Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Parshas Shemos 5776

Did Joseph Have More Children?

The Torah writes (Exodus 1:5):
And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls; and Joseph was in Egypt already
Earlier, the Torah writes (Genesis 46:27):
And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two souls; all the souls of the house of Jacob, that came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.
Midrash Lekakh Tov (Genesis 48:6) explains:
We do not find that Joseph had other sons except for Menashe and Ephraim
Ralbag (Chronicles I 7:22) disagrees:
You should know that Joseph had more children besides Menashe and Ephraim
(see also Rashbam and Ramban, and Sefer Mayim Rabim)

(I have also heard in the same of Rabbi Simcha Baer that this explains the sudden shift in numbers for the two tribes of Ephraim and Menashe during the travels in the desert. The shift happened because of the other sons of Joseph who shifted from one of their brother's tribes to another.)

What was Pharaoh's daughter's name?

The Torah writes (Exodus 2:10):
And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe in the river; and her maidens walked along by the river-side; and she saw the ark among the flags, and sent her handmaid to fetch it.
Later on she is identified as Bithiah (Chronicles I 4:18):
and his wife Hajehudijah bore Jered the father of Gedor, and Heber the father of Soco, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah—and these are the sons of Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh whom Mered took.
The Talmud explains this verse referring to same person (Sanhedrin 19b):
But did Bithiah give birth to him? Yocheved did, only Yocheved gave birth to him but Bithiah raised him which is why he is called by her name
Similar connection is cited in the Talmud (Megillah 13a):
Why is she called "Hajehudijah"? Because she threw off idol worship as it says "and the daughter of Pharaoh went down to bathe in the river" and Rabbi Yochanan said: to wash herself from the idols of her father's house
The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 1:3) explains that her Hebrew name means "the daughter of G-d":
The Holy One Blessed is He said to Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh: Moses was not your son and you called him your son, so you are not my daughter but I will call you my daughter as it says "these were the sons of Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh" - daughter of G-d
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in the Living Torah (ibid) cites other opinions regarding her Egyptian name

However, Targum Rav Yosef (Chronicles II 8:11) identifies the wife of King Solomon also as Bithiah, daughter of Pharaoh

Similar, so does the Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 12:5):
Rabbi Adin said: All the seven years that Solomon was building the Temple, he did not drink wine. Once he built it and married Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh, that night he drank wine...
(It is perhaps possible that the name "Bithiah" is translation of the meaning of the original Egyptian name, meaning the "daughter of god" with Pharaoh being considered the god in question)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Parshas Vayechi 5776

Who is the Emorite that Jacob Conquered?

The Torah writes (Genesis 48:22):
Moreover I have given to thee one aportion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.’
Rashi (ibid) explains:
From Esau who behaved like an Emorite or who entrapped Issac with the sayings of his mouth
Sefer leMakesei Atik cites an opinion that this was Shechem son of Hamor

Radak (ibid) explains this referring to the future:
as if the Torah had written this in the future tense, i.e. “which I am going to take from the Emorite.” It is quite common for the past tense to be employed instead of the future tense. When reporting prophecies, Scripture very frequently resorts to describing something in the future as if it had already taken place.
Ramban (ibid) explains more specifically:
For the Jews will take the land first from the Emorites for Sihon and Og, the two kings, were Emorites and the first great war when conquering the land was the sons of Joseph with the Emorites

When did Esau Die?

The Torah (Genesis 50:13) writes:
For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field, for a possession of a burying-place, of Ephron the Hittite, in front of Mamre.
The Talmud (Sotah 13a) writes that Esau was killed by Chushim son of Dan, on the day of Jacob's burial

Midrash Shocher Tov (18:132) says that Esau died on the day of Isaac's burial and was killed by Judah:
Judah followed Esau [into the cave by Isaac's funeral] in order to protect his father [Jacob] let Esau tries to kill him. He came in and saw Esau attacking his father and he immediately killed him from the back. Why did he not kill him from the front? Because the facial appearance of Esau was similar to Jacob
Sefer Mayim Rabim cites a third opinion, that Esau died during a war against Jacob and his sons the year Leah passed away

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Parshas Vayigash 5776

Who Told Jacob That Joseph Was Alive?

The Torah writes (Genesis 45:26):
And they told him, saying: ‘Joseph is yet alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.’ And his heart fainted, for he believed them not.
Targum Jonathan (Genesis 46:17) learns this was Serah:
And Serah their sister was mentioned for good because she told Jacob that Joseph was still alive
However, Targum Jonathan later on (Genesis 49:21) says this was Naphtali:
Naphtali is a quick deer ... bringing good news for he brought the news that Joseph was still alive ... and he then ran back and returned to Egypt ...
(It is possible that these two opinions do not argue, for Naphtali brought the news back to Jacob's house, but Serah was the one that actually told Jacob)

Who Was the Father of Serah?

The Torah writes (Genesis 46:17):
And the sons of Asher: Imnah, and Ishvah, and Ishvi, and Beriah, and Serah their sister; and the sons of Beriah: Heber, and Malchiel.
Simple reading of the verse states the Asher was her father

Vayikra Rabbah (14:9) seems to imply also that Serah was Asher's biological daughter

Onkelos (Numbers 26:46, as cited by the Ramban but not in our versions) says:
And the name of the daughter of Asher's wife was Serah
The Daas Zekeinim (Numbers 26:46) explains further:
...Asher apparently had raised her after her mother had died when she was a baby. This is why the Torah describes her as being Asher’s daughter. This would also account for the letter ו at the beginning of this verse, as if to hint that she did not become his daughter already at her birth...
The Ramban (Numbers 26:46) explains:
... for she stood to inherit the land and therefore she is mentioned in the verse here just like the daughters of Tzelofhad ... for she was the daughter of Asher from another man who did not have a son and his inheritance went to the daughter and that is why is says earlier (Genesis 46:17) "and Serah their sister" for she was the sister of his sons but not his daughter...
However, Daas Zekeinim (Numbers 26:46) does not like this explanation:
...The difficulty with this interpretation is that if she had been born to one of the other tribes why did the Torah not mention this? If she was not born to any of the members of the 12 tribes, why is she listed as such in the count of the people Yaakov brought with him to Egypt? Perhaps she was indeed the biological daughter of Asher, and because already before the family descended to Egypt she had acquired a reputation of being especially pious, the Torah decided to mention her name...
(see also Sefer Mayim Rabim for further discussion including an answer from Chasam Sofer to these questions)

