epar68009.rtf the west. There is no way that one who is fanatically ideological will
בס"ד surrender if "his electricity is cut off" (the same is true of the Hamas in
PARASHAT HASHAVUA Azza). This is especially true if the economic sanctions are barely
enough to scratch the hide of this dragon.
Just as there is no hope for economic pressure, so there is no hope
PARASHA :VaYishlach that social pressure will have any effect. Any attempt to ban this tyrant
from the family of nations and to pull the neutral countries onto the
Date :14 Kislev 5768 24/11/2007 "good" side is doomed to failure. Just the opposite is true – an attempt to
―The Best of Parashat HaShavuah‖ Articles taken from list convince the nations within the context of the United Nations, for
subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for example, will only achieve the opposite effect – the demon will be given a
members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (Editor: Arieh Yarden) new opportunity to voice his beliefs, and the overt and covert support for
Dedicated to the loving memory of Avi Mori him will increase.
Moshe Reuven ben Yaakov z”l The war of civilizations that engulfs us, a war between radical Islam
Please respect the Holiness of these pages and the western world, will only be won by cutting off the dragon's head.
These pages are also sent out weekly via the internet in MS Word What we need in this case is prayer and war, not a gift. It is true that
format. Anyone who is interested in receiving them, can subscribe via Yaacov tried to calm and placate his brother with a gift, as is quoted at
the Parasha web site: http://parasha.sde.org.il/eparasha - Arieh. the beginning of this column – flocks of goats, camels, cows, and
donkeys. But he knew very well, and in fact he explicitly declared, that
1 - SHABBAT B’SHABBATO (Tzomet)
Extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel;
these economic measures were only temporary, "until I join my lord at
Sei'ir" [33:14], as a prelude to the war of Gog and Magog (see Rashi).
http://www.moreshet.co.il/zomet/index-e.html I am not calling for an initiative, starting the War of Gog and Magog
STARTING POINT: "And Yaacov Remained Alone – right now, immediately and at any cost. However, we must be aware that
the tyrant is "playing with fire" in this apocalyptic fateful era of the world,
And a Man Fought with Him" related to creation and total destruction. T he world must come to realize
- by Rabbi Amnon Bazak, Yeshivat Har Etzion that these messianic concepts must be taken into account in the
Many questions have been asked about the story of Yaacov's considerations in general and with respect to the question of timing in
struggle with the mysterious "man." For example: What is the particular. We cannot escape from them, even by such devices as a "gift"
significance of this fight, and why at the end, which is a victory and a or "sanctions."
blessing for Yaacov, does Yaacov become lame? Let us try to analyze Christianity and Islam
this amazing story and understand what it means. The Holocaust was at its most profound a great battle and a
Yaacov made many preparations for his meeting with Eisav. He bloodbath fought by Christian Europe against Judaism. Philosophers saw
divided his people into two camps, he prayed to the Almighty, and he Nazi anti-Semitism as an outgrowth of Christianity. We Jews were
prepared a gift. The Torah differentiates between the two main crystallized by this hell, and the state of Israel rose up. "And he struck
preparations – prayer and a gift – and ends both their descriptions Yaacov's thigh when he fought against him... And he fought with him until
similarly: "And he slept there that night" [Bereishit 32:14]; "And he slept in the sun rose" [32:25-26]. And now the turn of Islam has come - the sword
the camp that night" [32:22]. The commentators do not agree about of the desert, the sword of the wild inhabitants of the wilderness.
whether Yaacov was right to prepare the way he did or if he should have I think in the past I have quoted an amazing passage written by
simply trusted in G-d and not sent gifts to Eisav. The simple reading of Rabeinu Bechayei about Yishmael and Eisav: "'And your G-d will send all
the passage implies that the Torah does not criticize Yaacov for his of these curses on your enemies and those who hate you' [Devarim 30:7]
preparations. This is reasonable, in that a person should not depend on – 'Those who hate you' refers to Yishmael, and 'your enemies' are Eisav,
the occurrence of a miracle. Yaacov did everything in his power to as is written, 'And I hated Eisav' [Malachi 1:3]. These are the two nations
defend his household, including praying to G-d for help. who have enslaved us and among whom we are dispersed... 'Enemies' is
However, it would seem that the Torah purposely emphasizes twice used for Yishmael and 'hatred' is used for Eisav, since an enemy is
that Yaacov slept in the camp in order to point out the fact that the worse than one who hates... An enemy maintains an eternal loathing...
situation changed after he finished his preparations. "And he rose in the Yishmael is like a 'maidservant who inherits from her master,' since he is
night and took his two wives and his two maidservants, together with his descended from Hagar. The children of Yishmael are worse for Yisrael
eleven children... and he sent all that he had across the Yabok crossing" than the children of Eisav, and they are therefore called 'enemies'... As
[32:23-24]. Evidently in the middle of the night Yaacov woke up and Yeshayahu wrote, 'Those who sanctify themselves and those who clean
found that in his heart he still felt fear. Yaacov did not depend on his themselves...' Those who sanctify themselves are the children of Eisav,
having divided the people into two camps or the prayer and the gift to who wave their fingers back and forth, and those who clean themselves
Eisav. Rather, he added another step – he sent all of his people and his are the children of Yishmael, who wash their hands and feet but not their
property across the river. hearts. 'Those who eat the flesh of the pig' are Eisav, and those who eat
At this point Yaacov went beyond the necessary preparations, and 'the vermin and the mouse' are Yishmael. And 'they will be consumed
that is why there was an immediate reaction. "And Yaacov remained together, G-d says' [Yeshayahu 66:17]."
alone, and a man fought with him until daybreak" [32:25]. The verse We must maintain a united front against both Eisav and Yishmael,
implies that if Yaacov had not remained alone – if he had not woken up and this refers symbolically to Christianity and Islam. We are currently in
and sent everybody away – the entire struggle might not have taken the time when Yishmael is most relevant, and the entire world is gripped
place. But Yaacov, who was not able to sleep because of his fears, was in a vise. Rabeinu Behayei warns us, and we can only echo his cry: "The
thus forced to spend the rest of the night fighting the mysterious man. children of Yishmael are worse for Yisrael than the children of Eisav... an
This struggle showed Yaacov that his fears were groundless. He was enemy is worse than one who hates."
able to overpower the man and even to demand a blessing. In the Who Will Light the Critical Spark?
blessing, the man reveals his identity and the reason for his task: "For At the end of this week's Torah portion, the leaders of Eisav and his
you have succeeded against G-d" – it is thus clear that he could fight descendents are enumerated in such detail that we can only wonder why
"against man and succeed" [32:29]. If previously Yaacov feared his this is necessary. Rashi comments on this in the beginning of the portion
meeting with Eisav – "and afterwards I will see his face, perhaps he will of Vayeishev. "Yaacov saw the many leaders listed, and wondered how it
view me with favor" [32:21] – his faith was now stronger. "For I have met would be possible to conquer them all. But what is written? ... 'And the
G-d face to face and I have survived" [32:31]. He could thus be sure that house of Yaacov will be a fire and the house of Yosef a flame, while the
he would be rescued from his meeting with Eisav. house of Eisav will be straw' [Ovadia 1:18 ]. A spark will emanate from
However, Yaacov was punished because of his momentary Yosef which will burn and consume them all."
weakness in the middle of the night, and his thigh was injured. From this Humanity should take heed and anticipate the need for striking,
point on Yaacov will remember what was revealed that night, as will all of sending out a preemptive spark, before an Iranian flame rises up to
Bnei Yisrael who are forbidden to eat the tendon: After all the proper consume the entire world.
preparations have been made, it is necessary to remain strong and
maintain the trust in G-d. RESPONSA FOR OUR TIMES: Moving an Electrical
POINT OF VIEW: The Iranian Dragon Appliance on Shabbat
- by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, Director of Zomet Institute - by Rabbi Re'eim Hacohen, Rosh Yeshiva and Chief Rabbi, Otniel
"He prepared himself for three alternatives: a gift, prayer, and war" Question: (1) Is one permitted on Shabbat to move an electric light or a
[Rashi, Bereishit 32:9]. heater from one place to another? (2) If the power to the house is cut off,
"It is a well known halacha that Eisav hates Yaacov" [Rashi 33:4]. can the wire of an emergency lamp be removed from the socket so that
Frightening strong winds are blowing from the Persian Gulf , the lamp can be moved from place to place?
declarations by the ruler of Iran who is threatening humanity and the Answer: Moving a Light. We have been taught in the Mishna, "A new
entire world without any apparent reason. The evil man from Iran focuses candle can be moved but not an old one. Rabbi Shimon says: All candles
on Israel, reminding us and the entire world that we are at the center of can be moved except for one that is lit on Shabbat." [Shabbat 3:6]. That
humanity, whether we want to be or not. This demon develops weapons is, everybody agrees that it is forbidden to move a burning candle. Rava
of mass destruction, completely ignoring the warnings of the free world. explains that the reason is because the candle serves as "the basis for a
At the same time, this dragon shoots frightening bursts of fire and forbidden object." Rashi explains that the reason for the ruling is indeed
declares that Israel has no right to exist, denies the Holocaust, and the prohibition of moving something that is a base for a forbidden object
sends other fearful messages. and not out of a fear that the person might extinguish the candle
What Drives This Demon? (Shabbat 47a). The Ritva explains that the flame itself is "muktzeh" – it
Without any doubt, the motive of this oppressor of the world and must not be moved – because it is forbidden to touch it. It seems likely
enemy of the Jews is not related to his own personal interests. He is evil, that according to the Ritva the reason that one is not permitted to touch a
he is Shiite, he is close to Bin Laden, he is related to the Holocaust, and flame is out of a fear of extinguishing it.
he is apocalyptic. The "free world" is making a grave mistake in thinking Why is a flame muktzeh? The Chazon Ish gives two possible
that this demon will retreat as a result of economic sanctions. A vision reasons. (1) In general a candle is not moved in order to avoid putting
that is fueled by ideology, especially by satanic flames, will not be out the flame. (2) The normal way of using a candle on Shabbat is to
abandoned because of "limitations on commerce" or "frozen assets" in leave it in one place, and therefore it should not be moved. In Minchat
Shlomo (14), Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach rejects the
second reason. His proof is that one is not permitted to move a lantern The doctor said to him: "Look how much your behavior cost you. If
that has a candle inside it, even though this is the usual way a lantern is you had been smart you would have acted like other people from the
used (Shulchan Aruch 279:9). Rabbi Auerbach also disagrees with the very start and invested a small amount to maintain your health. If you
first reason of the Chazon Ish, saying that the fear of putting out the had done this, you would not have become sick and not have been
flame is not the reason for the prohibition of moving a candle but rather forced to spend so much money on a cure!"
the fact that in everyday use a candle is not moved around. Rabbi ******
Auerbach explains the fact that the flame is muktzeh in a different way – The Chafetz Chaim added the following note about this parable: Like
since the flame changes all the time and does not have any material this miser, we sometimes gather "small" sins which we could have easily
substance, it cannot be considered a material object, and it therefore avoided. But once we have become used to these actions and dirtied our
cannot be moved on Shabbat. souls, the cost of preventing further sins becomes very great indeed...
Moving Electric Equipment. Assuming that the reason a candle (Source: Parables of the Chafetz Chaim)
cannot be moved is because of the flame, then both of the above Reactions and Suggestions for Stories: firstname.lastname@example.org
considerations imply that electrical equipment such as a lamp or a heater TOURING THE LAND: On the Road to Efrat
can be moved on Shabbat: The appliances do not have an active flame, - by the Kefar Etzion Field School
there is no fear that they will be turned off, and in normal use they are "October 7, 1946 : A woman who arrived in the land only one week
moved around. However, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef permits moving only a fan ago came to visit Rachel's grave. Weeping with tears, she cried out:
and forbids moving any other electrical device (Yalkut Yosef 308). This is 'Where will the few who remain be able to go, without clothing and any
because he does not accept the reasoning of the Chazon Ish, which possessions? There is no other place than Eretz Yisrael. Rachel, Rachel!
bases the prohibition on the existence of a flame. As far as the opinion of How long will we be without a homeland? I want a homeland, and only in
Rabbi Auerbach is concerned, Rabbi Yosef feels that a mistake was Eretz Yisrael! Six million Jews were lost. Enough is enough!'" [Diary of
made in copying down his words. However, this does not seem to be Rachel's Grave].
true, since in "Shulchan Shlomo" Rabbi Auerbach's opinion is quoted in Among all the holy graves that exist in the length and breadth of the
strong terms: "He did not see any reason to forbid this action" (page land, the grave of our Matriarch Rachel has a unique significance. The
299). image of Rachel weeping for her children who are being taken into
Another reason for allowing appliances connected to a power source captivity has helped transform her into a symbol of consolation, return,
to be moved is brought by Rav Kook, who writes that the decree of and redemption.
muktzeh is related to the prohibition of removing an object from a private Where is Rachel buried? The answer is given in this week's Torah
area, but that this is not relevant for equipment that is connected to a portion. "And they journeyed from Beit El, and there was yet a way to go
wire ("Orach Mishpat" 47). Since the considerations of the Chazon Ish before arriving at Efrat. And Rachel gave birth, but she had difficulty with
and Rabbi Auerbach are reasonable and in addition the laws of muktzeh the birth... Rachel died on the road to Efrat, which is Beit Lechem.
are rabbinical decrees, it is clear that one is permitted to move [Bereishit 35:16,19]. This tells us that Rachel was buried between Beit El
appliances which are moved around in normal use. and Beit Lechem.
Disconnecting an Emergency Lamp during a Blackout. Emergency What is the meaning of the term "a way to go" ("kivrat ha'aretz")?
lights are usually connected to the power source, and when the current is According to the Ramban, it denotes a short distance on foot. This is
interrupted the light goes on automatically. Thus, as long as the power consistent with the accepted site of Rachel's grave, about which there
source is live it is clearly forbidden to remove the wire from the socket. has been continuous testimony from the Byzantine era.
The Shulchan Aruch rules that if something was muktzeh when Shabbat On the other hand, Shmuel's words to Shaul imply that Rachel was
started it maintains this status for all of Shabbat (279). This would imply buried in the area belonging to the tribe of Binyamin: "When you leave
that an emergency lamp cannot be disconnected if there is a power loss, me today you will find two men at Rachel's grave on the border of
since the lamp was in a state of muktzeh on Friday night when Shabbat Binyamin, at Tzeltzach" [Shmuel I 10:2].
began. The sages tried to explain this contradiction while accepting the
However, in my humble opinion, at a time of a power loss, when version in Bereishit. According to Yoel Elitzur, the verse in Shmuel does
there is no current in the line, it is permitted to remove the plug from the not refer to a geographical description but a spiritual one: Men who have
outlet. It can be assumed that the intention of the person when Shabbat just come from Rachel's grave (in the heritage of Yehuda) are at a high
began was that in case of a power loss he would be able to move the spiritual level, and Shaul will meet them at the border of Binyamin's
lamp around. (An emergency lamp is thus different from a regular lamp heritage.
which was on at the start of Shabbat). I discussed this matter with Rabbi This is the only mention in the Tanach of visiting a grave, and it
Avigdor Neventzal, and he agreed and also gave me permission to implies that a visit to Rachel's grave is indeed especially significant. In
publicize his opinion. In summary: An electric lamp and electric honor of this week's Torah portion, which describes Rachel's burial, we
heaters may be moved around on Shabbat. If there is a power failure, an can visit the gravesite, and listen to the promise by the prophet
emergency lamp may be unplugged and moved around. Yirmiyahu: "This is what G-d says: Refrain from weeping and from having
A LESSON FOR THE CHILDREN: The Miser tears in your eyes, for there is a reward for your actions, G-d says, and
- by Rabbi Yikhat Rozen, Merkaz Neria, Kiryat Malachi they will return from the land of the enemy, and there is hope for the
There was once a very great miser. He had amassed great wealth in future, G-d says. And the children will return to their border." [31:15-16].
his life. But he did not allow himself to "waste" the money, he was careful (Written by: Areleh Meitlis)
not to give out a single penny unless it was absolutely necessary, in Field trips:
order not to decrease his great wealth, which he wanted to increase Throughout the holiday of Chanukah: A festival of field trips –
more and more. Those who came to collect charity always left his house Herodion, the Chariton Cave, Wadi Kelt, Canada Park, the Ben Shemen
very disappointed. Forest, the Og Riverbed, and more.
