Tuesday, November 30, 2021

birchas ha'roeh

If for some reason a person cannot light menorah, there is a takanah that he can recite the bracha of she'asah nisim when he sees someone else's menorah burning - birchas ha'roeh.  B'pashtus, this bracha is a hoda'ah on the miracle of chanukah.  Even if a person cannot do the actual mitzvah of lighting and recite the birchas hamitzvah on the hadlakah, he still can recite this birchas ha'shevach on the nes.

When we light menorah we recite this same bracha of she'asah nisim.  Yesh lachkor: is this the same birchas ha'shevach on the nes that is recited by someone who cannot light, or does the fact that it is recited while lighting link it to the birchas ha'mitzvah on the hadlakah?

It could be that this issue hinges on a dispute between Rama and Mes Sofrim.  Rama paskens that all the brachos -- l'hadlik ner, she'asah nisim, she'hechiyanu -- should be recited before the hadlaka.  Mes Sofrim writes that only the bracha of l'hadlik ner is recited before the lighting; the other brachos are recited afterwards.  

A birchas hamitzah always has to be recited over l'asiyasan, before the mitzvah.  Since Rama requires that all the brachos ideally be said over l'asiyasan, it seems to indicate that all the brachos, including she'asah nisim, are linked to the mitzvah of hadlakah.  According to Mes Sofrim, the bracha of she'asah nisim stands on it's own; whether you are not lighting and just seeing someone else's candles or whether you are lighting and seeing your own candles, it is the same birchas ha'shevach.  

The Rishonim debate whether a traveler who has someone lighting for him at home, e.g. the person's wife, recites a birchas ha'roeh or not.  If the bracha is purely a birchas ha'shevach, then the fact that someone else lit in the person's home should not impinge on their obligation to give hoda'ah for the nes.  But if the she'asah nisim on lighting is like a birchas ha'mitzvah, then when the person's wife lit, she was already motzi him in the lighting and all the brachos.  

So far so good.  Now for the fly in the ointment:

R' Akiva Eiger (Shu"t, MhT #13) discusses whether someone who forgot to say the brachos on ner chanukah before lighting can do so afterwards.  Lichorah, this should depend on the two sides of our chakirah.  If she'asah nisim is treated like a birchas hamitzvah, then the opportunity was lost; if it is like the birchas ha'roeh and is shevach on the nes, then it can still be recited.  Yet R' Akiva Eiger writes that even according to the view  that holds that if a traveler's wife lights for him he is yotzei all the brachos, i.e. she'asah nisim in that context is like a birchas hamitzvah,  he can still say the bracha after lighting if he forgot to do so beforehand.  How do you get those two views to square together?

Monday, November 29, 2021

no obstacle too great

The miracle of ner chanukah is that even though there was not enough oil for eight days, it was not an obstacle to lighting.  So too in our times, writes the Sefas Emes (5631), even though we don't have a beis ha'mikdash, even though we don't have the menorah of the mikdash, it's not an obstacle either.  The light that shines from our menorah is the light of that hadlakah in the mikdash. 

Putting aside the whole discussion of why you need a nes chanukah when tumah hutra / dechuya b'tzibur and the kohanim could have lit the menorah with tamei oil, the Sefas Emes (5641) asks a more basic question: Hashem could just as easily have made it possible to find eight jugs of tahor oil as one.  Even if you need shem zayis tahor to light, there didn't have to be a nes.

He answers that from the perspective of fulfilling the mitzvah of hadlakah, ain hachi nami, there didn't have to be a miracle. Hashem made a miracle not because hadlakas ha'menorah required it, but rather because we, the Jewish people, required it.  We needed a reminder that, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your [Greek] philosophy."  A military victory is not enough to establish that, nor is political and religious control of the mikdash enough; there has a to be change in mindset, an acceptance that what teva says is possible or impossible is not the final word on the matter, at least not for us.  We needed a miracle to remind us of that.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

sound of silence

Yosef has a dream in which he sees his brothers harvesting sheaves of wheat, "v'hinei kamah alumasi v'gam nitzavah," and his bundle stood up from among theirs.  The Midrash does a play on words here and connects the word "alumasi" with the word ileim, (aleph-lamed-mem), a person who is mute, silent.  Yosef was telling his brothers that because his mother Rachel was silent in order not to cause embarrassment to her sister when Leah took her place under the chuppah, he would rise above them.

 וּמַאן קָאֵים לֵיהּ מִשְׁתִּיקוּתָא דְּאִמָּא. קָמָה, וְהִנֵּה קָמָה אֲלֻמָּתִי וְגַם נִצָּבָה

What's the connection between Rachel's silence and the story of Yosef and his brothers?

The brothers misread Yosef's intentions as being hostile and saw eliminating him as the only way they could enjoy the good graces of their father's attention.  

The story of Rachel and Leah proves that they miscalculated.  As far as Rachel knew, if Yaakov married Leah, it would come at the cost of her being his bride.  Nonetheless, when Rachel saw Lavan lead Leah to the chuppah in her place, she kept silent, potentially sacrificing everything rather than throwing her sister under the bus.  In the end, however, Rachel did end of marrying Yaakov, and in fact was the akeret ha'bayit.

Yosef was telling his brothers that the choice his mother faced was a mirror of their own -- risk losing everything by supporting a brother/sister who stood to usurp their own place, or throw that brother/sister under the bus -- and by choosing the path of silence, she came out ahead in the end.  By making the wrong choice in the same situation, rather than gain the upper hand, they would lose it.  

