Thursday, December 1, 2016

Parshas Toldos 5777

Whom Did Rebecca Ask for Advice?

The Torah writes (Genesis 25:22):
But the children struggled in her womb, and she said, “If so, why do I exist?" She went to inquire of the LORD
Rashi explains:
AND SHE WENT TO ENQUIRE at the school of Shem
Radak explains why:
Some of our sages (quoted by Rashi) say that she went to the academy of Shem in order to inquire from him about the meaning of such strange goings on inside her. The truth is that Shem was still alive at that time for he survived Avraham by 31 years. If Shem was identical with Malki Tzedek he would have resided in Jerusalem at that time. Why are we told all this? To draw our attention to the fact that she bypassed her father-in-law Avraham, who we would think, was better qualified than Shem to answer her question. Avraham remained alive until Esau and Yaakov were 15 years of age.
Ibn Ezra gives two other answers:
Through a prophet
(see also Chizkuni and Rashbam)

or through Abraham himself for he did not die until his grandsons were 15
Ralbag (ibid) explains slightly differently:
And she went to ask G-d from prophets - His servants - which were there in those days like Shem, Eber and their students ... and He answered her through prophecy
Ramban answers that she prayed:
We don't find [the language of] "inquiry" except in regards in regards to G-d that it is prayer
Shadal explains slightly differently:
She prayed to G-d and the word of G-d came to her either through a prophecy or a dream
The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 63 as quoted in LeMakesei Atik) explains:
through an angel

Who Gave Jacob His Name?

The Torah writes (Genesis 25:26):
Then his brother emerged, holding on to the heel of Esau; so they named him Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when they were born.
Rashi provides two answers:
The Holy One, blessed be He, thus named him
Another explanation is: his father called him Jacob because he was grasping Esau’s heel
Rokeah (as quoted in LeMakesei Atik) says it was Abraham

(see also Josh Waxman's parshablog on this)

(see our earlier post about who named Esau with the name Edom)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Parshas Chaye Sarah 5777

The Giants of "Kriath Arba"

The Torah writes (Genesis 23:1-2):
Sarah’s lifetime—the span of Sarah’s life—came to one hundred and twenty-seven years. Sarah died in Kiriath-arba—now Hebron—in the land of Canaan; and Abraham proceeded to mourn for Sarah and to bewail her.  
Rashi (ibid) explains:
literally, the city of the Four, and it was so called because of the four giants who lived there: Ahiman, Sheshai, Talmai and their father (Numbers 13:22).
The verse referenced by Rashi (Numbers 13:22) states as follows:
They went up into the Negeb and came to Hebron, where lived Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the Anakites.—Now Hebron was founded seven years before Zoan of Egypt.—
Rashi's explanation is revolves around the term "four" that this was the city of four people. The Radak adds (ibid):
Arba was the name of a man whose was known by this “nickname” as he had three sons, and they, just as he himself were giants, so that there were four giants.

However, others explain differently that this is a name of a person, as explained by the Rashbam (ibid):
Tthe name of the person who founded or owned this town was Arba. We know this from Joshua 15:13 where he is described as the father of a giant. The reference to a town by mentioning an outstanding citizen is familiar to us from Numbers 21:27-29 where the capital of the Emorites is described as קרית סיחון, the city of Sichon
The verses in Joshua (15:13-14) explain further:
In accordance with the LORD’s command to Joshua, Caleb son of Jephunneh was given a portion among the Judites, namely, Kiriath-arba—that is, Hebron. ([Arba] was the father of Anak.) Caleb dislodged from there the three Anakites: Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai, descendants of Anak.  
We find similarly later on (Genesis 33:18) in the Rashbam:
ויבא יעקב שלם, to the city named Shalem. The construction is similar to ותבאנה בית לחם, “they arrived at Bet Lechem.” (Ruth 1:19) - עיר שכם, the city of Shechem. The description parallels Numbers 21:26 where Cheshbon is described as the city of Sichon, King of the Emorites. Anyone who explains Shechem as being the name of the city errs. We do not find anywhere that a city is described in such terms, i.e. as עיר ציון, or as עיר ירושלים. Invariably such cities are described with the appropriate definitive article ה i.e. as the word העיר following the name of the city in question. et al.

See also - Targum Jonathan (Deuteronomy 1:28) identifies the giants as the sons of Ephron:
and the sons of Ephron the giant were also there
Tosefta deTargum (Joshua 15:13) identifies the father of the "Anak" as Tzohar, the father of Ephron, and "Anak" as Ephron. 

Why was Sarah in Hebron?

