Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Running commentary for parashat Vayera, part i

Parashat Vayera begins:

א  וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה, בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא; וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח-הָאֹהֶל, כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם.1 And the LORD appeared unto him by the terebinths of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;

וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה -- Hashem appears to Avraham. On a peshat level, this conversation is not interrupted by the visit of the three men. Rather, it is the visit of the three men. However, this leads to a possibly uncomfortable theological conclusion about whether God is corporeal or, to a lesser degree, can manifest in what appears to be human form. Chazal interpret these pesukim otherwise, in which Hashem first visits, is interrupted by the arrival of the three men, and resumes his conversation with Avraham after the three angels leave. This is most likely understood by them not merely as derash but peshat as well, just as the Rishonim understood it.

Shadal says וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה, via his angels, as it continues to explain. And he refers us to Rashbam and Nisivot Hashalom.

וירא אליו ה' - האיך? 
שבאו אליו שלשה אנשים שהיו מלאכים, שבהרבה מקומות כשנראה המלאך קוראו בלשון שכינה, כדכתיב: כי שמי בקרבו שלוחו כמותו. 
וכן: וירא מלאך ה' אליו בלבת אש מתוך הסנה. וכתוב שם: וירא ה' כי סר לראות. 

One could argue with Rashbam's presentation, and say that only two were malachim and the third, central one, was Hashem.

Ibn Ezra attacks Rashbam's position, pointing out that only two malachim arrived at Sodom:

הנה קצת אמרו, כי השם ג' אנשים הוא אחד והוא ג' ולא יתפרדו. והנה שכחו ויבאו שני המלאכים סדומה

I agree. Not all three were Hashem. Two were malachim, who accompanied Hashem, and one was some deeper manifestation of Hashem's presence.

(However, to answer on behalf of those who would have all thee as a manifestation of Hashem, we can point out that
 (a) any angel is a manifestation of Hashem, and angels can surely split up -- the later 'Hashem said' is the agent speaking in his Master's name.
 (b) any angel can be said to be a manifestation of Hashem, and that manifestation can be in the image of three or in the image of two, as appropriate.

בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא -- This is in Chevron. See this pasuk:

בראשית פרק יג
  • פסוק י"ח: וַיֶּאֱהַל אַבְרָם, וַיָּבֹא וַיֵּשֶׁב בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא--אֲשֶׁר בְּחֶבְרוֹן; וַיִּבֶן-שָׁם מִזְבֵּחַ, לַה.  
which immediately preceded the first destruction of Sodom, at the hands of man.

וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח-הָאֹהֶל -- the midrash has it that he was looking for guests, as a way of highlighting Avraham's hospitality, which certainly is stressed elsewhere in the narrative. As peshat, it introduces the lifting up of his eyes such that he sees guests in a distance.

One entrance to the tent, not four, on the level of peshat.

כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם -- 
See II Shmuel 4:5:
ה  וַיֵּלְכוּ בְּנֵי-רִמּוֹן הַבְּאֵרֹתִי, רֵכָב וּבַעֲנָה, וַיָּבֹאוּ כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם, אֶל-בֵּית אִישׁ בֹּשֶׁת; וְהוּא שֹׁכֵב, אֵת מִשְׁכַּב הַצָּהֳרָיִם.5 And the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, went, and came about the heat of the day to the house of Ish-bosheth, as he took his rest at noon.

This demonstrates that כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם means about the noon. Shadal says that this is why Avraham detained the malachim, since it was time to eat lunch and difficult to travel.

Perhaps this is to show that Avraham was dozing, and this entire exchange happened as a vision.

Next pasuk:
ב  וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא, וְהִנֵּה שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים, נִצָּבִים עָלָיו; וַיַּרְא, וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתָם מִפֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל, וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ, אָרְצָה.2 and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood over against him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed down to the earth,

וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו -- thus, in the distance.

וַיַּרְא -- matching וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו. This is the fulfillment and details of the preceding pasuk.

שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים -- is the Torah lying to us, by calling them men? At the very least, we know that later they are malachim. And we might want to even say that one, or all of them is Hashem!

We can answer that just like dibra Torah kilshon bnei Adam, in the sense that the Torah speaks in accordance with the sometimes flawed understanding of the world, here too, also, since Avraham saw them as men, the Torah described them according to that perception. And that is not a falsehood.

According to Ralbag, the three men were neviim,  namely Shem, Ever, and one other prophet. And that they are later called malachim is because prophets are messengers, or malachim, of Hashem. Indeed, Ralbag in general understands malachim to mean human prophets. If so, the Torah is explicit here that these were men.

וַיַּרְא -- although it already said this word above, the word is repeated. First, establish what he saw, at length, and then, describe his reaction to the right. Rashi takes the second instance to denote hospitality. Midrash Rabba takes one to refer to the angels and one to refer to the Shechina.

וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתָם מִפֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל -- zerizut for the hospitality.

Next pasuk:
ג  וַיֹּאמַר:  אֲדֹנָי, אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ--אַל-נָא תַעֲבֹר, מֵעַל עַבְדֶּךָ.3 and said: 'My lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant.

