Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Did Hashem speak directly to Rivkah?

The pasuk in Toldos states that Hashem spoke to her:

כג וַיֹּאמֶר ה' לָהּ, שְׁנֵי גֹיִים בְּבִטְנֵךְ, וּשְׁנֵי לְאֻמִּים, מִמֵּעַיִךְ יִפָּרֵדוּ; וּלְאֹם מִלְאֹם יֶאֱמָץ, וְרַב יַעֲבֹד צָעִיר.23 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.

which might make her a prophetess. But not always is Hashem speaking to someone by direct address. Rashi writes:

And she went to inquire: to the academy of Shem. — [Aggadath Bereishith, ch. 73, Targum Jonathan and Yerushalmi]
ותלך לדרוש: לבית מדרשו של שם:
to inquire of the Lord: that He should tell her what would happen to her in the end.
לדרוש את ה': שיגיד לה מה תהא בסופה:

and then

And the Lord said to her: through a messenger. Shem was told through Divine inspiration, and he told it to her. — [From Gen. Rabbah 63:7]
ויאמר ה' לה: על ידי שליח, לשם נאמר ברוח הקודש והוא אמר לה:

Thus, she didn't ask Hashem directly, and Hashem replied through His prophet, Shem.

This is based on Bereishit Rabba:
ויאמר ה' לה
רבי יהודה בר רבי סימון, ורבי יוחנן בשם רבי אליעזר ב"ר שמעון,
מעולם לא נזקק הקדוש ברוך הוא להשיח עם אשה, אלא עם אותה הצדקת, ואף היא על ידי עילה.

רבי אבא בר כהנא אומר:
כמה כרכורין כרכר בשביל להשיח עמה, שנאמר: ויאמר לא כי צחקת !ש
והכתיב :ותקרא שם ה' הדובר אליה.

רבי לוי בשם רבי אבא בר חנינא אמר:
ע"י מלאך.

רבי אלעזר אמר:
על ידי שם בן נח.
This sugya is paralleled in parshat Vayera, where we see who raises the objection of Hagar, and where we also have the objection by Rivkah:
ותכחש שרה לאמר לא וגו'
רבי יהודה בר' סימון אמר:
מעולם לא נזקק הקדוש ברוך הוא להשיח עם אשה, אלא עם אותה הצדקת, ואף היא ע"י עילה.

ר' אבא בר כהנא בשם רבי אידי אמר:
כמה כירכוכים כירכר בשביל להשיח עמה. ויאמר, לא כי צחקת!

רבי אלעזר אומר:
והכתיב: (בראשית טז) ותקרא שם ה' הדובר אליה.

רבי יהושע בשם רבי נחמיה, בשם רבי אידי אמר:
על ידי מלאך, והכתיב: ויאמר ה' לה.

רבי לוי אמר:
ע"י מלאך.

רבי אלעזר בשם רבי יוסי בר זימרא אמר:
על ידי שם בן נח. .
When Rabbi Yehuda beRabbi Simon says מעולם לא נזקק הקדוש ברוך הוא להשיח עם אשה, אלא עם אותה הצדקת, ואף היא על ידי עילה, even in parshat Toldot, he is talking about tzadekes Sarah, as Rashi notes. The objection is made from Hagar, since it states fairly clearly "shem YKVK HaDover Eileha". And thus, to maintain that only Sarah was a prophetess, and even there not a consistent one, they explain that it was indirect address. Either via a malach or via Shem ben Noach. Similarly the objection made from Hashem speaking to Rivkah.

If I had to explain the careful diyukim they are making, Rabbi Levi sees "Hashem", and would make it into a malach who is called such al shem rabo. Rabbi Eliezer, I would suggest, sees "shem YKVK HaDover Eileha" and darshens שם as Shem ben Noach.

I am not certain that these diyukim are necessary, or are true. But if they are true, then perhaps the idea of it being particularly Shem ben Noach is only by Hagar, where we have שם in the pasuk, and where Rabbi Eleazar is the one who raises the objection and gives an answer. Or perhaps not.

At any rate, according to this midrash, only Sarah received direct prophecy, and so Rivkah must have heard it from Shem, who by calculations of lifespans in Chumash, was still alive at this point.

