Thursday, December 31, 2020

חטא כדי שיזכה חבירך

M"B paskens (131:26) that a chassan should daven at home during his sheva brachos week because if he comes to shul he will cause the tzibur to miss saying tachanun (if you're like me, you're thinking, "So what's the downside?")  

Question:  וכי אומרים לו לאדם חטא כדי שיזכה חבירך?!  (Shabbos 4a)  

Why should the chassan be forced to miss tefilah b'tzibur on their behalf?

Answer: וכי אומרים לו לאדם חטא כדי שיזכה חבירך!?  

Why should the tzibur be forced to give up tachanun on his behalf?  (see Shu"t Kinyan Torah 2:44)

asher nasan li Elokim BA'ZEH

When Yosef heard that Yaakov was sick and dying, he rushed with his two sons to his father's bedside.  Yaakov told Yosef that his two sons, Ephraim and Menashe, were like Reuvain and Shimon to him and they would be counted as shevatim.  Yakov was then about to give them brachos when suddenly he paused.  The following enigmatic exchange (48:9-10) then took place:

 וַיַּ֥רְא יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יוֹסֵ֑ף וַיֹּ֖אמֶר מִי־אֵֽלֶּה

Yaakov saw Yosef's sons and seemed not to recognize them; he asked Yosef who the two people standing before him were.

Yosef responded:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יוֹסֵף֙ אֶל־אָבִ֔יו בָּנַ֣י הֵ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־נָֽתַן־לִ֥י אֱלֹהִ֖ים בָּזֶ֑ה

When he heard Yosef's answer, Yaakov went ahead and blessed them.

If we didn't know better we might think Yaakov was having a senior moment here.  The Ohr haChaim asks the obvious question:  קשה והלא י״ז שנה היו יושבים לפניו ללמוד תורה ואיך שואל עליהם,  For 17 years Yaakov Avinu has been learning Torah with these same two grandchildren and suddenly he doesn't recognize who they are when he sees them?  

Rashi helps us out with a derash, but I don't know if it makes the passage any less cryptic.  Rashi comments:

וירא ישראל את בני יוסף – בקש לברכם ונסתלקה שכינה ממנו, לפי שעתיד ירבעם ואחאב לצאת מאפרים, ויהוא ובניו ממנשה.

ויאמר מי אלה – מהיכן יצאו אילו, שאינן ראויין לברכה

Yaakov Avinu saw prophetically that the evil kings Yeravan and Achav would come from Ephraim and Yeihu from Menashe, and so he hesitated, wondering if indeed they were worthy of bracha.

(Parenthetically, why did Yaakov not have a similar hesitation when it came to blessing his other sons?  Having Menashe as a descendent is nothing to brag about, but Yaakov did not pause before blessing Yehudah?     

Bartenura answers in Amar N'kei that when it comes to a son, a parent is willing to overlook future misdeeds and give a bracha.  Ephraim and Menashe, for all their closeness to Yaakov, were one generation removed and did not enjoy the same consideration.

I don't know how things are on your families, but I have a kashe on this Bartenura from the metziyus.  Seems to me that whatever mild criticism my mother may make about her grandchildren, they are still all wonderful in her eyes, but when it comes to her children like me, that's another story : )

If that's what gave Yaakov pause, how did  Yosef's response serve to reassure him?  How does reminding Yaakov that these are the children Hashem gave him in Mitzrayim help?

R' Baruch Sorotzkin has two approaches to this question (we've also discussed it in the past).  I would put one of his answers like this: it is precisely because Yaakov said אֶפְרַ֙יִם֙ וּמְנַשֶּׁ֔ה כִּרְאוּבֵ֥ן וְשִׁמְע֖וֹן יִֽהְיוּ־לִֽי׃ that he hesitated before blessing them.  Ephraim and Menashe were big tzadikim, but were they really on par with the shivtei K-h?  Doesn't the fact that these wicked kings like Yeravam and Achav  prove that there is already some latent flaw within them?

Yosef's answer was that these were the children "asher nasan li Elokim BA'ZEH."  These children did not grow up from birth in the presence of Yaakov Avinu like Reuvain and Shimon did.  These children did not have the opportunity to live on the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael like Reuvain and Shimon did.  "BA'ZEH" = these children were born here, in Egypt, a foreign land, a foreign culture.  You have to measure them on their own scale, taking account of that unique environment and its challenges.  The outcome of their lives and the lives of their descendants may not be the same as that of Reuvain, Shimon, and the other shevatim, but that does not diminish their tzidkus given where they came from.

R' Tzadok writes that the spiritual achievements of these last generations before mashiach are even greater than those of previous generations.  No one today is anywhere close to what the Vilna Gaon was, what R' Akiva EIger was, kal v'chomer what even earlier generations were, but those folks did not grow up with an iphone, a TV, twitter and facebook.  When you see bnei Torah immersed in learning despite the distractions the world throws at them, that's "asher nasan li Elokim BA'ZEH."  

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

sheva brachos

The gemara (Kesubos 7b) says that there is a requirement having panim chadashos present at a meal in order to recite sheva brachos.  Tos seems to understand that the presence of new guests who were not at the wedding adds to the simchas chasson v'kallah and it is this added simcha which creates the obligation for bracha.  This is why according to Tosfos on Shabbos there is no need for panim chadashos --- Shabbos itself brings added simcha and makes the meal an occasion. And this is why according to the Rosh someone who was at the chuppah but not at the wedding meal can still count as panim chadashos, as that person did not really share in the simcha of the wedding yet.  You can't party without food.  

The Rambam, however, formulates the din of sheva brachos as follows (Brachos 2:9-10):

בבית חתנים מברכין ברכת חתנים אחר ארבע ברכות אלו בכל סעודה וסעודה שאוכלים שם. ואין מברכין ברכה זו לא עבדים ולא קטנים. עד כמה מברכין ברכה זו אם היה אלמון שנשא אלמנה מברכין אותה ביום ראשון בלבד. ואם בחור שנשא אלמנה או אלמון שנשא בתולה מברכין אותה כל שבעת ימי המשתה:

ברכה זו שמוסיפין בבית חתנים היא ברכה אחרונה משבע ברכות של נישואין. במה דברים אמורים כשהיו האוכלין הם שעמדו בברכת נישואין ושמעו הברכות אבל אם היו האוכלין אחרים שלא שמעו ברכת נישואין בשעת נישואין מברכין בשבילם אחר ברכת מזון שבע ברכות כדרך שמברכין בשעת נישואין. והוא שיהיו עשרה וחתנים מן המנין:

It seems from the Rambam that this whole din is not about simcha , but rather about giving people the opportunity who did not hear or recite the brachos at the chuppah a chance to do so.  Aruch haShulchan in Eh"Z siman 62 explains:

מפשטיות דבריו משמע דמה שצריכין לברך ז' ברכות בפנים חדשות הוא כדי שהאנשים החדשים שלא שמעו ברכות החופה ישמעו הברכות לצאת ידי חובתם. אבל א"א לומר כן, דאטו האנשים האלה חייבים הם בהברכות?

