A mountain, a field, a house & Elazar Bar Kapara

Sunday, 26 November, 2017 - 4:49 pm

A mountain, a field, a house & Elazar Bar Kapara: 

On Men, women and Children

With Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht: 6/52

A student of the great 19th century codifier, the Chasam Sofer notes in a brilliant essay that the sages Abraham, Isaac and Jacob correspond to (3) different stages in the order of descent of humanity via the way in which they refer to the place of the Holy Temple.

Abraham refers to it as Har – the mountain, as in the verse: “He called it the mountain of G-d and…on the mountain of G-d you shall be seen”. (Bereishis 24,14) For it was Abraham who introduced the idea of monotheism for all, into the world. Yet, people were still steeped in paganism and idolatry and honor and ego were necessary as incentives for believing in G-d.

Isaac refers to it as the field, as in the verse: “…and Isaac went out to speak in the ‘field”. (Bereishis 24,62. [see also Ezekiel 27,29]) By the time Isaac’s generation evolved and progressed people were settling their lands, farmers. Isaac embraced these people, in their farms and  fields and talked to them ‘farm language’, incorporating G-d into that, not egotistically but still not purely altruistically interested in G-d.

Jacob refers to it as the house, as in the verse: “…how awesome is this place, the House of G-d…” (Bereishis 28,17). By the Time Jacobs generation came around, they evolve even further, now that we have the real estate, and the farms are set, now let us build a house – a home really, a place where we can have children and perpetuate ourselves. The truest and purest of the 3 generations in the eyes of G-d. It was through Jacob that the 12 tribes were born and the nation of Israel really begins to take form.

(Yafech Laketz Parshas Vayeitsei)


The Talmud teaches us that: “One who has no home is not a man.” (T. Yevamos Ch.6;Tehillim 115,16. See also T. Brochos) Surely we can say this means that one who does not have a building - a house, one who has to always move is deemed a nomad and not a blessed human being. Referring by example to Kain, who killed his brother Abel, as a nomad and not a man. Because, he was punished to be a wanderer in the land and not be able to settle down.

But we can ask, is a man not a ‘man’ because he has no house? Many a man rent. Many a man move often, are we to say this a curse? To answer this question let us consider further.


Similarly we find in this week’s Torah portion another seemingly blanket statement. Rachel turns to Jacob and says: “If I don’t bare you any children, Maysah Anochi – I am dead”. As Rashi Comments from the Medrash:”from here we learn that ‘One who has no children is like dead”.

Are we really going to say that one who doesn’t have children is like dead. All would agree that children are a blessing and a gift and the women has the tool to bring children into the world and should essentially want to maximize this gift, but is she ‘dead’ if she doesn’t? What was Rachel saying?

The Maharal of Prague in his commentary the Gur Aryeh, comments on Rashi and the Torah here and answers this question by way of an analogy of a Wellspring. – a Maayan, Be’er Mayim Chaim – “How does one define wellspring, that which produces water continual and continuously. Once the well dries up, it cannot be deemed a wellspring. Similarly he explains, when is a human deemed alive - when it gives life! has children! Otherwise she indeed deemed “like dead”. If ‘man’ does not perpetuate and keep the linage and progeny going, they are like dead. A bold statement indeed.

So in turn Rachel was saying, I know Jacob you are going to be the father of 12 tribes and more, I want a part in that awesome endeavor. I want to be a part of the perpetuation and great lineage that will be the Jewish nation – to serve G-d and make the world the best place it can be.


Which helps us shed light on the Mishnaic statement of R’ Elazar Hakapar who stated in Ethics 4,21: “Envy, lust and honor remove a person from this world.” If the envy is for foul purposes, then indeed it may bring you to your grave expediently, but if the desire is not for your own ‘lust and honor’ but for a greater good and cause - for G-d’s honor - there can be no greater aspiration then this. Rachel desiring to be part of something soo holy and special is not only permissible-envy but admirable.

So in turn, a man is as much a man without a ‘home’- as a women is without a household.

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