Sunday, July 05, 2015

kana'im pogim bo


Ibn Ezra cryptically comments on Pinchas' killing of Zimri (25:7):

 ויש בכאן שאלה.

"There is a question here," he says, but he doesn't tell us what it is. He does, however, give us the answer: 

ויתכן להשיב שכבר נצמד זמרי בעדים

The footnotes of the Mossad haRav Kook edition of the Ibn Ezra explains that what bothered Ibn Ezra is that the text never mentions what this "ish Yisrael" did wrong -- all we know is that he brought a Midianite woman before Moshe and the people assembled in front of Ohel Moed. The answer is that the illicit act must have already taken place before Pinchas grabbed his spear, even though the text doesn't spell it out.

B'mechilas kvodam of the editor, I don't think that was the Ibn Ezra's question or the point of his answer.

Rambam writes (Issurei Bi’ah 12:4) that kan’im who kill someone who is bo’el aramis in public are deserving of praise for their zealousness, as we see from the actions of Pinchas. Ra’avad adds that this is true only if hasra’ah was given and the bo’el did not stop, otherwise this is not a praiseworthy act. 

I think the Ibn Ezra held like the Ra'avad, and what bothered him is that Pinchas seems to act without pause, without taking time to give hasra'ah. Ibn Ezra therefore explains that there was witnesses present who saw what Zimri did.  It is those witnesses (why else mention this detail?) who must have given the requisite hasra'ah.

What are the Rambam and Ra'avad arguing about? Magid Mishnah explains the issue at hand is whether kana’im pogim bo is a capital penalty like other misos beis din, or whether it is a unique chiddush din. According to Rambam, kana’im pogim bo is vigilante justice – it’s in a separate category from formal misas beis din. We are dealing with a unique halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai that can be carried out only at the scene and time of the crime, where guilt is clear and therefore no hasra’ah is required. Ra’avad, on the other hand, derives from Chazal (“haya lo lifrosh v’lo pireish”) that Pinchas did in fact warn Zimri; kana’im pogim bo is no different than any other chiyuv misas beis din which requires hasra’ah. It's just carried out by an individual instead of the court.

If this approach is correct, the Ra’avad severly understates his case. Failure to give hasra’ah shouldn’t just mean “lo amrinan harei eilu m’shubachin,” that the vigilante is not deserving of praise. It should mean the vigilante has in effect committed murder, because without hasra’ah there is no license to kill the bo’el!

R’ Shimon Moshe Diskin explains that even according to Ra’avad, kana’im pogim bo is a unique din, categorically different than misas beis din. The reason the Ra'avad requires hasra’ah is because kana’im pogim bo is a halacha v’ain morin kein – it’s something to be avoided, not encouraged.  Killing is permissible in this case, but it should be seen as a last resort, undertaken only when all other options, including issuing a verbal warning, have failed.  By way of analogy, he quotes the view of the Ramah that hasra’ah has to be given to a rodef before more violent action can be taken to stop him. It’s not because killing a rodef is like misas beis din – it’s because killing the rodef is a last resort.  The gemara says if the rodef can be stopped by breaking an arm or leg, then there is no license to kill.  Surely it follows that if yelling a hasra'ah warning to the rodef, "Stop or I'll shoot!" will get him to stop, killing would be an excess. 


What bothers me is that if that is the case, why did Pinchas have to kill Zimri?  Why couldn't he have just pushed him aside, or taken some other action to stop him? 



Thursday, July 02, 2015

shalosh regalim changes attitudes

Rashi comments that the words of Bilam’s donkey’s question, “Why have you hit me three times /shalosh regalim?” alludes to the shalosh regalim that we celebrate.  Bilam was being asked how he could possibly hope to curse and destroy a nation that celebrates the shalosh regalim.  Much ink has already been spilled (e.g. see Maharal) trying to address the derash question of why the zechus of this mitzvah in particular stood in Bilam’s way.  Why not the mitzvah of tefilah, of kri’as shema, or any other mitzvah?  But aside from the derush question, there is a pshat question that needs to be addressed here.  True, maybe you can’t ask kashes on a donkey, but this was no ordinary donkey.  “Why are you hitting me?” seems like a pretty silly question to ask when the donkey had just banged Bilam’s leg not once, not twice, but three times, crushing it against the wall.  Why Bilam was hitting the donkey is obvious!  What was the donkey asking him?

