Lineaglessness, Ibn Saruk & Rashi 2/52

Sunday, 29 October, 2017 - 5:31 pm


On Menachem Ibn Saruk, Rashi

and Lineagelessness 2/52


with Rabbi Mordechai Zev Hecht


G-d Promises Avram Children

This weeks Torah portion of Lech Licha is a monumental one where G-d continue to test Avram in so many ways, and at the same time promises him soo many blessings in the most profound way ever recorded. One of these dialogues between G-d and Avram goes like this, in Bereshis chapter 15:

(1)  “After the words, of Avram who verbalized his worries about losing his future reward, the word of G-d came to him in a vision saying:”Don’t be afraid, Avram!” I am your shield, (to protect you from being punished for the people you killed in battle) – “Your reward is extremely great” -.

(2)  “Avram, said: G-d, Almighty G-d, what could you possibly give me? For I am Ariri - childless, and the steward of my household, is not my own son but Eliezer of Damascus”. An Avrahamic whine regarding the fact the he, and Sarah his wife, married for decades have no kids.

On this verse Rashi Quotes Menachem Ibn Saruk, the authority of Jewish root words in Rashi’s day, of which certain sages wished to wash away his expertise while Rashi’s own son Rabbeinu Tam wrote a letter explaining why Ibn Saruk was in fact a respectable authority on the roots of words and their meaning in Jewish tradition and history.

Rashi quotes: “Ibn Saruk translates the word Ariri to mean, Avram was whining that he has no Yoresh – Inheritor. Referring to Malachi 2;12 and Iyob 31;12 as his basis for the meaning. He further brings it’s meaning in French, [the language at the time which was common tongue, that even the “5 year old could understand”) as ‘Dis-en-fants’: childless.

Then Rashi further says:

V’Li Nirah - my opinion is”: Based on Shir hashirim 5;2, Tehillim 137,7, Chabakuk 3;13, Yermiyahu 51,58, Tzefanya 2;14, Ariri means Churban – destruction.


The question that comes to mind here is how “bad” is Menachem Ibn Saruk’s fedinition.After all it makes sense of the sentence?! And If Rashi was not happy with Ibn Saruk’s meaning why bother with even mentioning it. Just tell us your opinion. After all you are Rashi the Commentary, compiling your work – no need to mention Ibn Saruk at all?

Let us consider the following 3 points;


1.   No doubt Rashi respected Ibn Saruk and if he saw that meaning and interpretation was needed here on this word, who better to refer to than Saruk – the authority. Perhaps, perhaps in some instances this word may have the meaning as he so states. However Rashi is all about meaning but also about ‘context’ and so Rashi goes on to tell us what it means ‘here’. Clearly doubling up on the sources for his definition and meaning of this word, drawing different conclusion to the root of the word and it’s meaning. Fairly so.

2.   Or perhaps, Rashi was showing us in turn what Ariri is. Imagine I create a dictionary or lexicon and no one respects it, like Avram saying, imagine I have blessings, but no children to keep those blessings going – what would it be worth?!

3.   Or even better so, if we go with Ibn Saruk’s meaning all Avram is really whining or worried about is that he no kids. But he does, he had Yishmael with Hagar. Rather, Rashi I stressing that Avram was complaining about a catastrophe - a Churban – what could be a churban in Avram’s eyes? Perhaps, imagine that all I have is my son Yishamel – and no son with my natural wife and my very righteous prophetess wife Sarah – who would be the greatest source of lineage?! Yet, Avram can’t say it verbally, because he can’t make his concubine Hagar and his son Yishmael, whom he loved dearly, feel bad over this reality, but ‘we can’ read into the words of this great Tzaddik, prophet and sage Avram and say what it is he is really saying to us. Which would be: “All I am left with is a righteous servant, not even blood relative and not a Hebrew but rather a Syrian – albeit righteous one, what I need G-d is a blood son who will perpetuate my values in its entirety.


4.   Now lets us consider this 4th point: Or perhaps, and most likely is as the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains elsewhere on this portion, What Avram is truly afraid of is this: Imagine G-d, I invest all my powers, all my energy all my soul into something and I get nothing in return?! Imagine it only lasts for a short period of time. You G-d want Judaism to prosper from day one of creation, Bereshis, Beis Reishis –for 2 reasons you created the world. One, the Torah and Two, the Jewish people. G-d if you going to help me get the hob done we are going to need a blessing that will pull us through “all generations” and guaranteeing us an “everlasting Jewish Future”. One where there will be no catastrophe, no churban.

Every Jewish mother, father and educator can relate to the fear of Avraham and now according to Rashi even the child of 5 years old can relate to him as well – a Jew must be profound, thorough, lineage-full and not Lineage-less, physically and spiritually.

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