Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How shall we understand the mandrakes?

Summary: According to Radak, Ibn Caspi, and Shadal. And more thoughts.

Post: Michlal Yofi
"דודאים -- they are the root of an herb in the shape of a human, male and female -- mandragur in foreign tongue. (In German, אלרויען, alraun.) 

{Then, citing Radak, as Michlal Yofi often does:}
Perhaps Reuven heard that which the common folk said, that they helped for a woman's conception, and since his mother had stopped from giving birth, he brought them to her. But this thing, [the efficacy of mandrake root,] is not true. For if it were so, why did Rachel not conceive, for she took from them? And Leah as well did not conceive because of them, for behold it says וישמע אלקים את לאה, that Hashem heard Leah."

Ibn Caspi:

"Though mandrakes don't have any segulah for conception nor to a matter of [love] at all, why should we struggle with this, after the Torah did not explain it, just as it does not explain many causes without number. And perhaps they have to benefit {segulah} at all, but the Giver of the Torah wrote this for whatever reason He wished, for many purposes, to write the matter of the striving of Rachel and Leah in this, and all attached to this, as I will write in the sefer Tiras Kesef. And Rachel desired these mandrakes for the sake of the pleasure of their form {? }, just as she desired many other forms, or to eat figs and grapes. 

And behold, Rachel was not Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aharon and Moshe. All the more so that she would desire them for one of the segulot that Ibn Sina {+Avicenna} mentioned. All the more so that perhaps the Giver of the Torah knew that they had a segulah for conception, of that the women of that time thought so, such that their form was about the connection between the male and the female. Perhaps from this, when they looked upon them, or suspended them from the neck, the woman would be aroused and go into heat, and in general these matters are revealed to those who have eyes."

To summarize: It does not matter; perhaps it is written for some other purpose; and maybe it does not work -- don't put too much stock in the desires of a non-prophetess. Also, maybe it does work, or would work via the placebo effect or some other psychological effect.

It is a noteworthy chiddush that we don't have to assume that they actually work, even if the Imahos thought that they did work.

One can see what Avicenna writes about mandrakes here, put into wine and administered as an anaesthetic. Also ascribed to Avicenna but not necessarily stated by him is an origin of mandrakes from the sperm from a thief hung upon the gallows. See here.


"The Alexandrian translator translated mandragorae, and so does Onkelos translate יברוחין, which is in the Arabic language as well the mandragorae. And the kadmonim made from them witchcraft (filtra) to induce love in the heart of their partner. And therefore (according to the testimony of Dioscorides) they called them Circaeae, based on the name Circe, and they said that דודאים is based on the word דודים whose import is love.

And all this is extremely unlikely in my eyes, for Rachel did not need witchcraft to make her husband love her, for he already loved her most of all his wives, such that Leah said to her, 'is is not enough that you have taken my husband?' Also, this is not mentioned at all that Yaakov was given to drink of the juice of these mandrakes.

And Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra mentions that there are those who say that they benefit conception, and he says that this is the opposite of their nature, which is cold.

And Ramban wrote that men say that the root of the mandrakes aid conception, but Reuven did not bring the root but rather the flowers. And he says that Leah desired the mandrakes to be entertained thereby and to enjoy their scent (as is written in Shir HaShirim 7:14, 'the mandrakes give forth their scent'.) Amd to this my mind inclines. 

And we don't know which flower is the dudaim. And Clericus says that if we come to estimate which flower it was, it is possible to say that it is what is called Amomo, whose scent is good, and its fruit is similar in form to grapes, as well as to baskets, which are called dudaim. (See Yirmeyahu 24:1.)"

An interesting idea here by JG Frazer -- that Leah's conception and birth of Yissachar, Zevulun, and Dina form an interjection, and thus a moving away from an original story in which it was Yosef's birth caused by the dudaim. And the purpose of the interjection is to move away, by a pious editor, from 'this crude boorish superstition in the patriarchal narrative'. (One might also point out the dual etymology of Yissachar to bolster this idea.)

Name-calling aside, the idea that this might be a deliberate interjection (even not by a separate editor) is remotely plausible. If so, there might be other reasons (or the same reason) to introduce this long pause between cause and effect; emphasizing God's role, over that of witchcraft.

But I don't buy it. This is simply speculation, with no real supporting evidence. And indeed, there is an etymology linking Yissachar to the dudaim. And Yosef has two etymologies, neither of which is linked to the dudaim, something we would expect if it were the original conclusion. And it is Reuven as actor, bringing the dudaim, in a way that ultimately benefited his mother. Thus, the narrative reads rather nicely as it stands, with Rachel either going for a trinket over her husband, or seeking medical / superstitional aid, with Hashem as the ultimate arbiter of who gets what.

YU Torah on parashat Vayetze

 Audio Shiurim on Vayeitzei
Rabbi Elchanan Adler: A Study of Contrasts 
Rabbi Hanan Balk: Learning from the Angels 
Rabbi Chaim Brovender: Rachel and her Father's Idols 
Rabbi Avishai David: Yaakov in the House of Lavan; Behind Enemy Lines 
Rabbi Ally Ehrman: Finding Your Place 
Rabbi Aaron Feigenbaum: Yaacov and Leah 
Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman: Why is Maariv Optional? 
Rabbi Joel Finkelstein: Living Thankfully 
Rabbi Yossi Fuchs: A Flame in the Dark 
Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg: Yaakov greets the Malachim
Rabbi Shalom Hammer: Ultimate Purpose of Education 
Rabbi David Hirsch: The Influence of a Tzadik 
Rabbi Jesse Horn: A closer look at Yaakov's and Esuv's relationship 
Rabbi Ari Kahn: Hamakom; The Gateway of Heaven 
Rabbi Aharon Kahn: Integrity and the middah called 'Yaakov' 
Rabbi Eliakim Koenigsberg: Where are You Going? 
Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz: Why Pigskins Are Important 
Rabbi Menachem Leibtag: Va’yvarech David – From Yaakov’s Dream to Psukei d’zimra 
Rabbi Meir Lipschitz: Yaakov's Wives 
Rabbi Dovid Miller: The Significance of Stones 
Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger: Why did Yaakov Avinu get upset at Rochel?
Rabbi Uri Orlian: Yaakov's Dream: Lessons for our Galus 
Rabbi Zev Reichman: The secret of the makom hamikdash 
Rabbi Zvi Romm: The Ten Tribes of Israel 
Rabbi Michael Rosensweig: The Avos Impact on Kodshim 
Rabbi Yonason Sacks: Tfilas Arvis Reshus or Chova 
Mrs Ilana Saks: All Beginnings Are Simple 
Rabbi Avi Schneider: Sisterly Love 
Rabbi Baruch Simon: Titen Emes Leyaakov 
Mrs. Shira Smiles: Harmonizing Household Harmony
Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik: Maaseh Avos Siman L'Banim
Rabbi Reuven Spolter: Ya'akov's Faith in the Land of Israel 
Rabbi Daniel Stein: Creating an Enviornment of Torah Growth 
Rabbi Moshe Taragin: Yaakov And His Lighthouse 
Mrs. Shani Taragin: Sticks, Stones, and Springs in Yaakov's Journeys 
Rabbi Michael Taubes: Business Ethics, An Honest Days Work 
Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner: Yaakov and Canaan 
Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg: Staying Right Side Up in an Upside Down World 
Rabbi Jeremy Wieder: Studies in Yaacov's Personality 
Rabbi Andi Yudin: Appreciating the Small Things in Life 
Rabbi Ari Zahtz: How Could Yaakov Kiss Rachel? 
Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler: Love and Hatred? 