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (ch 5) tells us that one of the miracles that took place at the time of the Mikdash was that no one ever complained of being cramped for space in Yerushalayim.  Chasam Sofer and others explain that the miracle the Mishna refers to has nothing to do with the physical space of Yerushalayim – the city boundaries did not magically grow bigger when crowds came.  Rather, what happened is that people’s attitude changed.  The same people that may have complained that their little home is too small, their kitchen is too cramped (what Jewish housewife does not long for a bigger kitchen?), having to sleep in bunk beds and share rooms is not fair, etc. forgot all that once they came to Yerushalayim.  Even if the physical conditions might have been worse than at home, when you have the opportunity to come to Yerushalayim and be in the presence of the Shechina, who thinks of how big the hotel suite is?  Does it really matter if your neighbor bumps into you a little if you have the opportunity to see avodah taking place?  Three times a year thousands of people came to Yerushalayim for aliya la’regel and somehow, three times a year they all made space for each other and got along because they felt Hashem’s presence and therefore nothing else mattered.
 
Now we can understand what the donkey was asking Bilam.  The malach was not out to harm Bilam, but rather was a malach of rachamim sent to stop him from doing something silly.  Chazal tell us that whenever the malach Michoel (=rachamim) is present, the Shechina is right there with him, close by.  So true, Bilam’s foot had been banged into the wall three times – there was no room to move.  But when the Shecha is present, who thinks about how much or how little room they have?  Who feels cramped and complains?  The donkey asked Bilam, “How can you even feel that bump when there is so much else you should be paying attention to now?”
 
And now we understand as well why it is davka the shalosh regalim that are alluded to in the donkey’s question.  These three times a year when all of Klal Yisrael gathered in Yerushalayim and no one complained about lack of space, no one complained about being crushed by the crowds or someone bumping into him, proved the donkey’s point – when you have the Shecina on your mind and have an awareness of what being in Hashem’s presence means, nothing else should bother you.  If it does, you are at fault.  (Based on Midrash Moshe)
 
R’ Ovadya writes in a teshuvah (Yechaveh Da’at vol 1) that there is still a kiyum mitzvah of aliya la’regel in our times.   The Ran in Ta’anis (bottom of 2a in pages of the RI”F) writes that even after the churban, Jews would still gather in Yerushalayim and come to the mikdash for the regalim.  (Side point: the Ran is justifying why in Eretz Yisrael the day to start asking for rain in davening, which is fixed based on the assumption of how long it would take for someone to get home after making aliya la’regel, remains the same even after the churban.  Why is this a question?  Once the date was fixed, shouldn’t the takanah still stand even if the reason no longer applies, so long as there is no beis din gadol b’chochma u’minyan to repeal it?)  Tashbeitz echoes the same, and adds that even in his times, this nes/bracha of no one complaining of lack of space still held true.  The kedusha of Yerushalayim is eternal because  it is the presence of the Shechina; that presence influences the character and attitude of those who visit and those who live there (and maybe even those who aspire to live there) to our very day. 

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

in a different league of bitachon

I assume everyone has seen this clip of Eliezer Rosenfeld at the funeral for his son hy"d, but in case you haven't:

My son recently told me a vort b'shem RYBS that the machlokes whether to pasken like Beis Shamai or Beis Hillel, whether to pasken like those who are sharper (Shamai) or the majority (Hillel), is an issue only if both sides are in the same league.  But if those who are sharper are so sharp that they are on a different level completely, then the halacha follows that view.  Halacha is like Rabbi Eliezer all over even against a rov because he was on a different level.  RYBS held that it doesn't matter if there is a majority against R' Chaim on certain issues -- R' Chaim is on a different level than everyone else (see Nefesh haRav).

