Friday, November 23, 2012

How Yaakov Avinu won the Nobel Prize

How do we know that Yaakov Avinu won the Nobel Prize? Because the pasuk says (Bereishit 31:4):
ד  וַיִּשְׁלַח יַעֲקֹב, וַיִּקְרָא לְרָחֵל וּלְלֵאָה, הַשָּׂדֶה, אֶל-צֹאנוֹ.4 And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,

And we also know that the Nobel Prize is given to people out standing in their field.

Anyhoo, there is a gemara in Berachos, 8b, based in part on this pasuk:
תניא אמר ר"ע בשלשה דברים אוהב אני את המדיים כשחותכין את הבשר אין חותכין אלא על גבי השולחן כשנושקין אין נושקין אלא על גב היד וכשיועצין אין יועצין אלא בשדה אמר רב אדא בר אהבה מאי קראה (בראשית לא, ד) וישלח יעקב ויקרא לרחל וללאה השדה אל צאנו:
Or, in English:
It has been taught: R. Akiba says: For three things I like the Medes: When they cut meat, they cut it only on the table; when they kiss, they kiss only the hand; and when they hold counsel, they do so only in the field. R. Adda b. Ahabah says: Which verse [may be quoted in support of the last]? And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock.11 
Rashi comments, on the daf:
אלא בשדה - דאמרי אינשי אזנים לכותל:
"[They do so] only in the field: For as the expression goes, the walls have ears."

Torah Temimah cites this gemara and Rashi. He writes:

"And apparently, there is to comment from the proof [in the gemara] from Yaakov. For behold, there it to say that therefore he called them to the field, since he was unable to go from there, for he would then be abandoning his work. And we need to say that he was able to wait until evening, the time that he returned to his house, but perforce, he deliberately called them to the field, since it is good to hold counsel in the field."

An interesting and persuasive idea.

I don't know that support in this case must be such a compelling support, though. Rabbi Akiva was speaking in admiration, based on his own sensibilities. And separate from this, R' Ada bar Ahava found a Scriptural support, which I would read as a remez, to this idea. Such an allusion does not, IMHO, need to disallow any other plausible and parallel causes. But this is just MHO, and one may feel free to argue whether this support is a mere asmachta or something more.

And even if one could say that this would be abandoning his work, one need not say this. At this stage, he was already somewhat wealthy. He could have taken in the flocks or handed them over to his eldest son, or a servant. Recall that Yaakov tells Esav in Vayishlach:
ה  וַיְצַו אֹתָם, לֵאמֹר, כֹּה תֹאמְרוּן, לַאדֹנִי לְעֵשָׂו:  כֹּה אָמַר, עַבְדְּךָ יַעֲקֹב, עִם-לָבָן גַּרְתִּי, וָאֵחַר עַד-עָתָּה.5 And he commanded them, saying: 'Thus shall ye say unto my lord Esau: Thus saith thy servant Jacob: I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now.
ו  וַיְהִי-לִי שׁוֹר וַחֲמוֹר, צֹאן וְעֶבֶד וְשִׁפְחָה; וָאֶשְׁלְחָה לְהַגִּיד לַאדֹנִי, לִמְצֹא-חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ.6 And I have oxen, and asses and flocks, and men-servants and maid-servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favour in thy sight.'

(These servant might have been the ones Yaakov sent to Esav.) Surely he could have handed over the flocks to a man-servant. Maybe he would not want to. But all this is hypothetical, and just as Torah Temimah could presume that Yaakov would not want to abandon his work in the day -- which causes the problem -- one could hypothesize all sorts of resolutions, where he would be willing to leave even by day. His resolution is just one of many, and one need not assume that any of this was going through the mind of Rav Ada bar Ahava.

However, we see this idea raised by Torah Temimah, the idea of Yaakov's dedication, and of no bittul melacha in the perek itself, when Yaakov speaks to Rachel and Leah:
מ  הָיִיתִי בַיּוֹם אֲכָלַנִי חֹרֶב, וְקֶרַח בַּלָּיְלָה; וַתִּדַּד שְׁנָתִי, מֵעֵינָי.40 Thus I was: in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep fled from mine eyes.

Also, since he is talking about the sheep, and the changing of wages, and the angel's reference to sheep, then it is more meaningful to do it in the presence of the various spotted, speckled, etc., sheep.
ח  אִם-כֹּה יֹאמַר, נְקֻדִּים יִהְיֶה שְׂכָרֶךָ--וְיָלְדוּ כָל-הַצֹּאן, נְקֻדִּים; וְאִם-כֹּה יֹאמַר, עֲקֻדִּים יִהְיֶה שְׂכָרֶךָ--וְיָלְדוּ כָל-הַצֹּאן, עֲקֻדִּים.8 If he said thus: The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the flock bore speckled; and if he said thus: The streaked shall be thy wages; then bore all the flock streaked.

However, Rav Ada bar Ahava could point to another salient feature of this story, that this was done without Lavan's knowledge:
כ  וַיִּגְנֹב יַעֲקֹב, אֶת-לֵב לָבָן הָאֲרַמִּי--עַל-בְּלִי הִגִּיד לוֹ, כִּי בֹרֵחַ הוּא.20 And Jacob outwitted Laban the Aramean, in that he told him not that he fled.

On a peshat level, this would indeed account for calling them into the field. We see that Yaakov sought secrecy in this plan, to flee from Lavan.

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