Thursday, November 29, 2012

YUTorah on parashat Vayishlach

Audio Shiurim on Vayishlach
Rabbi Elchanan Adler: The Link of the Avos of Yaakov Avinu 
Rabbi Avi Billet: When did Eisav die?
Rabbi Chaim Brovender: Yaakov and Yisrael: What's in a Name? 
Rabbi Zevulun Charlop: Dealing with Stories that Make the Avos Look Dishonest 
Rabbi Avishai David: Is it Yaakov or Yisrael 
Rabbi Ally Ehrman: The Power Of Tzdaka 
Rabbi Chaim Eisenstein: Acquiring property, acquiring peace 
Rabbi Aaron Feigenbaum: Yaacov's Prayer 
Rabbi Joel Finkelstein: Jacob Was Alone 
Ms. Elana Flaumenhaft: Like Mother Like Daughter: A Close Reading of Rashi 34:1 
Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg: Yaakov fights the mal'ach 
Rabbi Efrem Goldberg: You Can’t Run from Your Destiny 
Rabbi Yehuda Goldschmidt: Be All That You Can Be! 
Rabbi Meir Goldwicht: I Have Everything Even When I Have Nothing 
Rabbi Moshe Gordon: Secrets of the pachim k'tanim
Rabbi Ephraim Greene: Finding Your Own Head 
Rabbi Yonah Gross: Paradigms of Zealotry: Pinchas, Mordechai, Shimon and Levi 
Rabbi Yaacov Haber: The Battle of Yaacov and Esav 
Rabbi Shalom Hammer: Emulating Hashem 
Rabbi David Hirsch: Ma'avir Al Midosav- Yaakov Avinu 
Rabbi Jesse Horn: A Shiduch for Esuv
Rabbi Shimon Isaacson: Overcoming the Challenges of "Achi" 
Rabbi Ari Kahn: Preparing for Battle 
Rabbi Aharon Kahn: Im Lavan Garti
Rabbi Yisroel Kaminetsky: The Fight with the Yetzer Hora 
Rabbi Eliakim Koenigsberg: It's All A Mind Game 
Rabbi Binyamin Kwalwasser: How Yaacov Personifies Emes
Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz: Dina Yavan and How We Respond
Rabbi Eliezer Lerner: Always Moving Forward
Rabbi Ben Leybovich: Jewish Pride
Rabbi Meir Lipschitz: Yaakov Becomes Yisrael 
Rabbi Dovid Miller: Never Leave a Jew Alone 
Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger: The roots of eternal conflict
Rabbi Hershel Reichman: The Confrontation of Yaakov and Esav 
Rabbi Avraham Rivlin: יעקב אבינו - מידת האמת 
Rabbi Zvi Romm: Haftarat Vayishlach - Defeating Esav 
Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt: Pachim K'Tanim 
Rabbi Yonason Sacks: Gid Hanasheh/Yakov vs. Avraham 
Mrs Ilana Saks: The Kings of Binyamin 
Rabbi Hershel Schachter: Esav and Yaacov - Non-Identical Twins 
Rabbi Avi Schneider: What's Inside Box # 1 
Rabbi Avraham Shulman: The Torah Perspective on Living in Galus 
Rabbi Baruch Simon: VaYavoh Yaakov Shalem-Sheleimus HaAdam-Tikun HaPrat V'HaKlal 
Mrs. Shira Smiles: Sinews Significance 
Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik: How could Shimon and Levi punish Shechem? 
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik: Yaakov and Eisav 
Rabbi Reuven Spolter: Why Was Yaakov Punished 
Rabbi Moshe Stav: ויותר יעקב
Rabbi Josh Strulowitz: Gid Hanasheh: Having the Nerve to Get to the Meat of the Mitzvah 
Rabbi Moshe Taragin: Why did Yaakov send angels?
Rabbi Michael Taubes: Tempting Fate and Taking risks 
Rabbi Moshe D. Tendler: The Battle with Esav and the name Yisrael 
Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner: When Esav Met Yaakov: A Jew in a non-Jewish World 
Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg: The Power of a Sacred Kiss
Rabbi Andi Yudin: True Victory 
Rabbi Ari Zahtz: Yaakovs Wrestling Match 
Rabbi Zvi Zimmerman: Bakol Mikol Kol 
Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler: The Mystery of Dinah 

