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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Parashat Breisheet 5776


Our parasha It includes the first ever commandment to people: be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and conquer it. However, it is not couched in the language of commandment but of blessing. Further, note that it is given to both man and woman.
בראשית פרשת בראשית פרק א
Genesis Chapter 1
(27) Then God created the man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
(כז) וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בָּרָא אֹתָם:
(28) Then God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and conquer it; and subjugate the fish of the sea and the bird of the sky, and all the wild animals that creep on the earth.”
(כח) וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם אֱלֹהִים וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם אֱלֹהִים פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ וְכִבְשֻׁהָ וּרְדוּ בִּדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּבְכָל־חַיָּה הָרֹמֶשֶׂת עַל־הָאָרֶץ:

The command is repeated for Noah and his sons. Here it seems to be only given to the men, though it is not clear. There it seems to be in the form of blessing and of command. It may also be connected - and potentially opposite of - the prohibition against murder. (Note that I skip a few verses in the middle).
בראשית פרשת נח פרק ט
Genesis Chapter 9
(א) וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת־נֹחַ וְאֶת־בָּנָיו וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ:
(1) Then God blessed Noah and his sons [children?] and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

(ו) שֹׁפֵךְ דַּם הָאָדָם בָּאָדָם דָּמוֹ יִשָּׁפֵךְ כִּי בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים עָשָׂה אֶת־הָאָדָם:
(6) “A man who spills the blood of a man, his blood shall be spilled; for in the image of God man is made.
(ז) וְאַתֶּם פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ שִׁרְצוּ בָאָרֶץ וּרְבוּ־בָהּ: ס
(7) “And you, be fruitful and multiply; swarm and multiply on it.”

God repeats this command to Jacob, again couched in blessing. However, and this will be important to our exploration, here is the first time the language is singular and clearly only to a man.
בראשית פרשת וישלח פרק לה
Genesis Chapter 35
(9) Then God looked to Jacob again in his arriving from Padan Aram and blessed him.
(ט) וַיֵּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶל־יַעֲקֹב עוֹד בְּבֹאוֹ מִפַּדַּן אֲרָם וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתוֹ:
(10) Then God said to him, “Your name is ‘Jacob;’ no longer will your name be ‘Jacob,’ but rather ‘Israel’ will be your name,” then He called his name, “Jacob.”
(י) וַיֹּאמֶר־לוֹ אֱלֹהִים שִׁמְךָ יַעֲקֹב לֹא־יִקָּרֵא שִׁמְךָ עוֹד יַעֲקֹב כִּי אִם־יִשְׂרָאֵל יִהְיֶה שְׁמֶךָ וַיִּקְרָא אֶת־שְׁמוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל:
(11) Then God said to him, “I am El Shaddai; be fruitful and multiply, a nation and congregation will be from you; and kings will emerge from your loins.”
(יא) וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אֱלֹהִים אֲנִי אֵל שַׁדַּי פְּרֵה וּרְבֵה גּוֹי וּקְהַל גּוֹיִם יִהְיֶה מִמֶּךָּ וּמְלָכִים מֵחֲלָצֶיךָ יֵצֵאוּ:

We also see in Rachel a comparison of death with the failure to bear children, though jealousy of her sister’s ability plays a part.
בראשית פרשת ויצא פרק ל
Genesis Chapter 30
(1) Then Rachel saw that she had not given birth for Jacob; and Rachel was jealous of her sister and said to Jacob, “Bring me children or if not, I shall die.”
(א) וַתֵּרֶא רָחֵל כִּי לֹא יָלְדָה לְיַעֲקֹב וַתְּקַנֵּא רָחֵל בַּאֲחֹתָהּ וַתֹּאמֶר אֶל־יַעֲקֹב הָבָה־לִּי בָנִים וְאִם־אַיִן מֵתָה אָנֹכִי:

The Mishnah brings a debate on which genders are commanded to be fruitful and multiply. One opinion says only men, the other says both genders. The second opinion brings proof from the language in the creation story, since it was given to both genders. The first opinion is stated without proof, but the law follows it.
משנה מסכת יבמות פרק ו, משנה ו
Mishnah, Tractate Y’vamot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 6
The man is commanded on being fruitful and multiplying, but not the woman.
האיש מצווה על פריה ורביה אבל לא האשה
Rebbi Yochanan son of B’roka says, “About both of them He spoke: ‘Then God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’’”
רבי יוחנן בן ברוקא אומר על שניהם הוא אומר ויברך אותם אלהים ויאמר להם פרו ורבו:

The Talmud discusses how we derive that only a man is obligated in being fruitful and multiplying. It initially suggests that since the command is followed by a command to conquer the earth and only men conquer, the command must be only for men. However, both the command to be fruitful and multiply and to conquer the land are written in plural. Further, we are told God speaks “to them,” and not, “to him.”

The Talmud explicitly objects that the plural word used to command conquering. This allows it to respond to the challenge by explaining that the word for “conquering,” [כבשוה] while pronounced in plural is actually written as if it were singular [כבשה].

Possibly since it still has other issues with use of plural in that verse, Rav Yosef gives us another derivation. He derives it from the command to Jacob to be fruitful and multiply. This is given only to Jacob and therefore in the singular.

תלמוד בבלי מסכת יבמות דף סה עמוד ב
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Y’vamot, 65a
From where are these words derived? Said Rebbi I’lia in the name of Rebbi Elazar son of Rebbi Shimon, “Said the Text, ‘And fill the land and conquer it.’ It is the way of a man to conquer and not the way of a woman to conquer.”
מנא הני מילי? אמר ר' אילעא משום ר' אלעזר בר' שמעון, אמר קרא: ומלאו את הארץ וכבשוה, איש דרכו לכבש, ואין אשה דרכה לכבש.
Just the opposite! “And conquer it [written in the plural Hebrew],” implies two people!
אדרבה, וכבשוה תרתי משמע!
Said Rav Nachman son of Yitzchak, “It is written  ‘and conquer it’ [in singular].”
אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק: וכבשה כתיב.
Rav Yosef says, “From here: ‘I am El Shaddai, be fruitful and multiply [written in singular].’ It does not say, ‘Be fruitful and multiply [in plural].”
רב יוסף אמר, מהכא: אני אל שדי פרה ורבה, ולא קאמר פרו ורבו.

The Tosafot point out that the first time being fruitful and multiplying is commanded, though it is to both genders, it is less of a command and more of a blessing.
תוספות מסכת יבמות דף סה עמוד ב
Tosafot Tractate Y’vamot, 65b
Even though to the first man He says, “be fruitful and multiply [in plural]”, that is merely a blessing and not as a commandment.
אע"ג דלאדם הראשון קאמר פרו ורבו ההוא ברכה בעלמא ולא למצוה.


In somewhat of a challenge to the Tosafot, the Maharsha points out that the Talmud’s final proof text, that which was commanded to Jacob, is also really only a blessing and not a command. This is also stated in the commentary of Ibn Ezra.
מהרש"א חידושי אגדות מסכת יבמות דף סה עמוד ב
Maharsha, Novella on Narrative, Tractate Y’vamot, 65b
Shmuel Eidels, 16th and 17th Centuries Poland
And so one must say that for the one who says that also about both of them [Adam and Eve] it says be fruitful and multiply: that which is said about Jacob, “I am El Shaddai, be fruitful and multiply,” that is for sure said merely as a blessing. As it is written about it, “A nation and a congregation of nations, etc.” And since the speech was given to Jacob alone, it had to be said in singular voice.
וכצ"ל למ"ד נמי דעל שניהם נאמר פ"ו הא דכתיב גבי יעקב אני אל שדי פרה ורבה ההוא ודאי לברכה בעלמא נאמר כדכתיב גבי גוי וקהל גוים גו' ולפי שעם יעקב לבד נתייחד הדבור ע"כ נאמר בלשון יחיד:

אבן עזרא בראשית פרשת וישלח פרק לה
Ibn Ezra, B’reishit Chapter 35
Avraham Ibn Ezra, 11th and 12th Centuries Spain, Egypt, etc.
Be fruitful and multiply: A blessing like in the happening of creation.
פרה ורבה ברכה כמעשה בראשית:

The Ran provides an interesting twist, claiming a woman has a commandment of at least being in a supporting role.
הר"ן על הרי"ף מסכת קידושין דף טז עמוד ב
The Ran on the Rif, Tractate Kiddushin, 16b
Nissim of Gerona, 14th Century Spain
That even though a woman is not commanded in being fruitful and multiplying, nonetheless she has a commandment since she helps the husband uphold his commandment.
דאע"ג דאשה אינה מצוה בפריה ורביה מ"מ יש לה מצוה מפני שהיא מסייעת לבעל לקיים מצותו


Some stories in the Talmud add a purpose and danger for women bearing children. First, we hear two stories of women who want to force their husbands to divorce them so they can remarry and have children. In both cases the Rabbi involved in the case denies her a divorce with a ketubah payment until she petitions that she needs children to care for her in her old age. In both cases the Rabbi reverses his position and decided to force the husband to divorce his wife, giving the woman’s desire for children a flavor of a commandment. In both cases, potential children provide support for the woman in her old age. In a third case, Rebbi Chiyyah’s wife has a difficult pregnancy with twins. She goes to her husband in disguise and when told she is not obligated in being fruitful and multiplying, takes a potion to end her fertility. Here we see a an opening for a woman to fear being fruitful, something probably even more acute in the ancient world than today.
תלמוד בבלי מסכת יבמות דף סה עמוד ב
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Y’vamot, 65a
There was one woman who came before Rebbi Ami. She said to him, “Give me my ketubah payment.” He said to her, “Go, you are not commanded.” She said to him, “When this woman is old, what will become of her?” He said, “For this we surely force him.”
כי ההיא דאתאי לקמיה דר' אמי, אמרה ליה: הב ליכתובה, אמר לה: זיל, לא מיפקדת, אמרה ליה: מסיבו דילה מאי תיהוי עלה דהך אתתא? אמר: כי הא ודאי כפינן.
There was one woman who came before Rav Nachman. He said to her, “You are not commanded.” She said to him, “Does not this woman require a staff for her hand and a spade for her grave?” He said, “For this we for sure force.”
ההיא דאתאי לקמיה דרב נחמן, אמר לה: לא מיפקדת, אמרה ליה: לא בעיא הך אתתא חוטרא לידה ומרה לקבורה? אמר: כי הא ודאי כפינן.
Yehuda and Chizkiyah were twins. One finished developing at the end of nine months and one finished developing at the beginning of seven. Yehudit, the wife of Rebbi Chiyyah, having such strife in giving birth, changed her clothes and came before Rebbi Chiyyah. She said, “Is a woman commanded on being fruitful and multiplying?” He said to her, “No.” She went and drank a potion of barrenness...
יהודה וחזקיה תאומים היו, אחד נגמרה צורתו לסוף תשעה, ואחד נגמרה צורתו לתחלת שבעה; יהודית דביתהו דר' חייא הוה לה צער לידה, שנאי מנא ואתיא לקמיה דר' חייא, אמרה: אתתא מפקדא אפריה ורביה? אמר לה: לא. אזלא אשתיא סמא דעקרתא...

