Sunday, December 9, 2018

Parshas Vayigash - Selling Binyamin as a slave

The Medrash Rabbah says (Bereishis 96:6)

אמר רבי סימון בנימוסות שלנו כתיב (שמות כ"ב) ואם אין לו ונמכר בגניבתו וזה יש לו לשלם

Rabbi Simon says, “[Yehudah said to Yosef,] in our law it is written, ‘If he does not have the money needed to pay back that which he stole, then he will be sold as a slave (and the money from the sale will be used to pay back the person from whom he stole). However, Binyamin does have money to pay [so he does not need to be sold as a slave.]’”

The gemara says in Kiddushin (18a)

והתניא (שמות כ"ב, ב') בגניבתו בולא בכפילו

“A ganav may only be sold to pay back the principal amount which he stole, but not to pay back the double payment which he must pay as a fine.”

Since Yosef had already retrieved the chalice which Binyamin had supposedly stolen from him, the only sum which Binyamin could have been left indebted to Yosef for would have been the double payment which he had to pay as a fine for stealing the chalice.
  • Why then did Yehudah say that Binyamin had enough money to pay Yosef, and therefore he need not be sold. Even had Binyamin not had the money needed to pay back the fine of the double payment, he would also not have been sold as a slave?
The Duvno Maggid explains that the reason that a ganav is not sold as a slave if he has enough money to pay back the robbery is as follows:

The passuk says in Mishlei (6:30)

לֹא יָבוּזוּ לַגַּנָּב כִּי יִגְנוֹב לְמַלֵּא נַפְשׁוֹ כִּי יִרְעָב

“People will not despise a ganav if he steals to fill his stomach when he is hungry.”

Therefore, if the ganav does not have enough money to make restitution for the robbery, then he must have stolen because he was needy. If so, he may really be a good person who fell on hard times and will make an honest slave, in which case he can be sold in order to enable him to pay back.

However, if the ganav does have enough money to pay back the robbery, then he must have stolen simply because he is greedy and avaricious. If so, there is no point selling his as a slave, because he will simply use his position as a slave to continue stealing from his master’s house.

Subsequently we can understand that Yehudah said to Yosef; “The Torah says that if a ganav has enough money to pay back the robbery then he is not sold as a slave. This is because circumstances prove that he is essentially dishonest, and therefore selling him as a slave would be counterproductive.

You are not bound to the laws of the Torah, and therefore you are willing to enslave Binyamin to pay for the fine of the double payment. Nevertheless, you should still accept the fundamental reasoning that his having had enough money and anyway having stolen proves that he will be a dishonest slave who would be useless to you, and so you should free Binyamin.”

Monday, December 3, 2018

Parshas Miketz - the interpretation of Pharo's dream

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah (41:25)

וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל פַּרְעֹה חֲלוֹם פַּרְעֹה אֶחָד הוּא אֵת אֲשֶׁר הָאֱלֹקִים עֹשֶׂה הִגִּיד לְפַרְעֹה

“And Yosef said to Pharoh, both of Pharoh’s dreams are one. That which Hashem is doing He has told to Pharoh.”

  • The word עֹשֶׂה is in the present tense, seemingly the passuk should have said, “That which Hashem will do he has told to Pharoh,” and not “That which Hashem is doing?”

Three pessukim later, Yosef repeats (41:28)

הוּא הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתִּי אֶל פַּרְעֹה אֲשֶׁר הָאֱלֹקִים עֹשֶׂה הֶרְאָה אֶת פַּרְעֹה

“This is the matter which I said to Pharoh, that which Hashem is doing He has shown to Pharoh.”

  • In the first passuk, Yosef said that Hashem has related (הִגִּיד) to Pharoh. In the second passuk, Yosef said that Hashem has shown (הֶרְאָה) to Pharoh. Why did Yosef change from הִגִּיד to הֶרְאָה?

Yosef continued to advise Pharoh that the grain from the good years should be stored for the years of famine (41:36)

וְהָיָה הָאֹכֶל לְפִקָּדוֹן לָאָרֶץ לְשֶׁבַע שְׁנֵי הָרָעָב אֲשֶׁר תִּהְיֶיןָ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם וְלֹא תִכָּרֵת הָאָרֶץ בָּרָעָב

“And the food will be a deposit for the land for the years of famine which will be in the land of Mitzrayim, and the land will not be exterminated in the famine.”

  • Why did Yosef offer his advice to Pharoh, seeing as he was only asked to interpret the dream?

