Monday, November 30, 2009

Vayishlach, Breishis 33:9. What Yitzchak, Yishmael, and Eisav Have in Common: בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי

Earlier posts on Vayishlach: click on the Vayishlach link in the list at the right.

I diligently avoid Toras haNistar, and I recommend the same to all my fellow Torah dilettantes. I find that some of what I understand is two dimensional and descriptive rather than analytical or prescriptive, and the rest is often disturbing.  However, I recently saw a Chasam Sofer in a new edition (Edited by Yosef Naftali Stern, Shapira print, Yerushalayim Tuf shin samach tes) that was intriguing.  So I wrote a letter to great unknown, asking if he had any idea of what the Chasam Sofer was talking about.  Here is my letter and his response, slightly edited. 

My letter:

In Parshas Chayei Sara (24:62), where Yitschak first meets Rivkah, it says that he had returned from Be'er Lachai Ro'i, where he had been living-- בא מבוא מבאר לחי ראי   The Chasam Sofer there says that the words Ba mi'bo, which literally means "he came from coming", connotes an idea similar to the English phrase "coming and going," a degree of instability.  So long as Avraham was alive, Yitzchak's specific personality trait was still tentative.  He wasn't firmly established in his unique identity until after his father's passing, at which point he grew into his personification of the midda of gevura (strength? might?mastery?).  Then the Chasam Sofer says that  that just as Be'er Sheva was the focal point of Avraham's midda of Chesed, (for it was there that he had his Eshel, his hostel for travelers,) so too was  באר לחי ראי  the source of Yitzchak's specific trait of gevura   This is why the passuk in Chayei Sarah (25:11) says
 וַיְהִי אַחֲרֵי מוֹת אַבְרָהָם וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ וַיֵּשֶׁב יִצְחָק עִם-בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי.

Then he says that Be'er Lachai Ro'i was not unique to Yitzchak; משם ירש ישמעאל כחו ומשם כחו של עשו  From there, too, Yishmael inherited his strength, and from there, too, came Eisav's strength.  The connection to Yishmael is explicit: it was there that the angel told Hagar that her son would be a powerful man.  See Lech Lecha, Breishis 16:13-14, where it says
 וַתִּקְרָא שֵׁם ה' הַדֹּבֵר אֵלֶיהָ אַתָּה אֵל רֳאִי כִּי אָמְרָה הֲגַם הֲלֹם רָאִיתִי אַחֲרֵי רֹאִי..

 עַל כֵּן קָרָא לַבְּאֵר בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי הִנֵּה בֵין-קָדֵשׁ וּבֵין בָּרֶד.

The connection to Eisav is alluded to in this week's parsha.  In 33:9, Eisav told Yaakov  וַיֹּאמֶר עֵשָׂו יֶשׁ לִי רָב אָחִי and the words "li rav achi" contain the same letters as the words "Be'er Lachai Ro'i" (although not the same number of letters.)

He then says that although all drew their strength from the same be'er, there was a big difference: Eisav's "li rav achi" begins with the letters l r and a, while "be'er lachai ro'i" begins with b l and r.  The Gematriya of the latter is 232, while that of the former is 231. He says that 231 she'arim are tamei and 231 are tahor, פנים ואחור, and that 232 is the gematria of yehi ohr and the roshei teivos of Ki rotzeh hashem be'amo.
It sounds interesting, that all drew their strength from the same place, and the quasi anagram is cool, but I don't know what he's talking about. If you can tell me a reasonable pshat, I would appreciate it, so I don't have to just leave that thing about Cheerios on the blog.
And this is what he answered me:
Superficial quick analysis:

Sarah was midas hadin (sitra d'nukvasah). [The Chidah, (I think in Yad David) brings a pshat that because

Yitzchak was connected to the midas hadin, he was too feminine to reproduce, and therefore had to be
shected and resurrected in order to ma'amid zera.]

The victim of Sarah's midas hadin was Hagar. The Ramban points out that because of the mistreatment of Hagar,  Yishmoel was given shlita to attack the Jews. Be'er Lachai Roi was where Hagar was mekabel upon herself the midas hadin by acceding to the malach's instructions of vehis'ani tachas yadah. Thus, the koach of Yishmael stems from that be'er.

Mincha, which is keneged gevurah/din, was created at that self-same be'er.

And of course, Esav took the pesoles of din with him as a son of Yitzchok.

Note that Esav took the pesoles of Yitzchok's middah, just as Yishmoel took the pesoles of Avraham's middas hachesed. The koach hagevurah of Yishmoel over klal yisroel is a  secondary aspect which he was yoresh from Hagar, as discussed.

On the other hand, Yitzchok crystallized his midas din precisely when Hashem sent him the tikkun of Rivka, to allow them to create the tif'eres of Yaakov.