Sefer haYashar learns that Serah from a descendent of Shem (which would not agree with Ramban's explanation):
... and it was after the death of Adon [Asher's wife], that Asher went to the other side of the river and took for a wife Hadurah the daughter of Abimael, the son of Eber, the son of Shem. And the young woman was of a comely appearance, and a woman of sense, and she had been the wife of Malkiel the son of Elam, the son of Shem. And Hadurah bare a daughter unto Malkiel, and he called her name Serach, and Malkiel died after this, and Hadurah went and remained in her father's house. And after the death of the wife of Asher he went and took Hadurah for a wife, and brought her to the land of Canaan, and Serach her daughter he also brought with them, and she was three years old, and the damsel was brought up in Jacob's house

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Parshas Mkeitz 5776

What was Potiphar's Job?

The Torah writes (Genesis 41:10):
Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in the ward of the house of the captain of the guard, me and the chief baker.
Midrash Sechel Tov (Genesis 38:21) writes:
"captain of the guards" - this is Potiphar who was appointed to oversee those to be executed and those to be imprisoned
Rashbam writes (Genesis 39:1):
he would execute the people sentenced as murderers and would generally be in charge of imprisoned criminals. 
Shadal (Genesis 40:3) writes in a similar fashion:
"captain of the guards" - this is the prison which was under the authority of Potiphar, and under Potiphar there was a warden over the prison
Radak (Genesis 37:36) writes similarly:
As per Onkelos, he was Pharaoh's chief executioner
Rashi (ibid) explains otherwise:
"chief of the butchers" - those who kill the king's animals
Ibn Ezra (ibid) explains the disagreement:
This language ["butchers"] can be applied to killing and to cooking
Bereishit Rabbah (86:3) explains that he was also in charge of preparing animals for idol sacrifices:
Potiphar is the same person as Potiphera - Potiphar because he prepared calves for idols, Potiphera - because he made himself free for idol worship
The Torah  (Genesis 41:45) also calls him a priest. However, Targum Onkelos [ibid] identifies Potiphera as an governor of On, not a priest.

The Ramban (Genesis 41:45) explains that he had all of these jobs:
And I say that according to the words of our Sages Potiphar was an officer of Pharaoh. When he became an eunuch and they realized that, they started to call him Potiphera and he was embarrassed and resigned his post. He went and put himself into a house of idol worship, and became a priest to idols for this was the custom among the nobility. And perhaps, "On", is the name of his idol...
(see also Sefer Mayim Rabim for discussion of Potiphar becoming an eunuch)

Who was Asenath, the wife of Joseph?

The Torah writes (Genesis 41:45):
And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-phera priest of On. And Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.
Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer (chapter 38) and Targum Jonathan (ibid) write that Asenath was the daughter of Dinah, from Shechem, exiled by Jacob to Egypt

(see also Bereishis Rabbah [80:11], that Dinah had another child, Zimri, who was a son of Simeon; see our earlier post; see also the Jewish Encyclopedia citing a Midrash, which identifies Zimri as the son of Shechem and Dinah)

Yalkut Shemoni (Nach 9) writes that she was a convert, implying that she was not Dinah's daughter (unless patrilineal descent applied before the Giving of the Torah):
There are some righteous women who converted: Hagar, Asenath, Tzeporah, Shifra, Puah, daughter of Pharoh, Rahab, Ruth, and Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenanite.
Midrash Rabbah (Bamidbar Rabbah 8) also writes that she was a convert:
When the Gibeonites came to ask for help, Joshua said: "And for converts we should trouble the public? G-d told him: Joshua! If you push away the ones that are further away, in the end you will push away the ones close to you as well. From where did you come from, wasn't it from converts? For it is written (Genesis 46): "And they were born to Joseph in the land of Egypt", and it states earlier that Joshua was from Ephraim.
(see Sefer Mayim Rabbim for a further discussion)

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Parshas Vayeshev 5776

Who Was the Man that Joseph Met in the Field?

The Torah writes (Genesis 37:15-17):
And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field. And the man asked him, saying: ‘What seekest thou?’ And he said: ‘I seek my brethren. Tell me, I pray thee, where they are feeding the flock.’ And the man said: ‘They are departed hence; for I heard them say: Let us go to Dothan.’ And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.
Rashi (ibid) based on Midrash Tanchuma says this was angel Gabriel:
This was the angel Gabriel as it says: "And the man, Gabriel" (Daniel 9:21)
Tosfos haShalem (ibid) says this was the angel Raphael:
"And a certain man found him" - I have heard that "Raphael" is the numerical value of "man"
Midrash Rabbah (Bereishis Rabbah 84:14) says there were three angels:
Rabbi Yanai says: three angels were summoned for him as it says "and a man found him", "and a man asked him", "and the man said".
(Similar explanation can be found in Rashi earlier [16:9], regarding multiple angels talking to Hagar)

Ibn Ezra (ibid) learns this was a regular person:
Simplest explanation that this was one of the travellers on the road

Who Was Tamar?

