What does be'toch mean?
be'tocham saviv (Exod. 28:33) It seems that sometimes be'toch means 'in' as in be'toch hamayim 'in the water' and sometimes it means 'among' as in be'toch etz hagan 'among the trees of the enclosure' (the word gan is related to the word magen 'shield', hence 'enclosure' seems to be an appropriate translation). Onkelos translated our phrase 'between (equivalent to 'among' for two items) them around, around' and so did R' Sa'adia Gaon in his Arabic Tafsir (translated into Hebrew by R' Y. Kapach, Chumash Torat Chaim). Rashi makes this point explicit, writing 'between them around, between [each] two pomegranates there was one bell ' and even more so in his commentary to the Gemara 'be'toch harimonim in the verse does not mean in the hollow but between them, [each] bell was between two pomegranates' (Zevachim 88b). Here Rashi explicitly negates the meaning 'in' as does Rashbam on the verse in the Torah, writing 'between each pomegranate and not inside the pomegranate'. R' A. ibn Ezra provides both interpretations without indicating any preference. He writes, 'Our predecessors said that there were pomegranates around the coat and a bell between each two pomegranates. Others said that the bells were not visible but were inside the pomegranates and made their sounds there.' However the Ramban takes the other point of view and writes
I don't know why the Rav [Rashi] put the bells on their own, one bell between two pomegranates, for if it were so the pomegranates served no purpose. If they were decorative why were they made like hollow pomegranates? Let them be like golden apples. Furthermore it should have stated explicitly how the bells were hung, and whether they had rings to hang by. But they were actually inside them, for the pomegranates were hollow and made like young pomegranates that had not yet opened, and the bells were hidden in them but visible through them
In the Ramban's opinion be'toch here means 'in' or 'inside'. From the comments of Rashi in the Gemara and Rashbam and R' A. ibn Ezra on the verse it is clear that there were people who maintained this interpretation previously.
It seems to me that the Tana'im had the same dispute. On the verse 'and fire be'toch the hail' (Exod. 9-24) the Midrash reports a dispute between R' Yehudah and R' Nechemiah. One says it was like a cracked pomegranate whose seed is visible outside, and the other said it was like a bowl of water and oil mixed together and fire coming up from them. Thus according to the first interpretation be'toch means 'in' and according to the second 'among'.
It may be that the Tana'im agree that both interpretations are possible and their dispute is which one is appropriate for the verse they are discussing. Similarly, the Biblical commentators on our verse may well agree that both meanings are possible and their dispute is which to apply on this verse. They may be of the opnion that we have here a primary meaning and a secondary or '*borrowed' meaning and each one maintains that where possible one should understand a word according to its primary meaning. The dispute then is, which is the primary and which is the secondary meaning.
What does le'mosh'chah mean?
le'mosh'chah bahem (Exod. 29:29) From this verse the Gemara (Yoma 5a) derives 'appointment to office by particular clothing'; that is to say that there is a manner of making a priest into a High Priest by his donning the garments of the High Priest. It would seem that this Gemara is the source of Rashi (on our verse) writing 'to become great through them, for there is meshichah ('anointing') which is an expression of ruling by way of the clothes he is dressed in High Priesthood'. However, Rabbi Y. Kapach (Chumash Torat Chaim) translates R' Sa'adia Gaon's Arabic as 'they will be anointed while wearing these garments.'
The Ramban (ad loc) quotes Rashi and writes 'Perhaps this is so because the ruler-ship of Israel is for those who are anointed as King or High Priest; the expression is *lent to any ruler-ship. but the correct translation here is to anoint as High Priest one of his sons in the particular clothing'. Thus it would seem that Ramban and R' Sa'adia Gaon have the same opinion.
*As the number of words is limited, and the number of ideas that require representation in words is far greater (perhaps infinite), borrowing words for similar meanings is inevitable. The Ramban also accepts this elsewhere (e.g. Exod. 25:12). The concept of Zaddik as presented in Tanya (Ch. 1) depends on borrowed meaning: the primary meaning is explained as one who has no sins; the common but borrowed meaning is one who is judged to have more merits than sins.
I will be
pleased to have comments on these notes on the Parasha.
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