Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Lech Lecha

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

Towards the end of this week's parsha, Hashem tells Avraham at Bereishis 17:16 that Avraham will have a son with Sarah. Avraham then responds that Yishmael should also live. Hashem then says to Avraham in Bereishis 17:20 that Yishmael will be fruitful and he will increase and that Yishmael will father twelve "n'seim."

While n'seim is usually translated as princes, Rashi takes a different approach and says that the neseim will disappear like clouds, quoting a pasuk from Mishlei 25:14 which calls n'seim clouds. R' Frand explained the reference - during the summer there may be dark clouds and wind, but there is no rain. Rashi is telling us that the n'seim of Yishmael will dissipate like clouds.

R' Frand then quoted the Tolner Rebbi who asked - Rashi teaches the pshat - the simple, concrete explanation. Why is he explaining n'seim as clouds?

R' Frand noted that the question asked by the Tolner Rebbi had also been asked by other meforshim, including R' Eliezer Mizrachi who said that Rashi is telling us that this is pshat. Had the pasuk intended to mean the head of a tribe it would have used rashei shvatim or sarim. However, the answer of the Mizrachi does not clarify the pshat, since had the pasuk used sarim, we could have similarly asked - why not write n'seim?

R' Frand then quoted the Tolner Rebbi who said that the reason why n'seim is used can be learned from a Medrash Tanchuma in Parshas Vayechi. At the end of Ya'akov's life, he blesses the brothers. The Torah uses the words in Bereishis 49:28, "cal aleh shivtei yisrael shneim asar" -all these are the tribes of Israel, twelve. The Medrash Tanchuma then contrasts the description of the tribes as shivtei with the language in our parsha of the 12 n'seim of Yishmael.

But why is this opposite? R' Frand answered that the key is from the pasuk by Yishmael where it says that he will father/give birth to the n'seim. A person does not give birth to a nasi, the nasi earns the title. So why does it say it by Yishmael? Because it means that the nasi had a lot of potential at birth, but the potential needs to be developed. R' Frand gave the example of a child prodigy who needs to be channelled to the proper schools to develop the talent.

By using the words n'seim, Hashem says to Avraham, you want a blessing for Yishmael? Fine, he will have 12 n'seim, but lets see if he develops their talents. This is the point of the medrash, Yaakov had 12 sons by his deathbed - they were not perfect and Ya'akov was giving them musar there - because you need to keep developing. Yishmael had talent but did not work to develop it.

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