The Rambam l'shitaso holds that anyone present at the chuppah, even if they skipped the wedding meal, can no longer serve as panim chadashos since they already heard the brachos.

Why should there be any obligation upon these new guests to say brachos?  Aruch haShulchan suggests that guests have an obligation to bless the chassan and kallah with good wishes

 אלא דכך הוא עיקר העניין לדעת הרמב"ם ז"ל, דהנה ברכות אלו הם לברך את הזוג שיצליחו ובדרך אגב נותנים ברכה לכבוד העם הנאספים ולהזכרת חורבן ירושלים כמ"ש, והחיוב הזה מוטל על כל איש מישראל כשבא ליהנות לבית חתונת הזוג לברכם בזמן שמחתם בשבעת ימי המשתה, והאחד המברך והאחרים שומעים ועונים אמן הוה כאלו כל העומדים ברכו את החתן והכלה, וכיון שברכום פעם אחת יצאו ידי חובתם, ולכן כשיש פנים חדשות שלא שמעו עדיין הברכות הרי לא בירכו עדיין את הזוג ומחוייבים לברכם, ולכן עומד המברך ומברכם והם שומעים ועונים אמן ויצאו ידי חובתם, וזה שכתב הרמב"ם "מברכין בשבילם" כלומר מברכין בשבילם כדי שיצאו י"ח לברך את החתן ואת הכלה,

but he does not offer any source to back up this idea.  Rav Shaul Yisraeli here suggests that the chiyuv bracha is an extension of the chiyuv to be mi'sameiach chassan v'kallah.  The gemara (Brachos 6) writes that anyone who gets hana'ah from a seudas chassan without being misameich the chassan has violated an issur. The guests have to make the chassan happy, and one way to do so is by reciting brachos in honor of his wedding.

My wife asked whether a woman can serve as panim chadashos.  The answer, says the Steipler, may hinge on this machlokes Tos and the Rambam.  According to Tos, anyone whose presence adds simcha would seem to suffice, while according to Rambam it would have to be someone who has a chiyuv to say the brachos. (Pischei Teshuvah holds they do not count; Chasam Sofer holds they do.)

Can a woman recite one of the sheva brachos?  

The Rambam interestingly writes אין מברכין ברכה זו לא עבדים ולא קטנים -- he excludes minors and avadim, but makes no explicit mention of women being excluded.  This leads some to argue that they indeed can be counted and recite the brachos.  R' S. Yisraeli l'shitaso disagrees.  He writes that the Rambam did not need to mention women because it a davar pashut that they are excluded.  Since women have no obligation to be misameiach chassan v'kallah (he does not offer any source for this other than sevara) as doing so in public would be a breach of tzniyus, they therefore are obviously excluded from the din of bracha.

Afar ani tachas raglav, but I think it's worth noting that the gemara says כׇּל הַנֶּהֱנֶה מִסְּעוּדַת חָתָן -- the word כׇּל implies a very broad obligation with no restrictions (see Ben Yehoyada).  

R' Yisraeli in that same piece writes that the mitzvah is to be misameiach the chassan, but there is no mitzvah to be misameiach the kallah.  He does not refer to it, but the wording of the same gemara lends support to his position: כׇּל הַנֶּהֱנֶה מִסְּעוּדַת חָתָן -- no mention of the kallah.  See R' Elchanan in Koveitz Shiurim to Kesubos #46.  Ladies, all that dancing on the other side of the mechitza may be for your own enjoyment only.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

we do these things because they are hard

וַיַּ֤רְא מְנֻחָה֙ כִּ֣י ט֔וֹב וְאֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ כִּ֣י נָעֵ֑מָה וַיֵּ֤ט שִׁכְמוֹ֙ לִסְבֹּ֔ל וַיְהִ֖י לְמַס־עֹבֵֽד׃ 

The pasuk seems to be a stira minei u'bei: Yisachar saw that a life of menucha is the way to go, but then the pasuk tells us that he bent his shoulder under the burden of work that he accepted upon himself.  What happened to the life of rest that was so good?

The meforshei pshat explain (with slight variations on this same theme) that "menucha" here means, as opposed to Zevulon who went out to sea, Yisachar saw that it was better to work the portion of land at home that was allocated to him.

R' Tzadok haKohen tells us that if you want to know what your mission in life is, look at what the yetzer ha'ra tries to tempt you with.  It's by overcoming what you find to be a challenge, what you find difficult in avodas Hashem, that you grow and develop, and that's your task in this world.  

My wife likes to quote JFK's statement, "We choose to go to the moon... and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills..."   The yetzer ha'ra makes certain things hard for us, but by doing those very things we develop our energies and skills to the fullest.

R' Ashlag, the Baal haSulam, explains that precisely because Yisachar saw "menucha ki tov," that taking it easy was what appealed to him, "va'yeit shichma lisbol," he accepted upon himself the burden of hard work and toil. 

the trolley problem revisited

Way back on 4/26 I quoted one of the YU Roshei Yeshiva who wrote that trying to mitigate the effects of the virus was not an acceptable approach, as the Torah prohibits acting in a way that puts life in danger "under any circumstances."  I argued that what this made no sense, as the choice we faced was not saving lives vs. not saving lives, as experts even months ago predicted that the lockdown itself would cost lives.  The choice we faced was akin to a trolley problem, and the only sensible strategy under those circumstances would be to consider how to best mitigate the loss of life, as eliminating loss of life was impossible.

Fast forward to the present and read this article by Dr. Ari Joffe, someone who has a whole lot of credentials to his name, in which he calculates the cost-benefit of lockdown using a metric called quality adjusted life years and finds that the cost of lockdowns to be "at least five to ten times higher than the benefit."

Lockdowns have put many sustainable development goals out of reach. In many parts of the world there have been interruptions in childhood vaccinations, education, detection and treatment of infectious diseases (for example, tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV), and prevention of under 5-year-old and maternal mortality, projected to cost many millions of lives in the coming years. These interruptions in economic activity and supply chains are estimated to cause more than 83 million people to become food insecure, and over 70 million people to enter severe poverty (living on less than US$1.90/day), both likely to cost many more millions of lives in the coming years. Violence against women, including intimate partner violence, female genital mutilation, and child marriage are projected to also increase by many millions of cases.

In high-income countries other collateral damage from lockdowns is occurring. Fear of attending hospitals resulted in 50 percent declines in visits for heart attacks and strokes, meaning missed opportunity for time-critical treatments. ‘Non-urgent’ surgery and cancer diagnosis/treatment were delayed, with backlogs that will take years of catch-up and untold effects on prognoses. Of excess mortality during the pandemic, 20-50 percent has not been due to COVID-19 (see Kontis et al. 2020; Docherty et all 2020; and Postill et al 2020); much of that excess is likely attributable to these collateral effects. An unexplained increase in deaths of people with dementia in the US and UK also likely arose from deterioration due to loneliness. Over time, suicide, depression, alcohol use disorder, childhood trauma due to domestic violence, changes in marital status, and social isolation are projected to cause millions of years of life lost in Canada alone.

