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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Parashat Toldot 5775

Part I: The Wrapped Leader
I was asked this week why the person leading prayer (שליח צבור or messenger of the congregation) wears a big tallit, even at mincha (and in some places at ma’ariv). It all begins with God forgiving us for the sin of the Golden Calf where God teaches Moshe the Thirteen Attributes of God. As the Torah Temimah explains below, it seems difficult to use the verb “passed” in connection with God, so it is instead understood as God wrapping Himself (which apparently does work with God). This wrapping is compared to what the prayer leader does, almost as if that is an obvious thing for such a person to do. Following the sources, my best guess relates that wearing a tallit is the opposite of someone in rags (see the final source in this part) and having the leader dress in the fanciest of garments. Alternatively, it could be us imitating God, imitating us.

תלמוד בבלי מסכת ראש השנה דף יז עמוד ב
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Rosh Hashana, 17b
“Hashem passed before his [Moshe’s] face and called.” (Exodus 34:6) Said Rebbi Yochanan: If this verse was not written, it would be impossible to say it. It teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, wrapped Himself like the messenger of a congregation and showed Moshe the order of prayer. He [God] said to him [Moshe]: Anytime that Israel sins - they should follow this order and I will forgive them.
ויעבר ה' על פניו ויקרא, אמר רבי יוחנן: אלמלא מקרא כתוב אי אפשר לאומרו, מלמד שנתעטף הקדוש ברוך הוא כשליח צבור, והראה לו למשה סדר תפלה. אמר לו: כל זמן שישראל חוטאין - יעשו לפני כסדר הזה, ואני מוחל להם.

תורה תמימה הערות שם
Torah Temimah on the above
יתכן דדריש כן משום דלא שייך הפעל ויעבר לגבי הקב"ה דמלא כל הארץ כבודו:
It is possible that he expounded the verse as such since the verb, “passed,” cannot be associated with the Holy One, blessed be He, for the whole world is filled with His glory.

מגן אברהם סימן יח
Magen Avraham, OC 18:2
ול"נ דכל עובר לפני התיבה צריך להתעטף כדאמרי' מלמד שנתעטף הקב"ה כש"ץ, ובל"ח כתב דאף האומר קדיש יתום יתעטף מפני כבוד צבור:
And to me it seems that anyone who passes before the ark [ie leads davening],  needs to wrap, as we said, “it teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He wrapped like a messenger of the congregation.” And in the Lechem Chamudot he wrote that even one who says Mourners’ Kaddish wraps due to the honor of the congregation.

תלמוד בבלי מסכת מגילה דף כד עמוד א - עמוד ב
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah 24a - 24b
A person in rags can repeat the sh’ma and translate [the Torah reading], but he does not read from the Torah, and he does not descend in front of the ark, and he does not raise his hands…

Ulla the son of Rav asked of Abaye: a minor who is in rags, what is it [the rule] of him reading from the Torah? He said to him: ask about a naked person? Why cannot a naked person [read Torah]? Due to the honor of the congregation. Here too, it is due to honor of the congregation.
פוחח פורס את שמע ומתרגם, אבל אינו קורא בתורה, ואינו עובר לפני התיבה, ואינו נושא את כפיו …

בעא מיניה עולא בר רב מאביי: קטן פוחח מהו שיקרא בתורה? אמר ליה: ותיבעי לך ערום? ערום מאי טעמא לא - משום כבוד צבור, הכא נמי - משום כבוד צבור.

Part II: Who is the father?
Here the Rabbis use some odd phrasing at the very beginning of our parasha to deal with what must be a natural suspicion about Sarah. During most of her time with Abraham she never gets pregnant, but after two stories about her pretending to be Abraham’s sister and getting taken away by another man, she suddenly gets pregnant through “Abraham.” Our Rabbis notice this and take it head on with a story where God interferes in this suspicion by altering Isaacs genetic makeup (anachronistically). They are probably also considering a nervousness that was probably much stronger before the days of genetic testing and when lineage was highly valued.

