Sunday, November 29, 2009

Why did Yaakov weep? part i

Summary: I analyze Rashi's two answers for Yaakov's weeping, as contrasted with that of Ibn Ezra. Rashi suggests that it was because he saw that Rachel wouldn't be buried with him, and secondly that he came without money, in contrast to Eliezer who came laden with wealth. Maharshal harmonizes the two reasons, so that Rashi can intend to say both simultaneously, but I explain why I think this harmonization is extremely farfetched. Finally, I give my own suggestion as to Rashi's motivations in bringing down these two midrashim from Bereishit Rabba.

Post: After greeting Rachel with a kiss, Yaakov weeps.

יא וַיִּשַּׁק יַעֲקֹב, לְרָחֵל; וַיִּשָּׂא אֶת-קֹלוֹ, וַיֵּבְךְּ.
11 And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.

Why should he weep? Various commentators have different ideas, which I might explore in another post, but Rashi gives two answers:

and wept: Since he foresaw with the holy spirit that she (Rachel) would not enter the grave with him.

Another explanation: Since he came empty-handed, he said, “Eliezer, my grandfather’s servant, had nose rings, and bracelets and sweet fruits in his possession, and I am coming with nothing in my hands. [He had nothing] because Eliphaz the son of Esau had pursued him to kill him at his father’s orders; he (Eliphaz) overtook him, but since he had grown up in Isaac’s lap, he held back his hand. He said to him (Jacob), ”What shall I do about my father’s orders?“ Jacob replied,”Take what I have, for a poor man is counted as dead." - [from Bereishit Rabbathi by Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan]

ויבך: לפי שצפה ברוח הקודש שאינה נכנסת עמו לקבורה.
דבר אחר לפי שבא בידים ריקניות, אמר אליעזר עבד אבי אבא היו בידיו נזמים וצמידים ומגדנות, ואני אין בידי כלום. לפי שרדף אליפז בן עשו במצות אביו אחריו להורגו והשיגו, ולפי שגדל אליפז בחיקו של יצחק משך ידו. אמר לו מה אעשה לציווי של אבא, אמר לו יעקב טול מה שבידי, והעני חשוב כמת:

While the explanation of Elifaz taking all his possessions may have come from Rabbi Moshe HaDarshan, Rashi's approximate contemporary, both these explanations are found in Bereishit Rabba, a much earlier work:


וישא את קולו ויבך

למה בכה?

אמר , אליעזר בשעה שהלך להביא את רבקה מה כתיב: ביה:ויקח העבד עשרה גמלים וגו'. ואני לא נזם אחד ולא צמיד אחד!

דבר אחר:

למה בכה?

שראה שאינה נכנסת עמו לקבורה, הדא היא, דהיא אמרה לה:לכן ישכב עמך הלילה.
אמרה לה: עמך הוא דמיך, עמי לית הוא דמיך.

דבר אחר:

למה בכה?

שראה האנשים מלחשים אלו לאלו מפני שנשקה, מה בא זה לחדש לנו דבר ערוה, שמשעה שלקה העולם בדור המבול, עמדו אומות העולם וגדרו עצמן מן הערוה. הדא אמרת: שאנשי מזרח גדורים מן הערוה.

Rashi thus cites the first two of the three explanations in the Midrash. But why give two explanations. Would one not have sufficed? Siftei Chachamim points us to Rabbi Shlomo Luria's (Maharshal's) Yeriot Shlomo:
מה שפירש"י שצפה ברוח הקדש שאינה נכנסת
עמו בקבורה קשה א״כ איך בכה נגדה וכי גילה
לה אותה הבכייה על מה היתה לכן פירש ד״א
בעבור שבא בידים ריקנים וזה גילה לה אבל
חלילה שצדיק יבכה על איבוד ממון ואדרבה
יודה לה' שהציל גופו כי היה בסכנה גדולה וגם
אין כל אדם זוכה לשתי שולחנות וצריך האדם
לשמוח על איבוד ממונו כי לכפרה הוא לו אלא
הוא בכה מפי הנבואה שראה וק"ל ולפיכך לא
צריכין אנו להאבן עזרה שמהפך הפסוקים עיין
שם מה'רשל:
That which Rashi explains that he foresaw with ruach hakodesh that she would not enter with him in burial -- it is difficult, if so, how he wept in her presence. For did he reveal to her what the cause of the crying was? Therefore Rashi explains: another explanation: because he came with empty hands. And this he revealed to her. But forfend that a tzaddik would cry about the loss of money. And just the opposite! He would thank Hashem that he spared his body, for he was in great danger {when Elifaz threatened him}. And also not every person merits two tables, and a person must rejoice upon the loss of his money, for it is for atonement for him. Rather, he wept because of the prophecy he saw, and this is easy to understand. And therefore, we have no need of the Ibn Ezra, who reverses the verses, see inside there.
The Ibn Ezra he refers to said:

כט, יב

ויגד יעקב לרחל -
מאוחר וטעמו וכבר הגיד יעקב לרחל ואחר כן וישק ורבים כמוהו.

where Ibn Ezra appears to be grappling with the familiarity denoted by the kissing (which, by the way, Ibn Ezra considers to be on the cheek or hand), as well as the weeping. I would guess that Ibn Ezra understands that this is an emotional kiss and crying, for seeing his relative. I suppose if we adopt both midrashim about the weeping, we might not need to reverse the pesukim. But I would guess that Ibn Ezra would reverse the pesukim anyway, for the other consideration I mentioned.

What about Rashi's motivations in giving these two midrashim? It is difficult to read Rashi's mind in this, because Rashi makes so few statements about his methodology. Truth be told, we don't know why Rashi felt compelled to cite both of these. Perhaps we can spot a pattern and develop a theory. I recall reading that the Lubavitcher Rebbe, also a Rashi scholar, suggested that where Rashi gives two explanations, the first is primary, but has some flaw or difficulty, which the second one fills. This is a slightly different approach from Maharshal's here -- but not really. The first midrash, that he was crying about kevurah, is the primary, and thus real reason. And the second one is coming to fix a flaw in the first, in that how would Rachel make sense of his crying, if he was not going to reveal this to her?

But considering Maharshal's suggestion, what of the implications of such a harmonization?

1) We would have to say that Yaakov had no compunctions about lying to Rachel in his first meeting. Given how Rashi cites midrashim (Tanchuma) elsewhere so that when Yaakov says "Anochi Esav Bechorecha", he is not lying! In this fairly traditional view, Yaakov would not simply lie for convenience. Also, despite the midrash, or Rashi, not stating that this was what he explicitly told her, we would need to innovate and assume that.

2) Furthermore, Rashi was basing himself on Midrash Rabba, which gives both of these explanations. Does Maharshal extend this harmonization to Midrash Rabba, or limit it to Rashi. That is, does Maharshal believe that the davar acher in Bereishit Rabba was intended as a plausible lie for Yaakov to tell to Rachel? If so, what does he make of the third explanation offered by the Midrash, that he was weeping about the shepherds reaction, of suspecting him of lewd conduct? If the first is the real reason, the second the fake reason, why introduce a third?! (Unless he would say that the first two were as described, and the third was someone arguing. But such a construction is just awkward.)

3) Perhaps Maharshal maintains that all three were indeed intended by the midrash, as alternatives. But then why wouldn't Rashi do the same? Perhaps he understands Rashi's intent to be to provide a single and consistent interpretation of the pesukim, such that Rashi would not introduce two alternative midrashim; and that if he did, both must fit in simultaneously, and so one must be true and the other false. But if so, he would have Rashi changing the intent of the midrash! For the author of the midrash (we are assuming) meant it for real, and Rashi intends it only as a cover story!

4) I understand that Maharshal does not want to think that Yaakov is weeping over loss of money. But it is not mere loss of money, but the difficulty this might present in fulfilling his parents' instruction, to marry one of Lavan's daughters. The contrast is not to a mere wealthy person, but to Eliezer engaged in an almost identical task, with the wealth smoothing the way. And we see Rashi cite later midrashim that Lavan ran, hugged him and kissed him, Also, we see elsewhere in midrash that Yaakov was indeed really bothered by this problem, such that he said "Esa ainay el hehorim, maayin yavo ezri." He casts his eyes towards his parents. From where will his Ezer Kenegdo come? But then takes heart and says "Ezri meim Hashem oseh shamayim vaaretz", that his Ezer Kenegdo will come from Hashem who made Heaven and Earth, all yesh mei`ayin, that is ex nihilo. Even if we cannot harmonize with this other midrash, clearly this is not solely intended as a cover story for Yaakov's crying, but rather something that he feels.

5) There is a further difficulty, in that Rashi would be an extremely ineffective communicator. If Rashi indeed meant this second midrash as Yaakov's cover story, then why did no one until Maharshal intuit that? It is entirely non-obvious? One would think Rashi would add two little words to let us know that the second explanation was his lie to his future wife.

For all these reasons, and others, I believe that Maharal's creative harmonization of the two midrashim in Rashi is simply incorrect.