The Great Barrington Declaration, signed by hundreds of expects, took factors like this into consideration in declaring, "Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health...Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage..."

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Yaakov's bittersweet tears

When the brothers came back to tell Yaakov that Yosef is alive and is the ruler in Egypt, the Torah tells us (45:26) that he did not believe them:

וַיַּגִּ֨דוּ ל֜וֹ לֵאמֹ֗ר ע֚וֹד יוֹסֵ֣ף חַ֔י וְכִֽי־ה֥וּא מֹשֵׁ֖ל בְּכׇל־אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם וַיָּ֣פׇג לִבּ֔וֹ כִּ֥י לֹא־הֶאֱמִ֖ין לָהֶֽם׃

Yet, one pasuk later, the Torah tells us that when they repeated Yosef's message and he saw the wagons that Yosef sent, he changed his mind:

וַיְדַבְּר֣וּ אֵלָ֗יו אֵ֣ת כׇּל־דִּבְרֵ֤י יוֹסֵף֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֶּ֣ר אֲלֵהֶ֔ם וַיַּרְא֙ אֶת־הָ֣עֲגָל֔וֹת אֲשֶׁר־שָׁלַ֥ח יוֹסֵ֖ף לָשֵׂ֣את אֹת֑וֹ וַתְּחִ֕י ר֖וּחַ יַעֲקֹ֥ב אֲבִיהֶֽם׃

What caused the shift in Yaakov's attitude?

Rashi fills in the gap with a Midrash that says that by sending wagons, agalos, Yosef was communicating to his father that he remembered the sugya of eglah arufah that they had been learning together all those years ago.  When Yaakov heard this, he accepted that "od Yosef chai," that Yosef was spiritually still alive.  Netziv and Chizkuni stick closer to pshat.  טורח רב כזה אין לחוש לשקר -- all the trouble that had been gone through to send the wagons proved that the message was not some lie someone dreamed up, but was the truth.

The Chasam Sofer has a different approach to this whole sugya.  Let's put it in today's terms: everyone wants a vaccine shot.  Imagine a long lost relative that you hadn't seen for years makes contact again, and lo and behold, you find out that he went to medical school and he worked on creating the covid vaccine and can move you right to the front of the line.  Who would not be dancing in that situation?  Who would not say this is hashgacha pratis?  But that's not how Yaakov Avinu thought.  His family was desperate for food just like everyone else, but ha'yad Hashem tiktzar?  Eliyahu haNavi came to the Isha Tzorfatit who had only a small jug of oil and a little flour left and he made a miracle and it lasted throughout the famine of that time (Melachim I:ch 17).  Surely Hashem could find some way to sustain the family of Yaakov Avinu that did not necessitate Yosef having to become the viceroy of a strange foreign land.  It just didn't make sense that all this should happen so Yosef could be the one providing everyone with dinner.

When Yosef meets his father down in Egypt, Yaakov sees him and says:  וַיֹּ֧אמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל אֶל־יוֹסֵ֖ף אָמ֣וּתָה הַפָּ֑עַם אַחֲרֵי֙ רְאוֹתִ֣י אֶת־פָּנֶ֔יךָ כִּ֥י עוֹדְךָ֖  חָֽי Why is Yaakov talking about death and crying (as it says in the previous pasuk) at this moment which should be filled with joy?  Chasam Sofer explains (see Ramban and this post) that Yaakov saw this man dressed in Egyptian garb approaching him and he did not know who it was.  It was when Yosef revealed his face that Yaakov finally recognized his son.  Yes, there was joy, but it was bittersweet -- a son dressed like an Egyptian!?  Yes, Yosef had to dress that way because it was necessary for his position, yet af al pi kein...   אַחֲרֵי֙ רְאוֹתִ֣י אֶת־פָּנֶ֔יךָ Yaakov said -- the face I recognize, but the rest of the levush and all the trappings, this is foreign and unfamiliar.  

What ultimately changed Yaakov's mind and convinced him that this was part of Hashem's plan was hearing the full message and seeing the wagons.  This was about far more than escaping the famine.  The full message was that it was time for Yaakov himself to pack all his belongings and come down to Egypt, to enter in the the galus that would hold his children prisoner for years and years to come.  That transition required Yosef to first go down to Egypt to pave the way; to show that Egypt's challenges could be overcome, and to attain a position from which he could help his family have a soft landing into foreign territory. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

would we fast on shabbos for 10 teves?

One thing about 10 Teves that seems to have seeped into common knowledge is the idea that even were the date to fall out on Shabbos, we would still fast on that  specific date.  In this respect, 10 Teves would be more chamur even than 9 Av.  We discussed this a long time ago (here and here).  What people don't know is that Rashi black on white disagrees.  The Mishna in Megillah (5a) writes that there are certain events which if they fall on Shabbos get pushed up and celebrated in advance, and there are certain events which get pushed ahead and celebrated on Sunday:

אבל זמן עצי כהנים ותשעה באב חגיגה והקהל מאחרין ולא מקדימין 

For example, if 9 Av falls on Shabbos, says the Mishna, we fast on Sunday, not the Thursday before.  

Rashi d"h aval writes that this is not just true of 9 Av, but is true of 17 Tamuz and 10 Teves as well:

וכן תשעה באב שחל להיות בשבת והוא הדין לי"ז בתמוז ולעשרה בטבת והאי דנקט תשעה באב משום דהוכפלו בו צרות והכל מתענין בו אבל שאר צומות אמרינן במסכת ראש השנה (דף יח:) רצו מתענין רצו אין מתענין:

Monday, December 21, 2020

Torah for the working man

There was a wonderful symposium put together on the topic of Torah study for those who have to go to work and do not have the privilege of being in the beis medrash full time.  The speakers included R' Ben Tzion Algazi, R' Dov Fendel, and R' Melamed, three Roshei Yeshiva from the hesder world:

This topic is something that I think about often because I don't really have clarity on the issue.  If you have five hours a day to learn b'iyun, then you can delve into a sugya with Rishonim and Achronim galore, but if your time is more limited, learning that way means covering 3 blatt a year and getting nowhere.  So how do you manage?  

People think the great challenges of working in the secular world as opposed to klei kodesh are dealing with issues like whether or not to attend the office holiday party (one good thing that came out of Covid is that they were all cancelled) or whether or not one is allowed to shake hands with a female interviewer.  These are details -- important questions, but still, just details.  I think the biggest challenge for any ben yeshiva who goes out to work is to maintain the outlook on life of a ben yeshiva.  An example of what I mean: R' Ben Tzion Algazi read a quote from someone who learned in a chaburah he ran for 2 1/2 years for baalei batim to learn halacha in which the person described how making time for the project transformed the entire environment of his home -- Torah was now the central point in how this person defined himself and his family.  

