What is the correct reading of Onkelos?
vaya'as moshe ve'aharon … lalvi'im, kechol asher tziva hashem et moshe lalvi'im (Num. 8:20) ('and Moshe and Aharon did … lalvi'im, according to everything that God had commanded Moshe lalvi'im'): In Targum Yonatan the first lalvi'im is rendered as leleiva'ei ('to the Levi'im') and the second lalvi'im is rendered as al leiva'ei ('concerning the Levi'im'). In many editions of Onkelos (Netziv, Ha'amek Davar; R' Netter, Chamisha Chumeshei Torah; R' Kapah, Keter HaTorah, & Onkelos,Torat Chaim) lalvi'im in both positions is rendered leleiva'ei. However R' Yihye Korah (d. 1881) in his commentary on Onkelos marpe lashon, writes that the second occurrence should be al leiva'ei. According to this Onkelos is identical to Yonatan on this point. R' Yosef Kapah in his introduction to Keter HaTorah discusses variations between the text of Onkelos as he determined it from five Yemenite manuscripts, and versions attested by R' Korah 'who was one of the senior rabbis in Sina the capital of Yemen and worked together with' R' Kapah's grandfather. His conclusion is that it is fortunate that Marpe Lashon is available, and the reader can choose between variants.
R' Sa'adya Gaon's Arabic translation has the word for lalvi'im only once in this verse. R' Kapah notes in Torat Chaim that R' Sa'adya Gaon's translation means 'on the matter of the Levi'im,' which is similar to Yonatan and the Marpe Lashon version of Onkelos. There is really no doubt that this is the correct interpretation of the verse (see translations of R' S. R. Hirsch, R' A. Kaplan). According to the widespread version of Onkelos, leleiva'ei must have both meanings just as lalvi'im has.
As to the nature of the Sheva in lalvi'im see S. Y. Mandelbaum Dikdukei Shai (Bi'urim 7:n45, Jerusalem, 1999).
The meaning of et
vesheret et echav (Num. 8:26) ('and he will serve et his brothers') It is generally accepted that the word et has two distinct meanings. 1) It indicates that the following noun is the object to which the action of the verb of the sentence applies ('sign of the accusative'); the root is Alef Vav Tav, and in declension it is oti ('me') otecha ('you') oto ('him'). 2) It means 'with' and the root is Alef Tav Tav and in declension it is iti ('with me') itecha ('with you') ito ('with him'). (In dikduk uferush al hatorah of the Gra in the commentary on the words et hashamayim this distinction is discussed at length.). So that we get the right meaning on our verse, both Rashi and Chizekuni write im ('with'). However Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (Part 2, Ch. 30) casts doubt on the distinction.
vechi tavo'u milchama (Num. 10:9) ('and should tavo'u war'): At first sight tavo'u is plural and, it would seem, second person ('you') masculine. If the subject is milchama ('war'), which is feminine singular, there is a problem of non-agreement of the subject and its verb, hardly to be expected in Hebrew (actually two or three problems: non-agreement of both gender, person and number). Onkelos translates this passage 'when you rise to wage war' inserting 'you.' R' A. ibn Ezra follows Onkelos and writes 'when an enemy enters your land and you come to [wage] war with him.' According to Onkelos and R' A. ibn Ezra milchama is not the subject of the verb, rather there is an implied subject 'you.' This solves all the problems, like in tavo'u, 'you' is plural, second person and masculine.
Chizekuni takes a different approach to the problem of agreement. He writes 'we find the word milchama used in the plural as in vehaya ki tikrena milchama (Exod. 1:10) ('and it will be when war occurs').' Here too milchama is the subject yet its verb tikrena is in the plural. Indeed Chizekuni there (Exod. 1:10), makes the same point and refers to our verse for support. However tikrena is second or third person feminine like vatavona (Exod. 2:18), and so there the only problem is number. Why has Chizekuni not dealt with the problem of gender and person? It would seem that this problem did not bother him. He might maintain that the form tavo'u can serve both masculine and feminine as there are occurrences of this e.g. vechol hanshim yitenu (Esther, 1:20) ('and all the women will accord') there the form is yitenu rather than the expected yitenena.
On the verse vehaya ki tikrena milchama R' A. ibn Ezra writes ki tikrena korot milchama providing a feminine and plural implied subject (Exod. 1:10, long version). However, in the short version he writes 'tikrena is feminine plural and milchama is singular, and there are many like it, or the word vetzara is missing,' providing a word to make the subject plural.
I will be
pleased to have comments on these notes on the Parasha.
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