OU TORAHDedicated by the Jacobs and Chill Families in Memory of Harold and Pearl Jacobs
Dora Bas Rivka Silver O'H
The Rise and Fall of Avimelech
Avimelech stirred up trouble in the city of Shechem. He suggested that all 70 of Gidon's sons would become rulers over the nation and wouldn't it be better if there was just one (i.e., him)? The people of Shechem were from Avimelech's mother's side of the family. They gave Avimelech 70 pieces of silver with which he hired mercenaries who killed all the other sons of Gidon, except for Yosam, the youngest, who hid. (Avimelech had them killed at a particular rock, a fact that will become important later on.) The people of Shechem then crowned Avimelech king.
Yosam then called out to the people of Shechem. He used a parable likening the great leaders Osniel, Devorah and Gidon to an olive tree, a fig tree and a grape vine, all of whom refused to be monarch over the nation, but Avimelech is like a thornbush - no fruit, only fuel for fire and destruction. Since the people of Shechem acted with malice against Gidon's family, they would be repaid in kind.
Avimelech ruled for three years, after which time the people of Shechem rebelled. Gaal son of Eved stirred up opposition against Avimelech and offered to depose him. Z'vul, a loyal city leader, sent word to Avimelech warning of the mutiny and asking him to put it down. Avimelech's army went forth and battled Gaal's forces. Avimelech set fire to the tower of Shechem and killed about a thousand people.
Proceeding to Teibeitz, Avimelech started to lay siege to another tower, but a woman dropped a millstone on his head, mortally wounding him. Avimelech asked his armorbearer to kill him so that history would not record that he was killed by a woman. After Avimelech's death, his army dispersed. Both Avimelech and the people of Shechem were repaid for their treachery against Gidon's family.
So, remember that Avimelech had his brothers killed at a particular rock? He was repaid in kind by being killed by a rock. Furthermore, we see the power of ego. Avimelech was so vain that with his dying breath he was worried that history would record that he was killed by a woman. In the end, not only does the Bible record that a woman killed him, but that he was so worried about his ego, even in death.
A short Insight into Judges, Chapter 9There are two interesting facts about “yayin” that Tosfos teaches us.
We all know that the brocha that we make on yayin is “borei pri hagafen.” However, there is no simple way to ascertain that yayin is in fact called a pri. As a matter of fact, Tosfos points out that the possuk regarding bikkurim tells us to take “Meireishis kol pri ha'adamah.” The Mishnah in Bikkurim explains, “You should bring a fruit as bikkurim, however, you may not bring a drink as bikkurim.”
From here it would seem that wine is not called a “pri”. How then could we make a “borei pri hagafen” on wine?
Tosfos notes that we see that the laws of orlah involve only that which is called a pri (“v'araltem orlaso es piryo” - “you shall treat its fruit as forbidden”) In addition, because of a g'zeira shava, a link, from the Torah portion dealing with the laws of terumah, the gemora comments “One does not receive lashes for eating orlah except for that which comes out of grapes and olives. Thus, Tosfos concludes that since a person receives lashes for drinking wine of orlah, the Torah is calling yayin a pri. Consequently, a special brocha on yayin, “borei pri hagafen” is appropriate.
Chazal also teach us that we only offer song to Hashem over wine. As we learn in our perek (possuk 13) when Yosam stood on the top of Har Grizim and stated to the people of Shechem in his parable, “But the grapevine said to them, 'Shall I give up my vintage that gladdens G-d and men?'” The gemora comments, “How does it gladden Hashem? From here we learn that we only sing song to Hashem over wine.”
Tosfos ask, “But we say Hallel, song to Hashem, when we returned victorious in war, when we brought the Korban Pesach on the fourteenth of Nissan and on other occasions. What does the gemora mean that we do not say shira to Hashem except on wine?
Tosfos answer that we do not say shira to Hashem during the other parts of the mizbay'ach (alter) service. We do not sing shira during the sprinkling of the blood, the burning of the sacrificial parts or during the water libation service. The only time we say shira is during the wine libation service.