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The Price of a Corruption of the Truth

Yaakov said what he said and did what he did and, as a result, received the blessing that his father had planned to give to his older brother. He was extremely reluctant to carry out the plan of deception that his mother devised for him and may even have hoped to get caught rather than deceive his father (see Makkot 24a). His reluctance stemmed from the fact that his whole personality and life mission was based on emmet (truth) (Yalkut Shimoni, Sh'lach 743). The prophecy that prompted his mother to command him to get the blessing made his uncharacteristic behavior necessary. Reluctantly or not, Yaakov did deceive his father, a negative act in and of itself, as Yitzchak (Bereishit 27: 35) and the navi (see Yirmiyah 9:3) imply. Let us take a short but crucial digression. Some of us teach our children (or they are taught in school) that Yaakov did not lie, based on the linguistic pilpul that Rashi (27:9) brings. Halachically, what Yaakov did would be forbidden under normal circumstances (see Shvuot 31a on "mid'var sheker tirchak" and many other sources). All Rashi means is that even when forced to do something which would otherwise be a sin, Yaakov tried to do so in a manner that would minimize the necessary abuse. Teaching that there was nothing inherently objectionable in Yaakov's methods only justifies children's (and adults') tendency to bend the truth (=lie) as convenient or profitable. A look at society (even religious society) shows how dangerous an educational mistake it is to encourage this misconception. Let us return.

Trickery, which was the negative element of Yaakov's deed, seems to have afflicted Yaakov throughout his life. Lavan and Leah tricked him into marrying Leah before Rachel. (Midrash Tanchuma, Vayeitzei 11 stresses that when Yaakov confronted Leah over her deception, she responded that Yaakov himself had acted similarly to his father). Lavan lied to him about the form of his payment after years of dedicated service. Yaakov's own sons lied to him for 22 years regarding the fate of the abducted Yosef. Certainly, then, it would seem that Yaakov was being punished for the sin of lying.

Were these painful episodes in Yaakov's life punishments? No. Yaakov's marriage to Leah paved the way for the Jewish people (named for Leah's son, Judah) to come into being. As a result of Lavan's lies, Yaakov ended up with a much bigger flock than he originally requested. The circumstances of Yosef's abduction paved the way for the saving of Yaakov's family from famine and the exile in Egypt, which was necessary for their emergence as a nation.

Was Yaakov, then, happy with all of these episodes in his life? Not really. Yaakov paid a tremendous personal price in the form of psychological torment. The payoffs were long-term, historical ones, which shaped our nation. Indeed, Yaakov had to make the initial decision whether or not to heed his mother's demands of him. In doing so, he had to choose between the welfare of Yaakov, the pure man who sat in the tents of Torah, and Yaakov/Yisrael, the forefather, whose boldness was necessary to forge the way for his descendants' nation. Yaakov, the man, was ready to and did pay the price, so that Bnei Yisrael could flourish, albeit, not without struggles and difficulties of our own.

P'ninat Mishpat - Returning Lost Objects- VI- Pay for Returning Object

Upon returning the lost item (aveida) there are different types of monetary claims that the finder can make on the owner. He can demand reimbursement for direct expenditures related to tending to the aveida, most classically when the aveida is an animal which needs to be fed (Bava Metzia 28b). But can he charge for the trouble he went through to find the owner?

The gemara (Berachot 29a) learns that one may not take money for performing mitzvot, just as Moshe did not charge Bnei Yisrael for teaching them Torah. While we haven't the space to develop the idea, the basic explanation seems to be as follows (by mitzvot other than teaching Torah, which is more severe). Whenever one demands payment for a service, he is in effect "threatening" the person interested in the service that unless he is promised payment, he will refuse to provide the service. However, when the service is an obligatory mitzva (such as returning a lost object) he cannot honestly say that he will refuse to return it. (According to this appproach, one who does the mitzva may receive money if it is offered to him voluntarily.) Yet, in at least one case, he can demand some payment for his time. In a case where he lost out from his normal livelihood to perform the mitzva, he can demand that which is known as s'char batala (compensation for being idle from work) (ibid.30b). This is simply an extension of the concept that one can demand compensation for expenditures. Even in this case, steps are taken to determine the true, monetary loss incurred while returning the aveida. If the activity of returning the aveida is less strenuous than the work it replaced, then we subtract the value of the relative "vacation from work" that the finder enjoyed from the s'char batala otherwise coming to the finder. Only when the finder resents the cost of the "vacation time" forced upon him by the mitzva of hashavat aveida can special arrangements be made to compensate him fully (ibid.)

