Comments for Torah Musings Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:54:25 +0000 hourly 1 Comment on Slaughterhouses, Sacrifice, and Sanctity by disqus_8xPnZogBVF Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:54:25 +0000 One thing you forgot: if the animal rearing and slaughter is not transparent and up to our ethical standards, we shouldn’t eat it. Period.

Unfortunately, this excludes almost all meat, eggs, and dairy available today, but it’s what Jewish values require of us, and is why so many chief rabbis (like Shlomo Goren, Shear Yashuv Cohen, Jonathan Sacks, David Rosen, etc.) — not to mention so many rabbis and Jews generally — have gone vegetarian.

Comment on Deception and Justification by Aryeh Baer Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:54:59 +0000 Joel Rich –
And yet the Torah itself shows no such reluctance. Neither does a host of rishonim (including the Ramban) and achronim. Case in point, many of the thoughts in my post above were from Rabbi Sacks.

Comment on Deception and Justification by joel rich Fri, 21 Nov 2014 09:47:23 +0000 R’ H Schachter is very against ascribing any negativity to characters in tanach (not limited to avot) unless there is a basis in chazal. He quotes the Chofetz Chaim (and others I think) on this issue as being surprised at those (including Ramban) who do so.

Comment on Deception and Justification by Aryeh Baer Fri, 21 Nov 2014 05:35:03 +0000 Rabbi Student –

It is a difficult area, as the text does not render a clear judgment, certainly not at least at the time of the events. That said, there is significant textual evidence that the Torah finds fault in Yaakov’s actions. It is not just conjecture that Yaakov’s later travails were punishment for his deception of his father and brother. The words themselves suggest an element of mida-keneged-mida. Yaakov is given the wrong sibling when he is “blind” at night. He protests using the term “Lama rimitani?”, similar to the phrase used by Yitzchak, “ba achicha b’mirma”. But Lavan’s response is the most telling. “We do not do this in our place, to put the younger before the older”. Lavan could not have known it, but those words no doubt had a deeper message for Yaakov. This was payback. It is as a result of Lavan’s deception that so much of Yaakov’s difficulties arise, culminating in Yosef’s kidnapping and sale. Here to, the vehicle of this harsher deception is telling. A goat’s blood, reminiscent of the goat skins Yaakov placed on his arms to deceive his father. It is hard to ignore that the Torah seems to be taking Yaakov to task for his actions.

The counterarguments you present are not convincing.
1. I am not sure how the presence of prior deceptions that may or may not have been justified impacts our understanding of the Torah’s judgment of this particular act. Just because one deception is justified – and it is not clear that those deceptions were justified either – does not mean another under vastly different circumstances is justified as well. As to the suggestion that the deception of Yitzchok could just as easily be seen as a punishment for Yitzchok’s deception of Avimelech, textual evidence of such a link would have to be presented to support such a link. It is otherwise unsupported speculation.
2. Indeed, Yaakov did buy the first-born right from Eisav. That is what makes for fascinating moral tension to this episode. It belongs to Yaakov, and he takes what is rightfully his. But the Torah still seems to take him to task for his actions. It is a fantastic moral ambiguity that the Torah teaches us here. Situations are rarely black and white, and even doing the “right” thing can have devastating consequences. It is a statement on how a person can be right and still be wrong.
3. Yitzchok forgiving Yaakov is poor proof that Yaakov’s actions were correct. There are many reasons to account for this. Most obvious, is that parents forgive. Yaakov forgave Reuven for his trespass (to an extent). David forgave both Amnon and Avshalom in turn. That is not to say that any of their actions were correct. It is also possible that after Eisav married Hittite women, Yitzchok understood better his sons’ destinies. There are those who say that this particular bracha – the bracha of Avraham’s legacy – was always intended for Yaakov. In any event, the bracha itself is no proof that Yaakov’s earlier actions were justified.
4. The final counterargument simply has no textual basis whatsoever. Yaakov never wanted to marry Leah. A simple reading of the text shows that much of Yaakov’s difficulties in his life were related to the strife between his wives, and later between the children of those wives. It was the cause of the loss of his beloved son for 22 years. There is no textual evidence that Yaakov ever had a loving relationship with Leah, either before or after Rachel’s death. Much good would of course ultimately come from Lavan’s deception. But that does not change the carnage it caused in Yaakov’s personal life.

It is of course clear to us that Yaakov was the intended heir of Avraham’s legacy. In a way, that blinds us to a fair evaluation of the text. Traditional commentaries cast Yaakov as good and Eisav as evil. The text does not present the facts so simplistically however. Yaakov’s missteps and their consequences are recorded. Eisav is not presented as evil. He is a man of the field, tempestuous, impulsive, lacking any sense of mission or G-dliness. But the Torah does not describe him as evil. Perhaps it is our own preconceived notions of Yaakov and Eisav that are the real external considerations that we import as we interpret the text.

Aryeh Baer

Comment on Daily Reyd by MiMedinat HaYam Thu, 20 Nov 2014 21:50:16 +0000 Regarding this new bet din to free agunot, this is been going on for over a year, and the halachic criteria are still not public.

Comment on Deception and Justification by longtimereader Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:19:51 +0000 I think that both the Netziv and Sfas Emes point the above out. What do you mean that Esav ended up getting the gashmius (wealth & political power) brachos? Do you mean historically, or the fact that Yaakov seems to give these brachos back to Esav in Parsha Vayishlach (33:11, though Rashi explains otherwise)? I think both are likely, but if so, צריך עיון why ויתן לך would be included into the Motzei Shabbos liturgy.

Comment on Deception and Justification by Nachum Lamm Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:52:00 +0000 We once went very much in depth into this question in a YU Bible class with R’ Allan Schwartz. It pays to examine the text of each bracha: The first, meant for Esav, is all gashmiut. The last- which Yitzchak seems to have been saving for Yaakov all along (he doesn’t give it to Esav even after finding out)- is the important one, about the line of the Avot.

This leads to the question of whether it would have been better for Esav to get the gashmiut- which, ironically, he ended up getting anyway- and perhaps he and Yaakov would have some sort of Yissachar/Zevulun relationship. Yitzchak seems to have felt this way, perhaps based on certain aspects of his personality. Rivka apparently felt differently- perhaps due to her experience with her brother, she saw Esav for what he was (and we know that neither she nor Yitzchak was happy with him before this) and decided that Yaakov needed both. Apparently Yitzchak agreed- as said above, he ended up giving Yaakov the important bracha anyway. But it’s a fascinating idea to consider.

I think R’ Slifkin’s first book was on this topic, but I have no idea what his conclusion was.

Comment on Equal Rights by Nachum Lamm Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:46:20 +0000 Well, the Gemara itself attributes the midrash to R’ Anan, which would be about 150 years after Paul. R’ Meir would be about a hundred years after Paul. But you’re probably right: I doubt either was copying the NT; these things were probably out there.

Comment on Equal Rights by Nachum Lamm Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:43:31 +0000 I hadn’t considered that! I was just noting the similar language, but you make a very good point.

Comment on Equal Rights by micha Wed, 19 Nov 2014 21:18:28 +0000 Is it indeed much older? From the same era as the line RNL cites is attributed to, Rav Meir also has his “…shelo asani goy/nakhri … shelo asani aved … shelo asani ishah.” Same three distinctions as made by Paul, in the same order.

I think the whole issue was just part of the zeitgeist. We were resisting being absorbed into the Roman Empire to the extent of losing our national identity as the Am haTorah. So, the culture’s class distinctions were a significant topic of discussion.