web analytics
January 26, 2015 / 6 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

What Was Yaakov Afraid Of?

Taste-of-Lomdus-logo

At the beginning of this week’s parshah we learn that Eisav was coming with 400 men to attack Yaakov and his family. We are told of the many preparations that Yaakov took before this encounter. The pasuk says that Yaakov was very afraid, for as it is written: “vayira Yaakov me’od, vayeitzer lo” (Bereishis 32:8). Rashi tells us that this fear was not for his own life; rather this fear was that he might have to take other people’s lives. In Rashi’s words: “shema yehareg es acheirim.”

Many of the commentators have been bothered by this explanation. The halacha is that if one is chasing another person, he has a status of a rodef and may be killed by anyone. Additionally, there is another halacha that if one is coming to attack you, you may defend yourself and kill him first. So what was Yaakov afraid of? If he would have to kill anyone it would be under one of these permitted conditions. Why the fear?

Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin, zt”l, suggested that Yaakov was aware that if he killed someone it would be permitted. However, he was dually aware that his mother received a nevuah that both of her sons would die on the same day. Yaakov therefore feared that if he killed Eisav, he too would be killed on that day.

There is another explanation brought regarding the wording of Rashi, shema yehareg es acheirim. Perhaps the word acheirim alludes to Rabbi Meir, who is referred to as “Acheirim” in the Mishnah. The Gemara, in Gittin 56b, says that Rabbi Meir was a descendent of Eisav; thus Yaakov was not afraid of killing Eisav per se. Rather, he was afraid of destroying his descendant who would eventually become a great tana.

The Re’aim, the Maharal, and the Levush say that one may only kill a rodef if he has exhausted every other option to prevent the attack. For example, if one can shoot the rodef in the leg and likely prevent death he must do so – and may not kill him. Thus Yaakov was afraid that perhaps he would be able to prevent the attack by other means, but instead kill in such a situation.

However, they then say that this halacha does not apply to the one being attacked; he may kill his pursuer even if he could prevent the attack by other means. They therefore change their explanation to this: perhaps Eisav and his men were only planning to attack Yaakov’s family. Thus Yaakov would only be an outsider witnessing an attack and would thereby be bound by the rule that he must seek other preventative measures before killing the attackers.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger disagrees with this p’shat. He says that the Gemara in Sanhedrin 72a explains why it is that when one breaks into another person’s house the owner is allowed to kill the thief. The Gemara says that there is a chazakah that the thief is aware that a person will put up a fight to keep his money, and consequently knows that there may be a confrontation. As a result, the thief is prepared to kill the owner in the event that a confrontation ensues. This confirms that the thief intended all along to kill the owner of the house. Hence the owner can kill the thief before the thief has a chance to kill him. Rabbi Akiva Eiger says that we can surely apply this chazakah, namely that one will put up a fight when another comes to kill his family. Therefore, the same halacha should apply in this case: Yaakov should be permitted to kill anyone who tries to kill a member of his family, even if he can prevent the attack by other means.

I was wondering what all of these meforshim were referring to when they say that Yaakov was afraid that he would be able to prevent the attack without killing. Why was this possibility such a reality to Yaakov? Generally, when one is coming to attack there is not much that can be done to prevent the attack – aside from killing the attacker.

I believe that the reason why the meforshim assume that Yaakov had this fear is because he knew there was something he could do to stop the attack before it even started. He could send a message to Eisav that he is giving the bechorah and berachos back to him. This would have definitely prevented any bloodshed. Thus Yaakov feared that anyone he would kill would be an unnecessary death. But since he felt that he should not return the bechorah and berachos to Eisav, he prepared for the encounter. Ultimately, though, a battle between the two was averted.

About the Author: For questions or comments, e-mail RabbiRFuchs@gmail.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “What Was Yaakov Afraid Of?”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hassnain Aliamin , one of four Muslim teenagers who attacked a Jew in Gateshead.
‘Let’s Go Jew-Bashing’ Muslims Hauled into British Court
Latest Judaism Stories
Tissot_The_Waters_Are_Divided

Leading by example must be visible, regarding where, when and how-like Nachshon entering the Red Sea

Torah-Hakehillah-121914

Rabbi Yaakov Nagen, a Ram at Yeshivat Otniel, notes that the verse is suggesting that retelling the story of the Exodus is so important that Hashem is performing ever-greater miracles specifically so that parents can tell their stories to future generations.

Parshat Bo

Before performing the 10th plague God makes a fundamental argument about the ultimate nature of justice.

Daf-Yomi-logo

Life Before The Printed Word
‘A Revi’is Of Blood’
(Yevamos 114a-b)

How is it possible that the clothing was more valuable to them than gold or silver?

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

“It means that the disqualification of relatives as witnesses is a procedural issue, not a question of honesty,” explained Rabbi Dayan.

Property ownership is an extremely important and fundamental right and principle according to the Torah.

The tenderest description of the husband/wife relationship is “re’im v’ahuvim/loving, kind friends”

And if a person can take steps to perform the mitzvah, he should do so (even if he won’t be held accountable for not performing it due to circumstances beyond his control).

Suddenly, she turns to me and says, “B’emet, I need to thank you, you made me excited to come back to Israel.”

Pesach is called “zikaron,” a Biblical term used describing an object eliciting a certain memory

Recouping $ and assets from Germans and Swiss for their Holocaust actions is rooted in the Exodus

Pharaoh perverted symbols of life (the Nile and midwives) into agents of death.

I think that we have to follow the approach of the Tannaim and Amoraim. They followed the latest scientific developments of their time.

More Articles from Rabbi Raphael Fuchs
Taste-of-Lomdus-logo

And if a person can take steps to perform the mitzvah, he should do so (even if he won’t be held accountable for not performing it due to circumstances beyond his control).

Taste-of-Lomdus-logo

The Brisker Rav suggests that the barad, in fact, only fell on people, animals, and vegetation.

Why is it necessary to perform an aveirah punishable by lashes in order to be deemed a legal rashah and be pasul l’eidus m’d’Oraisa?

Why was Yaakov not afraid that granting Yosef’s sons the status of shevatim would cause jealousy among his children?

Rav Akiva Eiger is assuming that the logic of the halacha that both the son and his mother are obligated to honor his father and therefore he must honor his fathers wishes first, is a mathematical equation.

It is clear that Tosafos maintains that only someone who lives in a house must light Chanukah candles.

But how could there have been any validity to Yosef’s allegations?

If one converts for the sole purpose of marrying a Jew the conversion is invalid.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/what-was-yaakov-afraid-of/2013/11/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: