלמוד לומר קח לך כביכול משלך אני רוצה יותר משלהם

Here is the Soncino translation:

The expression ‘kah leka’ means ‘mi-sheleka [from thy own] and ‘aseh leka means mi-sheleka [taken from thy own funds], but we-yikehu eleka means [they shall take for them] from community funds; these are the words of R. Josiah; R. Jonathan said, Both ‘kah leka’ and ‘we-yikehu eleka’ mean from community funds, and what is intimated by saying ‘kah leka’ [take thee]? As it were, ‘I prefer your own [private means expended on this work] to the community's [expenditure]’.


In other words, although God did not actually disfavor the Jewish People's offering, it is described as though that was actually the case.

But let us look at the definition of k'vyachol provided by Rashi:

כביכול - אני שמעתי אם היה ציבור יכול להתכפר בשל יחיד הייתי רוצה, ואני אומר לפי שדבר קשה הוא לומר שהקדוש ברוך הוא קץ בישראל, אומר כביכול, כלומר על כרחינו יאמר כן, כאילו (אי) אפשר לומר כן, וכן כל כביכול שבתלמוד:

Amazing! Rashi explains k'vyachol to mean that the concept is "difficult for us to say" - for who wants to say that Hashem is undesiring of the Jewish People's offering? However, "against our will it is thus stated" - even though we don't like to hear it - "as though it were possible for us to say it." It's not "as IF it were true" - it IS true, but we hate to say it. It's not "following a manner of speaking" - it is the correct description.

Ritva elaborates upon Rashi's explanation:

כביכול בשלך אני רוצה יותר משלהם הפי' הנכון כפי' השני דפרש"י ז"ל דאמרי' כביכול מפני שהוא דבר קשה לומר כי הקב"ה קץ בקרבן צבור אלא דכיון שכתוב בתורה יכול אדם לאומרו וקרא ה"ק קח זה הקרבן של צבור ויהא חשוב כאלו הוא שלך שאני רוצה בו יותר:

Of great significance is that Rashi concludes his explanation of the term by saying that "such is the explanation of every occurrence of k'vyachol in the Talmud." Let us now turn to another occurrence, Megillah 21a. This is discussing the chiddush that when reading from the Torah, the one reading has to stand, which we learn from the Torah's description that God stood together with Moshe when teaching him the Torah. It goes against what one might consider to be the appropriate protocol; after all, when one goes to meet a king, the king remains seated while the petitioner stands.

אמר רבי אבהו דאמר קרא ואתה פה עמד עמדי ואמר רבי אבהו אלמלא מקרא כתוב אי אפשר לאומרו כביכול אף הקדוש ברוך הוא בעמידה

And in the Soncino translation:

R. Abbahu said: Because Scripture says, But as for thee, stand thou here by me. R. Abbahu also said: Were it not written in the Scripture, it would be impossible for us to say it: as it were, the Holy One, blessed be He, also was standing.


But this is not Rashi's explanation. Here, Rashi's comment is brief:

כביכול - נאמר בהקדוש ברוך הוא כבאדם, שיכול להאמר בו כן

But following Rashi's explanation in Yoma, which he says applies to every occurrence of k'vyachol, we see his view clearly. The concept is "difficult for us to say" - for who wants to say that Hashem, the King of kings, stood together with Moshe, whereas a mortal king does not lower himself to stand with his subjects? However, "against our will it is thus stated" - even though it is discomforting vis-a-vis Hashem's dignity - "as though it were possible for us to say it." It's not "as IF it were true" - it IS true, but we hate to say it. It's not "following a manner of speaking" - it is the correct description.

Thus, here we have yet another argument in favor of the proposition that Rashi had a corporeal view of God.

Rabbi Zucker, who continues to argue with me in the comments on this post, unsurprisingly rejects this argument. He claims that there is no issue of disrespect to Hashem here, and the reason for k'vyachol is that it is not literally true that Hashem stands. Rabbi Zucker claims that although Rashi is saying that it is true that Hashem stood, he is not saying that it is literally true, merely that it is figuratively true. (Of course, there is nothing in Rashi here that leads him to this explanation; he is saying it due to his conviction regarding Rashi's position which he claims is based on other sources.) Thus, he is explaining Rashi as follows: "It is difficult to say" that Hashem stood, because He does not literally stand, "but against our will it is thus stated," because it is allegorically true.

