Archive for 2013

Tehillim 119:7

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 · Posted in , , , , ,

Tehillim 119:7 odcha beisher levav belamdi mishpetei tzidkecha
I will give thanks to You with an upright heart, when I learn Your just ordinances.

Until here King David spoke in praise of the Torah.  From here on it is in praise of the mitzvot (commandments).

"I will give thanks to You with an upright heart," unlike those about whom it says, 'His mouth speaks and Him, but their heart is far from Him' (cf. Yeshayahu 29:13).  Thus we "learn" from "Your just ordinances" that everything depends on intention.  Hence the law of the city of refuge (BaMidbar 35) teaches that one who kills deliberately is executed, and one who kills unwittingly is exiled.

Because I have trained myself to accept "Your just ordinances," therefore "I give thanks to You" both for the good and for the bad, "with an upright heart."  As our Sages have said, one is required to recite the blessing (also for the bad) with gladness.  Thus Hillel once heard a voice of loud lament coming from his city, and he said, "I am certain that these are not my family lamenting."  This is explained to mean that he had educated his family to accept everything with gladness and to not shriek.

Torah is the antidote for the yetzer harah (evil inclination).  Torah study subdues the yetzer harah.

Tehillim 119:6
Tehillim 119:5
Tehillim 119:4
Tehillim 119:3
Tehillim 119:2
Tehillim 119:1

MeAm Lo'ez

Tehillim 119:6

Wednesday, December 25, 2013 · Posted in , , , , ,

Tehillim 119:6 az lo evosh behabiti el kol mitzvoteicha
Then I will not be ashamed, when I look at all your commandments.

If I will "observe Your statutes" (v119:5), I will also observe Your ordinances.  As a result, when I open up the Torah and study it closely, "I will not be ashamed" that I did not keep "all Your commandments."

However, when one realizes that some aspect of his behavior is not in accordance with G-d's precepts, he should be filled with great shame for betraying his Creator and Father.  Moreover, he has betrayed himself and fallen short of his true potential.

If I will find a good reason for keeping the statutes, and subject myself to their observance, then I will assuredly "not be ashamed."  I will stand up to the prosecuting angel, "when I look at all Your commandments." For I will behold the reasons for all of them.

If I will keep the mitzvot, "then I will not be ashamed, when I look at all Your commandments."  For instance, if someone steals and then he sees written in the Torah, "You shall not steal!" (Shemot 20:13), he will be ashamed.  Therefore should every man be wary of every evil deed, so as not to be ashamed when he reads the Torah.

It was Rambam's custom to begin each of his works by citing a pasuk (verse). One such example is his introduction to the Mishneh Torah (as well as at the outset of each of the fourteen books that comprise the Mishne Torah). The verse used to introduce the Mishneh Torah is "Az lo evosh b'habiti el kol mitzvotecha" "Then I will not be ashamed, when I look at all Your commandments" (Tehillim 119:6). This verse serves as a "motto" that encapsulates the entire Mishneh Torah.

This verse teaches us that there is a supreme added value to having the Torah in its entirety laid out before us. Thus the Rambam in the Mishneh Torah summarizes the entire Oral Torah. The Midrash describes to us the shame one might feel upon reaching the Gates of Paradise without having learned all the sections of the Torah. By laying out the Oral Torah before us, the Rambam is assisting us in avoiding this very shame. (Rav Y. Steinberger)

Tehillim 119:5
Tehillim 119:4
Tehillim 119:3
Tehillim 119:2
Tehillim 119:1

MeAm Lo'ez
Sefer Tehillim - Schottenstein Edition

Tehillim 119:5

Sunday, December 22, 2013 · Posted in , , , ,

Tehillim 119:5 achalai yikonu derachai lishmor chukeicha
My hopes: that my ways be directed to observe Your statutes!

"My hopes" - these are my pleas that I place before You: "That my ways be directed" so I should also "observe Your statues" whose reason elude us.

"[These are] my [fervent] prayers (hopes)," I desire nothing else but this. (Ibn Ezra)

Because the reasons for the statutes are not known, ha-satan and the other peoples condemn us.  But I say: "My hopes" and pleas are "that my ways be directed to observe Your statues" as well.

The mitzvah must be made possessions of the soul.  Therefore, I plead and petition that "my ways be directed to observe Your statutes."  Let none of my mundane affairs beset me.  I implore You to protect me from the diversions of the world, so that my heart and being are free "to observe Your statutes."

Let "my ways be directed to observe Your statutes." Let them not be directed towards bodily needs or towards any other diversion.

R’ Shmuel Shmelke Güntzler z”l (1838-1911; rabbi of Oyber-Visheve, Hungary for 45 years) writes: We read in Tehilim (119:5-6), “My prayer is: ‘May my ways be firmly guided to keep Your decrees; then I will not be ashamed when I gaze at all your commandments’.” In these verses, King David is noting the tension between our obligation to try to understand G-d’s Will, on the one hand, and our duty to serve Him as subjects, i.e., not because we understand or approve of His mitzvot but simply because they are His commandments. How can a person evaluate whether he is serving Hashem for the right reason (as a subject) or the wrong reason (because the person has evaluated the mitzvot and decided they make sense to him, in which case he is serving himself, not G-d)?

The answer is that one should look at how he performs those mitzvot that do not seem to be logical. If a person performs the decrees with the same enthusiasm with which he performs the “logical” mitzvot, then he knows that he is behaving as a subject. This is what King David meant: If I am firm in my commitment to Your decrees, then I will not be ashamed when I perform the “logical” commandments. Rather, I will know that those mitzvot, as well, I am performing as a subject and not because they make sense to me. (Meishiv Nefesh)

Tehillim 119:4
Tehillim 119:3
Tehillim 119:2
Tehillim 119:1

MeAm Lo'ez

Tehillim 119:4

Tuesday, December 17, 2013 · Posted in , , , ,

Tehillim 119:4 atah tzivitah fikudeicha lishmor meod
You have ordained Your commands, that we should observe them diligently.

King David now goes on to explain why the Holy One has commanded that we fulfill 613 Mitzvot.   If when we simply "do no wrong," we also "walk in His ways" (v119:3).  Why has the Holy One commanded that we fulfill 613 mitzvot?  The answer is, "You have ordained Your commands, that we should observe them diligently."  When there are many mitzvot to keep, there are always occasions for performing any number of them!

It is "that we should observe them diligently" in order to make them part of our souls.  Thereafter, we will perform them with heart and soul.

Tehillim 119:3
Tehillim 119:2
Tehillim 119:1

MeAm Lo'ez

Tehillim 119:3

Saturday, December 14, 2013 · Posted in , , ,

Tehillim 119:3 af lo faalu avlah bidrachav halakhu
Yes, they do no wrong; they walk in His ways.

Those who earnestly follow G-d's precepts receive special Divine assistance to avoid doing any iniquity.

"Those who seek" the Torah "with the whole heart" (v119:2), will merit to "do no wrong" any time.  All their lives they will "walk in His ways."  For the one who comes to purify himself is helped from on high.

"Happy are they whose way is integrity" (v119:1) refers to those who have merited not only to "do no wrong," but also to keep the affirmative mitzvot through actual performance.  Thus it says, "Happy are they who" actually "walk in His ways" (ibid.).  They not only "depart from evil" (v34:15), but "do good" (ibid.).  If, however, they only commit no transgressions and "do no wrong," that is not enough.  It is also necessary that "they" actively "walk in His ways."

Tehillim 119:2
Tehillim 119:1

-MeAm Lo'ez
-Schottenstein Sefer Tehillim

Tehillim 119:2

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 · Posted in , , , ,

Tehillim 119:2  Ashrei notzrei edotav bechol-lev yidreshuhu
Happy are they who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart.

Throughout this psalm "testimonies" refers to the Torah and mitzvot, which bear testimony to G-d's relationship with the Jewish nation.

Two conditions are required for the proper performance of the mitzvot.  One must actually perform any given mitzvah, and do so with the proper conscious intent.  One without the other amounts to nothing.  Thus the Scripture says here, "Happy are they who keep His testimonies" in fact, and "who seek Him with the whole heart."

"Seek Him with the whole heart."  Our Sages have expounded similarly, "Drink thirstily their words."  One must keep probing in the Torah ever deeper, and also exile oneself to a place of Torah study.

It is further indicated that one "whose way is integrity" (v119:1) merits to possess wisdom, and he expounds the Torah "with the whole heart."  It is otherwise for the one who is not of upright heart.  Thus the present verse in effect explains the previous verse, in that only those are "happy" (ibid. "who seek Him with the whole heart."

The Midrash says, "Happy are they who keep His testimonies."  If you keep the Torah, then the Torah keeps (guards) you.  This it says, "Love her, and she will keep you" (Mishlei 4:6); and it says, "When you walk, she will lead you" (ibid. 6:22)

Tehillim 119:1

- MeAm Lo'ez
- Chazal

Tehillim 119:1

Sunday, December 8, 2013 · Posted in , , , ,

Tehillim [Psalms] 119

King David composed this psalm as a prayer for success in matters of the spirit and for completeness in Torah achievement.  He arranged the verse in alphabetical order, eight verses to every letter.  It was also David's intention to strengthen the hand of those who study Torah, to help them persevere and overcome all trials. (MeAm Lo'ez)

Each 176 verses of Tehillim 119 (except verse 122) contains at least one synonym for Torah.  Verse 122 contains the word tov (good) which some explain to refer to Torah as well.

In Sefer Avodat Hakodesh, by the Chida, it is written:  Let everyone strive to complete every week the eight-fold chapter of the Book of Psalms.  This is an auspicious prescription for avoiding all harm and loss.  He lists the verse to be recited on different days, together with the different plsams that follows the present psalm.

On the first day of the week (Sunday):  the verses beginning with the letters א׳ ב׳ ג׳, plus Tehillim 120, 121, 124.

Second day (Monday): the verses beginning with ד׳ ה׳ ו׳, plus Tehillim 122, 123, 124.

Third day (Tuesday): the verses beginning with ז׳ ח׳ ט׳, plus Tehillim 125, 126, 127.

Fourth day (Wednesday): the verses beginning with י׳ כ׳ ל׳, plus Tehillim 128, 129, 130.

Fifth day (Thursday): the verses beginning with מ׳ נ׳ ס׳, plus Tehillim 129, 130, 124.

Sixth day (Friday): the verses beginning with ע׳ פ׳ צ׳, plus Tehillim 131, 132.

Shabbat (7th day - Saturday): the verses beginning with ק׳ ר׳ ש׳ ת׳, plus Tehillim 133, 134.

Tehillim 119:1 Ashrei temimei darech haholchim betorat HASHEM
Happy are they whose way is perfect [integrity] who walk with the Torah of HASHEM.

Yosef Karduner singing "Ashrei Temimei Darech & Likutei Moharan Book 1 Chapter 1"

Translation of song:

Happy are they whose way is perfect [integrity] who walk with the Torah of HASHEM

Know! That through the Torah are received all the prayers and all the requests that we request and pray for.  And the grace and the importance of Yisrael is elevated and soars whatever it is that they need.  Whether in spiritual things or in physical things.

Happy are they whose way is perfect [integrity] who walk with the Torah of HASHEM.

Because now through our great sins, [the] beauty and true importance of Yisrael has fallen.  Because now the main portion of the beauty and the importance is found by them.  But by means of the Torah are raised the beauty and importance of Yisrael.  Because the Torah is called "Let her be as the loving doe and graceful deer."  Because [the Torah] bestows beauty [grace] on all those who learn it.  And through this is received all the prayers and requests.