At least relative to where I am holding. it seems that there are people who are just on a different level and are in a different league of emunah and bitachon.  When you see a clip like this, when you see the courage and strength shown, for example, by Rachel Fraenkel last summer in the face of tragedy, it really helps put things in perspective.  Klal Yisrael cries with them over their loss; hopefully Klal Yisrael will take heart and chizuk and grow from their demonstration of emunah. 

crime and punishment

Even though we left parshas Shlach a few weeks ago, I want to post this anyway rather than wait until next year.  Rashi quotes from Chazal that the meraglim had kefitzas haderech and managed to tour the entire land of Israel in only forty days.  Hashem knew that the spies would return a bad report and Bnei Yisrael would be punished with a wait of one year in the desert for every day they spent on the road.  Since Hashem wanted to cap that punishment at forty years, He limited the spies’ travel time to forty days.  A talmid asked my wife’s grandfather, R’ Dov Yehudah Shochet, a great question: why did Hashem have to make this nes of kefitzas haderech to cap the punishment at forty years – why not just mete out half a year for each day spent if it would take eighty days to travel the land, or whatever the calculation would work out to in order to get the desired result?  Where and why is it written in stone that the ratio has to be a year to a day?  Why is that variable immutable, but the amount of travel time it takes to tour the land, a fact built into the teva, can be bent and played with derech nes?

Al korchacha it seems that the punishment for a cheit is not like the sentence a judge issues to a criminal; the punishment for a cheit is a natural outgrowth of the cheit itself.  To use halachic terms as an analogy, I would say the punishment for a cheit is a psik reisha – you can’t cut off the chicken’s head and get an outcome other than death, no matter if you didn’t intend to kill the chicken, because by definition cutting off a chicken’s head means killing it.  By definition, “yom la’shana,” the punishment for one day of being in Eretz Yisrael for the sake of maligning the land results in a one year delay in entering the land.  That is immutable; it’s an a priori rule.  The amount of time it takes to travel the land can be extended or shortened without changing the definition of what “travel” is, but punishment and cheit are by definition one and the same thing. 

The gemara (Chagigah 5) writes that when R’ Yochanan read the pasuk “V’haya ki timtzena oso ra’os rabos v’tzaros” he would cry.  “What hope is there for a servant who is presented with great evils and sorrow?!”  How does a person just “find” himself – “timtzena oso” – in a world of trouble?  Aren’t those troubles the result of a sentence in the beis din shel ma’alah that a person can appeal or ask for mercy to temper?  Again, we see from this gemara that punishment by definition goes hand in hand with the crime.  It’s not some separate decree, but is a natural outcome of sin itself.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

collaborative chinuch conference

This past Sunday the YI of Woodmere hosted the second annual Five Towns Community Collaborative Conference on topics of Jewish education.  Once again (my wife and I have gone both years) it was an amazing program with speakers from across the spectrum of the community addressing a host of different topics.  Principals, teachers, parents, psychologists, Rabbanim and Rebbetzins, all gathered together to talk about one topic: how can we educate our children better.  There day consisted of a keynote address by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, the noted psychiatrist, and then you had a menu of about six options for each of five sessions that ran until the early afternoon.  Except for one session where we overlapped, my wife and I went to different speakers and then compared notes afterwards.  Let me give you some thoughts I walked away with:

1. We stress practical observance of mitzvos but are not doing enough to teach yiras shamayim (R. Dr. Twerski).  This is the root cause behind problems of improper use of the internet, to name one.  The way to develop yiras shamayim, as the Rambam writes, is by observing and reflecting on the wonders of the natural world.  What was running through my mind as he spoke about this topic is that today's kids are too wrapped up in their i-machines to even notice their surroundings, much less appreciate the beauty of nature.  It's a catch-22.

2. We -- speakers, parents, etc. -- are all concerned by and large about the same issues, which on the one hand is comforting (no one likes to think their kid is the only one struggling with X or Y), and yet on the other hand means across the board there are holes that need to be filled.  I take the fact that so many people came to such a conference as a positive.  The fact that so many people are concerned and want to raise and educate their kids better and the fact that we can have a shared conversation between parents, teachers, and Rabbis is itself a major first step to solving problems.  