However, this is not at all viable, for two reasons. First of all, Rashi explains k'vyachol to mean that it is being stated "against our will" - i.e., we do not like the Torah's description. But why would we not like the Torah using an anthropomorphic expression in speaking about God as standing? The Torah uses anthropomorphic descriptions of God all the time!
Second, Rashi is explaining the Gemara's statement that "Were it not written in the Scripture, it would be impossible for us to say it." But if it is not literally true, it would not be impossible for us to say it! We use such anthropomorphisms all the time. Is it forbidden to say to someone that "Hashem will be happy if we do mitzvos," when it is clear that one is speaking allegorically?!

Thus, Rashi's view on k'vyachol, which is radically different from the conventional understanding of this phrase, serves as excellent further evidence for his being a corporealist.

(I would like to thank Rabbi Zucker for pointing me to this Rashi, although he probably regrets doing so!)

12 comments:

  1. In another post, "Was Rashi a Corporealist", blogger ShadesOf writes: "R. Yosef Bloch(or perhaps his son) in Shiurei Daas, Shaloh and R. Gifter, the latter both quoted in the Artscroll Overview to Shir Hashirim(R. Gifter's comments there are in original Hebrew)...I believe they all follow what's quoted here from R. Tatz. " (See that post for what R' Tatz has to say.)

    Perhaps R' Bloch explains Rashi's words in a non-corporeal way. Anyone out there who can paste what it says?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rabbi Slifkin, I'm sorry but you misinterpreted the Rashi in Yoma in taking it beyond its meaning.

    כביכול always means only one thing - על כרחינו יאמר כן כאילו אפשר לומר כן.

    The phrase means that without license, we could not express ourselves in certain ways regarding G-d. Sometimes because it is merely distasteful, like in Yoma, and sometimes because it is wrong. But it is always with license, since otherwise we could not use such expressions.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I admire and marvel at your very creative reading of that Rashi; however...

    You again equate "true" with "literal" -- they are not necessarily the same, and your interpretation of them being synonymous according to Rashi requires proof -- which you clearly do not (cannot?) provide. The truth is that my critique of your reading could end here. But, wait...there's more!

    Please see the Rashi on Shemos 15:8 -- This is the case of "Ruach Af" which you yourself have claimed is one of the cases that Rashi interprets non-literally. Let us look at what he says: "The Torah spoke 'k'veyyakhol' about God using the example of a human king, in order to enable us to understand in accordance with our present language..." According to you, there is a major contradiction here. Rashi says "k'veyyakhol" -- so it must be literally true; but he also says "dugma" -- an example using human terms just so that we should be able to understand -- i.e., it is not literally true! Well...what is the real meaning of k'veyyakhol?

    Of course, according to my explanation, there is no problem here whatsoever -- "k'veyyakhol" according to Rashi means it is difficult to say (sometimes perhaps because we don't want to face something that is literally true, sometimes because the example is NOT literally true -- only an allegory. And it is difficult to posit even an anthropomorphic ALLEGORY about HaShem, such is the great consideration of absolute incorporealism).

    Still more...Please see the Rashi on Yeshayahu 28:20 -- where he states that our making a "masseikhah" -- an idol, k'veyyakhol narrows HaShem's space in the heavens. So according to you, this is literally true. According to Rashi, if one were to make a twleve inch idol in NY, God's space in the heavens is LITERALLY narrowed?!

    And finally, please see the Rashi on gemara Sanhedrin daf 97a -- where Rashi again defines the word "k'veyyakhol" as "k'eelu yekhollin lomar davvar zeh k'lappei ma'alah" -- "AS IF IT WERE POSSIBLE TO SAY THIS with regard to HaShem." What does he mean "as if it were possible..." it is possible! It may be uncomfortable -- but it is certainly POSSIBLE because it's literally true! This clearly contradicts your premise that Rashi in gemara Yoma means that "k'veyyakhol" means uncomfortable but necessarily literally true.

    I find the last statement that you made in your post most interesting:

    "I would like to thank Rabbi Zucker for pointing me to this Rashi, although he probably regrets doing so!"

