Name Withheld II
By Rabbi Daniel Travis
Shimon and Levi are a pair; instruments of violence are their wares.
my soul not enter their plot; may my honor not be associated with them.
Yaakov prayed that when the Torah described the spies and Korach’s
rebellion, his name would be omitted from their lineage.1 As mentioned
previously, the exclusion of Yaakov’s name implies that these acts were
not motivated by character traits inherited from Yaakov.2 However, it is
difficult to understand what Yaakov’s intentions were. If these actions
did stem from him, how could Yaakov pray that his name would be left out
of these stories? On the other hand, if it was not true, why did
Yaakov “suspect” the Torah would write something false?
Yaakov is the symbol of truth, as the verse testifies, “Give truth to
Yaakov.”3 It is therefore clear that these rebellions, which were acts of
total falsehood, in no way stemmed from Yaakov. It is possible that Korach
and the spies were falsely encouraged to rebel against the leadership of
the Jewish people based on the way they misconstrued Yaakov’s act of
taking the blessings from his brother Esav. Therefore Yaakov prayed that
even if they did learn from him, his name should not be written in
association with the rebellion, in order that people should not
incorrectly assume that their actions stemmed directly from Yaakov’s
In analyzing this complex episode in Jewish history we cannot ignore the
following question: if the spies and Korach did learn from Yaakov, does
this not throw some of the responsibility onto Yaakov’s shoulders? Is this
not sufficient reason to write Yaakov’s name in association with their
“The ways of God are straight; the righteous traverse them while the
crooked stumble on them.”4 Often the very same path that the righteous
take to arrive at truth can be used by the crooked for the sake of
furthering falsehood. Yaakov acted solely with the intention of fulfilling
God’s will and therefore the Torah did not concern itself with individuals
who will try to misinterpret and distort his actions.
In the same vein, the Gemara poses the following inquiry: Should it list
numerous ways that storekeepers could unknowingly cheat their clientele,
in order to prevent them from inadvertently doing so, or is it preferable
to omit these halachoth in order to prevent dishonest people from learning
from these examples how to deceive their customers? Based on the above
verse, the Gemara concludes that the proper course of action is to ignore
the danger of crooked individuals, and to write these halachoth for the
sake of the upright who wish to safeguard themselves from cheating
1. Sanhedrin 109b.
2. See previous essay.
3. Michah 7:20.
4. Hosheah 14:10.
5. Bava Bathra 99b.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org