3. One key issue: Phone/tablet devices have an effect on attention span, cognitive ability, not to mention what kids are sharing and watching on them is a problem. 

4. Koren Publishers has what looks like a wonderful new siddur meant for elementary school kids and a siddur curriculum that goes with it.  We bought one of their other siddurim meant for high school age/adult for one of my kids.  Certain things that caught my eye: I like the little thought questions inserted next to the kri'as haTorah sections; I like the idea of putting each bracha of shmoneh esrei on a separate page, but thought maybe some commentary or something should have been stuck on those pages to fill up some of the white space; the guide to the year in the back is nice, but a more comprehensive guide to halachos of tefilah (e.g. what's in the back of the Artscroll) may be better; I like the commentary sections that raise questions to think about rather than spoonfed insights and answers.  I was surprised there was not even a short comment to explain or provide context for the bracha of "shelo asani isha." 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

when did the battle in Chormah take place?

It has been another busy week with not much time to think about the parsha, so apologies for having little to say. 

In a few brief pesukim the Torah relates how the Canaani king of Arad waged war against Bnei Yisrael, and after taking hostages, was defeated.  The land in which this battle took place was renamed Chormah (21:1-3).

Interestingly, we find a nearly parallel story in Sefer Shoftim (ch 1):

 וּבְנֵי קֵינִי- חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה עָלוּ מֵעִיר הַתְּמָרִים אֶת-בְּנֵי יְהוּדָה מִדְבַּר יְהוּדָה אֲשֶׁר בְּנֶגֶב עֲרָד וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיֵּשֶׁב אֶת-הָעָם:
וַיֵּלֶךְ יְהוּדָה אֶת-שִׁמְעוֹן אָחִיו וַיַּכּוּ אֶת-הַכְּנַעֲנִי יוֹשֵׁב צְפַת וַיַּחֲרִימוּ אוֹתָהּ וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-שֵׁם-הָעִיר חָרְמָה:


Again, we have a battle waged against the Canaani, the place is named Arad, the enemy is defeated and the conquered territory is named Chormah.

Didn't that already happen in Moshe's days? 

One possibility is that the conquest of the Canaani was started in Moshe's time, and some of the territory ('shem ha'makom')was named Chormah.  Eventually the war was completed later in history and the particular city that closed the event was given the same name ('shem ha'ir'). 

Ramban offers that as a second possibility, but first comments as follows:

והשלים עוד בכאן לספר, כי החרימו ישראל גם את עריהם אחרי בואם בארץ כנען אחרי מות יהושע לקיים את נדרם אשר נדרו ויקראו שם הערים חרמה. והוא מה שנאמר בספר שופטים (א טז): ובני קיני חותן משה עלו מעיר התמרים את בני יהודה מדבר יהודה אשר בנגב ערד, ושם כתוב (פסוק יז): וילך יהודה את שמעון אחיו ויכו את הכנעני יושב צפת ויחרימו אותה ויקרא את שם העיר חרמה, ושם נשלם הנדר הזה.
אבל השלים הכתוב להזכיר העניין בכאן,


According to this approach, the Torah is referring to that very same event that occurred later in Sefer Shoftim in order to bring the story here to its conclusion. 

How can the Torah reference a historical event that was yet to happen?  Ibn Ezra comments as follows:

ורבים אמרו:
כי זאת הפרשה יהושע כתבה ...ומצאו שבני יהודה קראו שם המקום חרמה,


This is one of the places where Ibn Ezra throws out the possibility of pesukim in the Torah being written later in history by people other than Moshe.

Abarbanel puts two and two together and writes that although Ramban didn't spell it out because he didn't want us to choke on a chicken bone or on the cholent, but he must have believed that this pasuk was added at a later point in history in order to complete the story.

Wow!  Two Rishonim who hold that a pasuk was not written by Moshe Rabeinu!