    Of course I DON'T regret doing so -- only someone who is not concerned with open, informed, comprehensive dialogue and investigation would regret sharing a source for others to examine and discuss. Only someone who is primarily concerned with preserving his own claims in the face of whatever evidence out there would feel such regret. It is interesting that you project that feeling onto me...

    ReplyDelete
  4. I most certainly do not automatically equate “true” with “literal;” my book The Challenge Of Creation is based on the idea that they are not always the same! However, in this Rashi, it appears that they are the same, for the reasons that I gave.

    The Rashi to Sanhedrin 97a is no contradiction. Yecholin does not mean “possible” – it means “able,” in the sense of “entitled.”

    Regarding Rashi to Yeshayah – When people worshipped idols, they were not worshipping blocks of wood; the idea is that the block of wood represents a deity in heaven. Incidentally, have you see Ramah’s objection to Rashi’s explanation of such things?

    However, Rashi to Shemos 15:8 does appear to use k’vyachol as you say. But the conclusion is not that every k’vyachol means that. Instead, for the reasons that I gave in the post, Rashi with regard to Hashem standing must mean literally. You said that I did not provide any proof that “true” means “literal” in this Rashi – but actually I gave two reasons. It thus seems that Rashi in his commentary to the Chumash uses k’vyachol differently than in his commentary on the Gemara regarding how the Gemara uses it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Rabbi Slifkin,

    "I most certainly do not automatically equate “true” with “literal;” my book The Challenge Of Creation is based on the idea that they are not always the same! However, in this Rashi, it appears that they are the same, for the reasons that I gave."

    I'm sorry; I must have missed the basis that you say you provided in your post i.e., "for the reasons I gave." In your post, these "reasons" are purportedly given in the following words:

    "Amazing! Rashi explains k'vyachol to mean that the concept is "difficult for us to say" - for who wants to say that Hashem is undesiring of the Jewish People's offering? However, "against our will it is thus stated" - even though we don't like to hear it - "as though it were possible for us to say it." It's not "as IF it were true" - it IS true, but we hate to say it. It's not "following a manner of speaking" - it is the correct description."

    What is the basis to say that here true = literal?! As I argued in my comment, and as Mark has correctly pointed out in his comment on this thread, all Rashi says it that it is difficult for us to say X. What makes it difficult is not necessarily that X is literally true but we don't like it -- the difficulty can lie in the fact that to express any anthropomorphism even as a metaphor is difficult. So where is the basis for your claim?

    "The Rashi to Sanhedrin 97a is no contradiction. Yecholin does not mean “possible” – it means “able,” in the sense of “entitled.”"

    So according to your understanding, Rashi is saying that "k'veyyakhol" means "as if we are entitled to say X." But we ARE entitled to say X, at least in some of the k'veyyakhols, because the Torah said them: ilmallei mikra kassuv... Further, could you please provide a basis to demonstrate that Rashi uses the shoresh y.kh.l. as "entitled" rather than "capable" or "possible"? If you were correct, should he not have said "muttarin"?

    "Regarding Rashi to Yeshayah – When people worshipped idols, they were not worshipping blocks of wood; the idea is that the block of wood represents a deity in heaven."

    Let us assume that you are correct about this. So according to you, Rashi means that if one makes (and worships) an idol that represents a deity in the heavens, the heavens are then LITERALLY narrowed for HaShem to dwell there? God is cramped up for space because a human being made (and worshipped) an idol? This is Rashi's view?

    "Incidentally, have you seen Ramah’s objection to Rashi’s explanation of such things?"

    To which quote from the Ramah are you referring?

    "It thus seems that Rashi in his commentary to the Chumash uses k’vyachol differently than in his commentary on the Gemara regarding how the Gemara uses it."

    Isn't that strange -- that he would change the definition of the same word without letting anyone know? This is even more perplexing since Rashi wrote his peirush on the gemara before he wrote his peirush on the Chumash. So once he defines a term from the gemara, and now uses the very same term in his peirush on Chumash in a different way, shouldn't he alert us to the change in definition?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm sorry; I must have missed the basis that you say you provided in your post i.e., "for the reasons I gave." In your post, these "reasons" are purportedly given in the following words...

    No, the reasons were given at the end of the post, where I gave the reasons why your explanation does not work.

    But we ARE entitled to say X, at least in some of the k'veyyakhols, because the Torah said them: ilmallei mikra kassuv...