Can we understand what Rashi really meant? I don't know. But rather than asking what is bothering Rashi, I like to ask what is motivating Rashi. The vast majority of his commentary is composed of selections from midrash, but he does not select everything. Indeed, Rashi did not include the midrash about the townsfolk murmuring. What do each of these midrashim add to the narrative, overall? (The danger, though, is in reading ideas into the midrash never intended; and that the midrash might have intended but that Rashi did not.) But what do these particular midrashim add?

In terms of the first midrash, that Yaakov cried because they would not be buried together, doesn't that seem like a random factoid? I would suggest that in the Biblical narrative itself, we don't see that this first meeting was one of love at first sight. Only later, when Rachel is introduced and contrasted with Leah, do we see him love her. And his kissing of her was certainly not one of romantic love, but was one of greeting a long-lost relative. See how Yaakov and Esav kiss, and how Yosef kisses his brothers. If so, one might think that Yaakov is in the dark about his eventual romantic relationship with her. Therefore, this midrash brings the realization that they will marry to the fore. He cries because he wants the two of them to be bound together for eternity, yet she will not be buried with her.

And this failure might even represent the difficulties of their relationship throughout their lives -- how despite his hopes, she is not his one and only. He has to marry her sister and two concubines for the sake of having children.

Also, this midrash makes the weeping prophetic, and significant in the somewhat long term. Much as Yosef and Binyamin wept because of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. It takes the weeping out of the moment, and makes it more significant.

These three considerations may have motivated the original midrash, and might have motivated Rashi to include it.

If so, why include the second midrash? What does it add? Is there any difficulty in the first midrash?

And here is where I think Maharshal is spot on! The first midrash does not work well with the peshat narrative at all. And Rashi comes for the peshuto shel mikra as well as aggadot which work well with it. Nothing in the text tells us that this is prophetic crying for some future tragic event. (If I were to answer how to explain the crying on a peshat level, I would suggest that he is crying in raw emotion at seeing this relative of his, and at finding refuge and family, after being driven away from his home. And we can compare to crying when other relatives meet.) The second midrash Rashi cites pulls this crying into the here-and-now, and in a way that works out perfectly with other parts of the narrative.

How so? We get the wonderful comparison with Eliezer doing the same thing two parshas ago, getting the girl, but with gifts. And the midrash reads the gifts, and lack thereof, throughout this narrative, and Rashi cites it. Thus, in terms of Lavan's actions towards him, hugging him, kissing him, and Yaakov telling Esav what had happened, Rashi writes:

that he ran towards him: He thought that he (Jacob) was laden with money, for the servant of the household (Eliezer) had come here with ten laden camels.[from Gen. Rabbah 70:13]
וירץ לקראתו: כסבור ממון הוא טעון, שהרי עבד הבית בא לכאן בעשרה גמלים טעונים:
and he embraced: When he (Laban) did not see anything with him (Jacob), he said, “Perhaps he has brought golden coins, and they are in his bosom.” [from Gen. Rabbah 70:13]
ויחבק: כשלא ראה עמו כלום אמר שמא זהובים הביא והנם בחיקו:
and he kissed him: He said,“Perhaps he has brought pearls, and they are in his mouth.” [from Gen. Rabbah 70:13]
וינשק לו: אמר שמא מרגליות הביא והם בפיו:
He told Laban: that he had come only because he was compelled to do so because of his brother (Esau), and that they had taken his money from him. — [from Gen. Rabbah 70:13]
ויספר ללבן: שלא בא אלא מתוך אונס אחיו, ושנטלו ממונו ממנו:

and in terms of Lavan's limited hospitality, in the next pasuk:

Indeed, you are my bone and my flesh: “In view of this, I have no reason to take you into the house, because you have nothing. Because of kinship, however, I will put up with you for a month’s time.” And so he did, but this too was not gratis, for he (Jacob) pastured his sheep. — [from Gen. Rabbah 70:14]
אך עצמי ובשרי: מעתה אין לי לאספך הביתה הואיל ואין בידך כלום, אלא מפני קורבה אטפל בך חדש ימים, וכן עשה ואף זו לא לחנם שהיה רועה צאנו:

The midrash about the theft also helps in explaining Yaakov's statement in Vayishlach that he passed over the Jordan with only his staff, and his asking for bread to eat and clothing to wear in the very beginning of Vayeitzei. Working a midrashic fact into several places in Torah grounds it more. And so I think I can understand a motivation for referencing this midrash. Of course, this does not mean that it was necessarily Rashi's motivation. But I think that it very well might be, and it seems much more plausible to me than the assertion that Rashi maintains that Yaakov was lying to Rachel.

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