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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yayishlach, Breishis 32:8. Yaakov's Fear of Eisav; Vayira Yaakov m’ohd vayeitzer loh vayachatz es ha’am asher ito.

The Arvei Nachal here brings a Medrash;
There were two "Bnei Adam" to whom Hashem promised safety, but who, when faced with danger, were nonetheless afraid. These were the Bechir Ha’avos, Yaakov, and the Adon Hanevi’im, Moshe. He asks a bunch of questions on the Medrash, among which is that the words “Bnei Adam” are unnecessary. He says pshat that the Avos grew and changed throughout their lives. The havtachos they had received came when they were on a certain madreiga, but when they rose to a higher madriega, compared to which their earlier status was that of "Bnei Adam", they feared that the earlier havtacha would not apply. A havtacha to a "Ben Adam" does not apply to a Trans or Meta Ben Adam. Although he does not explain why this would be so, I assume it is because they moved from the common man's standard of being judged on the basis of Middas Harachamim into Middas Hadin, or ke'chut hasa'arah.

With this I added ta’am to a vort by Rabbi Shain in his sefer Birkas Ish. He asks: The Gaon by Korach says that "ito" is not the same as "imo". Ito means simple coincidence, two events or experiences that coincide. Imo means with commonality of purpose. If so, he asks, why by Yaakov’s camps does it say "es ha’am asher ito"? It should say imo! He answers that the shvatim did not agree with Yaakov that there was reason to be frightened; He points out that Shimon and Levi attacked Shechem’s city ‘betach,’ confident that they would be victorious, and Rashi says that their confidence was that the zchus of oso zakein would be meigin. The Sifsei Chachomim learns that “oso zakein” was Yaakov. Yaakov himself was fearful, though. So here, too; Yaakov’s splitting of the camps was against the advice of the shvatim, so it says ito, not imo.

With the Arvei Nochal we can understand what the diyun was. The shvatim were someich on the havtacha, but Yaakov, on the madreigah of Bechir Ha’avos, could no longer rely on the havtacha given to him when he was a Ben Adam.

The Arvei Nachal's idea may address the shockingly incongruous fate of those two great Ba'alei Bitachon, Nachum Ish Gamzu and Reb Akiva. They were famous for their bitachon-- for Nachum, it was his eponymous trait. Early in their lives, their bitachon was that everything would work out for the best, a faith justified by the happy endings of the stories in which they were in mortal danger, but came out better than before-- Nachum who delivered a chest of sand to the Emperor;, saying Gam zu letova (Taanis 21a), and Reb Akiva with the donkey and the lamp (Brachos 60), who said Kol de'avid Rachmana le'tahv avid. But how did their lives end? In Nochum’s case, as a quadruple amputee lying in a bed with the legs in buckets of water to stop bugs from crawling on him, in a dilapidated house that was ready to collapse at any moment and kill him or suffocate him as he lay helpless. Reb Akiva, of course, was tortured to death in his old age by having his skin and muscle slowly scraped off. Where was the happy result of Gahm zu letovah? Where was the tav of Kol de'avid Rachmana letav avid? So we see, as the Arvei Nachal explained, that the faith they displayed earlier was appropriate and justified; but that faith, that confidence in happy endings, was no longer relevant to them when they grew older and greater. The greatest among us might reach a level where the most merciless standard of justice applies, where even past promises of tranquility become irrelevant.

He’oros: the havtacha to Yaakov was given right before his confrontation with Eisov, so it’s interesting to think about how and why this great change occured so quickly-- apparently, in the space of a few hours. One almost wonders if it was the receipt of the havtacha that catalyzed the metamorphosis-- and rendered the havtacha moot.

Another point: it's interesting, in light of last week's discussion of Zechus Avos, that the Shvatim were confident that their Zechus Avos from Yaakov would protect them, while Yaakov himself, the relevant Ahv, was not confident at all! It appears that this Zechus Avos was more effective for the children that it was for the Ahv himself! The answer is, that while the havtacha no longer pertained to Yaakov, his children, the shvatim, who had the same havtacha through zechus avos, were still on the madreiga of being able to rely on it. So while the primary source of the zechus and the primary recipient of the havtacha was no longer protected by that zechus, the secondary beneficiaries, the Shvatim, were still protected by that zechus. It's not pshat that the zechus was bateil: pshat is that Yaakov had moved beyond the protection offered by that zechus and havtacha. So, in a manner of speaking, Tama Zechus Avos for the Ahv, but Tachon Zechus Avos for the banim.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Berachot 28: Rabbi Akiva did not have Z'chus Avos - or sufficient personal Z'chus - to protect him from Raban Gamliel; I would assume that his children did have Z'chus Avos.