Rashbam also understands it as via a navi she consulted, though significantly, he does not insist that it was Shem ben Noach:
פסוק כב
ויתרוצצו הבנים בקרבה -
לשון רץ לקראת רץ, שהיו רצים ומתנענעים בתוך גופה כדרך עוברים.
וכן: מן קם מתקוממים, מן לן מתלוננים, אבל מלשון רצץ עזב דלים היה לומר וירצצו כמו בטרם יתנגפו רגליכם.

לדרוש את ה' -
אל הנביאים שבאותן הימים, כדכתיב: לדרוש את ה' מאתו.
וכתיב: כי יבא אלי העם לדרוש את ה'.

פסוק כג
ויאמר ה' לה -
ע"י נביא.
Similarly, Ibn Ezra asserts that it was via a prophet, and not a direct address from Hashem Himself. He suggests some otherwise unknown prophet, or else Avraham, who had prophecy and was still alive at that time. He is not going to bring in a particular known Biblical figure who otherwise had no connection whatsoever to the story, as a matter of peshat:
כה, כג]
ויאמר ה' לה -
על ידי נביא, או אברהם בעצמו, כי לא מת עד שהיו בניה בני ט"ו שנה.
Radak also says via a navi, and suggests either Avraham or Shem. Ralbag also says that she went to be doresh Hashem's word by seeking out his servants, the prophets, who were in those days, who would be Shem, Ever, and their students. And they replied to her in prophecy. Chizkuni also says that she went out to ask prophets, either Shem or Avraham. And Hashem answered her via a shaliach.

Baal Haturim writes:

ותלך
לדרוש את ה' פירש״י מה יהא בסופה, והלכה
למדרשו של שם, ואולי לא רצתה לילך לאברהם
אע״פ שעדיין היה חי שלא רצתה להודיע לו
צערה. והרמב״ן פירש לדרוש את ה׳ להתפלל על
צערה כמו (תהלים לד, ה) דרשתי את ה׳:
Thus, perhaps specifically Shem, and not Avraham, because she did not want to reveal her tzaar to her father-in-law.

I am not sure what to do with Ramban, who basically argues that doresh never means anything other than tefillah. I didn't see him say specifically that this was not via a prophet, rather than a direct address, that Hashem answered her. But if her being doresh means to pray, she never went to the Beis Medrash of Sheim. The answer could be that after her prayer, Hashem sent a navi to deliver His response. But this is not necessarily so.

Abarbanel writes:

That is, he sides with Rashi over Ramban that her derisha was to ask Hashem, rather than to pray to Hashem, and he gives an example or two. But then he knows that she is no regular prophetess, so how could she expect to ask Hashem and receive an answer? Rather, it is via a prophet. She went to Shem and Ever's Beit Midrash, and the reply was via that prophet.



Ibn Caspi says:
ויאמר ה׳ לה . מי שאמר לה זה, הנה השם הנכבד היה
האומר הראשון והרחוק, והקש ע״ז:
Besides being in line with the other meforshim, this is in line with his earlier statement, about Sarah. He adds an explanation of how the peshat operates. Hashem did say to her, as the initial speaker. But it was via an intermediate speaker.

Bechor Shor also says it was via a prophet:
ותלך לדרוש
את ה', על־פי נביאים.
Even the Karaites say this! Aharon ben Yosef, the Karaite scholar, states that Hashem spoke to her via prophet, for both Shem and Avraham were still living.

Despite all this, I would have said like Ramban that her derisha was tefillah, or else perhaps even some sort of mantic method in the hopes of getting a sign or message from Hashem. And that Hashem answered her directly. Just as Hashem spoke to Avraham and we don't assume that it was via prophet, Hashem could speak to Sarah, or to Hagar, or to Devorah, or to Chulda, or to Rivkah. And one need not be necessarily a great prophet for this. We see how, at least in the simplest reading, Hashem appeared to Lavan in a dream to warn him not to attack Yaakov. And Hashem appeared to Avimelech in a dream, on Sarah's behalf. Hashkafically, I see know reason Hashem would not talk to women, the same way He spoke to men. Women are not on a lower madreiga. They are human beings the same way that men are human beings, and on the precise same level, and if the Creator will condescend to speak to a man, he could condescend to talk to a woman as well.

