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רזוע בר תוחיש

ח”סשת הרש ייח תשרפ

Insights into Torah and Halacha from Rav Ozer Glickman א”טילש ןנחלא קחצי ונבר תבישיב מ”ר

Redeeming Midrash One D’rasha at a Time

:הרש ייח ינש םינש עבשו הנש םירשעו הנש האמ הרש ייח ויהיו

Picture if you will the following scene: a family sitting around the Shabbos table. One of the children is anxious to deliver a d’var Torah in fulfillment of a class requirement. The child draws himself up to his full height, and begins to read. The parents share smiles the length of the table as their baby lectures so earnestly. And then they begin to frown. The d’var Torah is built around a midrash. It is clear that the author of the d’var Torah has cited the midrash as historical fact. Eema shoots Abba a warning look over the table but he cannot help himself. He asks the child to explain the midrash. The child doesn’t understand the question and begins to get frustrated. “My morah told me this,” he insists. “It really happened.” Abba launches into a familiar lecture about metaphors and homiletics and where are all the educated teachers and why are we paying all this tuition? Is it only to keep the kids in a social context yada yada yada. Does it sound familiar? It would to my wife. She’s been through some version of this scenario not with one or two but with six children and now we’ve started in on the grandchildren. So how should we interpret midrashim that boggle the mind? What are they there to teach us? Are they merely the remnants of an ancient literature left behind by primitive unenlightened minds? If so, what does this say about our tradition? Are we as Torah-fearing Jews required to suspend thinking and obediently accept what in any other part of our lives we would reject outright? Here’s one of my favorites. “Righteous women never get wrinkles. ונמא הרש had the skin of a seven-year-old when she was 100.” Abba’s question: “Your mother and your grandmother certainly don’t look seven years old! Why

is that?” Answer: “they’re not righteous!”

What’s really going on here? The Morah’s principal source was probably י”שרפ on the Torah. At the beginning of הרש ייח תשרפ, the Torah provides the sum of ונמא הרש’s years:

:הרש ייח ינש םינש עבשו הנש םירשעו הנש האמ הרש ייח ויהיו An usual קוספ. Let’s compare it to other genealogical םיקוספ. At the end of יחיו תשרפ:

:םירצמב ןוראב םשייו ותא וטנחיו םינש רשעו האמ ןב ףסוי תמיו Now we know how we do numbers in Biblical Hebrew. They may be single words like םירשע or they may be compound numbers like םירשעו דחא. Either way, we would expect a single ללכ, or category, after the number: as in רמועה תריפס, םוי םירשעו דחא םויה. The word םוי is the general category that the numbers come to modify. Perhaps the השרדה םעט, that is the Scriptural basis upon which the שרדמ builds, is the repetition of the word הנש. So we find in תה”ע י”שרפ:

,אטח אלב ‘ק תב ףא ,ןישנע תב הניא ירהש ,האטח אל ‘כ תב המ ,אטחל ‘כ תבכ ‘ק תב :ומצעל שרדנ דחא לכש ךל רמול ,ללכו ללכ לכב הנש בתכנ ךכל

.הבוטל ןיוש ןלכ -הרש ייח ינש The word הנש is repeated for each number category, for the hundreds, for the tens, and for the ones. In fact, we find the same structure for the summation of וניבא םהרבא’s life provided at the end of הרש ייח:

:םינש שמחו הנש םיעבשו הנש תאמ יח רשא םהרבא ייח ינש ימי הלאו

Here, too, י”שר cites a השרד in a similar vein: at 100, וניבא םהרבא had the same strength he had at 70; at 70, he was as sinless as he was at 5.

All well and good

that is, until we look further along in the same קרפ at the end of the השרפ:

:וימע לא ףסאיו תמיו עוגיו םינש עבשו הנש םישלשו הנש תאמ לאעמשי ייח ינש הלאו Here י”שר has nothing to say about the word הנש appearing ללכו ללכ לכב. His only comment is to cite the explanation

proferred in תומבי in the name of אבא רב אייח יבר for the citation of the years of לאעמשי’s life: they are only mentioned to provide a means of identifying events in the life of וניבא קחצי. From אבא רב אייח יבר‘s question, though, we learn

a new theme that will help us understand the text we’re after: citing the years of a Biblical personality’s life accords

them a status to which לאעמשי was not entitled. Now we’re onto something. It is only significant people whose years are summed in the Torah. When we realize that ונמא הרש is the only female in שמוח accorded such an honor, then we see how the mention of her years raised the stakes, so to speak. The קוספ became more noteworthy since we would not otherwise have expected to see such a summation in an otherwise patrilineal genealogical tradition. If this is indeed the case, then we would expect that טשפ-oriented םישרפמ to offer non-midrashic explanations for the inclusion of ונמא הרש’s years. In fact, we do. See for example the ם”בשר here, the proverbial ןטשפ, who explains that the years of the Matriarch’s life are provided as a legal marker for the sale of ןורפע הדש and the cave within it, the