In a lengthy piece on the reason only a man is commanded to be fruitful, the Meshekh Chokhma provides two opinions. His first is that childbirth is dangerous and the Torah could never command someone to intentionally put themselves in danger. He uses many of our texts to show this. What he sees as a woman’s greater desire than a man’s to have children he sees as nature giving her a way to get over the fear of death in childbirth. Further, he suggests that before the sin of the Garden of Eden, childbirth would have been painless. That is why the first command to be fruitful was given to both genders!

His second suggestion is that women naturally desire more than men to have children so did not need a commandment. While the gender stereotyping here may be troubling, the idea that the Torah only commands that which needs to be commanded is interesting.
משך חכמה בראשית פרשת נח פרק ט
Meshekh Chokhma, B’reishit Chapter 9
Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, 19th and 20th Centuries Latvia
It is not a stretch to say that that which the Torah exempted women from being fruitful and multiplying and only obligated men, is that the laws of Hashem and his ways are, “The ways of pleasantness, and all of its [the Torah’s] paths are peace.” And it did not burden an Israelite women with that which the body is not able to bear.
לא רחוק הוא לאמר הא שפטרה התורה נשים מפריה ורביה וחייבה רק אנשים, כי משפטי ה' ודרכיו "דרכי נועם, וכל נתיבותיה שלום", ולא עמסה על הישראלי מה שאין ביכולת הגוף לקבל.
And for every forbidden matter, the Torah did not hold back a permitted category, as we say in the chapter Kol HaBasar (Chullin 109b). And because of this we do not find a commandment to fast except for one day in the year, and beforehand it warns and obligates one to eat. And so it did not hold back sex from any of its children except for Moses our teacher, since he did not need it due to his great level and care for his body.
ומכל דבר האסור, לא מנעה התורה בסוגה ההיתר, כמו שאמרו פרק כל הבשר (חולין קט ע"ב). ומשום זה לא מצאנו מצוה להתענות רק יום אחד בשנה, וקודם הזהירה וחייבה לאכול. וכן לא מנעה המשגל מכל בניה לבד ממשה רבינו, לפי שלא היה צריך לגודל מעלתו ולזהירות גופו.
And more than this, in war, at a time of victory, at the increased intensity and expansion of the heart, God knew the internal thoughts. For then it is not possible to stop the spirit at a time of desire, and with a woman of beautiful stature. And the Torah permitted a woman of beautiful stature who was the wife of a man. And like those of blessed memory said, ‘The Torah was only speaking towards the evil inclination.’ And already another author has written in length about this.
ויותר מזה, במלחמה, בעת הנצחון, לגודל החום והרחבת הלב, ידע א - ל דעות כי אז לא יתכן לעצור בעד הרוח בעת חשק ובאשה יפת תואר, והתירה התורה יפת תואר אשת איש, וכמאמרם ז"ל: 'לא דיברה תורה אלא כנגד יצר הרע'. וכבר האריך בזה מחבר אחד.
And we find how this is a cornerstone to the fathers of the traditions who exempted from levirate marriage one whose child [from her first husband] died afterwards because “its ways are ways of pleasantness.”
ומצאנו איך היה זאת לאבן פינה לאבות הקבלה, שפטרו מיבום מי שמתו בניו אח"כ, משום "דרכיה דרכי נועם".
And if so, women who are endangered in pregnancy and birth, and because of this they said that death is common - see Tosafot [Ketubot] 83b, starting words “Death is common,” the Torah did not decree to command a woman to be fruitful and multiply.
ואם כן, נשים שמסתכנות בעיבור ולידה, - ומשום זה אמרו מיתה שכיחא, עיין תוספות [כתובות] פג, ב ד"ה מיתה שכיחה - לא גזרה התורה לצוות לפרות לרבות על האשה.
And thus it is permissible to drink a cup of infertility, like the action of Yehudit, wife of Rebbi Chiyyah at the end of HaBa Al Yevamto. Only for the continuation of the species was it made in nature for her desire to give birth be stronger than a man’s. And we find about Rachel who said, “Bring me children and if not I shall die.”
וכן מותרת לשתות כוס עקרין, וכעובדא דיהודית דביתהו דרבי חייא סוף הבא על יבמתו. רק לקיום המין עשה בטבעה שתשוקתה להוליד עזה משל איש. ומצאנו לרחל שאמרה "הבה לי בנים, ואם אין מתה אנכי".
And with this, it works well that which Rav Yosef said in chapter HaBa Al Yevamto that women are not commanded to be fruitful and multiply from here: “I am El Shaddai, be fruitful and multiply.” And it does not say it in plural. That is that for Adam and Eve, that He blessed them before the sin before there was strife in labor, it was a commandment on both of them to be fruitful and multiply. And He said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply [in plural].”
ובזה ניחא הך דאמר רב יוסף פרק הבא על יבמתו (סה, ב), דאין נשים מצוות בפריה ורביה מהכא, "אני א -ל ש - די פרה ורבה" (בראשית לב, יא), ולא קאמר "פרו ורבו". היינו דבאדם וחוה שברך אותם קודם החטא שלא היה לה צער לידה, היה מצות שניהם בפריה וברביה, ואמר להם "פרו ורבו" (שם א, כח).
But after the sin, when there was strife in labor, and in the majority of cases she is at risk from this, such that they said (at a time when she squats to give birth a woman jumps) and swears to no longer be attached to her husband (and therefore the Torah said for her to bring a sacrifice)...
אבל לאחר החטא שהיה לה צער לידה, והיא רוב פעמים מסתכנת מזה, עד כי אמרו (בשעה שכורעת לילד קופצת) אשה ונשבעת שלא תזדקק (לבעלה, לפיכך אמרה תורה תביא קרבן - נדה לא, ב)...
It is further possible to say that the reason the Torah exempted women from being fruitful and multiplying is that in truth in the nature of desire, the female gender has it more, as they said, “It is better to sit as two together than to sit as a widow.”  And it is enough for what is through the force of nature.
עוד יתכן לאמר בטעם שפטרה התורה נשים מפריה ורביה, משום דבאמת הלא הטביעה בטבע התשוקה, ובנקבה עוד יותר, כמו שאמרו (קדושין מא, א): 'טב למיתב טן דו (מלמיתב ארמלו'), ודי במה שהיא מוכרחת בטבע.