Happy are they whose way is perfect [integrity] who walk with the Torah of HASHEM.

"Happy are they" who walk in the "way" that brings one to completeness and integrity and not to condemnation; "who walk with the Torah of HaShem."

As our Sages have taught: Anyone whose fear of G-d precedes his wisdom, his wisdom endures.

King David extols the quality of integrity, when he says, "I was upright before Him, and have kept myself from my iniquity" (Shmuel bet 22:24).  For one who conducts himself with integrity does not sin readily.  As David says, When I am upright "before Him" - when I am along with Him, and no other human being sees me - I keep "myself from my iniquity."  This he also says, "I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart" (v101:2)

Similarly, King Shlomo says, "The just man walks with his integrity; happy are his children after him" (Mishlei 20:7).  If his children are happy for his sake, then he is certainly happy.

The Holy One asked of Avraham to be "upright" (Bereishit 17:1).  Similarly, Moshe said to the Benei Yisrael, "You will be upright with HaShem your G-d" (Devarim 18:13).  That is, if you are upright, then you are with HaShem your G-d.

Yisrael is upright and the Torah is upright.  Hence it says here, "Happy are those whose way is integrity."

Shlomo also says, "He who walks with integrity walks surely" (Mishlei 10:9).  The one who walks with integrity, will be informed with the glad tiding that G-d will make his ways successful.  "But he who perverts his ways will be found out" (ibid.).  Generally, whatever has two ways become known in the world.

When one walks with integrity, the Holy One chooses him and his worship.  Thus it says, "He that walks in a way of integrity, he will minister to Me" (v101.6); and it says, "You will be upright with HaShem your G-d" (Devarim 18:13).

When one walks with an upright heart in all his ways, he merits to dwell in the company of the Almighty.  As it says, "Who will sojourn in Your Tent?  Who will dwell upon the mountain of Your Sanctuary?  He that walks uprightly and acts justly, and speaks truth in his heart" (15:1, 2)

Similarly, King David has extolled here those who walk with integrity.

What is Integrity?

A man should utter his words without deceit; he should trade without cheating; and his heart and mouth be the same.  For if a man says one thing with the mouth and another with the heart, not only is he not called upright, he is a flatterer and a liar.  As it says, "Deceit is in the heart of those who imagine evil..." (Mishlei 12:20).

It is of the quality of integrity that a person is charitable towards other people. As it says, "Charity keeps him that is upright in the way" (ibid. 13:6).

When one walks with integrity, the Holy One helps him do his work and He causes him to become upright in all his ways.  As it says, "With the merciful You show Yourself merciful, with the upright man You show Yourself upright" (v18:26).

"Happy are they whose way is integrity."  Their integrity is not a result of their temperament, but it is because they "walk with the Torah of HaShem."

It is not possible to follow the path of integrity unless all of one's deeds are for the sake of Heaven, there are no ulterior motives.

"Integrity" must itself be in accordance with G-d's will.  For it is only from the Torah that we know how and when to act with integrity.  Thus our Sages say, commenting on the verse, "Yaakov was an upright man, dwelling in tents" (Bereishit 25:27):  He ruled his integrity.

When does a man know that his way is upright?  It is when he keeps G-d's commandments even while on the way (road).  It about such people as these that the Scritpure says, "Happy are they  whose way is integrity, who walk with the Torah of HaShem."

Most of the present psalm speak in the second person singular, and only the first three verses are in the remote third person form.  David pleaded and petitioned in prayer that the Holy One favor him with knowledge, understanding and intelligence.  Accordingly, he opened with the first three verses that convey the conditions for granting these three things.  One is Torah study, since an ignorant person cannot have fear of G-d.  The second condition is to "depart from evil and do good" (v34:15).  The third condition is to keep perfecting oneself in Torah study daily through constant acquisition of new knoweldge.

That is the process of walking "with the Torah of HaShem."  A person will not merit to study Torah except if he empties his heart of the empty pursuits of the world and is convinced that this world is only a way-station.  Nor is it possible to fulfill the mitzvot perfectly except by knowing the Torah and the foundation of the commandments.

- MeAm Lo'ez
- Schottenstein Sefer Tehillim
- Stone Edition Tanach

Haftarah VaYishlach

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 · Posted in , , , ,

Ovadyah 1:1-21
Parashat VaYishlach

1:1 Chazon Ovadyah koh-amar HASHEM Elokim le-Edom shmu'ah shamanu me'et HASHEM vetzir bagoyim shulach kumu venakumah aleiha lamilchamah
The vision of Ovadyah.  Thus says HASHEM G-d concerning Edom:  We have heard tidings from HASHEM, and an envoy has been sent among the nations:  Arise, and let us rise up against her in battle.
Ovadyah begins by declaring: "Thus says HaShem G-d concerning Edom: "We" (I and the other prophets) "have heard tidings from HaShem."  We heard this exactly, that "an envoy has been sent among the nations."  The nations exchanged messages which said, "Arise, and let us rise up against her in battle."  Every nation said to the others: Together let us go wage war against her - against Edom.

Some interpret: "Arise" (arouse yourselves a little, you who are below and then we will) "rise up against her in battle" from on high.

Regarding the relationship between Esav and his father Yitzchak, the Torah says that Yitzchak loved Esav because of the "game in his mouth" (Bereishit 25:28).  According to the Midrash, this does not mean that Yitzchak loved Esav for the food he served him.  Rather, he foresaw prophetically that one of the descendants of Esav would be Ovadyah, who concealed one hundred men and provided them with bread and water (Melachim Alef 18:4).  Thus the numerical equivalent of tzayid (game) is one hundred and four.  This alludes to the one hundred men saved by Ovadyah, plus the four loaves of bread he gave to each of them.

Some infer that Ovadyah prophesied after Amos.  Thus Amos said near the end of his prophecy, "so that they who are called by My Name may possess the remnant of Edom" (Amos 9:12).  Whereupon Ovadyah went on to prophesy about the fate of Edom.

"Concerning Edom:  We have heard tidings from HASHEM."  The Scripture conveys that the attribute of Divine compassion, here signified by the Tetragrammaton (YKVK), had decreed calamity upon Edom in order to favor Yisrael.  Those "glad tidings" will not be revoked, for the Almighty does not abrogate a promise of good tidings.

"And let us rise up" (venakumah)." This expression appears twice more in the Scripture.  Yaakov said to his household, "...and let us rise up, and go up to Beit-el" (Bereishit 35:3); and Yehudah said to Yaakov, "send the lad with me, and let us rise up.." (Bereishit 43:8).  In the merit of, "let us rise up, and go up to Beit-el," Yehudah said, "send the lad with me, and let us rise up."

Similarly, here, the Scripture conveys that in the same meit of going up to Beit-el - i.e., turning back to G-d - the Jewish people will rise up against Edom in battle.  We will be victorious against Edom in the merit, both of that original pilgrimage, and, of the future pilgrimage.

2 Hineh katon netaticha bagoyim bazu'i atah me'od
Behold, I (will) make you least (small) among the nations; you are (will be) most despised.
In the days of the prophets, the Esav nation consisted of an insignificant people, "small among the nations," who dwelt on Mount Seir (cf. Devarim 2:5).  Why then was it necessary for all the nations to "rise up against her in battle"? (1:1).  The answer is that this nation, once "least" and "despised," continued to grow in numbers and strength until it became the Roman Empire.  As it says, "The arrogance of your heart has beguiled you, you who dwell in clefts of the rock, whose abode is lofty, who says in his heart: Who will bring me down to the ground?" (v13).

"I make you small among the nations."  The Talmud explains that kingship is not hereditary among this people.  The crown does not pass naturally from father to son.  "You are most despised" in that the Esav people possess neither writing nor speech.

This teaching of the Talmud is explained as follows.  When kingship passes from father to son, the successor preserves all the norms of government adhered to by his predecessor.  But if someone else ascends to the throne, he ablishes everything established by his predecessor.  Because the Esav people do not have a herditary dynasty, they do not develop properly, and so remain "small among the nations."  They have no writing or speech; that is, their promises and agreements are worthless.  They fail to honor what they promise, whether in writing or by word of mouth.

The Abrabanel writes:  In the beginning Edom was a small nation "among the nations," subjugated to the kings of Yehudah (Judah).  Later they were subjugated by the Hasmonean kings and by Herod.  But following their departure from Mount Seir, their original location, they spread out over Italy and Greece, and over the countries west of the land of Yisrael.  They increased in numbers and eventually imposed their rule over Rome.  Then their arrogant hearts (v1:3) beguiled them to conquer the whole world.

Not only were they "small among the nations" in the size of their land and in the number of its inhabitants, but they were also "small" in quality - "most despised."

In the eyes of G-d, the Esav nation benefitted from the merit which their forefather Esav accumulated by honoring his father Yitzchak.  But eventually that ancestral merit came to an end, and they became "least among the nations."

Applied to the future, G-d says, "I will make you least among the nations."  For Edom "will be most despised."

3 Zedon libecha hishi'echa shochni bechagvei-sela merom shivto omer belibo mi yorideni aretz
The arrogance of your heart has beguiled you, you who dwell in clefts of the rock, whose abode is lofty; who says in his heart: Who will (can) bring me down to the ground (earth)?
The Scripture explains why all the nations will have to "rise up against" Edom "in battle" (v1:1).  For after Edom will have grown large and his dominion spread, "the arrogance of your heart has beguiled you."  Edom - Rome - will succumb to the temptations of power and its arrogance will grow beyond limits.

When this happens, you (Rome) will say in your heart that you "dwell in clefts of the rock," as it were, where no man can reach you.  You will see yourself as one "whose abode is lofty, and who says in his heart: Who will bring me down to the ground?"

The Scripture conveys that eventually the pernicious Roman Empire will be brought down from its height of imperial dominion.

Thus the Scripture says here, "Behold, I make you least among the nations; you are most despised.  Though you raise" yourself as "high as an eagle" to become as one of the conquerors, your fall will be very hard.  In the end you will suffer defeat and destruction.  Everyone will scorn you and ridicule your extravagant passion for grandeur.

4 Im-tagbiha kanesher ve'im-bein kochavim sim kinecha misham oridecha ne'um-HASHEM
Though you raise high as the eagle, and you set your nest among the stars - from there I will bring you down, says HASHEM.
"Though you raise" your dwelling as "high as the eagle," G-d says to Edm, "and you set your nest among the stars - from there I will bring you down."  I will hand you over into the power of your enemies, "says HaShem."

Some say: G-d will raise you very high so that your fall be that much harder.

With reference to Yaakov and Esav themselves, the Scripture implies that Esav departed for the land of Seir because of Yaakov (Bereishit 36:6).  For Esav did not want to be part of the Covenant of the pieces, since it meant eventually going into Egyptian exile (Bereishit 15).

Thus G-d says to Edom, "the arrogance of your heart has beguiled you" to  "dwell in clefts of the rock" (1:3).  You rejected and despised the land of Kenaan, and instead found a lofty perch by your supernal prince on high.  Therefore, "though you raise" yourself to fly high above all other birds, and though "you set your nest among the stars - from there I will bring you down."

The eagle is unafraid of any other bird, for it soars above them.  The other birds must content themselves with flying underneath.  Yet, though Edom soar to the heights like the eagle, he will fall below and shatter.

