This issue is sponsored
Vol. 15 No. 6
in honour of the
Bat Mitzvah of Racheli ð"é
with love from her family
A Man of Truth
The Gemara in Makos (24a) comments that the Pasuk in Tehilim "He does not carry slander on his tongue" refers to Ya'akov Avinu, who initially refused to pretend to be Eisav to receive the B'rachos. In explaining the Gemara, Rashi writes 'At first, he did not want to lie, as he himself explained "Perhaps my father will feel me" '; only his mother coerced him to go, by Divine command, as she told him 'on me is your curse', which Unklus translates as 'It was said to me through prophesy that no curse will fall on you!'.
At first glance, the Gemara is difficult to understand. Ya'akov did not refuse to go into his father because he did not want to lie. He refused to go into his father because he was afraid of the consequences, as he himself clearly stated "Perhaps my father will feel me … and I will bring upon myself curse and not blessing"?
It is reminiscent of the story of a certain man who once declined to have a major operation, claiming that he had full Bitachon that Hashem could and would save him without the operation. When someone mentioned this to the Steipler z.l., adding a few words of praise regarding the sick man's level of Bitachon, the latter (clearly sensing the man's true motivation) commented that this was not Bitachon, it was Pachad (fear)!
Likewise, the Pasuk conveys the impression that Ya'akov's reaction to his mother's suggestion was motivated by Pachad rather than by Emes.
Rabeinu Bachye infers Ya'akov's Midas ha'Emes from his subsequent choice of words, when he eventually came before his father and said "I am Eisav your firstborn" (See Rashi, 27:19). Forced to do what his mother ordered him to, he went to his father reluctantly, and, once there, he took great care to minimize the Sheker with each word that he spoke. That was truly the mark of a man of truth and integrity, he remarks. But the question remains - where is the trait of Emes hinted in the Pasuk cited by the Gemara? The Pasuk discussed by Rabeinu Bachye took place later!
The answer lies perhaps in the fact that Ya'akov tried to evade having to go it to his father without making the slightest effort to justify doing so, even though the B'rachos were his by right. First of all, he had bought the birthright from Eisav, and it was Eisav who ought to have informed Yitzchak of the sale, so that the B'rachos should be bestowed upon the true Bechor. And besides, it is clear from the beginning of the Parshah that in the eyes of Hashem, Ya'akov was the real firstborn (see Rashi 25:26).
Yet Ya'akov (whose wisdom was certainly not inferior to that of his mother), made no attempt to go to his father to obtain what was his anyway. Not that he was against using devious methods when the need arose, as we see from his handling of Lavan, some years later. It would therefore seem that when it came to initiating lies, Ya'akov loathed to get involved, irrespective of the stakes. And the reason that he gave his mother was just a cover-up, to convince Rivkah not to send him, so as not to insinuate that she was guilty of lying.
The Maharatz Chayos has another approach. Citing a certain Chacham, he points to the word "Ulai" used by Ya'akov Avinu when initially declining to follow his mother's suggestion "Ulai yemusheini avi" (perhaps my father will feel me). Now 'Ulai' has positive connotations (as if to say that he hoped that this is what would happen). Had he not wanted it to, then he ought to have used the term "Pen" (Pen yemusheni avi), for that is the equivalent word that has negative connotations, as Chazal have taught. And he also cites the Pasuk in Chayei Sarah, where Eliezer uses the word "Ulai" in asking Avraham what he was to do if the woman refused to return with him to the land of Cana'an. There too, Chazal extrapolate from the word "Ulai" used there, 'Eilai K'siv' that he hoped that this is what would happen, so that Yitzchak would marry his daughter.
(Note that this latter explanation is that of the G'ro, and one wonders whether the Chacham that the Maharatz Chayos is quoting did not actually cite the G'ro.)
In any event, we see that in his heart of hearts, Ya'akov hoped that, in the event that he did follow his mother's advise, his father would discover his lie and he would be exposed, rather than lying to him and getting away with it - a clear indication of the extent that deplored lying.
The Torah Temimah, who explains the Gemara in Makos in connection with Rechilus (which fits in better with the literal interpretation of the Pasuk in Tehilim with which we began), explains the Gemara somewhat differently. When Rivkah said to Ya'akov "Your curse is on me, my son", she was in effect, granting him permission to divulge to Yitzchak, should the need arise, that the plot to trick him had been devised by her. Yet Ya'akov refused to go, because he did not want to slander his mother, as the Pasuk says "Lo rogal al leshono ro'oh".
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(Adapted mainly from the Rosh
& from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)
Two's a Chazakah
" … and he called it Eisek, because they squabbled with him … and he called it Sitnah" (26:20/21). Now Sitnah is a much stronger term than Eisek (though both imply strife).
The Rosh therefore explains that what Yitzchak was saying was that if perhaps the first act on the part of the P'lishtim was just by chance, the second one was done with malicious intent.
Flattering the Resha'im
"And he called to Eisav his big son" (27:1).
