Monday, October 28, 2013

a shidduch for Yitzchak Avinu

1) It seems that Eliezer went out of his way to stress that his encounter with Rivka was guided by hashgacha pratis, and Lavan and family even remarked “mei’Hashem yatzah ha’davar.”  Why did they care?  Yitzchak had wealth, his family was famous and well respected -- in short, it looked like an ideal shidduch, with or without the miracles that affirmed this to be the case.

The Netziv writes that the area of zivugim is “kavshei Rachamana,” among G-d’s secrets.  We might look at Ploni and Plonis and wonder what such different people ever saw in each other, yet despite our preconceptions and misconceptions they remain happily married for years.  We might look at another Ploni and Plonis and think they would make the perfect couple, yet after one date they don’t even want to hear each other’s voice.  In short, G-d in his infinite wisdom works things out in ways that we sometimes cannot anticipate.  Where Ploni and Plonis come from different families and live in different places, the hand of hashgacha is more obvious.  A guy from Australia is assigned a roommate in yeshiva who happens to have a sister in Chicago whose friend from Detrot ends up being his bashert – only hashgacha pratis could pull strands from all over the globe together to make such a match.  But when Ploni and Plonis come from the same family, like Rivka and Yitzchak, the hand of hashgacha is not obvious.  The family already has a connection, the match already looks like one that is appropriate, it’s no surprise for the two to come together.  Yet, even Lavan and family knew that what looks like the perfect match is not always the right thing.  Even they understood that it’s the yad Hashem that is the true confirmation that the match will work.

2) The Derashos haRan famously explains that the reason Avraham look for a bride for Yitzchak from his family instead of from Canaan, even though both were idolators, is because the Cannanites had corrupt midos while his family just were misguided in their deyos, their beliefs.  A philosophy or belief system can be changed; midos, however, are genetic, and the corruption would inevitably pass to the next generation.  Taken at face value it’s a hard sevara to understand.  Midos, like beliefs, are not inherited characteristics.  That being said, I think most people would agree that there is a distinction between the two.  R' Yisrael Salanter's remark about it being easier to learn shas than to fix a midah points to the truth that ideas are far less fixed than behaviors are.

The Ksav Sofer offers a different reason based on a diyuk in Avraham's command to Eliezer not to take “m’bnos Canaan asher anochi yosheiv b’kirbo,” “a girl from the Canaanites among whom I am living.”  Why did Avraham need to mention that he lived among the Canaanites -- we know this is true?  Ksav Sofer writes that Avraham was justifying his rejection of a Canaanite girl.  For decades Avraham had lived among the people of Canaan and tried to teach them Hashem echad, not to worship idols, etc., yet, despite all his efforts, they remained who they were – idol worshippers.  If after all those years lving among them his teaching and his example had no effect, there was no reason to think a girl from a Canaanite background would make a good shidduch.  Avraham therefore had to look elsewhere.


  1. Why do you say that middos are not inherited? Someone who is born under mazal ma'adim can choose how this spiritual genotype expresses itself, but cannot change it, e.g. And יבדוק באחיה also implies inheritance.

    Comp. the famous Ruach HaChayim [a great name for a blog, if you're looking for one] about how for Avrohom Avinu, mesiras nefesh was an almost insurmountable nisayon, but once he did it, it became part of the Jewish spiritual DNA and far easier for his descendents.

  2. You can simply say that the legacy of Avraham Avinu is built into the Jewish psyche - not built into our physical genes. I assume a ger has the same proclivity for mesirus nefesh as we do.
    Same with yivdok b'ache'ha -- a girl who sees certain things at home will take those things with her.
    Spiritual influence - yes; psychological influence - yes; but do you think a behavior like gemilus chessed relates to a specific chromosome on our DNA?
    What does mazal have to do with genetic inheritance?

  3. I am positing that there is a spiritual DNA [of which, perhaps, our physical DNA is a gashmiyusdik manifestation or projection]. Geirus inculcates this spritual DNA [or reveals it, as the ger was at Har Sinai.] If anything, many geirim
    were paradigms of mesiras nefesh - e.g., the Ger Tzedek of the time of the GR"A.

    The meforshim [methinks the MaHARSH"A, among others, but I'm too lazy to check] say that middos are transmitted maternally [spiritual mitochondria?]. If a girl does not have brothers, check her maternal uncles.

    Since here, mazal refers to the character, I am assuming it refers to the individual's spiritual DNA.

  4. Using a word like "DNA" when you are talking about a spiritual entity makes it confusing. Is the transmission process a physical one, like genetics, or are you talking about a spiritual process? I think the Ran thought of it in the former sense, but you mean it in the latter sense.

    Would Yitzchak's bride, had she been a Canaanite, have undergone geirus to join Avraham's family? I don't see why not -- "es hanefesh asher asu b'Charan" = geirim. So why would that not wipe out her spiritual DNA of the past -- ger she'nisgayeir k'katan she'nolad? This is only a kashe if you are talking about the passing on of spiritual stuff. However, if midos are passed on like a physical trait, then the question is moot, as geirus doesn't change your physical genes. A hemophiliac doesn't become a non-hemophiliac if he does geirus. I think that's the Ran's point -- in his lexicon, midos are like hemophilia. That's why Avraham avoided Canaan.

  5. could you please explain how the gemara says 40 days before yetziras havlad the bas kol says "ploni will marry plonis".
    I have trouble understanding this because when wife is younger, it's more than 40 days before the yetzira of her vlad, so the statement doesn't hold true for her?

  6. I don't know. Why can it not be true if the wife has not been notzar yet -- it's a prophetic idea?
    I think I remember seeing an interpretation that reads the whole gemara as symbolic, but I can't recall where. Sorry!

  7. It says bas ploni liploni, so could be we're talking about in all cases she wasn't born yet.

    Chaim, which derasha is the Ran? The vort is shver because Lavan and Besuel were all bad people!