Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon
Another great Shabbos of Torah. I attended three classes given by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion http://www.haretzion.org. They classes were on the Mitzva of Shmitta, letting the land of Israel lay fallow every seven years. Rabbi Rimon is one of the foremost experts on the laws of Shmitta and he brings an enthusiasm about keeping Shmitta.
Rav Yosef-Tzvi Rimon
Ram in Yeshivat Her Etzion
Rav Yosef-Tzvi Rimon studied at the Netiv Meir Yeshiva High School in Jerusalem and joined Yeshivat Har Etzion in 1987. He served in the Armored Corps in the context of his army service in the Hesder Program and earned a Bachelor of Education degree from the Herzog College. He has served as a Ram in the Yeshiva since 1996 and also teaches classes in halacha for the entire Yeshiva. In 2001, Rav Rimon headed the Halacha Program in the Yeshiva’s Kollel, and published a book “Shiurei Shevi’it” on the laws of Shemitta. Today, Rav Rimon serves as a neighborhood Rav in Alon Shevut, and as a Ram for first-year students in the Yeshiva. He publishes study sheets on various halachic topics and teaches at the Herzog College and at the Beit Midrash for Women in Migdal Oz.
The following is the Torah I spoke and thought about on Shabbos.
Last year Rabbi Efrem Goldberg talked about the end of Parsha Noach where Terach (Avrom’s father) leave Ur Casdim to go to the land of Canaan. Terach gets to Haran and settles there. In Lech Lecha, God tells Avrum, leave your home and go to the land of Canaan. This got me thinking and I put together the following Torah thought.
|כו. וַיְחִי תֶרַח שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד אֶת אַבְרָם אֶת נָחוֹר וְאֶת הָרָן:|
||כז. וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת תֶּרַח תֶּרַח הוֹלִיד אֶת אַבְרָם אֶת נָחוֹר וְאֶת הָרָן וְהָרָן הוֹלִיד אֶת לוֹט:|
||כח. וַיָּמָת הָרָן עַל פְּנֵי תֶּרַח אָבִיו בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹלַדְתּוֹ בְּאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים:|
|during the lifetime of Terah his father: lit. on the face of Terah his father. During his father’s lifetime (Tan. Acharei 7). And the Midrash Aggadah (Gen. Rabbah 38:13) tells us that he died on account of his father. For Terah complained about Abram his son before Nimrod for crushing his idols; so he [Nimrod] cast him [Abram] into a fiery furnace, and Haran sat and thought, “If Abram is victorious, I am on his side, and if Nimrod is victorious, I am on his side.” When Abram was saved, they said to Haran, “Whose side are you on?” Haran said to them, “I am on Abram’s side!” They cast him into the fiery furnace and he was burned. This is the meaning of אוּר כַּשְׂדִּים, the fire of the Chaldees. Menachem (Machbereth, p. 32), however, explains אוּר as a valley, and so (Isa. 24:15): “in the crevices (בָּאוּרִים) honor the Lord,” and so, (ibid. 11:8): “over the hole of (מְאוּרַת) an old snake.” Any hole or deep crevice is called אוּר.||על פני תרח אביו: בחיי אביו. ומדרש אגדה יש אומרים שעל ידי אביו מת, שקבל תרח על אברם בנו לפני נמרוד על שכתת את צלמיו והשליכו לכבשן האש, והרן יושב ואומר בלבו אם אברם נוצח, אני משלו, ואם נמרוד נוצח, אני משלו. וכשניצל אברם אמרו לו להרן משל מי אתה, אמר להם הרן משל אברם אני. השליכוהו לכבשן האש ונשרף, וזהו אור כשדים. ומנחם בן סרוק פירש אור בקעה, וכן (ישעיה כד טו) באורים כבדו ה’, וכן (שם יא ח) מאורת צפעוני. כל חור ובקע עמוק קרוי אור:|
||כט. וַיִּקַּח אַבְרָם וְנָחוֹר לָהֶם נָשִׁים שֵׁם אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם שָׂרָי וְשֵׁם אֵשֶׁת נָחוֹר מִלְכָּה בַּת הָרָן אֲבִי מִלְכָּה וַאֲבִי יִסְכָּה:|
||ל. וַתְּהִי שָׂרַי עֲקָרָה אֵין לָהּ וָלָד:|
||לא. וַיִּקַּח תֶּרַח אֶת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ וְאֶת לוֹט בֶּן הָרָן בֶּן בְּנוֹ וְאֵת שָׂרַי כַּלָּתוֹ אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ וַיֵּצְאוּ אִתָּם מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד חָרָן וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם:|
|and they went forth with them: And Terah and Abram went forth with Lot and Sarai.||ויצאו אתם: ויצאו תרח ואברם עם לוט ושרי:|
||לב. וַיִּהְיוּ יְמֵי תֶרַח חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וּמָאתַיִם שָׁנָה וַיָּמָת תֶּרַח בְּחָרָן:|
Compare Verse 31 to Verse 5 below. Both Avrum and Terach left to go to the land of Canaan. Avrum by commandment of God and Terach of his own decision.