אֲדֹנָי -- Ramban writes:

אדני אם נא מצאתי חן בעיניך - מצינו אותו בספרים קמוץ. והנה קראם בשם רבם באל"ף דל"ת, כי הכיר בהם שהם מלאכי עליון כאשר יקראו אלוהים ואלים ולכן השתחוה להם ארצה:

That is, we find a kametz under the nun. With a chirik, adoni, it should mean "my master". With a patach, it should mean "my masters". With a kametz, it should mean Hashem.

Ramban explains that Avraham knew at this early stage that these were angels, and therefore referred to them by the name of their master, Hashem. One must grapple with the singular of תַעֲבֹר. Ramban understands this as distributive, that he addressed every one of them as the name of their master.

Shadal claims that Avraham actually said Adoni, with a chirik (and was thus singular), but this was made kodesh based on what would eventually come out.

Rashi mentions the dual interpretations of this. Either he addressed the gadol of the malachim (and with a kametz will still be appropriate); or else, he addressed Hashem. Recall that first, Hashem appeared, and separately, these men/angels appeared. Thus, Avraham is saying to Hashem, please don't leave, but let me first take care of this mitzvah of hachnasas orechim.

There is a nice thought associated with this interpretation in Shabbat 127a, in terms of balancing bein adam laMakom and bein adam lachaveiro:
Rab Judah said in Rab's name: Hospitality to wayfarers is greater than welcoming the presence of the Shechinah, for it is written, And he said, My lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, etc.15  R. Eleazar said: Come and observe how the conduct of the Holy One, blessed be He, is not like that of mortals. The conduct of mortals [is such that] an inferior person cannot say to a great[er] man, Wait for me until I come to you; whereas in the case of the Holy One, blessed be He, it is written, and he said, My Lord, if now I have found, etc.
Someone asked me that we know that hospitality is greater than welcoming the presence of the Shechina, based on this gemara, but how did Avraham know? The answer is that Avraham didn't know from a text, but intuited how one should act with Hashem. While some could say that Avraham knew the gemara in Shabbos because he knew all the Torah, we could say like the Rashba explained (and as we see in a midrash as well) when endorsing this idea, that Avraham intuited in his heart and kidneys how to act, even before the Torah was given.

Related to this is the story of the Chafetz Chaim (author of Mishneh Berurah) who once skipped Shalom Aleichem, and only sand it after kiddush and hamotzi. When questioned as to the propriety of this, he explained that in this case, his poor guests were very hungry, but the malachim who accompanied him home from shul were malachim, who were not hungry, and could wait a bit.

See Minchas Shai about this being kodesh vs. chol.

based on the gemara in Shevuot 35b which reads:
כל שמות האמורים בתורה באברהם קדש חוץ מזה שהוא חול שנאמר (בראשית יח) ויאמר יי' אם נא מצאתי חן בעיניך חנינא בן אחי רבי יהושע ורבי אלעזר בן עזריה משום רבי אלעזר המודעי אמרו אף זה קדש
(Note the funny emendation of the pasuk in the quotation in the gemara.)

I wonder if it actually worked in the opposite direction, namely that there was an argument of whether it was Adonay as kodesh or chol among Chazal (with little to no difference in pronunciation between them, as patach vs. kametz are quite close in pronunciation, perhaps a slightly longer vowel), and given all these Rabbinic sources fixing it as kodesh, it was set with a kametz in accordance with this midrashic interpretation. If so, no need for concern with the nikkud when dealing with peshat.

Because of the difficulty of the plural and singular in this pasuk, the Samaritans falsified their Torah. They emended it to read:

Samaritan text on the left. Note how they make three words in this pasuk plural. (Shadal points this out.)

אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ -- as if he is asking a favor, even as he offers them hospitality.

נָא -- Rashi often makes the midrashic statement that ain na ele leshon bakasha. Na in Biblical Hebrew apparently always mean "now", and means "please" only in Rabbinic Hebrew. Indeed, Onkelos consistently renders it ke'an, which is Aramaic for "now":
יח,ג וַיֹּאמַר:  אֲדֹנָי, אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ--אַל-נָא תַעֲבֹר, מֵעַל עַבְדֶּךָ.וַאֲמַר:  יְיָ, אִם כְּעַן אַשְׁכַּחִית רַחֲמִין קֳדָמָךְ--לָא כְּעַן תִּעְבַּר, מֵעַל עַבְדָּךְ.
Next pasuk:
ד  יֻקַּח-נָא מְעַט-מַיִם, וְרַחֲצוּ רַגְלֵיכֶם; וְהִשָּׁעֲנוּ, תַּחַת הָעֵץ.4 Let now a little water be fetched, and wash your feet, and recline yourselves under the tree.

יֻקַּח-נָא -- the passive, let it be fetched. Rashi cites a midrash which connects this to the water that the Israelites receive via a shaliach. Baal HaTurim then draws a connection based on gematria, to reinforce this existing connection.

מְעַט-מַיִם -- again minimizing his actions. Emor meat ve'aseh harbei, as action of tzaddikim (consider the stark contrast to what he actually does) as well as a polite mode of expression.