Or maybe not.  Let me quote the rest of the Ibn Ezra:

 ולא אמרו כלום כי אותו המקום יקרא בתחלה צפת וזה מלך ערד והאמת שני מקומות ורבים במקרא כמו הם

The place referenced in Shoftim south of the lands of Arad is called Tzefat and later the name is changed to Chormah.  That's a different place than the land of Arad itself, which our parsha is speaking about, and which happens to share the same name Chormah.  Ibn Ezra rejects out of hand the possibility that this pasuk was added later.  (If you hold on the basis of Ibn Ezra's comment to the last 12 pesukim in the Torah and a few other hints that Ibn Ezra did in fact have no problem with the idea that someone other than Moshe added pesukim to the Torah, the question you have to address is why he takes such issue with that idea here.)

Rav Chavel in his footnotes to Ramban rejects the Abarbanel's conclusion and suggests that there is no proof simply from the fact that Ramban sees a pasuk as referring to a later historical event that it was written then.  Perhaps Moshe wrote it to complete the story based on what he foresaw through nevuah. 

Abarbanel himself suggests that we are dealing with two separate and very different battles.  In the time of Moshe the Canaani tribes left their land in order to go out and wage war against Bnei Yisrael.  The episode in Shoftim is a different battle that took place when Bnei Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael and fought that Canaani tribe on its home turf.  If Abarbanel is right, then we understand on a pshat level why Chazal (quoted by Rashi) identify this Canaani as Amalek.  Just as Amalek went out to fight against Bnei Yisrael even though they were not under attack, so too, these Canaani people went out from their home territory and picked a fight that was unnecessary.  This point may also help answer the Ohr haChaim's question of why we don't find any reaction of fear or worry on the part of Bnei Yisrael even though a captive was taken (he does not see the tefilah and neder as a sign of fear) even though when Yehoshua loses a small number of men in the battle of Ai he is worried.  (It's interesting that Ohr haChaim reads the news of even one isolated capture of a hostage as cause for alarm.  Many other meforshim, e.g. see Seforno, Ramban, take the opposite view and read it as a positive outcome -- a war was waged and no one was killed, no one but one isolated maidservant was taken captive. Bnei Yisrael must have been doing something right.)  This difference is this battle was not a battle waged for the conquest of Eretz Yisrael; it was similar in nature to the fight against Amalek, outside the boundaries of the land.  Failing to win a war for the sake of yerushas ha'aretz, a milchemes mitzvah backed by Hashem's promise to deliver the land, was taken to be a far more serious event.  (On a parenthetical note, in a post to Shlach I mentioned a Noam Elimelech that "Negev" alludes to chochmah, as 'kol harotzeh l'hachkim yadrim.'  I didn't look to see if anyone says it, but maybe the identification of Canaani as Amalek because they come from the Negev is not so much a geographical point, but rather alludes to the idea that the seven nations of Canaan represent the seven midos, while Amalek is an enemy on a higher plane of negative chochmah.)

One final point on the captive taken and the issue of smichus haparshiyos between this episode and the death of Aharon: at first glance the connection is that it was Aharon's death (and the loss of the ananei ha'kavod) which emboldened the Canaani to attack.  The Ralbag, however, adds a positive lesson: it  was the merit of the proper mourning of Aharon that led to Bnei Yisrael being rewarded with such a resounding victory.  Some people are crippled by loss; proper mourning means being inspired to overcome obstacles and achieve greater things.  I would like to connect this idea to the message of the one captive taken.  It's a strange thing -- if we look at events the way other nations look at events, then the meforshim who see the loss of only one captive as a resounding victory are right.  What other nation would think of the loss of just one person taken captive as a tragedy given the potential for far greater calamity during war?  Yet Klal Yisrael doesn't think like that.  To this very day we as a nation cry for even a single solider that the enemy takes from us.  If it doesn't bother us, we have to ask the Ohr haChaim's question of why not.  Where does that attitude come from?  I would like to suggest that it comes from Aharon.  The reason Aharon was mourned by 'kol beis Yisrael' is because it was perceived that he cared for 'kol beis Yisrael' -- not just as a nation, but for each individual.  Aharon was now gone.  How would Klal Yisrael react when just one 'minor' person was taken captive?  The message of the victory at Chormah is that Aharon's legacy continued and was absorbed by the nation.  Each individual counts.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rambam writes that anyone who stood at Sinai believes in Moshe's nevuah --what about Korach?