The Tzaphnas Pa’aneach explains as follows:

The Medrash Rabbah says (Parshas Va’era)

"וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֶל מֹשֶׁה נְטֵה יָדְךָ עַל הַשָּׁמָיִם" הדא הוא דכתיב (תהלים קל"ה, ו') כל אשר חפץ ה' עשה וגו' אמר דוד אף על פי שגזר הקדוש ברוך הוא (שם קט"ו ט"ז) השמים שמים לה' והארץ נתן לבני אדם, משל למה הדבר דומה למלך שגזר ואמר בני רומי לא ירדו לסוריא ובני סוריא לא יעלו לרומי, כך כשברא הקדוש ברוך הוא את העולם גזר ואמר השמים שמים לה' והארץ נתן לבני אדם, כשבקש ליתן התורה בטל גזירה ראשונה ואמר התחתונים יעלו לעליונים והעליונים ירדו לתחתונים ואני המתחיל שנאמר (שמות י"ט כ') וירד ה' על הר סיני וכתיב (שם כ"ד א') ואל משה אמר עלה אל ה' הרי כל אשר חפץ ה' עשה בשמים ובארץ וגו'

“When Hashem created the world, He said, השמים שמים לה' והארץ נתן לבני אדם, ‘Those who are in the shamayim may not descend to the eretz, and those who are on the eretz may not rise to the shamayim.’ This comparable to a king who decreed and said, ‘The people in Rome may not go down to Syria and the people in Syria may not ascend to Rome.’

However at the time of matan torah, Hashem annulled that decree, as the passuk says, and Hashem descended on to Har Sinai, and to Moshe He said, ‘Go up to Hashem.’”

The first intervention by Hashem that prepared the way to matan torah was Pharoh’s dream. Subsequently, just as at Har Sinai, Hashem came down to the eretz and Moshe went up to the shamayim, so too in Pharoh’s dream, Hashem brought Pharoh into the realm of shamayim and showed him what was happening there. Since the concept of time is not significant for Hashem, Pharoh was able to see the years of plenty and the years of famine as they were happening, even though these would only occur 7 and 14 years in the future. That is why the passuk uses the present tense (עֹשֶׂה) concerning Pharoh’s nevuah, and not the future tense.

Initially Yosef used the term הִגִּיד because Pharoh thought that Hashem had merely told him a message. However, after Yosef explained that Pharoh had risen to the realm of shamayim and seen the ebb and flow of plenty that Hashem would create, he used the word הֶרְאָה, because Pharoh could understand that he had seen what Hashem was doing, and had not merely been told about it.

Also, since Pharoh had been brought into the realm of shamayim, this meant that Pharoh himself had become a part of Hashem’s plan. Subsequently Yosef explained that this meant that Pharoh was responsible for storing the flow of plenty that would come from shamayim during the first seven years, and then for the release this plenty during the years of famine, to counteract the extreme conditions that had been decreed by Hashem.

Since this advice was part of the interpretation of Pharoh’s dream, Yosef did not tell Pharoh anything that he had not been asked.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Parshas Vayeishev - The nes of Yosef's survival in the pit

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah (37:24)

וַיִּקָּחֻהוּ וַיַּשְׁלִכוּ אֹתוֹ הַבֹּרָה וְהַבּוֹר רֵק אֵין בּוֹ מָיִם

And they took him and they threw him into the pit and the pit was empty, it had no water in it.

The Medrash Tanchuma comments on this passuk

"וְהַבּוֹר רֵק אֵין בּוֹ מָיִם": "אמר רב כהנא, דרש רב נתן בר מניומי משמיה דרב תנחום: מאי דכתיב (בראשית לז) "וְהַבּוֹר רֵק אֵין בּוֹ מָיִם". ממשמע שנאמר: "וְהַבּוֹר רֵק" איני יודע שאין בו מים? אלא מה תלמוד לומר "אֵין בּוֹ מָיִם" - מים אין בו, אבל נחשים ועקרבים יש בו."

If the passuk says, the pit was empty, we know it contained no water. Why does the passuk say “It had no water in it”? This teaches you that it contained no water, but it did contain snakes and scorpions.

Thus it was a nes that Yosef survived in the pit.

The Medrash Rabbah says (100:8)

וַיָּשָׁב יוֹסֵף מִצְרַיְמָה הוּא וְאֶחָיו וְכָל הָעֹלִים אִתּוֹ לִקְבֹּר אֶת אָבִיו אַחֲרֵי קָבְרוֹ אֶת אָבִיו. וַיִּרְאוּ אֲחֵי יוֹסֵף כִּי מֵת אֲבִיהֶם וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוּ יִשְׂטְמֵנוּ יוֹסֵף וְהָשֵׁב יָשִׁיב לָנוּ אֵת כָּל הָרָעָה אֲשֶׁר גָּמַלְנוּ אֹתוֹ. וגו' רבי יצחק אמר הלך והציץ באותו הבור א"ר תנחומא הוא לא נתכוון אלא לשם שמים והם לא אמרו כן אלא לו ישטמנו יוסף ויצוו אל יוסף לאמר אביך צוה וגו'

“When Yosef and the brothers returned to Mitzrayim, the brothers were afraid that Yosef would hate them and take revenge for selling him. Why did they think this? Rabbi Yitzchak and Rabbi Tanchum explained that when Yosef was returning to Mitzrayim he looked into the pit that the brothers had thrown him into. The brothers thought that he was remembering what they had done to him, however Yosef had looked into the pit in order to make the berachah of שעשה לי נס במקום הזה.”

  • Why did the brothers not understand that Yosef looked into the pit in order to make a berachah?

