Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Ya'akov's real estate deal

1. After his encounter with Eisav, Yaakov returned to Eretz Yisrael and built a mizbeiach, fulfilling his vow of "V'haya Hashem li l'Elokim" which he made when he first left home (Seforno 33:20). 

The Torah adds one other detail: Ya'akov bought the property upon which he built the mizbeiach from Chamor for $100.

Why do we need to know the details of the real estate transaction?  What does that have to do with Ya'akov's fulfillment of his religious aspirations?

Ibn Ezra writes that buying a cheilek in Eretz Yisrael is like buying a share in olam ha'ba.  Buying land in Eretz Yisrael is not just a real estate deal, not just a hechsher mitzvah to have a place to make a mizbeiach, but this is part and parcel of Ya'akov's religious mission that he was now able to fulfill upon his return and escape from Eisav.

The Seforno (33:19) has a slightly different explanation that I am unable to understand.  He writes that Ya'akov bought the land because "eich nashir es shir Hashem..."  Meaning, just like we say in al naharos Bavel, in galus it is impossible to serve Hashem properly.  Therefore, Ya'akov made a point of acquiring the land.

What is the comparison?  The Jews who were going into captivity in Bavel were leaving Eretz Yisrael for a foreign country.  "Eich nashir... al admas neichar."  Regardless of who owns the land, Eretz Yisrael is still Eretz Yisrael, not admas neichar.  Avraham and Yitzchak had also offered sacrifices on altars and the Torah does not record that they bought the land for that purpose.

I don't have a good explanation.

2. I believe I saw R' Shlomo Amar as pointing out that although it sounds from our parsha like Shimon and Levi were tremendous warriors and it was their might that led to the conquest of Shechem, in parshas Vayechi, when Ya'akov gives Shechem to Yosef (48:22), he refers to taking the city "b'charbi u'b'kashti," which the Targum translates as Ya'akov's power of tefilah (see also Rashi and Mizrachi there).  Ya'akov may have disapproved of their actions, but it was his koach ha'tefilah that have Shimon and Levi their success. 


  1. 2. Targum, Rashi, Mizrachi, what do they do with Yehoshua 24:12, which insists that a sword is a sword and a bow, a bow (with 100 jingling kesitas at 24:32)?

    does Ya'akov, unsure of the age of bar onshin ( 13? 20? or?), assume responsibility for the acts of Shimon and Levi (34:30), such that their [literal] swords and bows are effectively 'his' at 48:22, while the surrounding nations consider the sons fully to blame (35:5)?

  2. 1. if we combine the Seforno's comment here, citing 137:4, with Rashi's remark at 35:1, then telling mutations occur-- because he not only tarried in Shechem, but even assigned it [premature] permanence by his purchase of land, Ya'akov showed he'd 'forgotten' Beit El, forgotten Yerushalayim. For this his tongue clung to his palate (137:6*) at 34:13, such that his sons answered in his stead** [and even acted as his right hand (137:5*) immediately thereafter].

    but the Seforno's simple meaning has Ya'akov looking back over his shoulder: "how could we, on >the foreign soil of Padan Aram<, serve G-d full-heartedly? let me make a point of acquiring a foothold at this our first opportunity--here in Shechem--where we may at last [take a] stand and truly 'sing'." {this is consistent with the Seforno's comment at 35:9 #2, that Ya'akov's kesher with Hashem was weaker while off the land}

    *to what may this be likened? to the kohen gadol with rope round his ankle in the kodesh kodeshim-- 'if I forget you Yerushalayim, count me out; pull me from service if I set not the holy city knegdi tamid...'

    **how could the sons answer before their father? did he (they?) count his [former?] limp a mum not unlike a kohen's (V. 21:16...),
    a blemish that disqualified him from public representation of the klal?