Wednesday, November 26, 2003

More divrei torah on Toledot

from November 2004 can be found here and here.

From Jakob and the Beanstalk


ESAV comes in from the field. YAAKOV is cooking a POT OF STEW.

Wow, am I faint and hungry.
What's that red red stuff
you're you cooking?

Red lentils. You want some?

Sure. Pour some down my throat.

Only if you sell me your

Are you crazy? My birthright
is worth more than a bunch of

But these aren't just any beans.
These are MAGIC beans...

The top site searching for "parsha blog" on google

So I decide to search for "parsha blog" on google, and the top result is to Parsha CluB, which is not what it might seem:

Toldot: וַתֵּלֶךְ לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה - A drash of lidrosh to mean bet midrash

In parshat Toldot, Rivka is pregnant with twin boys. In Bereishit 25:22:

וַיִּתְרֹצְצוּ הַבָּנִים, בְּקִרְבָּהּ, וַתֹּאמֶר אִם-כֵּן, לָמָּה זֶּה אָנֹכִי; וַתֵּלֶךְ, לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה
"And the children struggled together within her; and she said: 'If it be so, wherefore do I live?' And she went to inquire of the LORD."

The meaning of לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה is a matter of dispute. The simplest meaning, if we knew no better, was that Rivka wished to ask Hashem a question, asked directly, and Hashem responded. The next pasuk states:

וַיֹּאמֶר ה לָהּ, שְׁנֵי גֹיִים בְּבִטְנֵךְ, וּשְׁנֵי לְאֻמִּים, מִמֵּעַיִךְ יִפָּרֵדוּ; וּלְאֹם מִלְאֹם יֶאֱמָץ, וְרַב יַעֲבֹד צָעִיר
"And the LORD said unto her: Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger."

Thus Hashem directly answers her, so it seems that she directly asked Hashem a question.

Now, one does not merely ask Hashem a question and get an answer. There are two known ways man converses with Hashem - prayer and prophecy. Again the simplest assumption was that she sought to converse with Hashem in a prophetic manner and received prophecy. Perhaps וַתֵּלֶךְ לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה means that she used some mantic method to try to induce prophecy.

Why is this simple reading not given by the standard commentators, even Ibn Ezra, known for giving pshat? Instead they explain it refers to prayer, or else prophecy via an intermediary, such as Avraham or (with a midrash) Shem.

The answer is that if we look through Tanach at how the phrase לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה is used in terms of prophecy, it always means via an intermediary. That is, the person who is Doresh Hashem goes to a prophet to inquire of Hashem, and receives a response from the prophet.

For example, Shaul goes to inquire after his father's donkeys from the seer, the Roeh. In a parenthetical remark in Shmuel I 9:9, the pasuk states:

לְפָנִים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, כֹּה-אָמַר הָאִישׁ בְּלֶכְתּוֹ לִדְרוֹשׁ אֱלֹהִים, לְכוּ וְנֵלְכָה, עַד-הָרֹאֶה: כִּי לַנָּבִיא הַיּוֹם, יִקָּרֵא לְפָנִים הָרֹאֶה
"Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he said: 'Come and let us go to the seer'; for he that is now called a prophet was beforetime called a seer."

Here בְּלֶכְתּוֹ לִדְרוֹשׁ אֱלֹהִים parallels in each word וַתֵּלֶךְ לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה, so it stands to reason the act is the same.

Another example is in Kings I 22:8:

וַיֹּאמֶר מֶלֶךְ-יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל-יְהוֹשָׁפָט עוֹד אִישׁ-אֶחָד לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה מֵאֹתוֹ וַאֲנִי שְׂנֵאתִיו, כִּי לֹא-יִתְנַבֵּא עָלַי טוֹב כִּי אִם-רָע--מִיכָיְהוּ, בֶּן-יִמְלָה; וַיֹּאמֶר, יְהוֹשָׁפָט, אַל-יֹאמַר הַמֶּלֶךְ, כֵּן.

"And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat: 'There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.' And Jehoshaphat said: 'Let not the king say so.'"

Here they are clearly going to inquire of Hashem, לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה via an intermediary, a prophet, and the words are the same. Such examples abound. Thus what seemed like simplest pshat was really a bad reading based on ignorance of the meaning of the Biblical phrase.

The simplest meaning then should be that she inquired about her situation from Hashem via a prophet, and the prophet answered. Such a reading is not, say, a misogynistic plot to remove prophetic roles from women.

On the other hand, we have psukim which use דרש to mean prayer. Consider Tehillim 34:5

דָּרַשְׁתִּי אֶת-ה וְעָנָנִי; וּמִכָּל-מְגוּרוֹתַי הִצִּילָנִי
"I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears."

and Amos 5:4

כִּי כֹה אָמַר ה, לְבֵית יִשְׂרָאֵל: דִּרְשׁוּנִי, וִחְיוּ.
"For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel: Seek ye Me, and live; "

So, the word דרש can mean either prayer or prophecy. The purpose of the former is to seek Hashem's intervention. The purpose of the latter is to seek Hashem's intention.

The Targumim are divided in terms of their explanation of the phrase. Targum Onkelos says, "to seek Ulpan from before Hashem." Ulpan is learning, knowledge, and thus understands Rivka's actions to be a quest for information, that is via prophecy, which Hashem grants, and informs (possibly via a prophet) her of what will be.

Targum Yonatan and Targum Yerushalmi explains that she went to the bet midrash of Shem Rabba to request Rachamim, mercy. Thus he sees it as a request for Hashem's intervention, that is, a prayer. It is very strange that Yonatan refers to the medrash of going to the bet midrash of Shem if he takes her דרש as prayer. Why not pray directly. Why go to the bet midrash of Shem. Perhaps he is assuming, based on the midrash, that Rivka does not receive direct prophecy, so in order to hear Hasehm's reply, she needs to go to Shem, but she still went to pray. It is indeed curious, and we may come back to this later.

Rashi has two comments. First, he explains לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה to mean she went to the bet midrash of Shem. Secondly he explains לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה to mean that she went to find out what would happen in the end, that is, to seek information, Onkelos's Ulpan, so she went to seek prophecy. It seems that Rashi cites two separate midrashim (and I wish I had Shlomo Gelbardt's Lifshuto Shel Rashi on hand!), first taking the hyper-literal rendition of לדרש to mean the bet midrash, and who had a bet midrash but Shem. Secondly, he explains, more on a pshat level, that לדרש את ה means that she went to find out information via prophetic means. The blending of the two is that she went to the bet medrash of Shem to seek information via prophecy. [I need to find the original midrash]

Ramban takes issue with the latter point of Rashi, that לדרש means seeking knowledge. Ramban says that דרישה in the context of Hashem he has found only to mean prayer, and cites as examples the two examples I cited above. This seems strange given that there are many instances it means seeking information from a prophet, some of which I have given above. At any rate, the dispute between Rashi and Ramban parallels that of Onkelos vs Tg Yonatan and Tg Yerushalmi.

A further interesting issue, which hooks into the above, is the source for Rivka going to the Yeshiva of Shem.

Siftei Chachamim explains Rashi's statement that she went to the Yeshiva of Shem that the pasuk says וַתֵּלֶךְ לִדְרֹשׁ instead of just ותדרש, for Hashem is everywhere, His Glory fills the entire world, so why would she need to go somewhere? This implies she went somewhere to ask her question, so she must have gone to the bet midrash of Shem. She would not go to the bet midrash of Ever, because Shem was Ever's grandfather and was still alive. Further, she did not go to Avraham since Hashem arranged it this way so that Avraham would not get aggravated about it.

Siftei Chachamim seems to be taking the "What Was Bothering Rashi" approach that the word וַתֵּלֶךְ is extra and unnecessary, so it shows she went somewhere to ask. Perhaps (and it seems to me to be so from his language) he also takes it to mean that this is the source that she asked someone instead of having her own prophecy or praying there to Hashem to tell her or intercede. In this case I don't think we need to resort to midrash, or questions of the sort raised by Siftei Chachamim, for as I pointed out earlier, the phrase when it doesn't mean prayer means to seek prophecy from Hashem via an intermediary, a prophet.

Baal HaTurim, always entertaining, notes that לִדְרֹשׁ is the same gematria as Shem ben Noach.