Moreshet Shaul (from the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l(

Marriage Between People From Families with Occurrences of a Serious Disease- Part II

]We continue our discussion about a prospective couple, each of whom coming from a family with two occurrences of a certain, serious disease. We saw a possible distinction to answer an apparent contradiction in the Shulchan Aruch. Two occurrences are enough to indicate a representative trend (chazaka) in the case of a mother or two sisters who gave birth to flawed babies. For more distant relatives, three time are needed].

We must try to understand the compromise position that chazaka requires only two occurrences but by second-degree relatives three times are required . One can accept or deny the connection of illness between different members of an extended family. But if one accepts it, why should the number that creates a chazaka change?

The Chatam Sofer (Shut, VI, 70) brings an interesting source for this basic distinction. The gemara (Chulin 95b) interprets Yaakov Avinu's statement of fear that some tragedy might befall Binyamin as follows. As Yosef and Shimon were gone, if something would happen to Binyamin, then there will be a chazaka that would bode danger for all of his sons. Thus, by siblings, chazaka is established after three times. In contrast, Yehuda deemed Tamar to be a dangerous wife after only two husbands died. That is because Tamar's trend was directly related to one person, whereas Binyamin was just the third member of a family. This source, though, is of little help for us, as we are working with the assumption that siblings should be treated like the person himself, not like the broader family.

In general, we need to understand what it means that two occurrences create a possible chazaka [see last week's installment]. The gemara (Bava Metzia 106b) seems to treat two occurrences as a full chazaka. The logic seems to be as follows. When an unusual occurrence happens, we assume that normalcy prevails and that the occurrence was chance, namely, that it was caused by some external factor. We may assume that there is no reason to expect that the external factor will cause a recurrence. When the matter arises again, there is a chazaka of sorts. We are now convinced that there is an internal factor which is connected to the phenomenon. However, we have reason to suspect that the occurrences happen only when another factor(s) joins in, and there is not enough evidence to expect that the combination of factors will recur. Since we are not sure if one factor is responsible for the occurrences, which would cause us more concern, or a combination of factors, we treat the situation as a safek (halachic doubt). Thus, we are cautious in cases where we fear for someone's life but also cautious before extracting money based on doubt. Only after three times do we assume that the cause of the occurrence is directly entrenched in the subject and that the phenonenom is likely to reappear without the need for other contributing factors.

[We now have the basis to complete our discussion next week].

Ask the Rabbi

Question: I often am asked to go to a significantly later minyan than I like in order to ensure a minyan in a house of mourning. On those days, I do not have time for breakfast between davening and work. To further complicate matters, in the morning, I have to take medicines that cannot be eaten on an empty stomach. May I have breakfast before davening under these circumstances?

Answer: The gemara (Berachot 10b) brings two p'sukim as the basis for the prohibition on eating before Shacharit. While the first one seems to indicate an objective problem, Chazal interpret the second in a manner that implies that it is an act of haughtiness to involve oneself in eating before addressing Hashem, his Creator and King. The Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 89) understands that the prohibition is rabbinic and the p'sukim are only an asmachta (an informal basis within Tanach for a rabbinic law). He explains that Chazal formulated the derivation in a way that would imply that they forbade eating only when it, subjectively, displays haughtiness. What are some examples where eating before Shacharit is permitted under these guidelines?