The Meshech Chachmah explains as follows:

The Avudraham says (ספר אבודרהם פרק שמיני ברכת הראיה, השבח וההודאה)

הרואה מקום שנעשו בו נסים לישראל כגון מעברות ים סוף ומעברות הירדן... צריך ליתן שבח והודאה למקום בא"י אמ"ה שעשה נסים לאבותינו במקום הזה...

כתב ה"ר אשר מלוניל הא דמברכין בין אניסא דרבים בין אניסא דיחיד דוקא בנס שהוא יוצא ממנהג העולם או מדרך התולדה כגון מעברות הים ומעברות הירדן והדומה להם... אבל נס שהוא מנהג העולם ותולדתו כגון שבאו עליו גנבים בלילה ובא לידי סכנה וניצל וכיוצא בזה אינו חייב לברך שעשה לי נס במקום הזה... ובחנוכה לאו משום מעשה דיהודית מברכין שעשה נסים אלא משום פך השמן שהיה חתום בחותמו של כהן גדול ולא היה להדליק אלא יום אחד ונעשה בו נס והדליקו ממנו ח' ימים...

“The mishna says, ‘If someone sees a place where nissim were performed for klal yisrael such as the crossing of the Yam Suf and the crossing of the Yarden, has to make a beracha of שעשה נסים.’

Rabbeinu Asher from Lunil says that you only make a beracha on a nes when the nes went against the laws of nature, like the crossing of the Yam Suf and the crossing of the Yarden, and similar occurrences.

But for a nes which occurred within the laws of nature, such as where he was attacked by bandits and he was saved, or he came into some other danger and he was saved, he does not make a berachah.

The reason that we make a beracha on the nes of Chanukah is not because of the nes of Yehudis but is rather because of the nes of the jug of oil that was sealed with the seal of the kohen gadol which only contained enough oil to burn for one day and a nes occurred and they lit from it for eight days.”

Although the Avudraham differentiates between a nes that occurs within the laws of nature and a nes that occurs outside of the laws of the nature, it would appear that there is still a grey area which is not covered by this differentiation. For example, the Avudraham says that in a case where someone was saved from bandits, presumably by soldiers or other rescuers, that this not a nes galuy, because the events occurred within the boundaries of teva.

However, what is the halacha if someone was attacked by bandits, and then he was saved by the bandits being struck down by a meteorite? Would you say, since meteorites are a naturally occurring phenomenon and since it is possible for someone to be hit by a meteorite, therefore this is a nes that occurred within teva. Or would you say that since there is no probability that such an occurrence should happen so fortuitously, that we see the revealed Hand of Hashem, and he should make a beracha on the nes?

The Meshech Chachmah explains that halacha depends on the person’s level of bitachon. If a person would consider their life ended barring a nes, and then an event occurred which saved them, then this is classified as a nes on which he should make a beracha. However if a person was in a difficult situation and still trusted that Hashem would save them, and then they were saved, then this is not classified as a nes on which the person should make a beracha. Since the person did not think that it was outside the reasonable bounds of the way in which Hashem intervenes in the running of the world that they would be saved, therefore his being saved cannot be construed to be a nes galuy.

Hence it is possible that the same event would occur, and one person who is less of a baal bitachon would make a beracha, because he would see the event as a nes galuy, whereas someone else who is on a greater level of bitachon, would not make a berachah, since for him it was not unreasonable that the event occurred.

For the brothers, who had never exercised their bitachon in Mitzrayim, it was a nes galuy that Yosef became a king in Mitzrayim. However, for Yosef, who had demonstrated his bitachon against the power of Mitzrayim by fleeing Potiphar’s wife and by being successful in prison there, it was reasonable that Hashem should intervene to such an extent that he would become a king.

Therefore according to the brothers, Yosef could make a berachah on the nes of becoming the king, and he did not need to look into the pit to see a place where a nes galuy had occurred, in order for him to make a berachah. Therefore they concluded that he had looked into the pit in order to remind himself to take revenge. However Yosef himself could not make a beracha on becoming king, and therefore he looked into the pit so he could make a berachah.

Which is why the brothers misunderstood Yosef’s intentions in looking into the pit.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Parshas Vayishlach - the fight between Yaakov and the malach

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah

וַיֹּאמֶר שַׁלְּחֵנִי כִּי עָלָה הַשָּׁחַר וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא אֲשַׁלֵּחֲךָ כִּי אִם בֵּרַכְתָּנִי

And he said, “Send me, because the morning has dawned.” And he said, “I will not send you unless you give me a berachah.”

Rashi explains:

כי עלה השחר - וצריך אני לומר שירה ביום

Because the morning has dawned – and I need to say shirah by day.

ברכתני - הודה לי על הברכות שברכני אבי שעשו מערער עליהם

Unless you give me a berachah (the word ברכתני really means “unless you will have blessed me”, this is because Yaakov said to the malach) – Acknowledge that the berachos that Yitzchak gave me are rightfully mine, because Esav is complaining about them.

  • Why did Yaakov insist that the malach should acknowledge that the berachos were his before allowing him to say shirah?