Articles on Vayeitzei
Tova Bodoff: Good Things Come in Small Packages
Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn: Baby, We Were Born to Run
Rabbi Chaim Eisenstein: Jacob's Ladder
Aliza Fireman: The Father of Genetics - Yaacov Avinu or Gregor Mendel?
Rabbi Ozer Glickman: In Praise of Tefillas Minchah
Rabbi Meir Goldwicht: The Importance of Work
Rabbi Avraham Gordimer: Stealing Lavan's Teraphim
Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb: The Two-Fold Lesson of Yaakov’s Departure
Rabbi Maury Grebenau: After the Ladder: Yaakov's Purpose
Rabbi David Horwitz: The Dream of Jacob
Rabbis Stanley Wagner and Israel Drazin: Multiple Changes in a Single Verse
Katie E. Liebling: Lavan’s Real Personality
Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl: The Sanctity of Loshon Hakodesh
Jennifer Polin: Behind Leah's Eyes
Rabbi Hershel Reichman: Yaakov Avinu and Limud Hatorah

Rabbi Jeremy Wieder: Laining for Parshat Vayzeitzei
See all shiurim on YUTorah for Parshat Vayzeitzei
 New This Week

Darshening the psik in את שמע | יעקב

Summary: To account for the elaboration in Targum Yonasan. Plus another approach to the trup and targum, and more.

a) In parashat Vayeitzei, we encounter the following pasuk (Bereishit 29:13):

There is a revii on אחתו. To subdivide it, we would use telisha gedola, geresh, and munach legarmeih. The geresh is used on the word לבן, which means that we must use for the minor dichotomy the munach legarmeih on the word שמע. (It is remotely possible that the telisha ketana on ויהי is really a telisha gedola, and would represent the earliest dichotomy; telisha ketana and gedola switch off on occasion, and Minchas Shai does note that in ספרים ספרדיים, the כ of כשמע has a dagesh kal, something we would expect after a disjunctive rather than conjunctive accent.) But the vertical bar after the word שמע is part of the munach legarmeih, rather than a psik. The psik and the vertical bar of munach legarmeih are homographs.

b) The Targum Pseudo-Yonasan on this pasuk reads (English translation):
And it was when Laban heard the account of the strength and piety of Jakob the son of his sister; how he had taken the birthright and the order of blessing from the hand of his brother, and how the Lord had revealed Himself to him at Bethel; how the stone had been removed, and how the well had upflowed and risen to the brink; he ran to meet him and embrace him, and kissed him and led him into his house; and he related to Laban all these things.
I highlighted Targum Yonasan's insertion. What is the Targum's basis of this elaboration? I would consider three idea.

First, the phrase sheima Yaakov on a peshat-level just means the report of Yaakov's arrival, but it can also mean renown. Therefore, this should be an account of his mighty deeds. Second, the word האלה might be considered a bit awkward. What are all 'these' words? We can match it up, then, with the sheima earlier in the pasuk, and say that Lavan first heard reports of Yaakov's deed, from Rachel (with ותגד of the previous pasuk encompassing more than just Yaakov's arrival), and Yaakov confirmed it with a firsthand account. And the details would be every significant event in the plain text of the pesukim plus every midrash already mentioned by Targum Yonasan. Third -- though this is not applicable here and is more typical of the Baal HaTurim's approach -- to find details to be mentioned, we could look at the few instances the word שֵמע occurs in Tanach -- once here, once in not taking sheima shav, and here, here, here, and here.

c) Birkas Avraham notes the pasuk, and the next pasuk in which Lavan says to Yaakov that Yaakov is of his bone and flesh. Then, he writes:

"There is the trup of psik [a vertical bar | ] after the word שֵמע, and it is understood well together which what is stated in Targum Yonasan ben Uzziel, that he heard from Rachel the mights and kind deeds of Yaakov his sister's son, how he had taken the birthright and the order of blessing from the hand of his brother, and how the Lord had revealed Himself to him at Bethel; how the stone had been removed, and how the well had upflowed and risen to the brink;, then, he ran to meet him, etc.

And in a manner of jest (הלצה) it is possible to add that Lavan rejoiced over the fact that Yaakov was his sister's son, for we establish in Masechet Bava Basra (daf 110a), 'most sons are similar to the mother's brother.' And if so, Yaakov is evidence as to the righteousness of Lavan in the eyes of the residents of his city. And therefore Lavan adds and says to Yaakov, 'surely you are my bone and flesh', as if this is in the merit of the righteous uncle.

