Yahrzeit of the Raavad

This Shabbos כ"ו כסלו is the Yahrzeit of the ראב"ד. The Raavad wrote other works but he is most known for his השגות on the Rambam.

The Raavad was Reb Avraham ben Dovid. He is known as the third Raavad. In in Hilchos Lulav (8:5) regarding the Halacha of נקטם by the הדסים writes the following: כבר הופיע רוח הקודש בבית מדרשנו מכמה שנים. Similarly in Hilchos Beis Habchira (6:14) he writes כך נגלה לי מסוד ה' ליראיו. Such language is unusual amongst the Rishonim. Additionally, the רשב"א in תשובות ח"ז סימן שנז writes about the Raavad the following:

הנה לך הרב הגדול ז"ל שיודע לטהר את השרץ מן התורה ואעפ"י שאין דעתי סומכת בכל זה להלכה לו שומעין שהוא רב מובהק וכל המחמיר עליו להביא הראיה.

His father in law was the author of the Sefer HaEshkol and was the second Raavad. His name was Reb Avraham ben Yitzchak but was called the Raavad because he was the Rav Av Beis Din. (It interesting that we call the third Raavad, the בעל השגות on the Rambam, with a “v” as opposed to a “b” if ראב"ד stands for ר' אברהם בן דוד.) His father in law, the second Raavad, was also his Rebbe. (Side note, by a father we say אבי מורי as opposed to by a father in law, a person says מורי חמי. A reason could be because by a father, he is definitely a father before he can be his son’s Rebbe. Therefore he says אבי first and then מורי. However by a father in law, it could be that a Rebbe takes a Talmid as a son in law and therefore he says מורי first and then חמי.) The son of the Raavad was Reb Yitzchak Sagi Nahar who was a central figure in the study of Kabalah. About him, the Rabbenu Bachya writes in Parshas Vayishlach (32:10) ומזה היה רגיל הרב אבי הקבלה רבי יצחק בן הרב ז"ל. He refers to Reb Yitzchak Sagi Nahar as the אבי הקבלה.

The simple meaning of the word השגות in the context of השגות הראב"ד is objections, in particular objecting to the rulings of the Rambam. However השגות also has the meaning of attaining, to attain and acquire a higher level of understanding (to be משיג השגות). This dual meaning of the word השגות could be explained that in a sense through the objections of the Raavad to the Rambam, a greater and deeper level of understanding is being attained in the Rambam and of the subject matter at hand. It’s not just that the Raavad himself reached a higher level of understanding through his objections, but we who learn both the Rambam and the Raavad and see both sides of the argument attain a higher level of understanding of the entire sugya though his objections.
This idea is expressed in what Reb Yochanan exclaims about his Talmid Reish Lakish in Bava Metziah 84a in contrast to other Talmidim. He says בר לקישא, כי הוה אמינא מילתא - הוה מקשי לי עשרין וארבע קושייתא, ומפרקינא ליה עשרין וארבעה פרוקי, וממילא רווחא שמעתא. Through asking 24 questions on something Reb Yochanan said, Reb Yochanan himself was able to reach and attain a deeper and higher level of understanding of the sugya. So to by the Raavad, he didn’t just give us his objections to the Rambam but he enabled us to reach higher השגות in the subject matter. These are the two meanings and dimensions of the reading of the Pasuk in Ki Savo in the תוכחה. The Pasuk says ובאו עליך כל הקללות האלה והשיגוך (כח,טו). The Klalos won’t just reach us and teach us that we are wrong and living life as a failure which is והשיגוך from the word השגות being objections, but rather it will also bring a person to a higher level and understanding of he ought to be on as השגות are also attaining and bringing someone to a higher and deeper level of understanding. Both in learning and in life, objections can lead a person to and help someone attain a higher and deeper level of understanding.