The explanation I found the most beautiful (though probably untrue) is given by Perush Yonatan, a commentary on Tg Yonatan, which I will expand on somewhat. On Pesachim 22b, the Tanna Shimon the Amsoni interpreted each את (which literally means "with" but in Hebrew often simply denotes the object as distinguished from the subject) in the Torah to include something (לרבות). However, when he got to Devarim 10:20: אֶת-ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ תִּירָא, he abandoned the project, since what nothing could be equated to Hashem that we should fear. He said, just as I received reward on the drisha, so shall I receive reward on the prisha (distancing myself from this drash). Rabbi Akiva, though, took it to include respect for תלמדי חכמים.

On the basis of this, the אֶת of וַתֵּלֶךְ לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה includes and refers to Torah Scholars, and the Torah Scholars in those days were learning in the bet midrash of Shem.

Nobody explicitly states it but I think it is clear that וַתֵּלֶךְ לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה is midrashicly taken to mean that she went (וַתֵּלֶךְ ) to the bet midrash (לִדְרֹשׁ ). What bet midrash is there except that of Shem and that of Ever? I think furthermore that the phrase is midrashicly interpreted twice in succession, or else once in pshat form. So she goes to the bet medrash of Shem, says the medrash. Why? Well, looking at the same words again, וַתֵּלֶךְ לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה, which depending at which other psukim you look at in Tanach, means to pray or to seek knowledge. Rashi differs from the Targumim Yonatan and Yerushalmi in the second meaning of לִדְרֹשׁ (prophecy vs prayer) but not in the first, that she went to the place of Shem.

Incidentally, the Targumim Yonatan and Yerushalmi call Shem "שם רבא." Does this mean "the greater." If so, it may parallel Siftei Chachamim's explanation of why she went to Shem's bet midrash and not Ever's, since he was the elder.

Finally, one explanation running through my head almost certainly incorrect is that in וַתֵּלֶךְ לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה ,the midrash takes the Hashem's name not as YKVK and not as Shem Adnus ("Ado...") but as HaShem, which could be read as the Shem, that she went (וַתֵּלֶךְ ) to the bet medrash (לִדְרֹשׁ ) of Shem (אֶת-ה).

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Why there is no מלכות in the first ברכה of Shmoneh Esrei

Bereishit 24:3:
וְאַשְׁבִּיעֲךָ--בַּה' אֱלֹקֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם, וֵאלֹקֵי הָאָרֶץ: אֲשֶׁר לֹא-תִקַּח אִשָּׁה, לִבְנִי, מִבְּנוֹת הַכְּנַעֲנִי, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי יוֹשֵׁב בְּקִרְבּוֹ.
"And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell."

Here, Abraham makes Eliezer swear by אֱלֹקֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם, וֵאלֹקֵי הָאָרֶץ.

However, later, when reassuring Eliezer/praying for success in his mission (see Ibn Ezra who proves it was tefilla and not nevua), Avraham says:
Bereishit 24:7:
ה אֱלֹקֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם, אֲשֶׁר לְקָחַנִי מִבֵּית אָבִי וּמֵאֶרֶץ מוֹלַדְתִּי, וַאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר-לִי וַאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע-לִי לֵאמֹר, לְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתֵּן אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת--הוּא, יִשְׁלַח מַלְאָכוֹ לְפָנֶיךָ, וְלָקַחְתָּ אִשָּׁה לִבְנִי, מִשָּׁם.
"The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father's house, and from the land of my nativity, and who spoke unto me, and who swore unto me, saying: Unto thy seed will I give this land; He will send His angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife for my son from thence."

Here Avraham only mentions אֱלֹקֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם.

Rashi explains this was because at the time Avraham was told to leave, Hashem was not yet
אלֹקֵי הָאָרֶץ and that is why that appelation is not mentioned here although it was above in pasuk ג.

Daat Zekeinim MiBaalei HaTosafot on the basis of this explain why there is no מלכות in the first ברכה of Shmoneh Esrei. Usually brachot begin "Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam," and this is the only bracha in Shmoneh Esrei that begins Baruch Ata Hashem (the others do not begin with a bracha). Since Hashem's malchut was not accepted throughout the world (מלך העולם) at that time, we do not say the formulaic מלך העולם.

An appropriate word of the day

given the news article below.'s word of the day is interlard:

interlard \in-tuhr-LARD\, transitive verb:
To insert between; to mix or mingle; especially, to introduce
something foreign or irrelevant into; as, "to interlard a
conversation with oaths or allusions."

Interlard comes from Middle French entrelarder, from Old
French, from entre, "between" (from Latin inter-) + larder,
"to lard," from larde, "lard," from Latin lardum. The original
sense of the word, now obsolete, was "to place lard or bacon
amongst; to mix, as fat meat with lean."

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Sheep shipment 'sabotaged'

A SHIPMENT of 70,000 live sheep bound for the Middle East has been blocked from leaving Australia today while quarantine officials conduct an urgent inquiry into claims by animal activists that they contaminated the sheep by feeding them pig meat.
Ironically, one of Australia's leading halal butchers said the sheep could still be acceptable to Muslims, even though they had been fed an unclean substance.

"All you have to do is leave the sheep for three days until the items they have been fed leave their bodies," said Mohamed El-Mouelhy, chairman of the Halal Certification Authority.

"As far as Muslims are concerned, it makes no difference because it is not a religious breach whatsoever.

"It might be a breach of local health requirements, but they should do more homework on halal dietary laws before they do this."

Mayim SheLanu = Our Water?

There is some wonderful alliteration in Bereishit 24:23

וַיֹּאמֶר בַּת-מִי אַתְּ, הַגִּידִי נָא לִי; הֲיֵשׁ בֵּית-אָבִיךְ מָקוֹם לָנוּ, לָלִין.
"and said: 'Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee. Is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in?'"

in the well-crafted phrase לָנוּ לָלִין.

לָנוּ mean "for us," for we see later that Eliezer had accompaniment.
Bereishit 24:54:

וַיֹּאכְלוּ וַיִּשְׁתּוּ, הוּא וְהָאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר-עִמּוֹ וַיָּלִינוּ; וַיָּקוּמוּ בַבֹּקֶר וַיֹּאמֶר שַׁלְּחֻנִי לַאדֹנִי.
"And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said: 'Send me away unto my master.' "

where we have וַיָּלִינוּ, and not as I idly speculated, that לָנוּ might be from the same root as לָלִין.

Another perek!

הדרן עלך המפריש!
(4th perek yerushalmi terumot)

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Two more prakim!

הדרן עלך אין תורמין ,הדרן עלך התורם קישות!
(2nd and 3rd perek yerushalmi terumot)

Monday, November 17, 2003


Dvar Torah #2 for Chayei Sarah below reminds be of the following old groaner:

A man goes into a bar very thirsty. He sits down waiting for the bartender to see him. The man next to him calls for the bartender saying, "I'll have another waterloo."

The bartender gives him a tall, ice-cold drink, then asks the newcomer what he would like to drink. Wanting to try this new drink he says, "I'll have a waterloo too.'"

The bartender gives him a tall, ice-cold drink. He takes a big drink and says "HEY! This isn't any good. It tastes just like water ! "

The man next to him looks at the bartender and says, "Well, it IS water...right Lou?"

Chayei Sarah #2:

In parshat Chayei Sarah, Avraham negotiates the purchase of the Mearat HaMachpeilah.
There are a few things which stick out in the language of the narrative.

Bereishit 23:3-4

וַיָּקָם, אַבְרָהָם, מֵעַל, פְּנֵי מֵתוֹ; וַיְדַבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי-חֵת, לֵאמֹר.
גֵּר-וְתוֹשָׁב אָנֹכִי, עִמָּכֶם; תְּנוּ לִי אֲחֻזַּת-קֶבֶר עִמָּכֶם, וְאֶקְבְּרָה מֵתִי מִלְּפָנָי.
"And Abraham rose up from before his dead, and spoke unto the children of Heth, saying:

'I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burying-place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.'"

This reads straightforwardly. וַיְדַבֵּר matches לֵאמֹר, and conveys the message that X spoke to Y saying Z. Even though Vaydaber Hashem El Moshe Lemor is taken to mean that Hashem told spoke to Mosher and told him to say, that is, X poke to Y and told Y to say Z. But not resorting to a hyper-literal reading of midrash, vaydaber...lemor means the former.