And I further saw in the commentary of the Or HaChaim, who explains that the aforementioned כל הדברים Yaakov Avinu related to Lavan, such that via this he would leave off of being wicked, and that he {=Yaaakov} was a mighty man, etc. And the Or HaChaim adds that upon this, Lavan responded to him with the words of this aforementioned gemara, and said to him that despite all his wisdom and might that he related to him, know that the uncle is greater than him in this [for the language of אך is an exclusion], that anything which is compared is not equal to that it is compared to in all its aspects, with leaving off some part. See there in Or HaChaim."

d) After enjoying the various parts of the dvar Torah above (in part c), I will now explain my slight objections. I don't see why a psik specifically would show that all these details were related. Maybe that there was a lengthy pause in which Rachel told over all this? Also, it is not a pesik, but a munach legarmeih. But you can see some back and forth on this matter in this older post. Finally, אך in Biblical Hebrew acts as an intensifier rather than as an exclusion. אך excludes in Mishnaic Hebrew. But naturally, on the level of derash (both halachic and aggadic), such interpretation of אך is common.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Interesting Posts and Articles #252

1) A recent Haveil Havolim.

2) At Divrei Chaim, praise of Rebbetzin Kanievsky.

3) At Rationalist Judaism, a response
to the puff piece by Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow in the Baltimore Jewish Life and Five Towns Jewish Times about Rabbi Moshe Meiselman and his forthcoming book on Torah and science.
4) Someone sent me a roundup of pro-shal bloggers. Thus, there is Tomer Devorah, who also has a poll about it; there is Moriyah's place, with a few posts on the matter, and in general in favor of these lengths in tznius; and don't forget True Simcha, where this topic takes up the majority of her posts.

They also cite Rav Yizchak Ratzabi, in favor of shalim. But here is a pretty important point, bolded:
HaRav Yitzchak Ratzabi Regarding ‘Taliban Women’ (Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011) HaRav Yitzchak Ratzabi Shlita in a recent shiur addressed the ongoing controversy surrounding women who dress similar to Arab women, known in Israel as Taliban Women or Shawl Women. The rav is a prominent Torah figure in the Yemenite community in Eretz Yisrael.
The Teimanim lived in an Arab country, where indeed such dress is common. And based on previous interactions with certain Yemenite Jews, many feel that theirs is the correct masorah and everyone else's represents a corruption. And this is about any Yemenite practice.

5) And Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths takes note of a misreport of Rabbi Berland's position on shalim. And see this post at Mother In Israel: More Details Emerge about Veiled Women’s Cult.

6) Here at parshablog, I improved the source roundup once again. For now, I just added a bit of biographical information to the works already listed (though not to the ones I am adding in the future). The end goal will be to divide the works into early and late rishonim and acharonim.

7) In a previous Interesting Post... roundup, I took issue with the following statement about the superstitious practice of casting lead:
Rebetzin Miller has a haskama from R' Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, who I imagine would be as aware of possible halachic problems as any random blogger, yet doesn't seem to have a problem with it.
I explained how the random blogger (me) could actually know more about the metzius than a gadol. See there. Now, a bit of follow-up. In the comment section, an anonymous commenter noted that:
Mrs miller is rav sheinbergs family member
Now, this does not mean that the gadol would give a haskamah to a halachically problematic practice due to being swayed by familial concerns. However, I could imagine being nice and not making waves, and someone taking the non-committal niceness as a haskamah. What is the nature of Rav Scheinberg's haskamah?

But then someone pointed out the following to me in private correspondence -- excerpted from a longer email:
 I heard from a very reliable source that his mind is basically gone and has been that way for some time.

I actually have a theory about this. People protect real and fake gedolim into their 90's and treat everything they say as gold even though often senility is actaully talking.
This is quite plausible. And then, combine it with it being a family member...

Some people will see it as quite insulting to the honor of the gadol to say that they are presently senile. But these are the very real repercussions.

8) On a related note, here is an old post and thread at Yeranen Yaakov, where Rabbi Fish reports that Obama is a new Hitler, because the present Belzer Rebbe cannot concentrate:
I heard from one of the important elders of the Belz Hasidim - Hashem should guard him - that it was told over about the Admo"r R' Aharon of Belz ZT"L that from the day that the Nazi Oppressor [Hitler YM"S] came to power in the year 5692, [people] felt that the Admo"r wasn't calm and he was mixing up the order of prayers, community greetings, etc. He added and told over that the same exact thing is happening to the current Admo"r Shlit"a since the day that Obama took office. Hashem should guard and save His nation Israel from all evil.
I pointed out in the comment section that if we perform calculations based on the birth-dates of the respective Admo"rim of Belz (relatives, an uncle and nephew), they are also approximately the same age at the onset of these symptoms. And what they might be seeing is early onset Alzheimer's, or some other mental malady, rather than mystical signs that Obama is Hitler and will bring the next Holocaust. Yaak took offense, of course. But there is no cause to take offense, whether or not it is true, to consider a plausible derech hateva explanation of these symptoms.

Vayeitzei sources -- 2011 edition

by aliyah
rishon (Bereishit 28:10)
sheni (29:1)
shlishi (29:18)
revii (30:14)
chamishi (30:28)
shishi (31:17)
shvii (31:43)
maftir (32:1)
haftara (Hoshea 12)

