Forethoughts and Afterthoughts.
Commentary on the weekly Torah reading.
In memory of Father, Yosef Ben Zelig.
March 25th 1911 - May 2nd 2008
In memory of Mother, Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh.
June 9th 1925 - April 16th 2003
In memory of Uncle, Moshe Binyamin Ben Tzvi Hirsh.
December 12 1929 - February 2nd 2010
In Loving Memory of Moreinu Horav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, Rosh HaYeshiva Ner Yisroel
Chukas (Numbers 19-22)
Vayetze (Genesis 28-32)32:2 And Yaakov (Jacob) went on his way. And angels of G-D encountered him.32.3 And Yaakov said when he saw them, "This is a camp group ('machaneh - one camp group) of G-D." And he named that place Machanayim (two camp groups).The Jerusalem Targum explains that when Yaakov saw the group coming towards him, he could not make out whether they were friends or foes. From the way they looked from afar, the group could have been warriors that were sent by Lavan to wage a battle against him. Or, the group could have been holy angels that were sent by G-D to save him from Lavan. As they got closer he realized that they were angels of G-D.It is interesting that the name given by Yaakov to that place reflected his initial confusion and that the two conflicting notions that crossed his mind.It is also interesting that his confusion occurred right as he was returning to the Holy Land, after a long period of exile.There is a fascinating Mishnah in Edius (2:9). It has Rabbi Akiva's list of the things that a father endows his children with. The last item in the list is the number of generations that preceded the father. This is the "Kaitz", a limit or an end-point of an exile. The Mishnah cites the redemption from Egypt as an example of an end point. G-D told Avraham (Abraham) that his children will be enslaved for four-hundred years. G-D also told him that the fourth generation would return to the Promised Land. That return was a "Kaitz". Each generation brought it closer to reality.The Raavad lived many hundreds of years ago. He provides the following explanation, according to my understanding.The Medrash notes two end-points in the Egyptian exile. One is the end of their suffering and enslavement. The other is the end of their waiting for something very special to occur, which was their entrance into the Promised Land.At times, G-D decrees that a person or a nation must suffer to enable a purge of defects in personalities or attitudes. Such decrees have a limit that is measured in terms of time.The goal of such decrees is a higher level of existence. The journey towards that higher may take longer than the suffering which propels it. The journey itself may have its own limit. A delay may be needed between the end of the suffering and the achievement of the end-state. This delay allows the person or the nation to manage and internalize the improvement. The duration to reach the goal is measured in terms of a number of generations, unlike suffering which is measured in units of time. Levi and his son Kehas were among those who went down to Egypt. Their generation was the first, followed by the generation of Kehas' son Amram, followed by the generation of Moshe (Moses), number three. Yehoshua (Joshua) lived in Egypt and was part of the fourth generation. G-D foresaw that Yehoshua's generation would be sufficiently refined and also worthy of returning to the Land of Egypt. Hence, G-D told Avraham that the fourth generation shall return.The Raavad commentary concludes by saying that this same phenomenon will occur in the redemption process of the Messianic era. We will not enter the Promised Land right away. Instead, G-D will first lead us through a Wilderness of Nations, whatever that means (Yechezkel / Ezekiel 20:35).One can only speculate on whether the relative lull in persecution has any relationship with the cessation of slavery in Egypt.And one can only speculate whether the confusion over the significance of the State of Israel has any relationship with Yaakov's initial confusion as he entered Israel after his long exile.Click here to mail your thoughts to the author at black@JewishAmerica.com.