If so, later, in Bereishit 23:5-6:

וַיַּעֲנוּ בְנֵי-חֵת אֶת-אַבְרָהָם, לֵאמֹר לוֹ.
שְׁמָעֵנוּ אֲדֹנִי, נְשִׂיא אֱלֹהִים אַתָּה בְּתוֹכֵנוּ--בְּמִבְחַר קְבָרֵינוּ, קְבֹר אֶת-מֵתֶךָ; אִישׁ מִמֶּנּוּ, אֶת-קִבְרוֹ לֹא-יִכְלֶה מִמְּךָ מִקְּבֹר מֵתֶךָ.
"And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him:

'Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us; in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.'"

Why in the first pasuk is there the extra word לוֹ in לֵאמֹר לוֹ, when לֵאמֹר would suffice?

Later, in Bereishit 23:10-11:

וְעֶפְרוֹן יֹשֵׁב, בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי-חֵת; וַיַּעַן עֶפְרוֹן הַחִתִּי אֶת-אַבְרָהָם בְּאָזְנֵי בְנֵי-חֵת, לְכֹל בָּאֵי שַׁעַר-עִירוֹ לֵאמֹר.
לֹא-אֲדֹנִי שְׁמָעֵנִי--הַשָּׂדֶה נָתַתִּי לָךְ, וְהַמְּעָרָה אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ לְךָ נְתַתִּיהָ; לְעֵינֵי בְנֵי-עַמִּי נְתַתִּיהָ לָּךְ, קְבֹר מֵתֶךָ.
"Now Ephron was sitting in the midst of the children of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying:

'Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee; bury thy dead.'"

In the second pasuk, what is the meaning of the word לֹא in לֹא-אֲדֹנִי שְׁמָעֵנִי? Isn't Ephron agreeing to Avraham's request. Rashi and Ibn Ezra feel compelled to explain, and the explanation is simple - he want to refuse payment. But that is not clear in light of the fact that eventually Ephron asks for money and Avraham gives it. So what is his refusal? Their explanation might be valid, but the word לֹא still sticks out as something to be addressed.

In Bereishit 23:13:

וַיְדַבֵּר אֶל-עֶפְרוֹן בְּאָזְנֵי עַם-הָאָרֶץ, לֵאמֹר, אַךְ אִם-אַתָּה לוּ, שְׁמָעֵנִי: נָתַתִּי כֶּסֶף הַשָּׂדֶה, קַח מִמֶּנִּי, וְאֶקְבְּרָה אֶת-מֵתִי, שָׁמָּה.
"And he spoke unto Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying: 'But if thou wilt, I pray thee, hear me: I will give the price of the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.'"

Here we have a curious phrase לוּ שְׁמָעֵנִי, "I pray thee, hear me." I will return to this phrase later.

In Bereishit 23:14-15

וַיַּעַן עֶפְרוֹן אֶת-אַבְרָהָם, לֵאמֹר לוֹ.
אֲדֹנִי שְׁמָעֵנִי, אֶרֶץ אַרְבַּע מֵאֹת שֶׁקֶל-כֶּסֶף בֵּינִי וּבֵינְךָ מַה-הִוא; וְאֶת-מֵתְךָ, קְבֹר.
"And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him:

'My lord, hearken unto me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.'"

In the first of these two psukim, we again have the extraneous word לוֹ in the phrase לֵאמֹר לוֹ.

I offer the following suggestion in answer, which involves changing the nikud and end of psukim in several instances. Simply note the phrase in Bereishit 23:13, לוּ שְׁמָעֵנִי, "I pray thee, hear me." All of the instances of לו at the end of a pasuk are followed with שְׁמָעֵנוּ or שְׁמָעֵנוּ אֲדֹנִי. I would suggest that Al Tikra Lo Elah Loo in each of these cases, and move the word to the next pasuk, and so each time each party begins their address with "I pray thee..."

The remaining problematic word is לא from 23:11
לֹא-אֲדֹנִי שְׁמָעֵנִי--הַשָּׂדֶה נָתַתִּי לָךְ, וְהַמְּעָרָה אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ לְךָ נְתַתִּיהָ; לְעֵינֵי בְנֵי-עַמִּי נְתַתִּיהָ לָּךְ, קְבֹר מֵתֶךָ.

An aleph and a vav are called Imot HaKriah, words which assst in reading by suggesting a specific vowel but are not themselves pronounced. We can (and in many instances do) have nikud other than what we would expect for the aleph, heh, or vav at the end of the word. Change this Lo also to a Loo, and we have a consistent pattern of speech, and no issue of what Ephron is saying no to.

Baruch Shekivanti!

From the website of RITSS HIGH SCHOOL:
Rav Greenblatt, a prominent posek and talmid of Rav Feinstein, saw brought down in the sefer of the Maharil Diskin (Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin), based on earlier sources, that the daughter of Avraham Avinu died on the same day that Sarah died. This all originates in the Gemara Bava Basra 16B, which we examined in some detail before, which assumes that Avraham had a daughter according to two opinions. Did she actually die on the same day as Sarah Imeinu? Rav Greenblatt inquired about this from his revered rebbe.

"I did not see (this information about her dying) in the midrashim which I possess", answered Reb Moshe. But Reb Moshe adds that this is not necessarily a proof; just because it was not seen in these seforim, it is not definitely false. However, Rav Moshe Feinstein adds that it is highly unlikely that such a tragedy occurred in Avraham's family...

I think I know exactly what the source is for Sarah's daughter dying the same day Sarah did, because I myself felt compelled to create this self-same neo-medrash.

Bereishit 23:2
וַתָּמָת שָׂרָה, בְּקִרְיַת אַרְבַּע הִוא חֶבְרוֹן--בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן; וַיָּבֹא, אַבְרָהָם, לִסְפֹּד לְשָׂרָה, וְלִבְכֹּתָהּ.
And Sarah died in Kiriatharba--the same is Hebron--in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.

The letter kaf in וְלִבְכֹּתָהּ is written small. Rashi says this shows Avraham minimized the mourning and gives the reason why. However, elsewhere, when you have a small letter, the idea of the midrash is to read the word as if the small letter were not there.

Specifically, the aleph in the word ויקרא is written small, and the midrash notes that Moshe asked that it be written small because of modesty, so as not to say Hashem called him but rather ויקר, that Hashem happened upon Moshe.

So, if we read the word without the kaf, the word reads ulevita, "and for her daughter." So Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and for her daughter. This would mean Sarah and her daughter died the same day.

And this would be the source of the midrash (if it indeed an authentic midrash) brought down in the sefer of the Maharil Diskin.

However, continuing from that website, Rav Moshe argues:

If the daughter passed away during Avraham's lifetime, what kind of magnificent bracha could this have been? Also, it seems impossible that this daughter could have died on the day Sarah died. How so? The order of the psukim teaches us this. The death of Sarah is recorded right in the beginning of our parsha, in 23:2. The birth of the daughter to Avraham is in 24:1, AFTER Sarah died! Consequently, this daughter could NOT have died on the same die [sic = day] Sarah died.

In conclusion, states Reb Moshe, "it is clear that it is some type of we see that it is not found in the words of our rabbis, the early commentators (rishonim)". Reb Moshe adds that "until now, I have not seen the sefer of the Maharil Diskin on Chumash, but I will attempt, b'li neder, to see it".

I would point out that if the midrash actually comes from the pasuk I stated, then we have a conflict of two midrashim, and not necessarily are they to be harmonized -- they might argue with each other, a phenomenon we find in many other places.

Furthermore, `ain muqdam ume`uchar baTorah. Also, we may very well be dealing with the pluperfect here. That is, not Hashem blessed Avraham with Bakol, but Hashem had blessed Avraham with Bakol. It still is a very depressing medrash, and it is a good question how the pasuk would say Hashem blessed Avraham with everything (unless Bakol is an alternative to "everything" and not an explanation.)

Friday, November 14, 2003

A perek!

הדרן עלך חמשה לא יתרומו!
(פרק ראשון ירושלמי תרומות)

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Vayera #4: Moav wrote a biographical book about his grandmother.

It was called, "My Grandmother The Netziv."

Post Script: The above is a joke. There is a famous biography of the Netziv called "My Uncle The Netziv," which you can purchase here.

Further, Moav's grandmother is Lot's wife, who turns into a Netziv Melach, a pillar of salt.
Bereishit 19:26
וַתַּבֵּט אִשְׁתּוֹ מֵאַחֲרָיו וַתְּהִי נְצִיב מֶלַח
"But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt."