The Yerushalmi in Cheilek writes that Korach was guilty of denying two ikkarei emunah: 1) he was kofer in the nevuah of Moshe Rabeinu; 2) he denied Torah min ha’shamayim. (Nonetheless, at least some Tanaim as well as the Midrash hold that Korach and his camp did not lose their olam ha’ba like other kofrim.) The Brisker Rav explained that this is what Moshe meant by the double-phrasing of, “B’zos teid’un ki Hashem shelachani … ki lo mi’libi.” (16:28) “Ki Hashem shelachani” is an affirmation that Hashem appointed Moshe to be a navi; “Ki lo mi’libi” is an affirmation that all of Torah is min ha’shamayim and not made up by Moshe.

Since earlier in the week I posted about whether/how tefilah can tilt the scales of bechirah, I wanted to follow up with a problem raised in the chumash shiurim from R’ Eliyahu Baruch Finkel from the Mir. The Rambam writes in Iggeres Teiman that if someone denies the authority of Moshe’s nevuah it is a sign that that individual was not present at Har Sinai when Hashem declared, “V’gam becha ya’aminu l’olam,” that after seeing mattan Torah it would be impossible to question the authority of Moshe Rabeinu. Two problems with the Rambam: 1) Korach serves as a counterfactual, as Korach was at Har Sinai, and yet he denied both the nevuah of Moshe Rabeinu and the fact that Torah was given min ha’shamayim; 2) how can the Rambam say no one can deny belief in Moshe’s nevuah – doesn’t that take bechira chofshis off the table at least for this item?

Rav Shach (as quoted in the sefer) answered that the Rambam does not mean denying Moshe’s nevuah would be impossible -- all the Rambam meant is that the scales are tilted decidedly against such a belief. Bechira chofshis doesn’t mean you have to have a 50-50 choice. It can be a 99-1 choice, so long as you are free to make it.

Coming back to the issue of Moshe’s tefilah for Yehoshua interfering with his free choice, based on this approach so long as Yehoshua could choose which path to follow, even if Moshe’s tefilah made the possibility of his choosing badly into a remote possibility, his bechira chofshis remained intact.

The problem with this answer is it that for all intents and purposes it undermines the Rambam’s point. The Rambam asserts that if you deny Moshe’s nevuah it means you weren’t at Sinai – why? Maybe the denier was at Sinai, like Korach, but simply chooses to be part of the 1%?

I’m not comfortable with this idea of a 99-1 shot still being called a free choice, and I don’t think I’m the only one that has problems with it. Rav Dessler in Michtav vol 1 develops the idea that there is a “nekudas habechirah.” In theory, I could wake up tomorrow morning and decide to join the circus. The likelihood of that happening is beyond remote. I could decide to go out to McDonalds for supper tonight. Again, the likelihood is remote. Skipping McDonalds is not something I choose to do – it’s not even on my radar screen of possibilities. Davening ma’ariv at 8:30 instead of later at the zman is something I may choose to do, or might not. That’s my nekudas habechira – it’s a decision that requires I actively exercise my ability to choose. Bechirah chofshis doesn’t mean we have to decide every day whether to eat kosher, to daven, etc. What it means is that we have to choose between the narrow menu of options on our radar screen at that moment. I would read the Rambam as saying that once there was a declaration of “gam becha ya’aminu l’olam,” the possibility of choosing otherwise may remain open, just like the possibility of my joining the circus tomorrow remains open, but I think it places it outside the nekudas habechirah.


Let me put the answer the Steipler gave into my own words. There are people who believe the moon landing was a hoax. There are people who believe Martians have landed on earth. People believe all kids of outlandish things with no basis or evidence to back them up. What the Rambam means is that a rational person who stood at Sinai could not entertain the belief that Moshe is a liar. An irrational person, or a person motivated by ta’avah or ga’avah to make irrational choices, may believe anything. Rashi asks: Korach was an intelligent person – why did he get involved in “shtus,” foolishness? In other words, why was he making a choice that defied rationality?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

more on why Kaleiv went to Chevron and an Ishbitzer on the law of non-contradiction

Alu zeh ba’negev v’alisem es ha’har…” (13:17) Did the meraglim really need Moshe Rabeinu to give them travel directions? Couldn’t they figure out on their own where to go and how to get there?