Articles on Vayishlach
Dr. Harvey Babich: A Genetic Analysis of the Events Leading to the Birth of Dinah
Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn: Both Names are Truth
Rabbi Ozer Glickman: Law and Literature
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin: Negotiating a Severance
Rabbi Avraham Gordimer: Mixed Messages to Eisav?
Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb: Yaakov’s Legacy and the Slaughter of Shechem
Rabbi Maury Grebenau: Emotionally Intelligent Judaism
Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg: ויקרא שם המקום סוכות
Rabbi David Horwitz: Material Gains
Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl: Acting Leshem Shamayim
Abigail Rabinowitz: An Orthopedic Analysis of Jacob's Injury
Helen Ayala Unger: From Rachel to Michal: Maternal Mortality in Tanach
Rabbi Yaakov Werblowsky: Social Responsibility
Rabbis Stanley M Wagner and Israel Drazin: Missinterpreting the Targum

Parsha Sheets on Vayishlach
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 Vayishlach
See all shiurim on YUTorah for Parshat Vayishlach
New This Week

Rav Aharon Kotler vs. Yaakov Avinu

In this week's parsha, Vayishlach, when Yaakov Avinu faces mortal danger, he prioritizes his family. Thus:

2. And he placed the maidservants and their children first and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and her Joseph last. ב. וַיָּשֶׂם אֶת הַשְּׁפָחוֹת וְאֶת יַלְדֵיהֶן רִאשֹׁנָה וְאֶת לֵאָה וִילָדֶיהָ אַחֲרֹנִים וְאֶת רָחֵל וְאֶת יוֹסֵף אַחֲרֹנִים:
and Leah and her children after: The further back the more beloved. — [from Gen. Rabbah 78:8] ואת לאה וילדיה אחרונים: אחרון אחרון חביב:
3. And he went ahead of them and prostrated himself to the ground seven times, until he came close to his brother. ג. וְהוּא עָבַר לִפְנֵיהֶם וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ אַרְצָה שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים עַד גִּשְׁתּוֹ עַד אָחִיו:
went ahead of them: He said, “If that scoundrel comes to fight, let him fight with me first.” - [from Gen. Rabbah 78:8] עבר לפניהם: אמר אם יבא אותו רשע להלחם, ילחם בי תחילה:

He did not say: "I am a great talmid chacham, who learned in yeshiva Shem veEiver. Better that I flee and live to learn another day. Too bad for my family, who must serve as cannon fodder."

Rav Aharon Kotler, zt’l
I don't know if this was intended, or if the story was true, but an article in the Five Towns Jewish Times seems to put forth different priorities as exemplary:
“Rav Aharon Kotler had also dropped to the floor and I found myself right next to him. I saw him in a state of agitation. The gadol hador was spread out on the floor, the Torah itself was on the ground. And then I heard a low voice, the low, distinct voice of Rav Aharon. He too realized that with bombs falling indiscriminately one after the other his life was in grave danger. What, however, did Rav Aharon do? I heard him talking, talking to Hashem. Listen to what the Gaon Hador said!” The words that I heard next have remained etched in my memory to this very day.
“What did I hear Rav Aharon whisper?! I heard him begging Hashem, beseeching Him with every fiber of his being—‘Please Ribono Shel Olam, lomer doch leben! Ich vil noch lernen dayn heiligeh Torah—Please let me live! I still want to learn Your Holy Torah!’
He did not think about his family, his Rebbetzin, his children and grandchildren; he did not think about his beloved yeshiva, he did not think about anything other than beseeching Hashem in what he thought might be his last moment on this earth, begging, ‘Ribono Shel Olam, lomer doch leben! Ich vil noch lernen dayn heiligeh Torah!’”
I don't know if his family was present at the wedding. I am going to assume not. But regardless, I don't know that this level of uncaring for the welfare of one's family, with learning Torah as the only focus, is truly something to be celebrated. A similar message was unfortunately being put forth after the passing of Rav Elyashiv, where we were breathlessly told how he didn't give a darn about his family, in hundreds of different ways, but only valued Torah study. Torah is a tremendous gift, but it is so because it is Hashem's teaching of how to conduct ourselves in a caring and moral way in this world. If one really does not think about one's family, then I wonder at the value of said Torah learning.

Regardless, I would have interpreted this as bargaining for more time, based on the zechuyot he knew he had, and would not read such a potentially negative message into his actions.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Torah Temima on danger

Summary: Yaakov was diminished by Hashem's kindness. And how one should avoid dangerous situations. And eating meat and fish, and whether bittul works for sakana. Then, at the end, I weigh in.

