Friday, November 16, 2007

Questions on Vayeitzei

One of the chaveirim on Avodah sometimes posts questions that he came up with while reviewing the weekly sedra, something that I wish that I would do more often myself. I responded in a private e-mail to some of his questions (which haven't yet been archived on the web, as of this post's writing), which I append here. Comments welcome.

> 28:19 – Luz.
> The Midrash 69:8 says that the Malach Hamoves had no power in the city of Luz. So > what happened to the senior citizens who were well past their use-by dates?
> Simple. They were placed outside the walls of the city – where they died.
> (Sounds a bit like the Eskimo solution..)
> Would this be the first published example of institutionalized euthanasia?

To my recollection, the source says that they would leave of their own volition when they became tired of life (although I could be misremembering), but similar question vis-a-vis suicide, anyway. Lich'orah it would only be a grama, similar to stopping anti-cancer medication, as they would not necessarily die as soon as they left the

> 29:11 - Vayishak Yaakov leRochel. 2 pesukim >later re Lavan kissing Yaakov "Veynashek Lo".
> Is there any difference between 'vayishak' and 'vaynashek'?

What immediately stands out to me is that neshek is Modern Hebrew for weapon, although not sure if the word has any basis in lashon ha-kodesh. Not sure what the effect of the grammatical difference would be, though.

> 29:32 - Rashi dh Vatikra shemo Reuven - 'Omro re'u ma bein beni leben chami...'
> The first obvious question is, the Torah gives a clear reason why Leah called him > Reuven - 'ki ro'o Hashem be'onyi', so why is Rashi giving a different reason -
> which is also difficult to understand as Yosef, who is a main feature of this -
> was yet to be born...

I recall hearing that Rashi is answering the question regarding why he was named "Reuven", instead of, i.e., "Rayon". The fact that Yosef wasn't born yet fits in well, in that Leah possibly didn't herself realize the significance of her choice of the name "Reuven" over "Rayon", so therefore did not say the reason of Rashi explicitly in the pesukim.

> 30:27 Rashi dh Nichashti says that the proof that Lavan had no sons until Yaakov
> arrived was the fact that he sent Rochel to the well with his sheep,
> Something he would not have done had he any sons.
> But we see that his father Besuel who did have a son - Lavan - still sent his
> sister Rivka to do the same thing...?

Rivka went out to draw water, presumably for human use, which is a much less labor-intensive job than watching sheep. Adderabba, since Lavan was presumably with the sheep all day, Rivka would be enlisted into obtaining water along with her other household duties (although it isn't terribly surprising that Lavan, not the most honest of people, was mysteriously home from work by this time...)

> 31:34 - Am I understanding it correctly that
> Rochel was sitting on her camel INSIDE the tent? And if so, was/is this the done
> thing - having camels in the tent that you live?

Also, if her only ailment was "derech nashim" why should she be
precluded from standing up or doing any type of physical activity? (Of
course, I have neither primary nor secondary experience in the effects
of such).

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At 11/20/2007 10:50 AM, Anonymous chaim said...

The first question has a very simple answer, although it may not be considered "PC": It's a MEDRASH, meant to teach parshanut (as well as morals/ethics), NOT history. You really can't ask a question of this nature, because the medrash is not meant to be taken literally!

As for the last question, I have two suggestions. First, a light-hearted one: when a woman tells a man she is having her period, he will say "ok" and not question her about it, because he doesn't want to have to hear or think anything more about it. Menstruation has always made males uncomfortable.
On a serious note, it says that the idols were in the saddle bag and that she was sitting on them. However, it never says she was on the camel. It seems likely that she was sitting on them in the tent (sans camel) and claimed physical weakness/discomfort (not disability per se) to discourage her father from looking there.

At 11/20/2007 11:12 AM, Blogger Josh M. said...

1) That's always the case with midrashic statements, but part of understanding a midrash is to hurl it against other sources and see how they fit together. I would say that proper parshanus includes understanding these interactions, as they, too, have an impact on the intended homily.

2)True. Someone else also made the point about kar ha-gamal in a response to the Avodah post.

At 11/20/2007 4:50 PM, Anonymous chaim said...

additional commentary on the grammar of kissing, from my uncle the translator:

"The simple answer is, NO (and Onqelos, for example, translates them both the same way). Sometimes the verb to kiss is in the qal, sometimes in the nifal, and sometimes in the pi'el. And there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to the variation.

On the other hand, if, like me, you think the text of Vayetze is full of word games, note that in one pasuq we have va-yashq et ha-tzon, and then vayishaq (spelled the same way!) le-Rahel (and remember that Rahel means "ewe").

There are several subtle differences between qal and piel. One of them (largely forgotten, and not applicable to your two verses) is a preference for the piel when the direct object is a noun in the plural.

Another possibility is that the piel adds some connotation of force. In 31:18 it says of Yakov va-yinhag his property and set out for Canaan. But in v. 26 Lavan says of Yakov va-tenaheg my daughters like shevuot arev. (The singular/plural direct-object distinction exists here, too.)

Another interesting point is that, as far as I can tell, nsq in the piel occurs only 4 times - and 3 of them involve Lavan. So you might want to suggest that his kisses are insincere ("forced"). The problem is that the 4th occurrence of the piel is when Joseph identifies himself to his brothers va-yenasheq lahem (but you might say that those kisses, too, were rather awkward)."

At 11/20/2007 4:57 PM, Blogger Josh M. said...

That's an interesting suggestion, which seems to make sense.


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