According to Rashi (Genesis 23:19) Abraham and Sarah lived in Hebron at this time (also see Ramban):
AND ABRAHAM DWELT AT BEER-SHEBA — This does not mean really dwelling there but merely staying there on his way home, because he was, as a matter of fact, living at Hebron. Twelve years before the Binding of Isaac he had left Beer-Sheba and had gone to Hebron, as it is said, (21:34) ‘‘And Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines many days”, i.e. exceeding in number the earlier days when he had resided at Hebron — altogether 26 years, as we have explained above (21:34).
and above (21:34) in Rashi:
Now, here it is written that he sojourned in the land of the Philistines ימים רבים more days, which means more than the preceding days in Hebron. Scripture does not intend by these words to leave the number indefinite, but to state it explicitly, for if the “more days” exceeded the former period in Hebron by two years or more, it would have said so plainly, so that you must admit that the excess was only one year — that gives 26 years in the land of the Philistines. He immediately left there and returned to Hebron, and that year was 12 years before the Binding of Isaac. All this is explained in Seder Olam (See Note on Genesis 10:25).
(There are other opinions that place Abraham and Sarah in Beer Sheba at this time)

According to Sefer HaYashar (ibid) Sarah went to Hebron to find out about her son after Satan told her about the Akeidah. When she came to Hebron, Satan told her that he lied and she died from the shock.

Why Did Sarah Die?

According to Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer (33) she died because Satan told her about Isaac being sacrificed on the Altar

According to Vayikra Rabbah (20:2) she died when Isaac told her the story of the Akeidah (some learn this was Satan in the form of Isaac)

According to Bereishis Rabbah (45:5) she was supposed to live until the same age as Abraham but her time was cut short by 31 years because she told Abraham "May G-d judge between me and you" (see above 16:5)

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Parsha Vayera 5777

The Difference between Sodom and Gibeah

The Torah writes (Genesis 19.4-10):
They had not yet lain down, when the townspeople, the men of Sodom, young and old—all the people to the last man—gathered about the house. And they shouted to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may be know them them.”  So Lot went out to them to the entrance, shut the door behind him, and said, “I beg you, my friends, do not commit such a wrong. Look, I have two ... but do not do anything to these men, since they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
and later on (Genesis 19.23-25):
As the sun rose upon the earth and Lot entered Zoar, the LORD rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulfurous fire from the LORD out of heaven. He annihilated those cities and the entire Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities and the vegetation of the ground.
As the result of the sin of Sodom, it was destroyed. However, we find a similar case later on during the time of the Judges which did not end that way. We find in Judges (19:22-26):
While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the town, a depraved lot, had gathered about the house and were pounding on the door. They called to the aged owner of the house, “Bring out the man who has come into your house, so that we may know him him.” The owner of the house went out and said to them, “Please, my friends, do not commit such a wrong. Since this man has entered my house, do not perpetrate this outrage. Look, here is my ... ; but don’t do that outrageous thing to this man.”
The question is why wasn't Gibeah destroyed by G-d the same way?

The Malbim (Judges 19:22) answers that the people of Sodom did this because they setup laws to keep away strangers and not because they wanted to fulfill their own desires. On the other hand, in Gibeah, they did those solely because of their desires. He cites several proofs:

1. Lot invited the angels into his house in secret while but in Gibeah the guest was invited in public.

2. In Sodom all the people of the city attacked Lot's house while in Gibeah it was just the coarse / evil people of the city which were a minority and rebels, and not because they were complying with the law.

3. In Sodom they wanted to attack Lot and his house, while in Gibeah they surrounded the house to make sure the guests don't run away but they did not plan to attack the owner. This is also why they knocked on the door, as opposed in Sodom where they tried to break down the door. (They also called instead of shouting like in Sodom)

4. In Gibeah the owner called it an "outrage" - "נבלה" but not in Sodom for their it was accepted and according to their laws.

5. In Gibeah, they were satisfied with something else but not in Sodom because in Sodom the point of their attack was against the guests not to fill their desires.

(Additionally this may also have been why they complained about Lot coming to judge among them since he was asking them to ignore the laws of Sodom)

The Righteousness of the Daughters of Lot

Famous story with Rabbi Moshe Feinstein related to the daughters of Lot - can be found in introduction to Igros Moshe, volume 8, pp. 15.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Parshas Lecho Lecho 5777