Post: Rashi in the beginning of parashat Vayishlach reads:
11. I have become small from all the kindnesses and from all the truth that You have rendered Your servant, for with my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.יא. קָטֹנְתִּי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ אֶת עַבְדֶּךָ כִּי בְמַקְלִי עָבַרְתִּי אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה וְעַתָּה הָיִיתִי לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת:
I have become small: My merits have diminished because of the kindnesses and the truth that You have rendered me. Therefore, I fear lest I have became sullied with sin since [the time that] You promised me, and it will cause me to be delivered into Esau’s hand[s]. — [from Shab. 32a, Ta’anith 20b, Ber. 41]קטנתי מכל החסדים: נתמעטו זכיותי על ידי החסדים והאמת שעשית עמי, לכך אני ירא, שמא משהבטחתני נתלכלכתי בחטא ויגרום לי להמסר ביד עשו:

That gemara in Shabbos, 32b reads:
R. Jannai examined [the bridge] and then crossed over. R. Jannai [acted] upon his views, for he said, A man should never stand in a place of danger and say that a miracle will be wrought for him, lest it is not. And if a miracle is wrought for him, it is deducted from his merits.7  R. Hanin said, Which verse [teaches this]? I am become diminished8  by reason of all the deeds of kindness and all the truth.9  R. Zera would not go out among the palm-trees on a day of the strong south wind.10
Torah Temimah points us to the gemara and then writes:

"To explain קָטֹנְתִּי as 'my merits have been reduced'. And apparently this requires consideration, for behold, this language Yaakov said in a manner of humility, and there is not in this an allusion to the matter of reducing merits. And so is apparent in Midrash Rabba: קָטֹנְתִּי, I am not worthy. And see in Ramban and Maharsha who comment in this matter. And to me it seems, based on that which is stated in Bava Kamma 50a:

 R. Hanina said: If a man says that the Holy One, blessed be He, is lax in the execution of justice, his life shall be outlawed, for it is stated, He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are judment.39

And if so, since Yaakov said that he is not worthy of all the goodness, if so, it must be that they were they not done for free, but rather that they reduced his merits.

And know that upon this foundation, that it is prohibited to stand in a dangerous place and rely on a miracle, Chazal forbade many various things which have in there the concern for danger, and many of them are enumerated in Yoreh Deah siman 116. And that which the Taz investigates there if a dangerous substance is nullified in 60X, just as a prohibited substance, it seems to bring proof from Chullin 97a, that there was an incident in which they roasted a goat in its fat, and Rabbi Yochanan said to cut away the meat [and eat it; but here he is reading to discard] until they reached its place [of the fat]. And they [meaning Ravin bar Rav Ada] establish it there in the gemara that this is a case of kilchit in a stewpot [and that Rabbi Yochanan instructed that a non-Jew cook should taste it to see if there was the taste there],

and Rashi explains that a kilchit is a non-kosher species of small fish, in a stewpot of meat. And behold, meat and fish, it is known that this is a dangerous substance, and it is explained that klipah [cutting away] work. And in all places we establish that 60X is better than klipah. [And indeed, in our gemara in Chullin, they explicitly state that the non-Jewish cook should taste it, meaning to ascertain whether taam is there.] Howbeit, in the Yerushalmi it is made clear that a doubt of a danger one needs to be more stringent than a doubt of prohibition.

And we have seen fit to comment here about how the world has seized upon this, to be careful because of a concern of danger, because of the instruction [tzavaah] of Rabbi Yehuda Chassid in the matter of matchmaking, that the name of the groom and the father-in-law, or the name of the bride and her mother-in-law, should not be identical. And many wish to be lenient in this, and they brought out a sevara to say that Rabbi Yehuda Chassid only commanded this to his family; and the like, with other sevarot. See in Shu"t Nodeh Biyhuda Tinyana, chelek Even HaEzer siman 79, and Chasam Sofer chelek Even haEzer at the end of siman 197, and in Chochmas Adam klal 123 din 13, he wrote that this is specifically where the names are threefold, such as that his name is Reuven, his father-in-law's name was Reuven, and he takes a son-in-law whose name is Reuven; and so by a bride and her mother-in-law, and he did not explain a reason in the matter. And further are there more acharonim who wrote other sevarot different from this.

However, to me it seems that this matter is not prohibited because of danger, but rather from the primary law. And this is based on that which we establish that it is forbidden to call his father by his name, and so is it prohibited to call others by their name, where their names are identical, unless you change their name. [And according to the position of the Rambam, in perek 6 from Mamrim, it is prohibited even not before him to call others, whose name is like his, when the name is distinct and irregular, see there.] And according to this, is it not so that it is not possible for a son-in-law and father-in-law, or a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law, whose names are identical, to dwell together? For is it not so that the daughter will not be able to call her husband by his name before her father, whose name is like his? [And according to the Rambam, for a distinct name, even note before him?] And so too a husband to his wife, whose name is like his mother's name. And there is not to rely on changing the name, for not everyone is knowledgeable of the din, and also at times it is not possible with this. And so, is it not possible to stumble in the cancellation of the command of kibud av va'em, with is Biblical, vedo'k. (See here.)