אגדת בראשית (בובר) פרק לז
Agadat Breishit Chapter 37
“Abraham fathered Isaac.” (Genesis 24:19) But did we not know that Abraham fathered Isaac? Said Rebbi Hananyah the Great: this is comparable to a dove after whom hawks and ravens were pursuing. It fled from them, entered into and settled on a nest. People would dispute, “these eggs are from the hawk,” and this one would say, “they are from the raven.” One said to them, “The entire time they are still eggs, it is not know if they are from a hawk or a raven, but rather settle down until they hatch and become chicks, and then you will know from whom they are.” So too, Sarah moved around many times: to Pharaoh, to Avimelech. So they began to say she was impregnated by Pharaoh, and others say she was impregnated by Avimelech. The Holy One, blessed be He said to them, “‘The mouth of speakers of falsehood will be stopped up.’ (Psalms 63:12) Wait until she gives birth and you will see to whom he [the child] is similar.” Immediately, the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded to the angel appointed for the form of a fetus. He said to him, “Don’t make his form like that of his mother’s, but rather his father’s, so that all will know he is surely of his father.” Immediately he [Isaac] came out similar to his father. Therefore it says, “This is the genealogy of Isaac, son of Abraham; Abraham fathered Issac.” (Genesis 24:19)
אברהם הוליד את יצחק. וכי איני יודע שאברהם הוליד את יצחק, א"ר חנניה רבה משל ליונה שהיו הנצים והעורבים רודפים אחריה, ברחה מהן ונכנסה וישבה על קינה, והי' בני אדם אומרים ביצים הללו מן הנץ הן, וזה אומר מן העורב הן, א"ל אחד כל זמן שהן ביצים אינן ידועות אם של עורב הן, אם של נץ הן, אלא הניחו עד שתלד ויעשו אפרוחין, ואתם יודעין ממי הן, כך נטלטלה שרה פעמים הרבה. אצל פרעה, אצל אבימלך כך התחילו אומרים לא עיברה אלא מפרעה, ואלו אומר' לא עיברה אלא מאבימלך, אמר להן הקב"ה (יסכרו) [יסכר] פי דוברי שקר (תהלים סג יב), המתינו עד שתלד, ואתם רואין למי הוא דומה, מיד צוה הקב"ה למלאך הממונה על צורת הולד, אמר לו אל תצור אותו דומה לאמו אלא לאביו, שידעו הכל שאינו אלא מן אביו, מיד יצא דומה לאביו, לכך נאמר אלה תולדות יצחק בן אברהם [אברהם הוליד את יצחק].

Part III: A Peaceful Shabbat Nap (if there’s time) and Cholent
Here the Gemara connects several objects to peace. Among them is a pot using a slight play on word. In Isaiah 35:5, God will ordain peace on us. The word for ordain, תשפת is more often used as the word meaning, “to set on a pot.”

תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף נו עמוד ב
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Brachot 56b
Said Rebbi Haninah: One who sees a well in a dream, he sees peace, as it says, “The servants of Isaac dug a well in the valley and found there a well of living [chayyim] water.” (Genesis 26:19) Rebbi Natan says: he found Torah, as it says, “One who finds me [wisdom] finds life [chayyim].” (Proverbs 8:35) And it is written there, “A well of living [chayyim] water.”

Rava said: It means actually life.

Said Rebbi Hanan: The three types of peace are a river, a bird, and a pot. A river, as it is written, “Here I extend to her like a river of peace.” (Isaiah 66:12) A bird, as it is written, “Like flying birds, so will Hashem of hosts [defend Jerusalem].” (Isaiah 31:5) A pot, as it is written, “Hashem will ordain peace [tishpot] on us.” Said Rebbi Haninah: And for a pot without meat we taught, “And broke them like [meat] in the pot and like meat inside the cauldron.” (Micah 3:3)
אמר רבי חנינא: הרואה באר בחלום - רואה שלום, שנאמר ויחפרו עבדי יצחק בנחל וימצאו שם באר מים חיים. רבי נתן אומר: מצא תורה, שנאמר כי מצאי מצא חיים וכתיב הכא באר מים חיים.

רבא אמר: חיים ממש.

אמר רבי חנן, שלש שלומות הן: נהר, צפור, וקדרה. נהר - דכתיב הנני נטה אליה כנהר שלום, צפור - דכתיב כצפרים עפות כן יגן ה' צבאות וגו', קדרה - דכתיב ה' תשפת שלום לנו. אמר רבי חנינא ובקדרה שאין בה בשר שנינו:ופרשו כאשר בסיר וכבשר בתוך קלחת.

רש"י שם
Rashi on the above
שלש שלומות הם - שלש חלומות המבשרים שלום.
The three types of peace - three dreams which are harbingers of peace.

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