וְרַחֲצוּ רַגְלֵיכֶם -- the only other place this occurs is by Lot meeting these malachim. We can contrast the two. Rashi contrasts these as follows:

and bathe your feet: He thought that they were Arabs, who prostrate themselves to the dust of their feet, and he was strict not to allow any idolatry into his house. But Lot, who was not strict, mentioned lodging before washing, as it is said (below 19:2): “and lodge and bathe your feet.” - [from Gen. Rabbah 54:4]ורחצו רגליכם: כסבור שהם ערביים שמשתחוים לאבק רגליהם והקפיד שלא להכניס עבודה זרה לביתו. אבל לוט שלא הקפיד, הקדים לינה לרחיצה, שנאמר (יט ב) ולינו ורחצו רגליכם:

However, as Rashbam notes, by Lot it was evening, while here, it was earlier in the day, which is why lodging (or sleeping) was not relevant. Perhaps we can compare, though, with וְהִשָּׁעֲנוּ תַּחַת הָעֵץ. Note also that just as by Avraham, lina was not relevant, by Lot, lina was not just relevant but the most important thing to take care of, because of nightfall as well as because of the evil nature of the Sodomites.

וְהִשָּׁעֲנוּ תַּחַת הָעֵץ -- thus, providing them with shade from the חֹם הַיּוֹם.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky notes in Taama deKra that according to a midrash, this occurred on Succot. If so, since Avraham Avinu kept the entire Torah, it must be that this tree was talush, detached from the ground, and it means that he built a succah, under which they sat. And even though travelers are exempt, if there is one available without difficulty, one is obligated in Succah. And this is the meaning of the pasuk כִּי-עַל-כֵּן עֲבַרְתֶּם עַל-עַבְדְּכֶם. This cute vort fits in with Rav Kanievsky's general approach to the avos keeping the Torah. But it is obviously farfetched.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

YUTorah on parashat Vayeira

Audio Shiurim on Vayeira
Rabbi Elchanan Adler: Koach ha-Hergel 
Rabbi Hanan Balk: The Cosmic Significance of the Akeida
Rabbi Etan Moshe Berman: Bitachon: Balancing Physical Behaviors with Spiritual Mechanics 
Rabbi Avi Billet: Who's Your Donkey? Bilam v. Avraham 
Mrs. Malke Bina: From the Sending of the Bird to the Binding of the Son 
Rabbi Asher Brander: The Power of the Many 
Rabbi Chaim Brovender: Bargaining for Sedom 
Rabbi Avishai David: Practice What You Preach! 
Rabbi Yisroel Meir Druck: Chesed to Avraham 
Rabbi Ally Ehrman: Could It Be That Yitzchak Was Actually A Korban? 
Rabbi Chaim Eisenstein: The Prayer of a Simpleton 
Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman: Emmes and Shalom
Rabbi Joel Finkelstein: Be Good to G-d 
Rabbi David Fohrman: Lot and his Daughters
Rabbi Efrem Goldberg: A Smile of Laughter or a Smile of Cynicism? 
Rabbi Yehuda Goldschmidt: Pass Your Tests and You Too Can be a Great! 
Rabbi Shalom Hammer: The Advantages and Dangers of Pluralism 
Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot: Akeidah Themes in Biblical Literature 
Rabbi Jesse Horn: Balance between individuality and collectivism
Rabbi Shimon Isaacson: Avraham Avinu's Legacy as an Eved Hashem 
Rabbi Ari Kahn: The Elevation of Yitzchak 
Rabbi Aharon Kahn: Hachnosos Orchim, Kedushas Habayis and Avraham Avinu's Tefilah
Rabbi Yisroel Kaminetsky: Harnessing your emotions to serve Hashem 
Rabbi Eliakim Koenigsberg: Overcoming Challenges 
Rabbi Binyamin Kwalwasser: The Importance of Being Nice
Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz: The Godsend and the Joker 
Rabbi Aryeh Leibowitz: D'veykus for the Common Man 
Rabbi Menachem Leibtag: Conversations between God & Man in Sefer Breishit A 'Progression' or a 'Recession' 
Rabbi Eliezer Lerner: The True Benefit of Chesed 
Rabbi Ben Leybovich: Salt-free 
Rabbi Meir Lipschitz: The Nature of a "Vision" 
Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger: Helping Man Reach his Potential 
Rabbi Hershel Reichman: Understanding Judgement 
Rabbi Zev Reichman: Akeidas Yitzchak 
Dr. Avigail Rock: Biblical Allusions to the Akeida Story 
Rabbi Zvi Romm: The Daughters of Lot and Their Illustrious Descendents 
Rabbi Michael Rosensweig: The Impact of the Akeidah on Jewish Thought 
Rabbi Shalom Rosner: Akeidat Yitzchak 
Rabbi Yonason Sacks: Dechiyas Issurim and Ratzon Hatorah 
Rabbi Avi Schneider: Non-Hollywood Ending 
Rabbi Baruch Simon: The idea of rebuke and Bringing Close 
Mrs. Shira Smiles: Mockery Manifested 
Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik: Lessons of Chesed from the Avos 
Rabbi Reuven Spolter: Occupy Wall Street and the People of Sodom 
Rabbi Moshe Stav: הציווי שבמצוות
Rabbi Daniel Stein: Visting the Sick or "Examining the Sick" 
Rabbi Moshe Taragin: Different and Inspiring!!
Mrs. Shani Taragin: Akedat Yitzchak: A Methodological Workshop 
Rabbi Michael Taubes: Giving Tzedaka to a Person that is not poor
Ms. Shuli Taubes: The Angel Who Saved Yitzchack 
Rabbi Michael Teitcher: Yishmael: His Life, Character, and Reputation 
Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner: The Forgiveness of Yitzchak 
Rabbi Jake Vidomlanski: The Impact Of The Akeidah On Us 
Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg: A Behind the Scenes Look at Rashi and His Commentary 
Rabbi Mordechai Willig: Tznius 
Rabbi Andi Yudin: Tests Make a Person Great! 
Rabbi Ari Zahtz: What Was So Bad About Sedom 
Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler: Did Angels Really Visit Avraham?

