Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 9   No. 8

This issue is co-sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Moshe ben ha'Rav Yosef Mordechai z.l.
whose Yohrzeit was on the 6th of Cheshvan
by an anonymous donor.
Hashem says about someone who speaks loshon ho'ra
"I and he cannot share the same domain" (Erchin 15b)

Parshas Vayishlach

" ... And I Kept the Taryag Mitzvos!"

Rashi gives two explanations to interpret the Pasuk "im Lavan garti (I dwelt with Lavan)": 1. 'All these years that I spent with Lavan, I did not become a leader or an important person (I arrived as a sojourner, and that is what I remained)'. 2. 'Throughout my stay, I kept the Mitzvos (the letters of 'Taryag' are the same as those of "garti"), and I did not learn from his evil ways'.

The Sifsei Chachamim interprets this as a warning to Eisav. After all, his father had told Eisav that the blessing granting him superiority over Eisav would only last as long he observed Torah and Mitzvos, but would dissipate the moment he ceased to do so. So Ya'akov was informing his brother that that moment had not yet arrived, because in spite of Lavan's evil influence, he had kept all the Mitzvos.


The K'li Yakar however, points out how Rashi's two explanations are diametrically opposed, since the first one plays down his father's B'rachos, whereas the second one upholds them. Disagreeing with Rashi's interpretation of the second explanation, he explains that the two explanations are really only one (even going so far as to suggest that 'davar acher' should perhaps be erased from the text). 'I kept the Taryag Mitzvos' he explains, was not meant as a qualifier (as if Ya'akov was saying 'but I kept ... '), but as a clause ('although I kept the Taryag Mitzvos'). 'You see', Ya'akov was saying to Eisav, 'I observed all the Mitzvos, yet it did not help me to become an important person. In spite of it, I remained the same sojourner as when I arrived. So you have no reason to be angry with me'.

Certainly, Rashi's first explanation follows the pattern of the phrases that precede "im Lavan garti", and that follow it. The tone of the current Pesukim is one of submission (see Rashi, Pasuk 6), in which case, Rashi's interpretation of his second explanation appears out of place, and that of the K'li Yakar fits more smoothly into the flow of things.


The implied reason for this downplay of Yitzchak's B'rachah, says the K'li Yakar, is due to the fact that when Yitzchak blessed him, he did so with the intention of blessing Eisav, and it was on that understanding, Ya'akov insinuated, that the B'rachos would materialize. It was primarily Eisav who would emerge the beneficiary of the B'rachos, and not Ya'akov. At least, that was what Ya'akov was telling Eisav, even if he himself knew otherwise.


What makes the K'li Yakar's explanation difficult to understand however, is the very words of Yitzchak. How could Ya'akov tell Eisav that the B'rachos in fact, took effect on Eisav and not on himself, when Yitzchak had specifically said "gam boruch yihyeh!", openly admitting to Eisav that, despite his initial intentions to the contrary, Ya'akov would be the beneficiary of the B'rachos, and not him?

And as for the contradiction between Rashi's two explanations, it seems to me that 've'Taryag Mitzvos shomarti' quoted by Rashi is not directly connected with the B'rachos (as the Sifsei Chachamim explains, and the K'li Yakar understands). He was warning Eisav that even though the B'rachos had at this point, not yet materialized, that was not due to his sins, in which case, his father's B'rachah (permitting him to cast off his brother's yoke when he would digress) would take effect. On the contrary, he had observed all the Mitzvos, and Eisav should therefore beware of attempting to kill him or to cause him harm at this point. In fact, Ya'akov was displaying diplomacy par excellence by playing down the B'rachos on the one hand, and protecting himself on the other.

It is noteworthy that a number of other major commentaries (including Tosfos and the Ba'al ha'Turim) interpret the Pasuk in the same vein as Rashi.


Parshah Pearls
For Fear of Sin

"I have become small ... (Kotonti)" (32:11).

The Ba'al ha'Turim comments that the word "Kotonti" has a bent 'Yud', the numerical value of which is ten, to hint that he was afraid of Eisav, in spite of the ten blessings he had received from Hashem, for fear that his previous merits had diminished on account of his sins (as Rashi explains).


Taken to Task - In Spite of It

"Im Lavan garti (I dwelt with Lavan)" 32:5.

This word appears one other time in T'nach, in Tehilim (120:5) "Oyoh li ki garti meshech (Woe is me, because my galus stretched out)".

As we just explained, Ya'akov's fear of Eisav, in spite of Hashem's promise to look after him, was based on the fear that his sins had caused his previous merits to diminish. Yet it seems that, despite his righteous motives, the extent of his fear was considered a lack of Bitachon. Because, based on this Mesorah, he explains that, due to his cow towing to Eisav and referring to him as his master, Ya'akov's children had to suffer Galus among the nations.