by perek
perek 29 ; perek 30
perek 31 ; perek 32

Rashi, in English and Hebrew (France, 1040 - 1105) -- ואני לא באתי אלא לפשוטו של מקרא ולאגדה המיישבת דברי המקרא, דבר דבור על אופניו
Chizkuni (13th century, commentary written about 1240)-- see Jewish Encyclopedia entry.
Shadal (1800-1865) -- see Wikipedia entry:
  1. In plain text here, though not encoding some of the trup and nikkud, and omitting certain references to non-Jewish scholars.
  2. In Google book form here, but with all that was omitted above. Also, with Shadal's Italian translation of the Chumash text.
  3. Mishtadel, an earlier and shorter commentary
  4. In determining the correct girsa of Targum Onkelos, Ohev Ger
Daat -- with Rashi, Ramban, Seforno, Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, Rabbenu Bachya, Midrash Rabba, Tanchuma+, Gilyonot
Gilyonot Nechama Leibovitz (Hebrew) (1905-1997) -- see Wikipedia entry.
Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz (1690-1764) -- see Wikipedia entry:
  1. Tiferes Yehonasan
  2. Chasdei Yehonasan -- chiddushim and pilpulim on midrashim, Toras Kohanim, Sifrei, and Rashi al haTorah. With supercommentary of R' Yaakov Goldshlag.
  3. Toldos Yizchak Acharon, repeated from Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz
  4. Divrei Yehonasan -- discussing halacha and aggada together, interpreting difficult midrashim
  5. Nefesh Yehonasan -- commentary on midrashim and pilpulim + Tanchuma, and suygot in Shas connected to each parsha.
  6. Midrash Yehonasan -- on difficult midrashim
Even Shleimah -- from Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Ehrenreich (Hungary, 1860-1944)
R' Saadia Gaon(882-942) -- see Wikipedia entry:
  1. Arabic translation of Torah, here at This is a beautiful PDF, with the Chumash text, Rashi, Onkelos, and Rav Saadia's Tafsir. All of these have nikkud, which is a very nice feature. It also designates the Temani and standard aliyah breaks, and two commentaries, Shemen HaMor and Chelek HaDikduk, on the kriyah, trup, nikkud, and dikduk, on the basis of Yemenite manuscripts, which would be worthwhile even absent the other features. Quite excellent, overall.
  2. The same Arabic translation, the Tafsir, here at Google books. No nikkud, Chumash text, Rashi, or Onkelos. But there is a brief supercommentary by Yosef Direnburg at the bottom of each page. 
  3. Collected commentary of Saadia Gaon on Torah, selected from the writings of various Rishonim and from his commentaries on other works.
Don Yitzchak Abarbanel (Portugal, Italy, 1437-1508) -- see Wikipedia entry -- there is a section on his exegesis.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Peshita on Bereshit perek 21

Masoretic Text
English for MT
Bereishit 21:

Interesting changes marked in bold red.

א וַיהוָה פָּקַד אֶת-שָׂרָה, כַּאֲשֶׁר אָמָר; וַיַּעַשׂ יְהוָה לְשָׂרָה, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּר.  
וַייָ דְּכִיר יָת שָׂרָה, כְּמָא דַּאֲמַר; וַעֲבַד יְיָ לְשָׂרָה, כְּמָא דְּמַלֵּיל.
1 And the LORD remembered Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as He had spoken.  
ומריא אתדכר לסרא איך דאמר ועבד מריא לסרא איך דמלל:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Did Avraham specifically keep eruv tavshilin or erev techumin?

Summary: An analysis by the Gra.

Post: I saw the following nice piece in Kol Eliyahu, from the Vilna Gaon:
"In the verse עקב אשר שמע אברהם בקולי וישמור משמרתי, etc: Behold, from this pasuk, Chazal darshened in Masechet Yoma (daf 28) that Avraham Avinu kept eiruvei tavshilin, see there. And at first glance, this is extremely surprising, where eiruvei tavshilin is hinted to in this verse. And there is to say that the correct girsa was that Avraham Avinu kept even eruvei techumin.* And this derash is hinted to well in the word עקב, for via the eiruvei techumin, a man treads with his feet outside of 2000 cubits on Shabbat {Josh: and the heel is called עקב.} However, the second printed wrote the words ערובי תחומין in roshei teivos, as ע"ת. And the third printer thought, and erred, that the roshei teivos referred to ערובי תבשילין, and wrote out this error more clearly."
In the footnote designated by the *, someone refers to the teshuva of the Rashba I present in this other post, in which he says eiruvei techumin rather than eiruvei tavshilin.

This is quote plausible. Though the derasha was not explicitly on the עקב part. The gemara in Yoma ends:
א"ל א"כ מצותי ותורותי למה לי אמר (רב) ואיתימא רב אשי קיים אברהם אבינו אפילו עירובי תבשילין שנאמר תורותי אחת תורה שבכתב ואחת תורה. שבעל פה:

which is a derasha from the end of the pasuk. Still, it can be a contributing factor. I would rather find evidence to either from a described action of Avraham, based on a pasuk. Barring that, I would like to consider the type of enactment each of these are. Eiruvei techumin operate on a Biblical level as establishing a place of shevisa, though this fact might be the result of a derasha. (Though the smaller limit is Rabbinic, IIRC.) Eiruv tavshilin is entirely to combat a rabbinic concern of confusion of what sorts of activities are permitted. Are Rabbinic enactments combating Rabbinic concerns under the title of Torah SheBaal Peh?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Rivkah darshens a pasuk

Summary: An amusing remez from the Vilna Gaon.

Post: There is a pasuk and Rashi at the beginning of Toldos:

22. And the children struggled within her, and she said, "If [it be] so, why am I [like] this?" And she went to inquire of the Lord.כב. וַיִּתְרֹצֲצוּ הַבָּנִים בְּקִרְבָּהּ וַתֹּאמֶר אִם כֵּן לָמָּה זֶּה אָנֹכִי וַתֵּלֶךְ לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת יְ־הֹוָ־ה:
struggled: Perforce, this verse calls for a Midrashic interpretation, for it does not explain what this struggling was all about, and [Scripture] wrote,“If it be so, why am I [like] this?” Our Rabbis (Gen. Rabbah 63:6) interpreted it [the word וַיִתְרוֹצִצוּ] as an expression of running (רוֹצָה) . When she passed by the entrances of [the] Torah [academies] of Shem and Eber, Jacob would run and struggle to come out; when she passed the entrance of [a temple of] idolatry, Esau would run and struggle to come out. Another explanation: They were struggling with each other and quarreling about the inheritance of the two worlds (Mid. Avkir).ויתרוצצו: על כרחך המקרא הזה אומר דורשני, שסתם מה היא רציצה זו וכתב אם כן למה זה אנכי. רבותינו דרשוהו לשון ריצה, כשהיתה עוברת על פתחי תורה של שם ועבר יעקב רץ ומפרכס לצאת, עוברת על פתחי עבודה זרה עשו מפרכס לצאת. דבר אחר מתרוצצים זה עם זה ומריבים בנחלת שני עולמות:

Here is an amusing Gra, in Kol Eliyahu. After citing the verse, he writes:

"There is to explain in the plane of remez, based on what is stated in the gemara in several places:
Shimon haAmsuni darshened every instance of the word את in the Torah. Once he reached the verse of את ה' אלקיך תירא he broke off [and rejected the methology], etc. Until Rabbi Akiva came and darshened את ה' אלקיך תירא to include Torah scholars.
And behold, Rashi za'l explains here in the name of the midrash upon ויתרוצצו הבנים בקרבה that when she passed the entryways of idolatry, Esav would kick to go out, and when she passed the entryways of Shem and Ever, Yaakov wished to go out. 