There are two aspects of din - the negative and the positive. Din can be used destructively or positively - even by non-Jews. Thus the 231 shearim of tum'ah and taharah.

However, the underlying purpose of din, which is an offspring of chesed, is to allow the world/Jews to earn
schar and come to an ultimate tikkun. Thus, the world was originally created b'din - yehi ohr, which represents the 231 shearim of din plus the alef of the hidden kavana. This is why reshoim should not use the original ohr, because they would realize that din is beneficial. The yesod of the ohr shivas yemei bereshit can now be found only in the Torah - which is the ultimate chesed comprised of din.

The tachlis of this din to bring to chesed is of course klal yisroel, hence rotzeh hashem be'amo.

Unfortunately, my library is mostly packed away, so I could not provide you with more information/mar'ei mekomos. This is all I could come up with off of the (ed.- top of my head).

Post script by Barzilai:
For what it's worth, I would have understood the triple allusion to בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי to mean that divine inspiration or grace is not our monopoly; Every human being has access to ruchnius: We share the Be'er even with our nemeses, even with Yishma'el and Eisav.  But to me, this doesn't have the ring of truth.  It's like something Casuto would say; it's too 'haskooolish."

Post script II:
Nemeses is the plural of Nemesis.

Post Script III
 Another question that bothers me, and that I have not seen anyone address, is this:  What is the relationship between the name Hagar gave to the place of spirituality, and the name Avraham gave to the mekom ha'akeida--
 וַיִּקְרָא אַבְרָהָם שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא ה' יִרְאֶה אֲשֶׁר יֵאָמֵר הַיּוֹם בְּהַר ה' יֵרָאֶה
Obviously, they both focus on re'iyah, but Avraham's was a har, while Hagar's was a be'er.


  1. I think it's "Great Unknown", not "The Great Unknown" as in Yeshiva Hagedola veHakedosha...

    Great Unknown hereby rejects any connection the hei ha'yediah.

    Or maybe the proper form is one more great unknown...

  2. "However, the underlying purpose of din, which is an offspring of chesed, is to allow the world/Jews to earn schar and come to an ultimate tikkun."
    We make schar the old fashioned way; we earn it. The idea is to avoid na'ama dekisufa. But that would only seem to work while people take pride in earning their way. In modern society, on the contrary, people appear to take pride in milking the system and riding on a cart pulled by someone else's exertion. In fact, working for what you have when there are options for subsidies out there is not viewed as respectable but as stupid. Why bother to walk on your own two feet when you can take a free ride? That appears to be the conventional wisdom of modern society. So why would they want to work for their schar?

  3. re Ariella:

    Excellent, and sad, point - what was once welfare is now entitlement.

    "Schar" implies an exchange of value for value (or work); the opposite is "matana", as in "son'ei matanot yich'ye."

    I wonder if this greedy corruption of self-respect is the ultimate manifestation of Esav, the pig.

    In my hashkafa, however, it is assumed that any corruption in the non-Jewish world must be yonek from a shoresh tum'ah in the Jewish world. It is depressing to speculate what this shoresh is, and probably better not to explicate any candidates.

    It is clear, in any case, that once the concept of nahama de'kisufah is nullified, there is no justification for this world and its challenges.

  4. that g said... should be
    great unknown said...
    I may drop the the, but this is massive amputation.

  5. I feel like I'm in that skit.

  6. How could you be familiar with that skit and yet simultaneously declaim that you "diligently avoid Toras haNistar"?

    If there was ever an introduction to chomer v tzurah, as well as the concept of "name" v description, that skit was it.

  7. Although, for chomer v tzurah, this

    is more concise and carries on to an ethical conclusion.

  8. Wait, I have something to say on Torah Hanistar! As you know, the Teimanim say that the Mordechai in back of the Gemaros was actually not named "Mordcheh" as the Yeshivishe oilem calls it, or Mordechai, as most Americans call it, but really was named Mordechee. So, why was he named Mordechee and not Mordechai? Because the nekuda Chirik came to Hashem and complained, it's not fair, Shamshon Refael Hirsch ought to be named Shimshon! Why did he drop the Chirik? So Hashem said, alright, fine, I'll take the patach away from the Mordechai and give him the chirik instead.

  9. Some nistar should remain that way.

    I once said a shiur in the Ezras Torah shul in Yerushalaim, and quoted Reb Shamshon Refael Hirsch. Afterwards, an alter Yerushalmi pointed out that I should have said "Shimshon." If only I had your kabbalah to throw back at him; instead, I studiously ignored his correction.

    Actually, if one wishes to avoid the Germanic form of Rav Hirsch's name, one must make further modifications, since Refael was not his name but that of his father, in the sense of Refaelson. Thus a fully hebraized form would be Rav Shimshon ben Refael Hirsch.