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Reuvain's reaction

  וַיָּ֥שׇׁב אֶל־אֶחָ֖יו וַיֹּאמַ֑ר הַיֶּ֣לֶד אֵינֶ֔נּוּ וַאֲנִ֖י אָ֥נָה אֲנִי־בָֽא׃

Rashi explains:  אנה אני בא – אנה אברח מצערו של אבא.  

Reuvain comes back to his brothers, and discovers that Yosef is gone.  "If Yosef is gone," he exclaims, "How can I ever find refuge from our father's pain?"

(Interesting that Yosef here is called a  יֶּ֣לֶד.  Recall that at the beginning of the parsha we are told  וְה֣וּא נַ֗עַר.  The term יֶּ֣לֶד suggests the innocence of a child, someone who does not deserve to suffer for his actions.)

I think my son's favorite derasha in shas, if one can have such a thing, is the derasha on the extra vav in kabeid es avicha v'es imecha that comes to be marbeh achicha ha'gadol (he is the oldest).  (Minchas Chinuch discusses whether this is an independent chiyuv, or whether it is an extension of the din of kibud for a parent, i.e. that part of being mechabeid the parent is to also be mechabeid the achicha ha'hagadol.)  

The Alshich explains that Reuvain saw what happened to Yosef -- he was not sure if he was even alive at this point -- and thought that everything that had happened stemmed from the fact that Yosef did not show the proper respect for his brothers.  If so, thought Reuvain, if this is the punishment for failing to fulfill kibud for a brother, then what will befall me, as I failed to properly fulfill the ikar chiyuv of kibud av by being mibalbel Yaakov's bed.

A second pshat the Alshich suggests, which may explain why it is davka Reuvain who intervened to prevent Yosef's being killed, is that when Reuvain heard Yosef's dream about 11 brothers bowing to him, there was a silver lining to the story for him: he was 1 of those 11, he was part of the family.  His sin in being mibalbel his father's bed did not cause him to become a pariah. However, with Yosef gone, with those dreams dismissed as fantasy, Reuvain wondered if he truly was 1 of the 11, or perhaps that too was just fantasy.

The Midrash that teaches:

 והיכן הלך ראובן? ר׳ אליעזר אומר עסוק היה בשקו ובתעניתו, כלומר שהיה מתענה ולובש שקא על שבלבל יצועי אביו.

takes on a much deeper meaning in light of either approach.  It is Reuvain's sin against his father which is the backrop for his reaction to the loss of Yosef. 

Either way, I'm not sure what we are to make of the fact that the first thing Reuvain thinks of when he discovers Yosef missing is himself.  Notice (as Ibn Ezra does) the repetition of the word "ani" in the pasuk; it serves to highlight the ME of Reuvain's reaction.  Whether or not Yosef is still alive, whether or not Yosef's dreams have any relationship to reality, matters to Reuvain only in terms of what that means for his place in the family, or what it portends for the consequences of his sin against his father.  

R' Avraham ben haRambam has a far more charitable reading of the pasuk that reflects Reuvain's grief over the loss of his brother:  ואני אנה אני בא – צעקת ווי על חסרונו וגודל הצער על אבדונו  

Monday, November 22, 2021

what zechus led to the Alter Rebbe being released from prison

19 Kislev is known in Chabad as the Rosh haShana of Chassidus, as it is the day the Alter Rebbe was freed from prison in 1798.

The Baal haTanya attributes his release to a particular zechus, and believe it or not, it's not the zechus of his disseminating chassidus or any of the other important activities he engaged in.  In a letter to the Berdichever informing him of his release (quoted in the first intro to the sefer Aim haBanim Smeicha), the Baal haTanya writes:  

בּזכות ארץ הקדושׁה ויושׁביה היא שׁעמדה לנו ותעזור לנו בּכל עת להרחיב לנו מצר ולהחליצנו ממיצר

R' Teichtel writes in Aim haBanim Smeicha that he never heard of such an idea before -- that Eretz Yisrael itself should be a zechus for us -- but since the Alter Rebbe said so it must be true, and he then goes on to find mekoros for such an idea.

(Parenthetically, in the edition of Mishnas Sachir, R' Teichtel's sefer on chumash, that I have at home, the letter and R' Teichtel's hesber are quoted in a piece on P' Vayeitzei.  In the edition of Mishnas Sachir online, that passage seems to be missing. This is not the first piece of torah that I have found to be missing in that edition (see post here), and I am not sure why there should be a discrepancy between the two.)

Friday, November 19, 2021

Eisav's zechus of living in Eretz Yisrael and a fascinating chizkuni on gid ha'nasheh

1) The Midrash writes that Yaakov feared Eisav because Eisav 1) remained in Eretz Yisrael and 2) was able to be mekayein kibud av during Yaakov's long stay in Charan.  Even though, as Rashi writes  עם לבן גרתי – גרתי בגימטריא תרי״ג. אמ׳ יעקב לעשו: אע״פ שהייתי בבית לבן והייתי טרוד בעבדותי, שמרתי תרי״ג מצות, that Yaakov kept tarya"g mitzvos while in Lavan's house, and even though Eisav was a rasha, Yaakov was still fearful because those zechuyos of fulfilling yishuv Eretz Yisrael and kibud av are so great they might tip the scales in his favor.

Perhaps this is why Yaakov makes a point of buying a plot of land once he gets to Shechem: וַיִּ֜קֶן אֶת־חֶלְקַ֣ת הַשָּׂדֶ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר נָֽטָה־שָׁם֙ אׇהֳל֔וֹ (33:19).  Ibn Ezra comments there: והזכיר זה הכתוב להודיע כי מעלה גדולה יש לארץ ישראל, ומי שיש לו בה חלק, חשוב הוא כחלק העולם הבא.   Yaakov wanted his own stake in having the zechus of Eretz Yisrael.