The miser did not take proper care of himself either. He never bought 29 Kislev-1 Tevet (9-10 December): A trip through the desert, from
any luxuries. He would say, it is best for a man to be satisfied with the Chevron mountains to Ein Gedi (separate for youth and adults)
barest minimum and he will never lack for money in a time of need. He 1-2 Tevet (10-11 December): Recreation camp – the Jewish
would buy new clothing only every few years, and it was always the settlements in the War of Independence – Aryeh Rotenberg
simplest kind possible. He would stand in a store for a long time Trip to Jordan – Shai Baitner
comparing food prices, and he always took the cheapest brand he could Contact: Kefar Etzion Field School , 02-9935133, www.k-etzion.co.il
find. Such items as a book, a game, or a toy could never be found in his MEN OF YISRAEL: Against "Pilpul"
house. It goes without saying that it never occurred to him to spend - by Rabbi Uri Dasberg, Machon Zomet
money on decorating his house with such items as pictures, plants, or Allow me to introduce myself: I am the MAHARASH from Ostraha,
other "useless" items. one of the main opponents of the teaching system that was instituted in
The thing that upset him most was the amount of money that he Poland by Rabbi Yaacov Pollack. This is the system of "pilpul," with
spent on food. This was always his biggest expense, and it made him intricate hairsplitting in a pedantic way. It is said that one time Rabbi
feel that he was wasting too much of his precious wealth. He said, "I Pollack's students removed several pages of the Talmud, and he did not
must decrease how much I spend on food. I can get along with less to notice the discrepancy but instead was able to explain how the separate
eat and I can buy simpler and cheaper foods. Nothing bad will happen if I passages were related. Does this look like a serious study effort? As far
learn to manage with less." And he proceeded to do just that. From that as I am concerned, such an approach is an utter waste of paper and ink.
day on he decreased his food expenses by teaching himself to eat less, More than once, my criticism has resulted in insults and a revolt of the
in terms of both amount and quality. students against me. However, I am willing to hear a rebuke – I even
For a while, the miser managed in his new situation, but ever so asked one who rebuked me to come every day to speak to me, for a
slowly his body began to demand what it needed. He became very weak, whole year. But I refuse to be insulted.
with strong headaches and other sicknesses. One time he became very It happened once that I wanted to rule that the phrase "there is
ill, so that he could not avoid going to a doctor. The doctor checked him happiness in His dwelling place" can be added to the introduction to the
thoroughly and decided that he was in a generally weak condition, and Grace After Meals even when both men and women are present, but this
that he must take some medicine that would help his body regain its led to great controversy. And in the end I forbid using the phrase,
strength. Afterwards, the man would be required to eat a nutritious and "because there is no happiness before the Almighty's place at such a
balanced diet, which would restore him to health. The medicine was very time." On the other hand, I did not refrain from ruling that in principle one
expensive, costing a few thousand Shekels, but the doctor said he had may recite a blessing while his head is not covered, and that since
no choice. covering the head is only an act of piety "it is sufficient to cover the head
The miser heard this and left the doctor's office very disappointed. Of with one's hand, especially when this happens by chance." I also
course, he decided, he would not allow himself to buy such expensive opposed the ruling of the Geonim, and I feel that the wife and children of
medicine. He would try to cure himself without resorting to such an a man who has been banned should not be expelled from the
expense. But the miser's body would not listen to this foolish desire. His synagogue. I said, "G-d forbid that we should shame a daughter of
health became steadily worse, and eventually he was carried to the Yisrael for no good reason."
doctor's office on a stretcher. This time he agreed to what the doctor I criticized Rabbi Yosef Karo for sometimes copying into the
prescribed. He paid the full price for the medicines, and the entire Shulchan Aruch from books that were not properly proofread. I myself
process of curing him cost hundreds of thousands of Shekels. wrote an entire book of corrections of the text of the Talmud, and those
who printed the Talmud were so eager to accept my
comments that they corrected their texts based on what I wrote. My book We should make every possible effort to avoid paying interest. A ny
is included in the printed versions of the Talmud, but since some of my such loan is based on a heter iskah, which has many more halachic
comments have been incorporated into the text large sections of my problems than the heter mechirah of Shemitta. A heter iskah should be
original book have not been printed, and this is a pity. limited to a case of great need, such as financing to start a new company
I wrote to my friend and colleague, Rabbi Moshe Isserlish, who made or to buy a house. This is what the sages had in mind when they
comments on the Shulchan Aruch, that instead of delving into the invented the device of a heter iskah, buying a house or investing in a
wisdom of Aristotle and the philosophers it would have been better to business that will eventually be profitable. But using the device of heter
study grammar. In this way, he would not have made errors in such iskah for a loan that will be used to buy a better car or go on vacation is
matters as the active and the passive, male and female, and singular and much more problematic.
plural. As far as I am concerned it is completely wrong to be involved in Financial surveys show that more than 15% of the money that we
philosophy, "woe is to me that my eyes saw in addition to what my ears earn during our lifetime is eventually transferred to banks in one form or
heard," including quotes from the approach of the Gentile Aristotle. another of interest. An average man might earn a total of five million
Who is Our Subject? The above section is "taken" from the diary of Shekels during his lifetime. This means that he pays an average of
Rabbi Shlomo Luria, the Maharshal. It is based on his book of Responsa almost one million Shekels as interest to banks (as a mortgage, for
and on the book "Yam Shel Shlomo" on eight tractates of the Talmud. On overdrafts, and for other types of loans). Every time we manage not to
his gravestone in Lublin it is written that he was called to heaven on the take a loan, we are saving ourselves money. There are social
twelfth of Kislev 5334 (1574). His corrections of the text of the Talmud organizations that give financial advice, and they are very opposed to
were collected by his sons and students into the book, "Chochmat negative balances in bank accounts. "The more money we waste, the
Shlomo." Those who printed the Talmud corrected the text and the text more will eventually be needed to cover the loss. Why shouldn't we do it
of Rashi according to his comments, and they therefore felt that they now and decrease the interest that we pay?"
could abridge the copy of the book "Chochmat Shlomo" printed at the A negative balance in the bank is a problem not only in social terms
end of the tractates. It is often difficult to understand a comment in his but also in terms of the halacha. Taking a loan on interest is both
book since the text in the Talmud has already been corrected according unreasonable and also halachically wrong.
to his recommendation. A CHASSIDIC THREAD : Counting Animals as
Words of Torah by our Subject: The TUR rules that "chalitza" (the Therapy
ceremony releasing a woman from marrying her brother-in-law after her
- by Rabbi Shlomo Shok, teacher in Yeshivat Siach and Nokdim Prep-
husband dies without children) must be performed with the right foot, but school
that if the man is left-handed the left foot should be used (Even Ha'ezer
Everybody can imagine for himself how frightened he would be
169). The source for this is that one who is left-handed wears tefillin on before a meeting with a brother who was a gangland leader, and who
his right hand. But the Maharshal does not agree that chalitza and tefillin also had a serious grudge against him. "He has four hundred men with
are similar. The Torah writes that tefillin should be "tied onto on your
hand as a symbol" [Shemot 13:16 ] – spelled in a way that implies the him. So Yaacov was very scared... He will strike me, mother and
children." [Bereishit 32:7-8,12]. Yaacov is in a very nerve-wracking
weaker hand should be used, and for a left-handed man this means to
use the right hand. Any other mitzva, such as chalitza, should be done situation, where he might easily lose control and bring about the very
destruction of himself and his camp which he fears.
with the right hand or foot, and not necessarily using the side with greater A state of fright can cause a person to freeze. Eastern culture
strength. recognizes a spiritual state called "stopping." This is a spiritual form of
Rabbi Efraim Zalman Margaliot from Brody agreed with the TUR. He
explains that the word "right" has two meanings: (1) strong; (2) one side paralysis, leading to a lack of receptiveness and the possibility of a great
of the body. For most people, the two definitions are the same, but for a fall. In the art of fencing, there is a situation where a sword lifted up by
one of the combatants captures the attention of his foe and thereby takes
left-handed person the "right" side is the stronger one, which is on the complete control of him. When we can free ourselves of our enemy's
left. He proves this from this week's Torah portion, as follows: While
threatening sword and no longer think about it, thus no longer having any
Rachel, before she died, called her son "Ben-Oni," Yaacov called him
Binyamin (Bereishit 35:18). It is surprising that Yaacov does not follow interest in the contrast between him and us, we can raise up from within
the dying wishes of his beloved wife. But in reality Yaacov did act our own selves a movement that is completely free, which will lead us to
according to Rachel's desire. "Ben-Oni" refers to strength, which is the victory.
The Torah tells us that Yaacov arranges for a gift for Eisav "from
true meaning of Binyamin. As the Ramban comments, "This refers to
whatever he had at hand" [32:14]. This corresponds to a state of
power and strength... In this way, he called his son by the name given to
him by his mother." Rachel referred to "Oni" her own strength, while pressure and a loss of control. Yaacov is evidently not free, he has lost
Yaacov referred to strength in general. control to his fear of Eisav. Yaacov cannot free himself of Eisav's sword,
and he loses his own internal ability to decide what to do. He therefore
HOLY AND SECULAR : Two Halachic Devices gathers together a random group of animals which might be used to
- by Rabbi Amichai Gordin, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Shaalvim High placate his brother, who has evil plans. But in the end the Torah gives us
School a well ordered list of the cattle which Yaacov sends to Eisav: "Two
Farmer: You want some vegetables? hundred goats, twenty Billy goats, two hundred sheep, and twenty rams"
Banker: Did you grow them on Shemitta? [32:15].
Farmer: Yes, but don't worry, I signed a "heter mechirah." The Torah is telling us that Yaacov started to organize his gift to
Banker: This "heter" is a fiction that was invented in recent Eisav haphazardly, out of fear, but in the end he regained his composure
generations. After all, everybody knows that you do not really want to sell and was able to free himself from Eisav's upraised sword. He was freed
your field. What you want to do is avoid the mitzva of Shemitta. of the hypnotizing fear stemming from the sword, and he was able to
Farmer: What do you want me to do with my field? How will I support concentrate on a well organized list of cattle, which he would send to his
my family? The Torah gave the sages a way to make decrees under brother.
certain circumstances so that we can continue living. If Yaacov had not managed to free himself from the fear, it would
Banker: I don't believe in trickery. We must observe G-d's mitzvot in have become a trap in itself. Eisav might have sensed Yaacov's
the simplest and most straightforward way. Have faith in G-d and he will weakness and taken advantage of it, transforming the meeting with his
take care of your family and your livelihood! brother into a great tragedy.
****** HALACHA FROM THE SOURCE : The Shabbat
Banker: Can I offer you a loan at an attractive interest rate?
Farmer: You charge interest!? Prohibition of Selecting
Banker: Sure, but you don't have to worry, we will make a "heter - by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Rabbi of Southern Alon Shevut and a
iskah." We will sign a contract that states that the money is – as it were – teacher in Yeshivat Har Etzion
invested in your business, and the interest is considered a profit from the There are two prohibitions on Shabbat which are related to "borair,"
business. making a selection: "zora" and "meraked". We will try to explain these
Farmer: This "heter" is a fiction that was invented about three two types of labor briefly in terms of their relation to the process of
hundred and fifty years ago. It is clear that we are not really business transforming wheat into flour. All of this labor was performed in the
partners at all. I can take the loan and use it to buy a ticket for a pleasure Tabernacle as part of making dyes (which were used to die the leather in
trip. This is not a business deal in any way. the Tabernacle).
Banker: But in order for a viable economic market to exist, anybody Raw grains of wheat are covered with an outer skin. Before the
who gets a loan must pay interest. The Torah gave the sages a way to wheat can be ground, the skin must be removed, leaving clean grains.
make decrees so that we can continue to live. How is this done?
Farmer: I am sorry, but I don't believe in trickery. I believe that we Stage 1: "Dash" – Threshing. The straw and the chaff are removed
must observe the G-d's mitzvot in the simplest and most straightforward by beating the raw grains, such that the skin is broken, revealing the
way. Have faith in G-d!! grain of wheat. During the time of the Tanach, this was performed using
****** a tool called "morag charutz" – a threshing tool, which is a wooden tool
The above interesting comparison between a "heter mechirah" (used that has knives at the bottom. When this was passed over the grains,
to allow agricultural work during Shemitta) and a "heter iskah" (to allow they would break up into their separate parts.
taking interest on a loan) can lead to many important conclusions about Stage 2: "Zoreh" – Winnowing. Separating the skin and the straw
the heter mechirah. The observance of Shemitta in modern times is only from the seeds, by throwing the raw grains into the wind. The relatively
a rabbinical decree. The prohibition of taking interest, on the other hand, light straw and skin are blown away in the wind.'
is a Torah law. Those of us who take the problems of making use of the Stage 3: "Borair" – Selecting. Removing the heavier waste (which is
heter mechirah so seriously should certainly not make light of the not blown away in the wind), such as stones and gravel.
problems of a heter iskah. Taking interest on a loan is a violation of an Stage 4: "Tochen" – grinding. The seeds are ground into flour.
explicit command in the Torah. (It should be noted that there is a Stage 5: "Meraked" – Sifting. This refers to separating the flour from
significant difference between a loan given by a private person and one the coarser bran. The fine flour passes through the sieve while the
given by a financial institution. The most serious problem in paying course material remains on top. This action is performed by vibrating the
interest is when a bank makes a loan. When we lend money to a bank, raw flour, sending it through the sieve.
the situation is simpler.) It is clear that the three steps of zoreh, borair, and meraked are
similar. Their common goal is to separate one element
from another. But in each case a different operation is performed: zoreh Answer: Obviously this strange and bizarre suggestion is pure
is done using the wind, borair is done by hand, and meraked uses a nonsense. It is well-known that the mitzvah of the Land of Israel may be
special tool. divided into three parts:
The Talmud explains that these three prohibitions are listed 1) Living in the Land. Every Jew must live in Israel and not in
separately (in the list of thirty-nine prohibited labors) because each one Babylonia, New York or anywhere else on earth.
was performed as a separate operation in the Tabernacle, and every 2) Settling the Land. The Land must be built, settled, filled with Jews,
such labor is counted separately with respect to Shabbat. Thus, our filled with factories, fields and vineyards. As Ramban wrote: "We must
discussion of borair – sorting – involves principles related to all three never abandon it to desolation" (Positive Commandment 4 of Ramban's
prohibitions, since they all have the same objective – to separate two or additions to Rambam's Sefer HaMitzvot).
more objects. 3) Occupying the Land. The Torah commands, "You shall clear out
The prohibition of borair involves very fine distinctions between what the Land" (Numbers 33:53); and, "Inherit the Land" (Deuteronomy 4:1).
is permitted and what is prohibited. For this reason, the only way to fully These commands refer to the people taking ownership of the Land. As
understand it is to study it very carefully. Ramban said, "We mustn't leave it in the hands of any other nation"
The concept behind the prohibition - The Ramchal discusses the (ibid.). This land must not be left in the hands of any other people, but
following question ("Derech Hashem," "Da'at Tevunot"): Why did the only our people.
Almighty, who does only good for everything, create a world where there This mitzvah requires self-sacrifice. Without self-sacrifice it won't
is both good and bad? He explains that if we had received all the good at work out. No nation on earth succeeds in holding on to its independence
once it would not really be good for us. Real good stems from the fact without self-sacrifice, all the more so the Jewish People. Everything we
that a person expends an effort and selects the good from the bad. If we have today in our land has come by way of self-sacrifice: 1) Self-sacrifice
would be given the good all at once in a perfect way, it would be a free to move to Israel, even in face of danger, even traveling through deserts
gift. This in itself would not be good, rather it would cause the recipient to or by ship; 2) Self-sacrifice, down through the generations, to establish
feel ashamed. settlements in the Land, to establish neighborhoods and to build. Such
And this idea can perhaps explain the significance of the prohibitio n self-sacrifice was exhibited by all Jews, secular, religious and Hareidi; 3)
of borair. The labor involved in making a selection is minor and The self-sacrifice exhibited by our army in occupying our land.
insignificant. All we are doing is separating a peel from a seed or pebbles The rule is this: This entire land has to be under our sovereignty
from wheat. However, aside from the importance of preparing food, there (Ramban, ibid.). There is a place for non-Jews living here, under certain
is a special significance to the very concept of selection. It may be seen conditions (Ramban, ibid.), just as such conditions exist in every country
in a material way in this case, but it is also an expression of the spiritual on earth. Whoever wishes to live in a particular country must certainly
concept of selection, which is a central part of the foundation of how we fulfill its laws and practices. He must certainly not be involved in the
serve G-d. murder of its citizens. There is room for deliberating on which non-Jews
should be allowed to live here, in accordance with their religion and
nationality, wickedness or faithfulness – yet all this is referring to a
2 - MACHON MEIR
MACHON MEIR http://www.machonmeir.org.il/english/main_id.asp?leng=English&len_id=2
private calculation. If an Arab has a house or field, accompanied by proof
that it is indeed his, and not just stolen – we won't take it away from him.
FROM THE WORLD OF RABBI AVRAHAM KOOK (see Ma'amarei HaRe'iyah, page 252) We are talking here about
―There are two elements to humility: The first involves recognizing G- national ownership, in other words, by the State. How strange the
d's exaltedness until one's own will is of no count before that of G-d. The argument that in the Jerusalem neighborhoods earmarked for transfer,
second involves perceiving fully that without G-d's existence nothing else "Arabs live there and not Jews anyway. What difference does it make if
exists, neither can any will exist without G-d.‖ (Mussar Avicha, 2:5) there is non-Jewish rule?" How senseless one must be to make such
MESSAGE FOR TODAY: “Your Name Will no Longer claims! After all, in every country in the world there are minorities.
be Said to be Jacob, but Israel” Obviously, we are not like every country in the world – we must live as a
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Yet we are not inferior to any other
Jacob makes preparations to meet his brother Esau who had plotted nation, as Maharal states at the beginning of his book Netzach Yisrael.
to kill him, as it says, "Esau was furious at Jacob because of the blessing Shall we fail to understand something that every nation on earth
that his father had given him. He said to himself, 'The days of mourning understands? For example, shall the French, because they have eight
for my father will be here soon. I will then be able to kill my brother million Arabs or twelve million Arabs, suddenly establish a state for them
Jacob.'" (Genesis 27:41). He takes into account all the possible there?! Every single country on earth has minorities. Obviously, we have
scenarios: the possibility that Esau will make peace with him, but also the to relate to them with human dignity, but that does not give them the right
possibility that he will kill him and his family. He therefore readies himself to national sovereignty.
in three ways: he sends Esau gifts, he prays and he prepares for war. Therefore, this entire idea is a one big deceit and a dangerous
True, Jacob was an innocent scholar, and the Torah even states, blunder. It is hard to understand how people can talk such nonsense,
"Have complete trust in the L-rd your G-d" (Deuteronomy 18:13), but with nonsense that no other nation on earth would spout. Find one people on
people like Laban and Esau it's forbidden to be innocent and na ןve. earth ready to establish a state or to hand over to another people part of
Quite the contrary, Jacob exercised all his wisdom and perception in its territory since foreigners live there. This nonsense, accordi ng to the
watching out for these liars and evildoers. Yes, they were his relatives. theory of our master Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, stems from the Holocaust
Laban was his uncle and Esau was his brother. Yet despite their kinship, (LeNetivot Yisrael 1:94): In the Holocaust, they not only murdered us but
they still wanted to harm him and plotted to kill him. also drove us insane, until we lost our self-confidence to bang on the
Yet not only Jacob needed wisdom, understanding and special divine table and say: Eretz Yisrael is ours!
assistance to survive against the open and veiled hostility of Laban and A friend who went on vacation in Alaska told me that he sat by the
Esau. Today, the entire Jewish People returning to live in their land and sea, fishing. During the trip in the light plane that brought them there,
carrying on in the path of Jacob our father need those same attributes someone jokingly asked, "What happens if a bear approaches us?" Yet
and blessings. Our leaders must learn from Jacob how not to fall in the the group leader didn't laugh. He answered, "Look it straight in the eye
traps that our enemies lay for them. On the one hand, we must remain and say to it, 'Hey bear! This is my place!' Later on when my friend was
connected to the nations of the world, for the entire theme of the Jewish fishing he heard a rustling behind him. He turned around and saw a
People is universal, as G-d said to Abraham, "All the families of the earth terrifying sight – a bear was threatening him. He had the courage to look
shall be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:3). Moreover, Abraham was, it in the eye without blinking and to say, "Hey bear! This is my place!"
like his name, "a father of a horde of nations" (17:5). At the same time, The bear made a noise, turned around and left.
Israel must be strong, wise and cautious, and they must know that a We have to state clearly: This land is our place. It is all ours. The fact
struggle is going on between us and our enemies that is not just military that we disappeared from the Land because we were cruelly exiled by
and political, but also philosophical, religious and faith-based. Esau's our enemies, and foreigners came and built homes and stole our lands,
angelic prince wrestles with us just as he wrestled with Jacob: "Jacob does not suddenly make it theirs.
remained alone. A stranger [appeared and] wrestled with him until just Also the claim that all of these non-Jewish Jerusalem neighborhoods
before daybreak" (Genesis 32:5; see Rashi). We must relate much more cost us money is nonsense. We did not establish our country as a
forcefully to the claims of our enemies who would steal our land, while business venture. Millions of Jews lost billions. Ask any Jew who dwells
they label us occupiers. Eretz Yisrael belongs exclusively to the Jewish in Zion: For you, is the Jewish State just about economics and security?
