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Kidushin, 31

KIDUSHIN 31 (16 Sivan) - dedicated l'Zecher Nishmas Reb Avrohom ben Reb Shmuel Teichman by his son Mr. Sidney Teichman, by Mrs. Leah Teichman, by Mrs. Tzipora Lieber, by Mrs. Amy Kornfeld and by Mr. Berish Teichman.


AGADAH: The Gemara relates -- as an example of the extent of the obligation to honor one's parents -- the story of a certain Nochri named Dama ben Nesinah of Ashkelon. The treasurers of the Beis ha'Mikdash offered him a huge sum of money for the Yashfeh stone (in order to complete the Efod, the breastplate, of the Kohen Gadol), but the key to the jewel's box was under the pillow of Dama's sleeping father. Dama did not disturb his father and passed up the deal. The following year, Dama's cow gave birth to a red heifer, which the treasurers of the Beis ha'Mikdash offered to buy from him. He told them, "I know that you would be willing to pay all the money in the world for this heifer. However, I will ask you only for the money which I declined in last year's gem transaction!"

The Gemara in Berachos (7b) teaches that a person's name reflects his destiny. In addition, we are taught that "there is nothing that is not hinted at somewhere in the Torah" (see Ta'anis 9a, Zohar 3:221).

Dama's name reflects his destiny. The word that the Gemara normally uses for "money" is "Damim." Sleeping is expressed by the word "Damich" in the Yerushalmi's version of the story. And the word for *red* heifer is "Adumah." All three of these words are based on the root letters of the word "Dama."

Also, the stone that Dama sold to the Chachamim was the Yashfeh (as mentioned by the Yerushalmi). Rabeinu Bachya (Shemos 28:15) mentions that this particular stone has in it a power to control excess bleeding ("Dam"), a further parallel between Dama's name and the stone that became famous for selling.

An allusion to the story of Dama ben Nesinah can also be found in the Torah. The Torah (Bereishis 25:29-34) relates that when Yakov was cooking lentil soup (Rashi explains that he was making the soup, a food traditionally eaten by mourners, for his father Yitzchak who was mourning for the death of his father, Avraham), Esav returned from the field, exhausted, and demanded that Yakov give him some of "that red stuff" ("Adom"). It is from this incident that Esav became known to all as "Edom" ("Red"). Yakov offered Esav the soup in return for Esav's birthright. Esav sold Yakov his birthright, saying that he has no need for it. Yakov then gave ("Nasan") to Esav bread and lentils, and Esav disgraced his birthright.

Esav was called Edom ("Red") because his desire for the red lentils was so strong that he traded his birthright in exchange for it. Perhaps this is the hint to Dama ben Nesinah. "Adom" (Alef, Dalet, Mem) is spelled with the same letters as Dama (Dalet, Mem, Alef). The red lentils ("Adom") which were given over ("Nesinah") could be said to be the "Dama ben Nesinah" of the Torah! (Alternatively, Esav ("Edom") who gave away ("Nesinah") his first-born rights for a dish of lentils, was the Dama ben Nesinah of the Torah.)

What relation, though, does the story of Esav have with that of Dama?

The Chachamim (Yerushalmi, ibid.) tell us that Esav was outstanding in his performance of the Mitzvah of honoring one's parents. Raban Shimon ben Gamliel declared that in all his years of serving his father, he did not do for him even a fraction of what Esav did for his father! Dama -- who, according to the Chachamim, was a general in the Roman army and thus a descendant of Esav (see Rashi to Bereishis 27:39, 36:43) -- also excelled in the Mitzvah of honoring his father!

Why is this particular event in Esav's life chosen to contain the hint to Dama's noble behavior? The Torah itself says that Esav acted contemptuously by displaying such a cavalier attitude toward the birthright (Bereishis 25:34), which included the right to personally participate in the Avodah in the Beis ha'Mikdash. On the other hand, there was a positive side to his actions as well. Yakov, who was obviously more fitting for the position, received the rights to perform that Avodah. Because of this positive outcome, Esav was blessed with the righteous Dama as one of his offspring. Although it occurred generations later, Esav -- through his descendant Dama -- was given a chance to rectify his sin of spurning the Avodah of Hashem in the Beis ha'Mikdash. We know that a sin is considered rectified and proper repentance is considered to have been done when the sinner later faces the same temptations as he did when he first sinned and yet he succeeds in overcoming them (Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 2:1). On a broader scale, perhaps such repentance can be accomplished even on the time scale of generations. The descendant of a sinner can "set the record straight," to a certain extent, by not falling into the trap of sin that his father stumbled in, when confronted with the same situation that his father had originally faced.

In the case of Dama be Nesinah, when the representatives of the Beis ha'Mikdash were looking for the components necessary to carry out the Avodah, the means to supply these objects fell into Dama's hands. Esav, the "grandfather," had shown his disdain for the Avodah in his exchange of the birthright for a bowl of soup. Dama, on the other hand, showed respect for the needs of the Beis ha'Mikdash. He was able to *support* the continuation of the Avodah by supplying the Chachamim with the missing stone. Moreover, while Esav was willing to "sell" the rights to perform the Avodah in order to satisfy his lust for physical pleasure, Dama turned down the huge financial gain that he was offered for the stone that he gave for use in the Beis ha'Mikdash! (It is also interesting to note that just as Esav received something red -- red lentils -- in return for his sale, so, too, Dama was granted the *red* heifer as a reward for his.)


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