  10. Fact is, though, that his name was Shamshon, not Shimshon. I asked the Venerable Yekke Ploni why, and he said "Becose that's whaht his naaaame wahs. Shamshon, not Shimshon."

  11. PPS:
    Again, without a library, I dredge up from the convoluted and cobwebbed recesses of my cranial attic the following, which I think is a tanna dev'ai Eliyahu also quoted by the Ramban:
    מעיד עלי שמים וארץ... that even an...eved or a goy can be zocheh to ruach hakodesh.

  12. Yes. The original source is in Seder Eliyahu Rabbah; Tana D’bei Eliahu beginning of #9— the Tanna says that “whether Jew or non-Jew, man or woman, slave or maidservant— attaining ruach hakodesh depends wholly on one’s actions.” Also Yalkut Shimoni 42:7 in Shoftim. On the other hand, the Gemara in Kiddushin 70b says that the Shechina only can rest on a person from a mishpacha meyucheses. Leo Levy, in his collection of essays “Facing Current Challenges” chapter 11, suggests the Gemara is specific to hashra’as hashechina (which he says Rashi in Sanhedrin 39b is mashma means nevu’ah), and shtells tzu the Gemara in Brachos 7a and BB 15b where Moshe Rabbeinu asked that the shechina not rest on idolaters. I'll have to check Rabbeinu Bachaya where he lists the different levels of kedusha, like Bas Kol, Ruach Hakodesh, etc.

  13. And then there's the Medrash Breishis 48:20 (and Yerushalmi in Sotah) that “Mei’olam lo nizkak HKBH l’hasiach (to talk) im isha ella im osah tzadeikes.” Another raya that Le''hasi'ach is not the same as stam ruach hakodesh. I don't really get what the problem is to talk to a woman, unless there's some kind of inherent and insuperable sensuality that a normal woman has.

  14. Which would explain why Chazal were so steaming mad at Bruriah that they would do such a terrible thing to her.

  15. a)Chazal, or R' Meir? [i.e., plural or singular?]

    b) "angry, not mad," said my fifth-grade teacher.

    c) irrespective of the Eliyahu Rabbah, this specific incident occured before matan torah, where even bestiality did not stand in the way of [the inception of] nevu'ah.

  16. le'daber is "to talk"; le'hasiach, methinks, implies "to converse."

    The primary source for this medrash rabbah is beraishis 20:6, and see the nos'ai keilim there.

    Were it not for the context, I would have understood it as being that the Ribbono Shel Olam never argued with a woman over whether she was wrong or not except here. Given that Sarah Imainu was, as emphasized, a tzadaikes, it was possible that it would not be a complete exercise in futility.

  17. So I can't post on "Shelo Asani Isha: The Classic Rabbinic Attitude Toward Women: Disdain or Contempt?"

  18. Tell me in advance, so I can schedule time for bikur cholim at the hospital.

  19. A friend in Israel sent me an email about the last two comments, and I thought it was great. Here is what he wrote:

    but the gerrer chasidim can't/ won't say "isha" since we need to distance ourselves from their very existence
    so they say the bracha "she-lo assani kirtzono"

    PLEASE note that I have the greatest respect for the Gerers, both for their mesora of gadlus batora and their full involvement in yishuv Eretz Yisrael. It's just a joke about one peculiarity.

  20. To great unknown on Barzilai's comment about Bruriah: Wouldn't the question of whether it's Chazal or Rabbi Meir depend upon whether or not you hold by what Rashi says in Avodah Zarah 18b?

  21. You're right, Rashi there says clearly that it was Reb Meir's idea. Which, I think, was great unknown's subtle criticism of my having said "Chazal were so steaming mad at Bruriah," when the story only proves Reb Meir's fury. Still, I think that what Reb Meir did is good evidence as to what the hashkafa mekubeles of the gedolei hador was.

  22. I received this comment via email from Reb Baruch; I thought it was kedai to put it up here.

    I still have some thoughts for you about the Chatam Sofer in Chayei Sarah, but I've been unable to fine my sefer yetzirah. The 231 refers to tzeirufim of the aleph-bet. I also, feel that people don't really understand "din"--especially after reading the comments on your blog. "Din" is the ultimate standard; it is the measure for true tzaddikim; it is the measure we will able to finally stand up to le'atid la'voh. Yitzchak, the embodiment of "din" and "gevurah" and "yirah", is the father of the future. His name is future tense. This is why in that fascinating dialogue brough in Shabbos 88, it is only Yitzchak who is the advocate for klal Yisrael-- banai v'lo banehchah.....palgah ahlai oopalgah ahlehchah...Going back to the well-known Rashi in Bereishit, Hashem didn't have charatah over having created the world b'midaht ha'din, that is still in effect; however, tzaddikim have the ability to sweeten the decree and effect rachamim via their tefillah, maasim tovim and Torah.