Vayechi

December 11, 2013

Vayechi

2. And [someone] told Jacob and said, “Behold, your son Joseph is coming to you.” And Israel summoned his strength and sat up on the bed.
ב. וַיַּגֵּד לְיַעֲקֹב וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה בִּנְךָ יוֹסֵף בָּא אֵלֶיךָ וַיִּתְחַזֵּק יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֵּשֶׁב עַל הַמִּטָּה:

To which Rashi comments:
And [someone] told: The teller [told] Jacob, but [the text] does not specify who [it was], and many [Scriptural] verses are elliptical.
ויגד: המגיד ליעקב, ולא פירש מי, והרבה מקראות קצרי לשון:

And Israel summoned his strength: He said, “Even though he is my son, he is a king; [therefore,] I will bestow honor upon him” [Midrash Tanchuma Vayechi 6]. From here [we learn] that we must bestow honor upon royalty.

Similarly, Moses bestowed honor upon royalty, [as it is written, that Moses said to Pharaoh,] “Then all these servants of yours will come down to me” (Exod. 11:8), [rather than say “You will come down to me”].

And so Elijah [also bestowed honor upon royalty, as it is written]: “And he girded his loins [and ran before Ahab until coming to Jezreel]” (I Kings 18:46). – [from Mechilta Beshallach Section 13]

The Maskil LeDavid asks the obvious question. Why was it necessary for Rashi to bring two other examples, in addition to our case of Yaakov and Yosef to prove his point. What do the cases of Moshe and Pharoah and Eliyahu and Ahab add?

The Makil LeDavid answers. Had Rashi merely explained the case of Yaakov ad Yosef one might have thought that one need only accord honour to a Jewish ruler. Hence he adds the case of Moshe and Pharoah to teach that one should accord honour to a Gentile sovereign also. (G-d save the Queen ie. Elizabeth the Second).

Had Rashi stopped there, we might have thought that no honour need be shown to an apostate Jewish king on the grounds that he is worse than a Gentile. Or in the language of the Talmud: he knows his Divine Master yet remains determined to rebel against him.

Rashi includes the case of Ahab, to teach that the Halacha is that even in the case of an apostate ( and Ahab was an apostate for idolatry which is considered to be a denial of the entire Torah see Chullin 4b-5a) he is deserving of respect because of his royal status!

The Maskil LeDavid goes on to raise an apparent contradiction from Yevamot 22b.

Based on the posuk (Exodus 22:27) ונשיא בעמך לא תאר
You shall not curse a prince among your people.
The Gemora says that this refers only to a prince who conducts himself in a manner befitting a Jewish ruler.
בעושה מעשה עמך in the language of the Gemora.
In the light of this, then, how can we say that Eliyahu was bound to show respect to the idolatrous, apostate king Ahab?

The Maskil LeDavid answers that there is a difference between the respect shown to such a king in his presence on the one hand, and in his absence on the other hand.
He proves this from the story in Bava Batra 4a about the Tanna Bava ben Buta and the impious King Herod.
The Gemora states that ” had it not been for Bava ben Buta’s fear of a bird disclosing his secret (see Kohelet 10:20)” he would have had no hesitation in cursing Herod IN HIS ABSENCE.

Therefore, says the Maskil LeDavid, Rashi needed to bring each of the examples to teach us something not contained in the others.

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