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Posted on November 16, 2007 (5768) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Parshas Vayeitzei

Destined for Each Other?

Volume 22, No. 7
7 Kislev 5768
November 17, 2007

Sponsored by
Robert and Hannah Klein
on the yahrzeit of mother
Dorothy J. Klein (Devorah bat Avraham a”h)

Today’s Learning:
Shevuot 1:2-3
O.C. 45:1-46:1
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Ketubot 77
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Ta’anit 12

In this week’s parashah, Yaakov leaves home in search of a wife. R’ David Cohen z”l (known as the Nazir; leading student of R’ Kook) notes that Yaakov struggled to find the right wife, unlike his father Yitzchak, whose match was made with no effort on his part. The fact that some people find their matches easily while others do not is a pattern that has repeated itself throughout history.

R’ Cohen adds that we commonly hear of the concept of “bashert” / one’s destined spouse. This concept, in fact, has a source in the Gemara. However, Rambam z”l rejected that passage in the Gemara as a minority view. He asks in his work Shemoneh Perakim (Ch.8): How can man’s spouse be predestined when the very act of marrying is (or is connected with) a mitzvah? G-d does not decree whether man will or will not perform mitzvot! Rather, Rambam maintains, man’s free will regarding marriage is unfettered.

Many later commentaries rebutted Rambam’s position. Indeed, Rambam’s words seem to be at odds with his own teachings about the paradox of man’s bechirah / free will and G-d’s yediah / knowledge. Since G-d knows what I will choose to do at the next moment, how can it be said that I have free will. In essence, Rambam writes that this question stems from our inability to understand G-d’s “knowledge.” If we knew more about G-d, we would know that there is no contradiction between yediah and bechirah. (Zachu Shechinah Bay’nayhem p. 95)

Similarly, the commentaries write, G-d’s knowledge of who a person is predestined to marry does not affect a person’s free will. Indeed, bashert may mean nothing more than this: If a person chooses to fulfill the mitzvah of marrying, this is the person whom he is predestined to marry. Man’s free will thus remains intact. (Shemoneh Perakim, with commentary by R’ Yosef Jacobs shlita)

“And it was, when Yaakov saw Rachel, daughter of Lavan his mother’s brother, and the flock of Lavan his mother’s brother, Yaakov came forward and rolled the stone off the mouth of the well and watered the sheep of Lavan his mother’s brother.” (29:10)

Why does the Torah reiterate so many times that Lavan was the brother of Yaakov’s mother? Rabbeinu Bachya z”l (Spain; 14th century) offers several explanations:

The Torah is informing us that everything Yaakov did for the evil Lavan, he did to honor his own mother.

Alternatively: One might have thought that Yaakov obtained the strength to lift the stone off the well because of a desire to impress Rachel, whom he was seeing for the first time. Therefore the Torah tells us that Yaakov’s actions were motivated entirely by his desire to fulfill his mother’s command that he travel to Lavan’s home. (Commentary on the Torah)

A related halachah: If one needs a favor from another and he knows that the favor will be done for him if he mentions his own father’s name – even if he could also obtain the favor in his own merit — he should say, “Please do this for my father,” for this gives honor to his father. (Shulchan Aruch, Y.D. 240:6)

“Complete the week of this one [Leah] and we will give you the other one [Rachel] too . . .” (29:27)

We are taught that the Avot / Patriarchs observed the Torah before it was given. If so, how did Yaakov marry two sisters, which is prohibited by the Torah?

R’ Yitzchak Ze’ev Soloveitchik z”l (the Brisker Rav; died 1959) explains that certain mitzvot, by definition, could not have been observed before G- d commanded them. For example, the mitzvah of brit milah requires cutting off a part of the foreskin called the “orlah.” What is wrong with having an orlah? Nothing. We cut it off for no other reason than the fact that G- d commanded us to do so. The orlah has no inherent characteristics which distinguish it from the rest of man’s flesh. Thus, before G-d designated the orlah as something that should be removed, no “good deed” would have been accomplished by cutting it off. [Ed. note: Our Sages say that the Avot ate matzah on Pesach. Although the mitzvah of matzah did not yet exist, matzah has certain physical or chemical characteristics which distinguish it from chametz. Thus, the concept of eating matzah could exist before the Torah was given.]