And behold, Rivkah was unaware that these were two fetuses, and she thought that it was a single fetus. If so, there was a place to ponder, chas veShalam, that there were two forces {in Heaven}, since here was a single fetus encompassing the two opposites. And therefore the thought, and she said, אם כן למה זה אנכי,  'If so, what is this אנכי', that is to say that which is written in the 10 Commandments, אנכי Hashem Your God, which was the opposite of what she was experiencing in this struggling [רציצה]. Therefore, she went לדרש את ה, that is to say, to darshen the pasuk of את ה' אלקיך תירא [in the manner Shimon HaAmsuni knew was false]. And {next pasuk} 'Hashem said to her, there are two nations in your womb', one who is a tzaddik and one who is a rasha. And it should not arise in your mind at all that there are, chas veShalaom, two forces."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Posts so far for parshat Toledot


  1. What in the world does נַחְשִׁרְכָן meanin all of its variants.
  2. Ibn Caspi on the Avos keeping the entire Torah -- He endorses the idea, kind-of. In one instance, as a restrained and coded rejection. In another, as a philosophical co-opting of the idea. Also, Chizkuni and my own approach to understanding the pasuk that sparks all this.
  3. Toldos sources -- further expanded and improved.
  4. YU Torah on parashat Toldot.
  5. Darshening pesiks in parashat Toledot -- One is indeed a pesik, and one should indeed be darshened. Though I argue on the details. There is a vertical bar after Machalat, and there is a derasha that has Esav's sins forgiven with his marriage. Does this bar indicate the need for distancing oneself from one's past actions? There is a vertical bar after the Shem Hashem in Avimelech's words to Yitzchak. Should this indicate that the wells ceased when Yitzchak left? Read on to find out!
  6. Rivkah darshens a pasuk -- An amusing remez from the Vilna Gaon.
  7. Did Avraham specifically keep eruv tavshilin or erev techuminAn analysis by the Gra.


  1. Why כי עקרה הוא is correct --  and how the Samaritan correction is a correction, rather than original.
  2. The meaning of Padan Aram -- Is the Aramaic or Arabic etymology better?
  3. Was Yaakov Avinu the first AskanWhile reading over parashat Toledot, it struck me that, at least on a peshat level, there is ample precedent for what the various askanim are doing. It is simply maaseh avos siman labanim.
  4. How to spell 'goyim' -- and how I would justify the Masoretic reading. Plus the strange, counter-intuitive vowel pattern provided by the Masorah, and its significance.
  5. The mercha kfula in parshas Shmini -- How shall we account for it? There is also a mercha kefulah in parashat Toledot, and this post considers all five of them in the Torah.
  6. Esav the Deceiver, pt i -- I try to address why Yitzchak and Rivkah's displeasure over his choice in wives doesn't prove that Yitzchak was in the know.

