Rav Shaul Rosenberg, in his mp3 shiurim on Chumash/Rashi for the 7th aliya in Parshas Chayei Sorah, brought down an interesting phenomenon. He pointed out Rashi's comment on Breishis 25:6, regarding the gifts that Avraham gave to the sons of Ketura (Hagar), which says "וְלִבְנֵי הַפִּילַגְשִׁים אֲשֶׁר לְאַבְרָהָם, נָתַן אַבְרָהָם מַתָּנֹת." Rashi comments here that the word "הַפִּילַגְשִׁים," "concubines" is lacking the yud at the end of the word, right before the Ender Mem (Final Mem). Rashi says that this comes to teach that there was something lacking in the plurality of the word, implying that it was only one concubine, i.e. Keturah/Hagar. But Rabbi Rosenberg points out that our sifrei Torah today are not lacking this "yud." So it seems that Rashi had a different sefer Torah than we have, with minor changes of a letter here and there.
He brings down Rebbi Akiva Eiger, in the Gilyon Hashas on the Gemara in Shabbos 55b, which lists almost 10 other places in Chumash where Rashi/Midrash/Gemara have a slightly different text in his sefer Torah than we have today. (I have brought down this Gilyon Hashas right here in this post for convenience sake. The section on the right is the top half of this Gilyon Hashas and the part below this text is the bottom half of the piece. It wouldn't all fit in one jpg document without looking really funny. Click on the images to enlarge.)
The difficult aspect of this is that many people might feel that this fact contradicts the eighth fundamental principal of Emunah of the Rambam, which is "התורה ניתנה מן השמיים - להאמין שכל חמשת חומשי התורה כולם העתקה שהעתיק משה מדברי ה' והוא עצמו או מישהו אחר לא כתבו מעצמם אפילו אות אחת." One must believe that "all of the five books of the Torah are written by Moshe through the word of G-d and that neither he, nor anyone else wrote even one letter on their own." If Rashi's or some of the Amora'im's Sifrei Torah had even one letter different here or there, doesn't this indicate that there is a problem with believing that the entire text of the Trah that we have today is literally from Hashem without even one letter changed?
First of all, it is important to remember that the few discrepencies that have existed virtually never even changed the simple meaning of those verses even slightly. Here, for instance, the lack of a yud at the end of "הַפִּילַגְשִׁים" doesn't even change the simple meaning (only the drush) since the "kri," the pronounciation is the same either way. Other variations include an inverted "nun" earlier in Breishis. The bottom line is that the whole discussion is not really about whether the meaning of the Torah is in doubt, but rather is only as to minor differences in the text with regard to letters that are somewhat "expendable" as to the semantic meaning of the texts.
Also, great authorities througout history have compared hundreds of Torah scrolls and ascertained that while individual or small groups of Sifrei Torah have cropped up through time with some variations, collectively, there is only one collective authorotative Torah text. This is explained in the following passage by Rabbi Dovid Lichtman in his paper, "The Accuracy of Our Written Torah":
Despite the Rambam's efforts to ensure the perpetuation of one standardized text, divergent scrolls began to propagate once again. A contemporary of the Ramban, the RaMaH (Rav Meir Halevi Abulafia -- early 13th century), undertook to reesttablish a text of exceptional accuracy. The RaMaH again used the eclectic process, surveying hundreds of old and reputable scrolls. (RaMaH did not have the Ben Asher manuscript at his disposal.) The resultant text was published in his work "Mesores Seyag la'Torah." Given the great effort that RaMaH invested in this project and his standing as a leading Halachic authority, his work became the definitive standard until today, certainly with regard to orthography (see Ohr Torah, Minchat Shai and Keset ha'Sofer).
I hope these resources will be useful in understanding that these variations have existed, and that great minds like Rav Akiva Eiger and others understand and write openly about it, and that it raises no problem with our Emunah. Kol tuv!
-Another article addressing this topic by Rav Noach Weinberg HERE.
(Picture courtesy of Andrew Aitchison)
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