The Avi Haezri (cited by Rosh, Berachot 1:10 and accepted by Shulchan Aruch (OC 89:3)) says that drinking water is not indulging enough to be considered haughty. Mahari Abuhav (accepted by Shulchan Aruch, ibid.) says that, by the same logic, one can eat foods whose purpose is medicinal. The Biur Halacha (ad loc.), based on the Pri Chadash and Pri Megadim, says that in a medicinal context, it is permitted to eat even if one is capable of waiting until after Shacharit. Another scenario is where one is too thirsty or hungry to daven with proper concentration. According to the strict letter of the law, one should not pray in such a state of mind (Rambam, Tefilla 5:2). Even though we are resigned to sufficing with a lower than proper level of concentration, one has the right to eat or drink as necessary to enable better concentration (Beit Yosef, ibid.). The Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 89:13) says that this too is not considered an act of haughtiness and was never included in the prohibition.

The question, in your case, is whether eating which is not medicinal, but is preparatory for taking medicine, is permitted before Shacharit? The Pri Chadash (89: 4) is bothered by the need for special permission given to one who is thirsty to drink before davening. After all, one can drink water even if he is not particularly thirsty. He re-reads the Shulchan Aruch to say that if one is thirsty but considers it unhealthy to drink water on an empty stomach, he can even eat to enable him to drink. So we see that any eating which is necessary to enable an activity which halacha deems important before davening (including taking medicine) is permitted. The Biur Halacha (ibid.) suggests that before eating, one should at least say Kriat Shma (first paragraph), which needs to be preceded by Birchot Hatorah. Others add a suggestion to say a prayer that contains an element of supplication and/or Birchot Hashachar. Since these anyway need to be said before P'sukei D'zimra, it is not a big deal to say them a little earlier, before eating.

The only limitation is that the poskim are strict about extending these leniencies beyond the necessary minimum. (See, for example, the Mishna Berura (89: 21) regarding what one who needs to drink tea in order to concentrate can put into it and many other sources.) Thus, while you are permitted to eat the amount necessary to prevent the medicine from having a detrimental effect on your health (consult your doctor), that would not permit you to take the opportunity to have a full breakfast at that time. It is wonderful that you are willing to arrange your schedule in order to accommodate mourners. We hope you can find a way to start the morning with the nutrition and calm needed to get a good start, but without compromising the primacy of tefilla as the beginning of one's activities. We assume that, with further planning and continued dedication to doing things right, you can work out the situation in the best possible way.



Rav Kook on the Net: RavKook.n3.net

Abraham Kept Mitzvot

Why are rituals and practical mitzvot so central to Judaism? Why isn't it sufficient just to absorb the philosophical content of the Torah's teachings?

When famine struck and Isaac considered leaving the Land of Israel, God appeared to him.

"I will make your children as the stars in the sky, and I will give them all of this land. Because Abraham listened to Me, and kept My watch, My mitzvot, My laws and My Torah." [Gen. 26:4-5]

Abraham kept mitzvot? The Sages gleaned from this verse that the forefathers fulfilled the precepts of the Torah, even though the Torah had not yet been revealed at Sinai. Rav Ashi (fifth century Talmudic sage) went even further. He asserted that Abraham performed the ritual of "Eiruv Tavshilin" - of rabbinical origin - when a holiday fell on Friday. [Yoma 28]

A student once wrote Rav Kook that this statement should not be understood literally. How could Abraham know what the rabbinical courts would decree a thousand years in the future? The Sages must have intended to transmit a subtler message: Abraham's philosophical mastery of the Torah was so complete, his comprehension was so penetrating, that it encompassed even the underlying rationale for future decrees.

Rav Kook himself was not taken with this explanation. In his response, Rav Kook emphasized that the Torah's spiritual underpinnings cannot be safeguarded without practical mitzvot. We cannot truly absorb the Torah's philosophical teachings without concrete rituals. This is the fundamental weakness of Christianity - its reliance solely on faith.

Rather, Rav Kook elucidated this Talmudic tradition in a different vein. Abraham did not literally perform the ritual of "eiruv tavshilin" as we do today. Yet, he applied the concept of this ceremony to his day-to-day living. What is the essence of "eiruv tavshilin"? This ritual teaches us to distinguish between the sanctity of the Sabbath and the lesser sanctity of the holidays. Abraham was also able to make this fine distinction - in his actions. In his life and deeds, he was able to differentiate not only between the sacred and the profane, but also between varying levels of holiness.

