Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Artscroll Rashi on tikkunei soferim, 'scribal emendations.'

The following interesting thing was brought to my attention by a friend, concerning a famous, controversial Rashi text.

רשי בראשית פרק יח פסוק כב דה ואברהם עודנו

והלא לא הלך לעמוד לפניו אלא הקב"ה בא אאצלו ואמר לו זעקת סדום ועמורה כי רבה והיה לן לכתוב וה עודנו עומד לפני אברהם אלא תיקון סופרים הוא זה אשר הפכוהו ז"ל לכתוב כן

Here is a translation:

"while Abraham remained standing before the Lord"

But is it not so that he [Avraham] did not go to stand before Him? Rather, it was G-d who came to him and said to him, "The wailing concerning Sedom and Amorah is so great," and it should have been written: "G-d was still standing near Avraham,"but, it is a tikkun soferim [an emendation of the Scribes) which our Sages of blessed memory reversed writing it thus.

The background: In rabbinic literature there are references to tikkunei soferim, lit. emendations of the Scribes, in the Torah text. Most of these instances concern expressions which would be disrespectful to God. So there are tikkunei soferim, which employ euphemism (kinoy hakatuv). Thus, in this case, really God was "standing" before Abhraham, but the verse has it the other way out of respect for God.

There are two views in classical Jewish sources for what tikkunei soferim mean. One is that the original reading is the euphemism and that no one ever tampered with these texts, deliberately altering them. The other is more literal to the meaning of the words and is that scribes actually changed these texts. We are talking about very slight alterations.

Now it happens to be that not all Rashi texts have the part I highlighted with red, which is the more literal view of what tikkun soferim in rabbinic literature mean. Thus, it is not inherently misleading to print a Rashi text without it, as does, e.g. the Stone Chumash. However, in a critical edition it doesn't make sense to exclude it.

The Saperstein Rashi edition claims to include all alternate texts*. It does't include this one. My friend even wrote to the elucidator of this edition who claimed that he had never heard of the alternate girsa! Which seems unlikely, as it is very well known and the author of this edition happens to be very conscientous, using multiple sources which would have referenced this text.

*Edit: a commenter pointed out that the Saperstein does not claim to do this. This is true. It was a slip of the keyboard on my part, a mistake. In addition, the idea that any edition claims to include "all alternate texts" is well nigh absurd, since such a task is well nigh impossible. Nevertheless, the main thrust of this post remains valid. This is a very well known variant reading of Rashi. It is highly unlikely, in my opinion, that the elucidator really never heard about it until my friend brought it to his attention. If so, it seems that there was an editorial decision to exclude this reading in this edition.

Edit ii: Thanks to LkwdGuy for bringing these to my attention, via the JNUL exhibition on Rashi:

From 1482, doesn't have the reading:

From 1487, has the reading:

From 1490, has the reading:

In short, it is a well known variant reading in Rashi. The elucidator never heard of it?

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