Friday, January 26, 2007

Bo 1 - Say Cheese!

There's a story that's told about the Chida. I do not know the source for it, and suspect it may be apocryphal, but present it here, nonetheless (because it's cute, which is what counts in these stories).

It seems that he was traveling on a ship with a merchant who was in possession of a large supply of non-kosher cheese. The merchant hired some sailors to threaten to kill the Chida if he did not agree to give a hechsher to the cheese, so that he could sell it to Jews. Faced with this choice, the Chida reluctantly wrote up a te'udas hechsher and gave it to the corrupt merchant.

When the merchant arrived at his destination, he showed the teudah to the rav of the city. The rav looked at the document, and thought for a while. After some time spent in silent thought, he declared, "The cheese is treif!". The bystanders were astonished that the rav would not accept this teudah signed by the great Chida, so waited silently as he explained:

"The text of the teudah says that this cheese is hereby kosher, as it is written in Shmos, 'V'kacha toch'lu oso', 'And thus shall you eat it'. When I saw this latter clause, I immediately suspected that something was afoot. Why would the Chida include this extraneous clause in his teudah? And why specifically mention that this phrase, said in reference to the korban pesach, appears in Shmos? Upon thinking the matter through, it occurred to me that Shmo"T is often used as an acronym for shnayim mikra v'echad targum, which led me to believe that the answer may lay in the Targum on the verse in question. The words immediately following 'V'kacha toch'lu oso' are 'mosneichem chagurim', 'your loins shall be bound up', which Onkelos translates as 'chartzeichon y'hon asirin'. This Aramaic phrase, taken out of its context, can also be translated as 'Your cheese shall be prohibited'. Thus, I realized that the Chida must have been coerced into signing this document, and inserted this extraneous line as a means of signaling to readers that the cheese was, indeed. treif!"



At 1/27/2007 8:27 PM, Blogger Ariella said...

Wonderful wit. Do you think the ones in charge of certifications today would chap the hint?

At 1/27/2007 8:49 PM, Blogger Josh M. said...

Do you mean that knowing Targum Onkelos ba'al peh isn't part of the modern s'micha process?

On the topic of hidden messages, I was just reminded of a ma'aseh told over by a rebbe of mine some years back regarding how the Ibn Ezra proved his identity in a note that bandits who captured him sent to his children. The conclusion of the note read, "D'u mei-avicha ki lo vosh eivosh; shov ashuv eilecha ki va mo'eid" (It only makes sense when written out in Hebrew). I make no comment on the veracity of this episode, either [although if these stories are repeated enough, they retroactively become true, no?]

At 1/30/2007 10:24 PM, Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

another Ibn Ezra (if i remember correctly) example of linguistic creative genious is:


At 1/30/2007 11:36 PM, Blogger Josh M. said...

Awesome. I assume that the aleph of nisba'er should actually be an 'ayin, so that it maintains the 90 degree rotational symmetry, in which case it seems to mean, "We have explained that a glutton for honey becomes foolish and burnt". Sounds like a reference to the three who entered pardeis and did not survive intact, although I'm not familiar enough with his writings to know where he would have included this.

At 1/31/2007 1:46 AM, Anonymous shmendrik said...

I think it's actually about a Yoreh Deah sugya concerning the kashrus of honey.

At 1/31/2007 1:46 AM, Anonymous shmendrik said...

More precisely, about a bee which fell into it, IIRC.

At 1/31/2007 2:01 AM, Blogger Josh M. said...

I think it's actually about a Yoreh Deah sugya concerning the kashrus of honey. More precisely, about a bee which fell into it, IIRC.

That would make sense, also, and actually sounds vaguely familiar, but I don't know where he would have spoken about this, either.

I started a weekly seder in Ibn Ezra al ha-parsha earlier this year, but fell off a couple of months back. Too bad; even after sifting through the dikduk, he had some interesting, unconventional comments.


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