This theme is expressed throughout the Parshah. The Parshah begins וישב יעקב בארץ מגורי אביו בארץ כנען. What does the word וישב mean? Rashi in Shemos (2:15) on the Pasuk וישב בארץ מדין writes נתעכב שם כמו וישב יעקב. It’s clear that according to Rashi, the word וישב does not mean בשלוה-tranquil, rather it means עכבה. However, the Targum Yonason Ben Uziel writes ויתב יעקב בשלותא, that although about his father it says מגורי אביו that he was transient, regarding Yaakov it was a ישיבת קבע which is בשלוה.

According to this, when Rashi quotes the Medrash Chazalועוד נדרש בו וישב ביקש יעקב לישב בשלוה, קפץ עליו רוגזו של יוסף צדיקים מבקשים לישב בשלוה אומר הקדוש ברוך הוא לא דיין לצדיקים מה שמתוקן להם לעולם הבא, אלא שמבקשים לישב בשלוה בעולם הזה, its going according to the understanding of the Targum Yonason Ben Uziel that וישב means a ישיבה בשלוה. But if that’s the case, it’s difficult because it’s clear from the subsequent Pesukim that Yaakov did not live a ישיבה בשלוה. Therefore the Medrash Rashi quotes is coming to tell you that this ישיבה בשלוה is not actually what happened rather it was just ביקש, it represents what he wanted to happen but didn’t materialize. This fits with the medrash in the beginning of the Parshah brings the Pasuk לא שלותי ולא שקטתי ויבא רוגז meaning there was no שלוה but rather it was just a ביקש.

However according to what Rashi usually understand the word וישב to mean, the reading of the Pasuk makes sense because it’s really a לשון of עכבה and not בשלוה. All these things in the Medrash, לא שלותי ולא שקטתי ויבא רוגז are all family problems. First it began with his brother Eisav, and then it continued with his uncle Lavan, and now it’s his own children. The reading of the Medrash in the Pasuk is emphasizing that after surviving the issues with Eisav and Lavan, he might have hoped that with his own children these types of problems would not continue. However, that was not the case as is seen by rivalries between the brothers, which is very much like he experienced with his own brother. However, the Chozeh of Lublin read the above Medrash in a way that when Hashem is saying לא דיין לצדיקים וכו', it’s not a תמיהה rather it could be read בניחותא. After Yaakov requested to live out his life in serenity, Hashem responded לא דיין וכו' as if to say that it isn’t enough for Tzadikim to only have what they will get in Olam Habah but they should also have serenity in this world. When the Rosh Habarzel, the Rav of Lublin, was told this vort from the Chozeh, he challenged it by asking that the conclusion of the Medrash קפץ עליו רוגזו של יוסף that Rashi brings doesn’t make any sense?

When they came back to The Chozeh with this question, he explained that its clear from the Gemara in Shabbos 89b that Yaakov was supposed to go down to Mitzrayim בשלשלת של ברזל but it didn’t end up happening because Yosef was down there as the משנה למלך and therefore went down in a comfortable and honorable way. This is the meaning of how Hashem actually agreed with Yaakovs claim that it’s not enough for the Tzadikim to just have what they’ll have in Olam Habah but they should also have serenity in this world because that serenity came through the רוגזו של יוסף that now he was to go down to Mitzrayim in a respectable and honorable way as opposed to בשלשלת של ברזל.

These two reading of the Medrash are really the two readings and dimensions of every situation in life. What a person sees a situation which can appear bad, it could really be the event itself that snowballs a chain of events that leads to success. When the brothers sold Yosef, they said ונראה מה יהיו חלמתיו. They were trying to refute the dreams and yet it was their own actions which facilitated the realization of the dreams.

Similarly, in the end of the Parshah, Yosef tells the שר המשקים to put in a good word for him to Pharaoh and he forgets about him and it was only two years later, as Parshas Miketz begins with, that Yosef goes free. Yosef could’ve thought the only reason why he ended up going free was because he told the שר המשקים but as Rashi points out, that was specifically the reason why he ended up having to be in jail for another two years.