Maybe I am just not aware of it, but I don't see enough conversations like this taking place in our communities.  I went to YU years ago and maybe things have changed since then and maybe it was not on my radar when I was there because I didn't intend to be in the field I am now, but I don't recall discussions of this type taking place there then.  You would think that with the majority of students intending to pursue secular fields, this topic would be important to address.  I shouldn't single YU out because realistically speaking, the vast majority of people learning in yeshiva and kollel today will not remain there forever.  What happens in many cases is that the person goes m'igra rama l'beira amikta -- leaving yeshiva is like falling off a cliff.  There is a sharp disconnect between the life as a ben Torah that existed before work and the life afterwards when one has money to spend, a family to raise, life to live.  Torah study becomes doing the daf with Artscroll, or a superficial shiur.  To some degree, time constraints play a role in this shift.  In many cases, however, it is a shift in values which occurs, and that is a real danger.

the chinuch mirage

This article on Arutz Sheva absolutely hits the nail on the head in describing the state of our schools.   Pulling out one or two quotes is not enough -- read it in its entirety.

 Although publicly the schools preached an uncompromising dual commitment to Yiddishkiet and academic excellence, no one was under the illusion that these two priorities were somehow equal. No state of the art beis medrash (study hall), inspirational lecture series or 10 day trip to Poland or even Israel could change that simple reality. Material success is what truly mattered when I was a student in yeshiva day school, and I suspect not much has changed in 17 years.

Is there a truer statement than the one below about frum society today?

There are people who are primarily focused on the material, and others who are primarily focused on the spiritual. There can only be one true priority. This dilemma of spiritual vs material priorities holds true for not only the Modern Orthodox, but for the hareidi world as well. What separates the hareidi wall street daf yomi lawyer working 70 hours a week from the Modern Orthodox one? The color and fabric of his kippah?

There are hareidi materialists and Modern Orthodox ones. There are also poor materialists and wealthy spiritualists and visa versa. What distinguishes us is not our type of kippah or the size of our bank account, but where our priorities lie.

Y'yasher kochacha to Avrahas Shusteris for such a poignant op-ed.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

in no hurry to leave

Chazal tell us that Yosef had to spend 2 extra years in prison as punishment for asking the Sar haMashkim to remember him.  

The entire story of the conflict between Yosef and his brothers was a necessary lead up to Yaakov coming down to Mitzrayim.  When Yaakov tells the brothers to go down to Egypt, he says רְדוּ, which, as Rashi points out, is gematriya 210, the exact number of years that Klal Yisrael would spend in Egypt from the time Yaakov and the shevatim got there until they leave.  This was all predicted to happen in bris bein ha'besarim, when Avraham was told that his children would have to suffer in galus.

How then can there be 2 "extra" years thrown into the mix?  Even if Yosef might have gotten out of prison sooner, the whole chain of events of his becoming viceroy, the famine that would bring the brothers down to Egypt, their reconciliation with Yosef, the arrival of Yaakov, etc. could not have happened sooner because otherwise the count of 210 years would be thrown off.    

R' Shaul Yisraeli explains that we see from these parshiyos that what happens to the individual is not predetermined by the broader strokes of history.  There is a cheshbon for the yachid, for each prat, that is distinct from the cheshbon of what happens to the klal.  Had Yosef not erred, he would not have had to spend that 2 extra years in prison.  Hashem would have reworked things to find another way for the 210 or 400 years of galus to work out.  

2) When the time came, "va'yiritzuhu min ha'bor, " they rushed Yosef out of the pit.  Seforno comments:

כדרך כל תשועת ה׳ שנעשית כמו רגע, כאמרו ״כי קרובה ישועתי לבוא״ (ישעיהו נ״ו:א׳), וכאמרו ״לו עמי שמע לי... כמעט אויביהם אכניע״ (תהלים פ״א:י״ד-ט״ו), וכך היה ענין מצרים, כאמרו ״כי גרשו ממצרים״ (שמות י״ב:ל״ט), כאמרם זכרונם לברכה ׳שלא הספיק בצקן של אבותינו להחמיץ עד שנגלה עליהם מלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא וגאלם׳ (הגדה של פסח). וכן אמר לעשות לעתיד, כאמרו ״ופתאם יבוא אל היכלו האדון אשר אתם מבקשים״ (מלאכי ג׳:א׳).

Yeshu'as Hashem is instantaneous -- a person can go in a moment from being a slave in prison to being uplifted to sit with kings.  

I did not see it in Bad Kodesh, but I saw quoted b'shem Rav Povarski that it seems that Yosef himself was in no rush -- "va'yiritzuhu," they had to push him along and hurry him.  It reminds me of Megilas Esther, where we are told "va'yavhilu l'havi es Haman," they had to rush to get Haman ready for the party.  You would think that anyone stuck in prison would run out of there once they had the opportunity, but apparently not Yosef.  

We see this same behavior from Yosef time and again.  When he was first thrown in prison in last week's parsha, the Torah tells us (39:20) וַיִּקַּח֩ אֲדֹנֵ֨י יוֹסֵ֜ף אֹת֗וֹ וַֽיִּתְּנֵ֙הוּ֙ אֶל־בֵּ֣ית הַסֹּ֔הַר...וַֽיְהִי־שָׁ֖ם בְּבֵ֥ית הַסֹּֽהַר.  The statement וַֽיְהִי־שָׁ֖ם בְּבֵ֥ית הַסֹּֽהַר is not just a matter of physical location -- we already know from the beginning of the pasuk that Yosef was sitting in prison -- it is a statement of attitude, that Yosef accepted his fate, that this is where Hashem wanted him.  He did not waste time thinking about fruitless avenues of escape.  Earlier in the same perek we have (20:2) וַיְהִ֕י בְּבֵ֖ית אֲדֹנָ֥יו הַמִּצְרִֽי  Here again, it is not just location, but attitude that the Torah is conveying.  Yosef accepted where he was as the place he should be, the place Hashem wanted him to be.  And so in our parsha, even with the prison gates open, Yosef did not rush out like a man who had suffered years of injustice and did not belong in prison.  

Once out of prison, wouldn't any prisoner immediately want to shed his prison garb and return to normal dress, get a normal shave and haircut, etc.?  Rashi comments on וַיְגַלַּח֙ וַיְחַלֵּ֣ף שִׂמְלֹתָ֔יו that Yosef did it מפני כבוד מלכות.  He was not interested in the external trappings of what he might be wearing except as needed to fulfill the task at hand (see Gur Aryeh).  

ha'neiros l'olam ya'iru

1) The Midrash Rabbah (parsha 22) writes that the episode of Kayin and Hevel -- the first time offerings were offered on a mizbeiach -- took place 50 days after creation.  50 days after 25 Elul = 25 Kislev = chanukas ha'mizbeiach. 

2) Ramban writes at the beginning of B'Ha'aloscha:

וראיתי עוד בילמדנו (תנחומא בהעלותך ה׳), וכן בבמדבר רבה (במדבר רבה ט״ו:ו׳): אמר לו הקב״ה למשה: לך אמור לאהרן: אל תתירא, לגדולה מזאת אתה מוכן, הקרבנות כל זמן שבית המקדש קיים הן נוהגין, אבל הנרות לעולם אל מול פני המנורה יאירו.