The Triumvirate

"And I will do good with you (ve'eitivoh imoch)" 32:10.

The word "ve'eitivoh" contains an extra 'Yud', says the Ba'al ha'Turim, a hint that Ya'akov prayed to G-d that the ten trials Avraham had withstood should stand him in good stead in his confrontation with Eisav.

Interesting, because Chazal learn elsewhere that Avraham was saved from the furnace on the merit of his grandsonYa'akov, and here we find Ya'akov praying that he should be saved on the merit of his grandfather Avraham!

Interesting yes, surprising no! Because Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov were not just three individuals. They were a triumvirate, consisting of a grandfather, a son and a grandson, working in unison to build a nation that would sanctify G-d's name. Each one learnt from the other and built on what he had learnt (rather than demolish it and build something new - see for example, Bereishis 26, Pasuk 18).

And that explains why, in the Amidah, before saying 'Elokei Avraham, Elokei Yitzchak v'Elokei Ya'akov', we say 'Elokeinu v'Elokei Avoseinu' - they were first and foremost a triumvirate and only then, three (unique) individuals. Perhaps we can go even further and suggest that the fact that they were a triumvirate is what made them so unique.


Ya'akov and David

"Lest he comes and smites me (pen yavo ve'hikani)" 32:12.

The same word occurs in Shmuel, when Golias the Philistine, who challenged Yisrael with the words "im yuchal le'hilochem iti, ve'hikani (whether he is able to fight with me and defeat me)".

Goli'as was referring of course, to David (although he did not know it at the time). And there are many similarities between Ya'akov and David, the Ba'al ha'Turim point out. David, like Ya'akov, was afraid. Like Ya'akov, he was hounded (by his sibling[s]), and like Ya'akov was saved from Eisav, so too, was he saved from Golias. In fact, he adds, he was saved on the merit of Ya'akov. And just like David was fighting a war, so too, did Ya'akov prepare for war, as Eisav drew near.


Ya'akov Gives and Eisav Takes

"It is a gift that is sent (Minchah hi sheluchah)" 32:19.

The word "sheluchah" appears on two other occasions, once in Vaychi "Naftali Ayalah sheluchah, ha'nosen imrei shefer", and again in Yechezkel (2:9) "ve'Hinei yad sheluchah" (and behold, his hand was stretched out.

When Ya'akov sent Eisav the gifts of animals, he accompanied them with nice words (imrei shefer), showing Eisav great respect. And Eisav for his part, initially declined the gifts - with his mouth, but his hand was stretched out (Ba'al ha'Turim).


Sons and Children

"And Ada bore ... " (36:4).

When the Torah describes the children of Ya'akov, it refers to them as "the sons of Leah", "the sons of Rachel" ... . But when it descibes the children of Eisav, it merely says "And Ada bore" ("va'teiled Ada"), "and Ahalivamah bore", the Ba'al ha'Turim comments. Because the Torah considers the children of Eisav to be not sons (banim), but children (v'lados).

And what is the difference between 'v'lados' and 'banim'?

'V'lados', he explains, simply means 'offspring'. In fact, it is a term that humans share with animals, and has no spiritual connotations. 'Banim', on the other hand, stems from the word 'binyan' (building), and it is the sons of Ya'akov who build the world.


The Ten Nations

"And Ahalivamah (Eisav's wife) bore Ye'ush ... " (36:5).

Ye'ush is written as "Ye'ish" with a 'Yud' (whose numerical value is ten). The Ba'al ha'Turim takes this as a hint that he (the descendants of Ye'ush) would gather ten nations to destroy the second Beis-Hamikdash. The nations concerned are listed in Tehilim 83 - Edom (his own kingdom), Yishmael, Mo'av, Hagrim, G'val, Amon and Amalek. P'leshes, Tzor and Ashur.


To Judge or Not to Judge

Last year, we discussed the dispute between the Rambam and the Ramban with regard to Shimon and Levi's decision to kill all the inhabitants of Sh'chem.

The Ramban disagrees with the Rambam, in whose opinion the latter earned the death-sentence for their failure to take Sh'chem and Chamor to task for abducting Dinah. Judging after all, is one of the seven Mitzvos B'nei No'ach, who in turn, are guilty of the death-sentence for failing to observe them.

The Ramban maintains that the death-sentence is confined to the contravention of the negative Mitzvos (such as not to steal, murder and commit adultery), but does not pertain to the positive Mitzvos such as Dinim. In addition, he attempts to prove the Rambam wrong from Ya'akov's attitude to Shimon and Levi's actions. If the Mitzvah of Dinim comprised judging, then Ya'akov himself should have been the first to judge and punish Sh'chem. And if he was afraid of the consequences, as he intimated to Shimon and Levi, then that was no reason to scold his sons who did the right thing because they were not afraid.