People, and the same holds true regarding Jerusalem. Jerusalem and He will be insulted and will respond, "G-d forbid! It's history! Thank G-d
Eretz Yisrael are the light of the universe. we've got an economy and security, but that's not the only reason we
The Arabs' goal is to extinguish the world's light source, which is returned to our land. We came back because it is our land. We didn't wait
growing brighter and brighter in Eretz Yisrael. Once more we must two thousand years just to give part of it away to foreigners."
address President Bush and all those who join with him with the aim of Ben Gurion once asked Yitzhak Tabenkin, one of the principle
dividing Jerusalem and establishing a terror state for the Arabs there. thinkers of the Kibbutz movement: "Is it possible to concede parts of
Just as Jacob vanquished Esau's angelic prince in his struggle, so too, Eretz Yisrael for peace?" and Tabenkin responded, "I have to get
G-d willing, shall we be victorious in our struggle today. The day is not far advice." The next day he answered no. Ben Gurion asked him, "May I
off when the sun will rise and through us will be fulfilled, for all to see, asked you from whom you got advice?" and Tabenkin responded, "I
"'Your name will no longer be said to be Jacob, but Israel (Yisra'el). You asked my grandfather who has died and my grandson who is not yet
have become great (sar) before God and man. You have won.'" (Genesis born."
32:29). As Rashi comments, " [I.e.,] it will no longer be said that the Let us be strong and courageous for our land. Below I am adding a
blessings came to you through deceit and trickery, but, rather, with poem by the Israeli poet Natan Alterman:
nobility and openness." Looking forward to complete salvation, Shabbat “Arab” Land
Shalom. (Translation by Richard Silverstein)
YOU DON'T CUT UP ERETZ YISRAEL! Palestine is an Arab land.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El Strangers have no share in it.
Question: What is the Torah's view about the new suggestion of bringing a public broadsheet
the destroyer right into Jerusalem, by transferring neighborhoods in A clear night. Trees wave
which Jews do not live to either Jordan or the Palestinians, or other such Their boughs in an airy whisper.
ideas? From above, Arab night stars
Sparkle over an Arab land. and Shakespeare would have us believe that an ‗Iago by any other
The night-stars sparkle and blink name is just as villainous.‘ Nevertheless, we do read in the Bible, ―...for
Sowing their trembling light as his name is, so is he....‖ (I Samuel 25:25), that a name goes beyond
Upon the quiet city, El Kuds, the incidental sound of syllables, and relates in some impor-tant way to
Where King Daoud dwells. the char-acter of its bearer. What is true for biblical names in general is
From there, they gaze particularly true about Jacob. Both the name he is born with (Jacob) and
To the far-off city, El-Chalil, the name he re-ceives after wrestling with the stranger at a ford in the
The city where Father Ibrahim is buried– Jordan River (Israel) are an expression of the central struggles of his life
Ibrahim who bore Ischak. culminating in a mysterious, near-death encounter which seems crucial
From there, their sharp line of light to the development of our nation Israel. Let us attempt to examine the
Hastens to paint with radiance etymologies of the two names, and try to discover the major flaw in
The waters of the river, El-Urdun ―Jacob‘s‖ early personality which ―Israel‖ comes to fix. Jacob (Yaakov)
Which Yakub with his crook crossed over. comes from the root ‗ekev‘ (ayin, kuf, vet) a reminder of the birth of the
A clear night. With an airy wink twins when Yaakov, the younger, grasped onto the heel (Ekev) of Esau
Night-stars sparkle as is their custom the elder; hence the name calls to mind an indirect, circuitous action from
Upon the Arab hills behind, a fleeing from direct confrontation. Jacob wants something that
Which Musa saw from afar. Esau has, and he‘s trying to hold him back — from behind.
As they grow older, Jacob knows that Esau the hunter is too busy
running around and dating Hittite girls to really care about the ‗b‘chorah‘
3 - NCYI
NCYI Weekly Divrei Torah, From: http://www.youngisrael.org/
— the spiritual inheritance. Instead of asking him to step aside for the
Rabbi Yonah Gross Young Israel of Phoenix, AZ brother whose life inside the tents of Shem is devoted to spirituality, he
The big showdown is coming. Jacob has been running from Esau for waits for a day when Esau, starved with hunger, eyes a deli-cious soup
years. It is finally time to meet and settle things for good. Jacob is cooking, and in the ensuing conversation ‗sells‘ his birthright for
The Torah tells the story from the vantage point of Jacob's camp. We a bowl of red pot-tage. He manipulates Esau instead of confronting him.
are granted a backstage pass to see Jacob's threefold preparations for The story continues, and Rebecca makes all the arrangements for
the showdown. Jacob does everything he can to be as ready as possible. Jacob to impersonate Esau and steal the blessing from Isaac. But Jacob
He makes strategic military defense plans, prepares gifts to present to is a mature adult, who should have confronted his father, informed him of
Esau to offset any residual anger, and he prays to G-d that he and his Esau‘s sale of the birthright, and reminded him of Esau‘s two Hittite
family should be rescued from their predicament. wives, a Biblical sin of inter-marriage, which the Bible itself records as
But then comes the big letdown. Jacob finally meets Esau and having caused a bitterness of soul to Isaac and Re-becca! Why resort to
everything seems fine again. Esau kisses Jacob, they bicker about pretense rather than direct discussion and dispute?
whether Esau should accept Jacob's presents and then everyone goes A similar thing happens with Laban after he and Jacob agree that
on their way. Jacob‘s salary will be to keep the striped, speckled and streaked cattle
If I were Jacob I'd feel gypped. I had just wasted a lot of time and which are born in his flock. But then Jacob resorts to subterfuge and
energy on a project and it was all for naught! Was Jacob wrong in ―genetic engineering‖ (as he understood it) in order to ―pack the deck,‖ to
concentrating so heavily on the meeting with Esau? manipulate the kind of sheep which would be born to his own material
Additionally, why did he not just try to avoid the confrontation? Our advantage. He should have made the best deal possible, but he also
Sages (Bereishit Rabba 75:3) actually criticize Jacob for inviting an should have been straight up front about his tactics.
altercation with Esau when he could have traveled back to Israel using a Returning after 22 years, Jacob is frightened of facing Esau, (the
different route and totally avoided the conflict. opening of this week‘s portion of Vayishlach), suspicious of an impending
However, perhaps we are losing sight of what Jacob's real challenge battle with the brother he has wronged. He prepares himself with a small
was. If we assume that the challenge had been for Jacob to figure out army, many gifts, and a strategy to divide his camp in case of an attack.
how to get past Esau, then it is legitimate to criticize him for searching for ―I will win him over with gifts which are being sent ahead ... hopefully he
a conflict that was unnecessary. It would then be a letdown when that will forgive me‖ (Gen. 32-21). But here again why doesn‘t he explain to
fight ends up being insignificant. his brother why he did what he did so many years before, and in an
But there is another part to the story. Jacob spent the entire night outright fashion request forgiveness?
before this scheduled meeting wrestling with an angel. With the arrival of Now, the most probable reason for Jacob‘s circuitous style of inter-
morning, when it became apparent that Jacob would win, the angel personal communication is that he lacks the necessary self-confidence
changed Jacob's name to Israel which, the Torah tells us, is because for open confrontation. Perhaps that is the price Jacob pays for a
"you (Jacob) have striven (sarita) with the Divine and with man and have childhood bereft of a father‘s love, growing up feeling himself to be
overcome." rejected by the most important individual in his life in favor of his twin
It seems that the victorious renaming ceremony, where Jacob's brother. No wonder it is difficult for him to confront either the perpetrator
name was changed to Israel, should have taken place following the or the beneficiary of that rejection. So, Jacob, lacking the ego-strength to
meeting with Esau. It should not have been when Jacob was out at night, directly claim what he believes he truly deserves, chooses a life-plan
alone, the night before he met Esau, because he had not yet strat-egy of deception to gain his desires.
accomplished anything at that point. Furthermore, why was Jacob's new <>The significance of the encounter with the stranger at the riv er‘s
name, and subsequently the name of our natio n, named for 'striving?' We edge is the existential personality transformation that takes place there.
should be named after the second half of that verse 'to overcome.' Jacob wrestles all night with a stranger, identified by Rashi as Esau‘s
The question can be resolved with an understanding that this story guardian angel, the force of evil antithetical to the Jewish people. Other
as well as the story of our lives is not necessarily about our commentaries see the stranger as sym-bolic of the darkness within
accomplishments but rather about effort. Although headlines and Jacob‘s own soul, the negative aspects of his own personality. But,
accolades are bestowed upon the person with the highest level of who-ever this stranger is, Jacob must fight him frontal-ly, must confront
accomplishments, our gut tells us that it is the process that defines him directly. No longer can he keep himself distant, bent down, operating
greatness. It may be hard to define or quantify, but it is surely what from the side or attacking from behind. He must stand tall and
matters most to the ultimate unquantifiable one. demonstrate a new strength – the kind of ego strength in confrontation
For this reason, it is not a letdown when Yaakov doesn't have to put that the nation Israel must display if it is not only to survive itself but also
his preparation to use against Esau. His preparation was already put to to succeed in its mission to bless the world with ethical monotheism.
good use because his effort is what really counts. Now it also becomes What gives Jacob the courage now to disgorge the deceptive
clear why the Jewish people are named Yisrael after their striving, and ―Jacobitis‖ from within himself and emerge as Yisroel, victorious in
not after their accomplishments. Because that is really what is asked of battle? Perhaps after two decades with the tumultuously deceptive and
us - that we strive, we try to do the best that we can under whatever hypocritical Laban, he can no longer allow himself to see himself within
circumstances we are placed in. Accomplishments are useful as a the mirror of Laban‘s style of operation; perhaps it is the truth of his
measuring stick to see how successful we are in our striving but it is our beloved Joseph, the heir apparent to Abrahamic leadership, whom he
process of action that we should really examine. This understanding believes worthy of a better legacy from his father than ―Jacobism‖. But
helps us comprehend another difficult passage in the Midrash (BR 77:1) whatever the motivation, it is only after the nocturnal and numinous
where Jacob is compared to G-d himself: "Just as it is written of G-d 'and wrestling match – mother of all confrontations – that Jacob can return to
the Lord alone shall be exalted' (Isaiah 2:11) so of Jacob it says 'and his father‘s house and become Israel.
Jacob remained alone' (32:25)." Why are we highlighting loneliness as An important Post-Script:
the connection between Jacob and the Almighty? Is Loneliness a positive To be sure, the change is not without reserva-tions and Jacob still
virtue? retains earlier character traits, as is evi-denced by the subsequent story
The Midrash does not say that Jacob was lonely, only that he was of Shekhem, and the fact that the newly-named Israel is still often
alone. He was unique. referred to in the biblical text as the old Jacob. Jacob‘s true ability to face
Yes, it is good to be alone every once in a while. Being alone gives things directly can be seen in the last pages of Genesis, when a full cycle
us the opportunity to reflect and analyze our own individual lives and not closes. Just as he himself had previously arranged to ‗unseat‘ Esau,
be forced to compare ourselves to others. We can analyze the effort and switching the order of blessings from younger to older, he does it again
the process that is going on within ourselves without the pressure of with Efraim and Menashe, Joseph‘s two sons. However, this time, he
making sure there are accomplishments to show to everyone else, states his will directly, without resorting to deception or subterfuge.
because accomplishments are really always a comparison to someone Aware of his father‘s failing sight, Joseph places the elder son,
else and my job is to be the best I can be. Menashe, on the left side, so that when Jacob reaches out with his right
Jacob was alone on that dark night with himself right where he was hand, this right hand will bless the elder. But Jacob‘s outstretched right
supposed to be. hand reaches out for Efraim, and he ignores Joseph‘s attempt to correct
the mistake. Jacob, unlike Isaac, knows precisely who is the worthy one,
and this time he doesn‘t have to shy away from his choice, pretending,
4 – RAV RISKIN as he was wont to do in the past. What Jacob does is direct and
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin http://www.ohrtorahstone.org.il/ straightforward. The younger is the greater and more deserving son,
Efrat, Israel – ―What‘s in a name?‖ has become a household expression,
says the older and wiser Israel, and Efraim must receive the b‘chorah, (30:16). Alluding to her, they formulated the maxim: 'Like mother,
the birthright. like daughter.' [Midrash Genesis Rabba 80]
Similarly, when it comes to the blessing of Jacob‘s sons, no words Rashi links Dina's 'going out' to Leah's aggressive 'going out' earlier,
are minced. Reuven, the eldest, is subordinated to Joseph and Judah. when she went to the field to demand a sexual encounter from Yaakov,
As far as the rest of the brothers, the father‘s exquisite vision sees deep 'for I have HIRED you' (at the price of her sons mandrakes). In doing so,
into the heart and soul and future of his sons, a prophecy of the end of he delicately hints towards the unsavory nature of Dina's actions. The Or
days. Jacob, spelling things out so directly, takes the risk of Ha-Chayim develops this succinctly; "A daughter of Rachel would never
con-frontation and rejection. Yet, he can do this now, illuminating the have gone out in this manner".
future of the children of Israel be-cause Jacob has become Israel. Just The Ramban, however, sees the Torah's identification of Dina as
as he now knows himself inside out, he also kno ws his chil-dren outside "the daughter of Leah" as a form of literary foreshadowing:
in. The son who felt his father was blind to him has learned to see his The reason [the Torah identifies Dina as the daughter of Leah] is to
own children with clar-ity and understanding. By the end, the son of state that she was the sister of Shimon and Levi who were zealous
circuitous sub-terfuge becomes the father of direct con-frontation; the for her sake, and avenged her cause. The Torah mentions in
transformation is complete. addition that she "was borne to Yaakov," in order to allude to the fact
that all of the brothers were zealous for her.
In addressing the differing reactions among the family, we will bear in
6 - HAR ETZION (VBM)
Virtual Beit Midrash, Alon Shevut, Gush Etzion 90433 e-mail: email@example.com,
mind the Ramban's literary approach.
Home Page: http://www.vbm-torah.org/ C. YAAKOV'S SILENCE, THE BROTHERS' INITIATIVE, AND FAMILY
A) INTRODUCTION TO PARSHAT HASHEVUAH CRACKS
DINA'S FAMILY TIES The Torah's description of Yaakov's reaction to the assault is
By Rabbi Yaakov Beasley stunning. Shekhem and Chamor approach, hoping to negotiate the
A. INTRODUCTION bride-price for Dina's hand in matrimony (albeit while holding Dina
Our shiur will focus on Bereishit Chapter 34 – the abduction and rape captive in the city); while the brothers are shepherding in the field. In the
of Dina; and its aftermath, the wholesale slaughter of Shekhem's center of the storm, we know nothing of what Yaakov is thinking, just that
inhabitants by Shimon and Levi. The commentators grapple with many "he kept his peace until his sons came home." The text alludes to his
difficult questions that this story presents – the morality of Shimon and feelings through the introduction of a new word – tee'mei – to
Levi's act, the disparity between Yaakov's pragmatic scolding at the end contaminate, pollute. As mentioned above, as the beneficiary of a
of this chapter and his harsh denunciation of their behavior in Chapter 49 remarkable series of successes, Yaakov may be in a state of
when he curses their anger from his deathbed, attempts to explains astonishment and shock. In all the previous encounters between Jewish
Yaakov's puzzling silence upon receiving the news, and exegetical women and hostile male captors (Pharoah and Sarah, Avimelekh and
analysis of the discrepancies in the conversations between Shekhem Sarah or Rivka), Divine intervention prevented the defilement of the
and Chamor and the sons of Yaakov versus the presentation made by women. Dina, through her suffering, has become "Yaakov's daughter."
Shekhem and Chamor to their own people. Even ascertaining the We may also see in Yaakov's silence a sign of strategic thinking.
viewpoint of the narrator is difficult, as the text makes no explicit criticism The Seforno and the Or Ha-Chayim suggest that his silence was a
or censure of Shimon and Levi's actions. In this shiur, I would like to deliberate attempt to 'buy time' until his sons return, so that he could rally
address one facet of the story – the effect of Dina's rape upon Yaakov's and unify his sons together.
family dynamics. Through this approach, we can explain the purpose of The reaction of his sons, however, could not have been more
the Torah's inclusion of this troublesome episode and show that it serves diametrically opposed to his stoicism:
as a traumatic turning point in Yaakov's fortunes in his attempt to settle And the sons of Yaakov came in from the field when they heard it;
Canaan. and the men were furious and they were very incensed, for he had done
B. YAAKOV'S SETTLEMENT AND DINA'S DEFILEMENT a despicable act in [or against] Israel in laying Yaakov's daughter, and
Until Dina's rape, Yaakov has been the beneficiary of an amazing such a thing should not have been done. (34:7) The text, through the
series of successes. Through God's intervention, he has not only device of narrative monologue, conveys the sense of moral outrage and
managed to escape the clutches of Lavan, but also returned to Canaan a condemnation that the brothers feel, while cleverly maintaining a sense
wealthy man. He has successfully wrestled a man-angel, winning for of ambiguity as to the precise cause of their fury. Was it the assault
himself a new blessing and an additional name. His brother Esav has upon Dina that provokes them, the violation of the laws of sanctity and
apparently abandoned his twenty-year old fratricidal grudge. All his marriage (which Shekhem's "rape first, negotiate the terms of the
tribulations, from childhood rivalries to rivalrous wives to spiritual engagement second" approach openly mocks), or the attack upon the
insecurities appear to be in the past. With everything settled, all that family and ethnic honor? What is noticeable is the brothers' use of the
remains for Yaakov to do is to settle. Careful not to dwell too close to term "ISRAEL" – for the first time, they have adopted their father's name
Esav (despite the latter's urgings), Yaakov instead chooses to dwell, as their own. The attack on one of their siblings has the consequence of
almost carelessly, in the vicinity of the local Canaanites: "And Yaakov unifying them into a collective, corporate unit. Previously, the Torah
came whole to Shekhem, upon arriving in the land of Canaan from primarily identified them as the sons of their rivalrous mothers. Their
Paddan Aram, and Yaakov encamped before the city (literally – "et penei anger has bonded them into "the sons of Yaakov." The only previous
ha-ir" – in the face of the city)" (34:18). Wholeness, however, is a occasion where this unity revealed itself was the covenant of Gal-Ed.
fleeting state; more present in Yaakov's mind than external realities. Facing his rival Lavan, the Torah describes how Yaakov told "his
While Yaakov erects an altar to "El Elokei Yisrael – God, the God of brothers" to gather stones to build a monument. Rashi immediately
Israel," the reader wonders when Yaakov will fulfill his vow to return to identifies these 'brothers' as Yaakov's children. Facing the common
Beit El to erect an altar there (see his vow upon leaving at 28:22). The threat that Lavan posed, they became equals.
ensuing episode exposes his failure to fulfill his vow: Upon hearing the proposals presented by Chamor and Shekhem,
And Dina, Leah's daughter, whom she bore to Yaakov, went out to however, a different picture emerges:
see the daughters of the land. And Shekhem the son of Chamor the And the sons of Yaakov answered Shekhem and Chamor his father
Chivite, the prince of the land, saw her, and he took her, and he laid her with guile (be-mirma), and they spoke as they did because he had
and he abased her (34:1-2). defiled their sister.