This idea can also be seen when Moshe ends up growing up in the house of Pharaoh which according to some Meforshim was necessary in order for Moshe to become who he became. That was all facilitated by Pharaoh himself because his astrologers told him that the מושיען של ישראל was going to stricken by water so they Pharaoh instructed all Jewish boys should be thrown into the river. As a result, Miriam had to put Moshe in the river which led to him being found by בתיה בת פרעה which allowed Moshe to grow up in the house of Pharaoh and become who he became. We see from all these examples that one can’t really discern the difference between failure and success and what appears to be a failure might really be the key to his success. This is why in על הנסים we say על התשועות ועל המלחמות. After the ישועה we can thank Hashem for the מלחמה because we then can understand how the מלחמה was necessary in order to bring out the ישועה. This is all the same theme that השגות-objections, are there to help a person attain a higher and deeper level of understanding-משיג השגות. Just like it’s the objections of the Raavad on the Rambam which appear to be a refutation but in reality bring a person to a higher and deeper level of understanding of the Rambam and the subject matter. So to its specifically those challenges, when life refutes us and objects, that through them a person can attain a higher level of understanding. So in a sense, it’s the השגות-refutations and objections in our life experiences which are meant to bring us and help us attain a higher level of what we are, who we are and what and who we ought to be.

Reason for Hate

The Pasuk says ויבא יוסף את דבתם רעה אל אביהם. The next Pasuk says וישראל אהב את יוסף מכל בניו וכו' and then the Pasuk says ויראו אחיו כי אתו אהב אביהם מכל אחיו וישנאו אתו. The indication of these Psukim is that the brothers didn’t hate Yosef because of the דבתם רעה that he said about the brothers to their father rather it was because they saw Yaakov loved Yosef the most out of all the brothers and the דבתם רעה didn’t bother them.

However a few Psukim later after Yosef tells them about the dream, it says ויוספו עוד שנא אתו על חלמתיו ועל דבריו and Rashi comments על דבריו – על דבתם רעה שהביא אל אביהם. This clearly indicates that the brothers did hate Yosef because of the דבתם רעה?

This could be understood with the following reading. The Pasuk says וישראל אהב את יוסף מכל בניו כי בן זקנים הוא לו, stating the real reason Yaakov loved Yosef the most was because בן זקנים הוא לו. But when the brothers saw Yaakov love Yosef more than them, they figured it was because Yosef brought the דבתם רעה אל אביהם and that’s what the Pasuk means ויראו אחיו כי אתו אהב אביהם מכל אחיו that it must be Yaakov accepted the Lashon Hara about them and that’s why he love him more than them. But when the Pasuk actually concludes כי בן זקנים הוא לו that is the Pasuk telling us why Yaakov loved Yosef more than the brothers while the brothers thought it was because their father accepted the Lashon Hara about them from Yosef. That is why when it says they continued to hate him, על חלמתיו ועל דבריו, Rashi writes על דבריו – על דבתם רעה שהביא אל אביהם because that was from their perception.

Three Schools of Thought

The Pasuk says והנה ארחת ישמעאלים באה מגלעד וגמליהם נשאים נכאת וצרי ולט הולכים להוריד מצרימה. Rashi writes:

למה פרסם הכתוב את משאם, להודיע מתן שכרן של צדיקים, שאין דרכן של ערביים לשאת אלא נפט ועטרן שריחן רע, ולזה נזדמנו בשמים שלא יוזק מריח רע.

There were different schools of thought and they would interpret them as follows.

In Kelm they would say that you see the tremendous precision of Hashem’s judgement, that Yosef deserved to be sold, but he didn’t deserve to have to be transported in a smelly wagon. And therefore Hashem made this occur, so he shouldn’t have to suffer any more than he needs to. As is said the difference between a surgeon and a murderer is the knife of a surgeon is sterile and cuts with precision as opposed to a murderer who uses a dirty knife and cuts wherever he can. So too Hashem’s judgement is exact and precise and is what needs to be and not one iota more.