רזוע בר תוחיש

ownership of which continues to be contended until this day. In the realm of טשפ as well, the enumeration of ונמא הרש’s years is exceptional. The basis for the השרד does not necessarily inform on its meaning, though. Consider the conclusion of י”שר’s comment: הרש ייח ינש, the Torah says. הבוטל ןיוש ןלכ- although the קוספ sets the hundreds, the tens, and the ones apart

from one another, to highlight their special character, it collects them again at its conclusion: הרש ייח ינש, an aggregation

She may have been

that appears superfluous. Why should the Torah provide this last phrase? The years of Sarah’s life

unique at each milestone, at 7, at 20, at 100 but her years were all of them good. Is this perhaps a key to the theme?

In a beautiful רומזמ, ז”ל קרפ in םילהת, the poet reflects on the temptations that the tribulations of a difficult life can place before the human heart. When one who is struggling witnesses the seeming success of unscrupulous people,

it is natural to wonder about the worth of one’s devotion to good behavior when bad behavior is so richly rewarded. The psalmist describes the feeling of intimacy with ה”בקה that even a minor victory can instill:

:םיבר םיעשר ןומהמ קידצל טעמ בוט

A success may be meager but life is not to be measured quantitatively. It can mean more to the righteous person than

the tunmult of a plethora of possessions. Success that is built solely on the physical is doomed to collapse as everything

physical must in the end:

:’ה םיקידצ ךמוסו הנרבשת םיעשר תועורז יכ No matter how estranged one may sometimes feel, no matter how infrequent one’s meager successess, the Omnisicient One is near every single day:

היהת םלועל םתלחנו םמימת ימי ‘ה עדוי What righteous people achieve, their הלחנ, will be theirs forever. A lyrical meditation on the human condition, sometimes trying, always meaningful if informed by values that are constant. ל”זח offer another reading of these words. In הבר תישארב:

םימימת ןתונש ךכ םימימת ןהש םשכ -היהת םלועל םתלחנו םימימת ימי ‘ה עדוי .אטחל הנש םירשע תבכ האמ תב ,יונל עבש תבכ םירשע תב An ancient השרד, perhaps, a homily offered on a קוספ from םילהת. A frequent student of הבר תישארב knows that many of the תושרד are excerpts from what is known as a החיתפ. During תבש afternoon, the people would come to the שרדמה תיב to hear a השרד, a sermon. Because הרותה תאירק had dominated the morning followed by a reading from the םיאיבנ, the afternoon תושרד would open with a קוספ from the םיבותכ, which would then be related to that week’s השרפ by the ןשרד. The paragon of תוקדצ whose life would serve as an example for this השרד was ונמא הרש. After all, she is the only woman whose days are explicitly numbered in the שמוח, a fact that screams ינשרד, expound on me! Can we relate her life to the

themes of the רומזמ itself? It isn’t so difficult. Barren, mocked by her handmaiden, struggling to retain her faith in the Divine Promise of progeny even as she and her husband steadily aged. Her life, however, exhibited completeness just as


she did. There were constants in הרש’s life: external beauty and the beauty of a righteous soul. A wonderful lesson

in the magical world of rabbinic שרדמ, even more is to be gleaned from these 127 years, so dispassionately if prominently

enumerated in שמוח. ל”זח leap forward. The beauty of הרש’s life is to be rewarded, for so we learn in the קוספ itself. The שמוח repeats הרש ייח ינש, meaning not the years of הרש’s life but הרש’s two lives. In this, too, she personifies the lesson of the רומזמ:

היהת םלועל םתלנו הרש’s possessions include eternity, a life in this mundane world and another in the world to come. הרש ייח ויהיו רמאנש -היהת םלועל םתלחנו :אבה םלועלו הזה םלועב םוקמה ינפל ןיקידצ לש םהייח םיביבחש ךל רמולת הנורחאב הרש ייח ינש רמול ךרוצ המ We see very clearly then that the life of הרש is a vehicle for ל”זח’s musing on the relationship of virtue to reward. One answer to this ages-old conundrum: the promise of eternal life. In their תושרד, ל”זח examine themes of spirituality, the meaning of the human comedy, the injustices of life; hardly a simple fairy story for a six-year old. Like youth, הדגאה ישרדמ are wasted on the young.

In honor of Rabbi Leonard Matanky shlit”a and the Ida Crown Jewish Academy family for their hospitality to our rebbe this past week.

םולש תבש

These sichos are published by students and admirers of Rav Ozer Glickman shlit”a. We may be reached at