It is also possible to give the reason for refraining from this based on that which is written in Midrash Rabba, parashat Noach, parasha 38: "Rabbi Yossi said: The rishonim [early ones], because they recognized their lineage, they would name based on events that occurred, but we, who do not recognize our lineage, we name based on our ancestor's name." And the explanation of this is that since we are traveling to and from in Exile, it is fitting for us to recall the chain of our ancestor's lineage, based on the fathers calling their sons based on their fathers [of the fathers] who have passed on, and this is as we are accustomed to in our days. And also in the Talmud we find this custom in every place, such as in Gittin 33b: R' Parta the son of R' Elazar ben Parta, the grandson of R' Parta the Great. And the name of Abayei was Nachmani, based on the name of his grandfather, And see Moed Kata 25b and Yoma 38b.

And behold, if the names of the groom and his father-in-law are the same, the groom and his wife are not able to call their son by the name of the father-in-law and the father of his wife, since the name of the groom is the same as his; and so too for daughters, by a bride and her mother-in-law. And behold, this matter would cause refraining the calling of them for the purpose of recalling the chain of our lineage, vedo'k in this."

End quote.

Here are my thoughts:

1) In terms of fish with meat, we start with the gemara in Pesachim 76b (and here):
תני רב כהנא בריה דרב חיננא סבא פת שאפאה עם צלי בתנור אסור לאכלה בכותחא ההיא ביניתא דאיטווא בהדי בישרא אסרה רבא מפרזיקיא למיכליה בכותחא מר בר רב אשי אמר אפי' במילחא נמי אסורה משום דקשיא לריחא ולדבר אחר:
(q) (Rav Kahana brei d'Rav Chinena - Beraisa): If bread was baked in an oven with roasting meat, it may not be eaten with Kutach. 
(r) A case occurred, fish was roasted with meat - Rava of Parzakiya forbade eating it with Kutach; 
(s) Mar bar Rav Ashi forbade eating it even with salt (i.e. alone), for it (a mixture of fish and meat) is prone to cause odor and Tzara'as.
Now, we have to think about this gemara that the Torah Temimah raised, in Chullin 97b:
והאמר רבה בר בר חנה עובדא הוה קמיה דר' יוחנן בכנישתא דמעון בגדי שצלאו בחלבו ואתו ושיילוה לרבי יוחנן ואמר קולף ואוכל עד שמגיע לחלבו ההוא כחוש הוה רב הונא בר יהודה אמר כוליא בחלבה הוה ושריא רבין בר רב אדא אמר כילכית באילפס הוה ואתו שיילוה לרבי יוחנן ואמר להו ליטעמיה קפילא ארמאה
But surely Rabbah b. Bar Hana has related a case which came before R. Johanan at the synagogue of Ma'on of a kid that was roasted with its fat, and on enquiring of R. Johanan he ruled that one may cut away [the meat] and eat it until one reaches the fat! — That was a lean kid.  R. Huna b. Judah suggested that it was the case of a kidney roasted with its fat, and he [R. Johanan] declared it to be permitted. Rabin son of R. Ada said: It was the case of a kilkith that was found in a pot of stew, and on enquiring of R. Johanan he ruled that a gentile cook should taste it.
Now, Torah Temimah may be correct in interpreting the gemara as each modifying the first statement, such that even where Ravin bar Rav Adda said it was the non-kosher kilkith in stew, Rabbi Yochanan still said (in addition to a gentile cook tasting it) that one should cut away the meat. But I think this is actually an argument as to the situation. And if so, he should not be discussing klipah, but rather whether there is taam, and whether that is parallel to batel beshishim.

Further, if it is not roasting a kid, but cooking in (meat) stew, then perhaps one could assert a distinction between roasting and cooking.

Further, yes, Rashi says it was a meat stew, but before one draws great halachic conclusions from this, outside the primary intent of the sugya, we should consider if there is anything in the gemara itself to suggest that it is specifically meat stew.

Further, and perhaps most importantly, note that in Pesachim, it is only Mar bar Rav Ashi, a very late (7th century) Amora of Bavel. who forbade the meat roasted with fish in any event. Rava of Parzakiya permitted it, so long as it was not eaten with a dairy dip! And while it may indeed be so that we pasken like Mar bar Rav Ashi, it is not a safe assumption that every other Amora agreed with this medical diagnosis. Rabin son of R' Ada, and Rabbi Yochanan, could very well not have held that there was any medical concern with meat cooked/roasted with fish.