  1. My novel interpretation for the duplication of Betulah and veIsh lo yedaah, which I label ridiculous. Then it turns out that it is not so novel, as Maharal says a very similar thing. I have a post planned about just why I considered my own interpretation silly, which has to do with peshat in derash. {Update: See post #7, about how Rivkah was just big for her age.}
  2. The three-fold ambiguity of verav yaavod tzair -- syntactic, lexical, and spelling. And how this may be a deliberate ambiguity, such that the text is multivalent. Also, An earlier assertion of multivalence in verav yaavod tzair -- in Radak, alongside Ibn Caspi I mentioned earlier. Plus, some analysis.
  3. Did Hashem speak directly to Rivkah? For various commentators, it might depend on whether Hashem generally talks to women, as well as what doresh means and what vatelech means. Towards the end, I suggest that Rivkah prayed, and that Hashem responded to her in a direct revelation.
  4. Was the kiss on the mouth, or elsewhere? Trying to make sense of Ibn Ezra's assertion that neshika which is "to" someone is on the hand or cheek, while neshika directly is on the lips. I think it is more plausible, and grounded in sevara and dikduk, than some supercommentators give him credit for.
  5. Was Yitzchak poor? The dispute between Ibn Ezra and Ramban, and my thoughts on some elements of their dispute.
  6. Rivkah, just big for her age! My analysis of why I considered my suggestion (above) ridiculous, and an analysis of how my methodology in general differs from that of Maharal. I don't see the need to harmonize as much, and if the harmonization introduces surprising details which we would have therefore expected to see explicitly mentioned by Rashi, or the midrash, itself, then I would surmise that this was not the intent of the author of the midrash.
  7. The merits of a Baal Teshuva vs. those of an FFB -- based on Toledot, with Rivkah and Yitzchak's prayers.
  8. Did the Pilgrims wear tzitzis? Nope, it's Esav!
  1. In Shadal's Vikuach, he discusses how Ibn Ezra's interpretation of kulo kaaderet seiar goes against the trup.
  2. Cross-listed from Vayikra, Shadal's theory about small letters can help explain the small kuf in katzti bechayai -- it follows the word Yitzchak, which ends with a kuf. See inside.
  3. From Whence the 10 years before Yitzchak and Rivkah begin trying to have children? A discussion on how it comes from textual concerns, as opposed to imposed moral values.
  4. Two Whole Goats? Does Yitzchak really have that big an appetite? How are we then to understand the preparation of two goats for Yitzchak's meal, on a peshat level?
  5. Will that be one placenta or two? Rabbenu Bachya, vs. Ibn Ezra, vs. Rashi, on how many placentas there were, and whether Yaakov and Esav shared a single placenta. If they did, they would have to be identical twins, though I do not think Rabbenu Bachya necessarily realized that.
  6. Did Yaakov stray after his eyes in falling in love with Rachel, rather than just taking Leah and returning to his parents? I take issue with this explanation by Rabbenu Bachya, on a peshat level, but in the comment section, Rabbi Joshua Maroof (of Vesom Sechel) makes a compelling argument in his favor, on a peshat level, that the Biblical text does not look favorably on Rachel. Perhaps fodder for another post.
  7. Who or What Was Achuzat? The name of Avimelech's friend, or a group of people. I favor Rashi, even on the level of peshat.
  1. Is Esav the Bad Brother? Is Yaakov? The theme of sibling rivalry, and the danger of reading our own values into the text.
  2. Esav's mantle of hair, and its possible implications, such that it was worn by false prophets, or prophets in general, such that it might fit in with Esav's misleading nature.
  3. Is Edom equal to Rome and Christiandom? Shadal says no, and that the prophecies about Esav and Yaakov in this week's parsha have already been fulfilled. Plus a very large comment section. And then, in Is Obama a 'Dark Horse' Candidate to be Gog, I touch on this same topic, and discuss it with yaak of Yeranen Yaakov, in the comment section.
  • Further thoughts on the Sons of Ketura (2005)
    • A continuation of a post on Chayyei Sarah, in considering whether genealogical sections happened right then or whether some high level ain mukdam in terms of tracts with different purposes (macro and micro zoom levels) is at play here. In terms of Toledot, even though the first pasuk mentions Yitzchak's birth, he was clearly born before.
  • I Am | Esav (is) Your Firstborn (2005)
    • I consider various motivations as input into the midrashic statement that Yaakov did not lie by making this statement. The obvious religious motivation (making Avot paragons of virtue), philosophical motivations (given philosophical requirements of a navi being absolutely truthful, syntactic motivation, accentual motivation (trup), thematic motivation, motivation of textual parallels, and literary motivation. Thus is not (simply) a case of whitewashing actions of the Avot. Read for more details.
  • More Thoughts on "Anochi Esav Bechorecha" (2005)
    • In terms of the parsing of "It is I | Esav is Your Firstborn," I note how Hebrew is a pro-drop language, how including the pronoun is done usually for emphasis, and how this emphasis is read into the midrash.
  • The Parallelism of "Anochi Esav Bechorecha" (2005)
    • Discussing the parallelism between Yitzchak's question and Yaakov's answer. After demonstrating the parallelism, I question whether beni in this case means literally "my son" or more generally a kind address to one younger than you. Parallel to Rut, where Boaz calls her biti in a near identical address and response.
  • A Neo-midrash on Yaakov and Esav's Sibling Rivalry (2004)
    • Based on a Hebrew cognate in Amharic, on the word gadala, meaning to kill or fight.
  • And the Older Shall Serve the Younger? (2004)
    • or the younger shall serve the older? I think the former is what makes the only sense, on a peshat level, and argue on Rabbi Sacks' interpretation. Also, the meaning of rav and tzair.
  • Making A Break For It (2004)
    • The basis of Yaakov trying to get out to a bet midrash and Esav trying to get out to a house of idolatry, while yet in the womb.
  • Towards a Theory of Drash (2004)
    • That there is always a local, linguistic cause, as well as thematic reasons to choose a specific interpretation. The derash reinforces the message which is already present on the peshat level.
  • The Near Miss (2004)
    • Yaakov leaving the tent just as Esav arrives. And the midrash's textual basis.
  • Fetal Fighting (2004)
  • וַתֵּלֶךְ לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-ה - A drash of lidrosh to mean bet midrash (2003)
    • How Rivka consults Hashem. A discussion and summary of several opinions
  • Esav's Wife: Easy on the Eyes (2003)
    • and the midrash linking Yitzchak's blindness to Esav's wife's idolatry. And how the new wife he took was a realization of this -- וַיַּרְא עֵשָׂו, כִּי רָעוֹת בְּנוֹת כְּנָעַן, בְּעֵינֵי, יִצְחָק אָבִיו. Check it out.
to be continued...

Darshening pesiks in parashat Toledot

Summary: One is indeed a pesik, and one should indeed be darshened. Though I argue on the details. There is a vertical bar after Machalat, and there is a derasha that has Esav's sins forgiven with his marriage. Does this bar indicate the need for distancing oneself from one's past actions? There is a vertical bar after the Shem Hashem in Avimelech's words to Yitzchak. Should this indicate that the wells ceased when Yitzchak left? Read on to find out!

Post: The very last pasuk in parashat Toledot reads (28:9):

9. So Esau went to Ishmael, and he took Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, the sister of Nebaioth, in addition to his other wives as a wife.ט. וַיֵּלֶךְ עֵשָׂו אֶל יִשְׁמָעֵאל וַיִּקַּח אֶת מָחֲלַת בַּת יִשְׁמָעֵאל בֶּן אַבְרָהָם אֲחוֹת נְבָיוֹת עַל נָשָׁיו לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה:

While in parashat Vayishlach, we have (36:3):

2. Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah, daughter of Elon the Hittite; and Oholibamah, daughter of Anah, daughter of Zibeon the Hivvite;ב. עֵשָׂו לָקַח אֶת נָשָׁיו מִבְּנוֹת כְּנָעַן אֶת עָדָה בַּת אֵילוֹן הַחִתִּי וְאֶת אָהֳלִיבָמָה בַּת עֲנָה בַּת צִבְעוֹן הַחִוִּי:
3. also Basemath, daughter of Ishmael, sister of Nebaioth.ג. וְאֶת בָּשְׂמַת בַּת יִשְׁמָעֵאל אֲחוֹת נְבָיוֹת:

Both of these women are identified as the daughter of Yishmael and sister of Nevayot, and so it seems that they are the same person. And Rashi on Vayishlach reads:

Basemath, daughter of Ishmael: Elsewhere [Scripture] calls her Mahalath (above 28:9). I found in the Aggadah of the midrash on the Book of Samuel (ch. 17): There are three people whose iniquities are forgiven (מוֹחֲלִים) : One who converts to Judaism, one who is promoted to a high position, and one who marries. The proof [of the last one] is derived from here (28:9). For this reason she was called Mahalath (מָחֲלַת), because his (Esau’s) sins were forgiven (נְמְחֲלוּ) .בשמת בת ישמעאל: ולהלן קורא לה (כח ט) מחלת. מצינו באגדת מדרש ספר שמואל (פרק יז) שלשה מוחלין להן עונותיהם גר שנתגייר, והעולה לגדולה, והנושא אשה, ולמד הטעם מכאן, לכך נקראת מחלת שנמחלו עונותיה:
sister of Nebaioth: Since he (Nebaioth) gave her hand in marriage after Ishmael died, she was referred to by his name. — [from Meg. 17a]אחות נביות: על שם שהוא השיאה לו משמת ישמעאל נקראת על שמו:

Thus, they are the same person; and she is called מָחֲלַת here at the end of Toldos because his sins were forgiven.

