Isaiah Chapter 45
|1 Thus saith the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him, and to loose the loins of kings; to open the doors before him, and that the gates may not be shut:|
BT Megillah 12a:
דרש רב נחמן בר רב חסדא מאי דכתיב כה אמר ה למשיחו לכורש אשר החזקתי בימינו וכי כורש משיח היה אלא א"ל הקב"ה למשיח קובל אני לך על כורש אני אמרתי הוא יבנה ביתי ויקבץ גליותי והוא אמר מי בכם מכל עמו ויעל
R. Nahman son of R. Hisda gave the following exposition. What is the meaning of the verse, Thus saith the Lord to his anointed to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden. Now was Cyrus the Messiah? Rather what it means is: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to the Messiah: I have a complaint on thy behalf against Cyrus. I said, He shall build my house and gather my exiles, and he [merely] said, Whosoever there is among you of all his people, let him go up.
(Soncino; whenever I am not delving into the meaning of the text, I prefer to use the Soncino translation rather than attempt my own. It is not perfect, but it is good. It will, in a word, do.)
In other words, the Gemara explains that Cyrus is not called God's annointed ('messiah), rather read "Thus saith the Lord to his annointed" with a colon, rather than a comma.
Rashi comments ad loc.
קובל אני לך כו' -והכי קאמר: כה אמר ה למשיחו לכורש אשר החזקתי בימינו וגוהוא יבנה את ביתי, תרי קראי כתיבי דסמיכי אהדדי, וניקוד טעם מקרא זה מוכיח על דרש זה, שאין לך טעם זרקא במקרא שאין סגול בא אחריו, וכאן ננקד למשיחו בזרקא, ולכורש ננקד במאריך - להפרישו ולנתקו מעם למשיחו
That is, Rashi wants to say that the cantillation, the trope, the טעמים on the words למשיחו לכורש prove this disjunctive reading correct. How so? The trope on למשיחו is a zarka , which are nearly always followed by a segol (anyone who reads the Torah will attest to this). This configuration is conjuctive, that is to say, it connects words. However, in this case the zarka is not followed by a segol . It's followed by a מאריך, that is to say, a mercha , the purpose of which is to disjoin these two words.
This is a wonderful example of how Rashi uses the cantillation in his exegesis; in this case to support the Talmudic explanation of the verse.
Here's the thing: open up an any Tanakh to Isaiah 45:1 and you will not find a zarka mercha () over the words למשיחו לכורש. In fact, you will almost certainly find a zarka munach () pair.
Here is how the famous Second Rabbinic Bible (Mikra'ot Gedolot; Bomberg ed., Venice, 1518) prints it:
(click to enlarge more clearly; courtesy of JNUL)
The modern critical editions of the Bible tend to follow the Leningrad Codex B19a. In that manuscript considered to be a very good Masoretic codex, it looks like this:
and following this are many modern editions, e.g., the Artscroll Tanakh. (More on Artscroll below).
Interestingly, here is the Aleppo Codex:
I propose that the graphic similarity between mercha and munach led to different readings reflected in Rashi's comment and in our own.
Interestingly, the note on this piece of Gemara in the Artscroll Schottenstein elucidation of the Talmud says the following:
Rashi proves [R. Nahman bar Hisda's contention that למשיחו לכורש are to be understood separately] by pointing out that the trop (the masoretic cantillations), of the word למשיחו is a zarka, which is generally followed by a word with the trop of segol, which signifies that the words are connected. However, in this verse the word לכורש, which follows למשיחו, does not have a segol. This proves that the two words are not connected.
Indeed, Rashi says this, but Rashi says something else which the commentary doesn't say: Rashi says which trop follows instead--a mercha, rather than a munach which our editions have!
Could it be that Artscroll avoids textual criticism issues in Tanakh like the plague, even an innocuous one?
I thank my grandfather for making me look up the passuk in Isaiah as we learned this Gemara in Megillah many years ago. It was then that I discovered (admittedly with him all but flashing signs in my face prompting me to) that Rashi indeed had a trope symbol here which we do not.