The Torah writes (Genesis 38:6):
And Judah took a wife for Er his first-born, and her name was Tamar
Ha-emek Davar (ibid) explains:
She so important that her name was mentioned [by the Torah]
Rashi (Genesis 38:24) explains that she was the daughter of Shem (based on Genesis Rabbah 85:10):
She was the daugther of Shem, who was a priest, therefore they judged her to be burned
(see also the Ramban [ibid] who asks that a daughter of a priest that violates Yibum does not get judged for death, and that Judah was similar to a king and his family was judged differently because of potential embarrassment)

Sefer haYashar learns that she was the grand-daughter of Shem:
And Yehuda went to the house of Shem, and took Tamar, the daughter of Elam son of Shem, for Er, his firstborn, as a wife
Midrash Bereishis Rabbasi (here and here) learns she was originally from Aram Naharaim:
She was the daugther of Shem. And our Rabbis says that she was from daughters of Aram Naharyim, and Yehuda took her, her father, mother and three brothers with her and would not let them come back to Aram Naharyim. Instead, he gave them a city for them to live in.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Parshas Vayishlach 5776

Was Shechem a City?

The Torah writes (Genesis 33:18-19):
And Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram; and encamped before the city. And he bought the parcel of ground, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred pieces of money.
The Torah writes earlier (Genesis 12:6):
And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Shechem, unto the terebinth of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land
 The Ramban (ibid) writes:
This was the city of Shechem  and that was the name of that place. And Shechem the son of Hamor was named after the city.
Ibn Ezra (ibid) writes that at the time of Abraham, the city did not exist yet:
Moses called it by that name, for Shechem did not yet exist in the days of Abraham
The Rashbam (Genesis 33:18) says its name was not Shechem:
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 (who subsequently raped Dinah) 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. Even assuming that the city under discussion was Shechem, the town may have been renamed in commemoration of the heroism displayed by the sons of Yaakov.
According to this opinion, this would be the city of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18):
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was priest of God the Most High.
(see also our earlier post discussing that Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim surround Shechem; see also Josh Waxman's parshablog)

The Tree of Shechem

The Torah writes (Genesis 35:4):
And they gave unto Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hand, and the rings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth which was by Shechem.
Tosfos (Chullin 6a) says that this terebinth tree was on Mt. Gerizim:
"Rav Nachman bar Yitzhak said: They [i.e. the Samaritans] found an image of a dove on top of Mt. Gerizim and they worshipped it" - in the Midrash it says that these were the idols that Jacob hid under the oak on the mountain in Shechem
The Rashbam (Genesis 49:10) explains that this was a famous tree:
There was open space at Shechem around the famous oak located near Shechem. At that location a mass rally could be held easily. The people would pay homage to the Sanctuary in Shiloh from that vantage point, as it was in their line of vision.
Ibn Ezra (Genesis 12:6) writes similarly:
Alon - like an terebinth, and these are trees and some people say it means "field"
The Radak (Genesis 12:6) disagrees:
אלון is the name of a plain
(see also our previous post,see also Shadal ibid)

Benjamin, the Werewolf

The Torah writes (Genesis 35:17-18):
And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the mid-wife said unto her: ‘Fear not; for this also is a son for thee.’ And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing—for she died—that she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.
Rabbeinu Ephraim (Genesis 49:27) writes:
There is a certain wolf called a Loup Garou and this is a human being that can change into a wolf ... and thus Benjamin ate his mother for she died from him
and earlier (Genesis 44:29) (also cited in Tosfos haShalem al haTorah [44:22]:
For Benjamin was a wolf that preyed, and sometimes he attacked people. When it was time for him to change into a wolf, as long as he lived with his father, his father provided medicine for him and he did not change [into a wolf]. Therefore it says that "lest he will leave his father and will die" meaning that if he separates from his father he will turn into a wolf, and prey on people, and then anyone who finds him will kill him
There is also a Rashi (Job 5:23) that mentions werewolves (as cited by Dr. Marc Shapiro):
"And the beasts of the field" - this is garove in French
Sefer Lazei Rashi (4208) explains:
Garove - taken from German "werewolf" - from the stories of people who turn into wolves
(See further discussion by R' Natan Slifkin)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Parshas Vayeitzei 5776

Where did Jacob Sleep? 

The Torah writes (Genesis 28:11):

And he lighted upon the place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep.
Rashi (ibid) explains that was Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem [based on the Talmud Hulin 91b]:
The name of the place is not mentioned but it must refer to a location known elsewhere and this is Mt. Moriah as it is written earlier (Genesis 22:4): And he saw the place from far.
The Radak (ibid) learns this was a place near Beer Sheva:
יפגע במקום, while on his way Yaakov encountered one evening a site less than a day’s walk from Beer Sheva. Since it was already evening, the sun having set, he decided to spend the night there as he was too tired to walk any further. The reason why the letter ב in במקום is spelled with the vowel kametz, suggesting that the place was known, is that the location was known as a site where travelers from Beer Sheva would often spend the night.

As explained by the Ramban (Genesis 28:17), there is also a disagreement about this in Genesis Rabbah (69:7):
Rabbi Elazar in the name of Rabbi Yosi ben Zimra said: the ladder was standing in Beer Sheva and reached until the Temple. What was his reason? And Jacob left from Beer Sheva and dreamt and the ladder was there and he was afraid and said "how awesome is this place". Rabbi Yehuda bar Simon said: the ladder was standing in the Temple and reached until Beis El. What was his reason? He [Jacob] was afraid and said "how awesome is this place" and called the place Beis El.

Why is Laban called the "son of Nahor"?