5 Im-ganavim ba'u-lecha im-shodedei lailah eich nidmeitah halo yignevu dayam im-botzrim ba'u lach halo yash'iru olelot
If thieves came to you, if robbers by night - how are you so utterly destroyed?  [how were you silent?] - surely they would steal [only] what is enough for them!  If grape gatherers came to you, surely they would leave some gleanings of grapes!
 All behold the defeat and devastation of Edom will express their astonishment.  How has this happened to you?  How did it come about that you are so utterly destroyed?

"If thieves came to you, if robbers by night...surely they would steal only what is enough for them!  If grape gatherers came to you, surely they would leave some gleanings of grapes!"  But those who came against you left nothing at all - how is that?  "How were you so utterly destroyed?"  How is it that you were silent, that you failed to defend yourselves?

Some say that the Scripture depicts not only what will happen to Edom in the end of days.  It also foresees what will happen before that time.  Enemies will march against them, pillage and rob.

The total defeat of Edom will come about as follows.  Edom's allies will convince them to venture beyond their borders to wage war.  While they are thus involved beyond their borders, enemies will attack their land and destroy everything (cf. v1:7).

The prophet compares the enemy of Edom to robbers who come to steal.  Usually marauders make a lot of noise.  How is it, then, that you were silent?  They came at night and you kept sleeping - why?  Why did you not wake up and drive them off?

Some did not come right into your house like thieves and marauders.  They came into your property, entered like grape gatherers who steal grapes from the trees.  But how is it that they took everything?  Grape gatherers alwasy leave gleanings, least the owners show up.

Figuratively speaking, the prophet tells about the loss of wisdom and might in Edom.  That loss is compared to theives, robbers, and grape gatherers taking off with everything.  Why were none of the young people spared?  In time they would become the new sages!  How is it that "Esav was searched out"? (v1:6). Edom revealed itself as lacking in courage and might.  How is it that "his hidden places are plumbed and ransacked"?  Edom showed itself as lacking in wisdom.

The prophecy conveys that Edom's defeat and downfall will come about by the hand of G-d.  It will not come as natural process, contrary to what the Edomi theselves will believe.  Following their final defeat, people will ask:  How did this happen to you?  Do not tell us that thieves came by stealth at night.  For "how were you silent"?  Why were you asleep during that time?  When they came like "robbers by night," why were you afraid to speak up?!

Edom will suffer two visitations of retribution.  They will suffer defeat and they will be looted of all their wealth - all by Divine Providence.  For while it is natural for thieves and robbers to steal, they only take what is they require.  When grape gatherers come to steal from the fields, again it is natural that they always leave gleanings behind.

What is more, robbers will usually search the house and look into vaults.  They will not dig up the earth for what is below ground.  Yet here, "How Esav is searched out!  How his hoards are ransacked!" (v1:6).

According to the Midrash, Esav's sons Elifaz lay with his father's wife and begot Korach (cf. Bereishit 36:5).  This is hinted in the words, "How Esav is searched out.  How his hidden places are plumbed!"

6 Eich nechpesu Esav nive'u matzpunav
How Esav is searched out!  How his hidden place [hoards] are plumbed [ransacked]!
The houses of Esav are "searched out" by the marauders and thieves, who carry off everything!  "How his hidden places are ransacked" and everything removed!

Usually, thieves are afraid that the owner might show up.  But the enemies of Edom were not afraid.  They were not concnered that he might be returning from the wards he was waging elsewhere.  they invaded the land of Edom and plundered everything.

Scripture points to the hypocrisy of wicked governments. Like pigs, they extend their paws to pretend righteousness despite their depravity on the inside.  As the prophet cries out:  How awful were you hidden deeds!  In the end they will be exposed for all to see.  When the time for retribution arrives, "How Esav is searched out" to reveal his true face.  "How his hidden places - hoards of evil deeds - are plumbed."  When Edom is exposed, everyone will see that he wanted to abrogate the dictates of the Torah.

In the coming future, the Talmud says, Esav will enfold himself in a cloak of righteousness and sti among the righteous.  He will pretend to be another Yaakov who deserves every reward.  This teaching conveys that all hypocrites will be exposed.  They will become known for what they really are.  People will no longer be fooled.

Esav was devious, a man of cunning schemes, which is the reason Edom is likened to a pig.

In the future, however, "his hidden hoards" of evil will be exposed.  They will be brought into the open for all to see.

The messianic king cannot appear so long as there are hypocrites in the world.  It is thus indicated that when the final redemption approaches, "many will purify themselves and make themselves white...but the wicked will do wickedly..."  (Daniel 12:10). That is to say, there will be complete resolution of the blend of good and evil.  The bad will be set apart from the good and the good from the bad.  There will be no hypocrisy.

This corresponds to the following teaching of the sages:  The son of David will only come in a generation that is totally meritorious or totally blameworthy.  The wicked will be known for what they are, clearly and unambiguously, and all who are good will appear to be good.

7 Ad-hagvul shilchucha kol anshei vritecha hishi'ucha yachlu lecha anshei shlomecha lachmecha yasimu mazor tachteicha ein tevunah bo
All your allies [men of your covenant] have guided you to the border [frontier]; the men who were at peace with you have duped you, and prevailed against you; [they who ate] your bread have laid a snare under you; there is no discernment in him.

The prophet depicts how its allies will betray Edom. They will pretend to be the dearest of friends, but prove themselves its enemies.

Thus the prophet says, "All your allies have guided you to the border."   When Edom is defeated, and its people try to leave the country in flight across its borders, the allies will accompany them to the frontier in tears.  They will pretend to be anguished over Edom's defeat.

In truth, however, your allies had a share in your downfall. They helped your enemies to defeat you.

But on the day of calamity you will be unaware of their treachery.  For G-d will have deprived you of wisdom.  As it says, "There is no discernment in him"; and it says, "In that day - says HaShem - surely I will destroy the wise men from Edom, and understanding from the mount of Esav." (v1:8)

They who ate "your bread have laid a snare under you."  Secretly they will strike at you and afflict you with illness by poisoning your bread.  They will succeed in doing so by pretending to be your friends.

When you will have crossed your frontier to wage war, "All your allies have guided you to the border."  They will go with you up to the border, but then turn back.  They will not join you.  They will not fight alongside of you.  They will not come to your assistance.

"They who were at peace with you," and with whom you were at peace, "have duped you" into waging war, and in this way "prevailed against you."

They "guided you to the frontier."  Edom's counselor said to him:  Why wait until the enemy comes to you?  G-d towards him.  Meet the enemy at the frontier and fight him there.

But that was a trap.  For while the Edomi armies marched to the frontier against their enemies, the enemies came from behind to conquer the land of Edom.  Edom was "searched out" and "his hidden places.. ransacked" (v1:6).

The retribution that would descend upon the Esav-Edom people was a long time in coming.  For it took time for all the transgressions against their brother Yaakov to accumulate.  The prophet begins the chronicle of those offenses by alluding to the time of the exodus from Egypt.  In the course of their wanderings in the wilderness, they came to the border of the land of Edom and asked permission to pass through.  But Edom refused them passage.  Indeed, "Edom came out against him [Yisrael] with much people, and with a strong hand" (BaMidbar 20:16, 17, 20).  For the Edomi had entered into an agreement with the Kenaani that they were not to let the Benei Yisrael pass.

But Edom did sell bread and water to the Benei Yisrael.  As it says, "You will sell me food for money, that I may eat; and give me water for money that I may drink" (Devarim 2:28).

It would have been more commendable for the Esav people to let the Benei Yisrael  pass through their borders.  For the Benei Yisrael actually had no great need of bread.  They still ate of the manna.

That is what the Scripture says here to Edom:  "All your allies" at the time  - the Kenaani - "have guided you to the border."  The Kenaani were to blame that the Edomi came up to their frontier to prevent the Benei Yisrael from passing through.  But their intention to harm Yisrael would be punished.  Know that you will fall and rise no more (cf. Yeshayahu 24:20).

Some read the last part of the verse as follows.  "Your bread they have laid as a snare under you"  - they have put deadly poison into your food. But you pay no heed, for "there is no discernment" in you.  You remain unaware.

Some say that mazor (bread) alludes to small pieces of bread spread out on top of a snare to trap animals.  The corresponding interpretation says: They "have laid your bread as a snare under you: in order to capture you in their trap.

According to the sages, mazor connotes suffering.  They teach: If one gives a loaf of bread to someone who lacks understanding, the donor is beset by suffering.  Thus it says, "Your bread that they laid (mazor) under you," and mazor means suffering.  As it says, "Yet, when Efrayim saw his sickness, and Yehudah his wound (mezoro)..." (Hoshea 5:13).

"Your bread have laid a snare under you."  Edom-Esav is remined of the time when Yaakov served him bread and pottage of lentils (Bereishit 25).  You had a great sickness then, O Esav.  It caused you to spurn your birthright for a serving of lentils! (ibid.)

8 Halo bayom hahu ne'um-HASHEM veha'avadeti chachamim me'Edom utevunah mehar Esav
In that day - says HASHEM - surely I will destroy the wise men from Edom, and understanding from the mount of Esav.
There were men of wisdom in Edom.  But "in that day," when destruction comes upon them, on the day of retribution, "surely - says HaShem - I will destroy the wise men from Edom."  They will not utilize their wisdom to plan battle strategy and save themselves.  For I will remove "understanding from the mount of Esav."

Similarly it says, "Of Edom.  Thus says HASHEM of Hosts: ...has their wisdom become putrid?" (Yirmeyahu 49:7).

The verse locates Edom on "the mount of Esav." From there they spread out, settling finally in the great city of Rome. But when the time of retribution comes, Rome will lack "the understanding" to save itself from destruction.

"I will destroy the wise men from Edom," and there will be no counselors to advise them.  The sages teach that when a kingdom is devoid of wise men to provide sage counsel, that is not a kingdom.  We can infer this with reference to the kingship of the house of David.  For we find that those monarchs always surrounded themselves with wise counselors.

According to the Sages, if a man tells you there is no wisdom in Edom, do not believe it.  Since it says, "I will destroy the wise men from Edom," it must mean that once there were wise men in Edom.  But if a man tells you that there is Torah in Edom, do not believe it.  For it says "Her king and her princes are among the nations; Torah [instruction] is no more" (Eichah 2:9)

9 Vechatu giboreicha Teiman lema'an yikaret-ish mehar Esav mikatel
And your mighty men [warriors], O Teiman, will be dismayed, so that every man from the mount of Esav may be cut off by slaughter.
The prophet depicts the fear and dread that G-d will cast upon Edom.  You, "O Taiman," whose root is hewn from Edom that dwells on the south of the land of Yisrael - Behold!  "Your mighty men will be dismayed" - they will lose heart and break down in war.  Why?  "So that every man from the mount of Esav may be cut off by slaughter."  They will come to an end, not by suffering a natural death, but "by slaughter."

Rashi explains: "And your mighty men, O Teiman, will be dismayed" and fearful to flee into the land of Edom.  The reason?  "So that every man from the mount of Esav may be cut off by slaughter."

Another interpretation says: When the time for retribution comes upon Edom, they will remain without leaders.  Lacking strategists versed in military matters, they will be exterminated.  As it says, "Every man from the mount of Esav may be cut off by slaughter."

The Targum Yonatan says:  "And your mighty men," who dwell in the south, will break down and perish.  As a result, "every man from the mount of Esav may be cut off by slaughter."  There will be so much killing that not a single Edomi man will survive.