Vayera #3: Salt and the City

The malachim tell Lot and family not to look back at Sodom. Lot's wife looks back.
The pasuk tells us Bereishit 19:26

וַתַּבֵּט אִשְׁתּוֹ, מֵאַחֲרָיו; וַתְּהִי, נְצִיב מֶלַח.
"But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt."

Rabbi Levi ben Gershon (Ralbag) suggests that וַתְּהִי does not refer to Lot's wife, that *she* became a pillar of salt, be rather וַתְּהִי refers to the *city*, which is a feminine noun, so Lot's wife looked back and saw that the city had become a pillar of salt, which was a way of saying it was destroyed.

Of course, we would then have to explain where Lot's wife is in the next story with Lot's daughters. Perhaps she was arrested for assault.

Vayera #2: Did Avraham serve the malachim בשר בחלב?

In this week's parsha, 3 angels come in human guise to visit Avraham, and he serves them a meal. The pasuk (Bereishit 18:8) states:

וַיִּקַּח חֶמְאָה וְחָלָב, וּבֶן-הַבָּקָר אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה, וַיִּתֵּן, לִפְנֵיהֶם; וְהוּא-עֹמֵד עֲלֵיהֶם תַּחַת הָעֵץ, וַיֹּאכֵלוּ.
"And he took curd, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat."

Rashi explains that אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה means אשר תקן, "which he prepared."

The previous pasuk states:
וְאֶל-הַבָּקָר רָץ אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקַּח בֶּן-בָּקָר רַךְ וָטוֹב וַיִּתֵּן אֶל-הַנַּעַר וַיְמַהֵר לַעֲשׂוֹת אֹתוֹ.
"And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it unto the servant; and he hastened to dress it."

So that would be a description of the making=preparing of the calf.

Rashi further mentions that he brought it out first things first, in other words as each was prepared he brought it before them. Siftei Chachamim has an explanation of Rashi's motivation within the text - which words would have made you think that he brought it out all at once, and whence Rashi derives that he brought it out one at a time.

I like Daat Zekenim MiBaalei HaTosafot's explanation more. First he cites the midrash that when Hashem was about to give the Torah to the Benei Yisrael, the angels protested that Hashem should keep it in heaven and the angels would keep it. Hashem points out that when they went to visit Avraham, they ate Basar BeChalav.
However, Daat Zekenim is troubles by the question how Avraham would serve Basar BeChalav. After all, a midrash states that Avraham kept the entire Torah (presumably in addition to the Code of Hammurabi -- see below ;) ) even unto Eruv Tavshilin. He takes Eruv Tavshilin not to be the simple meaning of making an eruv tavshilin in order to be able to cook from one day of yom tov to the next, but rather that in terms of his tavshilin, prepared foods, he would not be mearev = mix milk and meat.

If so, how could Avraham serve on his table milk and meat?! He answers that this is what Rashi is saying, he brought them out one by one, in the order of the pasuk:

וַיִּקַּח חֶמְאָה וְחָלָב, וּבֶן-הַבָּקָר אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה, וַיִּתֵּן, לִפְנֵיהֶם; וְהוּא-עֹמֵד עֲלֵיהֶם תַּחַת הָעֵץ, וַיֹּאכֵלוּ.

So, the milk came first, and then the meat.

This reminds me of a dvar torah I heard I think in 6th grade from Rabbi Elefant said over in someone's name (don't remeber who). Rashi notes on וַיֹּאכֵלוּ that the made it appear as if they were eating. If so, what problem would Hashem have with the angels, if they did not actually eat?

I would say that we have a group of conflicting midrashim, and they actually argue on on the other. (Especially within Daat Zekenim if Avraham did not serve Basar BeChalac, then Hashem would have no complaint against the malachim.) You cannot always say Elu VeElu Divrei Elokim Chaim in terms of actual fact, and here the facts of the two midrashim conflict, and any attempt at harmonization actually does damage to both of the midrashim.

At any rate, the solution offered in all seriousness was as follows: The malachim did not eat, but brought the food to their lips and the food was burnt and vaporized (for malachim are entirely of fire). Thus, what could be Hashem's complaint if they did not really eat? The answer is that the prohibition is to cook milk and meat together, from which we also get eating milk and meat which was cooked together (and from there to prohibitions such as placing milk and meat on the same eating-table). Thus, when they brought it to their lips and burnt it, they were violating *cooking* milk and meat together.

It is a charming and clever answer. Just realize it is not truth, and is a great illustration of my statement above that you should not always try to harmonize midrashim.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Vayera: Is the Code of Hammurabi the dina dimalchuta dina of Avraham?

This is actually partially a dvar Torah on Lech Lecha, but the Hagar story actually extends into parshat Vayera, so it remains appropriate.

The entire Hagar story, with Sarah giving Hagar her maidservant to Avrasham to bear children, then complaining because Hagar considers herself >= Sarah, and demanding that Hagar be demoted back to maidservant, and eventually driven out, is very hard to understand.

We start in Lech Lecha, In Bereishit 16:1-3:

וְשָׂרַי אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם, לֹא יָלְדָה לוֹ; וְלָהּ שִׁפְחָה מִצְרִית, וּשְׁמָהּ הָגָר.
וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרַי אֶל-אַבְרָם, הִנֵּה-נָא עֲצָרַנִי יְהוָה מִלֶּדֶת--בֹּא-נָא אֶל-שִׁפְחָתִי, אוּלַי אִבָּנֶה מִמֶּנָּה; וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָם, לְקוֹל שָׂרָי.
וַתִּקַּח שָׂרַי אֵשֶׁת-אַבְרָם, אֶת-הָגָר הַמִּצְרִית שִׁפְחָתָהּ, מִקֵּץ עֶשֶׂר שָׁנִים, לְשֶׁבֶת אַבְרָם בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן; וַתִּתֵּן אֹתָהּ לְאַבְרָם אִישָׁהּ, לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה.

"Now Sarai Abram's wife bore him no children; and she had a handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar."

"And Sarai said unto Abram: 'Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing; go in, I pray thee, unto my handmaid; it may be that I shall be builded up through her.' And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai."

"And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar the Egyptian, her handmaid, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to Abram her husband to be his wife."

One nitpick is that the translation of אִבָּנֶה as "I shall be builded up" in the second pasuk hides the possibility it means "I will have children,"

At any rate, is is strange that after 10 years of not having children, Sarah would offer her maidservant to Avraham to bear children.

However, if we look at the code of Hammurabi, we will see that this is actually typical of the time, and there were laws to that effect:

Code of Hammurabi 144-145:
144. If a man take a wife and this woman give her husband a maid-servant, and she bear him children, but this man wishes to take another wife, this shall not be permitted to him; he shall not take a second wife.

145. If a man take a wife, and she bear him no children, and he intend to take another wife: if he take this second wife, and bring her into the house, this second wife shall not be allowed equality with his wife.

Thus it seems that when a first wife did not bear children, there were two options. The man could take another woman as a wife, or could be given a maidservant, in which case he cannot take a second wife. Even if he does take a second wife, she is not of equal status to the first wife. It also seems that a second wife can only be taken if there is a lack of children from the first, and this would be either if the first wife bore children or her maidservant did.

Sarah, besides wanting a child, prevented Avraham from taking a second wife by giving her maidservant Hagar to Avraham. Further, it seems from the psukim that the maidservant's children are reckoned to be the mistress's (Sarah's), something we see later for certain with Bilhah and Zilpah. This corresponds with the rule that if the maidservant bears him children, he cannot take a second wife - for it is as if the first wife bore him children. This would be the explanation of אוּלַי אִבָּנֶה מִמֶּנָּה.

Lech Lecha continues, with Bereishit 16:4-6

וַיָּבֹא אֶל-הָגָר, וַתַּהַר; וַתֵּרֶא כִּי הָרָתָה, וַתֵּקַל גְּבִרְתָּהּ בְּעֵינֶיהָ.
וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרַי אֶל-אַבְרָם, חֲמָסִי עָלֶיךָ--אָנֹכִי נָתַתִּי שִׁפְחָתִי בְּחֵיקֶךָ, וַתֵּרֶא כִּי הָרָתָה וָאֵקַל בְּעֵינֶיהָ; יִשְׁפֹּט ה, בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶיךָ.
וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָם אֶל-שָׂרַי, הִנֵּה שִׁפְחָתֵךְ בְּיָדֵךְ--עֲשִׂי-לָהּ, הַטּוֹב בְּעֵינָיִךְ; וַתְּעַנֶּהָ שָׂרַי, וַתִּבְרַח מִפָּנֶיהָ.