The Torah writes (Genesis 29:5):
And he said unto them: ‘Know ye Laban the son of Nahor?’ And they said: ‘We know him.’
However, when Isaac sent Jacob away the Torah writes (Genesis 28:2):
Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.
The Radak (ibid) answers:
He mentioned Lavan’s grandfather rather than his father seeing Nachor had been a well known personality whereas Betuel had not. This is also why we find in Genesis 31,53 the expression אלוקי אברהם ואלוקי נחור, seeing that Nachor had been well known.
The Ramban (ibid) explains differently:
It is possible that this was also because of the greatness of Abraham and the entire family identified themselves as descendents of Nahor, the brother of Abraham

Midrash Rabbah (Genesis Rabbah 57:4) says he was an actual son of Nahor:
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: He is Laban and he is also Kemuel. Why was he called Kemuel? For he stood against the nation of G-d.
(see our earlier post connecting Laban with Balaam)

Another possibility is that a grandson maybe called a son, as explained by Radak (Genesis 9:24):
the words בנו הקטן refer to Canaan, seeing that he was the youngest of Cham’s sons. There is nothing unusual in a grandson being referred to as a “son.”
Similar, the Ramban (Numbers 26:13) writes:
And it is the custom of the Torah to make grandsons like sons as it says "Laban son of Nahor"

The Kli Yakar (ibid) gives a different explanation:
It seems that he was not asking whether they knew him or not, for surely the people of his city knew him. Instead, he was asking about his deeds and his lineage. About his deeds, he asked if he takes after Nahor who was a good and straight man, or after his father Bethuel the swindler ... and about his lineage, he asked whether he was born from Nahor, the brother of Abraham or maybe his mother gave birth from a different man ...

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Parshas Toldos 5776

Were Esau and Jacob Identical Twins?

The Torah writes (Genesis 25:24):
And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb
The Torah describes Esau as having two physical traits that Jacob did not have: he was reddish and he was hairy (Genesis 25:25). By contrast, Jacob is explicitly described as not being hairy (Genesis 27:11).

Targum Jonathan (ibid) implies them not being identical:
And they called his name Esau for he was born complete with hair, beard, teeth and grinders

Rashi writes (ibid) that they were not created separately, implying they were not identical

HaEmek Davar (ibid) writes that they were already separated in the womb, implying they were not identical:
"Behold, there were twins" - and not twins [with a vov]. And this was new for she thought that the separation between them will happen when they come out from her womb but in the womb they were twins. But, that was not so for even in her womb they were twins without an aleph to teach us they were already separated

Ibn Ezra (ibid) learns that they were born in two separate sacs implying them being not identical:
And it was a great wonder this birth, for every person is born with a sac covering him, and here there were two sacs that opened at one time

However, Midrash Shocher Tov (18:132) says that Esau looked like Jacob implying they may have been identical:
Yehudah followed Esau [into the cave by Isaac's funeral] in order to protect his father [Jacob] let Esau tries to kill him. He came in and saw Esau attacking his father and he immediately killed him from the back. Why did he not kill him from the front? Because the facial appearance of Esau was similar to Jacob
Midrash Tanchuma (5:6) writes that during the first 15 years of their lives, people could no tell them apart (implying identical, however, that may refer to behaviour only):
The entire time Esau and Jacob were children, no person was able to tell them apart. When they grew up, Esau became a man who knew trapping and Jacob lived in tents

Rabbi Samson Rephoel Hirsch (ibid) learns they there were identical twins, just slightly different in appearance

(see also this article from YU Torah for scientific background)

Who Called Esau Edom?

The Torah writes (Genesis 25:30):
And Esau said to Jacob: ‘Let me swallow, I pray thee, some of this red, red pottage; for I am faint.’ Therefore was his name called Edom.
The Ohr HaChaim (ibid) says Esau called himself Edom:
He - Esau - called his name Edom and the reason was not because a reddish person was called "red" twice only because he was going to die
Malbim (ibid) gives a different reason:
He himself called himself Edom to show off how red he was and that he loved to shed blood
Daas Zekeinim (ibid) writes that other people called him that before but now he started to use that name also:
We are told this, as from now on Esau called himself “the red one,” whereas at birth only other people called him thus on account of the colour of his skin.
Midrash Sechel Tov (ibid) says it was Jacob:
Because of the doubling of the language that he called the stew twice, therefore Jacob called his name Edom
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in Sefer Taamei DeKra (ibid) writes that it was the Torah itself for we find Jacob referring to him as Esau

(see also earlier where he discusses that Esau never got named by his father)

The Magic of Abimelech

The Torah writes (Genesis 26:8):
And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was with Rebekah his wife.
The Zohar (Toldos 98) explains:
Abimelech was a smart man, and he looked through his astrology which is called "a window" (just like later on in Judges 5:28 regarding Sisera's mother)
(see also Sefer Shaarei Aharon for other explanations of this verse;  see also our earlier post regarding Balak who had a magic bird that spied for him)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Parshas Chaye Sarah 5776

Why is Hebron called Kiriath Arba?

The Torah writes (Genesis 23:2):
And Sarah died in Kiriath Arba—the same is Hebron—in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
Rashi (ibid) provides two explanations deriving from the word "Arba" meaning "four":
Because of the four giants who lived there: Ahiman, Sheshai, Talmai and their father. Another explanation: because of the four couples who were buried there, each with his wife - Adam and Chava, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebeccah, Jacob and Leah.
The Rashbam (Genesis 23:2) cites a third explanation - that it was called after a famous person named Arba who was the grandfather of the giants:
The 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 Krias Sichon - the city of Sichon
The source of the Rashbam is from the Book of Joshua (15:13-14) (see also Rashi there citing the same explanation):
And unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh he gave a portion among the children of Judah, according to the commandment of the LORD to Joshua, even Kiriath-arba, which Arba was the father of Anak—the same is Hebron. And Caleb drove out thence the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of Anak.
[see also our earlier post about giants]

Targum Jonathan (Deuteronomy 1:28) identifies them 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.

Yalkut Shemoni (ibid) cites more explanations, also based on the word "Arba" - four:
Why was it called Kiriath Arba? Because of the four righteous men who lived there - Aner, Eshcol, Mamre and Abraham. And of the four righteous men who got circumcised there, and because of the four matriarchs who were buried there - Chava, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. And four men - Anak and his three sons. And from there Abraham our father chased after the four kings. Also, the city changed owners four times: first to tribe of Judah, then to Caleb, then to Priests and then to Levites.
Midrash haGadol (ibid) cites more explanations:
... because of the four patriarchs that were buried there - Adam, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ... because it one of four places in Israel - Dana, Krias Sana, Tamnas Serach and Hebron ... because Abraham left it like the light of the sun that was created on the fourth day ... because of the four cries that she cried at her passing...