Abraham and the Fugitive

After the war of the four kings and five kings, and the capture of Abraham's nephew, Lot, a fugitive brought the news to Abraham as the Torah writes (Genesis 14:13):
The fugitive brought the news to Abram the Hebrew, who was dwelling at the terebinths of Mamre the Amorite, kinsman of Eshkol and Aner, these being Abram’s allies.
The question is who was that person? The simplest explanation is that it was a someone escaping from the war who knew of a relationship or some connection between Abraham and Lot. This is the explanation that Ibn Ezra (ibid) cites:
"The fugitive" - for he escaped and fled from the among the people Sodom, like it says "and a fugitive came from Jerusalem (Ezekiel 33:21)
However, the verse uses the word "הפליט" - "THE fugitive" instead of "fugitive" implying that this refers to a specific fugitive that we know about. This is why other commentators try to connect this verse with a fugitive known elsewhere. The Pesikta deRabbi Eliezer as cited by the Chizkuni (ibid) explains this was the angel Michael:
For at the time G-d throw down Samael and his side from the holy place, he [Samael] grabbed at the Michael's wings to make him fall with him, and G-d saved him and therefore his name is called "fugitive" and about him Ezekiel writes that a fugitive came to him (see Ezekiel 33:21)

Og, the Fugitive

Alternatively, Rashi (ibid) and the Talmud (Niddah 61a) identifies this person as Og, the king of Bashan:
According to the real meaning this was Og who had escaped from the battle with the Rephaim (see Genesis 5:5) and it is to this that the text refers (Deuteronomy 3:11) “For only Og king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim”, and this is what is meant by נשאר “left”, for Amraphel and his allies did not kill him when they smote the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim. So is the statement in the Tanchuma (Chukat).

The Sifsei Chachamim (ibid) says that the reason why Og came to Abraham was to get revenge against the four kings that killed out his people

But according to the Midrash Genesis Rabbah (Genesis Rabbah 42) it refers to Og in allusion to him as the only one of the generation of the Flood who escaped that catastrophe, and this is what is meant (Deuteronomy 3:11) “of the remnant of the Rephaim”, for it is said. (Genesis 6:4) “The Nephilim (= Rephaim cf. Genesis Rabbah 26) were in the earth etc.” His intention in telling Abraham that his nephew was captured was that Abraham should wage war against the kings and that he should be killed so that he, himself, might marry Sarah.
As explained further in Sifsei Chachamim (ibid), in the first explanation of Rashi, the reason why Og is identified with the fugitive here is identified as a fugitive from the Rephaim later on in Deuteronomy. However, why do we identify Og as a fugitive from the Flood?

Genesis Rabbah (26:7) explains that giants are referred to with seven different names:
"And Nephilim were on earth in those days" - they are called seven names: Eimim, Rephaim, Giborim, Zamzumim, Anakim, Avim, Nephilim.
Thus, the Rephaim in Deuteronomy from which Og was a remnant are the same as the Nephilim before the Flood. Therefore we end identifying Og as having escaped from the Flood.

Og and the Flood

The question is how did Og escape the Flood?
Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer (23) describes one such answer:
And except for Og, the King of Bashan, for he sat on one of the beams of the Ark and swore to Noah and his children that he would be their slave forever. What did Noah do? He made a hole in the Ark and gave him [Og] food every day and he was also saved
According to this opinion. Noah saved him because Og agreed to be his slave.

It is also interesting to note that Matnas Kehunah (Genesis 32:8) cites a variant reading in a Midrash that Cain held on to the door of the Ark until the Flood washed him away which is similar to Og's story. It may be possible that there was a tradition that someone was outside the Ark but different Midrashim name different people as to who that was.

However, the Baalei Tosfos (Moshav Zekeinim, end of Chukas) writes that Sihon was the son of Noah and Og was Noah's stepson:
Noah's wife died before the Flood, and Noah married the mother of Og. Og was already born when her first husband was alive, and she married Noah once Og's father died. And she conceived Sihon from Noah before the flood and he was born in the Ark
According to this opinion, it would seem to imply the Noah would have saved him since Og was his stepson, although it does not describe how exactly.

[There is a third opinion that Og survived by going on top of a mountain or living in Israel, but I haven't been able to track down the sources for that yet]

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Parshas Noach 5777

Why Do We Need to Know About Noah's Wife?