Articles on Vayeira
Rebecca Benhaghnazar: A Wrinkle in Parenthood
Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn: Be Strict Where it Counts
Rabbi Yaacov Feit: Looking is Believing
Mrs. Daphna Fishman Secunda: The Personal and Collective Journey to Har haMoria
Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg: Mesirus nefesh for the mesorah
Rabbi Ozer Glickman: A Case of Mistaken Identity
Rabbi Meir Goldwicht: The Mizbeach between Beit El and Ay
Rabbi Avraham Gordimer: The Lot of Lot
Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb: Spiritual DNA
Rabbi Maury Grebenau: Sarah's Laugh
Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg: הפרדה על מנת הכללה
Rabbi David Horwitz: The ‘Aqedah
Rabbi Chaim Jachter: Akeidat Yitzchak
Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl: Olam Chesed Yibane
Rabbi Yoel Rackovsky: Running After Mitzvot
Rabbis Stanley M Wagner and Israel Drazin: Avoiding Theology: Angels or Men Rabbi Michoel Zylberman: Dust and Ashes

Parsha Sheets on Vayeira
HALB-DRS: Dvarim Hayotzim Min Halev
SOY(YU): Einayim L'Torah
YU/Torah miTzion Toronto Beit Midrash: Toronto Torah

Rabbi Jeremy Wieder: Laining for Parshat Vayeira
See all shiurim on YUTorah for Parshat Vayeira

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Recordings from the program on October 28, 2012Rabbi Dovid Hirsch Shemiras Hamitzvos for the Avos
Rabbi Ezra Schwartz Hachnasas Orchim 
Rabbi Baruch Simon Hadlakas Neiros Shabbos 
Mrs. Natalie Taylor Commemorating the Yahrtzeit of Rachel Imeinu 
New This Week

Monday, October 29, 2012

Vayera sources -- 2012 edition

by aliyah
rishon (Bereishit 18:1)
sheni (18:15)
shlishi (19:1)
revii (19:21)
chamishi (21:5)
shishi (21:22)
shevii (22:1)
maftir (22:20)
haftara (II Melachim 4)

by perek
perek 18 ; perek 19 ; perek 20
perek 21 ; perek 22

Geonim (589-1038)

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, trupnikkud, 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. And translation of that Tafsir to Hebrew
  4. Collected commentary of Saadia Gaon on Torah, selected from the writings of various Rishonim and from his commentaries on other works.
Rabbi Yona Ibn Janach (Spain, 990-1050) -- see Wikipedia  

Rishonim (11th - 15th centuries)

Not really Abarbabel
Judaica Press Rashi in English  and Hebrew (France, 1040 - 1105) -- ואני לא באתי אלא לפשוטו של מקרא ולאגדה המיישבת דברי המקרא, דבר דבור על אופניו
Chizkuni (France, 13th century) -- see Wikipedia  
Daat  -- with Rashi, Ramban, Seforno, Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, Rabbenu Bachya, Midrash Rabba, Tanchuma+, Gilyonot 
Rashbam -- and here (France, 1085-1158) -- see Wikipedia 
Abarbanel (Portugal, Italy, 1437-1508) -- see Wikipedia -- there is a section on his exegesis 
Baal HaTurim (Germany, Spain, 1269-1343) -- see Wikipedia entry:

Baal HaTurim:
  1. Baal Haturim -- short, consisting of gematriot and the like
  2. Baal Haturim (HaAruch) (HaAruch), consisting of perushim, often drawn from Ramban
  3. Torat Hatur -- when the Tur (in his halachic work) cites pesukim from this parasha. Not very helpful, IMHO. Though the supercommentary on the Tur on the bottom is nice.
Rabbenu Ephraim -- (France, 12th and 13th century) -- see Jewish Encyclopedia entry --  "He was the author of "Perush 'al ha-Torah," which consists chiefly of gemaṭria and "noṭariḳon." He largely followed Eleazar of Worms."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Interesting Posts and Articles #385

1. At Life In Israel, the IPhone singled out for teshuva success. Cute way of putting it. The rabbi in question has condemned IPhone use in the past, but says he got special dispensation for his own use of it.

2. Meanwhile, someone emailed me that a few websites (Kikar, Ynet, Rotter) are reporting that there is a website that strongly hints that Rav Amnon Yitzhak is Mashiach. I don't see why this is news. Unless there is evidence that this fan of Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak is in any way affiliated with him, who gives a care? There are plenty of lunatics on the Internet, who post random stupid things. So here we have another lunatic.

Just the other day, there was a lunatic, who rambles about conspiracy theories and the New World Order on his blog, who claims he knows who mashiach is, and even set a date for mashiach's arrival, based on purported evidence, in the form of 100 pages of proof, and the purported backing of Gedolim.

But fine, here is this fellow's proof about Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak:
למה אני מציין כל זאת?

אני רוצה להעלות לפני הציבור שאלה, ואני לא אשיב עליה.
כל אחד מוזמן לחשוב עליה ברצינות בזמנו החופשי:
האם הרב אמנון יצחק הוא האיש שלו עם ישראל ייחל אלפי שנים?

