Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Ason - Chanukah Torah

Binyamin, it seems, was a nervous sort of fellow. How do we know this? When Yaakov sends the sons down to Egypt to buy food, he keeps Binyamin back, "pen yikra'enu asson" lest ason happen to him (as it's understood) or lest it call to him (as it's written). So what is "the ason?"

We also see the ason in the Bilaam story, vayiftach H' es pi ha-ason, God opened the mouth of the ason, the donkey and it spoke to Bilaam.

We put the two stories together, and apparently, Yaakov was worried that if Binyamin went down to Egypt, a talking donkey might call out to him, and he would die. This is reinforced by the Aramaic translation of Onkelos, which reads dilma `ar`ineih motha, perhaps he will be awakened to death, from er, awaken, or perhaps startled to death.

The talking donkey didn't surprise Bilaam that much, but Yaakov worried that a talking donkey might scare Binyamin to death, and thus prevented him from going to Egypt. QED.

*to explain the joke, this only works in Ashkenazi pronunciation, it depends on the equivalence of alef-taf-vav-nun and alef-samech-vav-nun, and confusing ayin-resh-ayin for ayin-resh in the Aramaic.

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