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Steinsaltz

There may be times when a firstborn takes his portion of the inheritance, dividing the estate with one other brother, and there may be times when a firstborn takes his portion of the inheritance, dividing the estate with five brothers, and there is no indication that the Torah differentiates between the manner in which the respective firstborns collect in each scenario. Therefore, just as when a firstborn takes his portion, dividing the estate with one other brother, he receives double the property received by one inheritor, so too, when a firstborn takes his portion of the inheritance, dividing the estate with five brothers, he receives double the property received by one inheritor.

The baraita suggests the opposite logical derivation: Or perhaps go this way: There may be times when a firstborn takes his portion of the inheritance, dividing the estate with one other brother, and there may be times when a firstborn takes his portion of the inheritance, dividing the estate with five brothers. Therefore, just as when a firstborn takes his portion, dividing the estate with one other brother, he receives a double portion of all the property, so too when a firstborn takes his portion of the inheritance, dividing the estate with five brothers, he receives a double portion of all the property.

As the logical inference can lead to either conclusion, the halakha is determined by a derivation from a verse. The verse states: “Then it shall be, in the day that he causes his sons to inherit” (Deuteronomy 21:16). As the next verse spells out: “But he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the hated, by giving him a double portion of all that he has” (Deuteronomy 21:17), the former verse is ostensibly redundant. The additional verse is therefore understood as an inclusion: The Torah increased inheritance with regard to the brothers, indicating that the more brothers there are, the greater the portion they collect from the entire estate. Therefore, you should not reason in accordance with the final formulation, in which the baraita suggests that the firstborn inherits twice as much as all the other brothers combined, but in accordance with the first formulation, according to which the firstborn inherits twice as much as each other brother.

The baraita reinforces this statement by citing additional verses: And the verse states: “And the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, for he was the firstborn; but, inasmuch as he defiled his father’s couch, his birthright [bekhorato] was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel, yet not so that he was to be reckoned in the genealogy as firstborn” (I Chronicles 5:1). And the following verse states: “For Judah prevailed above his brothers, and the prince came of him; but the birthright [vehabekhora] was Joseph’s” (I Chronicles 5:2).

The baraita derives: Birthright, i.e., firstborn status, is stated here with regard to Joseph, and birthright is stated in another verse concerning the double portion with regard to the later generations: “By giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the first-fruits of his strength, the birthright [habekhora] is his” (Deuteronomy 21:17). Just as the birthright stated with regard to Joseph is double the property received by one inheritor, as the Gemara will explain, so too the birthright stated with regard to the later generations is double the property received by one inheritor.

The baraita cites additional related verses: And with regard to Jacob’s bequest to Joseph, the verse states: “Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow” (Genesis 48:22). The baraita explains the verse: But is it so that Jacob took the portion with his sword and with his bow? But isn’t it already stated: “Through You do we push down our adversaries; through Your name do we trample those that rise against us. For I trust not in my bow, neither can my sword save me” (Psalms 44:6–7)? Rather, what is the meaning of “with my sword”? This is referring to prayer. What is the meaning of “with my bow”? This is referring to petition. This concludes the baraita.

The Gemara analyzes the baraita: What is the reason the baraita cites additional proofs, introducing them with the term: And the verse states? The Gemara explains: And if you would say that the proof from the verse: “Then it shall be, in the day that he causes his sons to inherit” is not valid, as perhaps this verse comes to teach the halakha of Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Beroka that a father may designate property for whichever child he desires, then come and hear a separate proof: “And the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel…his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel.” As Joseph’s birthright was that his sons received two portions, evidently the birthright of the firstborn is that he receives double the amount received by one inheritor.

And if you would say that this is not a proof either, as we do not derive the meaning of the term: “Birthright [bekhora]” (see Deuteronomy 21:17) from the similar but not identical term of: “His birthright [bekhorato],” come and hear a proof from the term employed in the following phrase from the verse: “But the birthright [vehabekhora] was Joseph’s.”

The Gemara continues to explicate the biblical citations in the baraita: And if you would say that this is not a proof either, as concerning Joseph himself, from where may it be learned that his birthright was double the property received by one inheritor? Come and hear a proof: “Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers,” indicating that Joseph received one more portion than each of the other sons of Jacob.

Rav Pappa said to Abaye: Why not say that the term “one portion” is referring to a mere palm tree or some other relatively small extra gift, instead of a full, equal share? Abaye said to him: For you, i.e., to answer your question, the verse states: “Ephraim and Manasseh, even as Reuben and Simeon, shall be mine” (Genesis 48:5). Evidently, Joseph’s children together received portions equal to that of Reuben and Simeon together, i.e., two full portions.

§ Rabbi Ḥelbo asked Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani: What did Jacob see that he took the status as firstborn from Reuben and gave it to Joseph? The Gemara wonders: What does he mean, what did he see? The matter is written explicitly: “But, inasmuch as he defiled his father’s couch, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph” (I Chronicles 5:1). Rather, Rabbi Ḥelbo’s question was: What did he see that he gave it specifically to Joseph?

Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani answered Rabbi Ḥelbo: I will tell you a parable. To what is this matter comparable? To a homeowner who raised an orphan in his home. Eventually, that orphan became wealthy and said: I will provide benefit to the homeowner from my property. Similarly, since Joseph sustained Jacob in Egypt for a number of years, Jacob saw fit to repay the kindness. Rabbi Ḥelbo said to him: And if Reuben did not sin, would Jacob not have provided any benefit to Joseph? It cannot be that Jacob repaid Joseph only as a result of Reuben’ sin.