Swiftly, the text literally and grammatically transforms the young Dina While the text continues to identify the brothers as "the sons of
from Yaakov's only daughter into an object. She had gone out "to see Yaakov," we wonder as to Yaakov's continued silence. Is he aware of the
the daughters of the land" – and this is not the first time in text that a stratagem that his children are formulating? The Ramban suggests the
woman's curiosity to see carries with it sever ramifications (compare "and following:
Chava saw the fruit, that it was a delight to the eyes" 3:6). She went out It would appear that they answered with the concurrence of their
to see, but she was seen instead. Upon being seen by Shekhem, Dina's father and his advice, for they were in his presence, and it was he who
independent personage disappears. Instead, she appears four times as understood the answer that they spoke with subtlety. If so, why was he
a female pronoun (object), each connected to the series of Shekhem's angry afterwards? In addition, it is inconceivable that Yaakov would
brutal actions (saw/took/laid/abased). Only with Shekhem's subsequent have consented to give his daughter in marriage to a Canaanite who had
discovery of her illustrious family does she regain a small measure of defiled her. [If so] Surely all the brothers gave their subtle answer, while
identity. Shimon and Levi executed the deed alone, and Yaakov cursed only their
As is the nature of Biblical text, it only describes Dina's actions in anger. If all the brothers shared responsibility for their response and the
going out "to see the daughters of the land," without divulging her plan, why did Yaakov single out Shimon and Levi? The answer is that
intentions. The Torah is generally not interested in the character's the craftiness was their suggestion that every male of the city be
motives, only with their actions and their consequences. Dina's act circumcised; for they thought the people of the city would not consent to
carried a meaning that she herself was completely unaware. Until now, it. And on the chance that the city's populace would listen to their prince,
Avraham's family has endeavored to avoid contact with the local they will come "on the third day, when they were in pain," and they will
Canaanites. They lived a shepherding existence, away from the large take their daughter (Dina) from Shekhem's house. This was the original
urban centers. Both Avraham and Yitzchak made efforts to ensure that plan of all of the brothers with Yaakov's acquiescence (and knowledge),
the sons that were to carry on the family traditions found spouses from but Shimon and Levi wanted to take revenge, and so killed all of the men
distant Aram, not from among the local girls. Now, due to Yaakov's of the city. (comm. to 34:13)
desire to dwell in proximity to the Canaanites, his daughter became the The Ramban presupposes that Yaakov was a willing participant to
first family member to break the taboo, with disastrous results. the deceit of Shekhem and Chamor. There is a textual issue; however,
Rabbinic thought, however, saw in Dina's behavior a personality flaw that suggests a different approach. Until now, the Torah has identified
that she inherited from her mother Leah. Referring to the text's abnormal Dina as the offspring of Leah and Yaakov in the story. We previously saw
description of Dina as "the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to how the commentators dealt with the unusual identification of Dina as
Yaakov," Rashi states: "Leah's daughter." From this point forward in the text, however, The
The daughter of Leah – [The Torah calls her thus] and not the Torah refers to Dina solely based upon her relation to her siblings. She
daughter of Yaakov? Rather, because she 'went out' she is becomes "their sister"; they become "Dina's brothers." Even their
described as Leah's daughter, since she too was fond of 'going out' statement "we will take our daughter" (v. 19) reflects the extent to which
(literally – outgoing) as it is said, "And Leah went out to meet him" they have assumed Yaakov's place. To the brothers, Yaakov's silence
now signifies something more grievous – it is a sign that his
indifference to Dina's fate. What could lead them to this conclusion? is actually in our parasha that the commentators have chosen to address
The Torah alluded to it at the beginning of the story – she is Dina, the the general question of the meaning of atonement.
daughter of Leah. Despite the previous demonstration of unity shown It would seem that "atonement" is generally understood as occupying
towards Lavan, despite their adoption of the corporate identity of Israel, the same semantic realm as forgiveness (selicha) and pardon (mechila),
the familial rifts that existed in the previous generation between the i.e., as referring to a change in attitude on God's part towards man, with
sisters have not healed. The brothers interpret Yaakov's silence as regard to his sins, and in the context of withholding punishment. In
disinterest, and find themselves forced to act in the place of their absent rabbinical literature, this meaning may certainly exist. However, as we
father. We can then interpret the brothers' response, that 'they answered shall see, in the language of the Torah this is not what the concept
with guile (be-mirma)' as referring not only to Chamor, but towards means.
Yaakov as well. Paraphrasing the Or Ha-Chayim's statement earlier, Our discussion will be based on a philological and exegetical
we simply have to ask, "Would Yaakov have reacted stoically had Dina examination, following which we will also be able to build a more
been the daughter of Rachel?" Instinctively we, like the brothers, sense fundamental conceptual understanding of kappara, pertaining to some
not. elementary aspects of the relations between man and God.
D. YAAKOV'S REACTION Let us begin with an analysis of the linguistic forms of the root k-p-r
The chasm between Yaakov and his children explodes when Yaakov and their syntactical uses. The form that appears in the heading of this
rebukes his children. Even at this point in time, Yaakov's decrying that shiur – "kappara" – is not a biblical word at all; its source is in rabbinical
the behavior of his children have made it difficult for him to dwell in literature. This construction is based on a form that is very common in
harmony with the neighboring peoples demonstrates that he does not Tanakh – the verb in the pi'el (intensive) case. The word kappara, as
comprehend his error in choosing to dwell near Shekhem as opposed to used by Chazal, describes the abstract result of the act of atoning. No
fulfilling his vow and returning to Beit El. Only the appearance of the form exists in the Torah with this precise meaning.
Divine command at the beginning of the next chapter allows Yaakov an The verb in the pi'el case (together with the corresponding passive
opportunity to mend his ways. More significant to the reader is the very forms – pu'al and hitpa'el) - the most common form of the root in Tanakh
self-centered nature of his response: – appears consistently in the context of the Sanctuary and the sacrif ices.
You have troubled me, to make me odious unto the inhabitants of the Thus, for example, with regard to the sin offering we read: "ve-khipper
land … and I being few in number, they will gather themselves together alav ha-kohen" ("the kohen shall make atonement for him" – Vayikra 4:31
against me and smite me, and I shall be destroyed, I and my house. and elsewhere); with regard to the guilt offering we read, "ve-hakohen
(34:30) yekhapper alav" (ibid. 5:16, 26), etc. The same form appears in our
In one sentence, Yaakov manages to use the first person pronoun parasha, and it is here that we find the commentators discussing the
eight times!! While he speaks of the personal consequences that he concept. Yaakov tells his messengers, "You shall say: Also, behold, your
will face, Dina he has apparently forgotten – something that the brothers servant, Yaakov, is behind us, for he has said – Let me appease him
discern immediately: (akhapra panav) with the offering that goes before me, and afterwards I
As with a harlot should one deal with our sister? (34:31) shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me" (Bereishit 32:21).
They clearly interpret Yaakov's apparent willingness to hand Dina As noted, the root is not used directly to indicate the abstract result of
over to Shekhem as a form of unmentionable barter – women are not the kappara. The syntactical subject of the act of kappara is almost
objects to be traded, neither for currency nor for the promises of peaceful always the person who performs acts that make atonement (for instance,
relations. Ironically, Yaakov acquired his wives through his business the kohen), or the object that brings atonement (such as a sacrifice) The
dealings with Lavan, a fact noted subtly by Rachel and Leah earlier: difference between the linguistic use of the root k-p-r and the linguistic
"What portion to we have in our father's house? … For we were sold use of the root s-l-ch is highlighted in the context of the sin offering: "The
(while subtly not mentioning who was the purchaser). (31:14-15)" kohen shall make atonement for him (ve-khipper alav) and he shall be
Without adopting the brother's point of view or approving of their conduct, forgiven" – it is the kohen who makes atonement (mekhapper) while God
the Torah clearly intends for us to sympathize with the sense of injustice forgives (sole'ach). The act of kappara by the kohen leads to a result of
that the brothers feel, and to recognize that the brief moments of familial forgiveness by God. Thus, even in the most obvious instance of kappara
unity that appeared at the end of last week's parasha have not managed in the context of forgiveness (the sin offering), there is a clear distinction
to last. The familial rifts that have sprouted because of Dina's defilement between the two concepts.
between the sons of Leah and Yaakov will color the rest of the story. There are very few instances (seven or eight in all of the Tanakh)
E. DOES VIOLENCE BEGET VIOLENCE where God appears as the syntactical subject who is mekhapper
We have dealt with the pragmatic, almost utilitarian nature of ("makes atonement"). We must therefore conclude that kappara and
Yaakov's response. Without a doubt, someone had to bear in mind that selicha are two separate concepts in the Torah.
all actions carry consequences with them; and other Canaanite tribes A form of the root k-p-r that is commonly found in the Torah is the
may have chosen to retaliate for the slaughter of their kinsmen. We noun, kippur (always in plural form – kippurim), a participle in the pi'el
cannot pretend, however, that his argument contains any moral response case. "Kippurim" appears as characterizing something that is used for
or outrage to the violent slaughter of Shekhem's inhabitants (as atonement – "the ram of kippurim," "the money of kippurim" – or as a
opposed to the deathbed rebuke that Yaakov expresses in Chapter 49. characterizing the time when acts of atonement are performed – "the day
Perhaps, though he would not reveal it to his children, Yaakov secretly of kippurim." (The usual English translation, "the day of atonement," is
approved or at last sympathized with Shimon and Levi's actions. After inaccurate; a more precise rendering would be, "the day of atonings").
all, they showed initiative, cunning, and courage in dealing with the vile In summary, from the forms and syntactical uses of the root k-p-r we
Canaanites. However, suggests Rav Yehuda Shaviv, this failure on deduce that is refers to the act or object that makes atonement.
Yaakov's part to explicitly denounce their actions may have led to the Before proceeding to a discussion of the meaning of kappara, let us
continued troubles that Yaakov faced with the sale of Yosef. It is not for note another three uses of the root, with different meanings, which may
naught that the Midrash identifies the brothers that wanted to kill Yosef be of relevance.
as Shimon and Levi. Once violence becomes an acceptable option for One form is the verb in regular case (kal): kapar. This form appears
dealing with threats, it is only a small step from the slaughter of non-Jews only once in Tanakh – in God's command to Noah: "You shall cover it
to the attempted murder of fellow Jews. Fortunately, the other brothers (ve-khafarta oto)… with pitch (kofer)."
intervened; albeit if only to profit from their brother's blood instead. The second form is the noun with the accent on the first syllable:
Whether or not their feelings of jealousy over Yosef's favorite son status kofer. This word has two meanings that may be relevant to our
would have existed irrespective of the assault on Dina, one can imagine discussion. It can refer to a certain protective substance, as in the above
that had Yaakov actively led the attempt to avenge Dina, the conclusion verse from Noah, or it can be used in the sense of a ransom (kofer
of Sefer Bereishit would have unfolded quite differently. nefesh), as in the case of the half-shekel: "Each person shall give it as a
 Interested readers can find several thorough articles on the above-mentioned issues in the Virtual Beit ransom for his soul" (Shemot 30:12).
Midrash archives at www.vbm-torah.org. Rabbi Jonathan Mishkin analyzes the approaches of the Ramban and
the Ketav Ve-Kabbala, Rav Amnon Bazak provides an inter-textual reading of the story with Devarim 13, while The third form is the kapporet – the covering of the Ark of God's
Rav Tamir Granot attempts to uncover the text's moral stance towards the brothers through a close reading of
the text.  Bring examples of explicit criticism.  As we have already seen with Lot in Bereishit covenant.
13, dwelling too close to the city in our text carries its own set of perils. As well, we once again see the
appearance of the "face" motif in Yaakov's life – Lavan's face, seeing Esav is equal to the face of God, etc.
Let us now review the approaches of the various commentators, with
However, this time, he has ignored the imperative to live "lifnei Hashem (before Hashem)" for "lifnei ha-ir (before reference to the verse in our parasha: "You shall also say: Behold, your
the city)."  In several places, Nechama Leibowitz dealt with how the Torah used varying epithets to
represent differing subjective attitudes of surrounding characters towards the person in question – see her servant, Yaakov, is behind us, for he has said – Let me appease him
comments about Lot in Bereishit 14, Yishmael in Bereishit 21, or Joseph in Bereishit 37. ("Joseph and his (akhapra panav) with the offering that goes before me, and afterwards I
Brothers," Torah Insights, pg. 172-173,). In our case, we noted how during the initial stage leading up to and
including the rape, Dinah has been literally reduced to an object. Shekhem's post-coital attraction may be shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me" (Bereishit 32:21).
based on his realization that the girl that he has violated in is fact "the daughter of Yaakov" - the daughter of a
powerful chieftain, and may provide him with a respectable wife and sizable dowry (see the Seforno ad. loc.).
His subsequent description of Dinah as a "young girl" to his father may be an attempt to minimize her value in "Akhapra panav" – I shall nullify his anger… It seems to me that
his father's eyes, making him more amenable to negotiating with Yaakov for her hand.  The wherever the word kappara is always in connection with iniquity and
commentator Erich Auerbach once famously referred to this Biblical tendency as a "text fraught with
background" ("Mimeses," 1954).  We must stress that this is not an attempt to mitigate the sin and with the word panim, it always means a wiping away or
responsibility that Shekhem bears for his abduction and assault. Whatever responsibility Dinah bears for her
behavior, the fact that she is the cause of her being seen by Shekhem does not absolve Shekhem of his guilt. removal. It is an Aramaic word, and is used extensively in the
 This word becomes the leitmotif (key theme) of the book of Vayikra, which delineates varying
forms of impurity. Central to our understanding is the Torah's belief that religious impurity cannot be separated
Talmud: "ve-khipper yadeiha – he cleans his hands"... In the
from sexual purity.  We can suggest that the brothers' angry failure to distinguish between these reasons language of the Torah, too, the basins used in the Sanctuary are
reflects the deeper possibility that many of these reasons are in fact interrelated, something sensed by the referred to as "kippurei zahav" (Ezra 1:10), "al shem she-ha-kohen
brothers, if not clearly articulated.  Textually, we now find Yaakov on the receiving end of an act
where children deceive their parents, as opposed to his deception of Yitzchak acquire the blessings before mekaneach yadav ba-hen be-sefat ha-mizrak - since the kohen
Esav. Notably, upon discovering Yaakov's trickery, Yitzchak exclaimed that Yaakov came "be-mirma" - with
guile (27:42).  The Torah will in fact validate this assertion. Later on, when the famine is most cleans his hands in them, at the edge of the basin."
severe and supplies are depleted, Yaakov is willing to endanger the lives of the entire family in order to ensure
that Benyamin is not placed in harm's way.  Twice in its free-standing form (ani), five times as an
Rashi makes a few points here:
object suffix, and once as the possessive suffix ('my house').  We will not enter the discussion · The full expression, kippur panim, means an erasing of anger, or
among the commentators regarding the morality of Shimon and Levi's acts; just reiterate that Yaakov's appeasement.
response clearly ignores this aspect.
B) INDEPTH PARSHAT SHEVUAH · Kappara, in the context of sins and transgressions, is a different
use of the word, but the two uses share a common meaning. The
THE MEANING OF KAPPARA IN THE TORAH fundamental meaning that is common to both contexts is one of
By Rav Yehuda Rock
Kappara (atonement) occupies a very important place in the Torah, "wiping away," "cleansing and removing."
What Rashi seems to be saying is that panim is used here in the
in the context of the Sanctuary and its sacrifices as well as in other metaphoric sense; "kippur ha-panim" means a wiping away of anger,
contexts. The subject is covered for the most part in Sefer Vayikra, but it
while the "kippur avon" means a removal, or wiping away, of the sin. · In the context of the Sanctuary and the sacrifices it is mainly the
The word kippur, in the sense of cleansing or removing, has its first level of meaning that is implied: a ransom in the wake of sin, which
foundation in the Aramaic term, meaning "washing." Rashi cites parallels requires a death penalty before the Divine Presence. Ramban explains
taken from Talmudic Aramaic, and interprets a verse in Ezra in such a several different expressions of kippur as applying to a person in light of
way as to demonstrate a biblical parallel, too. the above. Kippur for a person means a ransom for his soul.
Rashi's approach gives rise to several difficulties: By adopting this exegetical approach, Ramban avoids the three
· With regard to the most fundamental meaning of the root k-p-r, difficulties enumerated above as arising from Rashi's interpretation.
