Tuesday, 2 November 2010

P. Hayyei Sarah & Toldoth - Navi vs. Halachah

There is a story told in Y'shivot

A Hossid will give you
15 answers to a single question

A Litvak will give you a single answer to 15 questions.

Here are two related knotty problems

In Hayyei Sarah, Eliezer - "Eved Avraham" is assigned to find a mate for Yitzchak. The Talmud admonishes us that his technique involved "Nichush" so we should NOT do it. This begs the question how could Eliezer use this means to select a proper shidduch? Alternatively, how can it be that the great match for Yitzchak was manifested using such "under-handed" means?

Similarly in Toldot, Yaakov "usurps" the brachah from Esav via deception. One may not violate Halachah on the say so of a parent, so obedience to his mother is no excuse. So how was Yaakov permitted to engage in such a masquerade?

My approach is similar and simple. In each case, the alleged offense was committed under the instruction of a Prophet/Prophetess; and Scripture actually makes this quite clear on a P'shat level

In the case of Eliezer he is told by Avraham that a Malach will accompany him and that Hashem will cause him to succeed. Given this CONTEXT, his Nichush was under Divine Providence and therefore did not involve superstition or "dark forces"

Similarly, Rivka was told by Hashem [directly so - if we set aside Rashi] that "Rav Yaavod Tsa'ir." Given that this n'vuah is also in the text, her command to Yaakov is therefore that of a prophetess and not simply that of a Mom. Yaakov is therefore engaged to commit this deception in this extraordinary circumstance.

This also explains why the text juxtaposes these Prophetic pronouncements immediately prior to the questionable behaviour, in order to set up a proper context so that we would not mis-understand the dynamic here and learn the wrong lessons re: Nichush and deception



micha berger said...

I thought from the rishonimon the side of my Miqraos Gedolos that the relevant halakhah is Qitzur Shulchan Arukh 181:9, "יָכוֹל אָדָם לַעֲשׂוֹת דִּין לְעַצְמוֹ". Thus the focus on the sale of the bechorah for lentil soup, so as to establish that Yaaqov already "owned" the item being obtained, and this was an issue of getting justice when doing so by court procedure wasn't possible.


Rabbi Ben Hecht said...


We can question though whether the item being attained through the bracha from Yitzchak was, indeed, the same item that Yaakov bought from Esav for lentil soup. If Yaakov was simply taking that which he already owned, you have a point. Yet, there are indications that Yitzchak's bracha at this instance was not connected to the bechora and that Yaakov was usurping something that Yitzchak wished to give to Esav. Included in this discussion must be the consideration that if Yaakov could purchase the bechora from Esav, why would a bracha from Yitzchak to effect this transfer be necessary?

Notwithstanding all this, there is still the very deception of Yitzchak in its own right

Rabbi Ben Hecht

micha berger said...

The berakhah wasn't the bekhorah; since it didn't exist yet. (In 27:36, Esav makers he clear he thought they were different things, FWIW.)

Rather, the berakhah was to be given to whomever held the bekhorah. Yaaqov assumed the mantle of "ki miYitzchaq yiqrei lekha zara", and therefore he was the one who was to receive Eretz Yisrael and "mital hashamayim umishemanei haaretz".

Again, that's how the Ramban and Abarbanel (to be more accurate than "the side of my Miqraos Gedolos") look to me.


Nishma said...

Also, see Onkelos on 27:13 "alay kil'latcha b'ni" which Onkleos interpets that Rivka basing herself upon a prophetic vision.


Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

If one is m'dayak in the language of the Ramban, the bracha in this case was not birchat Avraham but rather a bracha that Yitzchak wanted to give Esav that he should be zocheh to birchat Avraham. Ramban does state that Yitzchak wished to give this bracha to Esav because he was the bechor but that is secondary in my opinion. The point is that the one who is worthy to receive birchat Avraham would receive it; Yitzchak just wished, with this bracha, to do something to make Esav become the one to be so zocheh.

This mahalech in the parsha I actually heard from Rav Yaakov Weinberg zatzal, although he didn't specifically tie it to the
Ramban nor made this diyuk in the loshon. His point was that Yitzchak wanted to cause Esav to do teshuva and hoped that his bracha would be the catalyst that would bring this about. Rivka challenged this conclusion. It is my personal view that, in fact, through this ruse that Rivka wanted to show Yitzchak that Yaakov could be the next father of klal Yisrael and that this ruse was to show that Yaakov was not simply a yosheiv ohalim, not able to work in the real world. Yitzchak gave the bracha to the one who fit the descripition of hakol kol Yaakov v'hayadaim ydei Esav and that is the hoped for personality who he intended to give this bracha to. He thought it was Esav but when he finds out it was Yaakov, he agrees to the bracha being to Yaakov -- because it was the one with this personality that he wanted. He thought it was Esav but when he found out it was Yaakov, he was happy for he wanted one with this personality.

Maybe, though, this pshat actually supports Micha's point that Yaakov had the right to undertake this din for himself to show that he was the person for whom Yitzchak wished.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Rabbi Richard Wolpoe said...

Hirsch says that Yaakov was a pawn in a charade that Rivka had orchestrated in order to show Yitzhak how naïve he had been all along

Thus the haradah g”dolah when Yitzhak finally “got it”

In my thesis Yaakov had no right to do this himself and probably could not rely upon kibbud eim But he COULD rely upon Rivka’s “rav yaavod Tsair" as PRESCRIPTIVE as well as DESCRIPTIVE

This to me is the simple read

Shalom RRW