Who was Keturah, the Wife of Abraham?

The Torah writes (Genesis 25:1):
And Abraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah
Rashi (ibid) says this as Hagar:
Keturah - this is Hagar, and she is called Keturah because her deeds were as sweet as incense ...
The Rashbam (ibid) disagrees (see also Ibn Ezra):
קטורה, according to the plain meaning of the text this woman was not identical with Hagar.
Yalkut Shemoni (Job 8, 904) says she was from Japheth:
And three wives married Abraham - Sarah, a descendent of Shem, Keturah, a descendent of Japheth and Hagar, a descendent of Ham
Sefer HaYashar (ibid) says she was a Canaanite

The Talmud (Zevachim 62b) says her name was Yochani 

[see also Sefer Mayim Rabim, pp. 147 for in-depth discussion]

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Parshas Vayera 5776

Who Were the Three Visitors to Abraham?

The Torah writes (Genesis 18:1-2):
And the LORD appeared unto him by the terebinths of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood over against him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed down to the earth,
Rashi (ibid) learns they were angels:
One to inform Sarah, and one to turn over Sodom, and one to heal Abraham for one angel cannot do two missions
Kitzur Baal HaTurim (ibid) states their names:
"and behold three" - in gematria of "these were Michael, Gabriel and Rephoel"
Yalkut Reuveni (ibid) cites another opinion as to their names:
Rephoel, Uriel and Gabriel
However, the Ralbag (ibid) learns that they were not angels but human beings:
He already raised his eyes before and saw three men and they were prophets  ... and they are called angels in regards to Lot for a prophet is called an angel like we explained regarding the story of Hagar the Egyptian. But in regards to Abraham they were called men for they were not sent to Abraham for he himself was a prophet
Ibn Ezra (Genesis 18:10) explains further:
And other commentators explain that these were three real men - who were prophets. If so, wasn't Abraham a prophet himself and why does a prophet come to another prophet unless he is greater like Moses and Aaron? And the answer is that they did not come to Abraham but for Sarah.
[see also Abarbanel's discussion of both opinions]

[see also a possible third opinion cited by the Ibn Ezra (ibid) and Sefer Mehokei Yehuda (ibid) explaining it]

When Did Milcah Have Children?

The Torah writes (Genesis 22:20):
And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying: ‘Behold, Milcah, she also hath borne children unto thy brother Nahor
The Ramban (ibid) explains that she had children only after Sarah did:
And from the language of the Torah it seems that Abraham did not about them until today, and if she had children in her younger years it would be impossible that he did not hear about them until today, for the distance between Aram Naharim and Eretz Canaan is not great. Also, Abraham was 75 when he left and also Nahor, his brother, was old and his wife was not young. But, G-d made a miracle for them by giving her children in her old age, and that is the reason for "Milcah also", and our Sages learn that she was remembered like her sister [Sarah]
[see also Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (ibid) and Radak (Genesis 11:26) learns similarly]

Sforno (ibid) is not bothered by this question, and learns that she had children before:
We know already that Milkah bore children; now the point is to tell us that Betuel fathered Rivkah
HaEmek Davar (ibid) that she had children before but Abraham wasn't allowed to inquire about them:
When G-d told him "go from your land, your birthplace and the house of your father", included in that was a requirement to remove his mind from his father's house, and it was forbidden for him to mention them. But now that he elevated himself to a higher level and made it possible to attach himself to G-d, and there was no longer a possibility that he would return to his family, it was permitted for him to find out about them, and therefore [the news] were told to him
The Radak (ibid) learns that she had children before and now she had more:
It would appear that Milkah had stopped bearing children for a while already, but she had not been barren as had Sarah. Therefore Avraham was given the news that more children had been born for Nachor by his wife Milkah.

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.
[Published at / Comments welcome to]

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Parshas Lech Lecho 5776

Moreh and Mamre

The Torah writes (Genesis 12:6):
And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Shechem, unto the terebinth of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land
The Radak (ibid) explains that this belonged to Moreh:
מורה, according to Onkelos this is the name of an individual, just as כנעני. אלון is the name of a plain, this plain bearing the name of a man known as מורה.
The Ibn Ezra (ibid) writes that this could have been Mamre:
Some says that this is Mamre, a member of the covenant of Abraham. However, it would be more logical that this was a name of place
The problem bothering Ibn Ezra is clear from what the Torah writes (Genesis 13:18), placing Mamre in Hebron (see also Ramban and Shadal on Genesis 12:16):
And Abram moved his tent, and came and dwelt by the terebinths of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.
The Ramban (Genesis 12:6) disagrees:
And you should know that all places where it says "Elonei Mamre", the name "Mamre" refers to an Emorite who owned this place ... all "Alon Moreh" and "Elonei Moreh" are a place called after the name of a man named Moreh
(see also Shadal ibid)

Nimrod and Amraphel

The Torah writes (Genesis 14:1):
And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim,
Rashi (ibid) explains:
Amraphel - that is Nimrod who told Abraham to fall into a fiery oven ("אמר פל")
(see also Targum Pseudo-Jonathan ibid)

Rashi's source is the Talmud (Erubin 53a):
Rav and Shmuel disagree. One is of opinion that Nimrod was his real name, and he was called Amraphel because he told Abraham our father to fall into a fiery oven. The other is of the opinion that Amraphel was his real name, and he was called Nimrod because he caused the entire world to rebel [against G-d] through his kingdom
The Mizrachi (ibid) cites another proof connecting Amraphel and Nimrod:

For it says "the beginning of his kingdom was Babel in the land of Shinar" and here it says "and it was in the days of Amraphel, king of Shinar"
The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 41:4) writes that he had three names:
He had three names: Cush, Numrod and Amraphel
He was killed by Abraham (Genesis 14:17):
And the king of Sodom went out to meet him, after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him, at the vale of Shaveh—the same is the King’s Vale.
Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer (24) disagrees and writes that Esau killed him:
Rabbi said: Esau the brother of Jacob saw the garments that G-d made for Adam and Eve while Nimrod was wearing them, and he wanted them in his heart. He killed Nimrod and took them from him.
(see our earlier post citing opinions that Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, was actually the son of Nimrod; or that he was the servant of Nimrod and also Og)

(see also Sefer Mayim Rabim, pp. 94 for a more extensive discussion on Nimrod)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Parshas Noach 5776

Who Was Noah's Wife?