Rashi's interpretation has no clear basis in biblical Hebrew. He is However, it must be pointed out that Ramban's explanation of Yaakov's
forced to find support in Aramaic and a single verse of questionable words rests on the assumption that panim may be interpreted in the
relevance from Tanakh. sense of "honor." He brings no support for this assumption, and it is
· As to the interpretation of kappara in the contexts of sin and doubtful that any exists.
transgression, Rashi asserts that "kapparat avon" means the Aside from the uses of the word kippur that have been treated thus
removal of sin. If this were so, we could expect to find a number of far, there is another use that must be taken into consideration and which
instances where sin or transgression is mentioned in the context of conforms to neither Rashi's explanation nor that of Ramban. In the order
kippur. However, the great majority of instances where the word of the Yom Kippur service as set out in Vayikra 16, there are a number of
kippur is used refer to man himself (for example, "and he shall make instances where kippur refers to a place – such as the Kodesh
atonement for him" – ve-khipper alav). It is very seldom that sin or Kodashim. In these instances the cause that makes kippur necessary is
transgression appears as the object of the kippur. not only sin or transgression, but also defilement or impurity. Some
· Aside from the above, according to this exegetical approach, sin examples include the following verses:
and transgression in the context of kippur should be the direct object And he shall make atonement for (ve-khipper al) the Kodesh on
of the verb le-khapper. Indeed, there are instances of such account of the impurities of Bnei Yisrael, and on account of their
constructions. Thus, for example, in Yishayahu 26:9 – "Therefore, by transgressions in all of their sins. And so shall he do for the Tent of
this shall the transgression of Yaakov be atoned (yekhupar), and this Meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their impurity… (16)
is all the fruit to take away his sin…." The transgression is the object And he shall go out to the altar that is before God, and make
that must be atoned (for), and the verse even provides a atonement for it (ve-khipper alav)… (18)
corresponding phrase that speaks of removal of sin. Similarly, we … And purify it and sanctify it from the impurities of Bnei Yisrael…
find in Tehillim: "He is compassionate, atoning (forgiving) (19)
transgression (yekhapper avon)… and often turning away His anger." And when he is finished making atonement (ve-khila mi-kapper) for
However, in most instances where kippur appears in the context of the Kodesh and for the Tent of Meeting and for the altar… (20)
sin and transgression – including those appearances in the context And he shall make atonement for (ve-khipper et) the holy Sanctuary,
of the Sanctuary and the sacrifices – sin appears as an indirect and for the Tent of Meeting and for the altar he shall make
object, attached to the verb by means of prepositions - al, be'ad, and atonement (yekhapper), and for the kohanim and for all the people of
mi-. Thus, following the episode of the golden calf: "Perhaps I can the congregation he shall make atonement (yekhapper)…. (33)
make atonement for (akhapra be'ad) their sin." In relation to sin Chazal understand these verses as referring to the transgressions of
offerings and guilt offerings we find, "The kohen shall make man which defile the Sanctuary and its sacrifices. The halakhic meaning
atonement for him for his sin (ve-khippar alav ha-kohen mi-chatato) of this concept is worthy of a separate discussion, but for our purposes
and he shall be forgiven" (Vayikra 4:26); "And the kohen shall make we may say that this is clearly not the literal meaning of the verses.
atonement for him for his sin (ve-khippar alav ha-kohen al chatato) Rav Sa'adya Gaon offers a metaphorical interpretation of the
which he sinned, and he shall be forgiven" (ibid. 35); and also verses "impurities" in this chapter as referring to sins, and the holy places as the
5,10,13,18, 26. sites where the kohen performs the acts of atonement. In other words,
The same pattern is to be found in the Yom Kippur service of the the kohen makes atonement (mekhapper) in the Sanctuary for
Kohen Gadol: "And he shall make atonement for the Sanctuary (ve- transgressions that are referred to here as "impurities." However, the
khippar al ha-kodesh) for the impurities of Bnei Yisrael, and for their Sanctuary appears here as the indirect object, with the preposition al
iniquities in all their sins" (Vayikra 16:16); "For on this day He will grant (for), as well as appearing as the direct object (et). With regard to the
you atonement (yekhapper alekhem) from all of your sins…" (ibid. 30); impurities, we note that there is also a distinction here between
"To make atonement for (le-khapper al) Bnei Yisrael for all their sins, "impurities" and "sins": "…on account of the impurities of Bnei Yisrael,
once in the year" (ibid. 34). The sins are depicted in these verses as the and on account of their transgressions in all of their sins." Furthermore,
cause that give rise to the need for kappara, and as influenced by the the correlation between atonement for the holy places and the attention
kappara – but the kappara is not the kappara of those sins themselves. to the impurities proves that this is more than a mere literary device.
Hence, kippur cannot mean "removal." Ibn Ezra offers a convincing interpretation for the concept of kippur.
Ramban notes these problems with Rashi's interpretation: Commenting on the verse in our parasha, he writes:
The meaning of "wiping away" as related to kippur is not Hebrew; it "Akhapra (panav)" – I shall cover and hide, "panav" – his anger.
exists only in Aramaic. Thus, "kippurei zahav" was the name given to Ibn Ezra apparently adopts the meaning of the root in the simple
the basins in Babylon. For kappara never refers to sin… case, "ve-khafarta ota ba-kofer – you shall cover it with pitch," meaning a
R. Yona ibn Janach and Radak, in their respective books of covering or protection. Accordingly, in commenting on the Yom Kippur
Hebrew roots, and Radak in his commentary on the Torah offer service (Vayikra 16:16), he writes:
interpretations similar to that of Rashi. Radak appears to have been And the meaning of, "He shall atone for (ve-khipper al) the Kodesh"
aware of the third problem listed above, and he provides the is – that the blood shall be a protection, so that it will not be
following somewhat forced explanation: "Perhaps I can atone for destroyed because of the impurities of those who are impure.
(akhapra be'ad) your sins' – meaning, perhaps I can remove your In other words, the impurity and the sins represent a danger to the
iniquities and your sins by praying on account of your sins. Or: Sanctuary, and the kippur of blood covers and protects it. This concept
(Perhaps) I can remove God's anger which He was angry at yo u requires further clarification.
because of your sins." In Yishayahu 6, the prophet describes how he saw God seated upo n
Ramban adopts a different exegetical approach, based on the the Throne of Glory, with seraphim standing around Him, extolling God's
concept of a kofer nefesh (ransom): sanctity and honor. He then continues:
Rather, the proper interpretation… "Also, behold, your servant, And I said: Woe to me, for I am ruined; for I am a man of unclean
Yaakov, is behind us" – he has placed us in front of him, to offer a lips, and I dwell amongst a nation of unclean lips, for my eyes have
ransom for his soul upon the occasion of beholding your honor, "with this seen the King, the Lord of hosts…
offering" – as slaves offer a ransom when given license to come before Yishayahu is describing the tension between his proximity to God, o n
the king. "And thereafter I shall see his face" – for "perhaps he will accept one hand, and the impurity of his lips, on the other. The focus on the lips
me," and grant me the honor of being among those who behold the king. in this context is obviously connected to the fact that the prophecy is
All of this shows the degree of his awe of him… But where the Torah describing his consecration as a prophet. For our purposes, however, it
says "to atone for (le-khapper al) your souls," or "to make atonement for is clear that the fear and the danger are not dependent on some
him (le-khapper alav) and he shall be forgiven," for his life, and it says, "I particular sin that Yishayahu has committed. Rather, they arise from the
shall make atonement for (akhapra be'ad) your sins" – all of these are "impurity" – the soiled, unclean state of mortals, which is the antithesis of
meant in the same sense as "Each person shall give a kofer nefesh" – closeness to God. God's honor and His sanctity require a distancing of
meaning a ransom. sins and transgressions, as well as a distancing of impurities, even
Ramban's interpretation makes a few points: where they are devoid of their negative moral associations.
· The most fundamental meaning of the root is actually manifest in Yishayahu continues:
the noun, kofer – meaning a ransom. One of the serafim flew to me with a live coal in its hand, which it had
· The first level of meaning of kofer nefesh arises from Ramban's taken with tongs from upon the altar. And he touched it to my mouth
formulation: "To offer a ransom for his soul upon (the occasion of) and said: Behold, this has touched your lips, and your transgression
beholding your honor." The beholding of the king's countenance is removed, and your sin is atoned (covered - tekhupar).
entails, as it were, a death sentence; a person must therefore No specific sin or transgression is mentioned prior to this. The need
ransom his soul – i.e., pay in return for his life. for kippur arises by virtue of God's proximity, which entails the attribute of
· Since the context in which a kofer nefesh is given is that of royal strict justice. The kippur is a mechanism of covering and protection that
honor, its associations invoke a further level of meaning, in that it facilitates the continued proximity of God, despite the transgressions and
expresses this sense of honor and awe of kingship. impurities.
· This second level reflects what Yaakov is trying to convey in his This is the meaning of kippur in the service of the Kohen Gadol.
words to Esav. Thus Ramban also connects the various expressions Were it not for the kippur, the accumulated sins and impurities of Am
concerning panim in the verse. Panim is a metaphor for honor. Yisrael would require the departure of the Divine Presence, or
Yaakov is "mekhapper" the honor (penei) of Esav – in other words, alternatively – harm by God to Am Yisrael. The kippur covers and serves
he brings an offering as a ransom, expressing awe and honor for as a barrier, allowing the continued presence of God "in the midst of your
Esav. He thereby hopes that Esav will yisa panim (literally, "lift his impurities."
face" – i.e., uplift Yaakov's honor by accepting him). When a person sins, the sin separates and forms a barrier between
himself and God. In order to facilitate his continued
existence amongst the nation in whose midst God dwells, without him 'distressed' lest he will kill others." Despite God's promise to protect him
being punished with the full power of the Divine attribute of justice, he (28:15), Ya'akov is scared that he may die because he has spent twenty
must bring a sacrifice, so as to be "covered," or protected. In the specific years with Lavan, during which time he was unable to honor his father,
case of a sin offering, when God accepts the sinner before Him, He also while Esav has had this opportunity all along. Perhaps now Esav's
forgives him: "And the kohen shall make atonement (or, make a merits will be greater than his own, and consequently God will not save
protection/covering) for him, and he shall be forgiven." Ya'akov from Esav!
The order of the service by the Kohen Gadol, on the other hand, Likewise, in the case of Dina, Ya'akov is afraid of the historical
addresses the widespread, objective phenomenon of the sins and consequences even more than the moral ramifications of what has
impurities of Bnei Yisrael around the Mishkan and within it, and the happened. He fears that in light of this act, God may reject him and his
consequent threat to the continued presence of God amongst the nation. descendants; He may discontinue Ya'akov's line and not create Am
The kippur here is meant to cover and protect the Sanctuary in the face Yisra'el, the Jewish nation, from his descendants! For this reason he
of this danger, allowing God to continue dwelling in their midst. says, "You have sullied me" – in the eyes of God; they have added their
To return to our parasha: We have seen that Ibn Ezra interprets sins to the calculation. Only just before Ya'akov dies, when he knows
panav as meaning "his anger." In other words, Yaakov is saying, "I shall that this mistake has not caused God to abandon him or the promises
cover over his anger" – create a barrier between his anger and myself. that He made to him – only then does he give expression to his moral
However, it seems that his words should be understood slightly outrage; only then is the time ripe.
differently: panav means "his proximity," the encounter with him. The The question of timing has a further application in Parashat
background and history of the relations between Yaakov and Esav are Vayishlach. After the story of Dina, the Torah relates (35:6-10):
such that the encounter with Esav is dangerous for Yaakov (obviously, Ya'akov came to Luz — which is in the Land of Kena'an and known
for reasons that are quite different from those that apply in the case of as Beit El — he and all the people that were with him. There he built an
proximity to God), and Yaakov seeks to ensure that the encounter and altar, calling the place El Beit El, for there God had appeared to him
proximity will not cause them to harm one another – i.e., he wants to "le- when he fled before Esav his brother. Devora, the nurse of Rivka, died,
khapper panav" – to create a protective barrier. and she was buried below Beit El, under the oak (allon), and he named
[It should be noted that in commenting on Vayikra 1:1, Ibn Ezra the place Alon Bakhut (Weeping Oak).
interprets the term kippur in the same way as Ramban does.] God appeared again to Ya'akov, when he came from Paddan Aram,
At the outset we noted that there are a few exceptional cases where and He blessed him. God said to him: "Your name, Ya'akov — you will
it is God Who is mekhapper. I have found seven clear instances, out no longer be called by the name Ya'akov; rather, Yisra'el will be your
of which four are appeals by man to God with a plea for atonement name."
(covering) for sin: Why is Devora's death noted in between the building of the altar and
"Protect (kapper), O Lord Your people Israel whom You redeemed" God's revelation, with a full paragraph break separating them? God's
(Devarim 21:7). appearance and blessing are usually right next to the construction of an
"Matters of transgressions prevail against me; as for our iniquities - altar! In Bereishit Rabba 81:5, Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman teaches that
You shall cover (atone for) them (tekhaprem)" (Tehillim 65:4). this verse telling us about the death of Devora is actually hinting at the
"Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your Name, and death of Rivka; Beit El is where Ya'akov found out about his mother's
save us and cover (ve-khapper) for our sins, for the sake of Your passing.
Name" (Tehillim 79:9). If we examine God's blessing here, we see that it is now that
"But Yehizkiyahu prayed for them, saying: May the good God cover Ya'akov's name is officially changed to Yisra'el. Why is this necessary?
(yekhapper) for (these…)" (II Divrei Ha-yamim 30:18). God knows that Ya'akov is afraid on account of his sins: the deception of
The other three instances are: Yechezkel 16:63; Yirmiyahu 18:23; his father, as well as his absence and failure to honor him for twenty -two
Tehillim 78:38. A further possible instance is Devarim 32:43. years. Ya'akov is afraid that God has abandoned him. Therefore, God
This would seem to be a borrowed, secondary meaning. The kippur changes his name to Yisra'el, as if to tell him: I have changed your name,
of the kohen, which protects and covers over sins – sometimes entailing so now you may start afresh. I do not hold you accountable for all of
the result of forgiveness by God – gives rise to a meaning of kippur itself your previous sins.
as forgiveness and pardon, similarly leading to a nullification of Until Rivka dies, however, God cannot tell Ya'akov that his past has
punishment. Apparently, what the appeal to God means is: I, the person been effectively erased, because part of that past is Rivka's role in the
who has sinned, am incapable of "covering" for myself; therefore I ask of sin – and Ya'akov cannot erase his mother's participation in his life! For
You – please forgive me and "cover" (kapper) me Yourself. this reason, it is only after Rivka's passing that God can tell Ya'akov to
This meaning stands out clearly in the verse from Tehillim 65 above: forget the past and to begin anew. Hence, prior to God's blessing and
"Matters of transgressions prevail against me; as for our iniquities - You the changing of Ya'akov's name to Yisra'el, the Torah notes the passing
shall cover (atone for) them (tekhaprem)." I am incapable; please do the of Rivka and her nurse. We see clearly that whether it is rebuke or
covering for me. blessing, the timing can often be as important as the message.
As we have seen, God's glory, kingship and sanctity entail a
contradiction between proximity to God and sin or impurity. In light of
this, a request for forgiveness from God, without punishment, is actually 7 BAR ILAN UNIVERSITY
A project of Bar-Ilan University's Faculty of Jewish Studies, Paul and Helene hulman Basic Jewish Studies Center,
a request that God's attribute of compassion prevail over His attribute of and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Sponsored by Dr. Ruth Borchard of the Shoresh Charitable Fund (SCF).
justice. It is only by virtue of this strength inherent in the power of Published with assistance of the President's Fund for Torah and Science.Web Site:
compassion that the attribute of justice can be nullified. Thus a person MOHAR, MATAN, AND THE KETUBBAH
may attain forgiveness and pardon – even where he lacks the ability and Dr. Yoel Shiloh Ashkelon College
the strength to "le-khapper" – to atone (cover) for himself through the Shechem son of Hamor fell in love in with Dinah daughter of Jacob,
mechanisms established within the attribute of justice. and in order to obtain her family‘s consent he offered a sum of money
C) SICHAT ROSH YESHIVA which in his eyes was ―an offer they could not refuse‖ (Gen. 34:11-12):
HARAV YEHUDA AMITAL SHLIT"A Then Shechem said to her father and brothers, ―Do me this favor,
WHEN THE TIME IS RIPE: REBUKE & BLESSING IN YA'AKOV'S and I will pay whatever you tell me. Ask of me a bride-price ever so high,
LIFE as well as gifts, and I will pay what you tell me; only give me the maiden
In Parashat Vayishlach, on his return journey to his father's house, our for a wife.‖
patriarch Ya'akov faces many challenges. We have much to learn from The bride-price (mohar) and gifts (matan) are sums of money or
the way Ya'akov deals with each situation, but his reaction in the episode monetary equivalents that the groom or his family transfers to the bride‘s
concerning Dina (Bereishit 34) is very strange, on a number of levels. family. The amount is subject to negotiation, and sometimes is
The first peculiarity is his lack of involvement in the whole story: after all, translated into work or a specifically defined deed which is difficult to
he is the father of Shimon and Levi (and of Dina, too); why does he not perform. The bride-price is a sum defined by law, and the gifts
intervene and prevent the wholesale slaughter of the men of the city of comprise a sum that is established by agreement between the families or
Shekhem, who are innocent? Furthermore, after witnessing his sons' according to the groom‘s generosity. Some people consider that the
rampage, he reproaches them with the words (34:30): "You have sullied bride-price and gifts are one and the same.
me, to make me look bad before the inhabitants of the land…" Why In the time of the Sages the bride-price, which they termed
does he respond only to the practical effect of their actions, rather than ketubbah, underwent considerable legal change: the said sum was to
addressing the moral issue? Why does Ya'akov postpone this rebuke be given not at the beginning of the marriage, but at its termination. The
until he is on his deathbed, at which point he finally declares, "Shimon Sages set a fixed sum for the ketubbah – two hundred zuz for a woman‘s
and Levi are brothers; instruments of cruelty are their swords… for in first marriage and one hundred zuz for a remarriage. This sum was
their anger they killed a man, and willfully they lamed an ox" (49:5-6). uniform and obligatory; it was not to be increased nor decreased: ―The
Why are these harsh words not uttered right away? ketubbah for a virgin is two hundred and for a widow, a maneh.‖ The
With regard to the first questio n, we see that when the Torah legislation transferring the payment of this sum from the beginning of the
introduces the brothers' sin, it says: "The sons of Ya'akov answered marriage to its termination is ascribed to Simeon ben Shetah:
Shekhem and Chamor his father with guile, and they spoke" (34:13). It Originally it was the practice to actually give a virgin two hundred and
seems that when Ya'akov sees that they are trying to trick Shekhem, he a widow one hundred; so the men would grow old and not take wives, ...
feels that he has no right to interfere; if he were to do so, his sons might until Simeon ben Shetah came and amended the legislation, providing
respond that Ya'akov himself deceived his father; why should they not do that the groom promise her in writing, ―all my property is a guarantee for
the same? (Yitzchak even uses the same term, "with guile," "be-mirma," her ketubbah.‖
in 27:35, when he discovers Ya'akov's subterfuge.) For this reason, Two hundred zuz is a considerable sum. Young men had to save
Ya'akov is unable even to attempt to dissuade the brothers from their for many years until they amassed the requisite amount, and in the
scheme. meantime the marriageable women were left sitting in their father‘s
When they carry out their plan, Ya'akov is terrified, and we can house, longing for a groom. The purpose of Simeon ben Shetah‘s
understand what it is that he fears if we examine the account of his regulation was to lower the marriage age by easing the terms on the
encounter with Esav. Upon hearing that his brother is approaching with groom, so that the marriage sum essentially became the sum required
four hundred men, "Ya'akov was very afraid, and it distressed him" for divorce. Another purpose of instituting the ketubbah was to
(32:8). Rashi explains, based on the words of Rabbi Yehuda bar Ila'i in strengthen the institution of marriage: ―In the beginning the ketubbah
Bereishit Rabba 76:2, that he is "'afraid' lest he will be killed, was entrusted to her father and thus the man thought
lightly of divorcing his wife... Simeon ben Shetah legislated that a person Sam. 18:25.  Jerusalem Talmud, Ketubbot 3.5: ―Bride-price is none other than the ketubbah.‖ Also cf. Rashi
on Genesis 34:12. The term ketubbah is generally used by the Sages to denote the sum that the husband must
could do business using his wife‘s ketubbah.‖ Thus, the purpose of pay his wife upon termination of their marriage, and not to refer to the written document of obligation signed by
the witnesses and given at the end of the wedding ceremony by the groom to his bride for safekeeping. To
the ketubbah was that a man ―not think lightly of divorcing his wife.‖ distinguish between the two, some people use the more precise terms, ikkar ketubbah (the substance of the
Simeon ben Shetah‘s legislation provided that the woman i n effect lend ketubba) to refer to the sum of money, and shtar ketubbah, the ketubbah document, to refer to the written
obligation.  Mishnah, Ketubbot 1.2. A maneh is a coin worth one hundred zuz. Also cf. Ketubbot 56b on
her husband the bride-price money to do with as he pleased, except that various attempts to circumvent the regulation regarding a fixed and obligatory sum.  Ketubbot 82b.  This
he had to promise to repay it whenever obligated to, by putting a lien on sum of money was sufficient to support a person for an entire year. See Tiferet Yisrael on Pe‘ah 8.8. 