This teaches us that one is permitted to flatter Resha'im when they hold the reigns of leadership. Otherwise, why does the Torah refer to Eisav as Yitzchak's big son?
Alternatively, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., it is because Eisav held the entire world in his hands.
Yitzchak & Eisav
"In order that my soul will bless you before I die" (27:4).
The Rosh relates that Yitzchak was advising Eisav to go for the B'rachos now, as long as he was alive, whilst the Halachah permitted him to give away the birthright (that Ya'akov had purchased from him), since one is permitted to turn a Bechor into a Pashut during one's lifetime. Because once he died, there was no way that he could deprive the firstborn of the birthright. And that explains why Yitzchak first stated "I do not know the day of my death" (a hint that they should 'Make hay while the sun still shonet', and not wait until it was too late).
And he adds that Yitzchak instructed Eisav to serve him food, because, since he lost the birthright through food, he would get it back through food.
Presumably, the bond between Yitzchak and Eisav was largely based on the fact that the predominant characteristic of each was Midas ha'Din (notwithstanding that whereas Yitzchak controlled the Midah and perfected it, Eisav was controlled by the Midah, allowing it to destroy him).
Eisav's Precious Hunting Clothes
"And Rivkah took the precious (desired) garments of Eisav her big son" (27:15).
Eisav desired these clothes from Nimrod, and they were precious inasmuch as they had life-like pictures of all the wild animals and birds in the world painted on them. And when he wore them in the field, all the wild animals and birds were attracted to him, enabling him to catch them with ease.
The question arises, asks the Da'as Zekeinim, as to why Rivkah dressed Ya'akov in them? It appears, he explains in reply, that Rivkah wanted Ya'akov to resemble Eisav as much as possible (to impersonate his brother flawlessly).
" … because Hashem your G-d arranged it for me" (27:20).
Ya'akov deliberately said Hashem your G-d, explains the Rosh, with reference to his father's Shiduch, which, to use Eliezer's words Hashem 'arranged' for him in last week's Parshah (see 24:12), and the Akeidah, where Hashem arranged for a lamb to be caught in the thicket, waiting as it were, to be Shechted in place of Yitzchak.
And here too, Hashem had arranged for him to bring his father venison when he wanted it.
The Voice of Ya'akov …
"The voice is the voice of Ya'akov, and the hands are the hands of Eisav" (27:22).
Notice that the first 'voice' ("ha'Kol") is spelt without a 'Vav'. The Pasuk can then be translated to mean that when the voice of Ya'akov is weak (they are not Davenning and/or are not learning), that is when the hands are the hands of Eisav (Rosh).
Conversely, when we Daven and learn Torah the way we should, then Eisav has no power over us.
The hands, the Da'as Zekeinim explains, can only operate as far as they can reach, in which case the damage they are able to wreak is limited. The mouth on the other hand, reaches much further afield than the hands. And so it is, Yisrael's Tefilos penetrate the Heaven; they have the power to keep the evil at bay, even when it is far away.
"And may G-d give you from the dew of the Heaven and from the fat of the earth … " (27:28).
This Pasuk contains ten blessings, says the Da'as Zekeinim, corresponding to the ten commands with which Hashem created the world and to the Aseres ha'Dibros.
All in all, Ya'akov is blessed seven times in the Torah, and so is Avraham, corresponding to seven Yamim-Tovim (Shabbos, Pesach, Shavu'os, Rosh-Hashanah, Yom Kipur, Succos & Shemini Atzeres) and the seven stars that serve the sun and the moon, and the seven that don't (that are called 'K'sil'), and the seven stars of Kimah, which signal the time to sow when they set, and to reap when they rise.
Hiding in the Shadows
"And it was … Ya'akov had just left his father's presence when Eisav arrived from his hunt" (27:30).
As the one entered, says the Da'as Zekeinim, the other left.
What happened, they explain, was that although Ya'akov saw Eisav as he opened the flap of the tent and entered from the bright exterior, Eisav could not see Ya'akov, who was in the dark tent, when Eisav entered. So Ya'akov was able to slip out undetected.
"Let the days of mourning for my father arrive, and I will kill my brother" (27:41).
That is how both Targum Unklus and Targum Yonasan translate the Pasuk.
According to the Da'as Zekeinim, what Eisav was saying was "If I will kill my brother, I will hasten the days of mourning for my father" (i.e. his death). That's why he held back from murdering Ya'akov, in keeping with the Mitzvah of Kibud Av, which, as we know, was Eisav's strong point.
Eisav = Shalom
The Gematriyah of 'Eisav' is equivalent to that of 'Shalom', comments the Rosh. Were it not for that, there is not a person who would be able to stand up to him (he would destroy the entire world).
Perhaps, one may add, Eisav is the tool that G-d uses to bring us back to Him, and that in turn, leads to peace.
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" … the boys grew up, and Eisav was a 'Batlan', who spent his time hunting birds and wild beasts; he was a man who went into the field and murdered. He killed Nimrod and his son Chanoch; whereas Ya'akov a man of perfect deeds, served in the Beis-Hamedrash of Shem & Eiver, learning Torah from before Hashem" (25:27).