Shadal makes two interesting points here:
את בשמת בת ישמעאל: למעלה (כ"ח ט') נקראת מחלת, ונ"ל כי שני השמות ענינם אחד, כי מחלת לשון מתוק בל' ארמית, תרגום של מתוק חלי (כגון: שופטים י"ד י"ח) וכן בשם בארמית ענין מתיקות .ברש"י כ"י שבידי כתוב: עונותיה (לא עונותיו).ש

First, he suggests that Machalat and Basemat are related words, and gives an Aramaic etymology for Machalat meaning 'sweet'. Second, he mentions a ktav yad of Rashi in his possession which has עונותיה  rather than עונותיו.

In terms of the latter point, this is possibly not just a matter of slight girsological variance. The implication is that it is her sins which were forgiven, not his. However, I would note that that assumes that the ending of that word is Hebrew and should be read -eha. But it could plausibly be read as Aramaic, as -eih, in which case it still refers to his sins.

We have the following in Birkas Avraham:

בפסוק (בראשית כח ט, ) וילך עשו אל ישמעאל ויקח את מחלת בת ישמעאל בן אברהם וגו' . בתלמוד ירושלמי מס' ביכורים פ"ג ה"ג איתא, תניא תני, חכם , חתן , נשיא , גדולה , מכפרת. חתן, דכתיב וילך עשו וגו' , וכי מחלת שמה, והלא בשמת  שמה ( פי' שבפרשת וישלח כתיב (בראשית ל"ו ג ) עשיו לקח וגו בשמת בת ישמעאל). אלא שנמחלו לה כל עונותיה, כך היא  גירסת הר"ש סיריליאו ז"ל ובנוסחתנו כתוב שנמחלו לו כל עונותיו

וכן איתא בבראשית רבה בזה"ל , וילך עשו אל ישמעאל, רבי יהושע בן לוי אמר נתן דעתו להתגייר. מחלת, שמחל לו הקב"ה על כל עונותיו. בשמת, שנתבסמה דעתו עליו. אמר ר' אליעזר, אילו הוציא את הראשונות יפה היה, אלא על נשיו, כאב על כאב. ומכל מקום, מבואר במדרש שחתן מוחלין לו עוונותיו

והנה שתי דעות לפנינו במדרש, ולדעת רבי יהושע בן לוי שנמחלו לעשו עוונותיו, הוא הרהר תשובה במעשה זה, ורבי  אליעזר טוען כנגדו שמעשיו מוכיחין שהוא לא נתכוון לפרוש מרשעותו, וממילא שלא נמחלו עוונותיו. ומעתה ברור שחתן הרוצה לזכות במחילת עוון, צריך להכין לבו לזה, ואז מוחלין לו עוונותיו. ובזה שונה הוא החתן משאר אנשים, שהאחרים צריכים להרבות בסוגי תשובה ותיקון החטאים .

ודע שעם דרשת חז"ל מ'מחלת' שנמחלין עוונות החתן והכלה, מובן טעם פסיק [קו] שאחרי תיבת מחלת כי אכן מה שהיה היה
ועתה פנים חדשות באו בלא רישום עוונות .

After citing the pasuk at the end of Toldos, he writes:
"In Talmud Yerushalmi, Masechet Bikurim, perek 3 halacha 3 there is {Josh: here, but rather messed up}: a Sage, a groom, a prince, greatness, atone... A groom, for it is written [in Toledot], וַיֵּלֶךְ עֵשָׂו אֶל יִשְׁמָעֵאל וַיִּקַּח אֶת מָחֲלַת. Now was her name מָחֲלַת? Was it not בָּשְׂמַת? (That is to say that in parashat Vaishlach is written "Esav took Basemat bat Yishmael.") Rather, all her sins were atoned for her, שנמחלו לה כל עונותיה. Such is the girsa of Rabbi Shlomo [ben Yosef] Sirillo [d. ca. 1558]. And in our nusach is written שנמחלו לו כל עונותיו, that all of his sins were forgiven."
Note the parallel to the two girsaot in Rashi. One could also read the masculine into R' Sirillo's girsa, with לה meaning לֵהּ, but still, it can be taken most readily to refer to her. Though it is strange. Why should we care about her and her sins?! Unlike Esav, she is a minor character not mentioned elsewhere, and we know of none of her sins. The girsa makes little sense to me. Besides, it says chatan. And it is clear from the other examples in context.

You can see the gemara in full, with commentary by Yedid Nefesh, here -- a great set of Yerushalmis to purchase, by the way:

At any rate, Birkas Avraham continues:
"And so is stated in Bereishit Rabba in this language:
"And Esav went to Yishmael... Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: He gave mind to convert. Machalat... that Hashem forgave him for all his sins. Basmat... that his mind was sweetened upon him.  
Rabbi Eliezer said: If he had cast out the first ones, this would have been fine. But al nashav, 'upon his [other] wives', [understand this as] pain upon pain.
And yet, it is clear in the midrash that a groom, they forgive him his sins.

And behold, there are two opinions before us in the Midrash. And according to the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, that Esav was forgiven his sins, he thought to do teshuva with this act. And Rabbi Eliezer argues against him that his [=Esav's] actions prove that he did not intend to separate from his wickedness, and thus naturally, his sins were not forgiven. And thus, it is clear that a groom who wishes to take advantage of the forgiveness of iniquity needs to prepare his heart for this, and then his iniquities are atoned for. And with this, the groom differs from other men, that others require an abundance of types of teshuva and correction of the sins.
And know that which the derasha of Chazal from מחלת that the sins of the groom and the bride are atoned for, the pasek [vertical bar: | ] which is after the word Machalat is understood, for therefore, what was, was, and now new faces have come, with no impression of iniquities."
Birkas Avraham continues on at length with this devar Torah, but I'll end my citation here.