Jerusalem Talmud, Ketubbot 8.11.  Bava Kamma 89a.  Cf. I. L. Epstein, Toledot ha-Ketubbah be-
all his property for the amount of the ketubbah. Yisrael, New York 1954, pp. 13-16.  Contrary to Epstein‘s opinion that matan became the ―addition to the
dowry,‖ based on Genesis Rabbah 80.7: ―Mohar (=bride-price) is pranon, matan is praphoron,‖ praphoron in
As the bride-price (mohar) became the ketubbah, so the matan Greek meaning dowry. Likewise in Midrash Sekhel Tov on Genesis 34: ―Mohar is nadan, which means dowry,
became ―additions to the ketubbah.‖ Primarily the additions to the and matan is the addition to the dowry.‖ See Epstein, loc. sit., p. 51, note 2.  Mishnah, Ketubbot 5.1.
 For example, in a ketubbah from Eastern Europe the sum of money was written in zekukim, an
ketubbah gave the groom permission to undertake additional monetary ancient Polish coin; in Western Europe and Italy the sum was expressed in liras; in Morocco in doros; in India,
obligations vis a vis his wife: ―Even though they said, ‗A virgin receives ropia; in Yemen, keresh; in Russia, silver rubles; in Iraq, dinars.  Rabbenu Samuel ha-Levi Segal, Nahalat
Shiv‘ah, Bnei Brak 2006, Vol. 1, 12.31, pp. 249-290; Rabbi Judah Kalmar, Tosefet Ketubbah, Jerusalem 1990,
two hundred and a widow one hundred,‘ if he wishes to add on to that pp. 13-16; Gershon German, ―Shi‘arukh ha-Ketubbah,‖ Tehumin 25, Alon Shevut 2005, pp. 195-203. 
Tosefot, Ketubbot 54b, s.v. ―af al pi‖: ―It is surprising that nowadays it is customary for the groom to write that
sum, even a hundred-fold one hundred, he may do so.‖ Aside from he gives the bride one hundred lira, even though he himself does not have to his name as much as a perutah.‖
the ―addition to the ketubbah,‖ sometimes mention is made in the  A court in the United States ruled explicitly, ―Even for Orthodox Jews the ketubbah is a ceremonial
document and not a binding monetary instrument.‖ See: Rabbi Matityahu Broyde and Rabbi Jonah Reiss,
ketubbah document of the dowry that the bride brings, since the groom ―Erkah shel ha-Ketubbah,‖ Tehumin 25, Alon Shevut 2005, pp. 180-189, note 35.  Moshe Amar, Ha-
Mishpat ha-Ivri be-Kehilot Morocco – Sefer ha-Takanot, Jerusaelm, p. 270.  Resp. Iggerot Moshe, Even
or his heirs are obliged to repay the wife the value of her dowry after he ha-Ezer 4.91 (with slight linguistic changes). An extreme case of an exaggerated sum for a ketubbah came up
dies or divorces her. for deliberation in the Rabbinical Court in Haifa in 1991 (Rabbinical Court Rulings 15, p. 211), in which the
husband undertook an obligation in the sum of 240 million NIS. In this case the rabbinical judges ruled that the
There have been several customs of adding to the ketubbah man only had to pay the woman $10,000.  Rabbi Shlomo Dikhovsky, ―Sekhum ha-Ketubbah – Hatza‘ah
practiced in Jewish communities over the years. Sometimes the groom le-Nusah Metukkan,‖ Tzohar 17, Winter 2004, pp. 25-29.
would give the bride an ―addition to her dowry,‖ sometimes ―an additional
third,‖ sometimes ―early‖ and sometimes ―late,‖ and various other
nomenclatures for assorted ways of augmenting the ketubbah. What
8- AISH HATORA
(C) 1999 Aish HaTorah International - All rights reserved. http://www.aish.com/
they all share in common is that the total exceeds the defined sum that is A) WHAT'S BOTHERING RASHI (Avigdor Bonchek)
placed on the man or his heirs as a debt that must be paid to the wife As Jacob's family gets ready to meet Esau, Jacob arranges them in
upon termination of the marriage, either by divorce or death of the backward priority – maidservants first, then Leah then Rachel. So that if,
husband. Originally this sum was intended to hinder reckless divorce. It God forbid, Esau attacks them, the most beloved will be spared because
also provides an economic foundation for the woman in the time that they will be further back in line. Then the Torah says:
follows the termination of her marriage. GENESIS 28:22
Aside from the obligation of two hundred zuz, set and maintained by "He placed the maidservants and their children first, Leah and
the legislation of the Sages, the total sum together with all the additions her children later (in Hebrew 'acharonim') and Rachel and
to the ketubbah is what the public generally calls the ―total sum (sakh Joseph last ('acharonim')."
hakol) of the ketubbah‖. This is the amount of money that the officiating RASHI
rabbi proclaims under the bridal canopy when he reads the ketubbah or And Leah and her children later ('acharonim') - RASHI: The very
marriage document; some rabbis deliberately do not read this sum out last is the most beloved.
loud. In several Jewish communities it was the practice to express the This is a famous Rashi quote. In Hebrew it is: "Acharon, acharon,
additions to the ketubbah in the local currency, while other communities chaviv."
continued to express this sum in ancient coinage which had not been in QUESTIONING RASHI
use for centuries. Much ink has been expended by halakhic But this comment is puzzling. It seems to say that Leah is the most
authorities in writing responses on the question of the value of a beloved, whereas we know that Rachel was Jacob's most beloved wife.
ketubbah when the time comes to pay up, and the issue remains Why then does Rashi say, in reference to Leah, 'the very last is the most
unresolved to this day. beloved'? And if you will say that the very last in this line is Rachel and
A custom spread among the public of viewing the sum of the thus she is the most beloved, then I ask why does Rashi make his
ketubbah as reflecting the value of the bride in the groom‘s eyes. comment on the words "And Leah and her children later"? He should
Sometimes the bride or her parents would insist on raising the sum as have made it on the words "And Rachel and Joseph last."
much as possible. The amount of money also serves as a basis of UNDERSTANDING RASHI
comparison with other marriages in the same time and place. Even An Answer: It is true that the very last is the most beloved. It is also
centuries back it was common to find sums for the ketubbah that far true that Rachel was the very last. It is also true that she was the most
exceeded the true financial capabilities of the groom, and in most beloved to Jacob.
Jewish communities in the past few centuries the sums of ketubbot And while all this is true, nevertheless Rashi did not make his
climbed higher and higher, becoming totally unrealistic. When the groom comment about Rachel. The reason is that Rashi was bothered by
makes an undertaking for an exaggerated sum that he cannot possibly something in this verse. Can you see what that is?
fulfill, it is clear to the groom, to the bride, and to society in general that WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
there is no true obligation being made, rather only a symbolic act. Hence An Answer: Rashi is bothered by the word "acharonim" after Leah's
some authorities doubt the halakhic validity of such a ketubbah. In this name. Leah was not last, so why does the Torah say that Leah and her
way the Sages‘ legislation, designed so that the groom ―not think lightly children were also 'acharonim'?
of divorcing his wife,‖ lost its bite, since in the eyes of the public the Rashi's answer is that the word 'acharonim' does not necessarily
ketubbah was transformed from a binding legal document to a merely mean 'last'; it can also mean 'latter.' It is a relative term. Leah was 'last'
ceremonial one. In recent times rabbis in several Jewish vis a vis the maidservants who came before her. On the other hand, she
communities have attempted to fight against this trend of exaggerated was not 'last' vis a vis Rachel, who came after her. And the reason Rashi
sums of money. For example, in 1950, the Rabbinical Council in comments only on Leah, and not on Rachel, where the same word
Morocco proposed legislation that would place a limit on permissible 'acharonim' appears, is that the word 'acharonim' is apparently
sums in the ketubbah: problematic only when placed in reference to her, since she wasn't last.
For some twenty years people who hold themselves high and mighty, But when the Torah says that Rachel and Joseph were 'acharonim' last,
of their own accord and without following the regulation of elders of the that presents no problem, because in fact they were the last in line.
oaths of the city dignitaries, have come forward and exceeded the AN IMPORTANT LESSON
limitations set by early authorities, increasing the additions to the It is important to take notice of this. Rashi, in his commentary, never
ketubbah a hundred-fold for every ten, and others have followed their makes a comment just in order to teach us some wisdom, however true it
lead... And generation after generation continue to add further, so that may be (as in the saying 'acharon, acharon, chaviv'). He comments only
they have reached sums of millions. when there is something apparently problematic in the Torah's words.
In adjudicating divorce cases today, rabbinical courts generally Then he may use a wise saying to explain away the problem, as he does
ignore the sum listed in the ketubbah and impose on the husband in our verse.
another sum, sometimes determined by the divorce agreement reached
between the parties or according to the discretion of the judges. Rabbi B) FAMILY PARASHA
Moses Feinstein wrote in this regard: Curiosity can be a very positive trait. However, being nosy, which is like
In almost all matters of divorce [the ketubbah] essentially plays no being too curious about things that don't concern us, can cause problems
part. Since one cannot divorce [a woman] against her will, in divorce it for ourselves and for others. In this week's Torah portion Jacob's
depends on who demands the get [writ of divorce] and gives the other daughter Dinah is overly curious and it leads to very destructive
side as large a settlement as needed to satisfy the person to give or consequences. From this we can learn that there are times when it's
accept a get. Even regarding widows who are not the mother of the better just to mind our own business.
sons, in most instances there is a Last Will and Testament, as well as STORY
laws of the state, so that most people are either satisfied or forced to In our story a kid finds out that sometimes too much curiosity doesn't
Of late attempts have been made to limit the sums written in the COMPOUND INTEREST
ketubbah in order to restore the ketubbah to its halakhic status and to Dave was so familiar with the boring routine of his daily walk to
uphold the legislation of the Sages which was enacted so that a man ―not school, he figured he could do it in his sleep. That was a good thing too,
think lightly of divorcing his wife.‖ For example, Rabbi Dikhovsky has since at 7:00 in the morning he really was often still half asleep.
suggested that the sum of the ketubbah be set at 60,000 NIS But today something different greeted him on his way. The vacant lot
(approximately $15,000), and under no circumstances exceed 120,000 he'd usually cut through had been fenced in with shiny aluminum panels
NIS. It might not be long until we see the sums of the ketubbah and big "DANGER CONSTRUCTION -- KEEP OUT" signs seemed to be
decreased back to reasonable bounds, and the legislation of the Sages hanging everywhere.
restored to pride of place as behooves its original objective – to give Of course, Dave, being a curious kind of kid who liked to see
stability to marital life among the Jewish people. interesting things, immediately stopped in his tracks to try to get a peek
 Sums of money: Genesis 20:16, Exodus 22:16. Monetary equivalent: Genesis 24:53, and see Nahmanides between the panels. He saw big bulldozers, tall cranes and men
in note 2, below. Labor: Genesis 29:18-20, 28-30. A deed which is difficult to perform: Genesis 34:15, I scurrying around in bright yellow hardhats.
Samuel 18:28.  A fixed sum: Deut. 22:29. The term for the gifts, matan in Hebrew, comes from matanah
= gift, as in matan ba-seter = secret giving (Prov. 21:14). Also cf. Nahmanides on Genesis 33:12, where he Looks kinda cool. Why not get a closer look? he thought as he
says that the bride-price referred to the sivlonot, a laden shipment of gifts that young men would send to young
maidens when they consented to marry them, and matan referred to trinkets or silver and gold that the groom pushed himself further and further through the small space between the
would give her father and brothers. Likewise, Nahmanides on Exodus 22:15.  Metzudat Zion on I
panels. He had just gotten his whole body through when he felt a heavy monotheism. This follows the tradition of his grandparents, Avraham and
hand clap down on his shoulder. Sarah, who traveled with the ―souls they made in Charan‖ (ibid. 12:5).
"Hey kid, can't you read the signs?" a big, tall man with a handlebar The theft of Lavan‘s terafim (idols) should also be seen in this light.
mustache and a hardhat glared at him. "No one's allowed here but us As the journey continued, Yaakov turned to his encampment (―his
workers. It's dangerous. Now get going!" He said, pointing his finger household and all who were with him‖) with the following directive:
toward the gap in the fence that Dave had just squeezed through. ―Remove the foreign gods that are in your midst and purify yourselves …
Not having much of a choice, the boy sheepishly did what the man and we shall go to Beit El and make there an altar… They gave Yaakov
said and went on his way. the foreign gods in their midst and the earrings… and he buried them
Dave's school day went by more or less like all the others - boring. under the elah tree that was in Shechem‖ (ibid. 35: 2-4).
He was walking home when the fenced-in construction site again caught Who was Yaakov appealing to who had idols? Rashi, the Rashbam,
his eye. and the Ramban say it refers to the whole group, who had taken from the
He peeked in again, curious to see if there was anything new. Nope - booty of Shechem. He asked them to separate themselves from anything
same bulldozers, same cranes ... but where were all the workers? Hey that could be related to idol worship. It is not clear, according to this, why
they must be on lunch break or something ... hey, now I can really go see a distinction is made between his household and those who were with
what's going on in there! Dave thought. Like a flash, Dave slipped back him.
in between the panels. He felt like an explorer climbing over huge rolls of The midrash on the words that mention idols says that this is an
cables, hills of sand and stacks of metal beams. indication that Yaakov had accepted converts like his grandparents.
He heard some voices coming from around the corner. Oh well, Thus, there were two requests. Rachel had to get rid of her father‘s
lunch break must be over, he figured, and decided to duck behind some terafim and members of the broader camp had to remove their idols.
beams so no one would see him and make him leave. Suddenly Dave These were people who were in the process of converting but had not
heard the low rumble of an engine. Looking up he saw the big, heavy yet totally purged themselves of idolatrous tendencies and possessions.
claw of the crane dangling high, right above his head and then start It is fascinating to see that Yehoshua, upon his entry into Eretz Yisrael
coming down, right at him. He tried to jump out of the way, but his foot with the new nation, including converts who came with them from Egypt,
was stuck between the beams! Oh, no!!! had a ―rally‖ with the people where he urged them to ―remove the foreign
"Hey, help, I'm back here!" he screamed, but his voice was nothing gods that are in your midst.‖ Where did it take place if not in the same
but a tiny squeak compared to the noisy engine. The huge claw kept place, ―under the elah‖ in Shechem (Yehoshua 24: 23-26)!
coming closer and Dave didn't know what to do... ASK THE RABBI
Suddenly it got very quiet. The engine noise had stopped. Dave Question: A laundromat damaged much of my clothing and is willing to
looked up and gasped. The claw, which was almost as big as a car, had reimburse me for only some of the losses by offering free laundry
stopped coming down and was now dangling just a couple of feet over service. Is that a legitimate form of payment?
his head! Answer: We will deal with the question of the form of payment and take
"You again!!" a big voice boomed. It was the same constructio n no stand on how much, if at all, they owe you. That requires hearing both
worker with the mustache he had seen before. "Do you know how close sides and appraising the clothes‘ value.
you just came to getting killed? Why, if I hadn't seen you at the last Not always does halacha require one to make payment in the form of
minute and stopped my machine ... tell me, just tell me, why did you cash. Regarding a regular loan, one who has cash must pay cash
come back here after I already told you how dangerous it was?" The man (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 101:1). However, regarding
stared at him, waiting for an answer. damages, even one who has money may give objects of the same value
"I was ... um, curious." Even as Dave said it, he realized how dumb it (ibid. 419:1). Although one who pays damages with real estate has to
sounded and how wrong he was to have almost made the biggest give the choicest level of fields that he possesses, he can pay whichever
mistake of his life - just because he was curious. and whatever level of movable objects (m‘talt‘lin) he wants (Shulchan
QUESTIONS Aruch, ibid). This is because m‘talt‘lin are considered a choice form of
Ages 3-5 payment, as the recipient can take them to wherever he wants and sell
Q.How did Dave feel at first about going into the construction site? them (Bava Kama 7b).
A. Even though he knew it was dangerous, he felt it was okay because Now let‘s analyze the type of payment that the laundromat is offering.
he was curious to see something interesting. They are offering a service that is of value only in a very limited context
Q. How did he feel in the end? (laundering at a single establishment). Therefore it lacks the broadness
A. He realized that being curious was no excuse to do something he of m‘talt‘lin, which one can take with him. However, if they give you a
shouldn't. written credit that can be sold to anyone, the certificate is arguably like
Ages 6-9 m‘talt‘lin, as it can be sold if the recipient personally has no use for it. Is
Q. What life-lesson do you think Dave could learn from what happened? this really so?
A. It's only natural to be curious and want to explore things that seem There is a similar case that is discussed by the poskim, albeit in the
interesting and outside of our regular routine. However, we should first context of a loan, which can serve as a precedent for our case. The
use our judgment and be sure that what we're getting into isn't potentially Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 101:2) accepts the opinion that if a debtor has a
dangerous or destructive. loan contract against a third party, he can give it over to his creditor as
Q. What positive things do you think someone who feels bored could do payment. The Rama (ad loc.) concludes that this can be done even if the
to make life more interesting? debtor has standard m‘talt‘lin that he could give as payment. The
A. One thing is to try to set meaningful goals in life and do as much as concerns of those who do not allow such payment (see Tur in the name
we can to fulfill them. Another thing is to try to look at even familiar things of Sefer Haterumot) are as follows: the loan contract is not something of
and activities more closely and we'll be surprised to see how interesting intrinsic value; there is a danger that after receiving the loan contract as
they actually are. payment, the creditor will be unable to extract payment from the third
Ages 10 and Up party. Since we see that the Torah expected payment to be in a relatively
Q. In your opinion what is the difference between healthy and unhealthy safe and accessible form, the contract does not seem to be up to the
A. Healthy curiosity is when we seek knowledge that will somehow bring Our case is similar in that in both one cannot practically take the
us practical benefit or growth. Curiosity which stems from feeling bored document anywhere to sell it, but, on the other hand, it certainly is more
or wanting to know other people's secrets, is most likely unhealthy. movable than land. Our case is better in that the person who is tryi ng to
Q. Why do you think people seem to always want to have or experience thereby exempt himself from payment is the one providing the service. If
something new and different? he reneges on the credit, the court case will resume from the same point.