There is an amazing Netziv at the end of the parsha, where you have the list of names and genealogy of Eisav.  If you look at 36:45, you will find that Eisav had 5 children:

וַתֵּ֧לֶד עָדָ֛ה לְעֵשָׂ֖ו אֶת־אֱלִיפָ֑ז וּבָ֣שְׂמַ֔ת יָלְדָ֖ה אֶת־רְעוּאֵֽל

 וְאׇהֳלִֽיבָמָה֙ יָֽלְדָ֔ה אֶת־[יְע֥וּשׁ] (יעיש) וְאֶת־יַעְלָ֖ם וְאֶת־קֹ֑רַח אֵ֚לֶּה בְּנֵ֣י עֵשָׂ֔ו אֲשֶׁ֥ר יֻלְּדוּ־ל֖וֹ בְּאֶ֥רֶץ כְּנָֽעַן׃

Yet if you look a few pesukim later (36:10), only 3 of those children are mentioned:

 וְאֵ֛לֶּה תֹּלְד֥וֹת עֵשָׂ֖ו אֲבִ֣י אֱד֑וֹם בְּהַ֖ר שֵׂעִֽיר

 אֵ֖לֶּה שְׁמ֣וֹת בְּנֵֽי־עֵשָׂ֑ו אֱלִיפַ֗ז בֶּן־עָדָה֙ אֵ֣שֶׁת עֵשָׂ֔ו רְעוּאֵ֕ל בֶּן־בָּשְׂמַ֖ת אֵ֥שֶׁת עֵשָֽׂו

What happened to the 3 children that are missing?


א מנה עמהם את יעוש ויעלם וקרח, כי מנה הכתוב תחילה רק אלה שהיו כבר לאלופים הרבה. והנראה שלא זכו להיות אלופים אלא אלו שנולדו בארץ ישראל וזכותא דא״י גרם להם, משום הכי לא זכו בני יעוש ויעלם וקרח להיות אלופים כי לא נולדו בארץ ישראל.

Those  children were not born in Eretz Yisrael and therefore, because they lacked the zechus of Eretz Yisrael, they never developed into the "aluphim," the full tribes/clans, that the other children became.

Even the children of Eisav, who I don't think we would even count as Jewish, benefitted somehow from the zechus of Eretz Yisrael!

2) Turning to kibud av, the Chizkuni has a fascinating explanation of why Bnei Yisrael cannot eat gid ha'nasheh:

כלומר בדין הוא שיש לקנוס ולענוש בני ישראל מאכילת גיד הנשה שהניחו את אביהם הולך יחידי,1 כדכתיב ויותר יעקב לבדו (בראשית ל״ב:כ״ה), והן היו גיבורים והיה להם להמתין אביהם ולסייעו אם יצטרך, והם לא עשו לו לויה והוזק על ידם. ומכאן ואילך יהיה להם לזכר ויהיו זריזים במצות לויה, ולכך ליוה יעקב את יוסף.

What was Yaakov, an old man, doing all alone shlepping things in the middle of the night when he had young, strapping children there who could help him?  Their failure to fulfill the mitzvah of leviya, of escorting their father, earned Bnei Yisrael the punishment of not being allowed to eat the gid so that they would forever remember the lesson.

Maybe the reason Shimon and Levi attacked Shchem without consulting Yaakov is because they remembered when they were not there for their father and left him alone, so now they went to the opposite extreme and took matters into their own hands so as to not burden him. 

The Midrash writes that when Yosef revealed himself, he sent his brothers home with wagons to signal to their father that he remembered of the sugya of eglah arufah that they had been learning together.  You bring an eglah arufah when a murder victim is found on the road because the city that is closest needs a kaprah for failing to provide safe escort.  In light of Chizkuni maybe we can explain that Yosef chose davka this sugya because the mitzvah of leviya became a hallmark of Yaakov and his family after they learned their lesson here.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

an ongoing conversation

A person goes through periods of gadlus ha'mochin and periods of katnus ha'mochin, ups and downs.  קָטֹ֜נְתִּי מִכֹּ֤ל הַחֲסָדִים֙ וּמִכׇּל־הָ֣אֱמֶ֔ת.  Katonti, Yaakov felt small and diminished, maybe overwhelmed, at what awaited him when he would again encounter Eisav.  And yet, this קָטֹ֜נְתִּי is seen by Yaakov as   מִכֹּ֤ל הַחֲסָדִים֙ וּמִכׇּל־הָ֣אֱמֶ֔ת, part of chasdei Hashem.  It's all part of the plan, both the ups and the downs, both the joys and the challenges. 

Rashi comments on קָטֹ֜נְתִּי מִכֹּ֤ל הַחֲסָדִים֙ וּמִכׇּל־הָ֣אֱמֶ֔ת that even though Hashem had promised to protect Yaakov, Yaakov was afraid that he might have sinned and prove unworthy of that promise being fulfilled.  Ramban disagrees with this reading.  We find two pesukim later, writes Ramban, that Yaakov says  וְאַתָּ֣ה אָמַ֔רְתָּ הֵיטֵ֥ב אֵיטִ֖יב עִמָּ֑ךְ.  If Yaakov was worried that his sins negated Hashem's promise, what difference does it make that Hashem that  had said  הֵיטֵ֥ב אֵיטִ֖יב עִמָּ֑ךְ?  