Rather, doesn’t your teacher Rabbi Yonatan say like this: It was appropriate for the child receiving the status of firstborn to emerge from Rachel, as it is written: “These are the generations of Jacob, Joseph” (Genesis 37:2), indicating that Joseph was Jacob’s primary progeny. But Leah advanced ahead of Rachel with appeals for mercy, i.e., with prayer, and thereby earned the status as firstborn for her firstborn. But because of the modesty that Rachel possessed, the Holy One, Blessed be He, returned the status as firstborn to her. This is why Jacob gave the status as firstborn to Joseph.

The Gemara explains this answer: What does it mean that Leah advanced ahead of Rachel with mercy? As it is written: “And Leah’s eyes were weak [rakkot]” (Genesis 29:17). What is the meaning of rakkot”? If we say that her eyes were literally weak, is it possible that the verse would say that? The verse there did not speak to the disparagement of even a non-kosher animal, as it is written: “From the pure animals and from the animals that are lacking purity” (Genesis 7:8). The verse states: “That are lacking purity” rather than stating explicitly and disparagingly: That are impure. If that is so with regard to animals, did the verse speak here to the disparagement of the righteous? Rather, Rabbi Elazar says: The term alludes to the fact that her gifts, i.e., the gifts given to her descendants, e.g., the priesthood and the monarchy, were long-lasting [arukkot], as they were passed down from generation to generation.

Rav says that there is a different explanation of the verse: Actually, the verse means that her eyes were literally weak, and this is not a denigration of her but a praise of her. As she would hear people at the crossroads, coming from the land of Canaan, who would say: Rebecca has two sons, and her brother Laban has two daughters; the older daughter will be married to the older son, and the younger daughter will be married to the younger son.

Rav continues: And she would sit at the crossroads and ask: What are the deeds of the older son? The passersby would answer: He is an evil man, and he robs people. She would ask: What are the deeds of the younger son? They would answer: He is “a quiet man, dwelling in tents” (Genesis 25:27). And because she was so distraught at the prospect of marrying the evil brother, she would cry and pray for mercy until her eyelashes fell out. Since the weakness of her eyes was due to this cause, characterizing her eyes as weak constitutes praise. This is Leah’s prayer for mercy to which Rabbi Yonatan referred.

The Gemara comments: And her desire not to marry Esau is the basis of that which is written: “And the Lord saw that Leah was hated, and He opened her womb” (Genesis 29:31). What is the meaning of “hated”? If we say that she was literally hated, is it possible? The verse there did not speak to the disparagement of even a non-kosher animal, so did the verse here speak to the disparagement of the righteous? Rather, the Holy One, Blessed be He, saw that the behavior of Esau was hated by her, and therefore: “And He opened her womb.”

The Gemara now explains the second part of Rabbi Yonatan’s explanation: And what was a demonstration of the modesty that Rachel possessed? As it is written: “And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother, and that he was Rebecca’s son” (Genesis 29:12). The Gemara asks: But isn’t he the son of her father’s sister? Why did he say that he was her father’s brother? Rather, Jacob and Rachel had the following exchange: Jacob said to Rachel: Will you marry me? Rachel said to him: Yes, but my father is a deceitful person, and you cannot defeat him.

Jacob said to her: What is his method of deceit of which I need be aware? Rachel said to him: I have a sister who is older than me, and he will not marry me off before he marries her off, even if he promises that he will do so. Jacob said to her: I am his brother, i.e., equal, in deceit, and he will not be able to deceive me. That is why Jacob said that he was “her father’s brother.” Rachel said to him: But is it permitted for the righteous to act deceitfully? Jacob answered her: Yes, in certain circumstances. As the verse states concerning God: “With the pure You show Yourself pure; and with the crooked You show Yourself subtle” (II Samuel 22:27). Therefore, to counter Laban’s deceit, Jacob gave Rachel secret signs to prove to him that she was the one marrying him.

Laban did in fact attempt to have Jacob marry Leah instead of marrying Rachel. When Laban’s associates were bringing Leah up to the wedding canopy to marry Jacob, Rachel thought: Now my sister will be humiliated when Jacob discovers that she is the one marrying him. Therefore, Rachel gave the signs to Leah. And this is as it is written: “And it came to pass in the morning that, behold, it was Leah” (Genesis 29:25). This verse is difficult, as by inference, should one derive that until now she was not Leah? Rather, through the signs that Jacob gave to Rachel and that she gave to Leah, he did not know it was she until that moment. This is the modesty of Rachel to which Rabbi Yonatan was referring.

§ The Gemara continues its discussion of Jacob’s family. Abba Ḥalifa Karoya asked Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba: In the total tally of Jacob’s family members who descended to Egypt, you find seventy, as stated in the verse: “All the souls of the house of Jacob, that came into Egypt, were seventy” (Genesis 46:27). By contrast, in their individual listing, when the family members of each of his sons are listed by name, you find seventy-less-one. How can this be resolved? Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said to him: A twin sister was born with Dinah, as it is written: “And [ve’et] his daughter Dinah” (Genesis 46:15). The term et implies an unspecified additional person. Abba Ḥalifa Karoya replied: If that is so, one would have to say that a twin sister was born with Benjamin, as it is written:

Talmud - Bavli - The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren No=C3=A9 Talmud
with commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Israel (CC-BY-NC 4.0)
אדם סלומון
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