Friday, January 02, 2015

shleimus in chutz la'aretz: Ya'akov vs. the shevatim

1) The Shem m'Shmuel points out a seeming contradiction in Zohar: the Zohar writes that Ya'akov's final years spent in Egypt were the spiritual pinnacle of his life, a time when he reached ultimate fulfillment. Yet, the Zohar earlier writes that Ya'akov fled Lavan's house before Binyamin was born because had the 12 shevatim been born in chutz la'aretz it would have been an impediment to their achieving sheleimus. If the birth of the shevatim in chu"l would have impeded their sheleimus, how did Ya'akov achieve shleimus davka in chu"l, in the galus of Egypt?

The Shem m'Shmuel's answer is couched in mystical terms that have to do with the eitz hada'as vs. the eitz hachaim, but let me suggest something a little more down to earth. A person may go on vacation even for a long period of time, or go on a sabbatical, and have the time of their life, but in their heart they know it's just a vacation and not reality. Reality, meaning home, is somewhere else. Ya'akov Avinu experienced the best days of his life in those final 17 years in Mitzrayim, but his passport still showed that he belonged in Eretz Yisrael -- that was still home. That was where he came from, and at the close of his life, that is where he wanted his body returned. 

Had all the shevatim been born in chutz la'aretz, unlike Ya'akov Avinu, their childhood memories of home, of where they belonged, their country of origin, would have been chutz la'aretz. That would have been a major impedement to the sheleimus of Klal Yisrael, which ultimately depends on connecting to the Land of Israel as our homeland.

2) According to one view in Chazal, Ya'akov Avinu did not die. The gemara asks how this can be when the pesukim describe how he was embalmed in Egypt. The gemara cryptically answers, "Mikra ani doresh."  Sefas Emes explains that to a person steeped in limud haTorah, someone who is a "doresh" of Torah, Ya'akov Avinu continues to live.  I would say not only Ya'akov is still alive, but so is Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Akiva, Abayei and Rava, Rashi and the Rambam. 

"I start shiur. I don’t know what the conclusion will be. Whenever I start the shi’ur the door opens another old man walks in and sits down. He is older than I am. He is...Rav Hayyim Brisker... The door opens quietly again and another old man walks in. He is older than Rav Hayyim. He lived in the 17 th century. What’s his name? Shabbesai Cohen, the famous Shakh who must be present when dinei mamonot are discussed… More visitors show up, some from 11th, 12th , 13th centuries, some from antiquity: Rabbi Akiva, Rashi, Rabbenu Tam, the Ra’avad, the Rashba, more and more come in. What do
I do? I introduce them to my pupils and the dialogue commences."

That's not the Sefas Emes -- that's the Rav speaking.  "I start shiur" -- "Mikra ani doresh" -- and the world of the mesorah is alive.

3) "Kol ha'omer Reuvaim chatah eino elah to'eh" -- despite Ya'akov's stinging criticism of Reuvain, Chazal dismiss the notion that Reuvain sinned in an issur arayos with Bilhah.  Why does the gemara use the longer expression "aino elah to'eh" instead of just saying "ha'omer Reuvain chatah to'eh?"   Rav Avigdor Neventzal suggests that Chazal mean to tell us that the person who would say such a thing is not just making a mistake in reading the episode of Reuvain's sin, but he is a "to'eh," an individual who is mistaken in general.  To think that Reuvain would be guilty of such a thing reveals that one's worldview about Torah is off.


  1. #1) How do you understand that last zohar in view of the ramban, that true shleimus haneshama and mitzvos is in eretz yisrael??

    1. Maybe they disagree.
      My son told me that he heard quoted b'shem the Chazon Ish that the yeshivos in Europe had a kedushas eretz yisrael. I assume this means (if it is true) something along the lines of the gemara that says l'asid lavo the batei kneisiyot and batei midrashot in chu"l will all be moved to eretz yisrael. Just like an embassy is considered the soil/territory of the country it represents even if located hundreds of miles away, in a similar way a beis medrash is like eretz yisrael territory. maybe you could extend the same type sevara to ya'akov avinu.

  2. 1, 2, and 3, all outstanding.
    I am first generation American, but I identify as American, most likely indelibly. Attitudes, national pride, these things don't go away so fast, just as the previous generation remained Greeners forever, and not just because of their accents.