Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rebbe – “I Say”

Rebbe said: I say that a firstborn son does receive a double portion in the natural appreciation of an estate which accrued after the father’s death, but not in the appreciation which the orphans brought to the estate after the father’s death.

Many times in Shas, it is found that Rebbe used this terminology, “I say etc.” What was his intention with these words?

Reb Yosef Engel in Beis Haotzar explains that it is known that Rebbe was a tremendously humble person. The Gemora in Sotah (49a) states that when Rebbe died, humility ceased. Perhaps what Rebbe was saying was that it appears to him that the halachah is like this-and-this, but not that it is most definitely so.

He also writes that it is clear from the seforim of the students of the Baal Shem Tov that lofty people are constantly thinking that their words and actions are not emanating from their own power and strength; rather, it is all coming from the Ribbono shel Olam. In kabbalah, the Shechinah is referred to as “Ani,” “I.” This is the explanation in the Gemora Sukkah (53a) when Hillel said, “If I am here, then everyone is here.” The “I” did not refer to himself, for Hillel, we also know was extremely humble. Rather, he was referring to the Shechinah. This, perhaps, is what Rebbe was saying when he said, “I say.” The Shechinah which is inside of me is saying that the halachah is like this.

The Letters of “Bechor”

Meoros HaDaf HaYomi cites the Maharal of Prague who states that the root letters of bechor (“firstborn”) are all multiples of 2, indicating his right to a double portion of his father’s estate: beis = 2; kaf = 20; reish = 200.

The Vilna Gaon adds that beis, kaf and reish are the only letters having a value double that of those before them in alphabetical order: alef = 1; beis = 2; yud = 10; kaf = 20; kuf = 100; reish = 200; and to indicate this sign, the Torah always spells bechor without a vav (cholam) as vav is not twice the value of hei, the letter before it.

Other sources cite the Ariz”l that the letters beis, kaf and reish even indicate the halachah that a firstborn does not take a double portion of assets to accrue but only of those existing at his father’s demise: Several letters have a value double that of others. Ches, for example, = 8 and dalet = 4. Beis, kaf and reish, though, are the only ones with a value double that of the letters next to them in alphabetical order, indicating that a firstborn only takes a double portion of the assets immediately available (Telalei Oros on Ki Teitzei).