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
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
Rashi (ibid) writes:
Naamah - she was the wife of Noah
Rashi's source is Genesis Rabbah (23:3):
"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) ...
(see also Ramban ibid)

Sefer HaYashar (ibid) cites a different opinion:
 ... And Noah went and choose a wife, and he choose Naamah the daughter of Enoch and she was 580 years old...
Sefer Lemekasei Atik (ibid) cites other opinions:
And some say from children of Barakiel, and some say Amora daughter of Barakiel
Seder HaDoros cites more opinions:
... and his wife's name was Tutzia, and some say Artzia from the language of Eretz for she was the mother of all living ... and she went up to heaven...
(see also Sefer Mayim Rabim, pp. 36)

The Children of Noah

The Torah writes (Genesis 6:10):
And Noah begot three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth
Seder HaDoros writes that Noah had more children:
Some say that Noah had a fourth son born after the Flood and his name was Yenuka and he was a great sage
Baalei Tosfos (Moshav Zekeinim, end of Chukas) writes that Sihon was also the son of Noah:
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
(see also the second answer given by Baalei Tosfos that Sihon was the son of Noah's wife, but not Noah's son)

This would also make Noah the step-father of Og (also see our earlier post)

(see also Sefer Mayim Rabim, pp. 56

Tower of Babel as Spaceship

Josh Waxman has an extensive discussion of sources regarding whether Tower of Babel was a spaceship or spaceship-like entity

[Published at / Comments welcome to]

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Parshas Bereishis 5776

The Many Wives of Adam

The Torah writes (Genesis 3:20):
And the man called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living
Tosfos haShalem (ibid) says that her name was changed:
The Kabbalists says that before they sinner her name was Choya and after they sinned it was Chava
Midrash Rabbah (Genesis Rabbah 18:4) cites an opinion that Adam had another wife before:
"And Adam said: this time" - Rabbi Yehudah bar Rebbi said: in the beginning he created her and showed her [to Adam] full of blood and he was repulsed by her. He turned back and created her for a second time.
Similar Midrash Rabbah (Genesis Rabbah 22:7):
"And Cain spoke to Abel" Over what were they arguing? ... Yehuda bar Ami said: they were arguing over the First Eve [i.e. Adam's first wife]. Rabbi Ivu said: First Eve was turned back to dust.
(see also Yalkut Reuveini on Genesis 2:21)

Tosfos haShalem (Genesis 2:23) cites her name (see also Ibn Ezra ibid):
"This time" - this teaches us that another one was created with him and her name was Lilith
Rashi (Isaiah 34:14) says about this name:
Lilith - this is a name of a demon
(see also Metzudat Zion [ibid] naming her as the mother of demons)

When Did Cain Die?

The Torah writes (Genesis 4:23-24):
And Lamech said unto his wives: Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech; For I have slain a man for wounding me, And a young man for bruising me; If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.
Rashi explains (ibid, based on Midrash Tanchuma):
For they separated from him because he killed Cain and his son Tubal-Cain, for Lamech was blind and Tuval-Cain used to lead him. He saw Cain and thought he was an animal, and told his father to shoot him with his bow and he killed him. When it became known that it was Cain, his ancestor, he struck his palms together and killed his son between them, and his wives separated from him and he was trying to pacify them.
Midrash Rabbah (Genesis 32:8 and Exodus 31) writes that he lived until the Flood:
And he had many years for he was like Adam [his father], and greater were the days of his live for his live lasted past his father's for 1,626 years ... and he had no burial for the Flood came and washed him away
Matnas Kehunah (Genesis ibid) cites a variant reading that Cain held on to the door of the Ark until the Flood washed him away

Methuselah's Name

The Torah writes (Genesis 5:21):
And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begot Methuselah
Torah Sheleimah (ibid) cites a Midrash explaining his name:
Why was he called Methuselah? For the Name of G-d was carved on his sword and he killed many demons without count
As explained in the comments - "מתו שלח" - "his sword kills"

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Parshas Zos HaBracha 5776

Who is the King in Jeshurun?

The Torah writes (Deutoronomy 33:5):
And there was a king in Jeshurun, When the heads of the people were gathered, All the tribes of Israel together.
Rashi (ibid) learns this is G-d (based on Talmud Rosh Hashanah 32b):
And He was: i.e., the Holy One, blessed is He
The Zohar (as cited in Sefer Shaarei Aharon), says this refers to the Messiah

Midrash Rabbah (Shemos Rabbah, end of chapter 2) learns this is Moses:
Nevertheless, Moses was privileged to both [Priesthood and Kingship] ... Kingship for it is written: "And there was a king in Jeshurun"
(see also Ibn Ezra on Genesis 36:31, and Rambam on Mishnah Shevuot 2:2)

Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (ibid) learns that this refers to future Jewish kings

Where was Moses Buried?