    Eh? But that is the whole point, we can only say it because the Torah said it.

    Further, could you please provide a basis to demonstrate that Rashi uses the shoresh y.kh.l. as "entitled" rather than "capable" or "possible"?

    Sure. The context in Yoma 3b makes that clear. By the way, how do you explain Rashi there?

    Gotta run, I'll respond to the rest after Shabbos. Have a good Shabbos.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Rabbi Slifkin,

    You pointed out that the "proof" of your claim was delineated in the end of your post. I assume you therefore mean the following quote:

    "However, this is not at all viable, for two reasons. First of all, Rashi explains k'vyachol to mean that it is being stated "against our will" - i.e., we do not like the Torah's description. But why would we not like the Torah using an anthropomorphic expression in speaking about God as standing? The Torah uses anthropomorphic descriptions of God all the time! Second, Rashi is explaining the Gemara's statement that "Were it not written in the Scripture, it would be impossible for us to say it." But if it is not literally true, it would not be impossible for us to say it! We use such anthropomorphisms all the time. Is it forbidden to say to someone that "Hashem will be happy if we do mitzvos," when it is clear that one is speaking allegorically?!"

    There is one response to both "objections" that you bring. To an incorporealist, the notion of anthropomorphism, even as an allegory, is something that is impossible to say were it not for the license that the Torah provides. The case of Onkeles, as the Rambam so clearly explained in the Moreh, is a perfect example of this phenomenon. MAN, on his own, does not have the license to refer to HaShem with an any anthropomorphism, EVEN as an allegory -- so great is the need to distance ourselves from even the HINT of anything physical attributed to HaShem. This is what Rashi means in Yoma and in Megillah and in Sanhedrin. Again, Mark has correctly pointed this out in his comment to your post in this very thread. You are forcing into Rashi (in a rather difficult and unconvincing way) something that isn't there.

    Even if you do not like my explanation due to your own preconceived notion as to Rashi's overall ideology, I believe you are still forced to concede that my explanation is certainly a possible one (if not, please explain why not in light of what Mark and I have pointed out, i.e., please don't merely repeat your claim; explain your objection to Mark's and my point) -- and therefore your claim that Rashi's words PROVE your position is absolutely false; your claim of "proof" here for Rashi's corporealism -- from his explanation of "k'veyyakhol" -- does not stand up under any scrutiny.

    By the way, you did not respond at all to the following point. I would welcome your comments on it:

    [you had written:] "Regarding Rashi to Yeshayah – When people worshipped idols, they were not worshipping blocks of wood; the idea is that the block of wood represents a deity in heaven."

    [I responded:] "Let us assume that you are correct about this. So according to you, Rashi means that if one makes (and worships) an idol that represents a deity in the heavens, the heavens are then LITERALLY narrowed for HaShem to dwell there? God is cramped up for space because a human being made (and worshipped) an idol? This is Rashi's view?"

    Nor did you respond at all to the following:

    [you had written:] "It thus seems that Rashi in his commentary to the Chumash uses k’vyachol differently than in his commentary on the Gemara regarding how the Gemara uses it."

    [I responded:] "Isn't that strange -- that he would change the definition of the same word without letting anyone know? This is even more perplexing since Rashi wrote his peirush on the gemara before he wrote his peirush on the Chumash. So once he defines a term from the gemara, and now uses the very same term in his peirush on Chumash in a different way, shouldn't he alert us to the change in definition?"

    Any thoughts on those two comments?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Drat, I wrote a long comment and it somehow got lost. Maybe it ended up on another thread? I'll try again.

    There is one response to both "objections" that you bring.

    I don't think that it answers either.
    I have never seen it said that when the Torah uses anthropomorphisms, it is something that is forced upon us to our dislike. If we dislike it, why would we use those phrases in tefillos, etc.?

    To an incorporealist, the notion of anthropomorphism, even as an allegory, is something that is impossible to say were it not for the license that the Torah provides.
    That's just not the case. You often see rabbonim saying things such as "when klal yisrael does mitzvos, it brings nachas to Hashem." Are you claiming that this is forbidden? This is a new issur.