[Igrot I: 135, 1908]



Avigdor Bonchek

This week's sedra tells of the rivalry between Jacob and Esau. The Esau's selling the Birthright to Jacob. Towards the end of the sedra, we read of Isaac blessing Jacob (dressed as Esau) and Esau (as Esau) and finally Isaac knowingly blesses Jacob before he takes leave of his parents. Let us examine a Rashi on Jacob's blessing to Jacob (as Esau). A close analysis of Rashi's comment reveals an original interpretation, which he considers to be P'shat.

Genesis: 27:28

"And may G-d give you from the dew of the heavens and from the fat of the earth and an abundance of corn and wine.


And may He give you: Rashi: May he give and repeat and give again. However, according to its Simple Meaning it refers back to the preceding topic: "See the fragrance of my son, which the Holy One Blessed Be He, has given him, is like the fragrance of a field etc. And may He also give you the dew of the heavens etc."

Rashi gives two interpretations, one he calls P'shat and one not. What would you ask here?

Questioning Rashi

First: What is bothering Rashi, why must he offer any interpretations? Isn't the sentence clear as it stands? Look carefully at the Lead Words.

Second: Why two interpretations?

Third: In the P'shat interpretation, Rashi quotes part of the previous sentence, but he adds the words "which the Holy One Blessed Be He has given him,..." He certainly didn't add them for nothing. Why did he?

What is Bothering Rashi?

Most commentaries agree that Rashi is bothered by the fact that the sentence begins with the word "And". This seems to imply that the blessing here is not the first one mentioned, but an addition to one peviously mentioned. But no blessing is mentioned until now. It is this difficulty that Rashi addresses himself.

How does Rashi answer this question?

Understanding Rashi

Rashi reinterprets the word, "And" in, "And may [He] give you", to mean, "May He give AND give AND give etc." The word "and" being a poetic way to signify continuance, an unending giving. But Rashi doesn't consider this P'shat. Why?

An Answer:

Perhaps simply because, "and" means "and" and not, "unending."

Now to our third question.

Why does Rashi add the words "which the Holy One Blessed Be He has given him, ..." to the Torah's own words, in his second interpretation? (This looks like a Type II comment, meant to steer us clear of a misunderstanding.)

This is not easy. Hint: Reread the second half of sentence 27:27.

"and he said: See the fragrance of my son is as the fragrance of a field whG-d has blessed."

What do the words "which G-d has blessed." mean ? What - whom - did G-d bless?

In-Depth Analysis

Rashi gives the previous sentence (27:27) an unusual interpretation (which he considers to be P'shat). At first glance, the sentence seems to say, "See, the fragrance of my son is as the fragrance of a field which ( = the field) G-d blessed." In this reading it is the field that is blessed.. But Rashi interprets these words differently. He says it is Jacob that is blessed with the fragrance. This is what Rashi means when he adds the words "the fragrance of my son, which the Holy One, Blessed be He, has given him..." Rashi's addition tells us that Isaac says that G-d blessed Jacob ("my son") by giving him a pleasant fragrance, (and not the field). The new meaning is thus: G-d had already blessed Jacob by giving him a fragrance like the field. And may He also give [him] of the dew of the heavens etc.

We see how this explains the word "and" at the beginning of sentence 28. This is truly an original view of the Torah's words. This Rashi considers to be P'shat, probably as we said, because in this interpretation the word "and" means "and"; it is not bent out of shape as it is in the first interpretation.


14 project genesis

Shem MI-Shmuel (Rabbi Dr. Meir Tamari)

(Shem Mi Shmuel, 5674)

"And Yitzchak loved Eisav because there was hunting in his mouth" (Berishit, 25:28). In a previous verse we read, "and Eisav was a person who knew to hunt', to which Rashi comments that he ensnared and defrauded Yitschak with his speech, asking how does one tithe straw and salt. His father thought him pious and punctilious in the performance of the mitzvot beyond their requirements. If we know why Eisav did not ask regarding other mitzvoth like shechitah, which really contain refinements and hidurim, then we can understand the significance of choosing the false hiddur of tithing.

