Parshat ויגש – Genesis 45:14 – How Many Necks Does Binyomin Have?

Genesis 45:14 – And he (Yosef) fell on the neck of Binyamin, his brother and wept; and Binyamin wept on his neck.

Gemora: Megilla 16b: How many necks did Binyamin have? Rabbi Elazar states, “He wept due to the two temples that would in the future be in the portion of Binyamin and would be destroyed.”

DBS Note: in the posuk itself, both times that the word “neck” is used, it is written in the plural

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation:
The Gemora comments as it does due to the fact that the Beit haMikdash is [often] referred to by the word “neck”. As we say on the posuk in Shir HaShirim “Your neck is like the Tower of David” where the word “neck” refers to the Beit haMikdash.

Rashi in commenting on our Gemora, states that the phrase “How many necks did Binyamin have?” must be removed. Rashi states that it is common in classical Hebrew to refer to “neck” in the plural even when it means singular.

If that is Rashi’s reason for suggesting a textual change in the Gemora, he could have left the original text as it was. Even though there certainly are examples where the word “neck” is used in the plural form to have a singular meaning, it is equally true that there are many places where the word “neck” is used in the singular form to mean singular.  That being the case, it would be the way of Chazal to explore and explain such a word when it is used in the plural form.

However, even if that is the case, it appears that Rashi’s comment is never-the-less valid and we should emendate the text of the Gemora. The very next comment is that Binyamin wept on Joseph’s neck due to the destruction of the Tabernacle at Shilo which was located in the territory of Yosef and would, in the future, be destroyed. If so, we see that in the same biblical sentence “necks” is used to refer to both plural and singular.

If that is the case, then why is there even a comment from the Gemora on this sentence? It is because the Gemora is commenting on the fact that immediately after Yosef says that he carries no ill will towards any of his brothers just as he carries no ill-will towards Binyamin [who was not involved in selling him into slavery], he immediately thereafter falls on Binyamin’s neck and cries. Why did he not fall on all his brother’s necks? The answer is that the reason for the crying is hinted at by the word “neck” which refer to the temple and the tabernacle.

DBS Note: I liked this note of the Torah Temimah because initially he critiques Rashi and then he ends up defending Rashi. The Torah Temimah sees his duty as explaining the text and the Gemora in the best way possible even if this may mean disagreeing with other preceding famous commentaries. As he lived from approx. 1860 – 1940, I find this attitude close to amazing; especially, as we shall see, the extent to which he takes this approach.


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