"And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.

And Sarai said unto Abram: 'My wrong be upon thee: I gave my handmaid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.'

But Abram said unto Sarai: 'Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her that which is good in thine eyes.' And Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her face."

Why is Sarah so indignant, that she says יִשְׁפֹּט ה, בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶיךָ, which implies Avraham did something wrong be abiding by this situation? And further, giving her as a maidservant back to Sarah is a strange resolution of the problem, though apparently the one Sarah sought.

If we look back at the Code of Hammurabi, we see the subsequent laws 146-147:

146. If a man take a wife and she give this man a maid-servant as wife and she bear him children, and then this maid assume equality with the wife: because she has borne him children her master shall not sell her for money, but he may keep her as a slave, reckoning her among the maid-servants.

147. If she have not borne him children, then her mistress may sell her for money.

Thus, giving birth to children does indeed raise the status of the maidservant, in that she may no longer be sold for money, but must be kept as part of the household when she wrongly elevates herself to full-wife status. However, she is not supposed to consider herself of equal or greater status than the wife, and if she does, the standard punishment is to be demoted back to maidservant.

This was thus Sarah's complaint - after bearing children, Hagar looked down at Sarah and considered herself an equal or greater. Avraham should then have demoted her to maidservant, in accordance with the dina demalchuta dina of the code of Hammurabi, so Sarah complains that he did not do what he should have. Avraham then complies with the law. Indeed, Hashem agrees with the ruling, and Sarah was correct in her complaint, for when Hagar flees, the angel of Hashem tells her (16:9):

שׁוּבִי אֶל-גְּבִרְתֵּךְ, וְהִתְעַנִּי, תַּחַת יָדֶיהָ.
'Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.'

I don't necessarily agree with the following, but I thought I would mention it because it extends the Code of Hammurabi applicability into the current parsha, Vayera. I got the basic gist of it from Yonah bar Maoz, from the Department of Bible at Bar Ilan University. You can check out the dvar Torah in full here I am not doing justice to his full dvar Torah, and am only selecting out the portions I want and skewing them as I see fit and added some stuff of my own. So don't blame him for this, but check out his dvar torah at his website.

In Vayera, Sara demands that Avraham send away Hagar and her son. Bereishit 21:9-13:

וַתֵּרֶא שָׂרָה אֶת-בֶּן-הָגָר הַמִּצְרִית, אֲשֶׁר-יָלְדָה לְאַבְרָהָם--מְצַחֵק.
וַתֹּאמֶר, לְאַבְרָהָם, גָּרֵשׁ הָאָמָה הַזֹּאת, וְאֶת-בְּנָהּ: כִּי לֹא יִירַשׁ בֶּן-הָאָמָה הַזֹּאת, עִם-בְּנִי עִם-יִצְחָק.
וַיֵּרַע הַדָּבָר מְאֹד, בְּעֵינֵי אַבְרָהָם, עַל, אוֹדֹת בְּנוֹ
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל-אַבְרָהָם, אַל-יֵרַע בְּעֵינֶיךָ עַל-הַנַּעַר וְעַל-אֲמָתֶךָ--כֹּל אֲשֶׁר תֹּאמַר אֵלֶיךָ שָׂרָה, שְׁמַע בְּקֹלָהּ: כִּי בְיִצְחָק, יִקָּרֵא לְךָ זָרַע.
וְגַם אֶת-בֶּן-הָאָמָה, לְגוֹי אֲשִׂימֶנּוּ: כִּי זַרְעֲךָ, הוּא.

"And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne unto Abraham, making sport.

Wherefore she said unto Abraham: 'Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.'

And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight on account of his son.

And God said unto Abraham: 'Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah saith unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall seed be called to thee.

And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.'"

Sarah wanted Hagar and her son out of the house, but they could not sell her, for as we saw earlier in the Code of Hammurabi, since she had born a son she could not be sold. Instead he is presumably freeing Hagar and sending her and Yishmael into the world to do as they please.

Why does Sarah want to eliminate them from the house. The Code of Hammurabi may again offer a clue. Recall Sarah said כִּי לֹא יִירַשׁ בֶּן-הָאָמָה הַזֹּאת עִם-בְּנִי עִם-יִצְחָק.

The Code of Hammurabi, Laws 170-171:

170. If his wife bear sons to a man, or his maid-servant have borne sons, and the father while still living says to the children whom his maid-servant has borne: "My sons," and he count them with the sons of his wife; if then the father die, then the sons of the wife and of the maid-servant shall divide the paternal property in common. The son of the wife is to partition and choose.

171. If, however, the father while still living did not say to the sons of the maid-servant: "My sons," and then the father dies, then the sons of the maid-servant shall not share with the sons of the wife, but the freedom of the maid and her sons shall be granted. The sons of the wife shall have no right to enslave the sons of the maid; the wife shall take her dowry (from her father), and the gift that her husband gave her and deeded to her (separate from dowry, or the purchase-money paid her father), and live in the home of her husband: so long as she lives she shall use it, it shall not be sold for money. Whatever she leaves shall belong to her children.

Thus, a father's recognition of the son of a maidservant as a son will entitle him to a portion of the inheritance. Lack of such acknowledgment would leed to lack of entitlement. Perhaps this acknowledgement can be retracted. But Avraham still recognized Yishmael as his son, as it stated "וַיֵּרַע הַדָּבָר מְאֹד, בְּעֵינֵי אַבְרָהָם, עַל, אוֹדֹת בְּנוֹ". Perhaps he retracted this recognition later.

(Although it is possible "beno" in this case was *Yitzchak* and not Yishmael, and Avraham was indeed troubled, as was Sarah, that Yitzchak would not get the full inheritance, in which case Hashem advises him to take Sarah's advice:
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל-אַבְרָהָם, אַל-יֵרַע בְּעֵינֶיךָ עַל-הַנַּעַר וְעַל-אֲמָתֶךָ--כֹּל אֲשֶׁר תֹּאמַר אֵלֶיךָ שָׂרָה, שְׁמַע בְּקֹלָהּ: כִּי בְיִצְחָק, יִקָּרֵא לְךָ זָרַע.)

Thoe Code of Hammurabi furthermore has more rules of interest in terms of sons, disowning, and inheritance, which precedes the above quoted law.
Code of Hammurabi 167-169

167. If a man marry a wife and she bear him children: if this wife die and he then take another wife and she bear him children: if then the father die, the sons must not partition the estate according to the mothers, they shall divide the dowries of their mothers only in this way; the paternal estate they shall divide equally with one another.

168. If a man wish to put his son out of his house, and declare before the judge: "I want to put my son out," then the judge shall examine into his reasons. If the son be guilty of no great fault, for which he can be rightfully put out, the father shall not put him out.

169. If he be guilty of a grave fault, which should rightfully deprive him of the filial relationship, the father shall forgive him the first time; but if he be guilty of a grave fault a second time the father may deprive his son of all filial relation.

The transition from #167 to 168 and 169 may suggest that the casting out from his house has an impact on inheritance, especially in light of what we saw later in 170 about the need for the father's calling of the child "son."

Thus, by kicking them out of the house, Avraham disowns them in terms of inheritance in a way that would be recognized legally in the society in which he dwelt.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Update to Haazinu dvar Torah

I posted updates and corrections to a dvar torah for haazinu, which you can check out here.

A somewhat political dvar torah for Lech Lecha

Another reason for Avraham's refusal to the king of Sodom

In Bereishit 14:14
וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָם כִּי נִשְׁבָּה אָחִיו וַיָּרֶק אֶת-חֲנִיכָיו יְלִידֵי בֵיתוֹ שְׁמֹנָה עָשָׂר וּשְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת וַיִּרְדֹּף עַד-דָּן.
And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued as far as Dan.

In Bereishit 14:16
וַיָּשֶׁב אֵת כָּל-הָרְכֻשׁ וְגַם אֶת-לוֹט אָחִיו וּרְכֻשׁוֹ הֵשִׁיב וְגַם אֶת-הַנָּשִׁים וְאֶת-הָעָם.
And he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.

So Avraham entered the war for good reasons - to save his captured relative.

