Friday, November 1, 2013

Yaakov and Eisav's Interesting Birthdays

We are taught of the birth of Esav and his twin brother Yaakov in this week's Parsha. (Bereishis 25:25-26) Esav became a hunter and a man of trickery; Yaakov, on the other hand, preferred to stay inside and remain pure and innocent. (Ibid. 25:27 and Rashi's interpretation) If one looks through Rabbeinu Bachye's commentary throughout this portion he will notice that Rabbeinu Bachye attributes Esav's disposition due to the fact that his astrological sign was Mars. Presumably he is discussing that which the Gemara mentions that if one is born under the astrological influence of Mars he has a disposition to be bloodthirsty. (See Shabbos 156a) Thus, says Rabbeinu Bachye, Eisav's children inherited this tendency.

The question that one should ask is that if Eisav and Yaakov were twins then shouldn't they have the same astrological influence? This influence is a function of the day of the week upon which the child is born and not based on the exact location of the celestial objects in the sky. If it were the latter, perhaps, one could argue that the slight shift of the planet was sufficient to render its force on the second child too weak to exert influence. However, since it is clear from Rashi that it is a function of the day of the week, this should not be the case. The way it works is that each of the seven ancient planets is assigned a day of the week: Sunday is the sun, Monday the moon, Tuesday is Mars, Wednesday is Mercury, Thursday is Jupiter, Friday is Venus, and Shabbos is Saturn. (See Rashi Berachos 59b and Ibn Ezra Reishis Chachma) It is also important to note that it is unreasonable to assume that there was a long delay between the birth of Eisav and Yaakov since the pasuk teaches that Yaakov was holding onto Eisav's heel. (Bereishis 25:26)

Although, one could argue that Yaakov also had this disposition, but was able to channel it properly, this does not seem to be what Rabbeinu Bachye is saying. I would like to offer the following theory to resolve this matter. Perhaps, Eisav was born in the daytime just before nightfall, and Yaakov was born right afterwards, but after night. Just like each day has its planet, so too, each night has one as well. Motzei Shabbos is Mercury, Sunday night is Jupiter, Monday night is Venus, Tuesday night is Saturn, Wednesday night is the sun, Thursday night is the moon, and Friday night is Mars.

Interestingly, Mars is considered to influence Tuesdays, so if Eisav were born just before nightfall, then Yaakov would have been born on the night prior to Wednesday. That night is considered to be the influence of Saturn. Fantastically, Saturn is considered to be the influence of Klal Yisrael as a whole just like Mars is the influence of Eisav and the nation that came from him. (Ibn Ezra Reishis Chachma 4)

While I could have also mentioned that Eisav was born at night and Yaakov in the day and have chosen Friday night and Shabbos day, and this is certainly plausible (interestingly, Friday night is also Mars and Shabbos day is Saturn), it would seem more likely that it was Tuesday to Tuesday night. The Jews are compared to the nighttime and the other nations to the day, thus if the comparison stems from their ancestors then it would make sense that they were born at these respective times. (See Rabbeinu Bachye Shemos 12:2)

A small proof that something like this happened can be seen in the pesukim that describe the birth of these twins. When describing Yaakov's birth the pasuk says, "And after this his brother came out and his hand was grabbing the heel of Eisav, etc." The word for "after this" in this pasuk is אחרי (acharei). (Bereishis 25:26) Rashi teaches that when this word is used it shows that this event did not happen immediately after that which preceded it in the pesukim. The word used for "afterwards" that shows immediacy is אחר (achar). (Rashi Bereishis 15:1) As mentioned earlier, it is impossible to say that Yaakov's birth was not immediately after Eisav's since he was holding his brother's heel as he was born. Rather, I would suggest that this word is chosen to show that although the births happened one after the other, since the day changed from Tuesday to Tuesday night, it did not seem as if it was so immediate.

