Vol. 7 No. 7
Cup, Purse and Anger
The story is told of a talmid of the Chofetz Chayim, who once poured out his heart to his Rebbe. He told him how, as a poor bochur learning in Radun, he had taken a vow that if Hashem were to help him become rich, he would donate tzedokoh generously. But now that his tefillos had been answered, and he was a successful businessman in Peterburg, he found himself unable to open his hand and give tzedokoh at all.
The Chofetz Chayim smiled and clarified his problem with the following parable: A man was once walking in the street when he came across a drunk lying in the gutter. He was dirty from head to toe and rolling around in his own vomit, looking utterly disgusting. The man nodded his head and clicked his tongue: 'Yuch,' he exclaimed, 'if I got drunk, I wouldn't behave like that!'
'It is well and good for a person who is sober to say how he would behave if he was drunk,' explained the Chofetz Chayim, 'but of course, what he does not realise is that a person who is drunk no longer has control over himself, because all his actions are subconsciously determined by his drunkenness.
Likewise, he concluded, it is well and good for a poor man to plan how much tzedokoh he will give when he becomes rich. He does not however realise that when he becomes rich, he will not have the same control over himself then, as he has now when he is poor.
And the same, one may add, will be with regard to a calm man, describing what he will do when he gets angry. He may not realise it now, but the fact is that when a person gets angry, he too, loses control of himself, so there is no guarantee that he will do then what he now says he will.
With this, we can understand the Gemoro in Eiruvin (65b) which lists three ways to know a person: 'through his cup, through his purse and through his anger'. In light of what we just explained, what the Gemoro means is that a person's character becomes defined by his ability (a) to desist from drinking beyond the point where he loses control of himself; (b) to refrain from owning more wealth than he needs for his livelihood; and (c) to control his frustrations, rather than allow them to control him by turning into a rage.
Assuming that, allegorically speaking, cup, purse and anger refer to the three things that drive a person out of this world - desire (material and physical pleasures), jealousy (of another man's wealth) and honour, then we can truly say that Ya'akov was sorely tested in all three areas: Desire, when Lovon stole his wife; jealousy when first Elifaz, then Lovon, stole his money; and honour, when he was forced to flee like a criminal from his father's house, and when, after his departure, Lovon accused him of stealing his gods. Yet on no occasion do we ever find Ya'akov losing control of himself. At all times, Ya'akov responded with dignity and restraint. When Lovon stole his wife, he accepted the fait accompli and agreed to work another seven years for Rochel; when Lovon stole his money, he countered by peeling sticks and placing them by the water-troughs, but never did he retaliate or even attempt to take back by force what was rightfully his.
He was forced to flee from his enraged brother Eisov, but despite his immense strength, the only thought to cross his mind was that of self-preservation, never of retaliation or revenge. Even thirty-four years later, when their next confontation was imminent, and Ya'akov expressed his concern that he may be forced to kill Eisov in self defence, clearly there was no malice and no hatred in his heart for the brother who, for the second time, was setting out to kill him.
And when Lovon chased after him, accusing him of stealing his gods, he became angry. Yet not a word of insult passed his lips. All he did was to defend his own self-esteem by reminding Lovon of his own matchless integrity over the last twenty years (a further manifestation of 'the purse').
Clearly then, Ya'akov Ovinu's control over his mind was complete, and no amount of trying him out would detract from that perfection, not through his cup, not through his purse, and not through his anger.
And Hashem Will Be G-d
"And I will return in peace to my father's house, and Hashem will be my G-d" (2:22)
Rashi explains this last phrase to mean that if, over and above the previous conditions (that G-d would be with Ya'akov and protect him etc.), He would also be his G-d, to rest His Name on him from beginning to end, that his children would all be righteous, then he would keep his side of the bargain, as spelt out in the next posuk.
The Or ha'Chayim does not agree with Rashi's explanation, as he is not aware of any source for it. According to him, what Ya'akov meant was that G-d would refer to Himself as his G-d, the G-d of Ya'akov, just as He referred to Himself as the G-d of Avrohom and the G-d of Yitzchok - a tall order indeed, though G-d did indeed fulfill his request - and Ya'akov joined the ranks of the Ovos!
According to the Ramban however, the phrase "and Hashem will be for me a G-d" is not part of Ya'akov's condition, but part of his promise that if Hashem would be with him and protect him etc., during his sojourn with Lovon, then upon his return, he would serve Him (exclusively) in Eretz Yisroel (see also Kli Yokor, who offers an explanation similar to that of the Ramban, although the 'trop' (the notes sung by the ba'al korei) would appear to support Rashi's explanation of the posuk (that “ … and Hashem will be my G-d is a condition, rather than part of Ya’akov’s promise).
Bones and Flesh
"And Lovon said to him 'But you are my bones and my flesh' " (29:14).
This seemingly long-winded way of saying that Ya'akov was his relative, can be explained with the Gemoro in Nidoh (31a), which says that three partners and jointly responsible for a person's birth: the father provides him with the sinews and the bones, and the mother, the flesh and blood, (the third partner being G-d Himself).
Now we can understand why Lovon mentioned both bones and flesh - because Ya'akov and he were related from both their father's side (since Avrohom and Nochor - their two grandfathers - were brothers) and their mother's side (since Ya'akov's mother was his sister - Gro).