Sefas Emes writes that the word "olam" = "he'elem," that which is concealed.  The light of the menorah "l'olam ya'iru,"  can pierce the darkness of galus that covers and conceals ruchniyus.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

worse than a snake pit

Reuvain came up with the idea of throwing Yosef into a pit instead of killing him.  Chazal are medayek from the Torah's description of that pit, "mayim ain bo," there was no water in it, but was something else -- snakes and scorpions.  Nonetheless, the Torah writes about Reuvain that "va'yatzileihu mi'yadam," he saved Yosef from his brothers.  

The Torah never says the same about Yehudah, who was the one who pulled Yosef out of that pit.  The Torah never says about Yehudah "va'yatzileihu" despite the fact that the sale of Yosef into slavery would be the start of the whole chain of events that would lead to Yosef becoming the viceroy of Egypt.  Instead, as we've discussed the past few days, Chazal are critical of Yehudah and condemn anyone who praises him.

Why the difference?

R' Amiel writes in Derashos El Ami that Chazal are teaching us that it is better to be in a pit of snakes and scorpions in Eretz Yisrael than to be the viceroy of a mighty empire in chutz la'aretz.  

Reuvain gets credit because on his watch Yosef remained in Eretz Yisrael; Yehudah is condemned because he caused Yosef to be brought to chu"l.

Monday, December 14, 2020

hadlakas menorah as a kiyum of hodaah

The gemara tells the story we all know of the Chashmonaim finding a single jug of oil that miraculously burned for 8 days:

 מאי חנוכה דתנו רבנן בכ"ה בכסליו יומי דחנוכה תמניא אינון דלא למספד בהון ודלא להתענות בהון שכשנכנסו יוונים להיכל טמאו כל השמנים שבהיכל וכשגברה מלכות בית חשמונאי ונצחום בדקו ולא מצאו אלא פך אחד של שמן שהיה מונח בחותמו של כהן גדול ולא היה בו אלא להדליק יום אחד נעשה בו נס והדליקו ממנו שמונה ימים 

The next year, says the gemara, they declared a holiday.  You would expect that since this whole story is talking about oil and the menorah, the gemara would say that next year the the Chachamim instituted lighting menorah.  But that's NOT what it says:

לשנה אחרת קבעום ועשאום ימים טובים בהלל והודאה

Hallel and hodaah?  What about the takana to light menorah?

Rav Bakshi Doron in his sefer on Moadim answers that the hodaah Chazal are speaking of **is** the lighting of the menorah.  

The Rambam says this very clearly (Chanukah 4:12):

מצות נר חנוכה מצוה חביבה היא עד מאד וצריך אדם להזהר בה כדי להודיע הנס ולהוסיף בשבח האל והודיה לו על הנסים שעשה לנו.

Rambam quotes the halacha to be extra careful in lighting because the lighting is "shevach haK-l v'hodaah."  

Similarly, Rambam writes earlier (3:3)

ומפני זה התקינו חכמים שבאותו הדור שיהיו שמונת ימים האלו שתחלתן כ"ה בכסליו ימי שמחה והלל ומדליקין בהן הנרות בערב על פתחי הבתים בכל לילה ולילה משמונת הלילות להראות ולגלות הנס.

"Madlikin ba'hen neiros" is an extension of the takana of "simcha v'hallel."  The lighting is the means by which we give praise and thank Hashem for the miracle.

We say in neiros ha'lalu that "ain lanu l'hishtamesh ba'hem," we can't have hanaah from the candles not because they are huktzah l'miztvaso, but rather because "k'dei l'hodos u'lhallel l'shimcha ha'gadol," because we need to demonstrate that these candles the means of giving hallel to Hashem, not ordinary lights. 

There is a fascinating teshuvah from R' Shlomo Kluger (this is not quoted by R' Bakshi Doron -- it is in HaEleph Lecha Shlomo #114) in which he distinguishes between the "af hein ha'yu b'oso ha'nes" that obligates women in ner chanukah, megillah, and 4 kosos on pesach and the "af hein ha'yu b'oso ha'nes" of experiencing the nes of the yeridas ha'mon that creates the chiyuv of 3 seudos on shabbos.  In the former examples, the takanos were instituted to give hodaah for the nes.  Everyone, including women, is obligated to thank and praise Hashem.  The latter takanah is just a zecher to the mon, not hodaah, and therefore women are not obligated to have 3 seudos on Shabbos.  (This is quite a chiddush because not only do the Rishonim write that women *are* obligated in 3 seudos of shabbos, but the Ran says explicitly that the reason why is because "af hein ha'yu b'oso ha'nes."  You have to do a lot of explaining things away to accept R'Sh"K's chiddush.  To be fair, he was only trying to justify the common practice of women being lenient, not suggest this as a lichatchila.)  

Now that we laid the groundwork that hadlakas hamenorah is a kiyum of hodaah, here's Daughter #1's question: we say modim derabbanan and do not rely on hearing modim from the shat"z because you can't say thank you through shlichus -- thanks has to be a personal expression of gratitude.  So how is it that all the members of the family can be yotzei menorah with the lighting of the baal ha'bayis?  How can a guest be yotzei lighting through being mishtatef with a perutah?  If hadlakah is all about hodaah = giving thanks, why doesn't each individual have to light for him/herself? 

Yehudah: villain or hero -- take 2

Last week we discussed the machlokes between R' Meir, who is highly critical of Yehudah for telling the brothers that it was not in their best financial interest to kill Yosef, "mah betza ki na'arog es achinu," but rather to sell him, and other Tanaim who disagree and do not share his criticism.  On the other hand, one could argue that given the danger Yosef was in, Yehudah did a great thing by simply ensuring that the brothers did not actually kill Yosef.  On the other hand, R' Meir looked at the potential Yehudah had to do so much more.  Had Yehudah exerted himself more forcefully he could have returned Yosef home. 

There is another possible hesber of the machlokes.  Chazal tell us that a when a person sins, he is overcome with a "ruach shtus."  When a person has a taavah, what it says in shas and poskim goes right out of his mind -- all that matters is satisfying the "I," the ego, the subjective need/desire.  Had Yehudah argued with his brothers not to kill Yosef because it says "lo tirtzach," he would have gotten nowhere -- the yetzer ha'ra was in control already.  However, he could still make the argument that the "I" would get a better deal selling Yosef rather than killing him.  

Is this approach a b'dieved, or can it even be a lichatchila?  If a person, for example, doesn't eat at McDonalds because he tells himself that he is better off without the cholesterol and fat, that the net gain of skipping the Big Mac outweighs the enjoyment he might get from having it, is that on par with a person who doesn't eat the Big Mac because of a pasuk in chumash?  R' Meir is critical of Yehudah's approach -- we should aim for more than convincing ourselves based on arguments from seichel with it comes to avodas Hashem.  Other Tanaim take the opposite approach, that this is not something bad at all.  (Based on Mei haShiloach)

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Yehudah: villain or hero -- b'poel vs b'koach

 The gemara (Sanhedrin 6b) quotes R' Meir as being very harshly critical of Yehudah:

 רבי מאיר אומר לא נאמר בוצע אלא כנגד יהודה שנאמר ויאמר יהודה אל אחיו מה בצע כי נהרוג את אחינו וכל המברך את יהודה הרי זה מנאץ ועל זה נאמר ובוצע ברך נאץ ה

Anyone who praises Yehudah for advocating that Yosef be sold instead of killed is insulting G-d, as how can you praise someone who encouraged selling his brother into slavery?