The passuk continues

וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא יַעֲקֹב יֵאָמֵר עוֹד שִׁמְךָ כִּי אִם יִשְׂרָאֵל כִּי שָׂרִיתָ עִם אֱלֹהִים וְעִם אֲנָשִׁים וַתּוּכָל

And he said, “It will not be said anymore that you name is Yaakov, rather your name will be Yisrael. Because you struggled with malachim and with people and you overcame.”

Rashi explains:

לא יעקב - לא יאמר עוד שהברכות באו לך בעקבה ורמיה כי אם בשררה וגלוי פנים וסופך שהקב"ה נגלה עליך בבית אל ומחליף שמך ושם הוא מברכך ואני שם אהיה ואודה לך עליהן. וזהו שכתוב (הושע י"ב) וישר אל מלאך ויוכל בכה ויתחנן לו, בכה המלאך ויתחנן לו, ומה נתחנן לו בית אל ימצאנו ושם ידבר עמנו, המתן לי עד שידבר עמנו שם, ולא רצה יעקב ועל כרחו הודה לו עליהן, וזהו ויברך אותו שם שהיה מתחנן להמתין לו ולא רצה

“Your name will no longer be Yaakov” – It will not be said that the berachos came to you through trickery and deceit, rather it will be said that they came to you through uprightness and honesty. In the end Hashem will appear to you in Beis Keil and He will change your name and there He will give you a berachah, and I will be there and I will acknowledge that the berachos belong to you.

This is the meaning of the passuk (הושע י"ב ה')

וָיָּשַׂר אֶל מַלְאָךְ וַיֻּכָל בָּכָה וַיִּתְחַנֶּן לוֹ בֵּית אֵל יִמְצָאֶנּוּ וְשָׁם יְדַבֵּר עִמָּנוּ

And he conquered the malach and overcame him, he cried and pleaded to him, “He will find us in Beis Keil and there he will speak with us.”

The passuk means that the malach cried and pleaded to Yaakov to wait till Hashem would speak to them in Beis Keil. Yaakov did not want to wait and the malach was forced to acknowledge that the berachos were rightfully his, this is why the passuk says ויברך אותו שם – the malach gave him a beracha there where they had struggled, since Yaakov would not wait till later.

  • Why did the malach want to wait to acknowledge that the berachos rightfully belonged to Yaakov till they would meet in Beis Keil?

The Medrash Rabbah says (77, 2)

אמר רב הונא בסוף אמר המלאך אני מודיעו עם מי הוא עוסק, מה עשה נתן אצבעו בארץ התחילה הארץ תוססת אש, אמר ליה יעקב מן דא את מדחיל לי אנא כוליה מינה הה"ד (עובדיה א') וְהָיָה בֵית יַעֲקֹב אֵשׁ וּבֵית יוֹסֵף לֶהָבָה וּבֵית עֵשָׂו לְקַשׁ וְדָלְקוּ בָהֶם וַאֲכָלוּם וְלֹא יִהְיֶה שָׂרִיד לְבֵית עֵשָׂו כִּי ה' דִּבֵּר

Rav Huna said, in the end, the malach said, “I’ll let him know who he is dealing with.”

What did he do? He placed his finger in the earth and fire poured out.

Yaakov said to him, “Is that how you are going to frighten me? I am made entirely from fire.”

As the passuk says, “And the House of Yaakov will be fire, and the House of Yosef will be flame and the House of Esav will be straw. And they shall burn among them and they shall eat them and there shall not be a remnant from the House of Esav, because Hashem has spoken.”

  • Why was the conflict between the malach and Yaakov represent by fire?

The Ohr Gedalyahu explains as follows:

The conflict between the malach and Yaakov was whether Yaakov or Esav should have received the berachos. Yaakov claimed that he had a greater ability to lead the world in the service of Hashem, and therefore he should have taken the berachos. The malach on the other hand claimed that Esav’s worldly way of serving Hashem would result in a greater kiddush Hashem, and therefore Esav should receive the berachos.

Furthermore, the malach claimed that Yaakov had not taken the berachos le’shem shamayim, but that the trickery which he had employed to gain the berachos showed that he had taken the berachos for his own personal benefit.

Concerning the malach’s claim that Esav’s worldly way of serving Hashem would result in a greater kiddush Hashem, the malach showed Yaakov fire coming from the earth which indicated that Esav had the potential ability to uplift the most earthy things in the service of Hashem. However Yaakov responded by showing the malach that he had the ability to unify both the earthy and the spiritual aspects of creation in the service of Hashem, and that he was entirely made of fire.

Concerning the malach’s claim that Yaakov had not taken the berachos le’shem shamayim, Yaakov showed the malach that his heart was always and consistently unified in the service of Hashem. Subsequently even if there appeared to be something contradictory in the way that he acted, this apparent discrepancy could be explained by the end result of kiddush Hashem which he sought.

As acknowledgement that Yaakov was correct on both accounts, the malach changed Yaakov’s name to Yisrael, to denote that Yaakov ruled and was able to use both the yetzer ha’tov and also the yetzer ha’ra, le’shem shamayim. That is why the gematria of the name Yisrael (541) has the same gematria as Yaakov (182) + Satan (359).