Consequently, he concludes, the Mitzvah of Dinim comprises not judging each individual criminal and sinner, but setting up courthouses in every city, to judge as they see fit.


Rabbi Kornfeld Sh'lita suggests that the above Machlokes between Rambam and Ramban is based in part at least, on the famous She'eilah as to what sort of Din the B'nei Yisrael had before the Torah was given. The Ramban's view clearly, is that the B'nei Ya'akov had the Din of B'nei No'ach. Consequently, he argues, they were just as much obligated to punish the evil-doers as the inhabitants of Sh'chem. Whereas according to the Rambam, they already had the Din of B'nei Yisrael. Yisrael are not G-d's policemen, and they are under no obligation to kill all the evil-doers, which explains why he discounts the Ramban's Kashya, why Ya'akov did not perform the job himself. And that is why he was justified in scolding Shimon and Levi for their rashness in doing so, endangering them all in the process.


The Amidah

(Part XIV)
(based largely on the Sidur "Otzar ha'Tefillos")
Mechayeh Meisim

With respect to the cases of Techi'as ha'Meisim performed by human beings, which we discussed above, the Navi uses the past tense ('hechyah es ha'meis') because when it happens, it is a once-off occurrence. It is only G-d who is described as 'Mechayeh ha'Meisim', the one who revives the dead (in the present tense), because it is He, and He alone, who revived the dead, who revives the dead, and who will revive the dead when the time of the final Techiyas ha'Meisim arives.


Mi Chamochoh Ba'al Gavoros ...

Many tzadikim in many different generations revived the dead, explains the Eitz Yosef. We even find acts of techi'as ha'meisim among the Amora'im; take for example, Rebbi Yochanan (at the end of Bava Kama), who revived Rav Kahana. Indeed, the ability to revive the dead is attributed to all the Amora'im. Yet the only genuine 'Mechayeh Meisim' is G-d, as we just explained. And there are two reasons for this, he says. The first is because humans may have been instrumental in performing this miracle, but did not achieve it through their own power. They achieved it through the power of prayer. They asked and G-d responded (in the manner that Chazal have described 'a Tzadik decrees and Hakadosh Baruch Hu carries out'!). And the second is because all the dead to be revived by human beings were destined to die again later, and it is only those whom Hashem will revive on his own that will come to life forever, never to taste death again. In fact, he goes on to explain, this is hinted in the text - 'Who is like You Master of Mighty deeds' (even when the dead are brought back to life, it is through Your involvement that they achieve this). 'And who can compare with You' (even those who do achieve the revival of the dead fall short of Your achievements, since their Techi'ah is only temporary. (But) 'You are the King who kills and who brings back to life and who causes salvation to grow' (because when You revive the dead, it will be forever).


U'Matzmi'ach Yeshu'ah

The comparison of the salvation to a growing plant, says the Iyun Tefilah, is explained by the Medrash Shochar Tov. Commenting on the Pasuk "Magdil Yeshu'os Malko", he explains that the redemption does not come suddenly in one go, because Yisrael could not take it. That is why Yeshayah compares it to the morning light (58:8), which comes gradually, because in the same way, people cannot bear a sudden surge of sunlight immediately after the darkness of night. So the redemption begins small, and it grows like a plant until it reaches full bloom.


The Five Techi'os

Techi'as ha'Meisim, the Iyun Tefilah points out, is mentioned five times in this B'rachah, corresponding to the five Neshomos - Nefesh (the soul which is common to all living creatures); Ru'ach (the Soul which pertains to humans exclusively); Neshamah (which is found only by Tzadikim, by virtue of their good deeds and their Torah-learning); Chayah and Yechidah (two additional levels of Neshamah which Adam ha'Rishon before the Sin and other rare individuals, merited).

The Iyun Tefilah quoting the Radvaz ... cites a tradition that when the time comes, two Techi'as ha'Meisims will occur. One, in the form of the revival of the great Tzadikim who died in Galus, which will take place before the coming of Moshi'ach, to enable them to witness the good times that Yisrael will live through. And the other, will be the general Techi'as ha'Meisim that will take place after the coming of Mashi'ach. Perhaps that will help explain why Chazal inserted Techi'as ha'Meisim five times in this B'rachah, corresponding to the five major episodes of Techi'as ha'Meisim that will have taken place in the course of history - that of Eliyahu, Elisha, Yechezkel, and the two Techi'as ha'Meisims that have yet to take place in the time of Moshi'ach, which we fervently hope, will occur soon.


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