Similarly, R’ Soloveitchik explains, the prohibition on marrying two sisters could not have been honored before the Torah was given. There is nothing inherently wrong with marrying two sisters, and gentiles are not prohibited from marrying two sisters. Thus, before the concept of a Jewish marriage existed, the prohibition on marrying two sisters could not have existed. And, before the Torah was given, a Jewish marriage could not have been legally effected. Even if the procedures for a Jewish marriage had been followed, the resulting union would not have been a legally correct Jewish marriage since the laws regarding a legally correct Jewish marriage had not yet been “enacted.” That would have to await the giving of the Torah. (Chiddushei Ha’Griz)

The Midrash records that when Yaakov was working for Lavan (in exchange for the promise of marrying Rachel), Yaakov used to send presents to his intended bride. However, the presents never reached Rachel, as Lavan diverted them to Leah. The Midrash records that Rachel kept quiet. She reasoned, “If I let Yaakov know, he will not want to marry me [presumably because she spoke lashon hara] and my father will not let me marry him.” As a reward for her silence, the Midrash concludes, one of her tribes (Yosef) was divided into two tribes (Menashe and Ephraim).

Why was Rachel rewarded if she acted in her own self-interest? asks R’ Simcha Mordechai Ziskind Broide z”l (rosh yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva; died 2000). He answers-applying a theme that he cites repeatedly in his teachings and which has appeared in these pages before: This illustrates the principle that it is not enough to observe the Torah’s laws. The Torah’s spirit must be adhered to as well. This adherence starts with using one’s own common sense (presuming, of course, that what one thinks is common sense does not contradict the Torah). Rachel achieved this great reward for using common sense instead of doing what many people would instinctively do. (Ha’tov Ve’hayashar)


The following are excerpts from an address by R’ Kalman Kahana z”l, rabbi of Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim, at a gathering to celebrate the grape harvest on behalf of an otzar bet din during the shemittah year of 5747 / 1986-87. (The otzar bet din concept was discussed in prior issues of Hamaayan.) The address was delivered at Kibbutz Sha’alvim on 15 Av 5747 / 1987.

More than a year ago, when we started to think about this shemittah year, some [kibbutz] members wondered, “How can we strengthen and encourage farmers in advance of the shemittah?” This was not easy. The current shemittah occurs at a time of economic hardship, without the savings or “fat” which we were able to live off of in prior shemittot. The last few years have been difficult ones for agriculture. We knew that much encouragement and strengthening were needed.

I was very worried that, G-d forbid, we would not succeed. But G-d has helped us.

These efforts began in 5698 [1937-38]; I want to emphasize this, and I think it is important to do so. Shemittah [observance] in Eretz Yisrael did not begin in 5712 [1951-52, the first shemittah after independence], but rather in 5698. It continued in 5705 [1944-45], but only in isolated places. One settlement stood out at the front – Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim. That place had been settled only months – it felt like days – before the shemittah. Chafetz Chaim was alone on a hostile front. I remember that the newspapers called for the lands of the kibbutz to be confiscated. But they [the kibbutz members] remained strong. All of this took place under the guidance of the Chazon Ish [R’ Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz z”l; died 1953]. It was he who renewed shemittah observance in Eretz Yisrael, and no one else. [Ed. note: R’ Kahana refers to shemittah observance as opposed to working the Land after selling it to a non-Jew, relying on the hetter mechirah.]

Thank G-d, in 5712 there were additional shemittah observing settlements belonging to the Poalei Agudat Yisrael movement, namely Yesodot, Sha’alvim and Bnei Re’em. Other settlements from outside of Poalei Agudat Yisrael also could be counted among the shemittah observers, namely Kommemiut and Kfar Chabad. Later, thank G-d, the idea became even more widespread.

This week we return to the basic laws of shemittah, one of which is that planting is prohibited. Does this prohibition include growing vegetables hydroponically, i.e., in water rather than in soil? R’ Yechiel Michel Tikochinsy z”l, a leading halachic authority in Eretz Yisrael in the mid- 20th century, wrote the following in 1958, when hydroponics was in its infancy. [As always, please do not rely on these short summaries for practical halachic guidance.]

If “planting” is done in water in a pail or in a glass vessel, I do not see any prohibition. This activity does not fall within the scope of the verse (Vayikra 24:4), “Your field you shall not sow . . .” If one engaged in this activity on Shabbat, he would be liable for transgressing the laws of Shabbat. However, whereas on Shabbat, man is commanded to rest, man is not obligated to rest during the Shemittah. Rather, the mitzvah is for the Land to rest, and man is commanded not to do anything that would prevent the Land from resting. (Sefer Ha’shemittah p.97)

The editors hope these brief ‘snippets’ will engender further study and discussion of Torah topics (‘lehagdil Torah u’leha’adirah’), and your letters are appreciated. Web archives at start with 5758 (1997) and may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.

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