Had the malach only acknowledged in Beis Keil that Yaakov deserved the berachos, then the malach would only have been admitting that Yaakov was able to serve Hashem with the kedushah of the beis ha’mikdash. Therefore Yaakov forced the malach to acknowledge that he was equally capable of serving Hashem and of creating a kiddush Hashem using worldly matters.

Therefore Yaakov only let the malach go and say shirah once he acknowledged that Yaakov would be able to use the berachos in the right way under all circumstances, and that he had taken the berachos le’shem shamayim.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Parshas Vayetze - healing Yaakov's limp

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah

וַיִּדַּר יַעֲקֹב נֶדֶר לֵאמֹר אִם יִהְיֶה אֱלֹקִים עִמָּדִי וּשְׁמָרַנִי בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי הוֹלֵךְ וְנָתַן לִי לֶחֶם לֶאֱכֹל וּבֶגֶד לִלְבֹּשׁ. וְשַׁבְתִּי בְשָׁלוֹם אֶל בֵּית אָבִי וְהָיָה ה' לִי לֵאלֹקִים. וְהָאֶבֶן הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר שַׂמְתִּי מַצֵּבָה יִהְיֶה בֵּית אֱלֹקִים וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר תִּתֶּן לִי עַשֵּׂר אֲעַשְּׂרֶנּוּ לָךְ.

And Yaakov made a promise saying, “If Hashem will be with me and He will guard me on this way on which I go and He will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear. And I will return in peace to my father’s house then Hashem will be to me as a G-d. And this stone which I have set up as an altar will be the House of Hashem and all that He will give me, I will surely tithe to you.”

  • Why did Yaakov start by saying אִם יִהְיֶה אֱלֹקִים עִמָּדִי and then conclude וְהָיָה ה' לִי לֵאלֹקִים?

The passuk says in Vayishlach (בראשית ל"ב ל"ב)

וַיִּזְרַח לוֹ הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ כַּאֲשֶׁר עָבַר אֶת פְּנוּאֵל וְהוּא צֹלֵעַ עַל יְרֵכוֹ

And the sun shone for him as he passed Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh.

Why does the passuk say, “and the sun shone for him”, surely the sun shone for everybody? Rashi explains

ויזרח לו השמש - לשון בני אדם הוא... זהו פשוטו ומדרש אגדה ויזרח לו לצרכו לרפאות את צלעתו כמה דתימא (מלאכי ג') שמש צדקה ומרפא בכנפיה ואותן שעות שמיהרה לשקוע בשבילו כשיצא מבאר שבע מיהרה לזרוח בשבילו

And the sun shone for him – this is how people speak, however the medrash says that the sun shone for Yaakov specifically, in order to heal him from his limp. Corresponding to those hours that the sun set early when he was on his way to Lavan’s house, the sun rose early for him [to heal him from his limp].

  • Why was Yaakov’s limp healed with the hours of sunlight that he lost on the way to Lavan’s house?

The gemara says in Bava Basra (99a)

כיצד הן עומדין... ולמ"ד פניהם איש אל אחיו הא כתיב (דברי הימים ב' ג', י"ג) ופניהם לבית לא קשיא כאן בזמן שישראל עושין רצונו של מקום כאן בזמן שאין ישראל עושין רצונו של מקום

According to the opinion that the keruvim faced each other, does not the passuk say ופניהם לבית – that the keruvim faced the heichal? This is not a refutation, when the benei yisrael performed the will of Hashem then the keruvim faced each other (to show the affection of Hashem for the benei yisrael), however when the benei yisrael did not perform the will of Hashem then the benei yisrael faced away from each other.

However the gemara says in Yuma (54b)

אמר ריש לקיש בשעה שנכנסו נכרים להיכל ראו כרובים המעורין זה בזה הוציאון לשוק ואמרו ישראל הללו שברכתן ברכה וקללתן קללה יעסקו בדברים הללו מיד הזילום שנאמר (איכה א', ח') כל מכבדיה הזילוה כי ראו ערותה

Reish Lakish said, “When the goyim entered the heichal, they say the keruvim embracing each other. They brought them out to the marketplace and they said, ‘The benei yisrael, whose beracha is a beracha and whose kelalah is a kelalah, should be involved with these things?’ Immediately they debased them, as the passuk says כל מכבדיה הזילוה כי ראו ערותה.”

  • At the time of the churban the benei yisrael were not עושין רצונו של מקום, if so the keruvim should have been facing away from each other and not מעורין זה בזה?

The Ma’asei Hashem explains as follows:

The gemara in Yuma (54a) says that one of the keruvim was in the form of a boy and one of the keruvim was in the form of a girl. The keruv that was in the form of a girl represented the מדת הדין and the keruv that was in the form a boy represented the מדת הרחמים. When the benei yisrael performed the will of Hashem then the keruvim faced each other because the mitzvos of the benei yisrael are מהפך מדת הדין למדת הרחמים, meaning that the מדת הדין agreed with the מדת הרחמים that the benei yisrael should be rewarded. However when the benei yisrael were not עושין רצונו של מקום then the keruvim faced away from each other because the מדת הדין was in disagreement with the מדת הרחמים.

