Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ramban on Ya'akov marrying two sisters

The Ramban’s answer to the famous question of how Ya’akov could marry two sisters is that the mitzvos were kept by the Avos only in Eretz Yisrael. The Ramban elaborates on this theme in P’ Achrei Mos and writes that even for us the ideal of Torah can be realized only in Eretz Yisrael and our performance of mitzvos in Chu”l is merely practice so we retain our mesorah until the time when we can return to the Land.

R’ Elchanan Wasserman (Koveitz Shiurim end of Kiddushin) explains that there are two elements which motivate us to keep mitzvos: 1) the fact that mitzvos are G-d’s command; 2) the positive good which results from keeping mitzvos (see this previous post on yefas to’ar for a similar idea from the Shiurei Da’as). The good which results from shmiras hamitzvos can only fully be realized in a Torah society in Eretz Yisrael. Outside of Eretz Yisrael we still must keep mitzvos because of G-d’s command, but that fulfillment is a lesser accomplishment.

R’ Elchanan uses this approach to explain the Ramban. The Avos never were commanded in mitzvos, but they intuitively realized that fulfilling the will of Hashem is the ultimate good. That good could only be realized in Eretz Yisrael but not outside. More on this bli neder to come…


  1. anon14:28 PM

    R'Elchanan develops a similar idea by aveiros and teshuvah. Every aveirah has 2 bad aspects -- 1) violating the will of Hashem and 2) the objective negative resulting from it. He explains that is the chiddush of teshuvah -- that thought teshuvah al pi sevara can work to fix #1 (as the gemara in kiddushin says that a tzadik loses his zechuyos if he regrets the mitzvos he did), it would not be enough to fix #2. That is where the chiddush and gift of teshuvah comes in - but works well on the mitzvos side as well

  2. Anonymous5:27 PM

    see also kuntresei shiurim, kiddushin, "eino metzuveh ve'oseh" who says essentially the same thing and discusses at length

  3. Dovid Shlomo6:12 PM

    It seems to me that a close reading of Ramban indicates that all he is doing is explaining the Chazal.

    His OWN opinion is to be found further down, where he aligns himself with the opinion that the Avos did NOT observe the mitzvos. Rather, they conducted their lives in the SPIRIT of Torah.

    In fact, NONE of the Rishonim printed in the Mikraos Gedolos go with Chazal reading.

  4. Dovid Shlomo - pshat vs. derash.

  5. Dovid Shlomo1:06 PM

    Yes; but in this case, it would seem that they're not compatible. In other words, b'metzius, either the Avos ate Matzoh on the 15th of Nissan or they did not.

    Even if one were to say that the peshat and derash are compatible here, it seems worthwhile to point out that "Ramban's opinion" is not limited to his take on the derash.