As a public service, here are two and a half divrei Torah that you are not likely to see in your weekly Parsha sheets.
1In this week's parsha, in 31:17, Rav Sternbuch has an interesting observation about manners and social mores.
ויקם יעקב וישא את בניו ואת נשיו
עיין רש"י שהקדים זכרים לנקבות, ועשו הקדים נקבות לזכרים. שאצל היהודים קודמים האנשים שהם חייבים במצוות יותר מן הנשים , ומנהג עכו"ם הוא להקדים ולכבד הנשים, ויש למחות ולבטל מנהג העכו"ם שנתפשט אצל רבים מישראל
This concept is to be found as well in Eiruvin (18b) where it says לא יהלך אדם אחורי אשה בדרך ואפי' היא אשתו.
Rashi explains ואפילו היא אשתו. שהוא גנאי לו
But I believe that is davka where it gives the impression that the one walking in front is the dominant person in the relationship. If it is clear that the husband is choosing to do this because he wants to be machabeid his wife, and especially in our time when people aren't so obsessively makpid on the kavod of who walks first, it is surprising to me that it would be a gnai. The evidence of Mano'ach's amoratzus was because at that time, people were more makpid on kavod and kedimah, and his lack of kpeidah proved he was inferior to his wife. Or maybe the lesson is that we should be more makpid on kavod and kedimah, though I don't know why kpeida is such a ma'aleh.
Perhaps when offered this kavod, the wife should demur. מכבדה יותר מגופו is in the context of the wife is being mekayeim her din of Morah, as you see in the Rambam at the end of the fifteenth perek of Ishus.
וכן צוו חכמים שיהא אדם מכבד את אשתו יותר מגופו ואוהבה כגופו ואם יש לו ממון מרבה בטובתה כפי ממונו ולא יטיל עליה אימה יתירה ויהיה דיבורו עמה בנחת ולא יהיה עצב או רגזן, וכן צוו על האשה שתהיה מכבדת את בעלה יותר מדאי ויהיה עליה מורא ממנו ותעשה כל מעשיה על פיו ויהיה בעיניה כשר או מלך, מהלכת בתאות לבו ומרחקת כל מה שישנאand the woman's chiyuv is greater than that of her husband's, as is evident in Kiddushin 31a, :
שאל בן אלמנה אחת את ר' אליעזר אבא אומר השקיני מים ואימא אומרת השקיני מים איזה מהם קודם אמר ליה הנח כבוד אמך ועשה כבוד אביך שאתה ואמך חייבים בכבוד אביך
I know that in the Olam HaEmes, they won't let me get within a mile of Rav Sternbuch, but I have to say that I'm not convinced that a public showing of honor is inappropriate. "Ladies first," being mechabed women or one's wife, does not strike me as something we would attribute to and associate with Eisav, the paradigm of hedonistic antagonism to spirituality.
So here is what I think is the pshat in the Gemara and in our Rashi. We, as men who are obligated and entrusted with the study of Torah and the concomitant mitzva to teach Torah, are always in the position of being exemplars of what Limud HaTorah and Avodas Hashem make of us. As Reb Moshe used to say שופטים ושוטרים תתן לך, each one of us has to remember that we are, at home, in the street, at work, constantly שופטים ושוטרים. If one is fully aware of his constant role as teacher and role model, he should act in a manner that expresses what he learned in the Torah. Just like a woman getting an aliyah or being motzi a man in tefilla is a bizayon, because the man's job is to know how to do this, a man has to take his position and present himself as the teacher and the role model. As such, he should walk in front. The professor does not sit with the students. He stands in front of the class and lectures, and says, I am here because you need to look, and listen, and learn from me.
Chazal emphasize the concept of strict social order in other places as well. For example, you have the Sifrei in Devarim 1:22, brought in Rashi there:
: ותקרבון אלי כלכם וגו׳ בערבוביה, להלן הוא אומר (דברים ה, כ) ותקרבון אלי כל ראשי שבטיכם וזקניכם, ילדים מכבדים את הזקנים, זקנים מכבדים את הראשים, וכאן הוא אומר ותקרבון אלי כולכם, ותאמרו בערבוביה, ילדים דוחפים את הזקנים זקנים דוחפים את הראשים(Rav Sternbuch there says that it is a sign of disrespect for Torah leadership.)