2) That said, I think that not contributing taam and being nullified in 60 times as much would be something that the Amoraim would endorse, even for matters of sakana. I don't believe that they maintained 60X as a magical construct, or a mere halachic construction. Here is not the place to elaborate, but it all comes down to the continuum model of matter, as opposed to an atomic model. Rather than matter being made up by distinct pieces, some ancient Greeks believed that matter was made up of a continuum, with different attributes. And they explicitly discuss the case of wine diluted in water. Drop a tiny but of wine in a lot of water and it is nullified. It is NOT that there are bits of wine floating in the water, and we don't care about it. Rather, in the mixture, the various attributes of the wine contribute themselves to the water, so that the water gets a bit more of the wine attributes, and the entire mixture is thus moved a bit further along the continuum. But as such, the entire mixture is really now water. The wine has been physically nullified. However -- and the Greeks discuss this -- keep dripping wine into the water and you have chozer vene'or, it reawakens. Well, not really reawakens, but enough of the attributes of wine have affected the entire liquid substance that it now is quasi-wine.

If so, taste might well be a measure of how far along the continuum something is. And if there is no taste, then it has been physically nullified, and doesn't exist. So perhaps yes, it would work for matters of sakana

(One might still distinguish between something which is already sakana and is then nullified / klipa, vs. something that if it infuses sufficiently will create with its mixture something which is a sakana.)

3) In terms of marrying someone with the same name, it is not a matter of seeking a kula. For Nodeh BeYehuda at least, it is a matter of defending Yehuda HaChassid. Because surely if he meant it seriously as halacha, we wouldn't listen. But must we also think negatively about him? Rather, let us be dan lekaf zechut.

That is, halacha is halacha, and that is determined by the gemara. We see from the gemara that Amoraim had the same name as their fathers-in-law. Just because a kabbalist or mystic comes along and invents new rules, against the gemara, does not mean that we need to listen to him. (Thus, Yehuda HaChassid also invents an issur to marry a niece, where the gemara recommends it.)

If so, it is misguided to find reasons to support this invented halacha. We should rather discourage people from heeding Yehuda HaChassid's instructions.

4) In terms of katonti, I don't agree that one must reconcile the midrash and the peshat. The midrash takes the mi of  קָטֹנְתִּי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים as "as a result of". The peshat takes it as "less than". And the rest of the interpretation follows from that. Yes, the peshat interpretation is an expression of humility. But I don't think we need to work that humility into the midrash.

And that Hashem is not a vatran, that is, not lax in the execution of justice, conveys to me that one should not say that Hashem will not punish misdeeds. That is not the same as saying that Hashem will not give a matnas chinam. See the midrashim on va'etchanan, about how Moshe was seeking a free gift, rather than relying on his own merits; and that was a mark of his humility.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Posts so far for parshat Vayishlach


1. What nekitas chefetz was there, if Yaakov was nolad mahulSo asks Rav Chaim Kanievsky, further exploring the path set by Mizrachi. By Avraham, it was nekitas chefetz on the milah, and Avraham's very first mitzvah. Not so for Yaakov, on two counts. Rav Kanievsky's answer, and then I explore further.

2. Torah Temima on danger -- Yaakov was diminished by Hashem's kindness. And how one should avoid dangerous situations. And eating meat and fish, and whether bittul works for sakana. Then, at the end, I weigh in.

3. Rav Aharon Kotler vs. Yaakov Avinu -- while Yaakov Avinu prioritized his family. Meanwhile, an author intending to praise Rav Aharon Kotler speculates about him as follows: "He did not think about his family, his Rebbetzin, his children and grandchildren..."

4. YUTorah on parashat Vayishlach.

5. Vayishlach parsha stumpers? As a response to a post on DovBear. For instance, Why does Bethel have two naming stories? It is called framing. How can Rashi say Yaakov kept "taryag mitzvos? The point of the midrash is not that he literally kept 613 commandments, but "613 commandments" are a stand-in for Torah true attitude and middot. And so on.


