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Friday, November 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Toledos

This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my rebbe and Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, Harav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l (Yaakov Moshe ben Refael Nissan Shlomo) whose 18th yahrtzeit is this coming Sunday, the 3rd of Kisleiv.  

When Eisav returns from his hunting escapades, he is so mortally fatigued that he was willing to give up his first-born rights for a simple bowl of lentils. After Yaakov and Eisav finally agree, the pasuk recounts (25:34) that Yaakov gave Eisav bread and lentil soup. Why did Yaakov give him bread? That was never part of the deal.


R' Ari Storch, in "Tif'eres Aryeh," offers a novel approach. This sale is altogether puzzling as the first born-rights have not yet come into existence, a davar shelo ba la'olam. According to Talmudic tradition, the sale of such an entity is not valid and it is as if it were never sold. How then did this sale even work?


The Tur deals with this issue and discusses many possible answers. He suggests one answer from his father, the Rosh. When a sale is accompanied by the taking of an oath, the oath validates that sale even if it is of a seemingly illegitimate nature such as this one. We see clearly that Yaakov added an oath to the sale which would have otherwise been considered unnecessary. 


From the gemara (Nedarim 28a) it appears that an oath which is taken by duress may be invalidated by contrary thoughts at the time of the oath. That is, if the oath taker was thinking at the time that he was only taking the oath to escape the situation of duress, that oath may be null and void. Eisav came back from his outing thinking he was about to die. He could certainly have claimed that the oath he made with Yaakov was simply made for his own survival, but he did not mean it. Yaakov therefore first fed him bread after which his life was no longer in jeopardy. Eisav then had no claim to invalidate the oath he took to affirm the sale of the first-born rights for the lentil soup.


 Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov. 

Eliezer Bulka

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Friday, November 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Chayei Sarah

This discussion is covered from a dikduk angle on Dikdukian. In Eliezer's prayer after discovering that he had happened upon Rivkah, he exclaims (24:27) "anochi baderech nachani HaShem, beis achei adoni." He blesses HaShem for having led him to the house of his master's brothers – brothers in plural. When recounting this prayer to Rivkah's family, he states (24:48) "lakachas es bas achi adoni," to take the daughter of my master's brother – brother in singular. Surely, great care needs to be taken to differentiate these two words when laining. But it is certainly puzzling that the words are changed even with respect to the very same prayer.

One reader humourously noted that Besuel is the son of Nachor, Avraham's brother, but also the son of Milka, the son of Haran, Avraham's other brother. So Rivka was both Avraham's niece and grandniece and descended from two of Avraham's brothers. However, this does not explain the change.

Another reader suggested, based on the above that the plural is certainly appropriate. This is only in the first verse where, in context, he is referring to beis, the house, which was indeed that of  both brothers. But in the second verse he is referring to Rivkah as the daughter of his master's brother. Here the plural simply wouldn't be appropriate.

I suggest, however, that Eliezer was perhaps adjusting his words for a very clever reason. When he embarked on his journey, he did not know where he would end up. If he were to successfully encounter Avraham's family, he wasn't even certain which of the brothers it would be. Perhaps we can understand the term beis achei adoni as the house of one of my master's brothers. However, this would not have been a very kind way of addressing the actual family from which he had chosen Yitzchak's wife. The implication to them would have been, "it could have been you, it could have been someone else." So when speaking to them he used the more specific, implying that this was the brother of his master he was seeking all along.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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