Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Daf Yomi - Megillah 13 - Rachel's Modesty

The Gemora proceeds to record the incident of Rachel’s modesty. It is written [Breishis 29:12]: And Yaakov told Rachel that he was her father's brother. Was he her father's brother? Wasn’t he in fact the son of her father's sister? This is the explanation: Yaakov said to Rachel, Will you marry me? She replied, yes, but my father is a trickster, and he will outwit you. He replied: I am his brother in trickery. Rachel asked him: Is it permitted for the righteous to indulge in trickery? He replied: Yes, and the Gemora cites a verse in Shmuel proving that one is permitted to act crookedly with a crook. Yaakov asked her: What is his trickery? She replied: I have a sister who is older than me and he will not let me get married before her. Yaakov gave to Rachel certain identifying signs in order that Lavan would not be able to exchange Leah, the older sister, with Rachel. When the wedding night came, Rachel said to herself (upon realizing that her father intended to give Leah to Yaakov instead of her), my sister will be embarrassed. She handed over the secret signs to her. It was due to this act of modesty that Rachel merited having Shaul descend from her.

Dr. Mark Berkowitz cited the Ben Yehoyadah who explains this Gemora. He states that the secret message and signs that Rachel and Yaakov exchanged on the first day that they spoke at the well were kept secret by both of them for the seven years that Yaakov labored for Rachel’s hand in marriage. He states that the only way that this secret could have worked and Leah could have possibly replaced Rachel was if Yaakov and Rachel did not meet or talk during those seven years. He points out that this is the great modesty that she displayed over these seven years.

Rabbi Aryeh Leib Scheinbaum in Peninim on the Torah Parshas Korach provides a similar explanation. [This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network.]

The Midrash teaches us that On ben Peles was saved as a result of listening to his wife. She asked him, "What do you gain by being involved in this dispute? Regardless who triumphs, you still emerge as the loser. If Aharon is selected as Kohein Gadol - you are his student. If Korach becomes the Kohein Gadol - you are still nothing more than a student. Why involve yourself in a 'no win' situation?" On's wife spoke with seichal, common sense. Is this a reason to praise her? Basically, she only did what any level-headed person would do.

Horav Nosson Vachtfogel, zl, offers a penetrating insight into the matter. He cites the Talmud in Megillah 13b where Rabbi Elazar claims that as reward for Rachel Imeinu's tznius, modesty, she merited that Shaul Hamelech be descended from her. When did she demonstrate such exemplary tznius? Chazal explain that when she gave her sister, Leah, the simanim, special signs, that Yaakov Avinu had given her, she acted with exemplary modesty. Rashi explains that her tznius lay in the fact that she never publicized her selfless act of devotion to her sister. She never divulged to Yaakov what she had done. She was prepared to give up that for which she had strived for so much - the opportunity to be the progenitor of the Shivtei Kah, tribes of Klal Yisrael. She did not once call attention to her exemplary act of kindness. This is tznius at its zenith.

Rav Nosson posits that included in the middah of tznius is the ability to maintain a shev v'al taaseh, status quo, attitude in regard to a situation in which one is unsure of what to do. He does not take a chance and plunge forward regardless of the consequences. No - tznius demands that one sit back and not act, rather than act rashly. Likewise, one who is a tzanua will not divulge a secret. If one is asked for information about someone and he does not know the person, it takes tznius to say, "I do not know." Regrettably, there are those who are quick to conjecture and state their own opinions about someone, even though they are baseless.

Rav Nosson remembers that, prior to being asked by Horav Aharon Kotler, zl, to become the first Mashgiach of the Beth Medrash Govohah, he was asked by a talmid, close student, of Rav Aharon regarding a controversial sefer that was on the table in one of the yeshivah's classrooms. The Mashgiach responded, "I do not know." This response prompted the talmid to approach Rav Aharon and suggest that Rav Nosson be appointed as Mashgiach of the yeshivah. It takes someone who possesses the strength of character to assert "I do not know" to be the Mashgiach of the Lakewood Yeshivah. This was the power of On ben Peles' wife. She had the ability to see and stress the shev v'al taaseh attitude: "If either way you will not be the victor, why bother involving yourself in the fray of the controversy? Stay at home and stay out of trouble." It takes tznius to act in such a manner. On was fortunate that his wife had the necessary character trait - and he had the wisdom to listen to her.


David said...

Most interesting.It is certainly true that the ability to "stand pat and do nothing" is a valuable quality. It shows great strengtrh of charachter, although I do not know if I would classify it under the rubric of tzenius.

I would even bring the point home by referencing what is happening right now in our city, and probably many other cities. As the NBA playoffs approach, general managers are under a lot of pressure to "do something" to help their teams. Many people like action merely for action's sake, withotu realy considering if a trade would really be helpful. It takes great equanimity to refrain from acting rashly.

The Ben Yehoyida, cited by Dr. B., says Yakkow and rachel must not have met for 7 years for the secret to have worked. Why? They could have met secretly and not spoken of the secret.

Also, I have a sefer at home that claims to know what the secret was! He writes that it was a form of secret handshake, where they interlocked their fingers to form a certain image. I could try to look it up if anyone's interested.

Eric said...


Avromi said...

I am as well - thanks

Lebron said...

According to this dictionary, what you are describing might be modesty........

Online Etymology Dictionary - Cite This Source
1531, "freedom from exaggeration, self-control," from M.Fr. modestie, from L. modestia "moderation," from modestus "moderate, keeping measure, sober," from modus "measure, manner" (see mode (1)). Meaning "having a moderate opinion of oneself" is from 1553. Modest (adj.) is first recorded 1565.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2001 Douglas Harper

ben said...

the Daas Zkeinim Mibaalei HaTosfos writes that the simanim were niddah, challah and hadlakas haneir.

Anonymous said...

Which is roshei Tevios of chinah the thing sefardic women do before marrige