However at the time of the churban there was also agreement between the מדת הדין and the מדת הרחמים. The מדת הרחמים agreed with the מדת הדין that the benei yisrael should go into galus because this would be fastest way for them to have a kapparah for their aveiros, after which they would return to Eretz Yisrael. The מדת הדין agreed with the מדת הרחמים that this would be the kapparah for the benei yisrael, but that meant that even the מדת הרחמים had to guarantee the survival of the benei yisrael, so that they would not be destroyed in galus. That is why at the time of the churban the keruvim were מעורין זה בזה.

When Yaakov went to Lavan’s house, this represented the galus of the benei yisrael, the sun setting early denoted that he would be deprived of the natural wherewithal that is normally provided to a person, in order so that he would be able to experience the קושי הגלות. Later, Esav’s malach thought that he had managed to damage Yaakov by dislocating his thigh, however Hashem showed Yaakov that Esav’s malach had only been able to damage him under the deprived circumstances that he was subject to in galus, but when the sun rose early and made up those hours that it had previously set early, it was revealed that Yaakov, in his full splendour, could never be damaged by the malach of Esav, and so his limp was healed.

That is why Yaakov said אִם יִהְיֶה אֱלֹקִים עִמָּדִי, if the מדת הדין will guarantee my survival in galus in my limited circumstances, then when I come back to Eretz Yisrael - וְהָיָה ה' לִי לֵאלֹקִים, the מדת הרחמים will restore my wholeness and my strength.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Parshas Toldos - the surprising madregah of Yitzchak

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah

וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת יִצְחָק בֶּן אַבְרָהָם אַבְרָהָם הוֹלִיד אֶת יִצְחָק

And these are the generations of Yitzchak the son of Avraham, Avraham bore Yitzchak.

  • The gemara normally says that - ויו מוסיף על ענין ראשון - a vav adds on to that which was previously stated. Since Yitzchak did not have any children prior to Yaakov and Esav, why does the passuk say וְאֵלֶּה, with a vav?

The Medrash Rabbah says at the beginning of this week’s sedrah

ואלה תולדות יצחק בן אברהם - (משלי כ"ג) גיל יגיל אבי צדיק ויולד חכם ישמח בו. גילה אחר גילה, בזמן שהצדיק נולד.

The passuk says in Mishlei (23:24) - גִּיל יָגִיל אֲבִי צַדִּיק וְיוֹלֵד חָכָם יִשְׂמַח בּוֹ - The father of a tzaddik has great joy; a man who has a wise son rejoices. When the tzaddik is born there is rejoicing after rejoicing.

  • What does the medrash add by saying that there is rejoicing after rejoicing when a tzaddik is born?

When Yitzchak gave a berachah to Yaakov he said

וְיִתֶּן לְךָ הָאֱלֹקִים מִטַּל הַשָּׁמַיִם וּמִשְׁמַנֵּי הָאָרֶץ וְרֹב דָּגָן וְתִירֹשׁ

May Hashem give to you of the dew of the heavens, and of the fatness of the earth, and an abundance of corn and wine.

Since the word וְיִתֶּן is the beginning of the beracha, it is again difficult to understand why a vav is added which implies ויו מוסיף על ענין ראשון. Subsequently Rashi explains

"ויתן לך" - יתן ויחזור ויתן

Hashem should give to you and then give to you again.

However, when Yitzchak gave Esav a berachah, he said

וַיַּעַן יִצְחָק אָבִיו וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו הִנֵּה מִשְׁמַנֵּי הָאָרֶץ יִהְיֶה מוֹשָׁבֶךָ וּמִטַּל הַשָּׁמַיִם מֵעָל

And Yitzchak his father answered him and he said to him, “Behold from the fat places of the earth will be your dwelling, and of the dew of the heavens from above.”

The word הִנֵּה has an opposite implication to יתן ויחזור ויתן. הִנֵּה means, “Behold, this is how it will be.” This is as opposed to יתן ויחזור ויתן which means, Hashem will continually give.

  • Why did Yitzchak say to Yaakov that Hashem would continually give to him, but to Esav he granted a complete beracha without the need for anything to be provided further?

The Michtav Me’Eliyahu explains as follows:

The Malbim says in Tehillim (89:17) that the word gilah refers to fleeting happiness.

ויש הבדל בין שמחה וגיל, ששמחה היא השמחה התמידית, וגיל הוא על דבר מתחדש כמו מציאה בשורה טובה ודומיה

“There is a difference between שמחה and גיל, the word שמחה refers to constant happiness, whereas the word גיל refers to something new that happened, such as finding something or hearing some good news.”

If so, why does the Medrash Rabbah say גילה אחר גילה בזמן שהצדיק נולד? Since גילה is the fleeting happiness you experience on hearing good news, how can there be another גילה after the first גילה, seeing as no further good news has arrived?