In Slabodka they would say, that “you never remove the tie.” The dignity inherent to man doesn’t change no matter the circumstance. We must always act with dignity and self-respect. Therefore, the spices relate to גדלות האדם that even when he is on his way to becoming a lovely slave, he still retains his dignity to smell pleasant.

On the contrary, in Novardik they would say that man is so low, that even when he is going to be sold as a slave and he is going to the lowliness of Mitzrayim, he still cares about little things like how he will smell- how low is man. (And the Brisker way would be that it needed to smell nice in order for Yosef to be able to daven and learn because if it didn’t smell nice, he wouldn’t be able to).


Living With the Past But Not In the Past

After the incident of מכירת יוסף, the Torah interrupts with the story of Yehuda and Tamar, which begins with Yehuda going to find a wife. On the Pasuk ויט עד איש עדולמי וכו', the Medrash says the following:

רב שמואל בר נתן פתח (ירמיה כט) כי אנכי ידעתי את המחשבות, שבטים היו עסוקים במכירת יוסף ויוסף עסוק בשקו ובתענותיו וכו' ויהודה עסק ליקח אשה והקב"ה היה עוסק ובורא אורה של משיח.

The Rebbe, ר' שמחה בונם מפרשיסחא asks how could it be that while the brothers were עוסק in צום וצעקה לה' because of the מכירה and Yaakov was mourning for his son, Yehuda was looking for a wife?

The explanation is that a person needs to be able to live with his past but not in his past. The feeling of regret and remorse must have their place but then a person must be able to move forward and do what needs to be done. Yehuda was experiencing all the feeling that his brothers were feeling but he strengthened himself to continue on and do what needed to be done and he decided to start from the beginning and start with the first Mitzvah in the Torah of פרו ורבו.

This same idea can be found in the Yerushalmi at the end of מסכת פאה. The Yerushalmi brings a story with Reb Yochanan and Reish Lakish illustrating the point that צריכין אנו להחזיק טובה לרמאין because if not for them, then people would have to give Tzedakah to every person who stuck their hand out. Reb Yochanan and Reish Lakish were on their way to חמי טבריא when a beggar asked for money. They responded that they will give him money when they return. When they returned, they found the beggar dead. They said הואיל ולא זכינין ביה בחייו ניטפל ביה במיתותיה. When they started the Tahara process, they found a pouch filled with gold coins. On face value, the behavior of Reb Yochanan and Reish Lakish seems insensitive. It seems as if they had no remorse that the beggar died because they delayed in giving him Tzedakah, because their only response was if we weren’t merited to deal with him in his lifetime, let us deal with him במיתותיה. But the idea is as mentioned above that a person must deal with the task at hand and he can’t be overcome by guilt and regret which cripples him from doing what needs to be done. Just because Reb Yochanan and Reish Lakish immediately began the Tahara doesn’t take away from the way they felt, rather it was what needed to be done at that moment and they were able to put guilt and remorse in its proper place in order that they could continue on with what needed to be done.

The same idea is expressed in the following Medrash. The מדרש רבה in בראשית by the עץ הדעת says as follows:

ועתה פן ישלח ידו, א"ר אבא בר כהנא מלמד שפתח לו הקדוש ברוך הוא פתח של תשובה, ועתה, אין ועתה אלא תשובה, שנאמר (דברים י) ועתה ישראל מה ה' אלהיך וגו'

People mistakenly think that Teshuva is harping on the past. But really the first step of Teshuva is to live in the now and make a fresh and new beginning. To live today as if it’s the first day of your life, and to not be enslaved and held back by one’s past. Only after he does all this can he then deal with the past in terms of repenting for the past and learning from the mistakes of the past. But as long as he doesn’t establish the now first, then he will just be repeating the past over again. A person must first tear himself away from the past and establish a new now and only then can he reflect on the past.