להלן סקירה קצרה מדברי רבותינו זכרונם לברכה וכל אחד יעיין בשכלו
בסוף הדברים, אביא את מסקנותיי בעניין:

1. הרמב"ם פוסק להלכה, המשיח יקבץ נדחי עמו ישראל אל ישראל. עד כאן לשון הרמבם
הערה: הרב אמנון יצחק בהרצאות ברחבי העולם קורא ליהודים לעלות לארץ ישראל, ורבבות עם ישראל עשו זאת ממדינות ניכר ועלו לישראל
2. "המלך המשיח עתיד לעמוד ולהחזיר מלכות בית דויד ליושנה." עד כאן לשון הרמב"ם
הערה: מפלגת ש"ס מורכבת רובה ככולה מבעלי התשובה שעשה הרב אמנון יצחק במשך 35 שנות פעילות.
ש"ס מתפארת בסלוגן: להחזיר עטרה ליושנה...
3. הרמב"ם בהלכה ד: ואם יעמוד מלך מבית דויד הוגה בתורה ועוסק במצוות כדויד אביו, כפי תורה שבכתב ושבעל פה,
ויכוף כל ישראל לילך בה ולחזק בדקה, ויילחם מלחמות ה' - הרי זה בחזקת שהוא משיח. עד כאן לשון הרמב"ם
הערה: הרב אמנון יצחק עוסק בלימוד תורה יומם וליל. מארבע וחצי לפנות בוקר ועד 12 בלילה כבר שנים רבות.
בוודאי שדורש ומזכה את כל ישראל לילך אחר התורה ונלחם את מלחמות ה' כפי שפרוס כאן באתר בהרחבה
4. אני רוצה להפנות את תשומת לבכם לשלוש נקודות

Item #1 is that Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak has used scare tactics to trick people to move to Israel, and the Rambam says that mashiach will cause ingathering of the exiles. But there are other scaremongers out there. Nir Ben Artzi also tries to get people to move to Israel. The Tzaddik Nistar tricked Nava, of Dreaming of Mashiach, into moving to Israel, because mashiach was coming. Is the Tzaddik Nistar mashiach? Is Rabbi Lazer Brody?

Item #2 is that Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak has made many baalei teshuva who are associated with Shas, whose slogan is להחזיר עטרה ליושנה, restoring the crown to its former glory, and this is (by kvetch) equal to restoring the (actual) kingdom of  David to its former glory.

Item #3 is that he learns and teaches Torah a lot, and this is therefore the same as the Rambam's statement that a king, of the house of David, who is learned, will compel all of Israel to go in the ways of Torah, and will fight the wars of Hashem.

I am certain one can allegorize all of these, of course. But once one is kvetching, one can kvetch for many a public figure.

3. At Rationalist Judaism, what Rav Elyashiv really meant. And he has evidence:
My second set of reasons for explaining Rav Elyashiv's position in this way is that I have quite a bit of evidence for it - some of which I have not released before this post. 
4. At the Talmud blog, updates to the Leiberman databases.
In the realm of academic Talmud, the bar is also constantly being raised. If only a few decades ago it was completely legitimate to cite in an academic article the Munich manuscript of the Bavli by quoting from Rabinowitz‘s Dikdukei Sofrim, nowadays that would never fly. Rabinowitz’s Dikdukei Sofrim was one of the most influential projects on Talmud study ever (its ambition, however, cost Rabinowitz his life, as he passed away while travelling in Russia to find more Talmudic manuscripts). The situation today is decidely different. From the comfort of an iPad, one can access many more manuscripts than Rabinowitz could ever have dreamed of seeing, and the Dikdukei Sofrim is now mainly used to see what girsa was before each rishonOne who wishes to employ philological methods in studying a sugya now how has a couple of tools for consultation:
and so on. Check it out.

5. At Chopping Wood, on learning gemara and daf yomi.
During a recent Gemara shiur that I give here in Yad Binyamin, I mentioned a thought that Rav Tzuriel (the former mashgiach in Sha'alvim) once said that stuck with me. He said that he felt that instead of putting the commentary of the Ba'alei Tosfot on the side of the page of the Gemara and the commentary of Rosh in the back of the book, they should have switched the two and put the Rosh on the side and the Tosfot in the back. I'll explain.
And yet, I think that the most appealing aspect of the Daf isn't the goal of finishing Shas, and it's certainly not that most people who learn the Daf hope to remember most of what they've learned. Rather, it's the kvi'ut (regularity) - the security of knowing that the system forces us to learn a set amount, each and every day. You have to keep up, because everyone else is, and even if it's not in depth; even if you don't fully understand every issue, it's time invested in Talmud Torah, which is time well spent.
For years I've avoided learning Daf Yomi for reasons I consider legitimate. If you're reading this blog you probably know what they are without my needing to hash them out again. And yet, I've always done so from the outside, while people who "do the Daf" seem to like it quite a lot. So the time has come to "bite the bullet" and give the learning a shot. 
6. Menachem Mendel on the pitfalls of Daf Yomi.

