Parshas VaYeira – November 8, 2014

It is getting colder in Chicago, but still nice. I received the Sefer Sholem Yershalim and we will have our Shiur at Kins this Sunday night at 8:45 PM.

Chapter 18, Verse 19 (from

  1. 19. For I have known him because he commands his sons and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord to perform righteousness and justice, in order that the Lord bring upon Abraham that which He spoke concerning him.”
יט. כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת בָּנָיו וְאֶת בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו וְשָׁמְרוּ דֶּרֶךְ יְהֹוָה לַעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט לְמַעַן הָבִיא יְהֹוָה עַל אַבְרָהָם אֵת אֲשֶׁר

What does the Hebrew word, יְדַעְתִּיו , mean and how is it translated.   The plain meaning is “to know”.  The Bible and common usage is that the phrase “to know” as something more intimate, something about the nature of a person, I know his or her attributes greatness, etc.

What does the Hebrew word   לְמַעַן mean.  It means either 1) for the sake of, in order to  or 2) because of.

Onklys and the Rishonim translate as follows.

1) Onklys – Pashut translation – “I know that he will command his children”

This is the standard translation in Klal Yisraol.  I have chosen Avrohom because I know that he will command his children.

2) Rashi – I know him – I love him.

 Rashi says:

For I have known him: Heb. יְדַעְתִּיו, an expression of love, like (Ruth 2:1) “a kinsman (מוֹדַע) of her husband”; (ibid. 3:2) “And now, Boaz our kinsman (מֹדַעְתָּנוּ)”; (Exod. 33:17): “and I shall know you (וָאֵדָעֲךָ) by name.” But, in fact, the primary meaning of them all is none other than an expression of knowing, for if one loves a person, he draws him near to himself and knows him and is familiar with him. Now why do I love him? “Because he commands” … for he commands his sons concerning Me, to keep My ways. But if you explain it as the Targum renders: “I know about him that he will command his sons, etc.,” the word לְמַעַן does not fit into the sense [of the verse].

3) Ranban, Pshat #1

I know his greatness.

 4) Ranban, Pshat #2 – See Rabanu Bachyaa.

The Ranban say there are two types of Divine Guidance, Hasgacha, and Providence in this world.     Most people and Righteous people. Read the Hebrew and the below English translation. When you read the Hebrew, at first blush it seems that God for most people lets the world run itself, look at Reb Samson Raphael Hirsch. See also the Rabbinu Bachaya

Rabbi Chavel translates the Ranban into English as follows:

“The correct interpretation appears to me to be that the word yedativ literally means “knowing.” He is thus alluding that God’s knowledge, with is synonymous with His Providence in the lower word, is to guard the species, and even the children of men are subject despite it to the circumstantial evil occurrences until the time of their visitation comes. But as regards to His Pious, He directs His Providence to know each one individually so that His work constantly attaches to to him, His knowledge and remembrance of home never departs, as it says: He withdraweth not His eyes for the righteous. There are many verses on this theme, as it is written, Behold, the eye of the Eternal is toward then that fear Him, and other verses besides.”

See Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin for his explanation in the Oznayim LaTorah.

See Professor Nechama Lebowitz, page 167 for her explanation.

1) above, “For I have known him because he commands his sons”

   Onklys – Pashut translation – “I know that he will command his children”

2) Artscroll, “ For I loved him, for he will command his children”

  Rashi – I love him

3) Soncino, “For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children”

Footnote – Known him, i.e. loved him. This is a secondary meaning of ‘know’, for one      who loves another brings him near to him and thus knows him,

 4) Rabbi Hertz – “For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children”.

Footnote:   for I have known him. i.e. regarded and chosen him.

I think Rabbi Hertz is based on Onklys. Rabbi Hertz says, “for I  have known him. i.e. regarded and chosen him.”   As I said before this is the standard explanation the Jews have used for years.

5) The Pentateuch, by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, “For I have given him My special Care so that he will command his children”.

Ranban, Pshat #2.

Footnote –  “But those who offer themselves to be His instrument on earth, who strive with their whole existence and activities to fulfill His Will, and leave everything else to Him, they form a complete contrast and God takes them under His special guidance and care (protection). This is what is called Yaidah”

“However, people whose attitude towards God is just casual, who treads the paths of God just if and when it happens to suit him, “BeKeri”, . . .       To him God also turns and leaves him to the haphazard chances of life.”

Reb Samson Raphael Hirsch’s translation of לְמַעַן – “so that he will” is problematic. It seems that God gave Avrohom “special Care” so that Avrohom will be able to properly teach his kids.