Thursday, December 04, 2008

When Yaakov Kissed Rachel, Was It Derech Chiba?

Over at Hirhurim, R' Gil Student cites R' Schachter who cites R' Yerucham Gorelick that when Yaakov kissed Rachel in this week's parsha, Vayeitzei, it was not derech chiba.

Indeed, despite the fact that he eventually married her, and that the pasuk a bit later says that he loved her, I would agree that pashut peshat in this pasuk is that it was not derech chiba.

Thus, for example, see Shadal on this pasuk. He writes:
וישק יעקב לרחל : נ"ל שהיתה נערה קטנה, ולפיכך כתוב ותרץ ותגד לאביה, ולא לבית אמה (כמו ברבקה, למעלה כ"ד כ"ח ) כי להיותה קטנה היתה עדיין מצויה בין האנשים
It would certainly not need to be derech chiba if she is such a young girl, from whom it still was tznius to hang around the men.

See also Ralbag. He writes (see image, and get it at JNUL, pg 53, though you first need to install the plugin) that Yaakov kissed Rachel on the hand, or on the clothing, and cried -- and that this was the protocol of relatives, and he had already told her that he was a relative. (Despite the fact that this relating is mentioned in the next pasuk -- presumably he holds that this is the pluperfect, or that the order of the psukim don't necessarily reflect the exact order of events; we do not need to agree with this to still declare it a kiss of greeting a relative.)

Indeed, we see that this is the protocol of relatives (or perhaps others as well) greeting one another. For first we have:
יא וַיִּשַּׁק יַעֲקֹב, לְרָחֵל; וַיִּשָּׂא אֶת-קֹלוֹ, וַיֵּבְךְּ. 11 And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.
יב וַיַּגֵּד יַעֲקֹב לְרָחֵל, כִּי אֲחִי אָבִיהָ הוּא, וְכִי בֶן-רִבְקָה, הוּא; וַתָּרָץ, וַתַּגֵּד לְאָבִיהָ. 12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son; and she ran and told her father.
which juxtaposes these two ideas.

But it is not just Yaakov and Rachel who kiss. In the very next pasuk:
יג וַיְהִי כִשְׁמֹעַ לָבָן אֶת-שֵׁמַע יַעֲקֹב בֶּן-אֲחֹתוֹ, וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתוֹ וַיְחַבֶּק-לוֹ וַיְנַשֶּׁק-לוֹ, וַיְבִיאֵהוּ, אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ; וַיְסַפֵּר לְלָבָן, אֵת כָּל-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה. 13 And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister's son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things.
Certainly this kiss between Yaakov and Lavan was not derech chibba. Even according to Rashi and Bereshit Rabba, that the kiss between Yaakov and Lavan was on the mouth:
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]
and he kissed him He said,“Perhaps he has brought pearls, and they are in his mouth.” [from Gen. Rabbah 70:13]
If it is not derech chibba for these two relatives, in identical greeting situation, there is no reason to assume that it was derech chibba, just because of Rachel's gender.

And then a bit later, in Vayishlach, Esav meets Yaakov after a long absence, and there is hugging, kissing, and weeping. Bereshit 33:
ד וַיָּרָץ עֵשָׂו לִקְרָאתוֹ וַיְחַבְּקֵהוּ, וַיִּפֹּל עַל-צַוָּארָו וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ; וַיִּבְכּוּ. 4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him; and they wept.
The fact that weeping occurs together with kissing in both stories of greeting relatives one has not seen in a long while (or at all) should inform us as to the nature of the kissing.

And then in Vayigash, when Yosef reveals his identity to his brothers, they kiss and cry. In Bereshit 45:
יד וַיִּפֹּל עַל-צַוְּארֵי בִנְיָמִן-אָחִיו, וַיֵּבְךְּ; וּבִנְיָמִן--בָּכָה, עַל-צַוָּארָיו. 14 And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck.
טו וַיְנַשֵּׁק לְכָל-אֶחָיו, וַיֵּבְךְּ עֲלֵהֶם; וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן, דִּבְּרוּ אֶחָיו אִתּוֹ. 15 And he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them; and after that his brethren talked with him.
A bit later, in perek 46, the same idea of greeting a relative after a long time occurs once again, when Yaakov meets Yosef. Though there, kissing is not mentioned:
כט וַיֶּאְסֹר יוֹסֵף מֶרְכַּבְתּוֹ, וַיַּעַל לִקְרַאת-יִשְׂרָאֵל אָבִיו גֹּשְׁנָה; וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו, וַיִּפֹּל עַל-צַוָּארָיו, וַיֵּבְךְּ עַל-צַוָּארָיו, עוֹד. 29 And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen; and he presented himself unto him, and fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while.
ל וַיֹּאמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל-יוֹסֵף, אָמוּתָה הַפָּעַם, אַחֲרֵי רְאוֹתִי אֶת-פָּנֶיךָ, כִּי עוֹדְךָ חָי. 30 And Israel said unto Joseph: 'Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, that tho
but there are a group of actions which appear throughout, where a few of those actions are mentioned in each. Thus, hugging, kissing, crying, and falling on the neck.

It is thus fairly clear to me that there was no impropriety, or derech chibba, in Yaakov's kiss, on a peshat level.


Anonymous said...

nice write-up and good case (as I was modeh on Hirhurim.) Nice site.


joshwaxman said...


Ariella's blog said...

One of the commentators (I don't remember off-hand which) distinguishes between kissing le and kissing es. Only the latter is supposed to signify a more intimate kiss on the mouth.BTW, the MALBIM stresse that this kiss was not one of tiflus, as indicated by the fact that he proceeded to cry. As I mentioned in a comment on Rachel among the sheep, there is a view that she was only 5 or so at the time of this meeting, which is why Yaakov volunteered a 7 year delay to marrying.

I was struck by the fact that in the pasuk just before this one, the same letters V'Y"Sh"K appear to signify giving water _"vayashk es tzon lavan achi imo" is immediately followed by "Vayishak yaakov leRachel." Anyone have an insight on the deliberate juxtaposition?

joshwaxman said...

thanks for your comments. and sorry for not replying sooner. i've been swamped and am slowly catching up.

in terms of Rachel covering herself with sheep, and using sheep as accessories, in retrospect I think it is obvious that she did. And that Sarah, Rivkah and Leah did as well. After all, we know that the Avos (and presumably the Imahos) all kept the Torah, and Shemos 12:4 states תָּכֹסּוּ עַל-הַשֶּׂה.

I would indeed appreciate having my own copy of Oz Vehadar, if you still have it, and if there were some way of conveying it.

Interesting pt about le vs. es. I'll check it out. It reminds me of the midrashim which distinguish between talking belibo vs. el libo. And that Malbim seems to echo Midrash Rabba on the parsha, which talks about different types of kissing (of tiflus, of separation), where this one is labeled one of kirvus.

This pasuk is actually one of my most favorite psukim. It certainly is deliberate, and whether it was because of the poetic echoing or to convey some deeper message, I don't know. But it is really great, especially since "Rachel" itself means "sheep," thus echoing the tzon in the prev pasuk. (Just as Leah means cow, as we know from Akkadian.)


Ariella's blog said...

email me to work out logistics about getting you the book, please _ editor at KallahMagazine [dot] com


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