ה. וַיִּקַּח אַבְרָם אֶת שָׂרַי אִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֶת לוֹט בֶּן אָחִיו וְאֶת כָּל רְכוּשָׁם אֲשֶׁר רָכָשׁוּ וְאֶת הַנֶּפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ בְחָרָן וַיֵּצְאוּ לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן וַיָּבֹאוּ אַרְצָה כְּנָעַן:
- 5. And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had acquired, and the souls they had acquired in Haran, and they went to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan.
1) Why did Terach leave Ur Casidim? Terach brought Avrum to Nimrod to pass judgment on Avrom’s rebellion against idol worship. Nimrod threw Avrom into the fiery furnace, where God protected Avrom and saved him from the fire.
2) Why did Terach want to go to Canaan?
3) Is Terach an evil man or a decent person?
4) Avrom went to Canaan because of Gods commandment and Terach made the decision on his own. Avrom had to be pushed and Terach understood to go by himself.
5) Verse 30 says that Avrom’s wife, Sarai, was barren and the next Verse 31 says that Terach picked up his family and left Ur Casdim. The fact that Sarai was barren has nothing to do with the narrative. Does its proximity to Verse 31 mean anything?
6) Verse 31 first says that Terach took his family and the middle said “they” took them. Per Rashi the “they” is Terach and Avrom. Which one is it?
There appears to be a disagreement among the Rishonim.
The last Rashi in Noach and the Rabbanu Bachya both say that Terach was an evil man. Rashi says that Terach even in his lifetime was considered dead, because evil people even while alive are considered dead. The Ranban asks on this Rashi from Chapter 15, verse 15 where Rashi says that Terach was repentant. The Ranban answers perhaps Terach repented upon his deathbed or perhaps he never repented but the merit of Avrom granted Terach a portion in the world to come. According to Rashi why did Terach leave Ur Casdim. No idea. Perhaps, Terach could no longer live in Ur Casdim because his son was a rebel or maybe because even though Terach was evil, his love for his son overcame his evil impulses.
The Seforno and the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh both seem to say that Terach was a decent man.
The Seforno says that Terach left to go to Canaan because Canaan was a higher spiritual place. However, Terach did not make it to Canaan. He only made it to Haran and “settled there”. As Rabbi Goldberg, said we all have the capacity to attain higher and higher spirituality if we do not settle for less.
The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh says on verse 31 that the reason why Terach left Ur Casdim was due to Sarai not having children. When Terach saw Sarai not having children he decided to change his place of dwelling and took his family to another location based on the concept in the Talmud, Baba Metziah, 75b, “Mishana Makom, Mishana Mazel”, one who changes his place changes his luck. The Ohr HaChaim Hakodosh adds that Avrom was held in such esteem that the entire family uprooted themselves for the sake of Avrom. It thus appears that Terach repented after he saw what Nimrod did to his son and that Avrom was saved. Rashi uses verse 32 to say that Terach was evil and the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh has a different explanation.
The answer to question 4 is that both Avrom and Teach understood that Canaan was on a higher spiritual level. They both wanted to leave Ur Casdim and perhaps this is the reason why Verse 31 in the middle say, they – Terach and Avrom went out from Ur Casdim. When Teach settled in Haran and stopped his journey, Avrum intended to stay with his father because of the Mitzvah of honoring his father. Avrum was planning to wait until his father died to continue the journey. God had to tell Avrum, go to Canaan, leave your father; I am telling you that you are free from observing the Mitzvah of honoring one’s parents.
The first Ibn Ezra on Parshas Lech Lecha goes along with this approach and says a big Chiddush, The commandment of God to Avrom of “Lech Lacha – go out of your father’s house”, was actually said in Ur Casdim. The Ranban disagrees with the Ibn Ezra, however, the Ranban can be answered and the Ibn Ezra mkaes sense.
Chazzan Silber on the phrase “Mishana Makom, Mishana Mazel”, one who changes his place changes his luck, told the following story.
Chazzan Silber learned with Rabbi Hecht for many years. Rabbi Hecht was an unappreciated righteous man in Chicago, a Torah scholar. One night when they were learning Rabbi Hecht asked Chazzan Silber, “what do you think about Mishana Makom”. Chazzan Silber said nothing. Over the course of learning that night, Rabbi Hecht asked three more times and each time Chazzan Silber said nothing. The next morning Chazzan Silber was at work at an important meeting, and Mrs. Silber, walks into her husband’s and said that Rabbi Hecht passed away. Chazzan Silber wondered for years, what if He, Chazzan Silber, told Rabbi Hecht, it is not a good idea to change your place; what if, what if.