5

Rashi on sheni in this weeks parsha has two consecutive comments that, taken together, seem rather strange.

In 32:5, he says:

He saw his sister’s son Hur, who had reproved them [the Israelites], and they assassinated him.

Then on the next passuk (32:6) he says:

Vayakumu litzachek - Here too, Hur was slain.

Once source, apparently, is Vayikra Rabbah, and the other is Midrash Tanchumah. Normally, Rashi clarifies when there is a dispute in the pshat, even if he brings both options. Rashi doesn't list these as conflicting sources, as he does in other places. It reads as though he interprets these two midrashim as working in concert, not conflict.

How was Hur killed on two separate, consecutive days?

Alternately, are there other places where he brings explicitly conflicting midrashim but doesn't address them as conflicting?

  • 2
    "Too" ("אף") in this case doesn't mean "in this verse, too" or "on this day, too." It means, in addition to the idolatry and גלוי עריות, "also, Chur was slain here." – Fred Mar 2 '15 at 21:32
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In fact, there is no contradiction between Midrash Tanchuma and Vayikra Rabba. Both maintain that Chur died on the first day, rather than the second.

Tanchuma siman 19 reads:

וירא העם כי בושש משה בא שש שעות. נתכנסו ארבעים אלף שעלו עם ישראל ושני חרטומי מצרים עימהם, ושמותם יונו"ס ויומברו"ס, שהיו עושין לפני פרעה כל אותם כשפים, כמו שכתוב: ויעשו גם הם חרטומי מצרים בלהטיהם (שמות ז יא). ונקהלו כולם על אהרן, שנאמר: ויקהל העם על אהרן ויאמר וגו', שמשה שוב אינו יורד כבר. ואותו היום יום ארבעים היה בשש שעות ביום. אמרו להם אהרן וחור: עכשיו יורד מן ההר, לא השגיחו.

ויש אומרים: שעמד שטן והראה להם דמות מיטתו מן ההר, ממה שאמרו: כי זה משה האיש. מיד עמד חור וגער בהם. עמדו עליו והרגוהו. כשראה אהרן כך, נתיירא והתחיל מעסיקן בדברים. והם אומרים לו: קום עשה לנו אלהים. והכל גלוי לפני מי שאמר והיה העולם מה הם מבקשים. אמר להם אהרן: פרקו נזמי הזהב אשר באזני נשיכם. אמר אהרן להם דבר קשה, שהנשים מתעכבות בו, שהם ראו כל הנסים והגבורות שעשה הקדוש ברוך הוא במצרים ובים ובסיני.

That is (using ellipses liberally for the first paragraph):

(Pasuk 1) וירא העם כי בושש משה -- 'And the nation saw that Moshe was delayed' -- He came at the sixth hour... (still pasuk 1) וירא העם כי בושש משה -- and the nation gathered unto Aharon and said to him... Aharon and Chur said to them, now Moshe will descend from the mountain, and they didn't listen.

And some say: that the Satan arose and showed them the image of his [Moshe's] bier from the mountain, from that which they said (still pasuk 1) כִּי זֶה משֶׁה הָאִישׁ. Immediately Chur arose and rebuked them. They arose against him and killed him. When Aharon saw this, he feared and began making them busy with busy work. And they said to to him (still pasuk 1) עֲשֵׂה לָנוּ אֱלֹהִים. And all was revealed before He who spoke and the world came into being what they were asking. Aharon said to them (pasuk 2): פָּרְקוּ נִזְמֵי הַזָּהָב אֲשֶׁר בְּאָזְנֵי נְשֵׁיכֶם. Aharon told them to perform something difficult, for the women would prevent them, for they saw all the miracles and mighty acts which Hashem had performed in Egypt, at the Sea, and at Sinai...

Thus, the killing of Chur is explicitly on that first day according to Midrash Tanchuma.

It is true that, on the next day, in Siman 20, Midrash Tanchuma makes reference to the fact that Chur was killed:

ולא עגל בלבד עשו, אלא גלוי עריות ושפיכות דמים, שנאמר: וישב העם לאכול ושתו ויקומו לצחק. ואין צחוק אלא גלוי עריות, שנאמר: בא אלי העבד העברי וגו' (ברא' לט יז). שפיכות דמים, דכתיב: יקומו הנערים וישחקו (ש"ב ב יד), ואין לך גדול מן חור שנהרג.

