Thursday, November 30, 2006

Yaakov kissing Rachel

In this weeks parsha the first thing Yaakov does when he meets Rachel is kiss her and start to cry. This has always bothered me. Why did Yaakov kiss Rachel? What is the Torah trying to teach us? How could he do that?

Here is what I found in the Mefrashim on Chumash, and quite frankly these interpretations raise more questions then they answer.

The Medrash Rabba writes that Yaakov cried because the people around suspected him of pritzus for kissing Rachel. The seforno quotes this medrash and adds that this is the reason why Yaakov right away told Rachel that he was related to her so that she too wouldn't be choshed him of pritzus. The Netziv says a similar pshat on his own, he says that Yaakov cried to show Rachel that the kiss was because she was his relative and was not for lustful purposes. The question still remains why did he do it when it was an act that could clearly be badly misinterpreted?

Rabbenu Bachya offers 2 explanations, either Rachel was under 3 or that he kissed her hand or forehead and not her lips. This is clearly against the medrash which states that his action was misinterpreted as one of pritzus. In any case, where does R' Bachya get this idea that she was under 3?

What is most interesting is that in today's Charedi society this could never happen. Men and women mingling and talking at the well??? There would be a mehadrin well with different times for men and women or 2 separate mehadrin wells 1 for men and 1 for women so that they chas v'shalom shouldn't mingle.

Any suggestions are appreciated.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Halutz: Gov't did not consult IDF sufficiently on truce decision

This headline in Haaretz says it all. The government decided on a ceasefire without taking into account many of the security aspects. The Prime Minister on a whim made this important decision. Of course this shouldn't surprise anyone because the disengagement plan was done in the same way. Sharon and Dov Weisglass dreamed up the plan and it was basically presented as a fait accompli to the army.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Olmert is negotiating with himself ...

you can only lose doing that. It is amazing but the leaders of Israel have never learned the most fundamental tactic of negotiation, never negotiate against yourself (just google never negotiate against yourself and you will see what I mean). When you negotiate against yourself you put yourself in a weak position and make concessions without getting anything in return. Olmert's speech today was a classic case of this. He made all kinds of concessions getting nothing in return. Olmert's concession today are now the starting point for any negotiation where Olmert will have to make more concessions.

וירא ה' כי שנואה לאה

Could it be that Yaakov Avinu hated Leah? R' Baruch Simon quoted from the Rebbe R' Simcha Bunim the following explanation which is very relevant today. Leah hated herself. She thought that she was not worthy to be married to Yaakov. The pasuk is describing her feelings not the way Yaakov felt about her. Hashem gave her children to help her improve her self esteem.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hezbollah rearmed

Olmert and Tzipi Livni listed as one of the main accomplishments of the war that the international community in the form of UNIFIL was going to stop Hezbollah from rearming. Olmert said "A strong international organizing to... assist in stopping the Hezbullah."

The facts on the ground today say otherwise. Time magazine is reporting that Hizbullah has re-armed to pre-war levels. The magazine confirmed numerous media reports since the United Nations Security Council ceasefire resolution last August that Iran and Syria have been re-rearming Hizbullah. So much for the major accomplishment of the war.

In other words, the situation is worse then it was before the war, Hezbollah has the same number of rockets, the French are threatening to fire on the IAF over Lebanon, and the political situation in Lebanon is going from bad to worse. But, remember according to Olmert, Peretz, Livni and Halutz, we won the war.

Fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me

I guess no one in the Israeli government has ever heard this famous saying. The latest "ceasefire agreement" with the PA has already entered Charlie Brown territory. Since Oslo how many times have we heard the same thing, a ceasefire, this time it is going to work. It is pathetic how people are willing to jump at anything.

It is clear that the Palestinians called for the ceasefire for 1 reason, to gain time to arm themselves for the next phase. They saw what happened in Lebanon and they want to do the same thing in Gaza. They understand that it was the 6 years of quiet that enabled Hezbollah to prepare for the war, they are going to do the same. Does anyone really believe that the arms smuggling is going to stop? Who is going to enforce it? It is patently clear that the Palestinians will use this time to arm and organize themselves for the next round.

The current government is latching on to this because the alternative, reconquering Gaza means admitting that the disengagement was a huge mistake and an utter failure. The current so called "leadership" unfortunately, does not have the courage to admit their mistakes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Avos and their children

See this post from last year which tries to explain why both Avraham and Yitzchak had children who were not their spiritual heirs.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Missing or extra letters in the Sefer Torah

Rashi in this week's parsha (Chayei Sarah) comments on the pasuk (25,6) ולבני הפילגשם that פילגשים is written חסר and therefore we learn out that Avraham only had 1 pilegesh Hagar. The only problem is that in our sifrei torah it is actually written ולבני הפילגשים with the extra י (and therefore the drasha does not work). In other words either our sifrei torah have an extra letter or Rashi's is missing one.