10 Mechamas achicha Ya'akov techascha vushah venichratah le'olam
For the violence to your brother Yaakov, shall will cover you, and you will be cut off forever.
The prophet explains why Edom deserved to be so afflicted.  "For the violence to your brother Yaakov, shame will cover you, and you will be cut off forever."

For all the destructions you brought upon Yisrael throughout history, in the future you will suffer destruction that will last forever.

Edom deserved total annihilation for having so deeply distressed Yisrael.  It is a delight before G-d when He judges the wicked to make them pay for their offences.  However, that is so, provided they do not repent before the time of retribution.  It dos not delight Him to impose retribution and destroy them before punishment is due.  Nonetheless, the Scripture conveys that G-d will destroy Edom before their appointed time, on account of the troubles and tribulations they brought upon Yisrael.

Thus the Scripture says:  "For the violence to your brother Yaakov, shame will cover you" for all to see.  Everyone will acknowledge that your calamity stems from G-d, and that "you will be cut off forever."

11 Beyom amodcha mineged beyom shvot zarim cheilo venochrim ba'u she'arav ve'al-Yerushalayim yadu goral gam-atah ke'achad mehem
On the day when you stood aloof; on the day that strangers carried off his wealth [goods], when aliens entered into his gates, and cast lots for Yerushalayim; - then you were also as one of them.
Here the Scripture refers to the destruction of the First Temple and the destruction of the Second Temple.  Edom was not involved in the destruction of the First Temple, but even then, they "stood aloof on the day that strangers (zarim) carried off his goods."

Here, zarim refers to the armies of Nevuchadnetzar, who were directly involved in the destruction of the First Temple.  Bavel (Babylon) was closer to the land of Yisrael than Rome, and the Bavel invaders are referred to as zarim.  The Romans are designated as "aliens" - nochrim.

The Second Temple was destroyed by Edom-Rome, "aliens." They "entered into his [Yisrael's] gates, and cast lots for Yerushalayim."  Before the Second Temple was actually demolished, lots were cast among the Romans to see who would carry out the actual destruction of the Temple.

"Then you were also one of them."  This alludes to King Herod, who descended from Edom.  In the course of his reign, he became Yisrael's oppressor.

"On the day when you stood aloof."  When Nevuchadnetzar and his armies of Chaldeans besieged Yerushalayim, the wicked Esav people came to within a mile of the Cahldean forces.  Having stationed themselves there, they would kill any Jew who managed to escape from the Chaldeans.

Actually, you were involved in the destruction of Yerushalayim.  Whe Nevuchadnetzar entered the city, he "cast lots for Yerushalayim" to see who would destroy which part of the city.  You, Edom, participated in that lottery!

"On that day" also alludes to the time when Yisrael suffered in the days of Achashverosh (Ahasuerus).  When Haman convinced Achashverosh to issue a decree of annihilation against the entire Jewish people (Ester), on that day he came out of the palace joyous and of good heart. (ibid.).

The Bavel and Persian domination of Yisrael was followed by the domination and exile imposed by the Greeks.  You, Edom, rejoiced in those days, when gentiles entered the Holy Temple and profaned it.

The suffering at the hands of the Greeks - their domination is the third exile (after Egypt and Bavel) - was followed by the fourth exile due to Edom-Rome.

Having thus spoken of all the destructions and afflictions suffered by Yisrael, the Scripture goes on to say to Edom, "Indeed, you should not have looked on your brother in the day of his alienation" and "is calamity" (1:12,13).

Some say this refers to the Ninth of Av, the day of mourning for the destruction of the First Temple and the Second Temple, plus other calamities.

Rome destroyed the Second Temple, but that is not Edom's only crime against Yisrael.  They also "laid their hands on his wealth on the day of his calamity," and "closed in and betrayed his [Yisrael's] remnants on the day of distress" (v1:13, 14).  Therefore, they deserve the retribution that will afflict them.  They will be dealt with measure for measure.

"You should not have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction" (v1:12).  It is a virtue of Torah scholars that they are anguished when others suffer punishment on their account.  As the Scripture says, "It is not good even for the righteous man to punish" (Mishlei 17:26).  How different they are from the people who rejoice at the calamity of others - a terribly ugly trait.  Esav rejoiced over the calamity that befell Yaakov, and the reason, he said, was that Yaakov had taken away his birthright and his blessings (Bereishit 25, 27).  Hence the Scripture goes on to say, in condemnation of Edom, "You should not have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction" (Ovadyah 1:12).  Because you did rejoice over their banishment and exile, defeat and destruction will come upon you.

Accordingly, speaking in the Name of G-d, the prophet says to Edom: On account of your brother Yaakov, "for the violence" that you directed at him, retribution will come.  "Shame will cover you, and you will be cut off forever."

12 Ve'al-tere veyom-achicha beyom nochro ve'al-tismach livnei-Yehudah beyom ovedam ve'al-tagdel picha beyom tzarah
Indeed, you should not have looked on your brother in the day of his alienation [disaster], and you should not have rejoiced over the children of Yehudah in the day of their destruction! Nor should you have spoken proudly [opened your mouth wide] in the day of distress.
Indeed, it was not proper for you to see your brother become severed from his land and banished.  You should not "have rejoiced over the children of Yehudah" when they were being destroyed and annihilated.  Nor "should you have spoken proudly words of scorn in the day of distress."

You should not have done any of those awful things.  But you did!  Therefore will you suffer retribution for having done "violence to your brother Yaakov" (1:10).

"You should not have looked on your brother in the day of his alienation!"  When the first Temple was destroyed, you should not have betrayed the refugees by delivering them into the hands of the Bavel forces (cf. 1:14).

13 Al-tavo vesha'ar ami beyom eydam al-tere gam-atah bera'ato beyom eydo ve'al-tishlachnah vecheilo beyom eido
You should not have entered into the gate of My people in the day of their calamity; nor should you have been among those who looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity; nor have laid hands on their wealth in the day of their calamity.
Speaking about the destruction of the First Temple and the Second Temple, the prophet says, "You should not have entered into the gate of My people in the day of their calamity."  When the temples were destroyed, you should not have been there to join the destroyers on the day of tragedy for Yisrael.  "Nor should you have been among those who looked on" Yisrael's affliction in the day of their calamity."  Edom should not have justified what was happening to the descendants of Yaakov by pointing to Yisrael's evil deeds.  You should not have stretched out your hand to their possessions, participated in the looting "in the day of their calamity."

The Scripture began by accusing Edom of having stood aloof and keeping silent when Yisrael was stricken (v1:11).  Here, the prophet accuses them of having actually "entered into the gate of My people" to look upon Yisrael "in the day of their calamity."

Some say the Scripture refers to "the day" when the Ten Tribes will come to avenge themselves upon the alien nations that afflicted them.  On that day the light will shine for Yisrael, and Esav will claim his share.  But G-d will say to Esav-Edom:  Do not come to look "on your brother in the day of his alienation" from you! Nor come to rejoice with "the children of Yehudah in the day" when they "heap destruction" upon the peoples who afflicted them.  "In the day of distress" that will then come upon you, do not "open your mouth wide" to say that you do not deserve so harsh a measure of justice (see v1:12).

"On the day of ...calamity" for those nations, I will not allow Edom to "come into the gate of My people" to ask for deliverance.

14 Ve'al-ta'amod al-haperek lehachrit et-plitav ve'al-tasger seridav beyom tzarah
And you should not have stood on the cross-way to cut down his fugitives; nor should you have closed in [delivered / betrayed] his remnants in the day of distress.
In the time of destruction and calamity for Yisrael, "you should not have stood on the crossway."  To prevent the escape of any of the beleaguered Israelites, the Edomites had placed themselves at all the intersections where roads led in different directions.  They watched the roads "to cut down his fugitives."

You should not have stood there, but you did!  It is recorded that at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, the Edomites (Romans) would kill all fugitives without mercy.

"Nor should you have closed in his remnants in the day of distress."  Within the interpretation that these verses also refer to the downfall and destruction of all the other nations that afflicted Yisrael, the Scripture says that Esav-Edom will attempt to ally themselves with Yisrael.  They will stand "on the crossway to cut down" any "fugitives" of the nations who might escape from the Benei Yisrael.  But their attempts to ingratiate themselves will be rebuffed.  Triumphant in their victory over their enemies, the Jewish people will say to Edom: You will be driven into the grave together with them.

15 Ki-karov yom HASHEM al-kol-hagoyim ka'asher asita ye'aseh lach gemulcha yashuv beroshecha
For the day of HASHEM is at hand against all the nations; as you have done, so shall it be done to you; your due [recompense] will return upon your own head.
When Ovadyah uttered these prophecies regarding the defeat and downfall of the nations that had afflicted Yisrael, including in particular the Edom nations, he knew that the day of retribution was very far in the future.  He also knew, however, that the decree of retribution stemmed from G-d, and so was certain to come true.  Thus it says, "the day of HASHEM is at hand against all the nations."

"For the day of HASHEM is at hand against all the nations."  When you Edom, afflicted Yisrael, you ought to have anticipated the day of reckoning.  But you did not.  Therefore, as you have done, "so shall it be done to you; your recompense will return upon your own head."

The retribution of punishment that you rightfully deserve will descend upon your head.  As it says, "therefore, as I live, says HASHEM Elokim, I will do according to your anger and according to your envy, which you have done out of your hatred against them" (Yechezkel 35:11).

Some say the prophecy of Ovadyah pertains to the day retribution, not only "against all the nations" that afflicted the Jewish people in the past, but also against the nations that wronged Yisrael in our generation.  It refers to the years 1939-1945, when the Germans put into operation their plan to exterminate us completely.  In part they succeeded in achieving their purpose.  During that time, the other nations "stood on the crossway to cut down" those who managed to escape.  They "closed in" the refugees and either interned them in camps, or forced them to return to their countries of origin.  They also betrayed the refugees who managed to reach ports of haven.  Nor did they do everything in their power to prevent the killing of Jews.  May G-d avenge the blood of our brothers!

Parashat VaYishlach

Haftara VaYetze

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 · Posted in , , , ,

Hoshea 12:13-14:10
Parashat VaYetze

[artwork by Naama Nothman]

12:13 Vayivrach Ya'akov sedeh Aram vaya'avod Yisra'el be'ishah uve'ishah shamar
Then [And] Yaakov fled into the field of Aram, and Yisrael served for a wife, and for a wife he guarded [kept].
Nor do the Jewish peple remember the good that I did for their forefather Yaakov, when "Yaakov fled into the field of Aram" to escape from his brother Esav (Bereishit 27-29).  He was forced to work for Lavan in return for his daughter's hand in marriage (ibid.); as it says, "Yisrael served for a wife."  He also "guarded" sheep "for" another "wife."  All that time I was with him and I blessed him, and he returned with riches and possessions.

The supplementary (Haftarah) reading for the poriton of VaYetze - the story of Yaakov's sojourn with Lavan - begins with the present verse that speaks of related matters.  He "guarded" Lavan's sheep "for a wife."

Some say that G-d reminds the people of Yaakov's righteousness.  He did not want to ally himself with Esav, nor did he desire to oppose him directly.  Instead, he chose to escape to Aram in search of someone as righteous as himself.