The Michtav Me’Eliyahu explains that the reason that Yitzchak was called Yitzchak is because the word צחוק refers to the joy that someone experiences when something unexpectedly good happens, that is, something that is so good that it could not have been foreseen given the prior situation, and it is this surprise that brings laughter. Similarly, Yitzchak was able to climb madregos in such a way that the new madregah he reached was surprising because it could not be understood to be a continuation of the previous madregah that he had been on.

Since the madregah that Yitzchak reached could not be understood to be an extrapolation of the madregah he had been on when he was born, therefore there was גילה אחר גילה when he was born, because it was constantly surprising who he had become.

Also, the world תּוֹלְדֹת refers to the continuation of the father’s aspirations in his children. Therefore the passuk says וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת יִצְחָק בֶּן אַבְרָהָם אַבְרָהָם הוֹלִיד אֶת יִצְחָק, with a vav, since Yitzchak constantly and discontinuously increased in his representation of and continuation of Avraham’s avodas Hashem. In other words, it was Yitzchak himself who added to the continuation of Avraham that was embodied in Yitzchak.

This beracha, to become unexpectedly better, was the beracha that Yitzchak gave to Yaakov, which is why he said to him ויתן לך - יתן ויחזור ויתן, Hashem should constantly increase the way in which He gives you beracha, as befits the greater tzaddik that you will have become.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Parshas Chayey Sarah - the missing vav in Ephron's name

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah (בראשית כ"ג ט"ז)

וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָהָם אֶל עֶפְרוֹן וַיִּשְׁקֹל אַבְרָהָם לְעֶפְרֹן אֶת הַכֶּסֶף אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר בְּאָזְנֵי בְנֵי חֵת אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שֶׁקֶל כֶּסֶף עֹבֵר לַסֹּחֵר

“And Avraham listened to Ephron and Avraham measured to Ephron the money which he had spoken in the ears of the children of Ches, four hundred silver shekalim, fit for mercantile use.”

The first Ephron in the passuk is spelt with a vav, the second Ephron in the passuk is spelt without a vav. The medrash (שמות רבה ל"א י"ז) comments on this

דבר אחר "נבהל להון" זה עפרון... מיד עמד אברהם ושקל לו... מה היה אומר עפרון לאברהם, אם אתה נותן לי ד' מאות שקל כסף מן סחורת ביתך אתה נותנה לי, וע"י שהכניס עין רעה בממונו של אברהם חסרו הכתוב וי"ו, הוי ולא ידע כי חסר יבואנו האיש שעינו רעה חסרו הכתוב וי"ו

“The passuk says in Mishlei (28:22)

נִבֳהָל לַהוֹן אִישׁ רַע עָיִן וְלֹא יֵדַע כִּי חֶסֶר יְבֹאֶנּוּ

The man with an evil eye panics for wealth, but he does not know that loss will befall him.

This passuk refers to Ephron. As soon as Avraham heard Ephron’s hint, he stood up and measured out four hundred shekalim for him. Ephron said, ‘If you are going to pay me, make sure the money comes from your best coins which are reserved for business dealings.’

Because Ephron gave Avraham’s money an ayin hara, the passuk took a vav away from him. This is the loss that befell Ephron because of his greed.”

The Baal Haturim explains that Avraham knew initially that Ephron had an ayin hara. Therefore even though Ephron offered to give Avraham the field, it was assur for Avaraham to accept it, because the passuk says in Mishlei (23:6)

אַל תִּלְחַם אֶת לֶחֶם רַע עָיִן וְאַל תתאו [תִּתְאָיו] לְמַטְעַמֹּתָיו

“Do not take the bread of someone who has an ayin hara, and do not desire his delicacies.”

From the fact that Avraham refused Ephron’s gift, it was obvious that Avraham was saying that Ephron had an ayin hara. This was embarrassing for Ephron, so he became angry and told Avraham that he would indeed pay for the field, in as complete a manner as possible.

The Chasam Sofer offers an alternative explanation of the medrash:

The passuk says

וְאִם מִשְּׂדֵה אֲחֻזָּתוֹ יַקְדִּישׁ אִישׁ לַה' וְהָיָה עֶרְכְּךָ לְפִי זַרְעוֹ זֶרַע חֹמֶר שְׂעֹרִים בַּחֲמִשִּׁים שֶׁקֶל כָּסֶף

If a person makes his field hekdesh and wants to redeem it, then the field should be valued at 50 shekalim for an area in which a barley measure is sown.

The mishna in Eruchin (7:1) explains that the passuk is referring to someone who was makdish his field in the first year after yovel. The value of the field is one shekel per year, therefore in this case he redeems his field for fifty shekalim. However the owner is makdish his field closer to yovel, then he only has to pay hekdesh for the remaining years.

At the bris bein ha’besarim, Hashem told Avraham that the benei yisrael would return to Eretz Yisrael after four hundred years, after which Ephron would have lost the me’aras ha’machpelah anyway, so Ephron could charge Avraham the value of the land holding for 400 years.

If the value of a field for 50 years is 50 shekalim, then the value of a field for 400 years is 400 shekalim, and so apparently Ephron charged the correct price for the field.

