Torah Insights for Shabbat
Parshat Vayishlach 5758
December 13, 1997
One such example is in the verse, "These are sons of Tzivon, Ayah and Anah. He is Anah who found the yeimim in the desert while tending the donkeys of his father Tzivon."
What are yeimim? Mules, explains Rashi. Anah bred horses with donkeys to produce mules. Of what relevance is this to the storyline? "He was a bastard and he brought illegitimacy to the world." The mule, the Midrash maintains, was Anahs invention.
Yet, an earlier midrash indicates that Eisavs father, Yitzchak, owned mules--well before Anah. On the verse, "The man [Yitzchak] became very great," the Midrash relates, "People used to say, Rather the manure of Yitzchaks mules than the silver and gold of Avimelech."
How can Anah have invented mules when Yitzchak was famous for his mules years earlier?
Furthermore, what is the meaning of this curious midrash? How can manure be preferable to gold and silver?
he Shelah Hakadosh explains. Scoffers of the time used to say that Yitzchaks father was not really Avraham, but Avimelech, who took Yitzchaks mother, Sarah, into his home for a night because he was told she was Avrahams sister.
People had good reason to think Yitzchak was illegitimate. Look at his son Eisav, an unscrupulous and immoral person, whose family is filled with bastardy. After all, they reasoned, the apple doesnt fall far from the tree.
o respond to these critics, the Torah tells us that Yitzchak became quite wealthy in Eretz Yisrael. The land of Israel, which is completely holy and pure, produces wealth only for one who is also holy and pure. (Eisav, by contrast, was rejected by the land and eventually left.)
Even his most mundane possessions were proof of Yitzchaks purity and holiness. G-d gave Yitzchak creatures that looked like a cross between a horse and a donkey, the Shelah writes, but these "mules" were not the product of cross-breeding. Rather, Hashem provided Yitzchak with them, indicating "that even something that naturally contains illegitimacy, came into his posssession without cross-breeding."
If this was true of his animals, how much more did it apply to the man himself. This is what is meant by the verse, "The man [Yitzchak] became very great." Even the scoffers came to recognize Yitzchaks greatness, that he was indeed from holy stock.
They therefore stated that the manure from these mules testified to Yitzchaks holiness more than Avimelechs silver--the money that Avimelech had attempted to give Sarah as "hush money" after he realized that she was a married woman--testified to Yitzchaks supposed illegitimacy.
n order to succeed in Israel, we must be, like our forefather Yitzchak, of pure heart and spirit. Only then can we look towards the A-mighty to provide us with prosperity in the Holy Land.Rabbi Daniel Korobkin is the rabbi of Congregation Sons of Israel, Allentown, PA.
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