Once there, he was not possessed by a craving for wealth - unlike you, O Yisrael.  Certainly, he did not oppress or exploit anyone (cf. Hoshea 12:8,9).  He departed from his native place with nothing, toiled to acquire a wife and helpmate.  "Served" and "guarded" Lavan's sheep for her sake.  Yaakov also kept all the 613 mitzvot, as the sages teach.  Once he acquired a wife, he "guarded [kept]" the mitzvot to procreate (cf. Bereishit 1:28).

In the verse, "I have sojourned (garti) with Lavan" (Bereishit 32:5), the numerical equivalent of garti is 613.

After Yaakov said to Lavan, "I will serve you seven years for Rachel, your younger daughter" (Bereishit 28:18), the Scripture says again, "And Yaakov served seven years for Rachel" (ibid. 20).  Rav Saadia Gaon explains this repetition as follows.  Yaakov desired to marry in order to beget children and so perpetuate Torah observance.

"Then Yaakov fled into the field of Aram."  This may also be clarified by reference to the verse, "And Yaakov went out (vayetze) from Beer-Sheva, and went to (vayelech) Charan" (Bereishit 28:10). When human beings depart for some destination, that may indicate mainly a desire to abandon the present location.  Or else it may indicate a desire to reach the particular destination.  The term "went out" is appropriate for the former, and the term "went to" is appropriate for the latter.  In the case of Yaakov, both terms appear in juxtaposition (ibid.).  The Scripture conveys on the one hand that he was forced to leave on account of Esav.  On the other hand he wanted to heed the command of his father and go to Padan-aram for his mate.  Here too, accordingly, it says, "Yaakov fled into the field of Aram, and Yisrael served for a wife."  Both matters were essential to Yaakov, both his escape and his arrival in Padan-aram.

It is significant that "served" appears before "a wife," for in the case of Leah, he labored first and then married.  It was the other way around in the case of Rachel; hence "for a wife" is followed by "he guarded."

The Scripture also depicts Yaakov's powerlessness.  He was compelled to labor many years "for a wife."

On the Seder night of Pesach, there is a special obligation to recite, "a lost Aramean was my father..." (Devarim 26:5).  When in the employ of Lavan, Yaakov was displaced and poor.

The following verse (Hoshea 12:14) recalls that Yaakov's descendants in Egypt took seriously the words of the prophets about the impending exodus.

According to the Midrash, "and by a prophet was he guarded" (v12:14) alludes to Eliyahu.  This is explained by another text in the Midrash, namely, that when the redeemer was born, the Jewish people went into bondage.  It means that the prophet Eliyahu, who will herald our redemption from the final exile, has already been born.

Some say, the Scripture rebukes the Jewish people at this time for not having learned to act like Yaakov.  When his mother bid him seek a wife, saying, "Flee to Lavan my brother, to Charan; and tarry with him a few days..." (Bereishit 27:43), Yaakov went and stayed for over twenty years.  Assuredly, then, O Yisrael, you should have heeded the words of the prophets!  For you beheld the great miracle wrought by G-d through the prophet Moshe, when He redeemed you from Egyptian bondage (Hoshea 12:14).  At this time too, therefore, heed the words of the prophets!

In summary, Hoshea rebukes the people for ingratitude on two counts.  He reminds them of all the acts of kindness which G-d performed for their forefather Yaakov, and he refers to the good that He has done and will for them.  Thus the Scripture begins by saying, "For HaShem had ransomed Yaakov, and He redeemed him from the hand of one stronger than him" (Yirmeyahu 31:11).  The latter refers to Lavan, who brought false accusations against Yaakov.  But Yaakov bore his hardships in good spirits.  In the end, G-d saved him from all harm at Lavan's hands (Bereishit 31:24).

Yaakov also suffered at the hands of Esav.  When he was forced to flee from home, Esav sent his son Elifez to harm him; as it says, "...because he did pursue his brother with the sword" (Amos 1:11).  But G-d saved him.

The prophet recalls these events as an indication for the future.  We are Yaakov's descendants, and we will also be redeemed from exile.

14 Uvenavi he'elah HASHEM et-Yisra'el miMitzrayim uvenavi nishmar
And [Then] by a prophet HASHEM brought Yisrael up out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he (it) guarded.
Here is a further kindness that I performed for the children of Yaakov.  After they went down to Egypt and were enslaved, "by a prophet" - by Moshe - "HASHEM brought Yisrael up out of Egypt."  Then, for forty years in the wilderness, "by a prophet (Moshe) was he (Yisrael) guarded."

Hoshea brings evidence that everything happens by Divine Providence. For, behold, "by a prophet (Moshe) HASHEM brought Yisrael up out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he (Yisrael) guarded."

We are informed of the very significant fact that G-d appointed three faithful shepherds for the Jewish people. Yaakov was a shepherd, as it says here, "and for a wife he guarded" sheep (Hoshea 12:13).  The second faithful shepherd was Moshe, as it says, "Now Moshe was keeping the flock of Yitro, his father-in-law" (Shemot 3:1).  The third was David (Shmuel Alef 16:11).  On account of these three shepherds were we found worthy of possessing three crowns.  They are the crown of Torah, the crown of prophecy and the crown of kingship.  Yaakov is the foremost patriarch, Moshe is the foremost prophet, and David is the foremost king.  A patriarch, a prophet and a king must be compassionate human beings.

Hoshea informs us that all these qualities of excellence were found in the Jewish people.  The quality of prophecy is foremost, and is found only among the Jewish people.  That is what the Scripture says, "I have also spoken to [through] the prophets" (v12:11) - a great kindness on My part.  Similarly it says, "For indeed HASHEM Elokim will do [does] nothing, without having revealed His secret (counsel/purpose) to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7).

Because prophecy was such a great excellence, the prophet rebukes the Jewish people by speaking of Yaakov, who represents here the gift of prophecy.  "I have multiplied visions; and used similes via the prophets" (Hoshea 12:11), yet they have not been faithful.

"By a prophet was it" - Yisrael - "guarded."  The Jewish people kept all the mitzvot that I had commanded them through a single prophet, Moshe.  But to you I sent many prophets, yet you do not heed their instruction.

15 Hich'is Efrayim tamrurim vedamav alav yitosh vecherpato yashiv lo Adonav
Efrayim provoked to anger most bitter (by bitter deeds); and so his blood (money) will be cast upon him, and his Master will return his reproach to him.
"Efrayim provoked" G-d's "anger by bitter deeds."  They built many altars, as numerous as heaps of stone and road signs for the traveller (v12:12).  Similarly it says, "Make yourself guide-posts" (Yirmeyahu 31:21).

Some associate tamrurim with ra (evil) and mar (bitter), and the corresponding interpretation reads: "Efrayim provoked" G-d "to anger most bitter."

"His blood" - the blood shed by Efrayim - "will be cast upon him" by his Maker; "and his Master will return his reproach."  He reviled G-d by erecting calf-idols everywhere, and retribution will come upon his head.

Another interprestation says: "Efrayim provoked to anger most bitter" deliberately acting against G-d's will.  He chose to commit transgression even though he derived no pleasure and gained no advantage.  He offended but to draw G-d's anger.

Some say that the Scripture alludes to Yerovo'am and his companions.  Because he sinned and caused others to sin, there came upon him, upon Efrayim, "anger most bitter."

Because he caused Yisrael to commit sin, he is guilty of having shed their blood.  It is as if he had personally shed their blood, "and so his blood will be cast upon him."  He will be punished accordingly.

"His Master will return his reproach to him."  As it says, "I... will utterly sweep away the house of Yerovo'am, as a man sweeps away dung till it is all gone" (Melachim Alef 14:10).

"Provoked to anger most bitter," is also seen as alluding to the those of the tribe of Efrayim who departed from Egypt prematurely.  All of them were killed by the Pelishtim.  Although they deserved to die, they did not deserve to be denied proper burial.  This indignity will be punished.  In the end of days, "the Master will return his reproach."

Some say that those were the dead which Yechezkel saw being resurrected (Yechezkel 37).

Because "Efrayim provoked to anger most bitter... his Master will return his reproach to him" for all to see.

13:1 Kedaber Efrayim retet nasa hu beYisra'el vayesham baba'al vayamot
When Efrayim spoke, there was trembling; he exalted himself in Yisrael; but when he became guilty through the Baal, he died.
The Scripture depicts Efrayim's fall from his lofty condition.  In the beginning, before Efrayim sinned, the nations all around were in fear of him.  "When Efrayim spoke, there was trembling" on the part of everyone who heard him.  "He exalted himself in Yisrael," just as it says in the Torah, "and his seed will become a multitude of nations" (Bereishit 48:19).  The princely Efrayim was a leading tribe within the Jewish people.

But then came the downfall.  "When he" sinned and "became guilty through" worship of "the Baal" idol, he was stricken before his enemies.  It was as if "he" had "died."

Rashi explains that the Scripture here specifically refers to Yerovo'am son of Nevat.  When Yerovo'am spoke in admonition of King Shlomo and uttered harsh words (Melachim Alef 11), this son of Efrayim "was trembling."  For he was addressing the king.  In the merit of this forthright reproof, "he exalted himself in Yisrael."  He was appointed to head the nation of Yisrael and to bear the burden of leadership (ibid.).  "But" then, later "when he became guilty" of setting up the calf-idols and forced Yisrael to commit the sin of idolatry (ibid. 12), "he died."  The house of Yerovo'am was condemned to extinction.

Some say: In the beginning, "Efrayim" was so frail that "there was trembling" on his part whenever he "spoke" to anyone.  But now "he exalted himself in Yisrael."  His head is raised so high, and his heart has grown so haughty (Hoshea 13:6), that he does not even fear G-d.  For that reason, eventually, "he died," once "he became guilty through the Baal."

2 Ve'atah yosifu lachato vaya'asu lahem masechah mikaspam kitevunam atzabim ma'aseh charashim kuloh lahem hem omrim zovchei adam agalim yishakun
Now they continue more; and they have made for themselves molten images from their silver, and idols according to their [own] understanding, all of it the work of craftsmen; they say to [of] them:  Let the men who sacrifice [Let they who sacrifice men] kiss calves.
 Here the Scripture depicts the deterioration of Yisrael.  It began in the time of the Judges and continued through the advent of Yerovo'am son of Nevat.  Although the Benei Yisrael served the Baal idol in the time of the Judges (Shoftim 2), they would return to G-d in times of distress.  But now it was different.  Having been deprived by Yerovo'am of the opportunity to worship in the Beit HaMikdash in Yerushalayim (Melachim Alef 12), the people of Efrayim - of the Kingdom of Yisrael - persisted in their worship of the calf-idols.  They said, "Behold your gods, O Yisrael, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt" (Melachim Alef 12:28).

"They have made for themselves molten images from their silver."  The calf-idols were not made of silver but gold.  What the Scripture here means is that the people all contributed money ("silver") to buy the gold for making the idols.

They pondered how best to make the calf-idols, and then proceeded to fashion them "according to their understanding."  Those idols were exact replicas of the Gold Calf which the Benei Yisrael had made in the wilderness (Shemot 32).  Each calf-idol was "the work of craftsmen."

Once an idol was completed, the kohanim would say to the people, "Let them who sacrifice kiss calves."  Those who brought sacrificial offerings had to kiss the idol.  The rite of worship was not complete without this gesture of affection.

According to the Sages, the people would sacrifice their children to the idols. The corresponding reading here says: "Let them who sacrifice men kiss calves."

Not only did they worship the calf-idols set up by Yerovo'am son of Nevat (Melachim Alef 12), but they added sin to transgression.  As it says, "Now they continue to sin more."