7. Circus Tent with a Chasam Sofer on the importance of the tzaddik hador.

8. A letter Rav Shach wrote when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Running commentary on Lech Lecha, part i

Parashat Lech Lecha begins:
א  וַיֹּאמֶר ה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ.1 Now the LORD said unto Abram: 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee.
Leipzig Mahzor, Abraham in Nimrod`s Furnace, ca.1320
וַיֹּאמֶר ה אֶל-אַבְרָם -- For Noach, we were informed of him finding favor in Hashem's eyes, and that he walked with Hashem. Here, there is only this startling sudden directive. Midrashim fill in this gap, of Avraham finding Hashem and rejecting idolatry at an early age. These are midrashim, perhaps intended literally, but are not historical. Some of them, such as being cast into the furnace by Nimrod, are not maaseh avos siman labanim, but are rather maaseh banim siman le'avos from sefer Daniel. It certainly makes sense that there was some background, and some reason for Avraham to be chosen.

לֶךְ-לְךָ -- Like Shelach Lecha for the meraglim, it was not an instruction, but acquiescence to an idea Avraham suggested. Not really. But lehanaasecha, for your own benefit, is surely not peshat. It is midrash picking up on the irregularity, and filling in the import based on immediate context, that context being the next pasuk, of וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל. (This a reaction to Rashi and then Gur Aryeh.)

The lecha is idiomatic. Get yourself a drink. Sit yourself down. It functions as an intensifier.

There might be a connection to the widespread Amorite migrations in Mesopotamia.

מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ -- These are not three different places, but three ways of describing the same place. This is also an intensifier, to indicate to Avraham, and the reader, how much Avraham what Avraham is giving up. Compare with Hashem's instruction to Avraham later: ka na es bincha, es yechidcha, asher ahavta, es Yitzchak, with the associated midrash.

מֵאַרְצְךָ -- He is leaving his own country, and will be a resident alien in another land.

וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ  -- and he is leaving the place he was born, and which fostered him. Maybe also the narrower neighborhood.

וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ -- and is leaving extended family behind. Perhaps this is not "house of your father" but rather "your bet av", which is an extended family group.

אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ -- This is putting faith in Hashem. He did not even know the destination, or the destination did not matter. Compare to the faith Avraham displayed later on by akeidas Yitzchak, with  וְהַעֲלֵהוּ שָׁם לְעֹלָה עַל אַחַד הֶהָרִים אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ. I think it is possible there that Avraham was informed fairly immediately of the place, such that we can be told that וַיִּשָּׂא אַבְרָהָם אֶת-עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא אֶת-הַמָּקוֹם--מֵרָחֹק.

Which movement was this? The three possibilities are:
  1. from Ur Kasdim to Charan
  2. or from Charan to Canaan
  3. from Ur Kasdim to Canaan
Ibn Ezra:

[יב, א]השם ציווה לאברהם ועודנו באור כשדים שיעזוב ארצו ומקום מולדתו, גם בית אביו. 

See what various meforshim say. I think a strong case can be made for option 3.

I'll first argue for Ur Kasdim. We can point to Bereishit perek 15:
ז  וַיֹּאמֶר, אֵלָיו:  אֲנִי ה, אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיךָ מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים--לָתֶת לְךָ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת, לְרִשְׁתָּהּ.7 And He said unto him: 'I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.'

This "brought thee out" indicated more than hidden Divine manipulation of historical events. There are difficulties with this interpretation, which are answerable.

The first difficulty is that the movement from Ur Kasdim to Charan already happened. Thus, at the end of the previous perek, 11:
לא  וַיִּקַּח תֶּרַח אֶת-אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ, וְאֶת-לוֹט בֶּן-הָרָן בֶּן-בְּנוֹ, וְאֵת שָׂרַי כַּלָּתוֹ, אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ; וַיֵּצְאוּ אִתָּם מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים, לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן, וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד-חָרָן, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם.31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.

If so, how could the Divine directive to leave Ur Kasdim come after Avraham had already left Ur Kasdim? The answer is ain mukdam eme'uchar baTorah. And I am not kidding here. The previous perek was concerned with genealogical data (the P stream), and so it brings us up to date with events until Terach's death. Both Rashi and Ibn Ezra note this ain mukdam. So Terach was said to die in Charan at the end of perek 11, yet we know the following:

Terach age at Avraham's birth: about 70, based on Bereishit 11:26.
Terach's age at death: 205, based on Bereishit 11:32.
Avraham's age when he left Charan: 75, based on Bereishit 12:4.

If so, Terach was 70 + 75 - 145, which was less than 205. Thus, Terach was still alive when Avraham left from Charan, in the next perek. The answer is that ain mukdam, and the next perek, a J stream, is zooming in to the micro level of what happened in Bereishit 11:31.

Interjection: I generally dislike calculations of this sort, which force us into sometimes difficult interpretations of pesukim. Who says we fully understand ambiguous pesukim, such as that Terach was 70 what he fathered three children, to mean that Avraham must have been the earliest, and such that this constraint will lead to a further interpretation down the road? Where the pasuk (11:32) tells us that Terach died in Charan, וַיָּמָת תֶּרַח בְּחָרָן, maybe this was intended to explain why he did not make the next leg of the journey, such that we see Avraham continued onward with Lot and Sarah. In other words, perhaps one call still say that Avraham only continued on after Terach's death, such that this portion is not necessarily ain mukdam. Yet the Divine instruction was what led them to leave Ur Kasdim, and so for this, at the very least, ain mukdam, or the transfer of macro-scale in P to micro-scale in J holds.