The Torah writes (Deutoronomy 34:6):
And he was buried in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth-peor; and no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.
According to the Mishnah (Avoth 5:6), his burial place was created before hand:
Ten things were created on the eve of the [first] Sabbath at twilight ... And some say: Also the destructive spirits, And the burial place of Moses, our teacher, And the ram of Abraham, our father.
(see also Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer 19:1 and Talmud Pesachim 64a)

Josh Waxman's parsha blog cites the Chizkuni (ibid):
Three identifiers were provided about the place of Moses's burial:
   1. It says - "in a valley".
   2. This valley is in "the land of Moab".
   3. And this place is opposite "Beth-peor".
And with all of these, no one knows his place which teaches us that he was not buried by humans
Josh Waxman also cites Rabbi Elazar miGirmiza (ibid):
There are 5 couples buried in the Cave [of Machpelah] - 3 are known and 2 are hidden. The known ones are Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. The hidden ones are Adam and Chava, and Moses and Tziporah.
[Published at]

Monday, September 21, 2015

Parshas Haazinu 5776

Many Generations

The Torah writes (Deuteronomy 32:7):
Remember the days of old, Consider the years of many generations; Ask thy father, and he will declare unto thee, Thine elders, and they will tell thee.
According to Rashi (ibid) these refer to:
  • generations - the generation of Enosh, whom [God] inundated with the waters of the ocean, and the generation of the Flood
  • father - these are the prophets
  • elders - these are the Sages
According to the Vilna Gaon (Aderes Eliyahu ibid):
  • the days of old - this is Moses
  • many generations - this is Joshua and the Elders whose years were extended in the second generation
  • father - these are the Prophets
  • elders - these are the Elders that were before the Prophets
 Ohr haChaim (ibid) explains:
  • the days of old - the six days of Creation
  • many generations - the two generations - the one that went out of Egypt and the one that entered the Land
  • father - these are the Prophets
  • elders - there are the Sages of Israel
 (see also Ramban ibid)

Nations and Tribes

The Torah writes (Deuteronomy 32:8):
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the children of men, He set the borders of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel.
Rashi (ibid) explains:
  • gave nations their lot - this is the generation of the Flood
  • separated the sons of man - this is the generation of the Dispersion
  • the number of the children of Israel - seventy nations according to the seventy descedents of Jacob who descended to Egypt

The Rashbam (ibid) explains:
  • gave nations their lot - when He assigned them to their lands
  • separated the sons of man - after the death of Noach and the time of Avraham
  • the number of the children of Israel - twelve descendants of Canaan corresponding to the eventual 12 tribes of Israel - Canaan and his 11 sons amounted to twelve
(see also Daas Zkenim ibid)

Ohr haChayim (ibid) explains:
  • gave nations their lot - when He assigned the nations to angels
  • separated the sons of man - He did not give them to one angel, but separated them, each to a separate angel
  • the number of the children of Israel - seventy angels according to the seventy souls that descended to Egypt
[Published at]

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Parshas Vayelech 5776

What is the Tent of Meeting?

The Torah writes (Deutoronomy 31:14):
And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Behold, thy days approach that thou must die; call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tent of meeting, that I may give him a charge.’ And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tent of meeting.
The tent is first described earlier (Exodus 33:7):
Now Moses used to take the tent and to pitch it without the camp, afar off from the camp; and he called it The tent of meeting. And it came to pass, that every one that sought the LORD went out unto the tent of meeting, which was without the camp.
Rashi (ibid) explains the meaning of the term: 
And he would call it the tent of meeting. That is the meeting house of those seeking the Torah.
Later on, when the Tabernacle was built, the same term was used to refer to inner part of the Tabernacle covered with skins (Exodus 40:2):
’On the first day of the first month shalt thou rear up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.
Rashi explains (Exodus 33:11):
After He spoke with him, Moses would return to the camp and teach the elders what he had learned. Moses conducted himself in this way from Yom Kippur until the Mishkan was erected, but no more [than that] ... He [God] gave over to him the second tablets, and he [Moses] descended, and He [God] began commanding him concerning the work of the Mishkan. They constructed it until the first of Nissan, and once it was erected, He no longer spoke with him except from the Tent of Meeting. -[from Midrash Tanchuma 31, Seder Olam ch. 6]
Ha-emek Davar (Exodus 40:34) explains that this term refers normally to the Holy of Holies, but may occasionally refer to the entire part of the Tabernacle covered by the skins

The Torah also explains (Numbers 7:89) how G-d spoke to Moses in the Tabernacle:
And when Moses went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking unto him from above the ark-cover that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and He spoke unto him.

Who was Joshua?

The Torah writes (Deuteronomy 31:23):
And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said: ‘Be strong and of good courage; for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I swore unto them; and I will be with thee.’
He was a servant of Moses (Exodus 33:11):
And the LORD spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he would return into the camp; but his minister Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the Tent.
and (Numbers 11:28):
And Joshua the son of Nun, the minister of Moses from his youth up, answered and said: ‘My lord Moses, shut them in.’
He was one of the spies (Numbers 13:16), and Moses changed his name:
These are the names of the men that Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun Joshua.
He also fought with Amalek (Numbers 17:13):
And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
He was picked by Moses to conquer the Land (Numbers 34:17):
’These are the names of the men that shall take possession of the land for you: Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun.
He was considered a king (Bereishit Rabbah 59:6)

He married Rachab (Talmud Megilah 14b) and only had daughters, but not sons:

That [Rahab] became a convert and she married Joshua. But did Joshua have any offspring And isn't it written (I Chronicles 7:27) "Nun his son, Joshua his son" He did not have sons, but he did have daughters.
[Published at]

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Leaders and Hewers (Parshas Nitzavim 5775)

Who Are the Heads of the Tribes?

The Torah writes (Deuteronomy 29:9)
Ye are standing this day all of you before the LORD your God: your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, even all the men of Israel
Rashi (ibid) and Ibn Ezra learns they are the heads of the tribes:
"your heads, your tribes" - these are the heads of the tribes
The Ramban (ibid) writes:
But according to my understanding, the Torah generalizes and then gets more specific. The general is "the heads and all the tribes", and then it goes back and explains in detail - "your elders and your officers" - they are your heads for an elder and a leader is considered a head ... And they are the heads for the Jews but not all of them, and the Torah goes back and says "even all the men of Israel" - for those are the tribes...
The Sforno (ibid) explains that these are the princes:
ראשיכם שבטיכם זקניכם ושוטריכם, the people Moses describes as ראשיכם, are those who are heads of their tribes, elsewhere referred to as נשיאים, "princes". The term ראש always includes the people who wield authority. זקניכם, your judges. ושוטריכם, the law enforcers empowered by the judges to enforce their judgements.
Targum Jonathan (ibid) explains that these are heads of the Sanhedrin and their enforcers

Sefer Shaarei Aharon also cites the Vilna Gaon that explains that this refers to the leaders of thousands and hundreds.