On their own they added idols in the likeness of the calf-idols set up by Yerovo'am.  "They have made for themselves molten images from their silver, and idols according to their own understanding."  These were "all the work of craftsmen," made to resemble the original calf-idols.

Some explain that the kohanim, who performed the rites of idolatry, would say to the people: "Let the men who sacrifice" to those new calf-idols "kiss" the "calves" which Yerovo'am set up/

Others say:  When they sacrificed their children to an idol, they would kiss that idol.  It was their way of saying: We bear no anger in our hearts.  It is out of love for you that we sacrifice our sons and daughters.

Some say that the Scripture here speaks of Yehu.  G-d appointed him king of Yisrael (Melachim Alef 19:16) in order to smite the house of Ahav, his master.  As happened to the house of Yerovo'am (Melachim Alef 9:9), the house of Ahav would thus also come to an end (Melachim Bet 9:9)

However, Yehu did "continue to sin more" than all the other kings, and caused the people to sin.  He made for them "molten images from their silver, and idols according to their own understanding."

3 Lachen yihyu ka'anan-boker vechatal mashkim holech kemotz yeso'er migoren uche'ashan me'arubah
Therefore they will be as the morning cloud, and as the dw that passes away early, as the chaff that is driven with the wind from the threshing floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney [window].
Retribution will come, Hoshea prophesies, and they will be quickly eliminated.  "Therefore they will be as the morning cloud" that dissipates quickly, "and as the dew that passes away early" with the onset of sunlight.  Within an hour all the dew is gone.  They will disintegrate "as the chaff" from wheat "that is driven with the wind from the threshing floor, and as the smoke" that hastens to depart "out of the chimney" and scatter.

I will not bring you well-being, even "as the morning cloud" brings no rain. As for the good things already in your possession, they will leave you "as the dew that passes away early."

You will go into exile "as the chaff that is driven with the wind."  But the good people will stay on for a while.  Eventually, all the people will be exiled, scattered in all directions "as the smoke out of the chimney."

4 Ve'anochi HASHEM Elokeicha me'eretz Mitzrayim ve'Elokim zulati lo teda umoshia ayin bilti
Yet I am HASHEM your G-d ever since the land of Egypt; and you know no [true] G-d but Me, and [there is] no savior besides Me.
How is it that you can kiss a calf-idol? (Hoshea 13:2).  It does not save and it cannot influence!  How can you forsake your G-d Who is with you since ancient times, Who has brought you deliverance and Who knows your ways?

"I am HASHEM your G-d ever since the land of Egypt," and you accepted Me as your G-d.  Certainly, "you know no G-d but Me, and no savior besides Me"!

In response to their claim that the calf-idols mediated between Yisrael and G-d, the Scripture says that the Jewish people have no need of intermediaries.  For, behold, "I am HASHEM your G-d ever since the land of Egypt; and you know no [true] G-d but Me."  Nor is there any intermediary "savior besides Me."  I Myself have brought you deliverance.

5 Ani yedaticha bamidbar be'eretz tal'uvot
I had known you in the wilderness, in the land of gerat drought [craving].
6 Kemar'itam vayisba'u save'u vayarom libam al-ken shechechuni
When they were fed [grazed], they were sated, their heart was haughty; therefore they have forgotten Me.
Why should you know Me? you might ask.  Well, "I had known you in the wilderness" where I met all your needs, and I cared for you "in the land of great drought" and the parched soil.

"I had known you in the wilderness, in the land of great craving" and thirst, and there I performed miracles and wonders for you (v13:4).  You should not have survived otherwise.

In all this I acted alone.

After they came into the land of Kenaan, "they were fed, they were sated."  They had every good thing and every comfort.  Therefore "their heart was haughty," and "therefore they have forgotten Me."

Thus the Torah said, ahead of time, "Lest when you have eaten and are satisfied.. Then your heart be lifted up, and you forget HaShem your G-d..." (Devarim 8:12).  Similarly it said, "But Yeshurun waxed fat, and kicked" - you waxed fat, you grew thick, you became gross - "and he forsook G-d who made him" (ibid., 32:15).

Or as it says, "Lest I be full, and deny, and say: Who is HASHEM?" (Mishlei 30:9)

7 Va'ehi lahem kemo-shachal kenamer al-derech ashur
So I will be [have become] to them as a lion; as a leopard will I watch by the way.
Here, in Scripture speaks of the misfortunes which the people brought upon themselves.  Because "they have forgotten Me" (Hoshea 13:6).  I have also forsaken them and handed them over into the power of the other nations.  "I have become to them as a lion; as a leopard will watch by the way" to kill and devour.

Some translate ashur as "I will go."  As it says, similarly, "my steps (ashurai) in Your path" (Tehillim 17:5).

They denied that G-d was the source of all the good which He had bestowed upon them in abundance.  Yet, when retribution struck, they attributed their suffering to G-d. G-d wanted to hearm them, they said.  At such times, they regarded Me as "a lion," or "a leopard," standing "by the way" to watch for prey.

8 Efgeshem kedov shakul ve'ekra segor libam ve'ochlem sham kelavi chayat hasadeh tevake'em
I will meet [attack] them like a bear that is bereaved [of her young], and I will rip open the enclosure of their heart [their closed heart]; there I will devour them like a lion [lioness]; the wild beast [beast of the field] will tear [mangle] them.
"I will meet them" to cause harm, "like a bear that is bereaved" of her young, "and I will rip open the enclosure of their heart."  It is the way of a bear to grab the chest with its claws and tear all the way into the heart.

Another interpretation says, "I will rip open their closed heart."  Their hears are closed.  They fail to understand that they should turn back to Me.

Any other animal, once it has killed and eaten, the rage subsides.  But the fury of a bear bereaved of its young is not calmed even after it has devoured.

"There I will devour them like a lion" that tears another "wild beast (best of the field)."

These verses hint at the four exiles.  The lion (Hoshea 13:7) represents the kingdoms of Bavel (Babylon) and Assyria.  Thus Dani'el saw that "the first was a lion" (Dani'el 7:4).  The leopard (ibid.,) represents the kingdom of Greece that oppressed Jews inside the land of Yisrael. As it says, "a leopard watches upon their cities" (Yirmeyahu 5:6).  The bear represents the Medean Kingdom, which Dani'el beheld in the form of a bear (Dani'el 7:5).  The fourth beast, likened to a lion or lioness represents Rome.  It devours and tramples.

The impending affliction of Yisrael is likened to being attacked by a bereaved bear.  The comparison suggests fury and fierce grief.  The enraged bear instantly tears and mangles anything in its path, man or beast.

"I will rip open their closed heart" that refuses to understand, and "there," in their own cities and on their roads, "I will devour them like a lion (lioness)."  I will devour them by the sword.

"The wild beast (beast of the field) will tear (mangle) them."  Similarly the Torah says, "And I will send the beast of the field among you..." (VaYikra 26:22).

9 Shichetcha Yisra'el ki-vi ve'ezrecha
You have destroyed yourself, O Yisrael; for it is in Me to be of help to you [you had no help but from Me].
When you are "destroyed" by all those wild beasts (Hoshea 13:7-8), you must blame "yourself, O Yisrael."  You think that your destruction stems from Me, but that is because all along "you had no help but from Me."  Once I removed My supervision, you were destroyed.

Another reading says, "You have destroyed yourself."  I did not destroy you, indeed the contrary is true of Me.  "It is in Me to be of help to you" always.

Our Sages have taught, similarly: "Thus says HASHEM...I am the first and I am the last.." (Yeshayahu 44:6).  I am first for good and I am last for evil.  I only afflict after man has incurred guilt that calls for punishment.

10 Ehi malkecha efo veyoshi'acha bechol-areicha veshofteycha asher amarta tnah-li melech vesarim
I will be your king [Will I be your king?].  Where is he and [where are] your judges that will bring you deliverance in all your cities?  [Where are they] to whom you said: "Give me a king and princes"?
The Scripture rebukes Yisrael for having asked for a king.  For their king has been of no use to them.

"I will be your king" forever, G-d says.  But "where is he"  - the human king you asked for - "that will bring you deliverance in all your cites" when they are besieged by the enemy?  "And where are your judges" whom you set over you?  Do you not see that neither king, nor rulers, nor "princes," have brought you any advantage?!

11 Eten lecha melech be'api ve'ekach be'evratiI give you a king in My wrath and take him away in My fury.
"In My wrath" I granted you a king in the days of Shmuel (Shmuel Alef 8).  For I knew that in the end you will divide the kingdom and make calf-idols (Melachim Alef 11, 12).

Hoshea son of Elah was the last king of Yisrael (Melachim Bet 17).  He was good.  He did not deserve that I remove him from your midst.  However, I will "take him away" on account of "My fury" against you.

This shows that at times the people suffer under evil rulers because they have rejected compassionate rulers.

To be continued...

- MeAm Lo'ez

Parashat VaYetze

Haftarah Toledot

Shmuel Alef [1 Samuel] 20:18 - 42
Machar Chodesh
Parashat Toledot

"Any loving relationship which depends upon something, [when] that thing is gone, the love is gone. But any which does not depend upon something will never come to an end. 

What is a loving relationship which does not depend upon something? 
That is the love of David and Yonatan." 
(Avot 5:18)

20:18 Vayomer lo Yehonatan machar chodesh venifkadetaki yipaked moshavecha
Yehonatan said to him, "Tomorrow is the New Moon, and you will be missed because your seat will be empty."
Yonatan returned to the plan which he and David were discussing.  He reviewed the details which had already been spelled out, and reassured David that he would reveal everything he discovered.  Yonatan also proposed how exactly this should be done, which is what David asked before they went out to the field to speak in private (v20:11).

19 Veshilashta teired me'od uvata el-hamakom asher-nistarta sham beyom hama'aseh veyashavta etzel ha'even ha'azel"On the third day you will be missed even more. Then go to  the place where you hid on the day of the deed, and stay near the marker stone."
The opening words of the verse, veshilashta teired me'od, has been translated according to rendition of Yonatan ben Uziel.  The word teired, which usually means "go down," is thus explained as "missed even more."  If Shaul had not been intending to harm David, then David's absence would not arouse in Shaul any more than a bit of annoyance.  But if Shaul had been ready to kill David, then after two days of David's not appearing before the king, he would be sorely missed.  He would "go down" even further in Shaul's estimation, and Shaul would certainly see in David's fleeing yet another pretext for putting him to death.

An alternative interpretation of the verse is that one the third day David was to teired me'od ("go down far") into the field where he had been hiding the first time he and Yonatan attempted to determine Shaul's intentions (v19:3).  He was to descend farther into the valley, to the hidden spot where Yonatan met him then.m

Yet another reading of these words suggests veshilashta does not mean "on the third day," but that Yonatan was telling David to "mark one, twice and thrice" the spot where he was to hide.  This way there would be no misunderstanding between them.  The word is similarly used in Devarim (19:3) where the Benei Yisrael are told to mark the borders of the land into three parts.

The words beyom hama'aseh, here translated as "on the day of the deed," can also be rendered, "on the day of doing."  As opposed to this occasion, which was Rosh Chodesh - a day on which they did not engage in their usual work - the first time David hid in this filed was a weekday, a "day of doing" and action.

Or alternatively, the yom hama'aseh to which Yonatan referred was as opposed to the day on which they spoke, which was Shabbat.  Hence, this chapter is read as the haftorah whenever the day before Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbat.