The idea of ועתה being a לשון of תשובה, even though it seems ironic because Teshuva is about the past and ועתה is about the now, is because the first step is to tear the now away from the past. Only once a person establishes the now could he then reflect on the past.

וימצאהו איש והנה תעה בשדה וישאלהו האיש לאמר מה תבקש (לז,טו)

When Yosef goes looking for his brothers, he gets lost and meets an איש. The אבן עזרא says that this איש was a random person but according to Rashi, it was מלאך גבריאל. In last week’s Parshah, the שרו של עשו was also referred to as איש. Depending on a person’s agenda, he can be a איש who is שרו של עשו, but if he is coming to help, then he can be גבריאל. But the whole mention of Yosef getting lost and this איש giving him direction seems a bit strange and unnecessary to mention.

The Ramban gives an explanation as to why the Torah discusses this incident. The first explanation is to show that many things happened to Yosef which should have caused him to turn back. But nevertheless he continued because לכבוד אביו.

The second explanation is as follows:

ולהודיענו עוד, כי הגזרה אמת והחריצות שקר, כי זמן לו הקדוש ברוך הוא מורה דרך שלא מדעתו להביאו בידם. ולזה נתכוונו רבותינו (ב"ר פד יד) באמרם כי האישים האלה הם מלאכים, שלא על חנם היה כל הסיפור הזה, להודיענו כי עצת ה' היא תקום The idea is that many times people have thoughts about how things should go and turn out, but it’s really Hashem pulling the strings and taking control of the ultimate outcome.

וישב יעקב בארץ מגורי אביו בארץ כנען

The following was said from the Rav’s father.

The previous Parshah ends with all the אלופי עשו and our Parshah begins with the תולדות יעקב being עשו. Rashi quotes the following משל:

הפשתני הזה נכנסו גמליו טעונים פשתן, הפחמי תמה אנה יכנס כל הפשתן הזה, היה פיקח אחד משיב לו ניצוץ אחד יוצא ממפוח שלך ששורף את כולו, כך יעקב ראה כל האלופים הכתובים למעלה, תמה ואמר מי יכול לכבוש את כולן, מה כתיב למטה (פסוק ב) אלה תולדות יעקב יוסף, דכתיב (עובדיה א יח) והיה בית יעקב אש ובית יוסף להבה ובית עשו לקש, ניצוץ יוצא מיוסף שמכלה ושורף את כולם)

But the משל is difficult to understand because the פשתני wants to stay by the פחמי with his פשתן and not burn it so what was the major advice from this פקח who suggested that he burn his פשתן in order for there to be room for him to stay by the פחמי?

The reason why פשתן ignites and catches so easily is because its full of air, as opposed to a solid, such as piece of wood, it doesn’t ignite instantly. Therefore, the פקח was not suggesting for the פשתני to burn his פשתן rather it was just a ראיה to show that it’s only air because things full of air ignite easily, and therefore it can be condensed and pressed down in order to fit by the פחמי. According to this, the נמשל to Yaakov and the אלופי עשו is not that the masses of עשו can easily be killed and destroyed because that’s not necessarily our interest. However, the message is that although they seem large in number, it’s all just air and they are easily able to be condensed and pushed down.

As Jews, we understand that it’s not about the numbers and if we would try to win as numbers, we wouldn’t succeed because we are מעט מכל העמים. But rather it’s about the quality and that is what Jews bring to the table. This is really the message of Chanukah that it was רבים ביד מעטים because the small amount of quality was able to defeat the large numbers. The Gemara in Brachos 9b says קהלא קדישא דבירושלים and Reb Nissim Gaon says this קהלא was just three people. We see from here that something small but of high quality can be referred to a קהלא.

Similarly, the חובות הלבבות in שער היחוד פרק ו says כי המעט הזך הוא רב והרב בלתי זך הוא מעט, ואין בו תועלת. Therefore, it’s more important to recognize the importance of the small and the few of quality than the more without quality.


Thursday Night Parsha Shiur 5782