On the other hand, it may not be this general predisposition against women as prophets. Rather, it may be that וַתֵּלֶךְ, לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה, particularly the going somewhere to seek the word of Hashem, coupled with no prior assumption that she was a prophetess (that she could expect an answer, even though of course Hashem could speak to anyone), was the reason of all these meforshim for assuming that she went to another prophet. If so, then I can certainly see the merit of the argument, and may well agree.

After thinking this former thought (that she prayed, and Hashem responded directly to her), I saw that Shadal has a similar position:
לדרוש את ה' : רש"י ורשב"ם פירשו לשאול את פי ה' מן הנביאים, וכי תירגם אנקלוס, וכן דעת רמבמ"ן; ורמב"ן פירש ענין תפלה. ונ"ל כי לדרוש את ה' עיקר ענינו תפילה ובקשת רחמים, כמו דרשתי את ה' וענני (תהלים לד ה') דרשוני וחיו (עמוס ה' ד'), וגם בחליו לא דרש את ה' כי ברופאים (ד"ה ב' ט"ז י"ב ) והעם לא שב עד המכהו ואת ה' צבאות לא דרשו (ישעיה ט' י"ב ) ובקשתם משם את ה' אלהיך ומצאת כי תדרשנו בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך (דברים ד' כ"ט ), נדרשתי ללא שאלו נמצאתי ללא בקשוני (ישעיה ס"ה א' ); והנה כל דורש ומבקש הוא מבקש למצוא, ומציאת האל היא באחד משני דרכים, אם שיושיע את הדורש ויצילהו מצרתו, ואם שיגיד לו העתיד, כי בשתיים אלה האל מגלה השגחתו ונמצא ונדרש לבני אדם הכול לפי המקום והשעה. והנה דעת רוב המפרשים שהלכה אצל אחד מהנביאים, קצתם אומרים אצל שם, וקלריקוס אומר אצל מלכיצדק; ולדעתי הלכה לאיזה מקום מיוחד לעבודה ולהתבודד (אולי, כדעת אח"ם אל באר לחי רואי) והתפללה אל ה', והיה לה דבר ה' דרך נבואה או בחלום.
To seek out Hashem: Rashi and Rashbam explained it as to inquire the word of Hashem from the prophets, and so does Onkelos translate, and so is the opinion of Mendelssohn. And Ramban explains it as a matter of prayer. And it appears to me that the main meaning of lidrosh et Hashem is prayer, and request for mercy, as in ... (he then gives a bunch of examples). Behold anyone who is doresh and mevakesh is mevakesh to find, and finding God is in one of two paths, either that He save the doresh and rescue him from his straits, or that He reveal to him the future, for in these two ways God reveals his Providence and is found and it sought to human beings, all according to the place and time. And behold, the position of most of the commentators is that she went to one of the prophets -- some of them say Shem, and Clericus says to Malkitzedek {the kohen to El Elyon}; and in my opinion, she went {vatelech} to some dedicated location for service and to be alone {meditating} (perhaps, like the opinion of אח"ם, to Beer Lechai Ro'i) and prayed to Hashem, and the word of Hashem was to her by way of prophecy or via dream.
At the end of the day, I can see merit in both positions, and would not really resolve one way of the other.

4 comments:

Yosef Greenberg said...

I commented regarding this Midrash in another post yesterday.

Because of this.

joshwaxman said...

thanks.
kt,
josh

Z said...

Onklos seems to say that G-d spoke to Rivka in 27:13

וַאֲמַרַת לֵיהּ אִמֵּיהּ, עֲלַי אִתְאֲמַר בִּנְבוּאָה דְּלָא יֵיתוֹן לְוָטַיָּא עֲלָך בְּרִי; בְּרַם קַבֵּיל מִנִּי, וְאִיזֵיל סַב לִיְ

joshwaxman said...

thanks. very interesting.

it is also interesting to see how the various meforshim handle when rivkah is informed of esav's intentions, and whether they consider it a possibility that it is ruach hakodesh...

good shabbos,
josh

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