    Even if you do not like my explanation due to your own preconceived notion as to Rashi's overall ideology, I believe you are still forced to concede that my explanation is certainly a possible one

    Yes, I do concede that. So, while your pshat in k'vyachol is certainly no kashya against my position, my pshat is no proof against yours either.

    God is cramped up for space because a human being made (and worshipped) an idol? This is Rashi's view?"

    I personally do indeed find that hard to believe, so maybe in that case, Rashi is using your understanding of k'vyachol. However, I also find it hard to beleive that Rashi took a literal interpretation of Aggadatas about people tunneling to the Heavens, or about Adam mating with animals, and yet this is how Ramah, Mizrachi etc., understand him.

    Isn't that strange -- that he would change the definition of the same word without letting anyone know?

    It's not so strange, since one is him explaining the term in teh Gemara, and one is in his commentary on the CHumash. But, yes, it is somewhat strange. Still, since the pshat in Yoma 3b is clearly as I said (did you see Ritva), this is a question on Rashi, not on me. I have a possible answer. Perhaps k'vyachol means "as though we could say it, but we wouldn't" - sometimes because it's not true, and sometimes even though it is true, because its inappropriate. It's just making Rashi's statement about how "this is the pshat in every occurrence of k'vyachol" slightly less precise in what it is intended to refer to.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I happen to come upon the following source yesterday, and I thought that you might be interested in knowing about it.

    R. Yehoshua ibn Shu'ib, a prominent talmid of the Rashba, a chaver of the Ritva, and a known incorporealist, has the following in his Derashah on the sidra of Ki Seitzei:

    He cites Rashi's use of the concept of "deyyukan" with regard to HaShem's creating Adam in His tzellem, and he (ibn Shu'ib) then explains that Rashi in an unequivocally incorporealistic way. (He says that Rashi's explanation of "deyyukan" is consistent with what he (again, ibn Shu'ib) explained as a "sod" (in his derashah on the sidra of Yisro and in his derashah for Shavuos).

    This is significant for two reasons:

    [1] Here we have yet another rishon whose writing clearly implies that he knew Rashi to be an incorporealist.

    [2] The "evidentiary weight" of your argument from Rashi's use of "deyyukan" to show that Rashi was a corporealist is now completely null. Even if you say that you choose to interpret Rashi differently from the way that ibn Shu'ib did, the fact that a rishon understood Rashi's "deyyukan" INcorporeally means that you cannot adduce Rashi's "deyyukan" to PROVE his corporealism.

    With regard to the first issue, I assume that you will claim, as you have in the past, that you were able to see the truth of what Rashi held whereas rishonim such as the Ramban, R. Avraham ben HaRambam, the Machzor Vitry, and now ibn Shu'ib, were unable to see it, because you were looking for it and they were not.

    I mention this whole issue because it is an entirely NEW source, (not a round of questions and answers on what we have already discussed). Having said that, if you do decide to put this post up, and if you do decide to respond to it, and if you do not wish me to discuss it any further after your response, please indicate so, and I will comply.

    In any event, I do think it is a significant source that you (and the readership) should be aware of when considering the entire issue of Rashi's (in)corporeality.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Rabbi Zucker, I transferred your comment to this post, where it was more relevant. Apologies for the delay, but I had very little time today and I had to give priority to more current discussion.

    I don't see why R. Yehoshua ibn Shu'ib is especially relevant. He lived two hundred years after Rashi, and in an entirely different place!

    And with regard to his interpretation of d'yukan - of course it is possible to contrive a different interpretation of Rashi - after all, you did so yourself! The question is, how would one read Rashi without any prior bias, and/or how does this Rashi fit best with all other comments made by Rashi. Both of those yield the interpretation that I proposed, whereas R. Yehoshua ibn Shu'ib's, and yours, fit better with Maimonidean Orthodox hashkafah.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Amazing! So R"Y ibn Shu'ib's understanding of Rashi is contrived, and is due to his prior bias, and does not fit best with all other comments made by Rashi, whereas you know Rashi's meaning better than he (a Rishon!) did; you're not biased, and thankfully your explanation is not contrived. Is there any limit to your unfathomable knowledge?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Tell me, Yoni, how do you account for the fact that every single Rishon interpreted the famous dispute on Pesachim 94b as being one about astronomy, whereas Maharal interpreted it as being about metaphysics?

    ReplyDelete

Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.