Tos on the spot asks how R' Meir could criticize Yehudah when Yaakov Avinu on his death bed praised Yehudah: גּ֤וּר אַרְיֵה֙ יְהוּדָ֔ה מִטֶּ֖רֶף בְּנִ֣י עָלִ֑יתָ (49:9! Tosfos answers that Yaakov was not praising Yehudah for sparing Yosef's life, but rather  was praising Yehudah for confessing his guilt and not allowing Tamar to be killed.  In other words, the way to read that pasuk is not מִטֶּ֖רֶף בְּנִ֣י, comma, עָלִ֑יתָ, but rather מִטֶּ֖רֶף comma, i.e. from the killing of innocent Tamar, בְּנִ֣י עָלִ֑יתָ you my son, Yehudah, rose up and did not do wrong.  (see Maharasha as well)

Yet if we look at the Yalkut Shimoni on that pasuk, the Yalkut writes:

אָמַר לֵיהּ יְהוּדָה בְּנִי, מְסֻלָּק אַתָּה מֵאוֹתוֹ עָוֹן שֶׁאָמַרְתָּ ״טָרֹף טֹרַף יוֹסֵף״

And Rashi in his first pshat on the pasuk echoes the same:

מטרף – ממה שחשדתיך בטרף טורף יוסף חיה רעה אכלתהו (בראשית ל״ז:ל״ג), וזה יהודה שנמשל כארי

So hadra kushya l'duchta: how can R' Meir accuse Yehudah of wrongdoing when Yaakov proclaims his innocence?  

R' Yehudah Deri in his sichos on the parsha answers that both R' Meir's perspective and Yaakov Avinu's perspective are true.  The brothers were on the verge of literally killing Yosef.  If Yehudah had not stepped in, that would have been the end.  מִטֶּ֖רֶף בְּנִ֣י עָלִ֑יתָ -- Yehudah saved Yosef's life.

Yet, at the same time, as Rashi writes on the sugya in Sanhedrin, כנגד יהודה. שהיה לו לומר נחזירנו לאבינו אחרי שהיו דבריו נשמעין לאחיו, once Yehudah had his brothers' ears, he could have done so much more than simply prevents Yosef's murder.  He could have brought his brother home. 

Yaakov Avinu looked at the b'poel of Yehudah's actions, that without him Yosef was finished.  R' Meir looked at the b'koach of Yehudah, the potential that he wasted in not doing more.

I think these two perspectives are built into Yehudah's makeup.  The Torah tells us that Leah gave her child the name Yehudah because "ha'pa'am odeh es Hashem," she wanted to praise Hashem.  Immediately afterwards the Torah tells us "va'taamod mi'ledes," she stopped having children.  Why after giving praise to Hashem was Leah suddenly not able to have more children?

Maor vaShemesh quotes the Chozeh miLublin:

והנה שמעתי מאדמ"ו הרב הקדוש מו' יעקב יצחק מלובלין הכ"מ זלה"ה במעשה דחוני המעגל במס' תענית שהתפלל על הגשמים עד שירדו גשמים מרובי' ולא היו צריכים להם עוד ובקשו ממנו שיתפלל עליהם שלא ירדו עוד אמר להם שיביאו לו פר הודאה יעוין שם והביאו לו והקריב ופסקו הגשמי' אמר אדמ"ו זלה"ה שהכוונה הי' כנ"ל כי אחר שהקריב פר הודאה בזה רימז שכבר יצאו מן הצער לגמרי ואינם צריכים עוד להטובה וממילא יפסקו הגשמי' וזה מרומז בפסוק שלפנינו אחר שאמרה לאה הפעם אודה את ה' וקראה שמו יהודה לשון הודאה ממילא הראה בעצמה שכבר קבלה כל הטובה בבנים ואינה צריכה עוד לטובה זו על כן ותעמוד מלדת

Imagine you sit down to a big banquet and the waiters start to bring out course after course of delicious food.  You don't get up in the middle, put down your fork and knife, fold your napkin nicely, and go thank your hosts for such a nice evening.  That's what you do at the end of the meal, not in the middle.  If you do it in the middle your hosts will think you are leaving and don't care to stick around for the lavish desert that is coming along with the after dinner drinks.  

"Ha'pa'am odeh es Hashem" is saying thanks in the middle of the meal.  It signals that you are done and are going to take a pass on what is yet to come.  B'poel, you are doing the right thing by thanking your host, but b'koach, you missed out on even more and better things.

Which of these differing perspectives to give greater weight to is the machlokes Shamai and Hillel as to how to light the menorah.  Hillel held to add a candle each night, as each night b'poel the miracle was greater as the menorah continued to burn without additional oil.  Shamai held to start with eight candles and subtract one on each night, as on each night the b'koach potential of what was to come grew less and less.  

Monday, December 07, 2020

left to right or right to left

This question never crossed my mind, but it did cross the mind of the Nitei Gavriel: when a kallah circles the chosson under the chuppah, does she go from his left and circle to the right, or does she start on his right and circle to the left?

In Hil Chanukah (O.C. 676) there is a  machlokes Beis Yosef and the Levush regarding how to light the candles.  From the Aruch haShulchan:

כתב רבינו הבית יוסף בסעיף ה: יתחיל להדליק ביום ראשון בנר היותר ימיני. ובליל שני, כשיוסיף נר אחד סמוך לו – יתחיל ויברך על הנוסף שהוא יותר שמאלי, כדי להפנות לימין. וכן בליל שלישי, כשיוסיף עוד אחד סמוך לשני נרות הראשונות – יתחיל בנוסף, ובו יתחיל הברכה, ואחר כך יפנה לצד ימין. וכן בכל לילה. נמצא שתמיד מברך על הנוסף, שהוא מורה על הנס, שהרי בתוספת הימים – נתוסף הנס. עד כאן לשונו.

והלבוש חולק על רבינו הבית יוסף מטעם אחר: דזה שאמר שהנוסף יהיה השמאלי, וידליק משמאל לימין, וזהו הפינה לצד ימין. ונהפוך הוא: דהפינה שלצד ימין – הוא מימין לשמאל, שתמיד מתחיל מה שיותר ימיני, והולך מימין לשמאל. כמו בהזאות ב"איזהו מקומן": דרומית מזרחית, מזרחית צפונית, צפונית מערבית, מערבית דרומית. וכן הוא בטבע האדם לפנות מימין לשמאל, כמו במחולות. וכן הוא הכתיבה שלנו: מימין לשמאל. ולכן העיקר להתחיל תמיד מהימין, ולילך מימין לשמאל, עיין שם.

