Friday, December 16, 2016

Vayishlach - The Missing Camel

Shaaaloommmm sweeeetest friends!!!:-)

This dvar Torah should be a zchus li-lui nishmas Shmaryahu ben Chana who recently passed away - the grandfather of my beloved friend HaRav Yaakov Lyons Shlita. May his neshama continually enjoy more and more sweetness in the merit of his mitzvos and maasim tovim and those of his holy descendants. 

Also - lirfuas my beloved friend R' Yehoshua Meir ben Sarah Rochel and Sarah Leah bas Rivka bi-toch shear cholei yisrael!

And - to all of my beloved skype chavrusas who keep me going....

In this weeks parsha we read of this gift that Yaacov sent Esav. He sends him the message ויהי לי שור וחמור - I have ox[en] and donkey[s]. When he actually sends the gift he sent camels as well. So why doesn't he mention the camels?

Where are the missing camels???

Reminds me of the guy who fell down in the desert and to make things worse a camel fell upon - whereupon he broke out into song: אשירה לה' כי גמל עלי!!

Anyway, one answer is that Yaacov was sending Esav some very deep mussar. He tells him עם לבן גרתי - I lived with Lavan and kept all תרי"ג mitzvos [Rashi]. That means that I have separated the good and evil within myself. After the sin of Adam and Chava a person is a mixture of good and bad [עץ הדעת טוב ורע]. When one keeps mitzvos he separates the good and evil from within himself. An ox is kosher and a donkey is not.

[Reminds me of the story of the shochet who came to Rav Pinchas Horowitz (1730–1805), the famed rabbi of Frankfurt, with a shyla. A defect had been discovered in the lung of a slaughtered ox, raising the possibility that it might be treif.. It was a complex borderline case, and the rabbi spent many hours studying the rulings of the great halachic authorities of previous generations, several of whom were inclined to forbid the meat under such circumstances. Finally, Rabbi Pinchas issued his ruling: the ox was kosher.

Later, one of his students asked him: “Rebbi, why did you go to such lengths to render the ox kosher? After all, the Shach (Rabbi Shabtai HaKohen, a great 17th-century halachist) deemed it treif. Would it not have been more advisable to simply throw away the meat rather than risk transgressing such a serious prohibition?”

Rabbi Pinchas smiled and replied: “You know, for every man there comes the day when he must stand before the heavenly court and account for his life. I imagine that when that day comes for me, I shall have to defend the decision I arrived at today. The ‘prosecution’ will undoubtedly call a most prestigious witness to testify against me: the Shach himself will question how I permitted the eating of meat whose kashrut is in serious doubt. I shall have to respond by citing the opinions of his lesser colleagues who ruled that the ox is indeed kosher, and by explaining why I preferred their rulings over his. You can be sure that the prospect fills me with trepidation.

“But what if I had ruled that the meat is treif? Then I would have to contend with another accuser—the ox. He will take the stand against me and express his rage: ‘How many hungry mouths might I have fed!’ he will cry. ‘How many hours of Torah study and prayer might I have sustained! How many good deeds might I have energized! And this man consigned me to the garbage heap, while there were grounds for rendering me kosher.’ To be sure, I could call on the great Shach to defend me. But, all things considered, I would rather take my chances against the Shach than confront an angry ox in court . . .”]

A camel however is a mixture. On one hand it chews its cud which is a kosher sign but on the other hand it doesn't have split hooves so it is unkosher [see the commentary of Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman Vayikra 227 who explains the anatomy of the camel as the Torah teaches it]. Yaacov was saying - "I have separated good and bad but I am omitting "camel" because I am not a mixture. Only you are". 

Also, he was telling him that he owns his sheep and donkeys making them holy. A first born donkey that is owned only by a Jew is obligated in the mitzva of פטר חמור. A first born ox owned exclusively by a Jew is also holy and obligated to be brought as korban. [There is a FANTASTIC book about this that you probably have at home called "Tractate Bechoros". CHECK IT OUT!!! Book of the month club selection:-)!]. Yaakov adds that he has עבד ושפחה - His servants are also holy and therefore they are circumcised and eat maaser if their Master is a Kohen. But Gentiles [such as Esav's descendants] don't have this holiness and thus it does not extend to their possessions. Yaacov omitted camel because there is no holiness in the first born camel so that would have obfuscated [which is one of my favorite words] his message. 

[Based on the Meshech Chochma - SEE THERE!!]

Sweetest most beloved friends!!

This is what Chanuka is all about. The Greeks like mixing things up. That is why they left the oils in the Beis Hamikdash [with the ever present oil crises you would think that they would take it all home] and just contaminated them. Good and evil intertwined. They didn't DESTROY the Beis Hamikdash but just made breaches [ופרצו חומות מגדלי]. They left the good but made sure to contaminate it. 

Our job is to separate and not get caught up with all of this βρώμα ["filth" in Greek]. 

The Greeks forced us to write on the horn of an OX - אין לכם חלק באלקי ישראל, you have no portion in the G-d of Yisrael [Yaakov]. That message that Yaacov sent to Esav with the ox that you separate between good and evil doesn't apply to you. You're not holy at all.

Our response is to take the mussar to heart and to remember our roots. To remember that even in the house of Lavan it is possible to keep all תרי"ג mitzvos and be like that kosher ox. Even in the galus of the Great America [because who doesn't want to "Make America Great Again"] we can remain faithful to our heritage. 

Have a sweet, blissful Shabbos beloved friends:-)!