I do think that Avraham left his father while his father was still alive. But this was not abandonment. I think that after the move to Charan, Terach and his family were established there. Though Nachor, Avraham's brother, is not explicitly listed as one of those who traveled with Terach (the Samaritans add explicit mention of him and Milkah) from Ur Kasdim to Charan, we see later that his descendants, Betuel, Lavan, and Rivkah, are living in Charan. 

The next difficulty is that it seems that in the movement from Ur Kasdim, it is Terach who took the initiative: וַיִּקַּח תֶּרַח אֶת-אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ. The answer is that, despite the Divine command to Avraham, Terach was still officially the head of the household, and since he is travelling as well, he should be listed first.

Further, vayikach does not mean that there is a single actor. Rather, vayikach is a way of selecting multiple actors for the later specified action. We see that later action in the pasuk, where we have the plural: וַיֵּצְאוּ אִתָּם. (Compare this to my remarks on Vayikach Korach, where we are specifying Korach, Datan, Aviram, and On are the actors of the next verb, which explains there what was taken -- nothing at all.) Rashi says something which supports this:

and they went forth with them: And Terah and Abram went forth with Lot and Sarai.ויצאו אתם: ויצאו תרח ואברם עם לוט ושרי:

Another difficulty is that leaving Charan was also part of the Divine command:
ד  וַיֵּלֶךְ אַבְרָם, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֵלָיו ה, וַיֵּלֶךְ אִתּוֹ, לוֹט; וְאַבְרָם, בֶּן-חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וְשִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה, בְּצֵאתוֹ, מֵחָרָן.4 So Abram went, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him; and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

While one could try to sever the first half of the pasuk from the second, it is clear that this is part of the fulfillment of the command. Rashi says it like this:
from your land: Now had he not already gone out of there with his father and come as far as Haran? Rather, thus did He say to him, “Distance yourself more from there and leave your father’s house.”מארצך: והלא כבר יצא משם עם אביו ובא עד לחרן, אלא כך אמר לו התרחק עוד משם וצא מבית אביך:

But I don't think one needs to make this into a separate command, in order to accomplish the correct result of every movement being part of the Divine command.

Hashem, after all, had told Avraham אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ. So long as Hashem does not tell him to stop, for this is the land, Avraham is continuing. Further, see what the pasuk (11:32) stated: וַיֵּצְאוּ אִתָּם מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים, לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן. They had left Ur Kasdim to travel towards the land of Canaan. Then what? וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד-חָרָן, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם. They paused for a while there. But still, they had not yet reached the land of Canaan. At a later point, Avraham, Sarah, and Lot continued on this journey.

Next pasuk, 12:2:
ב  וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ, וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ; וֶהְיֵה, בְּרָכָה.2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing.
One can read this as a positive result of the leaving (meshaneh makom meshaneh mazal). One can read it as an assurance despite the negative effects one usually encounters when leaving. The first is Rashi on pasuk 1 and the second is Rashi on pasuk 2. Rashi is drawing these admittedly contradictory midrashim from different sources. The first Rashi, from Rosh Hashanah 16b, Tanchuma; the second Rashi, from Gen. Rabbah 39:11; Tanchuma Buber, Chaye Sarah 6. Don't get a headache trying to resolve the two.

The dispute is whether וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ is a "therefore" or "and despite this".

Hashem had a plan from the beginning, to give this particular land to Avraham and his descendants. This plan encompassed the entire patriarchal narrative, even unto the sale of Yosef and the descent into Egypt. This is not meshaneh makom meshaneh mazal. Hashem is kol yachol, and had He wished to make Avraham wealthy in Ur Kasdim, and Sarah fertile in Ur Kasdim, He certainly could have. But this is how Hashem decided to shape history.

וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל -- Leave as part of My enabling this to happen.

וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ -- is this a positive spiritual blessing, or is it a way of conveying material success, directed from on high.

וֶהְיֵה בְּרָכָה -- See Seforno:

וֶהְיֵה בְּרָכָה. בִּרְכַּת ה' הִיא שֶׁיִּשְׂמַח ה' בְּמַעֲשָׂיו, כְּמו שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּותֵינוּ זִכְרונָם לִבְרָכָה: 'יִשְׁמָעֵאל בְּנִי בָּרְכֵנִי. אָמַרְתִּי לו: יְהִי רָצון מִלְּפָנֶיךָ.. וְיָגלּוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ עַל מִדּותֶיךָ' (ברכות ז, א). אָמַר אִם כֵּן הֱיֵה לִי בְּרָכָה בַּמֶּה שֶּׁתִּתְבּונֵן וְתִקְנֶה שְׁלֵמוּת, וּתְלַמֵּד דַּעַת אֶת הָעָם. 

Thus, Avraham is a blessing to Hashem. I would simply say, "you will be in a state of blessing". Or, based on the next pasuk, "you will be referred to when people bless one another".

Next pasuk:
ג  וַאֲבָרְכָה, מְבָרְכֶיךָ, וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ, אָאֹר; וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ, כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה.3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.'

Think Bilaam. I'm rubber, you're glue. All blessing comes from Hashem, and so Avraham is above any attempt by humans to curse him. Further, those who ally themselves with Avraham and seek out his benefit will be rewarded, and the opposite for those who take an opposite position.