The "marker stone" is explained as having been either a gathering place, or a guidepost for travelers, or a target at which arrows were shot.

20 Va'ani shloshet hachitzim tzidah oreh leshalach-li lematarah
"I will shoot three arrows on the side of it, as if I shot at a target."
By suggesting the shooting of arrows as a sign between them, Yonatan was adding to the plan which David had originally outlined (20:5-7).  The three arrows were symbolic of the three days which David would hide.

Yonatan devised this scheme of seemingly shooting at the marker stone - or as some suggest, to the side of it - so that his servant, whom he would send to fetch the arrows, would suspect nothing.

21 Vehineh eshlach et-hana'ar lech metza et-hachitzim im-amor omar lana'ar hineh hachitzim mimecha vahenah kachenu vavo'ah ki-shalom lecha ve'ein davar chai-HASHEM"Behold, I will send the youth, saying, 'Go find the arrows.'  If I repeatedly say to the youth, 'Behold, the arrows are on this side of you,' take it and come, for peace is to you and the matter is naught; as HASHEM lives."
It was customary for nobility to engage in this sport of shooting arrows at some distant target, and then having their servants fetch them.  Sometimes, the servant would stop before reaching the spot where the arrow landed and his master had to instruct him to keep going.  Other times, the servant would pass by the spot and he would have be called back.

Here, Scripture relates the first part of the sign:  If Yonatan would tell his servant that he had gone too far, that the arrows lay in a place he had already passed over, David would understand that Yonatan had determined it was safe for him to return.

If that were the case, David was to "take it and come."  The commentators offer a number of possibilities for what "it" is.  Either David was to take the arrow or he was to take the sign, and return.  Another suggestion is that Yonatan wanted David to "take him," the servant, and come.

22 Ve'im-koh omar la'elem hineh hachitzim mimecha vahal'ah lech ki shilachacha HASHEMBut if I say this to the young man: 'Behold, the arrows are beyond you!' then go, for [this is a signal that] HASHEM has sent you away.
23 Vehadavar asher dibarnu ani va'atah hineh HASHEM beini uveinecha ad-olamBut this matter of which you and I spoke, behold, HASHEM remains [witness] between me and you forever."
There are those who explain that if Yonatan called to the servant, saying, "The arrows are on this side of you," it would mean that even though Shaul was angry, his anger was on this side - i.e., under his control.  In other words, there was no threat to David's life.  Not so if he said, "The arrows are farther on than you."  This would mean that his anger had gone further than it should have - i.e., out of Shaul's control.  In that case, David would understand that he was being sent away.

Yonatan understood that should he have to call the servant back to look in a place he had already passed, it would require some coaxing.  He therefore said, "If I repeatedly say to the youth."  But if he should have to send him farther on, the servant would readily comply.   Therefore, here, he said, "If I say this to the young man."

In the previous verse, Yonatan referred to the servant as the na'ar ("youth").  Here, he called him the elem ("young man"), a designation used in only one other instance in Scripture (v17:56).   The word is related to ne'elam, which means hidden and unknown.  Thus it might be that Yonatan employed this term here to indicate that should there be real danger, David was to remain "hidden" from Shaul, and this should be "unknown" even to the servant.

24 Vayisater David basadeh vayehi hachodesh vayeshev hamelech el-halechem le'echolDavid concealed himself in the field. It was the New Moon and the king sat at the meal to eat.
25 Vayeshev hamelech al-moshavo kefa'am befa'am el-moshav hakir vayakom Yehonatan vayeshev Avner mitzad Shaul vayipaked mekom DavidThe king sat at his seat as at other times, at the seat by the wall; Yehonatan stood up and Avner sat at Shaul's side, and David's seat was empty.
Shaul sat with his back to the wall, which was the seat at the head of the table.  Others explain that "on a seat next to the wall" indicates that they sat in a semicircle, as the judges in the Sanhedrin.  The king, because he sat at the center, the height of the arc, was closest to the wall.

The order of seating had David on Shaul's immediate right, and Yonatan at David's right. Avner, Shaul's general, sat to the kings left.  With David absent, there was no one sitting between Shaul and Yonatan.  As it was customary to recline while eating, and it was not considered proper for a son to recline at his father's right hand, Yonatan stood up and waited until Avner had come to take David's seat alongside the king.

According to this first interpretation, the words which follow in the verse, "David's seat was empty," mean that the place was empty of its usual occupant, David.  Alternatively, it is suggested that David's place did indeed remain empty.  After Yonatan stood up, Avner, who according to this interpretation was sitting not to Shaul's left but to Yonatan's right, exchanged places with Yonatan.  This enabled Yonatan to take a seat at the table for now Avner sat between him and his father.  It also made sense that Avner would not sit in David's seat, as he must have assumed that David might yet arrive to the meal.

Yet another possibility is that Yonatan took a seat opposite Shaul.  This coincides with the later verse which implies that when Shaul later raised the spear to strike his son, he had only to reach out towards him (20:33).

The reason Yonatan first sat in his own seat when he knew full well that he would have to move once Shaul took his place, was so that his father should not suspect he knew beforehand that David would not be coming.  This would also cause Shaul to take note of David's absence that much sooner.

26 Velo-diber Shaul me'umah bayom hahu ki amar mikreh hu bilti tahor hu ki-lo tahorShaul said nothing on that day, for he thought, "He had an accident, he is without purity; [he did not come] for he is not pure."
Shaul said nothing about David being absent because he presumed that David had experienced a nocturnal emission.  This presumption was characteristic of Shaul's enmity for David.

The repetitiveness of Shaul's words also suggests the following interpretation:  Shaul said to himself, "David had an accidental pollution, he is without purity.  Why? because he is not pure - he thinks evil thoughts during the day."  This is as our sages taught: Whoever guards against evil thoughts during the day will not experience an accidental pollution at night.

Our sages have pointed to the apparent circumlocution of this verse - "he is without purity; for he is not pure" - to show how important it is to avoid foul or unclean language.  Scripture goes out of its way to use the word tahor (pure) rather than simply saying, "he had an accident, and is tamei (impure)."

The commentators have suggested various subtle readings for this verse:

  1. That Shaul never assumed that David had entertained evil thoughts.  Rather, on the first day he attributed David's absence to a mikreh, alternatively translated as an unexpected occurrence.  "something unforeseen has come up," he told himself, "and that is why David has not come.  It cannot be that he is without purity, as he would be without purity only if he entertained evil thoughts."  However, when David again failed to appear on the morrow, Shaul began to wonder if perhaps David's disappearance was not unintentional.
  2. There are no accidental occurrences.  Everything that transpires is because G-d so willed and designed it.  Thus, Shaul was saying, "Who says that David had an accidental pollution?  When anyone says this, it is a sign that he is without purity.  He himself is not pure, for nothing happens without His guidance."  This can be likened to what Avraham said to the angels, "I will get a morsel of bread for you to refresh yourselves... because it is for this reason that you have passed by your servant" (Bereisit 18:5).  His intention was not that they had come by his tent in order to eat and drink, for even if it were so, one would never embarrass one's guests by speaking so tactlessly.  Rather, his intention was to tell them that their passing by was certainly not accidental; that it had been so designed by divine providence.  G-d had arranged the matter so that he, Avraham, could fulfill the mitzvah of hospitality.
  3. A third opinion sees this in connection with the teachings of the sages:  Judge all men favorably, for if a person sees guilt in his fellow, it is a sign that he himself bears guilt; whoever charges others charges them with his own defects.  Moreover, one who suspects the innocent is afflicted physically - a sign that he himself is lacking.  Thus the verse says that Shaul said nothing on that day, for he said to himself, "He had an accident."  In other words, he judged David favorably.  Why did Shaul do this?  Surely it was because only one "without purity" finds fault in others, and it is he who "is not pure."

27 Vayehi mimocharat hachodesh hasheni vayipaked mekom David vayomer Shaul el-Yehonatan beno madua lo-va ven-Yishai gam-temol gam-hayom el-halachem
It was the day following the New Moon, the second, and David's place was empty. So Shaul said to Yehonatan, his son, "Why did the son of Yishai not come to the meal either yesterday or today?"
Until the time of Hillel the son of Rabbi Yehudah the Prince (359 c.e.), who was the first to establish the lunar calendar according to astronomic calculations, Rosh Chodesh was determined by the court making a formal declaration after receiving testimony from witness who had seen the new moon.  This was based on the verse (Shemot 12:2), "This chodesh shall be for you" - G-d, as it were, pointed to the new moon and said to Moshe, "When it appears like this, sanctify the moon."  In other words, it was a mitzvah to establish Rosh Chodesh based on human sighting and declaration.  When this was no longer possible, for reasons brought in the Talmud, the Jews were forced to institute the fixed calendar in its stead.

The lunar month is twenty-nine days twelve and a fraction hours.  Because it is impossible to divide a day in half so that part would belong to the previous month and part to the new month, some months are reckoned as thirty days and others as twenty-nine.  Witnesses who saw the new moon on the night following the twenty ninth of the month testified before the court, and if their testimony was accepted, the court resolved that the following day belong to the new month and declared it Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the next month. If, however, the new moon was not seen on that night of the twenty ninth, the court resolved that the thirtieth day belonged to the previous month.  However, in this case, both the last day of the previous month and the first day of the new month were celebrated as Rosh Chodesh.

Now, in our case the witnesses who came to testify that they had seen the new moon only came to the court after the thirtieth day of the previous month.  Therefore, as mentioned (20:5), Rosh Chodesh was celebrated for two days.  This is the meaning of "on the day following the chodesh, the second."  The second modifies "the new moon," it was the second day of Rosh Chodesh.

Others maintain that they only celebrated one day Rosh Chodesh, on the first of the new month, so that "on the day following the new moon, the second [day]" refers to the second day of that month; here second modifies "the day following."  Yet another possibility is that second refers to the second new moon of the month - i.e., it was a Jewish leap year and this took place on Rosh Chodesh of the added month, the second Adar.

28 Vaya'an Yehonatan et-Shaul nish'ol nish'al David me'imadi ad-Beit-lechemYehonatan answered Shaul, "David asked me for permission to go to Beit-lechem.
29 Vayomer shalcheni na ki zevach mishpachah lanu ba'ir vehu tzivah-li achi ve'atah im-matzati chen be'eineicha imaltah na ve'er'eh et-echai al-ken lo-va el-shulchan hamelechHe said, 'Please grant me leave, for we have a family feast-offering in the city, and he - my brother - summoned me; so now, if I have found favor in your eyes, please let me be excused that I may see my brothers.' That is why he did not come to the king's table."
A careful reading of the verses, including those which follow, shows that Shaul intentionally avoided referring to David by name, calling him "the son of Yishai," instead.  Yonatan, on the other hand, did not have to mention David by name.  It was understood of whom they spoke.  But he did so intentionally, out of his great love for David.

Yonatan said, "nishal nishal (he repeatedly asked)," rather than the more common expression shaol sh'al, so as not to even imply that he had uttered his father's name, Shaul.  This, of course, would have been disrespectful.

30 Vayichar-af Shaul biYehonatan vayomer lo ben-na'avat hamardut halo yadati ki-vocher atah leven-Yishai levashtecha ulvoshet ervat imechaShaul anger flared up at Yehonatan, and he said to him, "you are the son of a wanton and rebellious woman! Do I not know that you choose the son of Yishai, to your own shame and the shame of your mother's nakedness?
An alternative reading of "ben na'avat hamardut" suggests that Shaul's accusation was not directed primarily at Yonatan, but at his mother - "you are the son of a wanton and rebellious woman!" Shaul charged that Yonataon had inherited these traits from his mother, who had been unfaithful to him.  Or else, that she had not allowed Shaul to discipline Yonatan when he was a child, and as a result he had grown into a rebellious son of rebellious mother.