(see also Josh Waxman's parshablog and Sefer Shaarei Aharon)

Who are the Hewers and Drawers?

The Torah continues (Deuteronomy 29:10):
your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in the midst of thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water;
Daas Zkenim says this refers to slaves (ibid):
 “from the hewers of your wood for kindling,” i.e. male slaves; “to the ones drawing your water, i.e. the female slaves.”
Rashi says these were Canaanites that came to convert (ibid):

This teaches us that in the days of Moses, Canaanites came to convert, just as the Gibeonites came in the days of Joshua. This is the meaning of the verse regarding the Gibeonites, “And they also acted cunningly…” (Josh. 9:4)
(see Midrash Tanchuma and the Talmud [Yebomot 79a), who says that these were the same Gibeonites who tried to deceive Joshua, see also Josh Waxman's post in the parshablog)
The Ramban (ibid) writes that these were Erev Rav:
And the hewers of wood and the drawers of the water were from the mixed multitudes (Erev Rav)

(see also Sefer Shaarei Aharon for explanation what is bothering the various opinions listed here)

Which Idols Does the Torah Refer To?

The Torah writes (Deutronomy 29:16):
and ye have seen their detestable things, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were with them
Rashi (ibid) writes:
You saw those made of wood and stone out in the open, because the owners did not fear that they would be stolen. However, those of “silver and gold,” they “were with them,” in their treasure chambers, because [their owners] were afraid that these might be stolen.
The Vilna Gaon (Sefer Aderes Eliyahu ibid) explains:
"detestable things" - that is the detestable thing of Amon; "and their idols" - that is the idol of Moab which is Baal Peor; "wood and stone" - those are the idols of Esau and Ishmael; "silver and gold" - those are the idols of Sihon and Og
[Published at]

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Parshas Ki Savo 5775

Who is the Aramean Referred to in the Torah?

The Torah writes (Deuteronomy 26:5):
And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number; and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous.
The Passover Hagaddah (see here) learns that this was Laban (see also Rashi here):
Go out and learn what what Lavan the Aramean sought to do to Ya'akov, our father; since Pharaoh only decreed [the death sentence] on the males but Lavan sought to uproot the whole [people]. As it is stated (Deuteronomy 26:5), "An Aramean was destroying my father and he went down to Egypt, and he resided there with a small number and he became there a nation, great, powerful and numerous."
The Rashbam (ibid) learns that this refers to Abraham:
ארמי אובד אבי, as if the Torah had written” my father Avraham was an Aramite, lost, and exiled from his birthplace Aram.” G’d had told him in Genesis 12,1 “go forth for yourself from your homeland, etc.” Later on, Avraham himself relates to Avimelech the king of the Philistines, (Genesis 20,13) that G’d had made him wander, away from his father’s house, etc. The meaning of the word אובד here is similar to תועה, the root Avraham used to describe wandering without specific objective, almost like walking because one is lost.
The Sforno (ibid) learns that this refers to Jacob:
ארמי אובד אבי, my father, i.e. Yaakov, who was for a while a wandering lost person without a home of his own, was not at the time able to establish a nation deserving or fit to inherit this land.
[see also Josh Waxman's parshablog which discusses grammatical reasons for why this cannot be Laban. Also see Sefer Shaarei Aharon here for further discussion]

Who is the king in the Tochacha?

The Torah writes (Deuteronomy  28:36):
The LORD will bring thee, and thy king whom thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation that thou hast not known, thou nor thy fathers; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone.
The Ramban (Leviticus 26:16) learns that this refers to King Agrippa II:
And furthermore a proof from what it says "And G-d will bring you, and the king whom you shall set over you to a nation which you have not known; you and your forefathers" - for King Agrippa travelled to Rome in the end of the period of the Second Temple, and from that journey the Temple was destroyed. It does not say "the king which rules over you" but "your king which you placed" - G-d hints to us that he was not fit for kingship and it was forbidden for him to rule over the Jews according to Torah law. Nevertheless, he was set to rule - he and his ancestors, against the law, as it is explained in Sotah (41b)
He adds later on (Deuteronomy 28:42) that this may also refer to King Aristobulus II:
It also makes sense that this verse hints to another king before Agrippa and that would be Aristobulus who was captured by a Roman general and brought to Rome in chains
The Talmud (Yomah 52b) cites King Josiah who thought this verse referred to him:
Who hid it (i.e. the Ark)? [King] Josiah hid it. What was his reason? He saw the verse: "The LORD will bring thee, and thy king whom thou shalt set over thee"
(Rashi [ibid] explains this based on the Jerusalem Talmud [Shekalim] that he was afraid he would go to exile in Babylon and this verse was referring to him)

(It is possible that the phrase "that you set over you" refers to Josiah because he was appointed by the people after they assassinated his father)

Midrash Lekach Tov / Pesikta Zutrasi (Ki Savo) says:
These are kings Jeconiah, Zedekiah and Jehoiakim
(The phrase "that you set over you" may refer to these kings because they were appointed by outside sources - Pharaoh Necho and Nebuchadnezzar)

Related Posts

Where did the Levites Live? (Parshas Shoftim 5775)
Who are the Elders? (Parshas Vaeschanan 5775)
Placement of Levites during the blessings and curses (Parshas Reeh 5775)
Who was Sihon, Og and Other Giants (Parshas Devarim 5775
Location of Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim (Parshas Reeh 5775)

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