In Bereishit 14:16
וַיָּשֶׁב אֵת כָּל-הָרְכֻשׁ וְגַם אֶת-לוֹט אָחִיו וּרְכֻשׁוֹ הֵשִׁיב וְגַם אֶת-הַנָּשִׁים וְאֶת-הָעָם.
And he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.

So Avraham succeeds at his mission, by saving Lot and the other captives, and in the process a bunch of spoils.

In Bereishit 14:21
וַיֹּאמֶר מֶלֶךְ-סְדֹם, אֶל-אַבְרָם: תֶּן-לִי הַנֶּפֶשׁ, וְהָרְכֻשׁ קַח-לָךְ.
And the king of Sodom said unto Abram: 'Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.'

If the nefesh are not captured KedorlaOmer soldiers, but rather the populace and soldiers of Sodom who had been captured, then the King of Sodom is telling Avraham that he, the King of Sodom, has no need for spoils - he is just happy to get his people back.

This would at the same time imply that the King of Sodom thought Avraham was in in for the money, and so Avraham swears he will not partake of the spoils, thus demonstrating that he went into the war for pure intentions.

In the recent war in Iraq, people are still claiming that it was all about oil, or Halliburton contracts, rather than freeing the people of Iraq from a ruthless dictator, or eliminating a threat to the US that would eventually occur with development of weapons of mass destruction, or establishing another democracy in the Middle East, among other reasons. It was for a similar reason that Avraham had to tread carefully.

As Avraham said, in Bereishit 14:23
אִם-מִחוּט וְעַד שְׂרוֹךְ-נַעַל, וְאִם-אֶקַּח מִכָּל-אֲשֶׁר-לָךְ; וְלֹא תֹאמַר, אֲנִי הֶעֱשַׁרְתִּי אֶת-אַבְרָם.
that I will not take a thread nor a shoe-latchet nor aught that is thine, lest thou shouldest say: I have made Abram rich;

In this case, making Avraham rich, or enriching Avraham, would not be a boast, but rather a complaint, that Avraham entered the war for greedy motives and took of the spoils that were the property of Sodom.

Kedor LaOmer

I read in the Encyclopedia Judaica this Shabbos a possible meaning of KedarLaOmer. Kedar, in some Ancient Near Eastern Language, means servant, like עבד. 'omer, or gomer, was the name of some ANE diety. So, it might mean servant of Gomer. Like the names עובדיה or Abdallah.

Update: And, of course, עֲזַרְיָה in Daniel 1:7, who is called עֲבֵד נְגוֹ, nego/nabu being the name of a diety.

The following article from the Asia Times.
However, Sadr's radical departure from his previous hostility to the US was contradicted in private the same day by one of his main deputies in Baghdad. Seyid Hasan Naji al-Musawi, the 38-year-old imam of Sadr City's Muhsin mosque and commander of Sadr's Army of the Mahdi in Baghdad, said that the final days were approaching in which the Mahdi would return. Shi'ites believe that the 12th imam, Mohammed al-Mahdi, a descendant of Mohammed, went into an invisible supernatural location when he was a child, and he has ruled the world from there, but that he will one day return to the corporeal world and restore justice, accompanied by Jesus Christ.

Musawi declared that America's real purpose in coming to Iraq was to kill the Mahdi. "Iraq will be the end of America," he said, "the Mahdi will be coming soon and when he comes he will kill the Jewish leadership," which he equated with the Americans, adding that Julius Caesar was Jewish, and the Jews were the Romans. Musawi quoted a verse from the Koran prognosticating the eventual defeat of the Jews. He added that the Mahdi would be coming from the Hejaz area of Saudi Arabia, accompanied by Jesus, and he would also kill many clerics who wear the imama, or Shi'ite turban.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

The disgruntled chessed doer

Very funny Lesson in Emuna this week. Purportedly about how one should do chessed without complaint but really an excuse to vent about ungracious recipients of chessed in a public forum.

I've always wanted to submit a spoof article there.

King Goofus and Gallant, and the MIGGEN Avraham

In parashat Lech Lecha, Avraham hears that his relative Lot has been taken captive, joins a war, and saves the day.

Bereishit 14:16-24 states:

וַיָּשֶׁב, אֵת כָּל-הָרְכֻשׁ; וְגַם אֶת-לוֹט אָחִיו וּרְכֻשׁוֹ הֵשִׁיב, וְגַם אֶת-הַנָּשִׁים וְאֶת-הָעָם.
וַיֵּצֵא מֶלֶךְ-סְדֹם, לִקְרָאתוֹ, אַחֲרֵי שׁוּבוֹ מֵהַכּוֹת אֶת-כְּדָרְלָעֹמֶר, וְאֶת-הַמְּלָכִים אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ--אֶל-עֵמֶק שָׁוֵה, הוּא עֵמֶק הַמֶּלֶךְ.
וּמַלְכִּי-צֶדֶק מֶלֶךְ שָׁלֵם, הוֹצִיא לֶחֶם וָיָיִן; וְהוּא כֹהֵן, לְאֵל עֶלְיוֹן.
וַיְבָרְכֵהוּ, וַיֹּאמַר: בָּרוּךְ אַבְרָם לְאֵל עֶלְיוֹן, קֹנֵה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ.
וּבָרוּךְ אֵל עֶלְיוֹן, אֲשֶׁר-מִגֵּן צָרֶיךָ בְּיָדֶךָ; וַיִּתֶּן-לוֹ מַעֲשֵׂר, מִכֹּל.
וַיֹּאמֶר מֶלֶךְ-סְדֹם, אֶל-אַבְרָם: תֶּן-לִי הַנֶּפֶשׁ, וְהָרְכֻשׁ קַח-לָךְ.
וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָם, אֶל-מֶלֶךְ סְדֹם: הֲרִמֹתִי יָדִי אֶל-ה' אֵל עֶלְיוֹן, קֹנֵה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ.
אִם-מִחוּט וְעַד שְׂרוֹךְ-נַעַל, וְאִם-אֶקַּח מִכָּל-אֲשֶׁר-לָךְ; וְלֹא תֹאמַר, אֲנִי הֶעֱשַׁרְתִּי אֶת-אַבְרָם.
בִּלְעָדַי, רַק אֲשֶׁר אָכְלוּ הַנְּעָרִים, וְחֵלֶק הָאֲנָשִׁים, אֲשֶׁר הָלְכוּ אִתִּי: עָנֵר אֶשְׁכֹּל וּמַמְרֵא, הֵם יִקְחוּ חֶלְקָם

"And he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.

And the king of Sodom went out to meet him, after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him, at the vale of Shaveh--the same is the King's Vale.

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was priest of God the Most High.

And he blessed him, and said: 'Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth;

and blessed be God the Most High, who hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.' And he gave him a tenth of all.

And the king of Sodom said unto Abram: 'Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.'

And Abram said to the king of Sodom: 'I have lifted up my hand unto the LORD, God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth,

that I will not take a thread nor a shoe-latchet nor aught that is thine, lest thou shouldest say: I have made Abram rich;

save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, let them take their portion.'"

Firstly, when the pasuk states וְהוּא כֹהֵן, לְאֵל עֶלְיוֹן, who is "he" that is the priest to kEl Elyon? Is is Avraham or Malkitzedek? Malkitzedek praises Avraham and kEl Elyon, who is the name of Hashem, as we see later when Avraham swears to the king of Sodom in the name of Hashem kEl Elyon. Thus, Malkitzedek who invokes kel Elyon might be the priest of kel Elyon.

On the other hand, since Avraham swears later by kEl Elyon, and Avraham is known to serve Hashem, the statement that "he was a kohen to kEl Elyon" might be a parenthetic remark so that the reader will know that kEl Elyon is not an idol, but is the name of Hashem by which Avraham was a priest.

On the third hand, Avraham is not known to us specifically as assuming the function of priest, so it is more likely a reference to Malkitzedek, explaining why he invokes Kel Elyon in the next statement.

So, we can fairly confidently assume that "he" is Malkitzedek, who besides being a king, was a priest of kEl Elyon = Hashem, and as such invoked that name when praising Avraham and then Hashem.

Pasuk #20, after Malkitzedek's blessing, states, וַיִּתֶּן-לוֹ מַעֲשֵׂר מִכֹּל. Who gave and who received? The traditional explanation, given by Midrashim, Rashi, Ibn Ezra, etcetera, is that *Avraham* gave *Malkitzedek* a tenth of the spoils. Since Malkitzedek was a kohen, and kohanim are entitled to maaser, Avraham gave him that.

