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In the Parshah of Chayei Sara, in Bereishis 25:6, there is a Posuk that refers to הפילגשים - "the concubines". Rashi expounds that since the word is missing a Yud, it must be a reference to the fact that Hagar and Keturah were one person and that is how the Torah is alluding to this fact (see Rashi there).

The question is: What missing Yud?

Artscroll's comment answers that: "Rashi's text of the Torah had the spelling פילגשם, without the letter י of the ים suffix which indicates the plural ..."

Does this mean that in Rashi's time the text of the Torah was actually slightly different - so much so that Rashi took the effort to expound a particular missing Yud that we don't actually have on our modern Torah scrolls?

If so, wouldn't it be more appropriate for modern Sofrim to "fix" this issue by leaving out the Yud (since we can trust Rashi on this presumably)?

I'm curious about this.

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This happens a few times – simchastorah Nov 15 '11 at 4:46
This isn't an answer, but... is it possible that Rashi, Midrash, even Chazal were just quoting from memory, thus silent letters are present or not according to the author's memory rather than their actual text? – yoel Nov 15 '11 at 17:30
@yoel, WADR, it doesn't seem reasonable to me that Rashi would "darshn" a spelling without being sure first that it was the correct spelling (according to his m'sora or whatever). – msh210 Nov 15 '11 at 17:41
@msh210 Rashi isn't, the Midrash is. – avi Nov 15 '11 at 19:21
@avi, all the more so, then. – msh210 Nov 15 '11 at 20:26
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Rashi is actually quoting here from Bereshis Rabbah 61.

The question is, do we trust the midrash with the text of our sifrei torah, and "fix" the problem accordingly, or do we trust the vast majority of our texts and sifrei torah that have the word with two yud's?

Beis Yosef (YD 275), who claims that this problem happens quite often, seems to say (correct me if I'm wrong), quoting a teshuva of Rashba, that in such cases we follow the majority of accepted texts.

In this case, the accepted consensus seems to be that we write "הפילגשים" with two yud's. [See Minchas Shai. This is also discussed by R' Menachem di Lunzano (see editor's notes on left of following page).]

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Thank you for linking to the page of the Midrash – chaimp Nov 16 '11 at 2:24
Unfortunately (and ironically) it seems the Beit Yosef had a bad Girsa of the Rashba. See Teshuvat haRashba hameyuchas leRamban 232. – Double AA Jan 4 '13 at 15:36

There is a book called Fixing God's Torah, Barry Levy. It deals with this Rashba. There is a Rebbi Akiva Aiger in Masechet Shabbat (55B) where he has a list of such issues. Also note, in the examples given above, they are letters that the gemara (Kiddushin 30A) says "we are not expert in full and defective spelling" i.e. the use of the vav. The yud is more problematic but is nonetheless a silent letter. Also see in the back of the final volume of Torat Hayim, Mossad HaRav Kook, there is a short list of variants between torahs.

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MordechaiRockover, welcome to the site and thank you for the information. I hope you stick around and enjoy the site. – msh210 Nov 15 '11 at 17:42
i should also point out that the most interesting thing on shabbat 55b is the tosafot there: "our sha"s argues on our sefarim". מעבירם כתיב. הש״ס שלנו חולק על ספרים שלנו – moses Apr 22 '12 at 23:28

In this article by Gil Student titled "On the Text of the Torah", this and other textual issues are discussed. In the article (In the Aggadic Midrash section ) he proposes that it was actually pretty common practice for the Rabbis to deliberately "change" the word in order to drive home a homiletic point.

from the article (please read it for context and examples):

However, we do not need to raise this issue because a more nuanced understanding of aggadic drashot reveals that they are not based on the actual spelling of the words.


Thus, the textual variants we find in aggadic midrashim do not necessarily reflect different versions of the Bible. They reflect the homiletic license that is typical of this literary genre. Some rishonim did not understand it this way.

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Rashi's text is not necessarily better than ours. More problematic is the couple of places where its clear that the gemara has a slightly different text than we do. (For example, in Mes. Sukkah the Gemara has a different number of 'vavs' in "sukkos".) Most, if not all, of the rishonim who discuss this issue say the text of the Torah should be changed to match the Gemara's, but no one followed that.

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for example, the Radvaz mentioned in this answer says that when the Rabbis cite a different spelling of the Torah than the one we have, they are more correct, otherwise we follow the tradition we have presently. (It may be that he is not saying we should change the text, but rather we don't negate the teaching just because it is based on a different version of the word than the one we have): judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/9633/… – Menachem Nov 15 '11 at 15:39
The article in my answer says: Tosafot in Shabbat 55b said that the Gemara's version of the Bible was different than the textus receptus because the Gemara had מעבירים chaser while the textus receptus has it yeter. However, Rashba (Responsa Attributed to Ramban, 232) wrote that we shouldn't revise our biblical texts based on aggadic midrashim. Similarly, Rashbatz (Tashbetz 3:160)wrote, "We do not rely on aggadic midrashim to correct the texts." Even though we aren't experts in chaser and yeter, we still can't be sure that these midrashim were doing anything more than loosely reading the text. – Menachem Nov 15 '11 at 16:13
@Menachem Worth emphasizing that the Rashba you quote there says not to change for aggadic midrashim, but yes to change for halachik midrashim. – Double AA Aug 23 '13 at 5:18

According to the commentary in Torat Chaim (seems to be by Rabbi Chaim Dov Chavel [pronounced Schwell]), the word is supposed to be פילגשיים, with three yuds. His comment reads:

כי צריך להיות "הפילגשיים" בשתי יודין, כמו "ועבריים", דהיינו יו"ד אחת לסימן היחס ויו"ד שניה לסימן הריבוי.

So according to this explanation at least, our text is correct.

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