Thursday, November 15, 2007

Vayeitzei: Rav Moshe Feinstein The Avot Keeping The Torah

From Even haEzer Chelek 4, siman 9.

This deals with the issue in the parsha of Yaakov marrying two sisters.

But first, my own introduction. In Kiddushin 82a, we read:
רבי נהוראי אומר מניח אני כל אומנות שבעולם ואיני מלמד את בני אלא תורה שאדם אוכל משכרה בעולם הזה והקרן קיימת לו לעולם הבא ושאר כל אומנות אינן כן כשאדם בא לידי חולי או לידי זקנה או לידי יסורין ואינו יכול לעסוק במלאכתו הרי הוא מת ברעב אבל התורה אינה כן אלא משמרתו מכל רע בנערותו ונותנת לו אחרית ותקוה בזקנותו בנערותו מהו אומר (ישעיהו מ) וקוי ה' יחליפו כח בזקנותו מהו אומר (תהילים צב) עוד ינובון בשיבה וכן הוא אומר באברהם אבינו (בראשית כד) ואברהם זקן וה' ברך את אברהם בכל מצינו שעשה אברהם אבינו את כל התורה כולה עד שלא ניתנה שנאמ' (בראשית כו) עקב אשר שמע אברהם בקולי וישמור משמרתי מצותי חוקותי ותורותי
And this effectively states that Avraham Avinu kept the entire Torah. However, I would note context, which is in an inspirational speech encouraging people to learn Torah as a profession. It might well have been intending homiletically, rather than historically or halachically. And certainly not systematically, the way certain acharonim ask and answer all sorts of fine points on the patriarchal narrative from Biblical and Rabbinic law.

But I am not the only one with an opinion here. Let us bring down what Rav Moshe Feinstein states on the matter (in Even haEzer, chelek 4, siman 9). The text, then a rough summary (rather than translation):

Based on that gemara in Kiddushin -- presumably so did Yaakov. But he married two sisters. {A famous question.} Rav Moshe answers that since he did not perform kiddushin, since there was no kiddushin before the giving of the Torah, there was no issue. For non-Jews, marriage is done via yichud, without acquisition, and thus it is easily dissolved. See masechet Sanhedrin 58a and Rambam.

But if so, in that same gemara in Sanhedrin 58b, there is a problem, for Rabbi Akiva prohibits the relationship of father's wife to a gentile, even after the father's death (and thus, after the dissolution of the marriage). {J: Note that this is the setama digmara explaining Rabbi Akiva, and not Rabbi Akiva himself.} That prohibition comes because she had yichud with his father. But other prohibited relationships are based on kiddushin.

Then he brings up Pesachim 119b that gives this as a fault of Yaakov, for Yaakov held himself back from blessing, because of this violation of marrying two sisters in their lifetime. Thus kiddushin seems to apply. And Rashi in parshat Vayechi (Bereishit 48:9) has Yosef show Yaakov his shetar of kiddushin, so you see they did indeed practice it! Answer that Lavan did not keep the Torah and thus did not engage in kiddushin with Yaakov, and there is no proof from Yosef. Yet, they were sisters from the same father, perhaps even from the same mother. Even though there was no violation, in this same "name" of marrying two sisters, the Torah would forbid (even though it was not applicable in this case), and therefore, it was not nice for him to be the one to bless.

But we could ask how Amram married Yocheved who was his aunt, for Amram was one who only died because of the curse involving the snake (which brought death to the world), such that he certainly kept the entire Torah. Rav Moshe Feinstein heard that this was superseded by the great need, since Amram knew via ruach hakodesh that that was the only way to bring about Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam. {J: Kind of like the midrash that the wife of Potifar saw similarly.} But if so, the children would still be bastards, even where no prohibition exists, such as where it was an accident, or in a case, such as by Esther, where it was permitted a priori -- even so, even where there is no punishment, the child would be a bastard. And even if a bastard was not prohibited before the giving of the Torah, such would kick in once the Torah was given! And indeed, just the opposite, according to truth, we have no one with purer lineage than Moshe and Aharon, for we learn explicitly that a bastard is invalid for judging capital matters, in Sanhedrin 36b, that since it states in Shemot 18:22:
כב וְשָׁפְטוּ אֶת-הָעָם, בְּכָל-עֵת, וְהָיָה כָּל-הַדָּבָר הַגָּדֹל יָבִיאוּ אֵלֶיךָ, וְכָל-הַדָּבָר הַקָּטֹן יִשְׁפְּטוּ-הֵם; וְהָקֵל, מֵעָלֶיךָ, וְנָשְׂאוּ, אִתָּךְ. 22 And let them judge the people at all seasons; and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge themselves; so shall they make it easier for thee and bear the burden with thee.
that they must be of the same pure lineage as Moshe.

End rough summary.

Thus, Rav Moshe Feinstein clearly gives credence to this idea that the Avot kept the entire Torah, and wrestles with various sources.

One might say that this is taking various sources in Chazal and assuming they must be consistent. Thus, if they make a derasha based on Moshe's pure lineage, we must assume that there is some reason they considered his lineage pure. And if they state that Amram was without sin, they must have some explanation of the pasuk which states that Amram married his aunt. And the same for marrying two sisters. There is also the idea that Israel before the giving of the Torah was bound by the commandments of Noachides, in which case we should find consistency with the established halachot there.

This is also in line with what appears to me at least to be Rav Moshe's general style. He cites sources from all over, that you might not have even thought of, and establishes a general principle, which he then applies, and here resolves some of the question. And indeed, perhaps one can even see drawing various halachic conclusions on this basis. This was as much a halachic teshuva as a midrashic one.

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