On the other hand, the immediate context is that of awarding Avraham a share of the spoils. The king of Sodom tries to do this but fails. So it stands to reason that *Malkitzedek*, another king, invokes Kel Elyon, praises Avraham, and gives *Avraham* a tenth of the spoils he obtained for his role in the war.

Further, I would claim that the king of Sodom tried to give him a similar share. I guess people who join a war and assist in winning it are entitled to a maaser, a tenth.

For, pasuk 22, when Avraham refuses the king of Sodom's gift, he states:

אִם-מִחוּט וְעַד שְׂרוֹךְ-נַעַל, וְאִם-אֶקַּח מִכָּל-אֲשֶׁר-לָךְ; וְלֹא תֹאמַר, אֲנִי הֶעֱשַׁרְתִּי אֶת-אַבְרָם.
"that I will not take a thread nor a shoe-latchet nor aught that is thine, lest thou shouldest say: I have made Abram rich;"

The word הֶעֱשַׁרְתִּי means "made rich," but if you take the dot from the right side of the letter Sin and put it on the left side, the letter becomes Shin, and the word means "caused to have maaser," a tenth. In fact, there is a midrash elsewhere that transforms a word maasar to mean riches to convey that those who keep maaser become rich. So I would suggest it as an "Al Tikra."

This leads to the question. Why in the world would Avraham accept a gift from one king only to refuse a similar gift in the next breath from another king? Both want to give him maaser.

The answer, I think, is that we have a Goofus and Gallant situation. Two kings try to give Avraham a gift of his rightful share in winning the war. But, they try different approaches. Malkitzedek is Gallant, and has the correct approach, and so Avraham accepts, but the king of Sodom is Goofus, and Avraham does not accept.

What does Malkitzedek say that makes Avraham accept his gift? Malkitzedek said:
וַיְבָרְכֵהוּ, וַיֹּאמַר: בָּרוּךְ אַבְרָם לְאֵל עֶלְיוֹן, קֹנֵה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ.
וּבָרוּךְ אֵל עֶלְיוֹן אֲשֶׁר-מִגֵּן צָרֶיךָ בְּיָדֶךָ; וַיִּתֶּן-לוֹ מַעֲשֵׂר מִכֹּל

Thus, Malkitzedek acknowledged that Hashem created (koneh) or owns (koneh) heaven and earth, so it is not really man's to give, but rather Hashem. Further, he acknowledges that Hashem helped Avraham win and gathered (migen, Ibn Ezra says = hisgir, closed up) his enemies in his hand. One could say that Hashem granted the spoils, and put it in his hand. Thus, Malkitzedek is giving Avraham his share which Hashem intended for him.

Goofus... er, I mean the king of Sodom, said no such thing. He thought that Avraham had deserved spoils for his role, and was concerned with negotiating who gets what:
וַיֹּאמֶר מֶלֶךְ-סְדֹם, אֶל-אַבְרָם: תֶּן-לִי הַנֶּפֶשׁ, וְהָרְכֻשׁ קַח-לָךְ.
"And the king of Sodom said unto Abram: 'Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.'"

It was a regular post-battle business deal, and the king of Sodom was trying to grant Avraham a generous portion - all of the physical spoils.

At this point, Avraham lifts his hand up to Hashem, and swears,
וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָם, אֶל-מֶלֶךְ סְדֹם: הֲרִמֹתִי יָדִי אֶל-ה אֵל עֶלְיוֹן, קֹנֵה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ.

He uses the same lashon as Malkitzedek, saying he is swearing to Hem kel Elyon, who is the creator and owner of all material items.
אִם-מִחוּט וְעַד שְׂרוֹךְ-נַעַל, וְאִם-אֶקַּח מִכָּל-אֲשֶׁר-לָךְ; וְלֹא תֹאמַר, אֲנִי הֶעֱשַׁרְתִּי אֶת-אַבְרָם.

The king of Sodom should not say to others or think to himself that he is giving maasar to Avraham, or enriching Avraham (either way, the close wording is meant to resonate), but rather he should know that all that comes to Avraham is from Hashem, not from man. So, Avraham refuses any gain from the king of Sodom, though he lets others who fought with him take their portion. He did take from Malkitzedek, who had the right attitude.

The first pasuk of perek 15 begins with Hashem's reassurance to Avraham.
אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, הָיָה דְבַר-ה אֶל-אַבְרָם, בַּמַּחֲזֶה, לֵאמֹר: אַל-תִּירָא אַבְרָם, אָנֹכִי מָגֵן לָךְ--שְׂכָרְךָ, הַרְבֵּה מְאֹד.
After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying: 'Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield, thy reward shall be exceeding great.'

After these things connects the previous narrative to this one, which is how Avraham says material wealth is no good if he has no heir, Hashem promises him descendants, and the brit ben habetarim takes place.

I claim that this pasuk is more connected to the preceding narrative than first appears.

The midrash explains that Avraham was afraid that when Hashem saved him in war, it was at the expense of the reward of the good deeds he had done, and that he had exhausted his spiritual bank account, and so Hashem would not protect him in future encounters. Thus, Hashem tells Avraham that He is his shield, his מָגֵן, and that Avraham's reward for good deeds is exceedingly great, and do he need not worry that he exhausted his merit.

The next pasuk is:
וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָם, אֲדֹנָי ה מַה-תִּתֶּן-לִי, וְאָנֹכִי, הוֹלֵךְ עֲרִירִי; וּבֶן-מֶשֶׁק בֵּיתִי, הוּא דַּמֶּשֶׂק אֱלִיעֶזֶר.
"And Abram said: 'O Lord GOD, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go hence childless, and he that shall be possessor of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?'"

This clearly implies that the reward of the previous pasuk was material in nature - it is something to pass on, but Eliezer is the only inheritor.

But if so, why say the Hashem is Avraham's magen, shield?

I think that the answer is that this is a continuation. Avraham foreswore the king of Sodom's offer of maaser, saying that Hashem would give him riches, and not the king of Sodom. Hashem tells him that his "sechar," recompense, or material wealth, which Hashem will grant him and not man, will indeed be great.

What about magen? I have a *great* pshat. Magen does not mean shield, but rather means to gather wealth for someone. Remember what Malkitzedek said:
וּבָרוּךְ אֵל עֶלְיוֹן, אֲשֶׁר-מִגֵּן צָרֶיךָ בְּיָדֶךָ; וַיִּתֶּן-לוֹ מַעֲשֵׂר, מִכֹּל.

There is the word MGN, though with different nikud. There, it meant Hasher gathered the spoils into Avraham's hand. Here as well, Hashem is not saying:
אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, הָיָה דְבַר-ה אֶל-אַבְרָם, בַּמַּחֲזֶה, לֵאמֹר: אַל-תִּירָא אַבְרָם, אָנֹכִי מָגֵן לָךְ--שְׂכָרְךָ, הַרְבֵּה מְאֹד.

the Avraham should not fear for his physical safety for Hashem will be a shield, for he still has credits for his merits. Rather, after rejecting the king of Sodom's offer and throwing his material well-being in the hands of Hashem, Hashem tells him:

"Fear not Avram, I will gather the spoils for you; your reward shall be very great."

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Update: We're perfectly on track!

In the post below, I calculate that Shabbos will be 205 in the Omer, not kedor - laomer (224) in the omer as appears in this week's parsha.

But then I reevaluated it. The kaf in kedor laOmer means like, so it is like, or thereabout, dar laOmer, or 204 in the Omer. Futher, I said the first day of the Omer was April 17. But actually, it was that night, so the first day of the Omer was actually April 18. Therefore, this year, Shabbos will fall out exactly on dar laOmer, day 204!

Wow. I'm the next Baal HaTurim.

Oh no! We are 19 days off!

Something is very wrong.
This week's parsha, we read about כְּדָרְ לָעֹמֶר.

Bereishit 14:1
וַיְהִי, בִּימֵי אַמְרָפֶל מֶלֶךְ-שִׁנְעָר, אַרְיוֹךְ, מֶלֶךְ אֶלָּסָר; כְּדָרְלָעֹמֶר מֶלֶךְ עֵילָם, וְתִדְעָל מֶלֶךְ גּוֹיִם.

Yet we started counting on April 17, 2003, and Shabbos is going to be November 8, 2003. That means it will be ה"ר לָעֹמֶר, that is, the 205th day of the omer, not the 224th!