Maharal answers Ramban's question by distinguishing between an expectation and a request. ואין זה קשיא, דכך אמר דרך בקשה - כיון דסוף סוף הבטיחו הקב״ה, והיה מבקש דרך תחנונים, שעם התחנונים יהיה לו מועיל ההבטחה של הקב״ה: Yaakov felt he had no right to have any expectation of Hashem rescuing him based on the prior promise.  However, that does not mean he could not ask Hashem for help and even invoke that promise in his prayer.  We all ask Hashem for a lot of things that we may not deserve.  If we had to consider whether we deserve it or not before making a request from Hashem, we might never daven.    

It could be that Rashi followed in the footsteps, or I should maybe say made the footsteps which his grandson Rashbam follows in in reading וְאַתָּ֣ה אָמַ֔רְתָּ הֵיטֵ֥ב אֵיטִ֖יב עִמָּ֑ךְ :

 אף על פי שאין אתה מחוייב לקיים לי הבטחתך שהרי קטנתי וגו׳, אף על פי כן עשה למען כבוד שמך שתתקיים הבטחתך.

"Hashem, YOU said things would be good for me," Yaakov says.  If things don't go the right way, it's not just that I'm going to look bad, it's that you're going to look bad.  Therefore, even if I don't deserve it, even if the promise is negated  by my sins, for the sake of kiddush Hashem, grant it to me anyway.

The Kozhiglover essentially combines both of these approaches.  Yaakov was engaged in tefilah.  We know not every tefilah merits getting the response one is looking for.  How could Yaakov ensure that Hashem would grant his request?  How can we ensure that Hashem grants us what we ask for?

If you want Hashem to listen to your tefilah, then don't make it personal -- don't make it about your needs, your wants.  Make it about what will be marbeh k'vod shamayim, Hashem's needs kavyachol, Hashem's wants kavyachol.  If what you are asking for is in order to meet that end, even if you don't deserve it, it doesn't matter.  It's no longer about you, it's about the greater good of kvod shamayim.

The only problem with interpreting Yaakov's words as a prayer is that there is no lashon of tefilah used here.   וַיֹּ֘אמֶר֮ יַעֲקֹב֒... sounds like he is making a statement, not davening.  Sefas Emes (5643): ?בפסוק ויאמר יעקב אלקי אבי. ולא נכתב בלשון תפלה.  

Sefas Emes answers:  שלא הוצרך לשנות עצמו. כי הי' תמיד מוכן בבחי' עבודה שבלב זו תפלה. וז"ש שתיקן תפלת ערבית כי שחרית ומנחה הם זמנים מיוחדים לתפלה ותפלת ערב אין לה קבע. לכן אין כ"א יכול לה רק רשות מי שהוא בן חורין כיעקב אבינו. שבכל עת צרה דכתיב ויירא מאד. אעפ"כ ויאמר יעקב. וכל ההתנגדות והחשכות לא גרם אצלו ריחוק מבחי' התפלה וזהו תפלת ערבית

When does a person pray?  When they feel that G-d is distant and they need to reconnect.  Shacharis and mincha have a set time, as Avraham and Yitzchak, who instituted those tefilos, were not engaged in prayer all the time.  They had to carve out a moment to escape from the world and rebuild that connection with Hashem.  They had to reach out when they were in crisis.  Yaakov was different.  Arvis has no set time because Yaakov was always connected.  Yaakov's whole existence was avodah sheb'lev, connecting to his inner self and hence to Hashem.  (Like David haMelech, "Ani tefilah.")  

There is no need for a lashon of tefilah, to reconnect, because Yaakov's life was one of ongoing connection, of ongoing dialogue with Hashem.  It was one long ongoing conversation of "va'yomer" no matter what the circumstance, rather than a meeting based on the needs of the moment, whether it be crisis or joy.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

mei'erev ad boker - tnai in the mitzvah of hadlakah or a new din?

The gemara (Menachos 89) derives from the words "mei'erev ad boker" that menorah needs to have 1/2 a lug of oil per ner so that it can burn the entire night.  

Is this a tnai in the chiyuv hadlakah, that unless there is enough oil one has not fulfilled the mitzvah to light the menorah, or is it a separate chiyuv, i.e. there is a chiyuv hadlakah to light the menorah, which we learn from "l'ha'alos ner tamid," and on top of that there is a new chiyuv of "mei'erev ad boker" to see to it that the menorah burns throughout the night?

Nafka mina: what if the menorah was originally lit with less oil, but the kohen added more oil later so the ner burned through the night?

If the shiur of 1/2 lug is a din in hadlakah, it's not a good hadlakah.  If it's a new din, then the hadlakah was good, and "mei'erev ad boker" is fulfilled so long as the ner burned until morning.

Tos Rosh (Shabbos 21) writes that when the Chashmonaim found that one jug of pure oil, they divided it into 8 portions to last 8 nights.  He then asks how they could do this -- don't you need 1/2 a lug to light?  Tos Rosh answers that that requirement is mandated only when possible, but is not m'akeiv b'dieved when there is no other way to light.

R' Noson Gestetner explains that the Tos Rosh holds like the second tzad of our chakirah, that there are two dinim, a din hadlakah and a separate din of mei'erev ad boker.  By dividing the oil into 8 parts there could be at least a kiyum of hadlakah on each night, even if that second kiyum of burning the entire night would not have been fulfilled if not for a miracle.

