Monday, April 9, 2012

No one learns Divrei haYamim anyway (Post 1000!)

This is Post 1000. Hard to believe, but the milestone is here! [Of course, I could always publish one of my dozen or so posts that are sitting in draft, and then this would be 1001...]

I'm writing this post before Pesach, while preparing a Yom Tov shiur on Divrei haYamim. Divrei haYamim, usually translated as "Chronicles", is the last book in Tanach, and scares people off with the numbing opening lines, "Adam, Shet, Enosh. Kenan, Mahallel, Yared. Chanoch, Metushelach, Lamech. Noach, Shem, Cham and Yefet." And so on.

In looking at the Abarbanel's comments (found in his commentary to Shemuel II) on conflicts between Divrei haYamim and the rest of Nach, I found this gem in his explanation for why he couldn't write on the topic in depth:

וגם הספר ההוא דברי הימים בלתי נהוג אצל היהודים במדרשיהם את חטאי אני מזכיר היום כי לא קראתי בו מימי ולא חפשתי בעניניו מהיותי ועד עתה
Also, this book, Divrei haYamim, is not normally with the Jews in their study halls. I mention my own sin today: I never read it in my life, and I never investigated it, from my birth until now…

This from the sage who mocked Ashkenazim for their lack of efforts and expertise in Nach! Nonetheless, Abarbanel did come up with a fascinating explanation of the goals and methods of Divrei haYamim; here's an excerpt from my source sheet:

כאשר ראה הסופר השלם הזה שהשבטים אשר הגלו אשורה ספו... ונותרה בת ציון... וראה ג׳׳כ שהמלכות באמת נתן אלקים לדוד ולזרעו עד עולם, ושאר המלכים אשר מלכו בישראל משאר השבטים לא היו כפי הרצון האלקי, ושלעתיד לבא לא ישאר כי אם מלכות בית דוד... חשב למעלת המלך דוד לספר יחוסו ויחוס שבטו וענינו ומעשיו כלם המורים על שלמותו, והשתלשלות המלכים אשר באו מזרעו
When this complete scribe saw that the tribes exiled to Assyria had been finished… and the daughter of Zion remained… And he saw that Gd had given true monarchy to David and his descendants eternally, and that the other kings who had reigned for Israel from the other tribes had not been in accord with Divine desire, and that in the future only the monarchy of the house of David would remain… He thought to aid King David's stature by telling of his lineage, and that of his tribe, and his matters and deeds, all of which would indicate his completeness. He also thought to speak of the line of kings who came from his descendants…

וכלל גדול יהיה גם כן בו בידך, שלהיות כוונת הספר הזה להודיע ולהגיד בו מעלת דוד המלך ושלמיותיו ולא היה דעתו לזכור הענינים אשר עשה קודם המלכתו כי אינם אליו במה שהוא מלך, לכן זכר לבד הדברים אשר נתעלה בהם במלכותו, וגם אז לא ראה לזכור חטאיו והדברי׳ אשר עשה אחרי היותו מלך שאין בהם זכר מעלה ושלמות, כ״ש בהיות בהם גנאי ודופי מה
You should keep a great principle in your hand: Since the intent of this book is to inform us of King David's stature and completeness, and not to include that which David did before his reign, which was not related to his monarchy, therefore he only mentioned that which elevated him in his reign, and not his sins and that which he did after becoming king which did not indicate his stature or completeness, certainly if it contained disgrace or impropriety…

Very interesting.


  1. I've been studying Nach and heard shiurim based on the differneces between Divrei Hayamim and the previous narratives of the same stories.
    ps I live in Israel

  2. Glad to hear it! I think the state of Nach study has really changed in the past 100 years, some of which is definitely tied to the medinah.

  3. Obviously, the Abarbanel is not a true Sephardi.


  4. Vayikra Rabba 1:3 says
    ר' סימון, בשם ר' יהושע בן לוי ור' חמא אבוה דר' הושעיה בשם רב אמרי לא ניתן דברי הימים אלא לידרש
    R. Simon in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi, and R. Chama the father of R. Hoshaya in the name of Rav, said: The Book of Chronicles was given only to be expounded midrashically.

  5. "The Rebbetzin's HusbandApr 10, 2012 04:42 AM

    Glad to hear it! I think the state of Nach study has really changed in the past 100 years, some of which is definitely tied to the medinah."

    Rabbi Leibtag argues in this shiur that Divrei Hayamim was intended for an audience in his times to push the hishtadlut message, with obvious implications for zionism today.

  6. Melech-
    Interesting; fits nicely with Abarbanel's ideas about its pragmatic design.

  7. I would greatly appreciate any directions to good divrei hayamim online shiurim. I have found the artscroll version to be helpful but there are a lot of areas that I'd like to see expanded further.

    1. Moshe-
      You might try; I just checked, and there are several shiurim from Dr. Aster, Rabbi Angel and Rabbi Zylberman.

  8. any chance you could send me the rest of the shiur after the abarbanel part?

  9. Thanks for asking (and I'll delete the comment with your email address)! I gave this shiur in two places, but each was on a Yom Tov, so there is no recording, but I'll send you the source sheet b"n.