The Torah writes (Genesis 4:22):
And Zillah, she also bore Tubal-cain, the forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah
The Midrash (cited by Rashi, see Genesis Rabbah [23:3]) explains:
"And the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah" - Rabbi Abba bar Kahana said: Naamah was the wife of Noah .... and the Rabbis said: this was a different Naamah (not Noah's wife)
There are also multiple other sources that state her name as being something else - see our earlier posts here and here
The Ikar Sifsei Chachamim (ibid 4:22) provides two explanations why we need to know that she was Noah's wife:
"For she was called Naamah because of the beauty of her deeds - if so why did she died in the Flood, therefore it must be that she was Noah's wife and was saved from the Flood"
(it's a bit problematic because she could have easily died before the Flood, especially if according to Rashi Lamech had children less than 120 years after Creation and the Flood happened in 1656) 

"why was this woman mentioned more than other women? Only it must be that we find that Naamah had three brothers: Tubal Cain who was an evildoer, ... Yoval who was righteous ... , and Yuval was righteous... Therefore we find that two of them were righteous and one was an evildoer, and Noah also had three children of which two were righteous ... and one was an evildoer, and therefore it is not a question why that happened if you explain that Naamah was Noah's wife for most sons take after the maternal uncles (Baba Kamma 110). "
The Ramban (ibid) adds:
And therefore the Scripture mentioned her so a seed remained for Cain and a small memory in this world and if you say that she wasn't the wife Noah had three children from, why mention her?
(it is interesting to note that according to these two explanations, it does not say that she survived the Flood - only that she had children with Noah.)

He also explains the other side of the argument:
There is another Midrash of our rabbis that she was a beautiful wman through whom the angels sinned and she is alluded to in the verse "and angels saw the daughters of man"... And others says that she was the wife of Asmadon, the mother of Asmadai and from her demons were spawned ...
The Radak (ibid) explains:
The reason the Torah mentions this is to inform us that Tuval Kayin did not have a brother, as opposed to his half-brother יבל, but that the sibling he did have, i.e. a sister, was called נעמה
Why do we need to know who Noah's wife was? The reasons therefore are either why she is needs to be mentioned at all since women are not normally mentioned, or that she is connected to some other story within the Torah (either Cain, Noah's family, the angels or her brothers).

Additionally, the Torah writes (Genesis 7:7):
And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, before the waters of the flood
We do not have proof that she was not necessarily Noah's wife at the time of the Flood which would also fit with a lot of the other sources that state her name as being different. While we know that Noah had only one wife at the time he entered the Ark, there is no proof from the Torah that this was his only wife ever, and that this particular woman was the mother of his existing children.

This brings us to another interesting set of stories surrounding the lineage of Og and Sihon, and whether their father or step-father was Noah. See our post here and we hope to continue next week.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Parshas Bereishis 5777

The Sons of G-d

The Torah writes (Genesis 6:1-2):
When men began to increase on earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of G-d saw how beautiful the daughters of men were and took wives from among those that pleased them.
And later on (Genesis 6:4):
It was then, and later too, that giants appeared on earth—when the sons of G-d cohabited with the daughters of men, who bore them offspring. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown.
Different opinions explaining this:
SourceSons of G-dDaughters of Men
Midrash Rabbahsons of judgescommoners
Midrash TanchumaangelsNaamah, daughter of Lamech
Ibn Ezradescendants of Sethdescendants of Cain
Rashisons of rulers and judgescommoners
Ibn Ezraastrologistscommoners