Monday, November 15, 2021

it's not where you are, it's where you are headed that's important

At the very end of last week's parsha, when Yaakov was on the road out of Charan, he came to a "machaneh Elokim," an encampment of angels, and he named the place Machanayim (32:2-3).  Rashi writes that he named the place Machanayim, in the plural, because there were two groups of angels there: the angels of chutz la'aretz who had accompanied him until that point, and the angels of Eretz Yisrael who had come to escort him home.  Ramban disagrees.  How could Yaakov have met the angels of Eretz Yisrael in Machanayim when we first read in this upcoming week's parsha that he crossed Maavar Yabok, which was the border of Amon's territory, not Eretz Yisrael.  Yaakov still had to pass through the lands of Amon, Moav, and then Edom and only then would he reach Eretz Yisrael, after the encounter with Eisav that we will read about this week.   

Maharal in Gur Aryeh answers that what's important is not where you are, what's important is where you are headed.  

ולפי דעתי אין זה שום קושיא, דכיון דהיה הולך ובא לארץ ישראל - באו המלאכים של ארץ ישראל לקראתו לשמור אותו, דכיון דצורך ארץ ישראל הוא, והוא הולך לארץ ישראל, הדין נותן שיהיו לו שומרים מלאכי ארץ ישראל, לכל הפחות השמירה דבר שהוא תולה בהליכה, שלא יהיה לו מונע לבא לארץ ישראל

The malachim of Eretz Yisrael don't come to greet you only when you touch down at Ben Gurion.  The malachim of Eretz Yisrael already come to help out when you check in at JFK, or wherever you are flying from (G-d knows you can use help to navigate the hoops they make you jump through at check-in time these days).

(See Maharal as to why the angels came now and not as soon as Yaakov left Lavan's house, and other details that he irons out).

Thursday, November 11, 2021

marriage and peru u'revu: two mitzvos or one?

One of my kids asked me whether the "purpose" of the mitzvah of marriage is so that one can fulfill peru u'revu, or whether it is for the sake of the relationship.

I want to preface the sources below with two comments: 1) I don't like questions about the "purpose" of mitzvos.  Contemplating taamei ha'mitzvos seems to me to be a purely speculative exercise; what G-d's "purpose" is is probably beyond what any of us can fathom.  That being said, as the Rambam writes at the end of Hil Temunah, "Af al pi she she'kol chukei haTorah gezeiros heim... ra'uy l'hisbonen ba'hem."  I would rephrase any question of this type into a question as to what lessons we can derive from the mitzvah to enrich our appreciation of it.  2)The idea that marriage is only for the sake of peru u'revu came from some teacher (granted the possibility that the message was misunderstood).  However you interpret the sources, for all practical purposes I shudder at the thought of a marriage built around that purpose alone.  From a chinuch perspective, I think that is not the message anyone should be giving.  

My initial thoughts based on some sources:

1) As R' Soloveitchik pointed out in Lonely Man of Faith, there is dichotomy between what he called Adam I, the story of creation in Braishis ch 1, and Adam II, the story in Braishis ch 2.  Without going into all the differences between the stories and what it tells us about man's mission in the world, the dichotomy also expresses itself with respect to the creation of woman.  In ch 1, the Torah just tells us that man was created zachar and nekeiva and Hashem gave them a blessing and said peru u'revu.  In ch 2 we have the idea of eizer k'negdo, of woman being a helpmate, not just a partner in fulfilling periya v'rivya.  So already from creation, we see both of these elements at work.  

2) The Tur opens Even ha'Ezer:

יתברך שמו של הקב"ה שהוא חפץ בטוב בריותיו שידע שאין טוב לאדם להיות לבדו ועל כן עשה לו עזר כנגדו ועוד כי כוונת הבריאה באדם כדי לפרות ולרבות וזה אי אפשר בלא העזר ועל כן צוהו לדבק בעזר שעשה לו לכך חייב כל אדם לישא אשה כדי לפרות ולרבות

Here too we see two reasons for marriage: A) eizer k'negdo, to have a helpmate; B) to procreate.  These are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

3) As we once discussed, the Rambam and Rosh (Kesubos I:12) debate whether birchas eirusin is a birchas ha'mitzvah because there is an independent mitzvah to get married, or whether it is a birchas ha'shevach because there is no mitzvah per se to be married, only a mitzvah to have children.  If one assumes kiddushin in an independent mitzvah, it suggests that it has value even beyond peru u'revu.

4) There is a din (Eh"E 1:8) that even if one has fulfilled peru u'revu, one still has an obligation to be married.  At first glance this seems to indicate that there is an importance to marriage even outside the context of having children.  However, in truth this din 1) may be an eitzah tovah and not even a real takanah; 2) may simply be for the sake of avoiding hirhur.  On the other hand, Pitchei Teshuvah quotes a RI"F that suggests it may be a din d'oraysa.

5) In the new editions of the Minchas Chinuch in footnote #18 to the mitzvah of peru u'revu they quote that the M"C's son-in-law said that when the M'C was mesader kiddushin he would tell the chassan, since mitzvos tzerichos kavanah, to have in mind that his kinyan ishus was for the sake of being m'keyeim the mitzvah of peru u'revu.  Clearly he held that you cannot seperate the two kiyumim.  Anyone know of anyone out there who does this?  

what is the exit strategy?

One of my go-to sites for pandemic information is Kevin Roche's healthy-skeptic site.  He sticks to the data and evidence and avoids the hysterics and polemics found in most media reporting.  In an op-ed published by the Star Tribune he writes:

Our current problem is not that large numbers of people aren't vaccinated, but that notwithstanding extremely high levels of vaccination, we see ongoing significant numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths and renewed epidemic waves in different regions.

Governments emphasize the unvaccinated as the source of transmission, and we frequently hear that it is now an "epidemic of the unvaccinated." This is not true and we are actually headed toward an epidemic, if it even remains an epidemic, of the vaccinated.