And not only did they fashion the Golden Calf, but also engaged in licentiousness and bloodshed, for it is stated וישב העם לאכול ושתו ויקומו לצחק. And צחוק only means licentiousness as is stated... [pasuk citation] Bloodshed as is stated... [pasuk citation] And you have no greater bloodshed than that of Chur who was killed.

You are right, in your question, that this ambiguous statement of Rashi, and even the ambiguous statement in Tanchuma 20, seems at first glance to be stating that Chur was killed right now, on the second day. After all, it is offered in explanation of צחוק, which happened on the second day.

However, this midrash in Tanchuma 20 is not the primary place that the Midrash Tanchuma states that Chur was killed. That primary place was Tanchuma 19. The wording that Tanchuma 20 uses, ואין לך גדול מן חור שנהרג, implies a fait accompli. Not because it uses the past tense, or passive, because much of the other details are also written in past tense. Rather, because it refers to it as something already known. It is not coming to state that "Chur was killed". Rather, as a way of demonstrating the bloodshed part of צחוק, it notes that Chur's death, which the audience already knows, easily (אין לך גדול) fulfills that part of the definition.

Perhaps one could resolve this messiness and say that there was licentiousness in general and bloodshed in general, as proved by the pasuk citations about the meaning of צחוק. And as an added bonus, the author of Tancuhma threw in this bloodshed of Chur, which happened the previous day. Or perhaps one could say that the Midrash meant to apply צחוק to the entire incident, and thus extends it to the events of the previous day.

Regardless, the author of Midrash Tanchuma assumes people will be reading in context, and so will not be misled into thinking that he was stating that Chur was killed on the second day. And Rashi, who knows the context as well, and is channeling Tanchuma, also did not intend to convey any contradiction.

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I will suggest an original answer only because all the sfarim I checked don't address this. Some of the sfarim (see Nachlas Yaakiv for instance) did however raise the point why Rashi in passuk 6 found it necessary to bring an example of murder, whereas he did not bring an example of the giluy arayos.

What I think Rashi means is that the general mood that the nation was involded in the previous night, was the same mood they awakened to involve themselves in again. That mood is called tzchok, which implies avoda zara, gilui arayos, and shfichas damim.

When Rashi says in passuk 6 'here too they killed Chur', he doesn't mean they killed him that morning, rather they killed him the evening before as Rashi mentioned in the previous passuk. But now in the morning they woke to once again involve themselves in tzchok. So 'here too' means here, at this point in time, they not only transgressed with gilui arayos, but they killed Chur too.

This answers as well why Rashi felt it necessary to mention the case of murder, being that we don't find them actually murdering anyone that morning, but his point is the mood was the same.

The wording in the Tanchuma also implies that Chur was already dead at this point שפיחות דמים, דכתיב יקומו נא הנערים וישחקו, ואין לך גדול מן חור שנהרג. We see a past tense being used.

  • Interesting. Thanks! Additional question: Vayakumu litzachek implies that the level of tzchok being illustrated wasn't present previously. It isn't muchrach that he was killed at night - the word used isn't tensed in this context - it could be translated either as "who was killed" or "who was already killed." – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 2 '15 at 17:40
  • True. Not muchrach. But possible. I should have phrased that differently. Also your first point is also true, However the new level was doing the act(s) they had wanted to do the night before, had they not been postponed by Aharon. For the record, i really liked the question. – user6591 Mar 2 '15 at 17:48
  • +1. The simple reading of "אף כאן נהרג חור" is that, not only did the people engage in idolatry over the course of this incident (as Rashi on B'reishis 21:9 indicates, "to commit idolatry" is the primary meaning of "לצחק" in this context), but they also committed גלוי עריות and they also murdered Chur. While "לצחק" primarily refers to idolatry in this case, which is why it is mentioned as occurring in the morning, the word also carries connotations of other sins that were violated here ("כאן," i.e. at some point during this two-day incident). – Fred Mar 2 '15 at 19:04
  • @Fred Well put, but we already know Hur was killed. Why does Rashi need to even quote that part of the medrash? Just say "shfichat damim" and leave it at that, since the previous possuk he gave an example. – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 2 '15 at 21:49
  • @IsaacKotlicky Perhaps to exclude the potential interpretation that "קול ענות" (Sh'mos 32:18) refers to bloodshed and that Moshe was confirming Yehoshua's assessment that there was fighting in the camp (32:17). Rather, Rashi later explains, "קול ענות" means "קול חרופין וגדופין." – Fred Mar 2 '15 at 22:16

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