A few years ago we looked at this Midrash:


למה הדבר דומה? למלך, שהיה לו אוהב והתנה עמו ואמר לו: לך עמי ואני נותן לך מתנה. הלך עמו ומת. אמר המלך לבנו של אוהבו: אעפ"י שמת אביך, איני חוזר בי במתנה שאמרתי לו, בוא וטול אתה! כך הדבר, המלך, מלך מלכי המלכים הקב"ה. והאוהב זה אברהם, שנאמר (שם מא): זרע אברהם אוהבי. אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא: בא לך עמי (בראשית יב): לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך. התנה עמו, שיתן לו מתנה, שנאמר (שם יג): קום התהלך בארץ. וכן הוא אומר (שם): כי כל הארץ אשר אתה רואה לך אתננה. אמר לו הקב"ה למשה: אעפ"י שהתנתי עם האבות ליתן להם את הארץ ומתו, איני חוזר בי,


What kind of hava amina is it that because Avraham is dead the promise of Eretz Yisrael is nullified as well? Hashem promised Eretz Yisrael to Avraham for all his descendants to inherit, for generations to come, not as a personal gift to him alone!

The Shem m’Shmuel answers that Hashem’s promise is to deliver Eretz Yisrael to Avraham Avinu; the way Avraham can collect is through that little bit of himself that lives on in each and every one of us. By forsaking the legacy of Avraham, we surrender our rights to that promise. Although one might have thought that the sin of the meraglim was so severe as to breach that link to Avraham, the Midrash teaches us that the promise is still intact.

In light of this perhaps the reason Kaleiv went to daven specifically at Chevron is because he wanted to reinforce that link with the Avos, with Avraham Avinu, as that was the guarantee that Klal Yisrael would inherit the land.

Furthermore, as E. noted in a comment to last week’s post, recall that Ya’akov Avinu sent Yosef from Chevron to meet his brothers. Chazal comment that this was an “eitzah amukah” from the “y’sheiney Chevron,” those who rest in Chevron, i.e. Avraham Avinu, the only one of the Avos buried there at that time, which set into motion the wheels of this plot that would ultimately lead to galus Mitzrayim (apparently this was the best way for that onesh to play itself out). Perhaps Kaleiv saw that the plot of the meraglim would lead to a “bechiya l’doros,” an even greater galus, and so he came back to the “y’sheiney Chevron” to try to ask them this time to intercede to stop that plot rather than further it along.

The gemara in Pesachim (88) tells us that Avraham called the Har haBayis a mountain, Yitzchak called it a field, Ya’akov a house. Moshe told the meraglim first to go south, to the negev. “Ha’rotzeh l’hachkim yadrim” – first, think about what you need to accomplish (see Noam Elimelech). Then, “v’alisem es ha’har,” go climb that mountain – connect with the legacy of Avraham Avinu who called the resting place of the Shechina a mountain, because it is through reinforcing that connection that Eretz Yisrael will become ours.


Now that I’ve said my 2 cents, let me add a thought from the Ishbitzer (in Na’os Desheh). Kaleiv was caught between two incompatible desires: he wanted to get to Eretz Yisrael, and at the same time, he wanted to be with his rebbe, Moshe Rabeinu, who he now knew (thanks to the prophecy of Eldad and Meidad) was not going to make it there. Back in January I posed the following question: does G-d “obey” the law of non-contradiction? The first time we have this question raised, or actually not raised, is when Avraham was given the command to bring Yitzchak as an olah even though Hashem had previously promised him “ki b’Yitzchak yikarei lecha zara.” The two statements are incompatible – yet Avraham was not perturbed in the least. The resolution is not finding a sevara or a peirush Rashi to reconcile the statements, but rather accepting the existence of the contradiction. That’s what Kaleiv was seeking in Chevron – a way to have his cake and eat it, a way like Avraham Avinu, to live with contradictions, and thus to have both Eretz Yisrael and his kesher with Moshe Rabeinu.