He concludes:

In light of the reality that vaccines are not performing as we were told they would, an exit plan that ends our coronavirus obsession must primarily be attitudinal in nature. The true state of the epidemic and the damage being done by our misguided efforts to suppress a virus that cannot be suppressed must be acknowledged. We have seen several European countries take the more enlightened approach that all epidemic restrictions must end and the total well-being of all citizens must be the primary concern, not a monomaniacal focus on preventing COVID-19 cases, which cannot be accomplished in any event

He has a follow up on his blog in which he further writes along the same lines:

True leadership right now would be to boldly tell the public that the vaccines can help most people avoid serious illness, that they won’t do much for the frail elderly, that thank God CV-19 isn’t much of a threat to children so we don’t need to force them to be vaccinated, that CV-19 is largely substitutive for influenza, and we simply can’t go on doing the kind of damage to our society that current and past suppression attempts have done.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for that kind of leadership, unless you live in Florida.  

just stones?

At the beginning of the parsha we read that Yaakov took stones and put them around his head as he slept on the road to Charan.  

The gemara (Kes 112) writes that R' Aba used to kiss the stones of Akko when he would come into or out of Eretz Yisrael to express his deep love for the land.  I once heard in the name of Rav Kook that the gemara is telling us that R' Aba loved Eretz Yisrael for its own sake, not just because it is the place where one can do mitzvos ha'teluyos ba'aretz.  You cannot do anything with a stone; it has no value and no utility and nothing grows from a stone.  The only thing that made the stones R' Aba kissed special is that they were part of Eretz Yisrael.  כִּֽי־רָצ֣וּ עֲ֖בָדֶיךָ אֶת־אֲבָנֶ֑יהָ וְאֶת־עֲפָרָ֥הּ יְחֹנֵֽנוּ, the pasuk in Tehillim (102) tells us.  Rashi there quotes the Midrash that when King Yechonya went into galus, he carried with him stones from Eretz Yisrael to use to build a shul in galus.  When one of my kids went to Eretz Yisrsel I did not ask them to bring me a T-shirt or some souvenir from the shuk.  I asked them to bring me a stone from the streets of Yerushalayim.  

Yaakov Avinu is about to leave Eretz Yisrael, to travel to Charan and enter galus, so he pauses on the border, and on his last night in Eretz Yisrael, he gathers its stones around his head to embrace his homeland one final time.

While he sleeps, Yaakov has a vision and he finds himself standing in the "Beis Elokim," the makom mikdash.  Chazal tell us that even though Yaakov was geographically far from Yerushalayim, he experienced קפיצת הארץ.  The Sefas Emes (5640) explains that there is kefitza in time as well as in space.  There was not yet a Beis haMikdash for Yaakov to see; there was merely a barren, empty place.  However, because of his great love for Eretz Yisrael, Yaakov was zocheh to see the land not as it was at that moment, but as it would be in the future, when there would in fact be a Mikdash.  The Midrash writes  מְלַמֵּד שֶׁהֶרְאָה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְיַעֲקֹב בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ בָּנוּי וְחָרֵב וּבָנוּי.  Jewish history unfolded before him: the story of Eretz Yisrael's settlement, the tragedy of churban, and then reconstruction and return.  

Some people look at Eretz Yisrael with all its problems and just see rocks and stones, obstacles and difficulties.  However, if you are willing to bend down and embrace those stones, you will maybe catch a glimpse of much more, a glimpse of the future, of the land's potential, of the makom mikdash waiting to be built.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

avoid the temptation

The Sefas Emes (5650) writes that in the entirety of Vayeitzei there is no parsha break (stuma or petucha).  Yaakov blasted through the 20+ years he was in Charan at Lavan's home with no pause, no vacation.  This is the "yamaim achadim" his mother had sent him to be there for -- "achadim" = one unit, one purpose, no distractions.  Stay true to your mission, stay in your lane, and leave when it's time to leave.  

That's not so easy to do, even for a Yaakov Avinu.  When Yaakov finally does leave, Lavan chases after him.  Hashem appears to Lavan (31:24) and warns him  הִשָּׁ֧מֶר לְךָ֛ פֶּן־תְּדַבֵּ֥ר עִֽם־יַעֲקֹ֖ב מִטּ֥וֹב עַד־רָֽע.  Seforno comments (see Ramban as well):  לא תפתנו שישוב בתתך לו תקוה להיטיב עמו.  Don't tempt Yaakov to return with promises that you will do good for him.  Consider the context: Yaakov left Lavan's home not only because he overheard Lavan's children speaking ill of him, but because he received a tzivuy from Hashem to do so, and he consulted with both Rachel and Leah to get their buy in as well.  You would think that whatever Lavan might say in regards to Yaakov's returning to his home would be a waste of breath.  Yet Lavan had to be warned לא תפתנו -- don't try to tempt him.  It's hard to avoid that temptation once it's presented, no matter what the circumstance. 

If there was a danger of Yaakov being tempted to return to Charan despite the tzivuy from Hashem, despite the animosity he faced there, despite Rachel and Leah's agreement with his decision to leave, is it any wonder that we end up staying where we are and not leaving when we have the temptations of a dozen kosher restaurants in the neighborhood, multiple shuls to choose from, yeshivos for the kids, and a nice suburban home too?  

Monday, November 08, 2021

kol kavu'a

If you have 9 butcher shops selling kosher meat and 1 selling trief, and you bought a piece of meat but are not sure which store you shopped in, the din of כל קבוע כּמחצה על מחצה tells you to treat it like a 50-50 safeik issur and not rely on rov.

The Pri Megadim has a safeik what the din would be if you bought three pieces of meat from three different stores.  

