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Friday, November 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Chayei Sarah

    Rashi on 24:10 comments that Avraham's camels were discernible for they would go out muzzled so as to prevent them from eating from fields that did not belong to him. Ramba"n (pasuk 34) asks on this based on the Midrash that refers to the donkey of R' Pinchas ben Yair about which it is said that even the animals of tzadikim, HaShem does not bring about bad through them and the donkey would not even eat "tevel." (Chullin 5b) If so, how could it be that Avraham had to be worried about his animals stealing to the point where he had to muzzle them? Should this same merit not have been present in the house of Avraham Avinu?

    There are a number of answers given. R' Ovadia miBartenura answers that perhaps the donkey of R' Pinchas ben Yair was different because it was the donkey he used personally for travel and there was a stronger bond, so to speak, between the donkey and him. But these camels were not camels that Avraham used but just camels that he owned and perhaps that is why they were not subject to this merit. But maybe Avraham's own personal donkey was.

    R' Yaakov Kaminetzky, in Emes leYaakov, makes an interesting suggestion, based on one of the Kinos from Tisha B'Av. It seems that this "miracle" of the animals avoiding issurim was connected to Eretz Yisroel. Maybe it was only in Eretz Yisroel that this happened. But in Chutz la'Aretz, Charan for example, the animals would need to be muzzled. The difficulty I found with this offering, though, is that this seems to be based on Rashi and Ramban's argument being later on in pasuk 34. But Rashi says already on pasuk 10, when Eliezer first left, which was in Eretz Yisroel, that the camels went out muzzled. A reader has pointed out, though, that perhaps we can suggest the kedushah of Eretz Yisroel which is presumably the catalyst of this miracle, was not yet present to the same degree in the times of Avraham. 

    Sha'arei Aharon offers a different approach. Tosafos in Chullin seem to make a distinction between food that is itself forbidden in its essence and food that is not by its nature forbidden, but is forbidden due to external circumstances. The example in Tosafos is eating before Havdala where there is nothing wrong with the food itself but rather the time it is being eaten. Perhaps that is the difference here. The donkey of R' Pinchas ben Yair would not eat 'tevel'. Tevel is universally forbidden in its essence. But the food that Avraham's camels would have eaten was not forbidden by nature, but only because it belonged to others.

    Another suggestion made by the same reader as above is that the animals' special, observant behaviour is very much a miracle. In the story of R' Pinchas ben Yair's donkey, he was not aware that the food was tevel. Avraham, however, would not be permitted to rely on this miracle and assume that his camels would not eat other people's food. Additionally, Avraham constantly endeavoured to set an example to the people around him as to how a person should act. Even if he could rely on his camels to not steal from neighbouring fields, it was necessary for his camels to be muzzled to set an example to the masses. 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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