Saturday, December 8, 2007

Mikeitz, Breishis 43:14. The First "Acheir"

Yaakov consents to his childrens’ request that he allow them to return to Egypt, despite the danger to Binyamin. He says "may Hashem grant you success, that you will come back safely and bring back my other son, (Shimon, who had been incarcerated in Egypt,) and my son Binyamin.

The Ramban here, and it is also brought in the Shai Latorah I, asks why Yaakov refers to Shimon as so coldly as Achichem acheir, 'your other brother', not Shimon beni, 'my son'. Yaakov does refer to Binyamin, on the other hand, as 'my son.' Why the obvious and clearly intentional use of a cold and dispassionate description of Shimon?

The Ramban answers that Yaakov was still angry about Shchem, and he wouldn’t even mention Shimon’s name. He would have left him in Mitzrayim if not for the fact that they didn’t have any bread in the house. The Shai Latorah brings from Reb Simcha Zissel Broide/Chevron that this is amazing, how makpid Yaakov was on Shimon; it was twenty years after the event, and according to the Ramban himself the complaint against Shimon and Levi was not the action against Shchem, but instead Shimon and Levi’s not having asked Yaakov’s advice/permission. We see, he says, the degree of seriousness Yaakov attached to family and personal discipline, that it was an unforgivable breach to the extent that he would have left Shimon to rot in Egypt, and he called him his Acheir, like Elisha ben Avuyah.

The truth is that yes, the Ramban does say this, but there’s an extremely important point that was left out. We have to ask ourselves, did Shimon ask for mechilah? Did he demonstrate a change of heart? Are we not justified in saying pshat in the Ramban that Shimon was adamant and recalcitrant, and would have done the same again? If so, Yaakov’s attitude was far more understandable, and it's just loshon hora to say that the Ramban attributed to Yaakov Avinu such an adamant anger toward Shimon, that he never forgave him for a twenty year old sin, to the extent that he referred to him as 'the other one,' like Elisha ben Avuya, and would have left him enslaved in Egypt. The Ramban says no such extreme thing.

Once again, by the way, we have an example of Shimon’s position in the shvatim– nowhere in Tanach is anything nice said about him. The members of Shevet of Levi, on the other hand, who was Shimon's equal partner in the destruction of Shchem, apparently channeled their aggressiveness into avodas Hashem.

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