Simple math tells you that 2 of the three pieces must be kosher, and so even if 1 piece is safeik treif, chad b'trei bateil.

On the other hands, in the original case, even though simple math tells you that the odds are 90% that the meat is kosher, the rule of כל קבוע says that you can't use rov to resolve the issue.  So too, maybe in this second case you throw out rov as well and it remains a 50-50 safeik on each piece.

Friday, November 05, 2021

self determination

Two quick thoughts:

1) The Ritva in his commentary on the Haggadah (on the section where we quote the pasuk ...v'eitein l'Yitzchak es Yaakov v'es Eisav) writes that Yaakov and Eisav had the same genes, they came from the same womb, they were raised in the same house, yet they turned out so differently.

We learn from here that it's not genes, it's not your birthday or mazal, it's not where or when you came from that matters.  Each person has the power to determine for him/herself what kind of person he/she will be.

2) וַיַּ֛עַן יִצְחָ֥ק אָבִ֖יו וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֑יו הִנֵּ֞ה מִשְׁמַנֵּ֤י הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ יִהְיֶ֣ה מֽוֹשָׁבֶ֔ךָ וּמִטַּ֥ל הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם מֵעָֽל

Rashi comments that the words  מִשְׁמַנֵּ֤י הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ refer to איטליא.  Why Italy and not some other place, I can't tell you, but the question I think we can address is why Rashi needed to name a specific place at all.  Just a few pesukim earlier, in the bracha given to Yaakov,  וְיִֽתֶּן־לְךָ֙ הָאֱלֹקים מִטַּל֙ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּמִשְׁמַנֵּ֖י הָאָ֑רֶץ וְרֹ֥ב דָּגָ֖ן וְתִירֹֽשׁ, we have the same words of שְׁמַנֵּ֤י הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ and there Rashi offers no comment at all; he doesn't think he has to name some specific location.  If מִשְׁמַנֵּ֤י הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ cries out for identification or explanation, why here and not there?

Secondly, if Yitzchak already gave מִשְׁמַנֵּ֖י הָאָ֑רֶץ to Yaakov, how could he now give the same to Eisav?

The Taz in Divrei David writes that there are two types of lands that can be described as מִשְׁמַנֵּ֤י הָאָ֙רֶץ֙.  There is land which is inherently fertile, filled with natural resources, easy to cultivate and develop.  Eretz Yisrael is not like that.  That doesn't mean Eretz Yisrael cannot be all of the above, but when it comes to Eretz Yisrael, it's not natural -- it's only because of yad Hashem.  

By way of analogy, when Avraham approached Mitzrayim, he said to Sarah that until that day he did not know that she was beautiful.  How can that be?  My son recently posted the hesber of the GR"A.  There is beauty which is natural, yofi, and then there is beauty that comes because Hashem gives a person a bracha of chein.  Avraham knew Sarah was beautiful, but he thought that was chein, because of a special bracha.  Now that they drew close to Mitzrayim and that special bracha of chein beauty would have been a takalah, he realized that it was not because of the bracha that she looked beautiful, but rather this was her natural, innate appearance.

When Yitzchak blessed Eisav, he gave him just a piece of land.  The word הִנֵּ֞ה that Yitzchak used in presenting the bracha  הִנֵּ֞ה מִשְׁמַנֵּ֤י הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ יִהְיֶ֣ה מֽוֹשָׁבֶ֔ךָ means here it is, the land just as it was created, with whatever maalos it has in it, no more and no less.  When he blessed Yaakov, it was וְיִֽתֶּן־לְךָ֙ הָאֱלֹקים.  It's  מִשְׁמַנֵּ֤י הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ not because that's the teva of the specific place, but rather it's because hashgachas Hashem makes it so.  

Don't think for a minute that Eisav was happy, even though he received a land that was rich and fertile.  Kuzari writes (2:14)

ועל הארץ ההיא נפלה הקנאה בין יעקב ובין עשו בדבר הבכורה והברכה ולסוף נדחה עשו על אף גבורתו מפני יעקב עם כל חלשתו

The dispute between Yaakov and Eisav, which continues to this very day, was over Eretz Yisrael.  No mere piece of real estate מִשְׁמַנֵּ֤י הָאָ֙רֶץ֙, no matter how fertile, no matter how rich in resources, can substitute for a land that affords a relationship with Hashem.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Avraham's early demise

Rashi (25:30) writes that Avraham died 5 years before his expected time so that he should not witness Eisav going off the derech:

שאותו היום מת אברהם, שלא יראה את עשו יוצא לתרבות רעה, ואין זו שיבה טובה שהבטיחו המקום, לפיכך קיצר חמש שנים משנותיו.

I guess quality of life trumps quantity of life.

The Maharasha in Mes Shabbos (130) gives a different explanation why Avraham's life was shortened.  

The Mishna there records R' Eliezer's view that machshirei milah are doche shabbos, e.g. one can sharpen the milah knife on shabbos, even though it could have been done in advance.  We don't pasken like R' Eliezer, but the gemara says that there were places that held of his shita:

 א"ר יצחק עיר אחת היתה בא"י שהיו עושין כר"א והיו מתים בזמנן

There was one town that followed his view and as a reward, no one in that town died early.

Maharasha explains that since in that town they were so careful about doing the milah on time that they would even do machshirei milah on shabbos if needed, therefore Hashem rewarded them by seeing that they live out the full amount of time allotted to them.

Adds the Maharsha, Yitzchak was the first one to receive a milah in its proper time on day eight, and therefore he lived out a full life.  Avraham only was nimol late in life, and we see that his life was cut short.