" … On the day that Avraham died, Ya'akov cooked a dish of lentils and went to comfort his father. And Eisav came from the fields. He was tired because he had performed five sins on that day: He worshipped idols, he shed innocent blood, he committed adultery with a betrothed girl, he denied the World to Come and he despised the birthright" (25:29).
"And Rivkah said to Ya'akov her son saying, 'Behold tonight the celestial bodies are praising the master of the World and the storehouses of dew are open. And I overheard your father speaking with Eisav saying … " (27:6).
"And Rivkah took the precious clothes of her son Eisav, the ones that had belonged to Adam ha'Rishon. On that day he had not worn them, so they remained with her in the house … " (27:15).
"The nations shall be subservient to you, and the kings, all the sons of Keturah will bow down to you. You will be master and ruler over your brother, and the sons of your mother will come to greet you; Those that curse you (such as Bil'am) will be cursed, whilst those that bless you (such as Moshe) will be blessed" (27:29).
"And the word of G-d held back from him Kasher venison; so he found a dog, which he killed and from which he prepared a cooked dish, which he brought to his father" (27:31).
"And Yitzchak trembled violently when he heard the voice of Eisav, and the smell of his cooked dish that entered his nostrils resembled the fire of Gehinom, and he said 'Who is the one … " (27:33).
"And Eisav bore Ya'akov a grudge in his heart, on account of the B'rachos that his Father blessed him, and Eisav said in his heart 'I won't not take my cue from Kayin, who killed Hevel in the lifetime of his father, after which his father gave birth to Sheis. I will wait until the days of mourning of my father arrive, and then I will kill Ya'akov my brother. I will kill and I will inherit' " (27:41).
"Until the anger of your brother abates, and he forgets what you did to him; then I will send and bring you back from there. Why should I lose you both on one day, when you are killed and he is exiled , like Chavah was bereaved from Hevel, whom Kayin killed, and (in the end) both of them were driven away from the presence of Adam and Chavah … " (27:45).
" … may G-d bless you with much property, increase you and expand you into twelve tribes, and may you merit a gathering of sages that comprise the Sanhedrin, numbering seventy, corresponding to the seventy nations" (28:3).
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AND THEIR MEANING
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)
Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article
reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch
and are not necessarily Halachah.
Not to Sentence Someone to Death with a Majority of Only One
Beis-Din is not permitted to follow a majority of one to sentence a person to death. This means that should there be a difference of opinion among the judges regarding a defendant, whom some say is Chayav Miysah, and others, that he is Patur, and the former have a majority of one (i.e. twelve against eleven), they are not permitted to sentence him to death, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (23:2) "Do not follow the majority for evil", which Chazal interpret to mean that one should not follow a precise majority of one to sentence to death. But when there is a majority of two or more, one fixes the Din accordingly. And the Mechilta says that a majority of one witness will suffice for the good, but a minimum of two are needed for the bad.
A reason for this Mitzvah … because we are commanded to go in the ways of G-d, and one of His Midos being 'Rav Chesed' (going beyond the letter of the law), He wants us to do likewise, in that the merit regarding matters of life and death exceeds the guilt, seeing as it is something for which one cannot pay.
The Dinim of the Mitzvah are discussed in the fourth chapter of Sanhedrin, as the author will point out in Mitzvah 78 ('Following the Majority'). Someone who contravenes it and sentences a defendant to death on the basis of a majority of one witness, has transgressed the law of the King, and his punishment will be great indeed, since he caused the loss of a soul without Halachic authority.
A Dayan May not Switch
from Innocent to Guilty
A Dayan is not allowed to follow the opinion of a senior colleague or even the majority opinion, either to find innocent or to find guilty, unless he has arrived at that conclusion of his own knowledge. If for example, it is a Din that depends upon a Gezeiras ha'Kasuv (a Torah decree), a Gezeirah-Shavah (where the Torah compares two issues which contain the same word) or a Hekesh (where it compares two different issues by juxtaposing them in the same Pasuk), then the Dayan must be aware of this, and not rely on the knowledge of a fellow Dayan or on the majority in this matter, for so the Torah writes in Mishpatim (23:2) "And do not respond to a grievance by yielding to (a Rav or to) the majority", meaning that one should not issue such rulings merely by yielding to a judge who is superior to oneself or to the majority, in place of one's own understanding, or if one fancies keeping one's own opinion to oneself, in favour of relying on their opinion, this is forbidden; rather, says the Mechilta, one is obligated to state one's opinion. And in case one comes to extend this ruling to money matters, the Torah immediately adds "Follow the majority to yield". And it is from this same La'av that we learn that once a Dayan has declared the defendant innocent, he is not permitted to change his mind and to declare him guilty, and that one may not begin by probing the defendant's guilt. This cannot refer to a prohibition to probe into his guilt at all, for then no man would ever receive the death-sentence. (Cont.)
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