Monday, November 28, 2011

Shteiging in Shtusim

On the verse[1] “And the children struggled within her,”  Rashi quotes the famous Midrash[2] which relates that when Rebecca would pass a house of idol worship, Esau would struggle to come out, and when she would pass the yeshiva of Shem and Ever, Jacob would struggle to come out.

In yeshiva I would often hear a question raised on this Midrash. A well know Aggadah in Talmud[3] tells us that a fetus is taught the entire Torah while in the mother’s womb. It is understandable then, why Esau was in such a hurry to get out. But what was Jacob’s rush? What did the yeshiva of Shem and Ever have to offer that he couldn’t get right where he was?

They always offered one of two answers. The first was “es felt in ameilus.” The learning in the womb is not earned, is not toiled over, and therefore does not have the same quality as learning done in this world. The second was that the opportunity to know the entire Torah is worthless when one is stuck with a study partner such as Esau…

I wanted to suggest a third explanation.

Everything Jacob would learn in the womb would be absolute, prophetic truth. In yeshiva he would be able to sit for six months on the same daf, stretching every possible inference ad absurdum. Now, which is more enjoyable?

This works very well with the vort with the agalot and Jacob’s yeshiva in Egypt, v’dok.

[1] Genesis 25:22
[2] Gen. Rabbah 63:6
[3] Niddah 30b


  1. what's the vort with the agalot and Jacob's Yeshivan

  2. That’s an oldie which happens to be from this week’s parsha. Be prepared for a real corny one. You have been forewarned. (You also have to know a little about Yeshivishe politics.)

    The Torah tells us (Genesis 46:28):

    וְאֶת יְהוּדָה שָׁלַח לְפָנָיו אֶל יוֹסֵף לְהוֹרֹת לְפָנָיו גֹּשְׁנָה וַיָּבֹאוּ אַרְצָה גֹּשֶׁן.

    Rashi writes:

    להורות לפניו לתקן לו בית תלמוד.

    Everybody asks, how did Rashi know that he was setting up “Beis Hatalmud”? Maybe he was setting up BMG, Fallsburg, YU, who knows? מהיכא תיתי it was Beis Hatalmud?

    Says the velt, the answer is as follows. When Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, he was afraid his father would think he went off, so he sent him the agalot, as Rashi says (45:27):

    סימן מסר להם במה היה עוסק כשפירש ממנו, בפרשת עגלה ערופה, זהו שאמר וירא את העגלות אשר שלח יוסף ולא אמר אשר שלח פרעה.

    The question is, aderaba! If Jacob would see that Joseph was still in the same sugya as twenty years ago it must be he hasn’t learned a blessed word since then!

    Ela mai their mehalekh halimud was takeh to sit on the same sugya for twenty years! If so, it’s clear how Rashi knew that Judah was setting up Beis Hatalmud, and not some other yeshiva.

  3. that's not corny at all. (i guess I'm not yeshivish so it's funny for me). Thanks for sharing!