A week-late dvar Torah for Noach

A strange pasuk occurs at then end of Sheni in Noach, and the last pasuk in the sixth perek of Bereishit (6:22):

וַיַּעַשׂ נֹחַ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה אֹתוֹ אֱלֹהִים כֵּן עָשָׂה.
Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.

There are two ways to parse this pasuk, neither of which is entirely smooth. The first is rendered above, with the semicolon after Noach. That is, Noach did. Further (or to reinforce), according to all Hashem commanded him, so did he do. In this case, וַיַּעַשׂ נֹחַ seems a phrase that ends too abruptly. What did Noach do. It reads somewhat stiltedly.

The other possibility is to but the pause after Hashem. That is,
וַיַּעַשׂ נֹחַ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה אֹתוֹ אֱלֹהִים | כֵּן עָשָׂה
Noach did in accordance with all Hashem had commanded him, indeed, so he did.
Here, the כֵּן עָשָׂה is stilted and looks like is does not belong, particularly after the completion of the previous phrase. That is, we would expect the phrase to be כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה אֹתוֹ אֱלֹהִים כֵּן עָשָׂה, or rather KaAsher Tziva Oto Elokim Ken Asa.

In other words, both the first phrase וַיַּעַשׂ נֹחַ and the last phrase כֵּן עָשָׂה make powerful claims on the middle phrase, and when each claims it, the other is left in the lurch.

My intuition from seeing many psukim tells me that וַיַּעַשׂ נֹחַ should be separate, since כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה אֹתוֹ אֱלֹהִים כֵּן עָשָׂה is a pattern seen in other places, and וַיַּעַשׂ נֹחַ can truly stand on its own. כֵּן עָשָׂה on its own is more problematic. Both choices are still stilted, but this is the better of the two alternatives.

The trup agrees. There is etnachta, the primary dichotomy of the verse, after וַיַּעַשׂ נֹחַ. Onkelos is no help, since he just translates word for word, and the Aramaic can be parsed in the same two ways.

Ramban seems to suggest the other way. The dibbur hamatchil cites the pasuk וַיַּעַשׂ נֹחַ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה אֹתוֹ אֱלֹהִים, leaving off כֵּן עָשָׂה, and then speaks of the כֵּן עָשָׂה echoing the וַיַּעַשׂ נֹחַ. I have to wonder if Ramban really intended that, and if so, did he have the same trup as we have (and did he look at trup as a perush?)

While Onkelos was no help, Targum Pseudo-Yonatan (for Yonatan only wrote on Nach, not Torah) might be. Targum Yonatan translates only וַיַּעַשׂ נֹחַ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה אֹתוֹ אֱלֹהִים, leaving the כֵּן עָשָׂה out. This might reflect a different girsa of Chumash that Yonatan was translating. Or, he might have been trying to argue on the trup by showing the connection. Or, the text might have simply lost the last two words of the pasuk in the targum. Most likely, though, is that the translation of a pasuk in the next perek, 5 pesukim later in 7:5, was transposed here by scribal error.
That pasuk is:
וַיַּעַשׂ נֹחַ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּהוּ ה.
And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him.

Here the pasuk has YKVK, translated as "the LORD," whereas earlier the pasuk had Elokim, which was translated as "God." Here, there is no "Ken Asa" at the end of the pasuk, so no parsing problems are present.

Further, if you look at Tg Yonatan in general (at least in our Mikraot Gedolot), both Elokim and YKVK are recorded in Tg Yonatan as YKVK. And so, the chances of transposition are great, and the fact that "Ken Asa" is missing is not meaningful, and does not denote a possible change in girsa (even if it did, the fact that our Masoretic text is more difficult to read and understand would make it more authentic, just in terms of the flow of textual changes. It is easy to remove "Ken Asa," making it parallel to a later pasuk, than to add it where it would cause textual problems.)

Update: I neglected to mention that Rashi sides with the trup. See inside.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Lifnei Eideihen

This past week, I had a discussion with someone about the first mishna and gemara in Avoda Zara which states that it is forbidden to conduct business dealings with idolators 3 days before their festivals. Rashi explains that this is because they will go and thank their idols on the day of the festival. (The idea seems to be that idolatry is a sin, and thus it is forbidden to do anything that would prompt an idolatrous act.)

On the basis of this, Tosafot notes that this should apply to buying and selling as well, and it therefore seems problematic that people do buy and sell on the day of the idolatrous festival.
Tos has a solution, which is assumed by some to be an effort to justify existing practice, rather than say best pshat in the gemara. That is, to be melamed zechut on Jews who do do business on the day of the festival, even if this is not necessarily the simplest reading (rather than saying that the Jews are acting in error). This is interesting in terms of understanding how halacha is decided, and whether one rules lichatchila or bidieved in terms of justifying existing practice versus finding truth in what Chazal meant (which has some obvious impact on the type of stuff I'm doing right now).

Tosafot adds that especially since they have one holy day every week, it would be forbidden always to conduct business with them. He rejects the notion tha, based on a gemara in Chullin, one can say that non-Jews outside of the land of Israel are not true idolators but are merely following their ancestor's customs, for in masechet Avoda Zara, Shmuel says that in exile, only the day of the festival itself is forbidden. Since that day is forbidden, they must be reckoned as doing idolatry, or else there would be no prohibition on the day of the festival itself. Tosafot next suggests that it is so that animosity between Jews and non-Jews is not caused, but thinks this is somewhat difficult because then repaying debts would be permitted, but no animosity would be caused by saying that he is not interested at the moment in buying or selling. He finally decides that it is because the gentiles amongst them do not serve idols, giving examples in the masechet where this was used as a reason to permit business dealings, and then cites a yerushalmi that thats the prohibition is only on a non-Jew he doesn't know, for if the non-Jew knows him, he is insulting him. And Rabeinu Tam says that dealing with them is only in matters that would be brought as an offering, so for example, purchasing an item would not cause it. This is based on whether we decide in the gemara that the reason is lifnei iver (we don't want to lead the non-Jew into sin) or for harvacha that he would have many animals to sacrifice. Tosafot notes on the basis of this that current gentiles do not sacrifice animals but give gifts of money, and they have other money to give anyway, and so one could justify the practice on the basis of that. However, it is better to be stringesnt and refuse to lend money in the specific instance where the non-Jew asks for money specifically so he can go and serve the idol. Check it out inside.

Anyhow, I just read this article:
They allowed more than 6000 Palestinian laborers into Israel to work.

For most Palestinians who are celebrating the monthlong holiday of Ramadan, fasting from dawn to dusk and then holding lavish feasts, the timing could not have been better.

"It is a miracle from God because I was running out of money due to the holy month of Ramadan and I was thinking how I would manage to feed my children in this very bad economic situation," said Mohammed Salman, a 42-year-old construction worker who has seven children.

Look at the above quote closely. It is Ramadan, the Islamic holy month. They spend the day fasting and nights holding lavish feasts. Because of the feasts, they are tight on money. They need money to conduct these lavish feasts. Thus, conducting business with them (by having them work and then paying them) is directly contributing to their religious service. Further, this is being done on the festival day itself. And further, in accordance with Rashi's reason, the interviewee specifically thanked his God.

The generally held Jewish opinion is that Islam is not idolatry since it is monotheistic and worships the God of Avraham, in which case there would be no prohibition associated with allowing them into Israel to work (except for the fact that it increases likelihood of a suicide bomber getting into Israel, and putting Israeli citizens into danger like that may involve its own prohibition). Even so, you can see the specific motivations and sociological observations made in the gemara, Rashi, and Tosafot manifesting themselves here.

(Note: I am not entirely conviced that a monotheistic religion that professes some of the same beliefs as Judaism is not idolatry in Jewish thought. My basis is a midrash which states that the King Menashe, who brought idols into the Temple, also took a sefer Torah and erased every instance of YKVK and Elokim, replacing it with Baal. This was *not a good thing* that he did, and presumably the midrash regarded it as further instance of his idolatry. Yet, the Torah with Baal's name would still say that there is no god but Baal, and have Baal interact with the forefathers, and take the Jews out of Egypt, etc. Obviously there is also different modes of worship involved in Baal. By analogy, Islam has Allah, and claims he is the same as the God of the Hebrews, yet claims the Torah was corrupted and has some false stories, with the Koran and other sources telling the true story and legislating different worship, including the hajj (tossing a stone before Markulis) and Ramadan. The beliefs are different, and the God is different, so perhaps this would render Islam to be idolatry in the eyes of halacha.)


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