by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
Back to Parsha Homepage | Previous Issues
Parashas Vayishlach 5768This week's sedra tells of Jacob meeting with Esau after many years separation. Jacob's struggle with the angel; the seduction of his daughter Dina, the wiping out of the city of Shechem in retaliation; Benjamin's birth and Rachel death in childbirth & finally some genealogy of Esau's family. We should note that Jacob's mother, Rivka, had sent him away to her brother Lavan (to save him from Esau's anger) for "a few days". Unfortunately she never saw her beloved son again, for when Jacob returned home she had already died.
Genesis 32:10, 11
And Jacob said: 'G-d of my father Abraham, and G-d of my father Isaac, Hashem Who said to me 'Return to your land to your birthplace and I will do good with you. 11: I am too small of all the kindness (Hebrew: katonti m'kol hachasadim...') and all the faithfulness that you have done with Your servant because with my staff I passed over the (river) Jordan and now I have become two camps.
I am too small of all the kindness: Rashi: My merits have been diminished through the kindness and truth, which You have done with me. Therefore I fear that perhaps since You made Your promise to me, I became soiled with sin and this will cause me to be given over to Esau.
Rashi is explaining the meaning of the Hebrew words "katonti m'kol .." The word katonti seems to mean "I have become small" the next word "m'kol" can mean "from all [the chesed]" or "than all [all the chesed]". Rashi chooses the former. He says because of all the chesed he has received, Jacob fears his merit-bank has become depleted. This interprets the letter "mem' in the word 'm'kol' as "due to."
But there are difficulties with this interpretation. The Ramban point them out. Can you see any problem with Rashi's interpretation?
Hint: see the next verses 12 &13.
A Question: If Jacob is saying that he might not be worthy of G-d's protection, then why does he continue (in the next verse) to ask G-d to protect him? Jacob beseeches G-d when he says: Save me from the hand of my brother.....and You have said 'I will do very good with you....' So we see that in spite of his merits being diminished, Jacob, never the less, reminded G-d of his promise and asked to be saved from Esau. This does not sound like Jacob believes G-d's promise is no longer valid.
In view of this question the Ramban offers a different interpretation of these words of Jacob.
The Ramban says "katontin m'kol hachasdadim..." means: I am too little to be worthy of Your kindnesses. The Ramban interprets the "mem" of "m'kol" differently from Rashi. It means "less than" and not "due to" as Rashi would have it. For Rashi it means "I have become little" for the Ramban it means "I am (too) little"
Can you defend Rashi? How can you answer the fact that Jacob persisted to evoke G-d's promise even if, as Rashi says, he believed he had used up his merits to be worthy of G-d's promise. Your Answer:
An Answer: The Gur Aryeh (the Maharal) suggests the following: Granted that Jacob felt he was not actually worthy to receive the benefits of G-d's protection, since he may have sinned and used up his merits - BUT never the less, Jacob could plead with G-d to do him this added chesed - even though he was perhaps unworthy of it. For what is chesed any ways if not giving someone something he really does not rightfully deserve ? So Jacob asked. It never hurts to ask!!
What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."
The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" and the Megillas Esther volume can be purchased thru Feldheim on line at Feldheim.com
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and