Besides not being convinced that a kallah is indeed included in this, I am not really convinced that the derasha in Midrash Rabba is really of the same nature as that in Bikurim. The Midrash Rabba reads:
וירא עשו כי רעות בנות כנען וילך עשו אל ישמעאל רבי יהושע בן לוי אמר:נתן דעתו להתגייר. 

שמחל לו הקדוש ברוך הוא על כל עונותיו. 

ש(בראשית לו) בשמת 
שנתבסמה דעתו עליו. 

אמר ר' אלעזר:אילו הוציא את הראשונות, יפה היה, אלא על נשיו, כאב על כאב.

דבר אחר: כוב על כוב, תוספת על בית מלא. 
and the translation was more or less given above. I think that, while one feed into the midrash was the difference between the two names and the connotation of Mechila inherent in Machalat, the first part of the pasuk (previously uncited), וירא עשו כי רעות בנות כנען, shows a possible change of heart on his part. And so, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi darshens the names in this way. And Rabbi Eleazar argues that this would not indicate a change of heart if he is still keeping those benot kenaan who were bad in his parents' eyes, and so, the derasha should not be made.

But not necessarily do either of them say that simple marriage is what causes the sins to be forgiven. Who says we need to bring in that idea from Yerushalmi Bikkurim? Rather, the change of heart indicated teshuva, and then both names should be interpreted in a positive manner, in which his act of choosing a good girl this time demonstrates his change of heart.

If so, there is perhaps no derasha of Chazal that explicitly indicates that a change of heart is necessary to obtain this teshuva. Or course, it might well be true, within Chazal's intention.

Here is where I get (even more) nitpicky and argumentative, according to some. Birkas Avraham saw in this derasha of Chazal, and in the detail that one must have a change of heart to take advantage of the exemption, justification / explanation for the pesik after the word Machalat. However, that is no pesik. Rather, it is a munach legarmeih!

The pasuk looks like this -- I underlined the vertical bar in red:

Yes, it is a munach legarmeih rather than a psik, even though it does not appear before a revii, but I will explain that point in a bit.

Now one can argue to salvage the derasha on the vertical bar by pointing out the extreme likelihood that this was a deliberate choice on the part of the Masoretes to have a vertical bar functioning to turn the orthographic munach, which is a conjunctive accent (meshares) into a disjunctive accent (melech). Thus, it is the bar causing a pause. I would admit to this, but would also point out that many other melachim are modified mesharsim. For instance, a kadma and pashta share a symbol. It is only position that distinguishes them. The same for yesiv and mahpach, and telisha ketana and gedola. In this instance, it was the addition of a pasek after the word to indicate how to reinterpret the munach, but the munach is not really alone in being reinterpreted in this way. And in other systems of trup orthography, they don't even use the vertical bar to mark the legarmeih. (Rather, it is a script nun, the first letter of neged, looking much like a munach, appearing over the word.)

One could also argue that a geresh or gershayim would be equally acceptable -- or in this instance, actually, a telisha, and the choice of the munach and then the vertical bar to modify it makes it into a quasi-pasek. Perhaps, but I am not convinced. Wickes argues that this regular though optional divergence occurs in specific scenarios, and is simply to provide musical variation. I don't think we interpret every pashta and tipcha, so neither should we interpret every munach legarmeih. It is not the same as a pesik which occurs over and above the ordinary divergence provided by trup, and often appears for semantic rather than semantic syntactic purposes. And I think Birkas Avraham would agree.

Even so, in this instance, something strange is indeed going on. If this is a munach legarmeih, then how come it is not in revii's clause. The separating trup symbol which follows is a geresh, not a revii!

William Wickes writes that in almost all instances, a revii will follow a legarmeih. But, there are a total of 11 exceptions in the entirety of Tanach:

Note that out Machalat pasuk is the first one listed. So forget about pasek! Our legarmeih is unique and, even according to Wickes, called out darsheni!

What could be the derasha here? I still don't think that it is what Birkas Avraham wrote, that it is the separation from one's previous actions. Nor is it that it is the last pasuk of the sidra (assuming that this was a possible motivating factor, and they did not use the parshiyot of Eretz Yisrael). Rather, it is that Machalat differs from Basemat elsewhere. And that, then, deserves special notice or special emphasis. Then, of course, kick in the derasha about Esav's sins being forgiven.

There is another place that Birkas Avraham darshens a pesik. And in this instance, it most certainly is a pesik. The pasuk is in Bereishit 26:28, and describes Avimelech coming to make peace with Yitzchak. This is what they say:

Yes, the vertical bar is after a munach, and there is a revii in close proximity. But intervening is the segolta, which is basically a zakef. The clause belongs to the segolta, not to the revii. And the first dividing accent before it is the zarka on ראינו. There are two munachs in between, which is acceptable. Indeed can have long runs of munach. But still, there is the shem Hashem there, and it should be divided from the following word. This is the type of psik that Wickes refers to as paseq emphaticum.

Birkas Avraham writes:
When Yitzchak left Gerar, the wells stopped [פסקו], and therefore they said ראו ראינו [we have seen], and it is hinted in the pesik [פסק]
In the verse {and he cites it}, there is a pesik [ a vertical bar:   |    ] between the words יקוק and לעמך. Certainly they did not intend to say that this has ceased, that Hashem was with him, for behold they said that this they have seen, that Hashem was with him. Rather, it appears that it hints to that which is in Targum {Pseudo-}Yonatan Ben Uziel here, that they said to him that they saw with their eyes that Hashem was in his aid, for in his merit was to them all the good, and that when he left their land the wells dried up and the trees did not produce fruit. And now is understood as well the trup symbol of pesik, which hints to the ceasing [פסיקת] of the waters of the wells, and the fruits, with him.
An admittedly clever and creative explanation. Though I don't think it is necessary. The pesik does not have to refer to the ceasing of Hashem being with Yitzchak if it were not darshened in this other manner. Rather, it need not be darshened at all. It simply stands to give the Shem Hashem its proper reverence, just as it does in many other instances.


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