Yonatan ben Uziel translates Shaul's words - "A son, wanton and rebellious!" - as referring to neither Yonatan nor his mother, but to David.  He was casting aspersions on David's family.  Once said, he expressed his shock that David would have found favor with Yonatan.  "How could you have possibly allowed him to escape from here?!"

31 Ki chol-hayamim asher-ben-Yishai chai al-ha'adamah lo tikon atah umalchutecha ve'atah shlach vekach oto elai ki ven-mavet huFor all the days that the son of Yishai is alive on the earth, you and your kingdom will not be established! And now send and bring him to me, for he is deserving of death!"
Shaul said to Yonatan, "Since you will not establish your rule because of David, it is only right that he be eliminated."

32 Vaya'an Yehonatan et-Shaul aviv vayomer elav lamah yumat meh asahBut Yehonatan spoke up to his father Shaul, and said to him, "Why should he die? What has he done?"
33 Vayatel Shaul et-hachanit alav lehakoto vayeda Yehonatan ki-chalah hi me'im aviv lehamit et-DavidShaul hurled his spear at him to strike him. Yehonatan then realized that his father had decided to kill David.
Yonatan sought to defend David.  "What has David done that you accuse him of rebellion?  G-d Himself has chosen him as king."

When a man is accused of having committed some sin for which he deserves to be punished, it is only right to defend him and attempt to save him from punishment if he is not generally known to transgress in this way.  Thus, when Shaul complained about Yonatan's defending David, Yonatan replied, "Why should he be put to death?  If it is because of the rumor that he seeks the king's life, what has he done that would lead one to believe David would transgress in this way?"

The Torah teaches that when a Jew sees his fellow Jew committing a sin, he has an obligation to admonish him in order to help him turn from evil.  Indeed, Scritpure stresses the importance of this mitzvah with the words "admonish, you shall surely admonish" (VaYikra 19:17) - the repetition serving to emphasize the need to even be prepared to suffer as a result.  The vers, however, does not specify just how much the one offering the rebuke is obligated to endure.  This, is learnt from here.

Some do find in Yonatan's reply an admonishment of Shaul's position, albeit a subdued and respectful one.  They adduce from this that with certain stipulations as son is permitted to admonish his father.  The Talmud adds that the same applies to a student rebuking his rabbi.

34 Vayakom Yehonatan me'im hashulchan bachari-af velo-achal beyom hachodesh hasheni lechem ki netzav el-David ki hichlimo avivYehonatan arose from the table enraged; he did not partake of food on that second day of the month, for he was saddened over David, and because his father had humiliated him.
The verse gives two reasons for why Yonatan did not eat.  One, he was worried about David.  Yonatan understood that if his father was ready to kill his own son for befriending David, he would certainly not hesitate to kill David himself.  He thus rose from the table in anger and could not eat.  The second reason, which reads the verse as though the word and appears between the two reason, was that Yonatan's father had shamed him with word and deed, and so he could not eat.

Although the reasons are two, the fact that Scripture does not obviously distinguish between them (the word and does not appear) would seem to allude to their connectedness.  Even though his father had shamed him publicly, Yonatan's concern was for David.  He loved David as hi own soul and worried for him more than for himself.

Another interpreation is that ooutwardly Yonatan was saddened because his father had shamed him, but in his heart he was saddened over David.

Alternatively, this is read as two reasons given for two separate actions.  Yonatan got up from the table because he was saddened over David, whom his father had decided to kill.  And Yonatan did not break bread because Shaul "had shamed him" - David - calling him "wanton and rebellious!"

35 Vayehi vaboker vayetze Yehonatan hasadeh lemo'ed David vena'ar katon imoIt happened in the morning that Yonatan went out to the field which David had designated, and a small youth accompanied him.
Yonatan went out in the morning.  He did not go at night, lest he arouse suspicion.  He went as though he were going for a walk, and he did not go alone but took his servant.  This small youth would suspect nothing of the plan Yonatan had devised with David and his presence would belie any suggestion that Yonatan had gone to secretly meet with David.

According to Ynatan ben Uziel's translation, "Yonatan went out to the field at the time David had designated."  This leads some commentators to conclude that it refers to the third day of David's hiding in the field.  And although David had suggested that he come that night, Yonatan went in the morning.  There was no longer any reason to wait, Shaul's intentions were already quite clear.

36 Vayomer lena'aro rutz metza-na et-hachitzim asher anochi moreh hana'ar ratz vehu-yarah hachetsi leha'aviroHe said to his youth, "Run, please find the arrows that I shoot." The youth ran, and he shot the arrow to go past him.
37 Vayavo hana'ar ad-mekom hachetzi asher yarah Yehonatan vayikra Yehonatan acharei hana'ar vayomer halo hachetzi mimecha vahal'ahThe youth arrived at the place of the arrow that Yonatan had shot, and Yonatan called after the youth and said, "Is not the arrow beyond you?"
Yonatan provided David with the agreed upon sign that Shau's heart was set against him.

The word leha'aviro ("past him") can also be understood as "to move him past."  Yonatan wanted to move the youth past the place he was standing to the marker stone.  The idiomatic expression leha'aviro mida'ato means to remove someone's reason, and this suggests a third possibility.  Yonatan shot the arrow to trick the youth and dissuade him from reasoning that this was anything but sport.

From the verses it seems that Yonatan shot no more than one arrow, though he had promised David that he would shoot three.  One suggestion is that he only intended to use a second and third arrow if for some reason David would not get a clear message from the first one. In devising the plan, Yonatan had taken into account that there might be other archers in the field or that his first shot might go astray.

Other commentators read the verse as though Yonatan did shoot more than one arrow: "And the youth came to the place of the arrow which Yonatan had shot"  - this refers to the first arrow; and Yonatan called after the youth, and said, "But the arrow is farther on than you" - this refers to another arrow, the one meant to warn David.

38 Vayikra Yehonatan acharei hana'ar meherah chushah al-ta'amod vayelaket na'ar Yehonatan et-hachitzim vayavo el-adonavYehonatan then called out after the attendant, "Quickly, hurry, do not stand still!" Yehonatan's attendant gathered the arrows and came to his master.
39 Vehana'ar lo-yada me'umah ach Yehonatan veDavid yad'u et-hadavarThe attendant knew nothing; only Yehonatan and David understood the matter.
The scripted form of the word chetz (arrow) in this verse is singular, however, according to tradition it is read in the plural, chitzim (arrows).  This further highlights the uncertainty surrounding the amount of arrows Yonatan actually shot.  One suggestion is that although all three were shot, the youth gathered them up as quickly as if there had been only one.

When an archer shoots an arrow, sometimes those sent to fetch it search in a place closer than where the arrow came to rest.  Other times, they search much farther than where the arrow actually landed.  This is what Yonatan proposed to David: "in this way G-d will guide us.  I will shoot the arrows at the marker stone.  If the youth runs after the arrow and I have to tell him to return because he's passed it, this will be a providential sign that all is well - G-d's will is that you return.  But if the youth stops before reaching the arrow and I have to tell him to keep going, this will be a providential sign that there is danger - it has been decreed by Heaven that you flee from here."

With this we can better understand the sequence of events.  It is impossible for a man to outrace an arrow.  Yonatan therefore told the youth, "Run, please find the arrows which I shoot" (v20:36).  In this way it was possible for the youth to go father than the arrow and then have to return to get them.  The verse then says that the youth ran and Yonatan shot the arrow past him.

40 Vayiten Yehonatan et-kelav el-hana'ar asher-lo vayomer lo lech havei ha'irYehonatan gave his equipment to his attendant and said to him, "Go, bring it to the city."
41 Hana'ar ba veDavid kam me'etzel hanegev vayipol le'apav artzah vayishtachu shalosh pe'amim vayishku ish et-re'ehu vayivku ish et-re'ehu ad-David higdilThe attendant went and David stood up from the southern side and he fell on his face to the ground and prostrated himself three times. Then they kissed one another and cried one with the other until David exceeded.
The "southern side" refers to the southern region, and arid and rocky area in which travelers found refuge from the even harsher conditions of the desert.

Alternateively, the "southern side" refers to the southern side of the marker stone, the side where David hid. Thus Yonatan purposely shot the arrows to the north of the stone.

The question which obviously comes to mind is: If David and Yonatan in any case met and spoke together, what was the point of shooting the arrows and signallying by calling out to the youth?  However, it seems that even now Yonatan was not intending to come together with David.  Yet he suspected that David might not able to resist their speaking to one another before parting and so he sent his servant away.  Moreover, Yonatan had to take into account that someone might happen along and discover them before they could talk together, and so he relied on the shooting of the arrows to ensure that David received the warning.  Only when he saw that all was clear did David emerge into the open to embrace Yonatan.

The commentators offer a number of explanations for why David's crying exceeded Yonatan's.  Simply, whereas Yonatan could return home, he had to flee for Shaul would certainly be seeking to take his life.  Yonatan understood that this was the reason for David's exceedinly bitter weeping and hurried to send him on his way.  Another suggestion is that this is a hint to the future, when David would weep on Yonatan's untimely death.

Alternatively, "until David exceeded" means that David began to weep loudly and Yonatan feared that they would be discovered.  He therefore blessed him and sent him away.

42 Vayomer Yehonatan le-David lech leshalom asher nishbanu shneinu anachnu beshem HASHEM lemor HASHEM yihyeh beini uveinecha uvein zar'i uvein zar'acha ad-olamYehonatan said to David, "Go to peace. What the two of us have sworn in the Name of HASHEM - saying, 'HASHEM will be [a witness] between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring' - shall be forever!"
Yonatan assured David that through they were parting, their bond of love would not be severed.

"Go to peace," Yonatan told David, "and remember our oath.  Indeed, the very fact that we were able to swear true allegiance to one another is proof that G-d is with us."

It is also possible to understand Yonatan's words the other way round, "The very fact that we have both sworn in the name of HaShem is a sign that you will go to peace." (cf. v1:17)

In saying, "For we have sworn both of us," Yonatan wanted to impress upon David that they had sworn as equals.  He had not sworn as the son of the king, lest following generations later say their ancestor David had agreed under duress, for how could he refuse the king's son.  No, they had sworn as equals and out of love - both of them willingly - binding them and all their seed forever.

And, just as their bond of love would be everlasting, so would be their pact.  "HASHEM will between me and you...forever," he told David.  "Although we are parting, HASHEM will be forever."

There is a very great lesson to be learnt from Yonatan's exemplary behavior.  Despite all that he had to endure at his father's table, he mentions none of it to David on whose behalf he spoke.  This was both so that he would not be guilty of tale-bearing and slander against his father, and so that David would not be anguished by the news.  He therefore chose his words carefully, telling David to "Go to peace," for there was no hope that Shaul would have a change of heart and cease his pursuit of him.

In the merit of his tears, David achieved greatness and his enemies were vanquished.  As he asked of G-d (Tehillim 56:9) "Put my tears in Your flask, are they not in Your ledger?"  The shedding of tears is never left unanswered; heaven's gate of tears is never shut.

Parashat Toledot

- MeAm Lo'ez, Sefer Shmuel Alef

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