Sunday, November 11, 2012

Even at three, Rivkah didn't absorb from her negative environment

Summary: But we may derive from here, notes Rabbi Chaim Hirschenson, that one must be careful in the chinuch of children. I consider how much of this lesson is to be derived from Rashi and how much from the underlying midrashim.

Post: At the start of parashat Toledot:
20. And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebecca the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to himself for a wife.כ. וַיְהִי יִצְחָק בֶּן אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה בְּקַחְתּוֹ אֶת רִבְקָה בַּת בְּתוּאֵל הָאֲרַמִּי מִפַּדַּן אֲרָם אֲחוֹת לָבָן הָאֲרַמִּי לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה:

Rashi writes:
the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Padan-Aram, the sister of Laban:Was it not already written that she was the daughter of Bethuel and the sister of Laban and from Padan-Aram? But this is to tell her praise, that she was the daughter of a wicked man and the sister of a wicked man and her place was [inhabited by] wicked people, but she did not learn from their deeds. [From Gen. Rabbah 63:4]בת בתואל מפדן ארם אחות לבן: וכי עדיין לא נכתב שהיא בת בתואל ואחות לבן ומפדן ארם, אלא להגיד שבחה שהיתה בת רשע ואחות רשע ומקומה אנשי רשע, ולא למדה ממעשיהם:

The following comment by Nimukei Rashi, that is, Rabbi Chaim Hirschenson:

"Rashi informs us here of a great matter in the realm (Torah) of education. For according to Rashi, in his calculations, Rivkah was only three years old on the day of her wedding, and yet it states to her praise that she did not learn from the evil people in her place. Thus, even a child of two or three years, we need to guard that he does not learn from the evil people of its place. And this is a fundamental truth in the realm of education, that when the child begins to speak, his father already needs to teach him, and also that that which is taught to the child is like ink written on white paper."

The Midrash Rabba in question reads as follows:

ד [רבקה צדקת בת רשע]

ויהי יצחק בן ארבעים שנה וגו' אמר רבי יצחק:אם ללמד שהיא מארם נהרים, והלא כבר נאמר: מפדן ארם. 
מה ת"ל: ארמי בת בתואל הארמי?
מה ת"ל: אחות לבן הארמי? 
אלא בא ללמדך אביה רמאי, ואחיה רמאי, ואף אנשי מקומה כן, והצדקת הזו, שהיא יוצאה מביניהם. 
למה היא דומה? לשושנה בין החוחים. 
It does not explicitly say that "she did not learn from their evil ways", but it certainly is a straightforward inference.

The Rashi which states that Rivkah was three was indeed immediately previous to this Rashi:

forty years old: For when Abraham came from Mount Moriah, he was informed that Rebecca had been born. Isaac was then thirty-seven years old, for at that time Sarah died, and from the time that Isaac was born until the “Binding” [of Isaac], when Sarah died, were thirty-seven years, for she was ninety years old when Isaac was born, and one hundred and twenty-seven when she died, as it is stated (above 23:1): “The life of Sarah was [a hundred and twenty seven years.”] This makes Isaac thirty-seven years old, and at that time, Rebecca was born. He waited for her until she would be fit for marital relations-three years-and then married her. — [From Gen. Rabbah 57:1;בן ארבעים שנה: שהרי כשבא אברהם מהר המוריה נתבשר שנולדה רבקה, ויצחק היה בן שלשים ושבע שנה, שהרי בו בפרק מתה שרה, ומשנולד יצחק עד העקידה שמתה שרה שלושים ושבע שנה, ובת תשעים היתה כשנולד יצחק, ובת מאה עשרים ושבע כשמתה, שנאמר (כג א) ויהיו חיי שרה וגו', הרי ליצחק שלושים ושבע שנים ובו בפרק נולדה רבקה, המתין לה עד שתהא ראויה לביאה שלש שנים ונשאה:

This is based on a Midrash Rabba at the very end of Vayera, two parshiot earlier:
א [בשורת הולדת רבקה]

ויהי אחרי הדברים האלה ויגד לאברהם לאמר הנה ילדה מלכה וגו' בנים כתיב: (משלי יד)חיי בשרים לב מרפא ורקב עצמות קנאה, שעד שהוא בהר המוריה, נתבשר שנולד זוגתו של בנו, שנאמר: הנה ילדה מלכה. 
(שם יג) רפאות תהי לשרך ושקוי לעצמותיך, שעד שהוא בהר המוריה, נתבשר שנולדה זוגתו של בנו, שנאמר: הנה ילדה מלכה, גם היא בנים: 

where it simply says that Avraham was informed of the birth of Rivkah, not necessarily that she was born just then. Nor does it say explicitly in that midrash there that Yitzchak was 37 years old at the time of the akeida, something else which is difficult to swallow on the level of peshat. This is all Rashi's calculations.

So, within Rashi's calculation and juxtaposition of these two midrashic statements, one might indeed derive the lesson that Rabbi Hirschenson derives. This does not seem so farfetched. I see how even a two-year old absorbs positive and negative character traits based on the conduct of those around him or her. And especially if we assume that children matured emotionally at a greater rate in ancient times, as we would want to say given Rivkah's conversation and conduct during the events in parashat Chayei Sarah, it would make sense for her to absorb positive or negative traits. And she didn't.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

לפי שנות החיים שהיו שכיחות בימים ההם, מתאים גיל ט"ז לגיל ח' של היום

פי' רד"צ הופמן לבראשית כ"א י"ד


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