However, Ephron actually undervalued the field because

  • According to the Ramban, it was 430 years from the bris bein ha’besarim to yetzias mitzrayim (the 400 years stated at the bris bein ha’besarim was lav davka, see Ramban Shemos 12:40).  

  • The benei yisrael stayed an additional 40 years in the midbar, as a punishment for the chet ha’meraglim.

Therefore really Ephron undercharged Avraham by 8 shekalim (minus 62 years which had elapsed since the bris bein ha’besarim, plus 30 years (according to the Ramban in Shemos), plus 40 years in the midbar, which comes out to 70 – 62 = 8).

A further adjustment that has to be made to this calculation is as follows:

  • The valuation of 1 shekel per year is really the value of the crop that can be harvested from the field in a year.  
  • The bris bein ha’besarim was on Pesach night, when the field would already have had standing corn in it. Therefore Ephron could not charge Avraham for this crop.  

  • The benei yisrael came into Eretz Yisrael on Pesach, when again the field would have had standing corn in it, since the benei yisrael acquired that crop, Ephron could not have charged Avraham for the crop.

So altogether, Ephron undercharged Avraham by 8 – 2 = 6 years, and the price of the field should have been 406 shekalim. Since Ephron lost 6 shekalim by being panicked into trying to make money, the passuk removes a vav from his name.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Parshas Vayera - How Avraham taught his guests about Hashem

The passuk says in this week’s sedrah (בראשית יח ב)

וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים נִצָּבִים עָלָיו וַיַּרְא וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתָם מִפֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ אָרְצָה

And he lifted his eyes and he saw and behold there were three men standing close to him, and he ran to meet them from the entrance of the tent and he bowed down to the ground.

The Medrash Rabbah (מדרש רבה, מ"ח, ט') comments on this passuk

אמר ר' לוי, שלשת האנשים שנראו לאברהם אבינו אחד נדמה לו בדמות סרקי, ואחד בדמות נווטי ואחד בדמות ערבי

Rabbi Levi said, “One of the men appeared as a thief (this seems to be the translation of the Chasam Sofer, the Matnos Kehunah however brings the Aruch who translates סרקי as a baker, unless the Chasam Sofer agrees with the Aruch’s translation and refers to the סרקי as a ganav because the gemara in Kiddushin (82a) says that most storekeepers are ganavim), one of the men appeared as a sailor and one of the men appeared to Avraham as an Arab.”

Based on this medrash, the Chasam Sofer explains as follows:

  • The Arabs used to serve Avodah Zara, as Rashi says (בראשית י"ח ד')

"ורחצו רגליכם" - כסבור שהם ערביים שמשתחוים לאבק רגליהם והקפיד שלא להכניס ע"א לביתו (ב"מ פ"ו)

Therefore Avraham would have to teach the Arab not to have emunah in avodah zarah but rather to have emunah in Hashem.

  • A thief is on a higher madregah, as he has emunah in Hashem, as the gemara says

"גנבא אפום מחתרתא רחמנא קרי" (ברכות ס"ג)

A thief calls out to Hashem before he breaks into a house.

However a thief does not have bitachon that Hashem will provide him with a parnassah, because if he did, he would not steal. Therefore Avraham would have to teach the thief to have bitachon.

  • Sailors, however, place their trust solely in Hashem as the gemara at the end of Kiddushin (קידושין פ"ב א') says - הספנין רובן חסידים – most sailors are tzaddikim, because they daven to Hashem to save them during a storm. Therefore Avraham would only have to teach the sailor the mitzvos of the Torah.

Subsequently we can understand Avraham’s conversation with the malachim as follows:

וַיֹּאמַר אֲדֹנָי אִם נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ אַל נָא תַעֲבֹר מֵעַל עַבְדֶּךָ.

First Avaraham asked the most senior of the group (the sailor), not to leave while Avraham explained the principles of emunah and bitachon to the Arab and to the thief.

יֻקַּח נָא מְעַט מַיִם וְרַחֲצוּ רַגְלֵיכֶם

Avraham told the Arab that through that aspect of the Torah which is compared to living water, he would be able to come to emunah in Hashem, who is the living G-d, and thus remove the dust of avodah zarah from his legs.

וְהִשָּׁעֲנוּ תַּחַת הָעֵץ

Avraham told the Arab and the thief that through that aspect of the Torah which is compared to a life-giving tree, they would be able to come to have bitachon that Hashem would provide them with their livelihood, and so rest “under the tree”.

We also find that the Torah is compared to bread in Mishlei (9:5) - לכו לחמו בלחמי. Rabbeinu Bachya (Vayelech) explains this comparison refers to the wisdom of the Torah.

שלמה המלך ע״ה המשיל התורה בפסוק זה ללחם ויין לפי שהלחם ויין עיקר המזון אשר לגוף כן התורה והחכמה עיקר מזון הנפש

Therefore Avraham explained that through that aspect of the Torah which is compared to bread, they would be able to understand the wisdom of Hashem, and he told his guests.

וְאֶקְחָה פַת לֶחֶם וְסַעֲדוּ לִבְּכֶם

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