Thus, וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה, for those who ally themselves with Avraham. The alternative, which I prefer, is that Avraham's status will be so great that all families on the earth will bless one another to be like you. See the blessing to Ephraim and Menasheh, from Yaakov Avinu:
כ  וַיְבָרְכֵם בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, לֵאמוֹר, בְּךָ יְבָרֵךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר, יְשִׂמְךָ אֱלֹהִים כְּאֶפְרַיִם וְכִמְנַשֶּׁה; וַיָּשֶׂם אֶת-אֶפְרַיִם, לִפְנֵי מְנַשֶּׁה.20 And he blessed them that day, saying: 'By thee shall Israel bless, saying: God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh.' And he set Ephraim before Manasseh.

So Rashi, Shadal.

Next pasuk:
ד  וַיֵּלֶךְ אַבְרָם, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֵלָיו ה, וַיֵּלֶךְ אִתּוֹ, לוֹט; וְאַבְרָם, בֶּן-חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וְשִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה, בְּצֵאתוֹ, מֵחָרָן.4 So Abram went, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him; and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

We should focus on why pasuk 4 and pasuk 5 are not mere repetitions of one another.

וַיֵּלֶךְ אַבְרָם -- In similar fashion to "Just as Hashem commanded Noach, so did he do." The section began with לֶךְ-לְךָ, and so here we are told vayelech.

כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֵלָיו ה -- This is then the completion of the Divine instruction.

וַיֵּלֶךְ אִתּוֹ לוֹט -- Because Lot will feature in the individual, micro-level action. Note Sarah is not mentioned, though she had been in the previous perek.

וְאַבְרָם, בֶּן-חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וְשִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה, בְּצֵאתוֹ, מֵחָרָן -- This is the sort of concern that we saw in the previous perek, of establishing a Biblical chronology. How old was person X when significant event Y occurred?

Next pasuk:
ה  וַיִּקַּח אַבְרָם אֶת-שָׂרַי אִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֶת-לוֹט בֶּן-אָחִיו, וְאֶת-כָּל-רְכוּשָׁם אֲשֶׁר רָכָשׁוּ, וְאֶת-הַנֶּפֶשׁ, אֲשֶׁר-עָשׂוּ בְחָרָן; וַיֵּצְאוּ, לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן, וַיָּבֹאוּ, אַרְצָה כְּנָעַן.5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

The focus here is not fulfillment of the Divine directive. It is progression of the genealogical line, listing where each person moves. Compare וַיִּקַּח אַבְרָם אֶת-שָׂרַי אִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֶת-לוֹט בֶּן-אָחִיו to the pasuk in the previous perek,  וַיִּקַּח תֶּרַח אֶת-אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ, וְאֶת-לוֹט בֶּן-הָרָן בֶּן-בְּנוֹ, וְאֵת שָׂרַי כַּלָּתוֹ, אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ.

Also compare וַיֵּצְאוּ לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן וַיָּבֹאוּ אַרְצָה כְּנָעַן in this pasuk with וַיֵּצְאוּ אִתָּם מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד-חָרָן וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם. This is then the ending point of travel from Ur Kasdim to Eretz Kenaan, with the interlude in Charan.

וְאֶת-כָּל-רְכוּשָׁם אֲשֶׁר רָכָשׁוּ וְאֶת-הַנֶּפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר-עָשׂוּ בְחָרָן -- Perhaps to demonstrate an initial fulfillment of the Divine promise of reward, when Hashem told Avraham Lech Lecha.

וְאֶת-הַנֶּפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר-עָשׂוּ בְחָרָן -- Not a golem. These is the servant they acquired. As in the peshat interpretation Rashi offers (second):
and the souls they had acquired in Haran: whom he had brought under the wings of the Shechinah. Abraham would convert the men, and Sarah would convert the women, and Scripture ascribes to them [a merit] as if they had made them (Gen. Rabbah 39:14). (Hence, the expression אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ, lit. that they made.) The simple meaning of the verse is: the slaves and maidservants that they had acquired for themselves, as in [the verse] (below 31:1): “He acquired (עָשָׂה) all this wealth” [an expression of acquisition]; (Num. 24:18): “and Israel acquires,” an expression of acquiring and gathering.אשר עשו בחרן: שהכניסן תחת כנפי השכינה, אברהם מגייר את האנשים, ושרה מגיירת הנשים, ומעלה עליהם הכתוב כאלו עשאום. ופשוטו של מקרא עבדים ושפחות שקנו להם, כמו (שם לא א) עשה את כל הכבוד הזה, (במדבר כד יח) וישראל עושה חיל, לשון קונה וכונס:

Next pasuk:
ו  וַיַּעֲבֹר אַבְרָם, בָּאָרֶץ, עַד מְקוֹם שְׁכֶם, עַד אֵלוֹן מוֹרֶה; וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי, אָז בָּאָרֶץ.6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Shechem, unto the terebinth of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.

עַד מְקוֹם שְׁכֶם -- See Shadal for an interesting imagined alternate Israelite history, were Shechem chosen over Yerushalayim by David Hamelech. Perhaps the 10 shevatim would not have rebelled...

וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי אָז בָּאָרֶץ -- Of course, they were there as well later. But recall that this was called Eretz Kenaan. This parenthetical remark explains that.

This has the flavor of a parenthetical remark. Should a parenthetical remark interact with pesukim in direct context? That is, can we say that the spark for וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי אָז בָּאָרֶץ is the following statement, that לְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתֵּן אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת? Rashi suggests that only now were they in the land, but not before.


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