In the whole of creation, there is a distinction between that which is marginal and that which is paramount or important. The World to Come is paramount and this world is marginal; "Prepare yourself in the corridor [Olam Hazeh], so that you can enter the palace" (Avot, chapter 4, mishnah). Shabbat is important and the six days of the week are marginal. Fruit is important and the purpose of the tree, while the skin or the shell only serves to protect it (Berachot, 36b). So too every person who does that which is their primary purpose, without being disturbed by that which is secondary and marginal, is able to achieve shleimut. In all the cases where the marginal is really held to be tafel, then that which is primary and ikar is able to transform and elevate it. If one prepares oneself in the Corridor then even Olam Hazeh becomes thereby elevated and holy. When the weekdays are really made to be subsidiary to Shabbat, then through it they too become perfected and spiritual; "Everyday he ate for Shabbat" (Beitzah, 15a). The skin protects the fruit and therefore it too is important and can become tamei (Chulin, 118a). Indeed the whole purpose behind the creation of Eisav and Yaakov was that Eisav was to be subservient and marginal to Yaakov and thereby he, through his brother, would also achieve shleimut. This is why Yitschak wanted to bless Eisav even though he knew that Yaakov was more pious and deserving. Yitschak thought that through his subservience to Yaakov, Eisav would be elevated and sanctified so that they could jointly continue the Abrahamic tradition. However he did not realise the extent of the arrogance and gasut ruach of Eisav. When a gasut ruach fulfils a mitzvah or achieves a spiritual level, their arrogance only increases, making them truly evil.. Eisav, being unable to differentiate between tafel and ikar, could never see himself as subservient to Yaakov. This is like the discussion in the midrash between the straw and the chaff as to who was superior, without recognising that they both were marginal to the wheat. So Eisav genuinely asked how one tithes straw and salt, both of which are marginal.

Not only are Eisav and Yaakov born to one mother and father, but they are twins. [According to chazal even identical twins, so that when Chushim slew Eisav at the funeral of Yaakov, he could only strike his back, since both brothers had an identical face]. This is because they possess the same powerful spiritual urges, the same tshukah, albeit for different goals. It is this spiritual power that makes them eternal enemies locked in an ideological struggle, so that our sages taught, "Rome [Edom] in ascendancy- believe; Yerushalyim in acsendancy- believe; Rome and Yerushalyim in equilibrium-this is unbelievable ". They both wished to link Heaven and Earth. Yaakov wished to raise everything earthly and material up to the heavenly, the holy and the spiritual and to merge body and the divinity that is the soul. Eisav, however, wished to degrade that which is heavenly, to subject it to that which is base and earthy in mankind. With the same parents and the joint powers that flow from their twin-ship, Yaakov and Eisav are like grapes harvested from the same vine. Yet in reality Eisav is the vinegar to the wine that is Yaakov.

It is this unity that explains Rifka's exclamation when she felt the turmoil in her womb," And she said: _'If [it be] so, wherefore am I thus? And she went to inquire of HaShem" (Bereishit, 25: 22). She knew that the Etz Hada'at Tov ve Rah (good and evil intertwined] and the Etz Hachaim grew from the same root, and when the knowledge was subservient to the source of life then the separation between good and evil becomes clear. However, the struggle within her womb made her fear that the child that would be born would be a divided soul that singly would have to struggle even as Yitzchak struggled with Yishmael. So HaShem told that this would not be a struggle within one son but rather there would be two nations involved and that the older one would eventually be subservient to the younger.

Yet it is still not clear as to why the two should have been born through this powerful unity. We see that the whole of Yitschak_'s toldot flows from this power of unity. Yitschak is the personification of fear and awe- Pachad Yitschak- that is the opposite of toldot birth and generations; as we see when Rachav says that, "there is no strength of spirit in anybody in Jericho because of the fear of Israel." (Yehoshua, 2:11). For toldot the chesed of Avraham is essential. That is why the verse reads,

"These are the Toldot of Yitschak; Avraham gave birth to Yitschak". _'Holid', so that the unity of the two midot, fear and chesed, can merge, the contradictory powers of left and right. There is a part of Yitschak in both sons; it is only the gasut ruach of Eisav that prevents the spiritual greatness of this unity.


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