A. There is a natural uplift or thrill that comes with novelty. However, Both cases have similar questions as to whether a document can be
many times that feeling of wanting something new or more is because considered as the equivalent of money (see K‘tzot Hachoshen 101:2).
we are really longing for something with spiritual meaning and once we It is important to note that the Shach (CM 101:3) argues on the
find that we will see that we are much more content with what we already Shulchan Aruch and Rama and says that a loan contract can be used as
have. payment only when no standard m‘talt‘lin exist. Even they say that the
value of the contract is not its face value but depends on how much a
10 – ERETZ CHEMDA
Eretz Hemdah is the premier institution for training young rabbi's to take the Israeli Rabbinate's rigorous Yadin Yadin
person would pay for them, after considering how easy it is to extract
payment from the specific debtor. In this case, the laundromat‘s
examinations. Eretz Hemdah, with its distinctive blend of Religious Zionist philosophy and scholarship coupled with
community service, ensures its graduates emerge with the finest training, the noblest motivations and the strongest
reputation and accessibility would be factors.
connection to Jewish communities worldwide. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org web-site: www.eretzhemdah.org In such matters, accepted standards emanating from laws or social
REMOVE THE FOREIGN GODS FROM YOUR MIDST norms may affect the halacha. It seems to us (albeit before extensive
Harav Yosef Carmel research) that, in this type of case, proprietors often give this type of
Parashat Vayeitzei focuses on Yaakov‘s developing family, compensation. We understand why you would prefer to get cash, and
describing his relationships with his wives and, on the other hand, with you now understand that it might be legitimate for them to give you a
his father-in-law and his children‘s births. The end of the parasha moves credit as compensation. Assuming that you would not prefer to drag the
over to a more national outlook. Yaakov assembled a whole camp; matter to a din Torah and that you may lack ways of exerting effective
Lavan pursued with his own forces. Only Divine intervention prevented pressure, this might be the best way to get them to agree to return to you
the outbreak of war. Instead, they made an international peace the most value for your loss.
agreement, which set the boundary between Aram and Eretz Yisrael MORESHET SHAUL
(Bereishit 31). Our parasha begins with the tense dealings with Eisav, THAT WHICH GROWS DURING SHEMITTA IN A NON-JEW’S
which are not so much on the personal level as on the level of two camps FIELD (PART I)
representing different agendas and directions. The national and even (from Chavot Binyamin, siman 9.12)
spiritual side of the encounter is corroborated by Yaakov‘s struggle with According to the instructions of the Chief Rabbinate, even farmers
the angel-representative of Eisav. At the parasha‘s end, the twelve tribes who sold, under the Rabbinate‘s auspices, their fields to non-Jews
of Israel are featured against the tribal leaders and future kings of Edom should refrain from actions to the field and/or produce that are forbidden
(Eisav‘s offspring). by the Torah at the time when the laws of Shemitta apply from the Torah.
Yaakov‘s camp was not just comprised of shepherds but apparently Therefore, sowing the field should be done by non-Jews (or, under
also of people who joined with him as the representative of belief in pressing circumstances, by gerama (indirect action)). What
is the status of produce that came from sowing done improperly by Jews
in a normal manner? 11 – RAV KOOK
Rav Kook on the Net: RavKook.n3.net
There are two issues that must be dealt with. 1) Is there a k‘nas THE PROHIBITION OF GID HA-NASHEH
(penalty) along the lines of the Rambam (Shvi‘it 3:11) that a tree planted Jacob was limping, but he survived the nocturnal struggle.
during Shemitta should be uprooted? 2) Is there a prohibition along the Nervously awaiting a confrontation with his estranged brother Esau,
lines of sefichin, the rabbinic law prohibiting that which grew by itself in a Jacob had been attacked by a mysterious opponent. With the
field where sowing is forbidden, out of fear that one will plant and say approach of dawn, the stranger dislocated Jacob's thigh.
that it grew by itself? "Therefore the Israelites do not eat the displaced nerve (gid ha-
The Rambam (ibid. 4:15) discusses one who improperly sowed his nasheh) on the hip joint to this very day, because he touched Jacob's
field during Shemitta and the produce is ready to be harvested during the thigh on the displaced nerve." [Gen. 32:33]
eighth year. He makes distinctions based on the purpose of the planting, What is the significance of this prohibition? Should we refrain from
which determine whether or not there is a prohibition of sefichin. One can eating the sciatic nerve just because of a mysterious wrestling match that
see that only the issue of sefichin, not of k‘nas, is a concern. The took place thousands of years ago?
Ra‘avad (ad loc.) argues, pointing out that even when something is A Vision of Violence
planted improperly right before Shemitta, one is required to uproot it, and At first glance, the prohibition of gid ha-nasheh appears to be yet
so certainly if one sowed a field in Shemitta he may not benefit from it. another restriction the Torah places on eating meat. The Torah permits
He continues that only if the produce was sown by a non-Jew or in areas meat, but it created a number of restrictions - which animals may be
that Shemitta applies only on a rabbinic level is it possible to permit it. eaten, how they are to be slaughtered, how to treat their blood, and so
The Kesef Mishne justifies the Rambam and says that he actually agrees on. These limitations indicate that we may not treat animals as we wish,
with the Ra‘avad, as the Rambam was talking about places where without regard for their welfare. Rather, we have moral obligations and
Shemitta applies only rabbinically. The Ri Korkus gives a different responsibilities towards animals.
answer for the Rambam. He says that although one has to uproot that The prohibition of gid ha-nasheh, however, comes to project a
which was grown improperly, if the produce was not uprooted and made broader ethical aspiration, beyond the realm of how we treat animals.
it until the eighth year, then the k‘nas does not apply and the only issue If there is one area in which the human race is constantly advancing,
that remains is that of sefichin. it is the art of warfare. Methods and tools of combat grow ever more
Let us point out that the Ri Korkus was discussing a case where a sophisticated, as we progress from spears and swords to guns and
Jew‘s field was planted by a Jew during a time period when Shemitta canons, to the latest tanks, long-range missiles, and nuclear bombs. And
applies from the Torah. The Rambam said that the fruit may still be yet, the essence of war still remains the age-old, one-on-one combat of
permitted after the fact, and the Ra‘avad said that then it is forbidden. two individuals wrestling. All warfare boils down to the violent struggle to
However, regarding a time when Shemitta is rabbinic all would seem to overcome and subdue, where the beginning of victory is to fell one's
agree that the produce is permitted. opponent by striking the thigh, thus crippling the nerve that enables the
The Kesef Mishne (4:29) says that except when specified otherwise, body to stand.
the Rambam‘s discussions refer to cases where Shemitta does apply According to tradition, the stranger who fought Jacob that night was
from the Torah. However, the Rambam rules that when the Yovel year is the guardian angel of Esau. Jacob's opponent represented the lifestyle of
not counted, the laws of Shemitta regarding agriculture do not apply from the hunter, the man of violence and aggression whose prophetic blessing
the Torah. In Eretz Hemdah (pp. 95-100), we explained that the Kesef was to live by his sword. This nighttime struggle was not a private
Mishne distinguishes between times that Yovel is counted even if in experience, a personal event in Jacob's life. It was a vision for all times.
practice its laws do not apply and between times that there is not even a It depicts our constant battle against belligerent foes who claim the right
counting. Therefore, the Kesef Mishne can hold that there is Shemitta to subjugate others by virtue of their physical strength and military
from the Torah in a time when there is no Beit Hamikdash but that it will prowess.
not apply from the Torah in our days. We must note that regarding these This struggle appeared to Jacob in its most unadorned fashion,
days, all our present-day poskim assume that Shemitta does not apply without any pretense of gallantry and shining swords to hide its primitive
from the Torah, As a result, there will not be a k‘nas to forbid the fruit that violence and naked aggression. For the truth is able to see in all wars, no
was grown due to improper working of the land. It is also based on the matter how 'civilized,' as nothing more than a brutal struggle to subdue
assumption that Shemitta observance today is only rabbinic that we rely and conquer.
on the heter mechira. Consider also that the Rambam and Ra‘avad Protesting Aggression
discussed a case where the field belonged to a Jew, whereas we are When we refrain from eating the gid ha-nasheh, we demonstrate our
discussing a case where the field was sold to a non-Jew. revulsion of unprovoked aggression and violence. Just as Jacob fought
Next time we will discuss whether the prohibition of sefichin applies Esau's angel that night, we also oppose the cynical belief in 'the right of
to the produce of sold fields. might.' There is no legal or moral right to terrorize and subjugate those
P'NINAT MISHPAT who are weaker.
A WILL THAT WAS NOT PUBLICIZED While nationalism provides many benefits, in its extreme form it can
– based on Halacha Psuka, vol. 34, condensation of a p‘sak from Piskei descend into fascism and imperialism. As Rav Kook wrote in Olat
Din Rabbaniim XVII, pp. 207-270 Re'iyah (vol. I p. 234):
[The following p‘sak does not represent the mainstream halachic "Nationalism is a lofty emotion in its natural pristine state. But if it is
approach to wills, but it is worthwhile for our readership to know that such not directed towards the highest goal - the aspiration of universal
p‘sakim do exist.] happiness and perfection - it will end up crossing the boundaries of
Case: A man wrote a will leaving some money to his daughters and morality.
granddaughters and the rest to tzedakah (but none to his sons). T he will We may need a strong army to defend ourselves, and we may need
was left by his lawyer, who was the only person who knew it existed. The to slaughter animals to provide for our physical needs. But by refraining
halachic inheritors questioned its validity.Ruling: A person‘s signature on from eating the gid ha-nasheh, we demonstrate that our goal is not to
a document usually works as situmta (a kinyan based on accepted control and subjugate others, man or beast. Even as we eat the meat of
practice). However, there are a few possible limitations to consider. animals, we avoid the sciatic nerve that allows the body to stand. This is
Although the Maharshal and Divrei Chayim say that situmta works even a concept encompassing every form of interaction, so that all should
for davar shelo ba la‘olam (future interests) when that is the minhag, the merit lofty peace in a Divine spirit.
Mordechai, Radvaz, and K‘tzot say that it does not, just as other [Adapted from Oztrot HaRe'iyah vol. II p. 507]
kinyanim do not. Beit din decided that the matter remains an unsolved
doubt. The Netivot Hamishpat, argueing on the Maharshdam, says that
situmta does not work in regard to money owed to the person who is 12 COVENANT AND CONVERSATION
Covenant and Conversation, a unique new Torah commentary from the Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks
giving over its rights. The Shulchan Aruch and Rama seem to argue JACOB WRESTLING
whether situmta works for land. Therefore, in regard to all of these types THE STORY OF JACOB‘S WRESTLING MATCH WITH AN UNNAMED
of property we will not be able to extract the property from the
possession of the inheritors. ADVERSARY ALONE AT NIGHT is surely one of the most enigmatic in
the entire Torah. With whom was Jacob wrestling? The text itself calls
The Rama (CM 203:10) brings three opinions regarding a single
him ―a man.‖ According to the prophet Hosea, it was an angel. For the
document that includes elements for which the kinyan should work and
sages, it was the guardian angel of Esau. Jacob himself had no doubt. It
others for which it should not, whether we say that it works for all, works was G-d. He called the place of the encounter Peniel, ―because I saw G-
for none or works only for that for which it naturally should. Therefore, we
again do not escape a case of doubt whether the will would work for d face to face, and yet my life was spared.‖ The adversary himself
implies as much when he gives Jacob the name Israel, ―because you
have struggled with G-d and with man and have overcome.‖
Another issue is that the will was done secretly. The Shulchan Aruch
The passage resists easy interpretation, yet it holds the key to
(CM 242:3) says that if witnesses are not told to make a present public, it understanding Jewish identity. It is not we, the readers, who give it this
is not valid. Although later (ibid.:5) he says that in the standard case it is significance but the Torah itself. For it was then, as dawn was about to
considered like public, in our case it was done specifically privately.
break, that Jacob acquired the name that his descendants would bear
According to the Pitchei Teshuva (ad loc.:1) it is again a doubt, for which
throughout eternity. The people of the covenant are not the children of
we could not extract payment. Since the lawyer represented the legal
interests of the deceased, he is considered like an extension of him and Abraham or Isaac but ―the children of Israel.‖ It was only with the division
we have to consider the possibility that the giver backed out of his of the kingdom and the Assyrian conquest of the north, that those who
remained were called generically Yehudah (the southern kingdom), and
obligation. thus Yehudim or, in English, Jews.
The Shulchan Aruch (CM 282:1) says that whoever gave his property Names in the Torah – especially a new name given by G-d – are not
to people other than his inheritors is not doing the right thing. The Rosh
says that this includes leaving inheritance to daughters rather than to mere labels but signals of character or calling. The moment at which
Jacob became Israel contains the clue to who we are. To be sure, our
sons. In this case, the deceased did not leave anything for his sons. ancestors were later called on to be ―a kingdom of priests and a holy
Therefore, if we can interpret the will in such a way that it does not
nation‖ but we never lost that earlier appellation. We are the people who
effectively exclude them, we should do exclude them, so as not to make
struggled with G-d and with man and yet survived. What does this mean?
him into one who did the wrong thing. One way into the text (to be sure, only one of many) is to ask: what
happened next? By reasoning backward, from effect to cause, we may you and your descendants the blessing of Abraham, so that you may
gain an insight into what transpired that night. take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land G-d
The events of the next day are little short of astonishing. We have gave to Abraham.
been prepared for a tense encounter. Hearing that Esau was coming to This is a completely different blessing: for children and a land , the
meet him with a force of four hundred men, Jacob was ―very afraid and two key things G-d had repeatedly promised Abraham. These are the
distressed.‖ He made elaborate preparations. As the sages said, he ―covenantal blessings.‖ They dominate the book of Bereishith, and have
adopted three tactics: diplomacy (he sent lavish gifts of herds and nothing to do with wealth or power. G-d promised Abraham that he would
flocks), prayer (―Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the have children who would continue the covenant, and a land in which to
hand of Esau‖) and readiness for war (dividing his household into two do so. G-d never promises Abraham ―the dew of heaven and the
camps so that one at least would survive). richness of the earth,‖ nor does He use the language of power, ―Be lord
Yet when Esau finally appears, all the fears turn out to be unfounded over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.‖
. He ―ran‖ to meet Jacob, threw his arms around his neck, kissed him and Before sending him away from home, Isaac gives Jacob the Abrahamic
wept. There is no anger, animosity or threat of revenge in Esau‘s blessings, saying to him in so many words: it will be you who will
behaviour (to be sure, there are midrashic traditions that suggest continue the covenant into the future.
otherwise, but we are concerned here with the plain sense of the The third significant fact is that, at the time of the blessings, Isaac
narrative). That is not to say that Jacob‘s fears were irrational. They were was blind. Jacob‘s impersonation of Esau was possible only because
not. After all, Esau had vowed revenge twenty two years before (―The Isaac could not see. Bereishith 27 is almost an essay on the senses.
days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Deprived of one (sight), Isaac uses the other four. He tastes the food,
Jacob‖). Esau, however, is an impulsive man who lives in the mood of touches Jacob‘s hands (which Rebekah has covered with goatskins to
the moment. He has none of Cassius‘ ―lean and hungry look‖ or Iago‘s make them feel rough) and smells his clothes (―Ah, the smell of my son is
cold calculation. He is quick to anger, quick to forget. The anti-climax like the smell of a field the Lord has blessed‖). He also hears his voice
when the brothers meet remind us of Roosevelt‘s famous words that ―the (―The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau‖).
only thing we have to fear is fear itself.‖ Eventually, after considerable doubt, Isaac trusts the evidence of taste,
Second, and far more consequential, is Jacob‘s behaviour when the touch and smell over that of sound, and gives Jacob Esau‘s blessing. He
brothers meet. It is little short of extraordinary. First, he ―bowed down to does so only because he cannot see Jacob‘s face . These three facts are
the ground seven times,‖ prostrating himself before Esau. Each of his enough to allow us to decipher the mystery of the meeting between
family members does likewise: ―Then the maidservants and their children Jacob and Esau twenty-two years later.
approached and bowed down. Next Leah and her children came and The patriarchs were more than just founders of a new faith. They
bowed down. Last came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down.‖ were also role models. Their lives are significant not only for what they
The threefold repetition is significant. tell us about the past but also for what they tell us about the present – for
No less striking is Jacob‘s use of language. Five times he calls Esau their challenges are ours.
adoni , ―my lord‖ (in the previous chapter he tells his servants three times Abraham was the man who had the strength of conviction to stand
to used the same word to Esau). Twice he calls himself Esau‘s eved , apart from the culture of his time – to be different, to refuse to worship
―servant,‖ (and four times in the previous chapter tells his servants to do the idols of the age, to listen instead to the inner voice of the one G-d,
likewise). As with his physical gesture of sevenfold prostration, so with even when it meant setting out on a long and risk-laden journey. What
his sevenfold use of the words adon and eved , this is the choreography carried him through was love (chessed ) – love of G-d and, yes, the love
of self-abasement. of humanity that shines through all his deeds and words.
How are we to connect this with the wrestling match of the previous Isaac was the man who knew the reality of sacrifice. He lived, he
night? Surely Jacob had won a victory over his adversary. At the very survived, but not without seeing the knife lifted against him. He knew to
least he had refused to let him go until he blessed him. The new name the core of his being that to be a child of the covenant is neither easy nor
implied that henceforth Jacob should have no doubts about his ability to safe. What carried him through was courage (gevurah ) – and for
survive any conflict. A man who has ―wrestled with G-d and with men and whatever reason, the historical record is clear: to remain Jewish takes
has overcome‖ is not one who needs to bow down to anyone or call him courage.
