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)

[Published at]

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.