Real Kovod, Fake Kovod
"And he (Ya'akov) heard the words of Lovon's sons saying ... and from what belongs to our father, he made himself all this honour" (31:1).
The Medrash explains that honour ("kovod") only means silver and gold, and it bears this out with a posuk in Nachum, where kovod refers specifically to silver and gold.
But how can the Medrash say this, asks the Gro, when the Tana in Pirkei Ovos (6:3) has taught that kovod always means "Torah" (and not silver and gold)?
In the whole of T'nach, answers the Gro, the word 'kovod' is written in full, with a 'vov', with only two exceptions, one in our posuk, and the other in the posuk in Nachum cited by the Medrash. Now everything is clear. The 'kovod' referred to by the Medrash in Pirkei Ovos refers to whenever 'kovod' is spelt with a vov, hinting at genuine kovod which is Torah. Whereas, the 'kovod' mentioned in the Medrash refers to 'kovod' without a vov, hinting at kovod that is not real - silver and gold, whose honour is artificial.
After Ya'akov had worked the full seven years and demanded his wife, Lovon made a party. That night, after the party, he gave Ya'akov Leah.
The question arises, what was the point of the party?
On this there are two opinions: Targum Yonoson and the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos. Targum Yonoson explains that the party was in reality a town meeting, to which Ya'akov was not invited. There, Lovon pointed out to the townspeople that, since Ya'akov's arrival seven years earlier, the local well had (miraculously) never stopped flowing. So he suggested changing the constitution, introducing a new law prohibitting younger siblings to marry before older ones. In that way, he would legally be able to substitute Leah for Rochel (as indeed he calmly informed Ya'akov the following day). Then he would offer Ya'akov Rochel, in exchange for another seven years work - an automatic guarantee of a further seven years' free water supply.
The Da'as Zekeinim's explanation is far less sophisticated, but effective nonetheless. According to him, Lovon really did throw a party (a stag party if you like), at which Ya'akov, the choson, was the guest of honour. His plan was to get Ya'akov so drunk that he wouldn't know the difference between Rochel and Leah.
The proof for this explanation, says the Da'as Zekeinim, is that when Ya'akov subsequently married Rochel, Lovon did not make a party (though of course this fits equally well with the Targum Yonoson's explanation, since a town meeting was no longer necessary).
History of the World
( Part 56)
(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)
P'tolomy ben Logi, father of P'tolomy Philadelphus, had taken a large number of Jewish captives from Yerusholayim, Assyria and the cities of Edom. Of these, three thousand were conscripted into the army and the remainder sold as slaves. These, P'tolomy now buys - over a hundred thousand men, women and children. He immediately sets them free and sends them back to Eretz Yisroel, with the exception of a few young men whom he appoints as officers and disperses throughout the country to help guard against an invasion from Egypt's enemies.
The King also sends Elozor the Kohen Godol a magnificent gift, including a table made of pure gold and a collection of golden and silver vessels, beautifully adorned with carved pictures, and studded with precious stones of all sizes. To this end he commissioned all the top craftsmen in Egypt, and the result is a collection of exquisite beauty the likes of which has never been seen before. All of this he sends to Elozor with a delegation, with a request that Elozor sends him the Torah of Moshe, together with seventy-two sages, to translate it into Greek.
Aristeo, one of the members of the delegation, records all that transpires on his visit to Yerusholayim. In his description of Yerusholayim and the Beis ha'Mikdosh, he writes how a strong fountain of water stretched for five eighths of a mil underground, from which small tributaries flowed into the Heichal for the needs of the avodoh, and how these tributaries were encased in lead pipes. At all times there were seventy strong, young Cohanim, who were able to pick up large, fat bulls, lambs and goats with ease and place them on the table in the Azoroh. In fact, they they were even able to throw them to each other. These Cohanim worked in utter silence. They were thoroughly familiar with their work, which they performed with great skill.
Mostly, they had to attend to as many as five hundred people bringing their sacrifices simultaneously.
He also describes some of the fortifications of Yerusholayim; how, in one fortified area, there were many fortresses manned by some five hundred men who rarely left their posts. Not more than five men were permitted to leave at any given time, and then only with permission from their captain. Similarly, nobody was allowed to enter Yerusholayim before he had satisfactorily answered a set of questions that was put to him.
The size of Yerusholayim, Aristeo writes, was forty ris (approximately five and a half mil - a mil = 1 km). The roads, he writes, which ran along the slopes of the mountains, were in two tiers: the upper road for holy and pure people, the lower one for the unlearned and the impure. Mountains and hills surrounded Yerusholayim providing them with excellent grazing grounds for their animals. The Arabs who lived on their borders offered a variety of goods for sale, and the Jordan River watered the land, much in the same way as the Nile watered Egypt.
And he also describes his discussion with Elozor about many of the mitzvos and customs of Yisroel, citing the Kohen Godol's explanation on the laws of Kashrus, as well as many other areas of Torah.
Elozor the Kohen Godol fulfills P'tolomy's request and sends him a Seifer-Torah together with seventy-two sages. The Seifer-Torah, which is written on parchment in golden letters, is so expertly glued that it is impossible to tell where the joints are.
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