Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Breishis 3:1 Ahf Ki Amar Elokim. An Amazing Chasam Sofer

3:1. Af ki amar Elokim, the Nachash.

The Chasam Sofer here brings the Medrash Rabbah (Bereishis 19:2)
 ויאמר אל האשה אף כי אמר אלקים אמר רבי חנינא בן סנסן ארבעה הן שפתהו באף ונאבדו באף ואלו הן נחש ושר האופים ועדת קורח והמן נחש (בראשית ג) ויאמר אל האשה אף שר האופים (שם ח) אף אני בחלומי עדת קרח (במדבר ד) אף לא אל ארץ המן (אסתר ה) אף לא הביאה אסתר

Four began with ‘Ahf’, and were destroyed with the Ahf of Hashem. They are the Nachash (Ahf ki amar Elokim), the Sar Ha’ofim (Ahf ani b'chalomi), the Adas Korach (Dasan and Aviram's Ahf gam banu dibbeir Hashem), and Haman (Ahf lo hevi'ah Esther). He points out that the way to remember this is the Mishna in Bameh Beheima (Shabbos 51b,) that says
במה בהמה יוצאה ובמה אינה יוצאה יוצא הגמל באפסר ונאקה בחטם
 “The Na’aka can go out bechatam”. The Gemara asks what a Na’aka is, and explains that it is a female camel, and that the Mishneh is saying that a female camel may be let out into a Reshus HaRabbim on Shabbos with a ring in its nose, and there is no problem of shvisas b'heima, which limits what an animal owned by a Jew may carry on Shabbos. The question is, why did the Mishneh use such an obscure terms? He explains that Na’aka also stands for
Nachash, Ofim, Korach, and Haman; and the chatam is its nose (its 'ahf'). So the words "Na’aka bechatam" incorporate the whole medrash.  The Naaka goes out with its chatam/ahf.

I am torn between thinking on the one hand that this is just an amazing coincidence, and, on the other hand, recognizing that the Tannah of the Medrash must at least have had the Mishnah in mind, and possibly the Tannah of the Mishnah might have had the Medrash in mind. Pshat in the Medrash, as far as I know, just means that the word ‘Ahf’ was a foreshadowing (pihem hichshilom) of Hashem’s charon af, like one of the Meforshim there says.

I think, in the end, that this shows that as we learn the words of Chazal, we are sailing an ocean, skimming unfathomable depths to which we remain oblivious.

(This is from the Yalkut Shimoni Remez 26)
והנחש היה וגו' .... אף כי אמר אלהים ארבע שפתחו באף ואבדו באף.
 הנחש אף כי אמר אלהים
שר האופים אף אני בחלומי
עדת קרח אף לא אל ארץ זבת חלב
המן אף לא הביאה אסתר
It is also alluded to in the Yalkut on Parshas Korach.)

By the way, as far as I could tell, our baal memra quoted in the Medrash Rabba,  רבי חנינא בן סנסן, appears nowhere else, not him and not any סנסן.  I'll bet the name holds some kind of allusion.


  1. Very interesting. I once saw that when the Chassam Sofer was younger, he asked the Hafla'ah why does the 5th Perek of Kesuvos, Perek Af Al Pi, begin with "Af"? From the Midrash it would seem that you shouldn't begin with "Af"? The Hafla'ah told him that Kesuvos has 13 perakim, each one corresponding to one of the 13 middos shel rachamim. Perek Af Al pi corresponds to the middah of Erach Apayim; so in the frame of being representative of a midda shel rachamim its ok to begin with "Af".

    1. I would pay cash money mezumen to see that in print.
      For several reasons. First, because it's very interesting, especially in the context of his interest in the word "af." Second, because if I were the Hafla'ah, and I were disposed to say this kind of answer, I would have said that according to the Ari zal, Apayim is the fifth middah, which fits nicely into Af (al pi). Apayim/Af. His pshat works ok with Rabbeinu Nissim Gaon's system, in which Erech Apayim is five, but not as nicely as the Ari zal's system. (For those of you that aren't familiar with the machlokes, check out the Rosh end of first perek of Rosh HaShanna and the Tosfos Yomtov on the bottom, whatever he calls himself there.)

    2. Its recorded in R Yitzchak Zilberstein's Aleinu Lishabei'ach, volume on Shmos page 492.

    3. Thank you. I'm looking forward to seeing it, as soon as I find someone that has a copy.