  1. Vayishlach sources. Even further expanded. Some biographical information added, as well.
  2. How can the amplifying 'azla geresh' appear on קטנתיAssuming -- and it is an assumption -- the role of azla geresh is to amplify and make great, how can it appear on word קטנתי? Birkas Avraham has a ready explanation based on a Zohar. Or, this is a good reason that some switch the azla geresh for a revii. But perhaps this azla geresh gives the lie to the theory. I offer a bit of analysis, based on Wickes, of both azla geresh and revii.
  3. YU Torah for parashat Vayishlach.
  4. Was Timna a son, a concubine, or bothThe trup and Divrei Hayamim parse a pasuk in Vayishlach in divergent ways. Rishonim harmonize. And Chizkuni (and Birkas Avraham) darshen a munach legarmeih as apesik to bolster the multivalent reading of the pasuk.
  5. A question for the Taliban women -- What are they doing out of their homes? We see from Rashi, Ralbag, and Rambam, that it is a breach of tznius for a woman to leave her home. And an analysis and response to this, of why this is not obligatory or even a good idea for present-day women.
  6. A censored Sporno on VayishlachIt would seem so. They did not like the talk of worldwide Jewish domination.
  7. Commentators who live in glass houses, redux -- On an extremely old parshablog post on Vayishlach, from 2003, Z comments:
    It is now 8 years since you wrote this post. I wonder how different it would look if you wrote it today. just curious.
    It would indeed look somewhat different. In part, this is due to my own development, and in part, due to knowledge gained over the past eight years.

    So, here is a do-over of that old post.
  8. The trup on עָלוֹת עָלָי in Vayishlach -- The trup in Bereishit 33:13 is against the typical commentaries. Shadal Rasahad gives a suggestion of how to read it in accordance with trup, which Haksav vehaKabbalah rejects. But, he endorses an explanation by Wolf Heidenheim. Finally, I consider whether all of this is even necessary.

    My, that sounds dry! How about this, instead. There is weird trup on עלות, within the text of וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו  אֲדֹנִי יֹדֵעַ כִּי-הַיְלָדִים רַכִּים וְהַצֹּאן וְהַבָּקָר עָלוֹת עָלָי. The typical understanding of the pasuk is "And he said unto him: 'My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and that the flocks and herds giving suck are a care to me; and if they overdrive them one day, all the flocks will die." Thus,alay means "upon me", even as עָלוֹת means "raising".  But Shadal says that this does not work out with the trup. One could also imagine עָלוֹת means "they ascend", as in "they ascend upon me as a burden". I think that is what Shadal (purportedly) suggests, and what I personally find compelling. But HaKsav veHakkaballah finds this problematic, and suggests a different explanation, in accordance with Wolf Heidenheim. But then, I try to debunk the question.
  9. Shadal on Yitzchaki and the eight kings of Edom -- As a further followup to Yitzchaki and the eight kings in parashat Vayishlach, I present Shadal's thoughts on the matter:


  1. A cute Bar Mitzvah invitation -- related to the parasha.
  2. Vayishlach sources -- further expanded. For example, many more meforshei Rashi.
  3. The Targum on נִסְעָה -- Presenting Shadal, from Ohev Ger, on the Targum to this phrase. Do Onkelos and Rashi agree or disagree?
  4. Was El Bet El named for Hashem, or for AngelsA dispute between Rashi and Targum Onkelos, or possibly not.
  5. How is Nachal Yabbok 'This Jordan'So asks the Baal HaTurim, on the basis of geographical knowledge. And so he suggests that hazeh refers to the staff. We can answer this question by looking at a map, which was not available to the Tur.
  6. Does Onkelos claim that Yaakov's zechuyot shrunkIn other words, is he echoing Rashi and Chazal? In my humble opinion, Onkelos is not really taking a position between the peshat and the derash. After all, he translates מִכֹּל as מִכֹּל. The ambiguity is preserved in the Aramaic. And as I note, stating  זְעֵירָן זָכְוָתִי also indicates nothing, because it means (or can readily mean) "my merits are few" rather than "my merits are lessened".
  7. Why did Dinah recommend cursing HashemOr, dybbyk min ha-Torah minayin?
  8. Minchas Shai on Hashem or Angels as an Etymology for Bet El -- I considered this question, in item #4, at length. But I was thinking from the perspective of Targumim and girsology. This from a masoretic perspective, courtesy of Minchat Shai.
  9. What is the purpose of the Mitzvah of Gid Hanasheh? Yes, gezeirat haMelech of course. But the pasuk associates our not eating of the sciatic nerve with the incident in which Yaakov struggles with the angel. How are they related, and what is the message?
  10. Reuven and Bilhah -- In Midrash Rabba, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi takes a peshat-approach to the incident.