―my lord.‖ We would have expected Jacob to show a new-found In connection with Jacob, though, the prophet Micah speaks of truth
confidence rather than a wholly surprising servility. (―You will give truth to Jacob‖). He does not mean truth in a cognitive
Nor is this all. When Esau at first refuses the gifts (with the words, ―I sense (What are the facts? What is ultimately real?). He means it in an
have plenty ; let what is yours be yours‖), Jacob replies in the following existential sense (Who am I? To which story do I belong and what part
extraordinary words: am I called on to play?). The search for cognitive truth – scientific,
―No, please, if I have found favour in your eyes, accept this gift from metaphysical, artistic – is not specific to the Abrahamic covenant. It is the
my hand, for to see your face is like seeing the face of G-d, now that you heritage of all mankind. There is no such thing as Jewish science or
have received me favourably. Please accept the present that was economics or psychology. What is, is; and it is given to homo sapiens as
brought to you, for G-d has been gracious to me and I have everything .‖ such to discover it (Rashi translates the phrase ―Let us make man in our
Why has the ―gift‖ become a ―blessing‖? In what conceivable way is image, after our likeness ‖ to mean ―with the capacity to understand and
seeing the face of Esau like ―seeing the face of G-d‖? And what exactly discern‖). The truth with which Jacob spent much of his life wrestling was
does Jacob mean by altering Esau‘s words, ―I have plenty,‖ into his own quite different. It was a truth about identity. Central to it are the words
―I have everything‖? face (in which mirror do I look to see who I am?), name (by which term
There are other resonances in the passage. The most significant has do I know myself?) and blessing (to what destiny am I called?).
to do with the word panim , ―face.‖ Jacob‘s words to Esau, ―to see your One thing stands out about the first phase in Jacob‘s life. He longs to
face is like seeing the face of G-d,‖ clearly echo his remark after the be Esau – more specifically, he desires to occupy Esau‘s place. He
wrestling match, ―He called the place Peniel, saying, ‗It is because I saw struggles with him in the womb. He is born holding on to Esau‘s heel (this
G-d face to face , and yet my life was spared.‘‖ Altogether, chapters 32 is what gives him the name Jacob , ―heel-grasper‖). He buys Esau‘s
and 33 (the preparations for the meeting, the night-time struggle, and the birthright. He dresses in Esau‘s clothes. He takes Esau‘s blessing. When
meeting itself) echo time and again with variants on the word panim . the blind Isaac asks him who he is, he replies, ―I am Esau, your
This is missed in translation, because panim has many forms in Hebrew firstborn.‖
not evident in English. To take one example, verse 32: 21 is translated: Why? The answer seems clear. Esau is everything Jacob is not. He
, ―You shall say, ‗Your servant Jacob is coming behind us,‘ for he is the firstborn. He emerges from the womb red and covered in hair
thought, ‗I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, (Esau means ―fully made‖). He is strong, full of energy, a skilled hunter,
when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.‘‖ ―a man of the fields.‖ More importantly, he has his father‘s love. Esau is
There is nothing here to suggest that, in fact, the word panim homo naturalis , a man of nature. He knows that homo homini lupus est ,
appears four times in this verse alone (Literally, the second half of the ―man is wolf to man.‖ He has the strength and skill to fight and win in the
verse should be translated: ―for he thought, ‗I will wipe his face with the Darwinian struggle to survive and the Hobbesian war of ―all against all.‖
gift that goes ahead of my face ; afterward, when I see his face perhaps These are his natural battle-grounds and he relishes the contest.
he will lift up my face ‘‖). There is a drama here and it has to do with Esau is the archetypal hero of a hundred myths and legends of the
faces: the face of Esau, of Jacob, and of G-d himself. What is going on? ancient world (and of action movies today). He is not without dignity, nor
The clue lies in Jacobs use of the word ―blessing‖. This takes us does he lack human feelings. His love for his father Isaac is genuine and
back twenty-two years to another fateful moment (Bereishith chapter 27) touching. The midrash, for sound educational reasons, turned Esau into
in which Jacob, dressed in Esau‘s clothes, takes his brother‘s blessing a bad man. The Torah itself is altogether more subtle and profound.
(whether by accident or design, the term b-r-kh , ―bless‖ or ―blessing‖ Esau is not a bad man; he is a natural man, celebrating the Homeric
occurs exactly twenty-two times in that chapter). Let us remind ourselves virtues and the Nietzschean will to power.
of what the blessing was: It is not surprising that Jacob‘s first desire was to be like him. That is
May God give you of the dew of heaven And the richness of the the face he first saw in the mirror of his imagination, the face he
earth – An abundance of corn and new wine. May nations serve you And presented to the blind Isaac when he came to take the blessing. But the
peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons face was not the face of Jacob , any more than were the hands.
of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed Nor was the blessing he took the one that was destined for him. The
And those who bless you be blessed. true blessing was the one he received later when Isaac knew he was
The plain sense of these words is clear. They mean wealth and blessing Jacob , not thinking him to be Esau.
power . This is the blessing Jacob took, dressed in Esau‘s clothes, taking Jacob‘s blessing had nothing to do with wealth or power. It had to do
Esau‘s place. That is the first fact. with children and a land – children he would instruct in the ways of the
The second, whose importance cannot be overstated, is that there covenant and a land in which his descendants would strive to construct a
was a later blessing. Esau had married two Hittite women. This was ―a covenantal society based on justice and compassion, law and love. To
source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.‖ Rebekah takes this as an receive that blessing Jacob did not have to dress in Esau‘s clothes.
opportunity to send Jacob away to her brother Laban, where he would be Instead he had to be himself, not a man of nature but a person whose
safe from Esau‘s desire for revenge. Before Jacob leaves, Isaac blesses ears were attuned to a voice beyond nature, the call of the Author of all
him in these words: to be true to that which cannot be bought by wealth or controlled by
May G-d Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your power, namely, the human spirit as the breath of G-d and human dignity
numbers until you become a community of peoples. May He give as the image of G-d.
It should now be clear exactly what Jacob was doing when he met himself. We know about the hatred that Eisav feels for Yaakov which
Esau twenty-two years later. He was giving back the blessing he had forces Yaakov to flee from their home. This hatred is so rampant that it
taken all those years before . The herds and flocks he sent to Esau even goes so far as to see Eisav promise to murder Yaakov as soon as
represented wealth (―the dew of heaven and the richness of the earth‖). their father passes away. Yet, Yaakov is still going with all his family
The sevenfold bowing and calling himself ―your servant‖ and Esau ―my towards Eisav and even sends emissaries towards him.
lord‖ represented power (―Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons Because of this action, it is said in Midrash Raba that Yaakov got
of your mother bow down to you‖). Jacob no longer wanted or needed involved in a fight that was not his. Eisav was just walking on his way, he
these things (―I have everything‖ – meaning, ―I no longer need either didn't know that Yaakov was there and didn't expect to meet him. But
wealth or power to be complete‖). He is explicit. He says, ―Please take once emissaries came to him, he changed his direction and moved
(not just ―my gift‖ but also) ―my blessing.‖ He now knows the blessing he towards Yaakov with 400 men with the intent to fight. We even see from
took from Esau was never meant for him, and he is returning it. Eisav's actions that he wasn't impressed with the presents that Yaakov
It is equally clear what was transacted in the wrestling match the sent him as Eisav was still advancing his way after the emissaries came
previous night. It was Jacob‘s inner battle with existential truth. Who was back. Eisav with his army could have taken everything and not just the
he? The man who longed to be Esau? Or the man called to a different presents that Yaakov gave him.
destiny, ―the road less travelled,‖ the Abrahamic covenant? ―I will not let Yaakov sent the emissaries to try and please Eisav, but the Midrash
you go until you bless me,‖ he says to his adversary. The unnamed says that he should have continued with the virtue of complete trust in
stranger responds in a way that defies expectation. He does not give Hashem and not try independently to solve the problem. If he would have
Jacob a conventional blessing (You will be rich, or strong, or safe). Nor continued with the virtue of his level, all of this could have prevented.
does he promise Jacob a life free of conflict. The name Jacob signified PARSHAT VAYISHLACH
struggle; the name Israel also signified struggle. But the terms of the Eitan Weisberg, former Shaliach, New York
conflict have been reversed. After Yaakov returns with his large family from Charan, he arrives in
It is as if the man said to him, ―In the past, you struggled to be Esau. the Shechem area, where he purchases a plot of land and settles down
In the future you will struggle not to be Esau but to be yourself. In the for a period. But after the incident with Deenah, Yaakov and his family
past you held on to Esau‘s heel. In the future you will hold on to G-d. You flee and continue on towards Chevron, where his father Yitzchak lives.
will not let go of Him; He will not let go of You. Now let go of Esau so that On the way – just as they are approaching their final destination, at the
you can be free to hold on to G-d.‖ The next day, Jacob did so. He let go crossroads where ―there was still some distance to come to Efrat‖
of Esau by giving him back his blessing. And though Jacob had now (Bereshit 35:16) – Binyamin is born, and his mother Rachel meets her
renounced both wealth and power, and though he still limped from death.
encounter the night before, the passage ends with the words, Vayavo Rachel‘s death during childbirth is both tragic and atypical. Not only
Yaakov shalem , ―And Jacob emerged complete.‖ That is the stunning is it sad that she dies before her time, but there is an element of bitter
truth at which Jacob finally arrived, and to which the name Israel is irony involved: The wife of Yaakov‘s dreams dies right before he was
testimony. To be complete we do not need Esau‘s blessings of wealth going to introduce her to his father, Yitzchak. (And we must recall that
and power. Ours is another face, an alternative destiny, a different Yitzchak specifically sent Yaakov to Charan in order to find a wife.)
blessing. The face we bear is the image we see reflected in the face of Moreover, Rachel dies just as her son – who must now grow up without
G-d when we wrestle with Him and refuse to let go. her – is born.
Not by accident was this episode the birth of our identity (our ―name‖) Yet, we must note an additional dimension to the story. Throughout
as Israel. At almost every significant juncture in our history we have Sefer Bereshit, the Avot make a point of acting as the owners of Eretz
wrestled with civilizations who worshipped the gods of nature: wealth Yisrael. Avraham Avinu initiates this approach when he refuses to bury
(―the dew of heaven and the richness of the earth‖) or power (―may Sarah at the side of the road, as was the custom for nomads. Instead, he
nations serve you and peoples bow down to you‖). Israel never knew the purchases a burial plot within the city. He conducts himself as a
wealth of ancient Greece or Rome, Renaissance Italy or aristocratic landowner in Eretz Yisrael and seeks to acquire an achuzat olam (an
France. It never knew the power of great empires, their invincible armies eternal plot): Me‘arat HaMachpelah. Not only does Avraham deliberately
and weapons of destruction. When it longed for these things (as in the traverse the length and breadth of the Land, he wants to establish
days of Solomon) it lost its way. permanent ownership.
Israel‘s strength never lay in itself but in that which was other and Yaakov follows in his grandfather‘s footsteps. When he returns and
greater than itself: the power that transcends all earthly powers, and the arrives in Shechem, the first thing he does is buy land. By purchasing a
wealth that is not physical but spiritual, a matter of mind and heart. Jews plot of land near Shechem for 100 kesitah, he thereby emphasizes – to
have often wished to be someone else, the Esaus of the age. Too often, himself and to his family – that they have returned home. Here, they live
they knew what it was, in Shakespeare‘s words, to as landowners and not as visitors; they have a stake in Eretz Yisrael.
. . . look upon myself, and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one Rachel‘s burial in Me‘arat HaMachpelah would have been a
more rich in hope, Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd, continuation of this approach. As Yaakov‘s beloved and favorite wife, she
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope, With what I most enjoy certainly is worthy of being buried in Me‘arat HaMachpelah – a place
contented least. which symbolizes Yisrael‘s connection to the Land. Instead, she is buried
That is a feeling we must ultimately reject. The Torah does not ask at the side of the road, in the middle of the desert, in the manner of
us to think badly of Esau. To the contrary, it commands us: ―Do not hate nomads. Thus, Rachel‘s burial corresponds to the situations when Am
an Edomite , for he is your brother.‖ It did however ask us to wrestle, as Yisrael does not enjoy possession of Eretz Yisrael. Rachel cries for her
did Jacob, alone, at night, in the depths of our soul, and discover the sons specifically when they head to galut (exile). In other words, Rachel
face, the name and the blessing that is ours. Before Jacob could be at in her burial site symbolizes galut.
peace with Esau he had to learn that he was not Esau but Israel – he Nevertheless, Binyamin is born at this exact juncture. The last of the
who wrestles with G-d and never lets go. shevatim, he is specifically born during this crisis, when sadness and
misery seem to prevail. And even though Rachel does not perceive this
13 TORA MITZION
The Weekly Parshat Shavua Daf is a Newsletter which includes Divrei Torah on the Parsha, Halacha and
birth as a positive omen – she calls her son ―Ben Oni‖ (son of my
affliction) – forward-thinking Yaakov optimistically names the baby
Educational columns, as well as for kids - all in a Zionistic approach. The "Torah MiTzion Kollel" program
establishes centers for the study of Torah and promulgates the connection between Torah and Israel. Torah
Binyamin (literally, son of the right).
Mitzion/ "Beit Meir" /54 King George Street /P.O. Box 71109 /Jerusalem, 91710 /Israel Tel: +972-(0)2-620- According to the Ramban, ―ma‘aseh avot siman labanim‖ (the
fathers‘ actions are a signpost for the sons). Hence, geulatan shel Yisrael
PARSHAT VAYISHLACH (Yisrael‘s salvation) will occur specifically amidst bereavement, despair,
Yair Givati, former Shaliach, Greater Washington galut, and darkness. Just as Shevet Binyamin emerges from Rachel‘s
Bitachon-which translates as confidence or trust- is one of Judaism's death, so too, geulatan shel Yisrael will come out of grief and sorrow.
best known virtues, and one which our sages refer to and deal with Perhaps some will view the geulah as ben oni. However, Yaakov Avinu
extensively. Bitachon is the Confidence/Trust in G-d to lead us on the proclaims that it is not ben oni; it is Binyamin!
right path and ensure that we are being taken care of. EISAV’S MERIT
There are two main doctrines regarding how to approach the virtue of Rav Moshe Lichtman
Bitachon. The first is ascribed to the "Chovat Halevavot". His approach is When Ya‘akov Avinu was about to meet his brother, Eisav, after
that each person has to do his utmost and not rely o n G-d's miracles. twenty years of exile, the Torah recounts that Ya‘akov was very
The other approach belongs to The Ramban (????"?), who teaches that frightened (32:8). Why should our righteous patriarch be so scared?
you have to put your whole trust in G-d. These two approaches seem to Didn‘t HaShem promise him, Behold, I am with you, and I will guard you
be in total contradiction and can't stand together. wherever you go... (28:15)? Apparently, Ya‘akov was afraid that Eisav
The Grandfather from Novardok provides a solution to this seeming might have some special merit that could protect him and help him win
contradiction. He claims that the two different approaches are for two the imminent battle. But what merit could the wicked Eisav have over
different kinds of people. Regular people have to do their utmost and not our righteous forefather, Ya‘akov? Chazal give two answers to this qu
just sit around and wait for a miracle from G-d. But Talmidei Chachamim estion:
have to take the other approach, and put their full trust in Hashem. [Ya‘akov] said, ―All of these years [Eisav] has dwelt in Eretz Yisrael;
In Yaakov's actions, in this Parsha and the previous ones as well, we perhaps he is coming against me with the strength of living in Eretz
can see how he puts his trust in Hashem completely. When Yaakov is Yisrael. All of these years he has been honoring his parents; perhaps he
leaving home, not knowing what to expect or what is going to happen, he is coming against me with the strength of honoring one‘s mother and
still continues to trust that Hashem will guide him. The Midrash tells us father.‖ (BeReishit Rabbah 76:2)
that the Pasuk –―esay einay el heharim…‖ – I lift my eyes to the hills. This is astounding. Chazal say that Eisav was steeped in the most
From whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who nefarious sins, including murder, adultery, and idolatry. Nonetheless,
made heaven and earth‖ relates to Yaakov when he leaves Be'er Sheva. Ya‘akov was afraid that the merit of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael (and honoring
The Beit Halevi explains this Pasuk to mean that Yaakov's Bitachon one‘s parents) might stand by Eisav in his time of need. In the words of
virtue goes so far that not only does he have complete trust in Hashem R. Shmuel Mohaliver (as quoted in Itturei Torah, p. 290): ―One is forced
but he also doesn't question how Hashem will help and guide him, he is to say that the mitzvah of dwelling in the Land of Israel, even when
just completely confident it will happen. performed by a gentile – even Eisav himself – can outweigh many
In our Parsha we see that Yaakov abandoned this virtue, and upo n mitzvot that a complete tzaddik, like Ya‘akov, performs. All the more so,
straying from this position of complete trust he brought danger upon
God is pleased when Jews dwell in Eretz Yisrael, even if they are
R. Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal, the author of Eim HaBanim
Semeichah, explains Ya‘akov‘s fear on a slightly deeper level. According
to him, the essence of Ya‘akov‘s vow (in Parashat VaYeitzei) was that
the merit of Eretz Yisrael should protect him by virtue of his strong desire
to return to it (see the first introduction). Therefore, ―he had good reason
to be afraid, for he was ‗dwelling‘ there merely in thought, while the
wicked Eisav was actually dwelling there‖ (p. 38). This concurs with an
idea R. Teichtal mentions later on in his book (pp. 84-85), that the actual
fulfillment of a mitzvah, even if it lacks lofty intent, is greater than lofty
intentions not carried out in practice (see there).
The Gra derives from the above-cited Midrash that when HaShem
told Avraham Avinu to leave his birthplace and move to Eretz Yisrael (in
Parashat Lech Lecha), all of his descendants were immediately and
eternally obligated in the mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael. Without going
into all the details, the Talmud (Sotah 21a) implies that a mitzvah
protects one who performs it only if that person is obligated in the
mitzvah. If he performs it voluntarily, however, it will not protect him.
Based on this, the Gra reasons: If we were not obligated to live in the
Land of Israel since the days of Avraham Avinu, why would Ya‘akov fear
Eisav? Who cares if Eisav was living in the Land for the past twenty
years? – a voluntary mitzvah does not protect one who performs it! We
must, therefore, assume that the mitzvah of lech lecha applied to all of
Avraham‘s descendants. This is why Ya‘akov was afraid of Eisav: being
a descendant of Avraham, Eisav was obligated to live in the Holy Land.
I have seen this Gra many times before, but it has taken on new
meaning this year. Anyone who has been following recent events in the
Holy Land cannot help but wonder why it is that God (seemingly) shows
the Arabs such favor. They have done such abominable acts, murdering
righteous and pious Jews, but the entire world still considers us the bad
guys. Based on the Gra‘s idea, however, everything is clear. Since they,
too, are descendants of Avraham, the merit of their self-sacrifice for the
Holy Land protects them from us, the descendants of Ya‘akov. If this is
true, the only way to defeat them is to show God that we are willing to
sacrifice even more to settle the Land and restore it to its rightful owners.
I will leave it to the reader to figure out the best way to show God that we
really do love and cherish His beloved Land.
From Rav Lichtman‘s ―Eretz Yisrael In The Parashah‖, published by
ALIYAH: LIVING THE DREAM
It's been just over two years since the cicadas chased us out of town,
and we are happy to report to you from our new home in Ramat Beit
Shemesh, Israel. We called Baltimore home for over 10 years, and we
still look back very fondly at the friends, neighbors, shuls, schools, and
yeshivot that make the Baltimore Jewish community such a wonderful
place to live and raise children.
Part of the success of our Aliyah can be attributed to the fact that
Ramat Beit Shemesh has many, if not all, the wonderful quality-of-life
features that made Baltimore such a special neighborhood – and, as an
added bonus, it neighbors Yerushalayim.
Ramat Beit Shemesh is made up of about 3000 families - about half
Israelis and half Anglos (US, UK, South African, and Australian Olim).
The warmth and friendliness of all the people here and the rural, quiet
nature of the town reminds us almost daily of life in Baltimore. A way from
the "big city", RBS has excellent schools for our children (yes, classes
are in Hebrew), parks and playgrounds, small (and growing) shopping
centers, stores with "American" products, and is in commuting distance
to Yerushalayim or Tel-Aviv.
Day to day life in Israel does have it challenges – logistical, financial,
and emotional. But with proper planning, courage, conviction and with
the warm open arms of a community like RBS they can be overcome.
Come for a visit, drop in for coffee and a tour, or just send us a note.
We would love to show you around our little taste of Baltimore in the Holy
Mendy & Malky Newman
Tzippy, Devora, Efraim & (our sabra) Zvi Eli