Responding to a question about a woman who has a history of difficult pregnancies, the Chatam Sofer refuses to allow her to use birth control without her husband’s knowledge in contrast to our story about Rebbi Chiyyah’s wife. He accounts this to changing times where a husband may no longer take multiple wives. This might begin to open up language to a woman’s obligation in being fruitful in a world where the nature of childbirth itself begins to change (though as a mere ignoramus I shall say no more).
שו"ת חתם סופר חלק ב (יורה דעה) סימן קעב
Responsa of the Chatam Sofer, Part 2 (Yoreh De’ah) Siman 172
Moses Sofer, 18th and 19th Centuries Germany and Slovakia
A woman who is endangered in pregnancy and nursing, and several times was in great danger, if she is permitted to use a contraceptive insert at the time of sex so she will not get pregnant...
אשה אשר מסתכנת בימי עבור והנקה וכמה פעמים היתה בסכנה עצומה אי שרי לה להשתמש במוך בשעת תשמיש כדי שלא תתעבר...
And there is not proof from the wife of Rebbi Chiyyah. It is possible it was different in their days that one could marry an additional wife or divorce her if he desired children. Which is not the case in our times that we have the ban of Rabbeinu Gershom, the light of the exile, she should not do so without his permission as recounted above.
אין ראיה מדביתהו דר"ח אפשר שאני בימיהם דיכול לישא אשה על אשתו או לגרשה לדידה אם יהיה תאב לבנים משא"כ בזמנינו דאיכא חרגמ"ה =חרם רבינו גרשום מאור הגולה= לא תעשה בלי רשותו כנלע"ד.

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