The parasha ends with Moshe acceding to the request of גד and ראובן to settle on the east side of the Jordan, then giving that land to others as well:
It’s important to note that individuals from other tribes could settle there. יאיר specifically was not really a בן מנשה:
It seems that once Moshe opened the land up, anyone could decide to claim a piece of it.
And נבח was one of those who went and conquered his own city. We don’t know who נבח is. Neither his father nor his tribe is listed, and he never appears later in תנ״ך,not even in דברי הימים where everybody’s יחוס is listed. We’ll look at the implications of that later.
But there’s an interesting spelling “mistake” in the pasuk:
Rashi quotes Moshe haDarshan that the unvoiced לה represents a sort of קריכתיב. It’s written לה but should be read as לא. נבח didn’t<em> really name his city after himself, since the name didn’t stick; everyone still called it קנת. Rashi has a problem with that interpretation, based on two other places in תנ״ך where לה without the mappik:
But Ramban cites Midrashim that support this interpretation (it seems that Rashi did not have the רות רבה):
Why does it matter that נבח's city didn’t keep his name? Jews like naming things after people. Every building, every institution are named in memory of loved ones, those whose memories we wish to preserve, whose merits we wish to invoke. But there’s something terribly arrogant about naming after yourself. נבח put his own name on his buildings: Novach Tower, in big letters and bright lights (I do not have opinions about contemporary politics). That kind of memorial doesn’t last.
If you want a building named after you, don’t name a building. Be the sort of person whom other people name buildings after.
The idea that לה should be pronounced לא raises the possibility that this teaches us about the pronunciation of the קמץ:
There’s an interesting detail in our pasuk that may shed light on how to pronounce לָה. The cantillation mark is a מֵרְכָא כְּפוּלָ֦ה, which only appears four other times in the Torah:
The מֵרְכָא כְּפוּלָ֦ה always comes after a דַּרְגָּ֧א (which is usually followed by a תְּבִ֛יר) and before a טִפְחָ֖א (which is usually preceded by a מֵרְכָ֥א). It acts like something halfway between a תְּבִ֛יר and a מֵרְכָ֥א. That’s important because the תְּבִ֛יר is disjunctive; it marks the end of a phrase, a point to take a breath. The מֵרְכָ֥א is conjunctive; it indicates that the word should be said in the same “breath group” as the next. What is the מֵרְכָא כְּפוּלָ֦ה?
If the לָ֦הֿ is joins the next word, then the קמץ is a קמץ קטן, which in the Sephardic pronunciation is identical or at least very close to the חולם of לא. This may help demonstrate what the “correct” pronunciation is (at least for Narvonne and Moshe haDarshan). It’s not a proof, and a Midrashic interpretation does not require an exact phonetic relationship, but it’s interesting.
The bar mitzvah of my nephew was on Shabbat Shemot, and my brother looked at the five instances of mercha kfula in the context of the one in that parasha:
It’s a sort of punctuation indicating dramatic irony (not sarcasm; there’s plenty of that elsewhere in תנ״ך). He doesn’t have an explanation for the pasuk in שמות, and charges his son with finding one. I might propose that in שמות the taskmasters are complaining about Pharaoh’s actions with כֹה, which is Midrashically associated with Pharoah’s final punishment: (שמות יא:ד) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֔ה כֹּ֖ה אָמַ֣ר יְדוָ֑ד כַּֽחֲצֹ֣ת הַלַּ֔יְלָה אֲנִ֥י יוֹצֵ֖א בְּת֥וֹךְ מִצְרָֽיִם.
So וַיִּקְרָ֧א לָ֦הֿ נֹ֖בַח בִּשְׁמֽוֹ is another example of dramatic irony. Novach is naming the city after himself as an eternal memorial, but that act serves to ensure that he remains unknown. No ancestry, no descendants, no other mention in תנ״ך. It’s a lesson in what is truly important.
For סעודה שלישית
Yesterday (כז תמוז תשע״ז) was the fourteenth yaharzeit of my father, Rabbi Marcel Wachsstock, הרב מאיר בן דוד עזריאל. He was the very opposite of נבח. He never sought the limelight, never wanted his name out there in the public. The shul where he worked (he was the executive director, gabbai, shamash and substitute rabbi) had a big commemorative plaque board in the shape of a menorah in the lobby; people would donate in honor or in memory of loved ones. The rabbi had his name on the top; the president has his name; even the cantor had his name on the top of the menorah. My father, when he installed the thing, wrote his name on the back.
His legacy was not in the number of buildings with his name on them but in the influence he had, in his quiet, unassuming way, on his children, his grandchildren and all the people whose lives he touched. יהי זכרו ברוך.