Sunday, December 2, 2012

Some answers from my students to the question: How should Yaakov have responded to his mother Rivkah?

Last week I posted a question a question about Yaakov's role in stealing the Berachot and the resulting consequences that he suffered throughout his life and beyond. I asked:
If you could bend time and space like Hiro Nakamura, would you go back to meet Yaakov right before he stole the berachot and convince him not to? Would this have been good for Yaakov? Would this have been good for the Jews? (Assuming there would be Jews minus the events during Yaakov's sojourn with Lavan.)
I asked this question to my students and below are some of their responses. I welcome your responses as well.

We would choose NOT to go back in time and tell yaakov ot to steal the berachot. Honestly-nothing would be the same if he didn't. We would not be descendants from him, we'd come from esav, meaning we wouldn't be Jewish. - Rebekah and Lemore

If I had the unique ability to go back in time, I would for sure stop Yaakov from accepting the blessing of the firstborn. This would save both Yaakov and the rest of the Jewish people great pains. Although Esav embarrassed the bracha by even thinking of selling/giving it away, Yaakov still should have known better to not accept it. Ramban tells us that a person has to have the ability to see beyond what’s in front of him. Every time a person has a nisayon-beit with money, arayos, or whatever it may be-right now it looks like the greatest pleasure in the world. One does not see what the repercussions are orwhere these actions may take him. Such a person will never be able to overcome anything and is considered a fool. A fool only sees what’s directly in front of him. This is what Esav is, a fool.

Later on in this "story" Yaakov is forced to meet up with Esav. Although some commentaries say it was peaceful, there is a midrash that states Esav tried to bite the neck of Yaakov. This is why Yaakov should have personally denied this transaction.

The Jewish people were affected by this whole mess because Esav was affiliated with amalek. Yaakov took the firstborn bracha (through perfectly legal means), but it caused Esav great anger. Esav had an excuse to use to rally up his followers. Unfortunately, this all started from the sale of the firstborn bracha. - David

OK so first the obvious problem with going back with the desire to change the past: if I were to do so, it would cause a paradox because the past will have already been changed so I would not need to go back, and if I do not go back then it will not have changed, etc. Now, disregarding that: what has happened in this universe must happen, because there is already an alternate universe, as proposed by the multiverse theory, in which Yaakov did not end up stealing the brachot. So this has to be the one in which he does. Now, disregarding THAT theory, and instead talking about the theory not having anything to do with time travel, but instead on the one that proposes that the Torah was written by people, not by Hashem, and that the stories in the Torah are either just that or did not happen the way they are told, there is a high chance that I would go back in time only to see that either this entire story did not happen, in which case I might go to find Yaakov and instead find a rubber duck with a note, left by the last time traveler, explaining, ORRRR I would find that the story happened COMPLETELY differently.

Hehe sorry about that, I'm feeling nerdy at the moment xD

So now, disregarding all above theories and going with the simple one that fixed points in spacetime CAN be altered within the same timeline, and that the events in the Torah happened exactly as they are told, I don't know if I would. I think that a big part of Yaakov's having stolen the Bracha was that it strengthens the idea that Israel is not rightfully ours. And I believe that if there were not people opposing our existence, then we would not be so strongly inclined TO exist. There are people that are truly zealous about Israel and Judaism, and I don't know if it would be so if there was nobody to oppose that. There are for sure people that would disagree with me, but I think that part of what gives something its value is when others want it too. If one gets a nice watch, consider the following: If everyone that sees it speaks there love for it, that person would value it much more than if everyone that saw the watch would coil and say that it's ugly. If there was nobody in the world that opposed Judaism, that said how wrong it is, if there was nobody that wanted to take Israel from us, I don't know if we would give it as much value.

So if I were to go back in time and stop Yaakov from stealing the Bracha, I would need to sit and study all possible outcomes of the scenario in order to gauge what would be the best. I believe that that moment is a temporal point in the history of Jews, or, at least, in the story of the Torah. -Ari 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Concerning the Sins of the Avot: How should Yaakov have responded to his mother Rivkah?

Here's a question from the Parsha which I would like feedback on. Today I was giving a Dvar Torah in my shul presenting the "pshat" approach to Yaakov's actions of Rabbi Moshe Shamah (see and and others (see Rabbi Eitan Mayer's Emet Le-Ya’akov) that Yaakov was not born a man of Emet but had to grow into Yisrael, the man of truth. This is based on a Lookjed discussion on Dealing with the Sins of the Avot that I was involved in almost 11 years ago.

One aspect of this approach is the reading of Lavan's deceiving of Yaakov into marrying the older daughter Leah instead of the younger Rachel as a punishment mida k'neged mida for Yaakov's own deception of his father Yitzchok into giving him the berachot instead his older brother Esav. This punishment sets the stage for much if not all of the events of the second half of Sefer Breishit and really much of the rest of Tanach since Yaakov's marriage to Leah and Rachel results in constant strife and rivalry first amongst his wives and then between his sons the Shevatim and later between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

The question I was asked is how should Yaakov have responded to his mother Rivkah when she first gave him the idea for this deception? Should he have gone along with it? My initial answer is that he should have said no. If the berachot were meant for him, he would have received them anyways; he should have waited and not attained the berachot from his father through a deception. Had he stood up to his mother, the course of history would have been changed.

But then I started thinking... Is it so easy to answer this way? Maybe Yaakov, the Ish Taam, simple man, would never have become Yisrael, the Ish Emet, man of truth, had he not gone through these trials and tribulations. The Netziv in Harchev Davar (Parshat Toldot, 27: 1) has an essay that touches on this in which he presents an alternative highly original approach to why Yaakov had to receive the berachot in this way.

Bottom line, my question can be summarized based on a character from the popular TV series Heroes which I have become addicted to watching on Amazon Prime. If you could bend time and space like Hiro Nakamura, would you go back to meet Yaakov right before he stole the berachot and convince him not to? Would this have been good for Yaakov? Would this have been good for the Jews? (Assuming there would be Jews minus the events during Yaakov's sojourn with Lavan.) I welcome your responses to this.