(It's an interesting chidush because Avraham was not given the mitzvah of milah until late in life.  It's not like he delayed doing what he had been commanded, so why should he lose out?  It must be that it is a metziyus that having the milah in the proper time, b'zmano on day 8, grants one an extended life in a way that not having it then, whether by choice or not, does not.) 

the double blessing

  וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הַקֹּל֙ ק֣וֹל יַעֲקֹ֔ב וְהַיָּדַ֖יִם יְדֵ֥י עֵשָֽׂו

If the kol was kol Yaakov but the yadyim indicated that it was Eisav, then Yitzchak should have been perplexed.  Was it Yaakov or was it Eisav?  Why then did he proceed to give the brachos without first figuring out what was going on?

The Beis haLevi has a famous clever answer to this, but I wanted to share with you the approach of R' Reuvain Katz, the Degel Reuvain, in his sefer on chumash.  

He writes that in reality, the bracha of Yitzchak was two blessings in one.  Firstly, a bracha of success in olam ha'zeh:

 וְיִֽתֶּן־לְךָ֙ הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים מִטַּל֙ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּמִשְׁמַנֵּ֖י הָאָ֑רֶץ וְרֹ֥ב דָּגָ֖ן וְתִירֹֽשׁ

And secondly, a bracha of ruchniyus

 הֱוֵ֤ה גְבִיר֙ לְאַחֶ֔יךָ וְיִשְׁתַּחֲו֥וּ לְךָ֖ בְּנֵ֣י אִמֶּ֑ךָ אֹרְרֶ֣יךָ אָר֔וּר וּֽמְבָרְכֶ֖יךָ בָּרֽוּךְ

Which in effect was the bracha of Avraham Avinu from back in Lech Lecha. 

Yitzchak may not have known the full extent of Eisav's wickedness, but even so, he never intended this second bracha of ruchniyus to be his.  He knew that Rivka had been told that  וְרַ֖ב יַעֲבֹ֥ד צָעִֽיר, and therefore he could never have promised Eisav  הֱוֵ֤ה גְבִיר֙ לְאַחֶ֔יךָ ,contrary to the dvar Hashem.  What he intended was that Eisav should receive that first bracha, the bracha of success in olam ha'zeh, and Eisav would use that to help Yaakov, who would receive the second bracha and remain the yosheiv ohalim.  This would be the perfect Yisachar/Zevulun partnership.    

When Yitzchak heard Yaakov's voice but then felt the hairy skin of Eisav, הַקֹּל֙ ק֣וֹל יַעֲקֹ֔ב וְהַיָּדַ֖יִם יְדֵ֥י עֵשָֽׂו, he thought both brothers had come in together to serve him.  This was perfect -- now he could bless both brothers at once, each with the bracha appropriate for his needs.  

When Yitzchak realized that someone other than Eisav had taken the first bracha, he exclaimed

וַיֶּחֱרַ֨ד יִצְחָ֣ק חֲרָדָה֮ גְּדֹלָ֣ה עַד־מְאֹד֒ וַיֹּ֡אמֶר מִֽי־אֵפ֡וֹא ה֣וּא הַצָּֽד־צַ֩יִד֩ וַיָּ֨בֵא לִ֜י וָאֹכַ֥ל מִכֹּ֛ל בְּטֶ֥רֶם תָּב֖וֹא וָאֲבָרְכֵ֑הוּ גַּם־בָּר֖וּךְ יִהְיֶֽה׃

The Midrash comments on the words גַּם־בָּר֖וּךְ יִהְיֶֽה that we see that Yitzchak gave his stamp of approval to Yaakov's blessing irrespective of any trickery.  So how do you explain the first part of the pasuk?  R' Katz explains that the Midrash is speaking about the second bracha which was meant all along for Yaakov; on that, גַּם־בָּר֖וּךְ יִהְיֶֽה.  The first part of the pasuk is talking about the first bracha that had been meant for Eisav, and that bracha Yitzchak was worried had gone to the wrong person.

Look at how the possessive repeats itself in these pesukim:

וַיֹּ֕אמֶר בָּ֥א אָחִ֖יךָ בְּמִרְמָ֑ה וַיִּקַּ֖ח בִּרְכָתֶֽךָ -- Yaakov took YOUR bracha 

 וַיֹּ֡אמֶר הֲכִי֩ קָרָ֨א שְׁמ֜וֹ יַעֲקֹ֗ב וַֽיַּעְקְבֵ֙נִי֙ זֶ֣ה פַעֲמַ֔יִם אֶת־בְּכֹרָתִ֣י לָקָ֔ח וְהִנֵּ֥ה עַתָּ֖ה לָקַ֣ח בִּרְכָתִ֑י -- he took MY bracha

Eisav is so upset not because Yaakov got a blessing -- why should he not? -- but because Yaakov got the blessing that was supposed to go to him.  What business does Yaakov, the yosehiv ohalim, have with a bracha for material success?  

This is why Yitzchak responded to Eisav's plea to give him a bracha as well that הֵ֣ן גְּבִ֞יר שַׂמְתִּ֥יו לָךְ֙ וְאֶת־כׇּל־אֶחָ֗יו נָתַ֤תִּי לוֹ֙ לַעֲבָדִ֔ים וְדָגָ֥ן וְתִירֹ֖שׁ סְמַכְתִּ֑יו וּלְכָ֣ה אֵפ֔וֹא מָ֥ה אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֖ה בְּנִֽי.  Yitzchak was saying that he already gave Yaakov the blessing of olam ha'zeh as well, the bracha that had been meant for Eisav.  He could not give Eisav a bracha of ruchniyus, so what else was left to give?