According to B"Y, you light the candle furthest to the left first and then continue left to right.

According to the Levush, it's the opposite -- you start on the right and continue to the left.

The hesber: the gemara writes that whenever you make a turn, always go right first.  According to B"Y, that means you start on the left and move to the right.  According to the Levush, it means the right should be your starting point from which you then continue.  (See this article for an extended discussion.)

Same machlokes should apply, says the Nitei Gavriel, to the question of which way the kallah should turn.

(I am waiting for someone to start a new trend and have the kallah go around 14 times, 7 times each way, to be yotzei kol ha'deyos,  That is just the sort of thing I cynically have come to expect these days.)

what a shame

 This video so perfectly captures the frustration of so many people today:

People's lives have been destroyed. 

Here are some stats to chew on (taken from


What an absolute shame. 

The latest draconian edict in LA which prohibits "all travel, including, without limitation, travel on foot..." i.e. taking a walk, makes an exception for "participating in an in-person outdoor protest."  

It's all about science, right?

gifts to Eisav

Before meeting Eisav face to face, Yaakov sent gifts to mollify him.  Eisav at first refused those gifts, and Yaakov responded (33:10):

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יַעֲקֹ֗ב אַל־נָא֙ אִם־נָ֨א מָצָ֤אתִי חֵן֙ בְּעֵינֶ֔יךָ וְלָקַחְתָּ֥ מִנְחָתִ֖י מִיָּדִ֑י כִּ֣י עַל־כֵּ֞ן רָאִ֣יתִי פָנֶ֗יךָ כִּרְאֹ֛ת פְּנֵ֥י אֱלֹהִ֖ים וַתִּרְצֵֽנִי׃

Should that word "Elohim" at the end of the pasuk be translated as Lord with a capital L, or lord with a lowercase l?  

When I bounced this off my wife, she thought the peshuto is lord with a lowercase.  Yaakov was saying that Eisav was someone important, a lord.  Seforno writes כמנהג בפקוד את השרים, or as Netziv puts it, היינו שאתה אדון לי.

However, when I checked some translations, they did not agree.

Artscroll follows the Targum which renders Elohim as angel.  In the previous chapter after the wrestling match, Yaakov says,  כִּֽי־רָאִ֤יתִי אֱלֹהִים֙ פָּנִ֣ים אֶל־פָּנִ֔ים וַתִּנָּצֵ֖ל נַפְשִֽׁ, referring to the malach as Elohim.  Here, he uses the same term, telling Eisav that looks like that same angel that he wrestled with.

This creates an interesting subtext to Yaakov's message.  On the surface, Yaakov is subservient -- he repeatedly bows to Eisav, he sent gifts, he has his wives and children bow.  However, by alluding to the angel Yaakov may be subtly sending at a more aggressive message, that just as he defeated that angel, so too, Eisav should not test the waters or he will find Yaakov to be his equal in a fight.

(The Targum and Ibn Ezra take their queue from the use of the word Elohim in the previous chapter to interpret Elohim here as not strictly chol.  It's worth noting that the Maor vaShemesh works in the opposite direction: ' ויל"ד מה זה כי שרית עם אלקי' היכן מצאנו שירותו עם אלקי' ורש"י פי' עם מלאכי' אך עדיין יש להבין אמאי קרא להמלאך אלקי'   He is bothered by the use of Elohim = Lord with a capital L, in the previous chapter to refer to a mere mundane malach and therefore reinterprets that whole pasuk in a way that fits with it being kodesh, but which is far from the pshat.)

JPS renders Elohim as Lord with a capital L.  This is similar to Abarbanel, in whose footsteps Kli Yakar follows:כמו שהרואה פני אלהים ג״פ בשנה כתיב (שמות כ״ג:ט״ו) ולא יראו פני ריקם, כי צריך להביא עולות ראייה, כך אין אני חפץ לראות פניך ריקם על כן אני מבקש שתקבל מנחתי  Yaakov was telling Eisav that his gifts to him are like the gifts he would being to Hashem.  

Abarbanel explains that there are two types of gifts (a Brisker lomdus!): there are gifts where the goal is to give the recipient something he/she needs or wants, and then there are gifts given for the sender's sake -- the recipient really doesn't need anything -- as a token of his/her commitment.  

When a person gives a gift to Hashem, Hashem doesn't need anything and there is nothing we can provide for him.  It is for our sake, to express our love for Hashem, and/or to not be remiss in giving something when everyone is giving.

Eisav told Yaakov that he does not need the gifts Yaakov sent.  Yaakov responded by saying that the gifts were like gifts to G-d -- they are a token expressing the feelings of the sender, independent from the needs of the recipient.

The Yismach Moshe quotes this Abarbanel back in parshas Braishis to explain why Hashem rejected Kayin's offering but accepted Hevel's.  He posits that Kayin's intent in bringing a gift to Hashem was to meet some need he thought Hashem had, which of course cannot be.  Hevel, the Torah says, "havi gam hu," he also brought a gift, meaning Hevel was not trying to satisfy a need Hashem had, but rather if everyone brings a gift and you show up empty handed it looks like you don't care, so he felt he had to do something -- if Kayin was giving, he also had to give.  It was for his own sake, the second type of gift the Abarbanel speaks of, and therefore it was accepted.  

Friday, December 04, 2020

don't lock the box!

In the middle of the night Yaakov transferred his wives and 11 children across the Yabok to distance them from Eisav (32:23).  The Midrash (partially quoted in Rashi) writes:

 וַיָּקָם בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא וַיִּקַּח אֶת שְׁתֵּי נָשָׁיו וְאֶת שְׁתֵּי שִׁפְחֹתָיו וגו׳ – וְדִינָה הֵיכָן הִיא, נְתָנָהּ בְּתֵבָה וְנָעַל בְּפָנֶיהָ, אָמַר הָרָשָׁע הַזֶּה עֵינוֹ רָמָה הִיא, שֶׁלֹא יִתְלֶה עֵינָיו וְיִרְאֶה אוֹתָהּ וְיִקַּח אוֹתָהּ מִמֶּנִּי. רַב הוּנָא בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי אַבָּא הַכֹּהֵן בַּרְדְּלָא אָמַר, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (איוב ו׳:י״ד): לַמָּס מֵרֵעֵהוּ חָסֶד, מָנַעְתָּ מֵרֵעֲךָ חָסֶד, מָנַעְתָּ חַסְדְּךָ מִן אֲחוּךְ, דְּאִלּוּ אִתְנְסֵיבַת לְגַבְרָא לָא זִנְּתָה [נסח אחר: דנסבת לאיוב לאו גירתיה בתמיה], לֹא בִקַּשְׁתָּ לְהַשִּׂיאָהּ לְמָהוּל הֲרֵי הִיא נִשֵּׂאת לְעָרֵל, לֹא בִקַּשְׁתָּ לְהַשִּׂיאָהּ דֶּרֶךְ הֶתֵּר הֲרֵי נִשֵּׂאת דֶּרֶךְ אִסּוּר, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (בראשית ל״ד:א׳): וַתֵּצֵא דִינָה בַּת לֵאָה

The count of 11 children does not include Dinah, or there would have been 12.  Where was she?  The Midrash answers that Yaakov hid her in a box and locked the top so that Eisav should not see her.  As punishment for depriving Eisav of the opportunity to marry Dinah -- she might have turned him around -- Dinah was later taken by Shchem.