Sweet Fifteen

Rabbeinu Bacheye does an interesting calculation to show us exactly how old Yaakov and Eisav were at the time that Yaakov purchased the bechorah from Eisav. Avraham was 100 years old when Yitchak was born and 140 when Yitzchak married (Yitzchak was 40 when he married Rivkah). Yitzchak and Rivka were unable to have children for 20 years which brings the total to 160. Since we are taught that the day of the sale was the day of Avraham's passing, we can figure out exaclty how old Yaakov and Eisav were. Avraham lived a total of 175 years, this means that at the time of this sale Yaakov and Eisav were 15. Rabbeinu Bacheye points out that they had to be at least 13 from the fact that they are referred to as men in this segment and prior to 13 they would only be referred to as boys. (Rabbeinu Bacheye 25:27)

It is interesting to point out that this world is considered to have been created with the letter heh and the next world with a yud. (Menachos 29b) Heh is the fifth letter and yud is the tenth. Together they equal fifteen. There are countless drashos that focus on Eisav wanting this world and disregarding, even degrading, the World to Come. It is interesting to see that the age of the participants in this exchange express the idea of this world and its interaction with the next.

As an aside, this segment of the Torah seems to display that Avraham was not born on Pesach. Rebbi Yehoshua maintains that Avraham and Yaakov were born in Nissan. While many might naturally assume that this would have been on Pesach, from the sugyah itself it seems that is not the case and the parsha reinforces that. The sugyah maintains that Yitzchak was born on Pesach, the fact that Avraham and Yaakov's births are only described as in Nissan implies that they were not on Pesach. A close look at Rashi seems to also make this seem to be the case. The parsha reinforces it, though. If this sale happened on the day Avraham died then we can assume it was also his birth. This concept is taken for granted in this exact sugyah. If so, Yaakov made bread for Eisav, so presumably it was not Pesach. (It is possible it was matzoh, but it does not seem like it.) (See Rosh Hashana 11a; for more on why Yaakov gave Eisav bread see my Tiferes Aryeh Shas Inyan Mechiras Habechorah or click here.)

When is Rosh Chodesh?

Because this Sunday is Rosh Chodesh, we will not be reading the regular Haftarah. Instead we will read about the story in which Yehonasan tries to determine if his father, Shaul Hamelech, intends to kill Dovid or not. The setting for the story is at a meal that is taking place to commemorate Rosh Chodesh.

As mentioned in previous posts, Rabbeinu Chananel is of the opinion that Rosh Chodesh was never determined based on witnesses coming and testifying before the court. Rather, the court determines the time of the new Moon based on traditional calculations and sanctifies the day of Rosh Chodesh accordingly. Interestingly, the passage read for this week's Haftarah is cited by Rabbeinu Chananel to prove his point.

In the Haftarah we are first informed that Yehonasan is aware that there will be a festive meal for the following day. The reason for the meal is that the next day was going to be Rosh Chodesh. Rabbeinu Chananel uses this point to show that if Rosh Chodesh were based on testimony, there would be no way that Yehonasan would be aware of the next day being Rosh Chodesh. Perhaps witnesses would not show up and it would not be Rosh Chodesh. Rather, it must be that there was a set calculation that was used to determine when Rosh Chodesh would be and Yehonasan must have known when it was.

In our calendar, not based on testimony, we often times celebrate two days of Rosh Chodesh. This occurs when day thirty of the month is not declared to be the first of the next month. In these situations day thirty and the following day, the first of the next month, are sanctified as Rosh Chodesh. In the Haftarah we see that Yehonasan mentions that there were two days of festivities. As such, Rabbeinu Chananel mentions that this displays that they had the same basic system we have now and that everything was based on calculation. (See Rabbeinu Bacheye Shemos 12:2)

The question one can ask is why are the above considered to be proofs. Perhaps, every thirtieth of the month they would celebrate as Rosh Chodesh. If that day was sanctified based on testimony then there would be no party the following day. If not, then the next day would be considered Rosh Chodesh, as well. Maybe Yehonasan was aware that it was impossible for there to have been witnesses that first day because maybe the Moon was not visible. Or maybe, the comment of there being a party the next day was made late in the day with the assumption that it was improbable that witnesses would come if they had not done so already.

If the concept of Rosh Chodesh being decalred without witnesses is new to you, you are not alone. The Rambam vehemently disputed this as a valid opinion. Click here to see where I discussed the possibility of a rabbinic cover up of these details in order to hide these facts.