This is one of a number places where our sifrei torah differ for either statements of Chazal or Rishonim. R' Akiva Eiger (Shabbos 55a) collects over 20 cases from all over Shas, medrashim, etc. where our mesora differs from either Chazal's or the Rishonim.

The acharonim (see for example Minchas Chinuch on the mitzva of writing a sefer torah, Shaagas Aryeh siman 36, etc.) are very bothered by this and wonder how we can make a beracha nowadays on krias hatorah.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The story of the מערת המכפלה

Why does the Torah make such a big story about Avraham Avinu buying the Meoros Hamachpela? Rabenu Yona explains that this was the last of the 10 nisyonos of Avraham Avinu. Hashem promised him all of EY and yet, he didn't even have where to bury his wife. The Torah tells us the whole story about the sale to bring home this point.

R' Baruch Simon offered a similar pshat. He said based on the Malbim that the nisayon was in Avraham making such an effort to bury Sarah at all. For a non-believer after a person dies that is it, it's all over and the body decomposes and goes away. Therefore where and how they are buried is not important (witness all the cremations today). For a believer the story is much different. We believe in the eternity of the neshama and techiyas hameisim, after death things aren't over, the neshama lives on and will be one day reunited with the body. Therefore how and where a person is buried takes on much more significance. Avraham's nisayon was to see how hard he would push to get a suitable burial place for Sarah, would he show that he truly believed in these ikkarim of the eternity of the neshama and techiyas hameisim.

The Gra makes a fascinating diyuk. He points out that it says some combination of the words (in some form) קבר and מת seven times at the beginning of the parsha. 6 times קבר comes first and once מת comes first. The Gra explains that the 6 times refers to the 6 Avos and Imahos that are buried there. The word קבר comes first to signify that צדיקים even in death are considered alive. The 7th time is for עשו whose head was buried there. For עשו the rasha it says מת first because רשעים even when alive are considered dead.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

When was the ברית בין הבתרים?

If you just read parshas לך לך you get the impression that first Hashem told Avraham to go to Eretz Yisroel, then came the story with לוט etc. However, if we take a closer look at the chronology we see that this is not true.

Hashem tells Avraham by the ברית בין הבתרים that his descendents will be in golus 400 years. Rashi points out that we were only in Egypt 210 years and therefore explains based on the medrashim that the 400 years started with the birth of Yitzchak. The Torah says in Parshas Bo that we were in Egypt 430 years. Rashi there explains (again based on medrashim) that the extra 30 years is from the ברית בין הבתרים, in other words the ברית בין הבתרים was 30 years before Yitzchak was born. We know that Yitzchak was born when Avraham was 100 years old which means that ברית בין הבתרים had to be 30 years earlier when Avraham was 70. However, at the beginning of parshas לך לך the Torah tells us that Avraham was 75 years old when he left Charan. This means that לך לך was actually 5 years after the ברית בין הבתרים. Tosafos in Shabbos 10b says this. Tosfasos says that Avraham came to EY when he was 70 and went through the ברית בין הבתרים, and then he returned to Charan for 5 years until Hashem told him לך לך.

The question we have now is why is the Torah written this way? What is the lesson we are supposed to learn from the way the Torah ordered things? Tosafos points out the discrepancy but doesn't explain why.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Judicial Tyranny in Israel

Today in Israel the true power is the Supreme Court, not the Knesset and the not the Prime Minister. A perfect example is the Court's actions in the case of the President. The supreme court gave President Moshe Katsav one week to explain why he has not stepped aside as he faces a possible rape indictment. The only problem is that the law explicitly states that the President is not answerable to the courts and in fact, the law provides him full immunity. Here is the text of the law:

לא ייתן נשיא המדינה את הדין לפני כל בית משפט בשל דבר הקשור בתפקידיו או בסמכויותיו, ויהיה חסין בפני כל פעולה משפטית בשל דבר כזה

The President will not appear before the courts on any matter that is related to the fulfillment of his office or duties and he will have full immunity from any legal action relating to this (my translation).

The law could not be clearer that the Courts have no power over the President. Does that bother the Supreme Court? Clearly not, they still ordered him to respond why he didn't resign. In any other country the court would have thrown this out. The following quote is a perfect example of the attitude of the Supreme Court (Legal Analysis / Digging in, not relinquishing):

the High Court can express its moral-ethical position on the matter at hand, even if it rules that the president has immunity against any order whatsoever.

Who appointed the Supreme Court the moral and ethical arbiters of society? What makes them any more qualified to offer moral and ethical opinions then anyone else? Based on what do they offer their moral and ethical opinions and why should they be binding on anyone?

The Supreme Court should have 1 and only 1 purpose, to decide matters of law.