  1. Vayishlach sources -- links to over 100 meforshim on the parasha and haftarah, as well as links to an online Mikraos Gedolos.
  2. Why did Yaakov weep, pt i -- in this, I analyze Rashi's two answers for Yaakov's weeping, as contrasted with that of Ibn Ezra. Rashi suggests that it was because he saw that Rachel wouldn't be buried with him, and secondly that he came without money, in contrast to Eliezer who came laden with wealth. Maharshal harmonizes the two reasons, so that Rashi can intend to say both simultaneously, but I explain why I think this harmonization is extremely farfetched. Finally, I give my own suggestion as to Rashi's motivations in bringing down these two midrashim from Bereishit Rabba.
  3. Angels or messengers? There is a famous Rashi which starts of Vayishlach that the malachim Yaakov sent were malachim mamash, actual angels. This likely relates to the camp of malachei elokim from the previous parsha. But as Ibn Caspi points out, the parsha gap, or else the petucha gap makes it clear that there is a distinction. Though that is just an indicator, rather than the real reason. Also, how Ralbag and Sefer Hayashar treat the malachim of this parasha and last.
  4. Why was Yaakov distressed? Why did he fear? Yaakov fears and is distressed. Why the duplication? Rashi seems spot on, that the fear is of being killed and the distress is of killing others. But watch out for supercommentators who read their own ideas into him! Would Yaakov not be distressed at killing others, simply because it was halachically justified homicide?
  5. Moral lessons from parshas Vayishlach -- Once again, focusing on the moral lessons one can derive from the parsha, selected from Ralbag's commentary. Because too much attention to dikduk, peshat and derash can leave us without inspiration. A very small selection from his lessons learned from Yaakov's confrontation with Esav, and then a "fun" one from the tale of Dinah.
  6. Machaneh as a feminine and masculine form -- In Vayishlach, Rashi notes that 'camp' is used in both the masculine and feminine genders. What in the pasuk prompts this? And would Rashi necessarily agree with how Gur Aryeh develops this?
  7. In what manner(s) did Shechem rape Dinah? Another study of methodology of peshat, examining how different meforshim treat the duplication in different terminology as Shechem's actions vis a vis Dinah. I last reviewed this idea of peshat methodology in terms of the unnecessary poetic duplication of Rivkah being a virgin, whom no man had known.
  8. How old was Dinah when she was abducted by Shechem? A simple calculation based on when children had to be born within the given time frame would make her about 7 years old. Yet there are difficulties with that. How Rav Shimon Shkop and Ibn Ezra deal with that.
  9. The derash on Esav's kiss -- does Ibn Ezra insult Chazal? Esav and Yaakov meet, and he kisses him. But there are dots over the word. Rashi cites a midrash, and Ibn Ezra disagrees, in a pretty dismissive manner, stating that the midrash is good for just-weaned children! What are we to make of this? Does Ibn Ezra not say in his introduction that none of Chazal's words fall to the ground? See also my earlier post about the dots over vayishakeihu.
  10. Shechem acted admirably -- Well, not precisely, but that is the general theme of an explanation by Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz in Tiferes Yehonasan. Namely, it was bia shelo kedarka in order to preserve her life.
  11. The vandalization of a mosque in Shechem -- Now, a good argument can be made that Islam is not avodah zarah for non-Jews, but is simply monotheism. Though I am not certain what motivated the perps. But there seems a likelihood that such an attack, on a mosque, could stir up acheinu bnei yishmael in a bad way; and that a strong motivator of the apology is concern for potential loss of life. This calls to mind the dispute between Yaakov and his sons in destroying Shechem, and a parallel dispute between two (or more) commentators.
  1. From The Age of Trup, how Ramban ignores the pasuk ending and claims that Timna was one of Elifaz's sons, rather than his concubine.
  2. Instances of Malachim, according to Ralbag. He understands the malachim at the end of Vayeitzei to be either angels or prophets, and the malachim at the beginning of Vayishlach to be simply human messengers from Yaakov.
  3. Vayishlach sources -- links to online parsha resources for Vayishlach. Thus, to a Mikraos Gedolos by aliyah and perek, and to an online English Rashi, to Ralbag, and to Shadal. For now.
  4. What was the name of the city of Shechem? Was the city named Shechem, or was it named Shalem? And Shadal's take. Then, in an update, why Shadal might have adopted that approach, as a response to Geiger, and how the Samaritan Torah differs, quite likely to reinforce their own religious message and elevate the prominence of Shechem.
  5. Did Dinah marry Shimon, Iyov, or both? The conflation, or else harmonization, of two midrashim, in a way that might just do injustice to their respective themes.