The first argument revolves around whether the term "G-d" in "sons of G-d" is divine or not. On one hand, the book of Job (Job 1:6) seems to indicate that it is divine:
One day the sons of G-d presented themselves before the LORD
As clear from the context and explained by Metzutzas Zion (ibid) it is clearly referring to angels. We also find similar terminology in the Rambam (Yesodei haTorah 2:7):
The different names with which the angels are called reflect their [spiritual] levels. Thus, they are called: 1) The holy chayyot, who are above all the others; 2) the ofanim; 7) the elokim; 3) the er'elim; 8) the sons of the elokim; 4) the chashmalim; 9) the keruvim; 5) the serafim; 10) the ishim. 6) the mal'achim; These ten names which are used to refer to the angels reflect their ten [different spiritual] levels.
According to these opinions, the verses here clearly refer to angels which ended up mingling with humans. Similarly, we find the tales of two angels who fell from Heaven and mingled with men - see Rashi (Numbers 13:33 and Niddah 61a) and Targum Jonathan (Genesis 6:4):
Schamchazai and Uzziel, who fell from heaven, were on the earth in those days; and also, after the sons of the Great had gone in with the daughters of men, they bare to them: and these are they who are called men who are of the world, men of names.
According to these opinions, the opposite term "daughters of men" then refers to regular human beings. However, there are also midrashim that this refers to a specific woman as opposed to all humans. This seems to revolve around whether the term "daughters of men" is referring to someone mentioned earlier or not. As cited in Yalkut Shemoini (Torah 161:2) [also in Midrash Tanchuma Chukas]:
For then to him appeared a beautiful woman whose beauty was like Naamah the sister of Tuval Kain, through whom the angels sinned as it says "And the sons of G-d saw the daughters of men"
On the other hand, at least one opinion in Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 26:8) is clearly against calling them angels:
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai used to curse anyone that called them (i.e. "the sons of G-d" here) divine
According to these opinions, disagreement then exists about defining what "sons of G-d" means in a non divine manner. All of the opinions revolve around a definition of a higher and lower sets of people, with the higher ones oppressing the lower. According to Rashi (ibid), this refers to people of power and authority - judges and princes:
Wherever the word אלקים occurs in the Scriptures it signifies authority, and the following passages prove this: (Exodus 4:16) “and thou shalt be his (אלקים) master”, and (Exodus 7:1) “See, I have made the (אלקים) a master.”
According to the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 26:8), this refers to judges:
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai called them (i.e. the sons of G-d) judges ... and any breach that does not come from great people is not called a breach
As explained by Matnas Kehuna (ibid) and Eitz Yosef (ibid), we find that this can refer to judges (Exodus 22:7-8, see Targum and Rashi there):
If the thief is not caught, the owner of the house shall depose before G-d that he has not laid hands on the other’s property. In all charges of misappropriation—pertaining to an ox, an ass, a sheep, a garment, or any other loss, whereof one party alleges, “This is it”—the case of both parties shall come before G-d: he whom G-d declares guilty shall pay double to the other.
Ibn Ezra (ibid) explains slightly differently:
The sons of judges who do on earth the judgement of G-d 
The Ibn Ezra (ibid) cites another opinion referring to these as the sons of Seth and the sons of Cain. In Sefer Imrei Sheifer (ibid) a fuller explanation is provided:
And Ramban says that Adam and Eve are called the "sons of G-d" since they were created by His hands, and they had many children but the ones that were born initially were born identically to them as it says referring to Seth "and he borne him in his image and appearance". Perhaps, the children of Seth are all called "sons of G-d"  for the first three were all in his image and appearance, and once they started serving idols then their appearance and form became weaker.
The Ibn Ezra (ibid) has one additional explanation:
And it seems to be a proper explanation in my eyes, that the term "sons of G-d" refers to people who had the knowledge of the High to choose wives through astrology, each one matching them, and that their offspring would be like them. Therefore, from them came out giants and they also took women by force.
((there is also another possible explanation that the people in power were being worshipped as G-ds, but I don't have a source for that)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Parshas Bamidbar (5776)

When is the "Wilderness of Sinai"?

The Torah writes (Numbers 1:1):
AND THE LORD spoke unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after the were come out of the land of Egypt, saying
Rashi (ibid):
... for on the first day of Nisan the Tabernacle was erected (Exodus 40:2) and shortly afterwards, on the first day of Iyar, He counted them.
Rashbam (ibid):
all the communications, instructions, we heard about in the first year of the Israelites’ wanderings, before the Tabernacle had been erected, were characterised by the words בהר סיני, at Mount Sinai. Once the Tabernacle had been erected on the first day of the first month of the second year, the words בהר סיני as the source of the legislation do not appear again, but are replaced by the words במדבר סיני באהל מועד.

Who are the Princes?

The Torah writes (Numbers 1:4-15):
And these are the names of the men that shall stand with you: of Reuben, Elizur the son of Shedeur. Of Simeon, Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. Of Judah, Nahshon the son of Amminadab. Of Issachar, Nethanel the son of Zuar. Of Zebulun, Eliab the son of Helon. Of the children of Joseph: of Ephraim, Elishama the son of Ammihud; of Manasseh, Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. Of Benjamin, Abidan the son of Gideoni. Of Dan, Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. Of Asher, Pagiel the son of Ochran. Of Gad, Eliasaph the son of Deuel. Of Naphtali, Ahira the son of Enan.’
Elizur was one of the 250 men with Korach (Bamidbar Rabbah 11:26).
There are opinions that all the princes ended up among the 250 men with Korach (Shnei Luchos haBris, Korach, Torah Ohr 29 in the name of Rabbeinu Bachya; see also Sefer Taamei deKrah)
Shelumiel was Zimri (Talmud Sanhedrin 82b) 

Nachshon died during the same (second) year (Seder Olam).
Nachshon was also the father of Elimelech, Salmon, Ploni Almoni and Naomi's father in Megilas Ruth (Talmud Baba Bathra 91a)

Nethanel was the person who advised the princes to bring their offerings (Rashi Number 7:18 in the name of Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan) 

Eliasaph, son of Deuel is called "son of Reuel" in Numbers 2, and Deuel here, and in Numbers 7 and 10 (see Josh Waxman's parshablog)

(see also Sefer Shaarei Aharon for alternative explanations for all of the names of princes, which are nicknames, and not real names)

Related posts:

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