Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Yaakov Avinu Lo Meis

Talmud Bavli, masechta Ta'anis, approximately 2/3 of the way down the page on 5b, we are told not to talk while eating because you might cause your esophagus to go in front of your trachea.  Good advice.  Immediately afterward we have R' Yochanan telling us that Yaakov Avinu lo meis -- Yaakov Avinu didn't die.  Now you know why the gemara gave you a clear warning.

You might think you heard wrong.  After all, what about hespeidim, the embalming, the BURYING, for goodness sakes?!?  Old news... get in line; the gemara asks those questions.  "Whew", you are thinking, now we'll get some clarity.  R' Yochanan answers all those questions with one simple, answer: "I'm just telling you what the verse says."  Tosafos explains R' Yochanan's answer to be that the verse that discusses Yaakov Avinu's (apparent) demise, Sh'mos 49:33, does not say the word "meis" (as did the analogous p'sukim for the other avos).  Now I don't know about your shabbos table, but at our shabbos table the attendees had plenty of reasons why that word might have been left out and how can you darshan from an omission, and... and...  I felt positively tanna'itic as I responded, "I am just telling you what R' Yochanan is saying."

What does the gemara mean, though?  The Maharsha says it discussing Yaakov Avinu's immortal soul.  That is, he reads the attack questions (what about hespeidim, the embalming, the BURYING!) as rhetorical.  A tzadik, he reminds us, is called living even after death.  So what about Avraham and Yitzhok?  No problem, there is no thought that they may have suffered a spiritual death because they dies in Eretz Yisrael.  T'chi'as ha'meisim happens later in chutz la'aretz and the body has to burrow to Eretz Yisrael.  Therefore, I might have thought that kind of spiritual suffering after the physical death also applied to Yaakov Avinu -- the only one of the Avos haK'doshim to die in chutz la'aretz.

What about Rashi?  Rashi explains that R' Yochanan took the questions seriously and gave a serious answer: they must have thought he was dead.  And what does R' Yochanan mean by "Yaakov Avinu lo meis"?  He means, says Rashi, that Yaakov Avinu is alive forever.  Tosafos apparently agrees with Rashi's assessment of the situation.

What do they say in yeshivos about this gemara?  You see from Rashi an important y'sod: a good question never killed anybody.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…