  6. Two noteworthy comments about the nature of peshat and derash, one from Ibn Ezra on Vayishlach.
  1. The Etymology of Maavar Yabbok -- related to their wresting/getting dusty, as a non-explicit etymology? Or does the etymology work in the other direction? Or was this specific unrelated word chosen because of the place name?
  2. Did Esav Kiss Yaakov? If he did, did he really mean it? Should the word be there?
  3. Esav separates from Yaakov, as Lot did from Avraham. With parallels on a peshat and derash level.
  4. Did Yaakov struggle with an angel? Or with God Himself? And the possibility of the two naming incidents of Yisrael being the same incident.
  5. Bet El and Yeravam -- and that the Torah would designate this as a holy place with a mizbeach shows the early authorship of Torah, according to Shadal.
  1. Im Lavan Garti ... veTaryag Mitzvot Shamarti? But he married two sisters!? So you will say he was outside Eretz Yisrael? Yet his claim is that he kept Tatyag Mitzvot when with Lavan! I claim the midrash actually means a Torah-true attitude and midot, represented by the 613 of garti, in spite of the evil Lavan's influence. And other explanations.
  2. Why No Adult Male Camels? After all, this represents a break in the pattern of the gifts to Esav. I suggest that the purpose of the camels was to provide camel milk, and having these young there boosts lactation. Having male camels there would end the lactations.
  1. Triple Etiologies of Place Names -- of Peniel and Machanayim. Interesting stuff.
  2. The taam elyon and taam tachton on the incident of Reuven, and how the trup alternatives follow naturally from a decision to omit the Targum.
  3. Twelve Boys and Only One GirlCross-listed to Vayeitzei. Was Dinah the only girl? Or perhaps not.
  4. Rachel's Triplets -- Further analysis on the textual basis of the midrash that Rachel gave birth to triplets at the time of Binyamin's birth, based in part on interpreting each occurence ofבְּלִדְתָּהּ as the birth of a daughter. Rather than other suggestions, such as Matnot Kehuna that it is a derasha on the word gam.
          1. Come and Hear, or Come, Then Hear? Did Dinah's brothers come because they heard the news, or did they hear the news because they came? Midrash, parsing, and trup.
          2. How to Address a Business Letter, and Yaakov's message to Esav. There is a formal form of address, discovered in extra-Biblical sources as well as elsewhere in Tanach. And the parsing which seems proposed by trup, and the traditional explanation, seems against this parse. Yet this parse was apparently known to Yehuda Nesia, and in fact does work out according to trup (looking at Wickes' rules, and against Speiser's suggestion that it does not).
          3. Dinah's Arms being exposed, caused her to be seized?
          4. Binyamin's Name -- Binyamin is named twice, once by his mother and once by his father. I suggest that the names are the same, but one is in Hebrew and the other in Aramaic. Appropriate since Lavan is haArami, the Aramean, and Rachel is his daughter. And note that the same thing happens in parshat Vayeitzei on the name Gal-ed.
          5. A Hebrew cognate in Amharic for Vayishlach -- laka, meaning "send".
          1. וְהָיִינוּ לְעַם אֶחָד and cross-cultural circumcision -- Adopting circumcision in order to become one people, in modern times. They better watch out!
          2. In "Dual Etymologies for Names" -- I discuss how various place names seem to have more than one reason for their naming. Specifically, מחנים (in the dual form), named at the end of Vayeitzei, is so named because Yaakov sees a single encampment of angels. But then we see in Vayishlach, shortly afterwards and in the same location, that he splits his family into two camps. I discuss a midrash on the matter in Tg Yerushalmi, and the Scriptural basis for the midrash. Tg Yonatan, Rashi, and Ramban seem to take on the issue of why there is a dual in מחנים.

            Another dual place name in Vayishlach is Penuel, which Yaakov first names for having seen God face to face and living to tell the tale, yet later he uses the term to say that seeing Esav's face is like seeing that of God.

            Also in Vayishlach is Bet El, which Yaakov seems to name multiple times, but I claim the 
            psukim are speaking in the pluperfect, and he only names the place one time.
          3. In "Dual Etymologies for People's Names" -- I treat dual etymologies for people rather than places as I did in the first post. Turning to Vayeitzei, I find dual etymologies for Yosef and Yissacher, and give possible explanations for this.
          4. In "Shnayim Mikra VeEchad Targum?" -- I discuss two psukim that have only a single targum, and how the trup is constructed so as to omit the translation in shul. It is a pasuk about Reuven and Bilhah.
          5. In "Commentators Who Live In Glass Houses?" -- Ibn Ezra takes a contemporary, Yitzchaki, to task for kefira in the dating of the psukim about the kings of Edom. I show how Ibn Ezra's approach differs from Yitzchaki.


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