(Please note that the Mizrachi, the Gur Aryeh, and the Levush HaOrah, all say that the criticism of Eisav's marching order was that it showed he was a shatuf b'zimah. He married because he wanted the pleasures of a well stocked harem, and the children he had were of secondary interest to him. As such, his wives were more precious to him. The Avos, on the other hand, married because they wanted children, and the children were the focus of their life work. This pshat seems to sever the relationship between our Rashi and the Gemara in Eiruvin. My son, Harav Mordechai, says that these mefarshim and the Gemara in Eiruvin are not mutually exclusive. One is showing that he didn't have a ma'alah, and the other is showing that he had a chisaron.)
I mentioned the Gemara (Eiruvin 18b) that one who walks behind his wife is a boor, an am ha'aretz, not even a bar bei rav d'chad yoma.
It's important to point out that the Gemara begins with the aspersion against Mano'ach. It says he walked behind his wife, he must have been a boor. But, the Gemara asks, it says the same thing by Elkana, and by Elisha! And obviously those neviim and shoftim were the greatest of men!
אלא מעתה גבי אלקנה דכתיב וילך אלקנה אחרי אשתו הכי נמי וגבי אלישע דכתיב ויקם וילך אחריה הכי נמי אלא אחרי דבריה ועצתה הכא נמי אחרי דבריה ועצתה
So it must mean that they went following the women's words, or advise. If so, it could mean that by Mano'ach as well.
So we see, obviously, that while walking behind a woman in public is severely castigated in the Gemara, following her advice is appropriate even for a navi. And we're not talking about Sara, who was a nevi'ah herself. These were, as far as I know, just women. Respecting and following their advise is wise and proper. Walking behind them in public is boorish and shameful. So: sometimes, you should follow a woman, and sometimes you should not.
2.Also in this week's parsha:
Rav Kook, in the Ein Ayah, says the following. (Based on R Chanan Morrison's adaptation of the Ein Ayah.)
We find that Yaakov instituted Tefillas Arvis- that he davenned before lying down (28:11) ויפגע במקום וילן שם כי בא השמש
Although (corresponding to Maariv's connection to hekter,) Maariv is not mandatory in the same sense as are the other two daily tefillos, Chazal emphasize its importance.
תניא אבא בנימין אומר על שני דברים הייתי מצטער כל ימי על תפלתי שתהא לפני מטתי ועל מטתי שתהא נתונה בין צפון לדרום על תפלתי שתהא לפני מטתי מאי לפני מטתי אילימא לפני מטתי ממש והאמר רב יהודה אמר רב ואיתימא ריב"ל מנין למתפלל שלא יהא דבר חוצץ בינו לבין הקיר שנאמר ויסב חזקיהו פניו אל הקיר ויתפלל לא תימא לפני מטתי אלא אימא סמוך למטתיWhat is it about Maariv that is so special?
While we sleep, our rational functions cease, and deeper but involuntary processes take over. Our powers of imagination remain active, guiding our dreams as we sleep. Without the control and regulation of our intellectual faculties, a measure of impurity descends on the body in the night. We remove this impurity by washing our hands when we wake up in the morning.
Holy individuals may experience sublime visions in their sleep, like Yaakov, who dreamed Malachim ascending and descending a ladder stretching between heaven and earth. However, only the soul experiences these visions. The body is detached from the soul during sleep, and is not influenced by the soul's uplifting experiences.
We have two tools for spiritual growth: Studying Torah, and the Dveikus of Tefilla. Abba Benjamin's testimony helps clarify how each tool ennobles a different aspect of the human soul.
When we study Torah, we refine and elevate our powers of intellect. The function of Tefilla, on the other hand, is to uplift our faculty of ratzon. Through prayer and meditation, we refine our will and powers of imagination. As we express our inner needs and aspirations in prayer, our desires are elevated to holier, more spiritual goals.
Our imaginative faculties are closer to our physical side than the intellect. Thus they function even as we sleep, in our dreams. Since it is through prayer that we can most effectively direct those faculties still active during sleep, it is logical that Tefilla before sleep will have the strongest impact on this aspect of life. For this reason, Abba Benjamin stressed the importance of his nighttime prayer.