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).

Thursday Night Parsha Shiur