It is hard to understand the Midrash's criticism of Yaakov.  Eisav was a really bad guy.  Surely it behooved Yaakov to take precautions and not simply allow his young daughter to marry a rasha!  (see post here and here, and R' Shteinman's comments here.)

I a nice diyuk to answer this question:  נְתָנָהּ בְּתֵבָה וְנָעַל בְּפָנֶיהָ  Yaakov not only put Dinah in a box, but the Midrash says he locked the top as well so that it was impossible to open.  Yaakov 100% closed off the possibility of Dinah marrying Eisav, he 100% was invested in the path he thought was best.  What Chazal are telling us is that it's OK to take necessary precautions, to make the necessary hishtadlus to meet any situation.  However, never think that you're efforts are the only path to a solution.  Never close the door to other possibilities.  Sometimes the direction that looks least likely to bear fruit, the path that looks most fraught with danger and risk, is davka the path Hashem will choose for a person.  So don't lock the box -- you can only be 99% certain.

The Netziv makes a similar point.  At the end of P' VaYeitzei the Torah tells us that Yaakov fled from Lavan's house.  Yaakov trusted that hasgachas Hashem would allow him to make his escape without Lavan learning of his departure and in that way he would be safe.  Yet that's not what happened.  Lavan did learn of Yaakov's escape, he did chase after him, but nonetheless, thanks to hashgachas Hashem, Lavan was unable to do anything.  Hashem protected Yaakov and everything worked out, just not in the way Yaakov imagined it would happen. In Harchev Davar (31:21) Netziv writes:

כך המה דרכי ישראל בכל עת אשר המה בוטחים בהשגחתו יתברך שיהיה אתם בדרך שהמה הולכים, והקב״ה מיפר עצתם כדי לצערם ולצרף אותם או משום טעם אחר, ומכל מקום מצילם ומגונן עליהם בדרך אחר בדרך שלא חשבו ולא עלה על דעתם

If you try to anticipate how Hashem will bring salvation, you may be surprised because it may come from a completely different direction than expected.  Preconceived notions do not dictate the reality.

An example from day to day life that illustrates this point: the world of shidduchim.  How many girls turn down a guy because they don't want a boy from that yeshiva or that background or entering that profession?  The same for guys who turn down girls for crazy reasons.  We're talking frum people who are baalei bitachon, meaning they trust that Hashem will give them Mr/Ms Right who comes from the yeshiva, the background, who is in profession that they think is most suited for them.  They've locked the box!  The lucky ones eventually realize that Hashem's plan does not necessarily match up to their preconceived notions.  A girl who would never date a YU boy after a few years finally decided to try going out with a "good" YU boy and now, after marriage, YU boys are the greatest.  

An example from our communal life: frum baalei bitachon trust that if Hashem is going to bring us redemption and return us to Eretz Yisrael, that dream cannot possibly be realized through kofrim and chilonim.  Therefore, why celebrate our having a State?  Instead, they  await the white donkey bringing Moshiach to rectify the situation.  They've locked the box!  Hashem, however, has other ideas.  Don't worry -- the geulah will come despite our efforts to outsmart Hashem's plan.  As the Netziv tells us, that's the way it's always been.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

wrestling with Eisav's angel

1) After Yaakov transfers his family across the Yabok, he is left alone in the night, the last one in the camp, and an angel appears and wrestles with him.  Rashbam comments that Hashem orchestrated this situation:

 שלא יוכל לברוח ויראה קיום {אבטחתו}א של הקב״ה שלא יזיקהו עשו.

The purpose of this wrestling match, according to Rashbam, was not to cause Yaakov pain or to defeat him, but rather it was to prevent him from escaping the encounter with Eisav.  Hashem wanted Yaakov to be able to witness the hasgacha pratis protecting him, proving true Hashem's earlier promise that Yaakov would not come to harm.  

The natural reaction of most people is to try to avoid problems and confrontations.  However, Rashbam tells us that if life is always easy, then we miss the opportunity to see yeshu'as Hashem and his hashgacha pratis.  It is through encountering difficulties and overcoming them, with Hashem's help, that we discover and appreciate that He's got our back. 

2) Who is the winner of that wrestling match?  If you saw Yaakov limping off injured after the fight you would think he lost, but you would be wrong.   The pasuk (32:26) tells us so black on white:

 וַיַּ֗רְא כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יָכֹל֙ ל֔וֹ וַיִּגַּ֖ע בְּכַף־יְרֵכ֑וֹ

It's only because he could not defeat him, that he could not win, that the angel had to strike Yaakov.  

This was not an ordinary wrestling match.  This was a fight of differing world views.  The goal of Eisav's angel was to convince Yaakov to become like everyone else in the world.  R' Yehudah Deri explains that the violence of antisemitism is a testament to the fact that the Jew  will not surrender his identity.  In frustration, Eisav's lashes out our our guf because he is powerless to corrupt our neshama.  Our ideological commitment is our ultimate vindication.  

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Yehudah -- hoda'ah -- viduy

Leah named her fourth child Yehudah saying "ha'pa'am odeh es Hashem," with the birth of this child I will give thanks.  The Daas Zekeinim adds an additional reason for the name.  When confronted with the evidence pointing to his own guilt, Yehudah admits -- he is modeh -- to Tamar that he is in fact the one who had relations with her. 

We've discussed before the relationship between the idea of hoda'ah, giving thanks and praise, and the idea of being modeh/viduy, confessing and owning up.  Hoda'ah is giving thanks for something you never thought would happen.   12 children / 4 wives of Yaakov = 3 children per wife.   Yehudah was an extra gift above what was expected.  Viduy/hodaah is the same idea -- you thought X was true, but are now modeh that the reality is different.  

The Targum Yonasan writes that Leah gave Yehudah that name because she saw that his descendent would be David haMelech who would give hoda'ah.  The T.Y. likely means that David gave hoda'ah to Hashem by saying Sefer Tehillim.  However, it's worth noting that David is also modeh to wrongdoing when confronted by Noson haNavi regarding the episode with BasSheva.  

Sefas Emes quotes the Ch haR"IM that Yosef=hallel but Yehudah=hoda'ah.  Yosef has a dream that shows him what the Divine plan is, and every obstacle he encounters is just a bump on the road leading towards what he knows will be the inevitable conclusion.  Yehudah and his brothers reject that dream.  From the sale of Yosef right through their final reconciliation with Yosef, their struggle is one of their own making, a struggle against their own (mis)perception of the way things should be.  The hodaah of rediscovering Yosef can only be achioeved with viduy, acceptance that their version of reality is incorrect.