Shabbos Parashas Vayishlach

In Bereshis 35:9 it is written: “And God appeared to Yaakov further upon his coming from Paddan Aram, and He blessed him.” The Sages saw a need to analyze the import of the word further. The Midrash in Bereishis Rabbah 82.3 presents three views. The Maggid focuses on the view of R. Berechya, who interprets the added word as conveying an allusion to a promise from Hashem to Yaakov: “I will not associate My Name with any other aside from you.” It is unclear what exactly the connection is between this promise and the word further. The Maggid sets out to explain the connection.
In Avos 2:1, the Sages teach: “Be as careful with a ‘minor’ mitzvah as with a ‘major’ mitzvah, for you do not know the reward that is given on account of mitzvos.” This Mishnah prompts two questions. First, why does the Mishnah use the phrasing “reward that is given on account of mitzvos” (מתן שכרן של מצות) rather the simple phrasing “the reward for mitzvos” (שכרן של מצות)? Second, if we do not know the reward given on account of mitzvos, what sense does it make to speak of “minor mitzvos” and “major mitzvos”? We can explain what the Mishnah is saying as follows. It is written (Tehillim 62:13, homiletically rendering כי as when rather that for): “Unto You, Hashem, is kindness, when you pay a man according to his deeds.” That is, when Hashem pays a person reward for a mitzvah, He accompanies the payment with a kindness: He generously includes an added blessing beyond what the person is entitled to for doing the mitzvah. It is like the practice of merchants, when they make a sale, to give the customer an added portion of what he bought, or some other bonus. But Hashem takes this practice a huge step further, often giving an extra portion that is worth many times more than the principal reward. This wondrous kindness is described in the following teaching of Bar Kappara (Bereishis Rabbah 61:4):
The added portion (תוספת) that Hashem grants is greater than the principal. Thus, among Chavah’s first two sons, Kayin was the principal [and was accompanied by a single twin sister], while Hevel, who is described as an addition – “And she gave birth further (וַתֹּסֶף לָלֶדֶת) to his brother, to Hevel” (Bereishis 4:2) – was accompanied by two twin sisters. Rachel’s principal son Yosef fathered two sons, while her added son Binyamin fathered ten. Eir was Yehudah’s principal son, while Sheilah, who is described as an addition – “She went on still further and gave birth to a son (וַתֹּסֶף עוֹד וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן), and she called his name Sheilah” (Bereishis 38:5) – ultimately produced ten Jewish law courts [see Divrei HaYamim Alef 4:21–22]. Iyov’s principal lifespan was only 70 years, and he received an added allotment of 140 years, as it is written (Iyov 42:16): “And Iyov lived after this 140 years.” Chizkiyahu’s principal reign was only 14 years, and he received an additional 15 years, as it is written (Yeshayah 38:5): “Behold, I add onto your days 15 years.” Yishmael was the principal [among the children of Avraham’s concubine Hagar, later called Keturah], while the added sons that Avraham fathered through Keturah – “And Avraham proceeded further (וַיֹּסֶף אַבְרָהָם) and he took a wife [after Sarah’s death], and her name was Keturah” (Bereishis 25:1) – were numerous: “And she bore him Zimran, Yokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah” (ibid. 25:2).
Elsewhere the Sages give another example of how Hashem adds onto the principal (Shemos Rabbah 18:5):
Initially, when Hashem set out to bring the plagues on Egypt, He announced the slaying of the firstborn at the outset, as it is written (Shemos 4:23): “Behold, I am going to slay your firstborn.” Pharaoh responded by saying (ibid. 5:2): “Who is Hashem, that I should heed His voice?” Hashem said to Himself: “If I bring on him the slaying of the firstborn at the outset, he will send the Jews out. Rather, I will first bring on him other plagues, and as an ultimate result (בעקב זאת) I will subject him to them all.” … Accordingly, Hashem is extolled: “Who knows the power of Your wrath?” Who knows Your modes of operation that You put into effect at the sea, as it is written (Tehillim 77:20): “In the sea was Your road, and Your path passed through the mighty waters, and Your footsteps (עקבותיך) were not known” – Who knows what effects You ultimately cause to result?
This Midrash shows how far Hashem goes beyond His original pronouncement when displaying wrath. When He grants blessing and pays reward for mitzvos, the added portion is even greater, for our Sages teach that His beneficence is greater than His vengeance (Sotah 11a; Sanhedrin 100a-b). Thus, given that – as the Midrash teaches – it is impossible to gauge the overabundant display of power that results when Hashem exacts retribution, surely it is impossible to gauge the overabundant display of benevolence that results when He pays reward.
We can now understand the Mishnah in Avos: The phrase “reward that is given on account of mitzvos” (מתן שכרן של מצות) that the Mishnah uses refers to the added blessing that Hashem provides in the wake of His coming to pay reward, for it is a gift (מתנה) that accompanies the principal reward. The Mishnah tells us to be as careful with a “minor” mitzvah as with a “major” mitzvah because we do not know what additional blessing Hashem grants as an adjunct to the reward for a given mitzvah. Occasionally the Torah specifies the reward for a given mitzvah, but in such cases it is specifying only the principal reward – we have no inkling of what the accompanying added blessing is.
With this background, we turn to the verse before us. The Maggid expounds several times on the principle that the experiences of the forefathers are a portent for the descendants (מעשה אבות סימן לבנים). The verse before us is another example. Hashem foresaw that the time would come when He would need to convey to the Jewish People both the measure of revelation they earned as the principal reward for their good deeds and the measure of revelation He would provide along with it as an added blessing. He therefore set a precedent by acting this way toward Yaakov. This course of action is hinted at in our verse through the word “further” in the Torah’s statement that “God appeared to Yaakov further.” The idea is underscored by the structure of the verse: וַיֵּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶל יַעֲקֹב עוֹד . Had the Torah sought simply to inform us that Hashem appeared to Yaakov a second time, the natural phrasing would have beenוַיֵּרָא אֱלֹהִים עוֹד אֶל יַעֲקֹב . But instead the Torah places the word עוֹד after the phrase אֶל יַעֲקֹב, to stress that the added measure of Divine revelation was going directly to Yaakov. And thus R. Berechya interprets the word עוֹד as alluding to a promise from Hashem to Yaakov that He would not associate His Name with any other aside from him.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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