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Sotah, 13

SOTAH 13 - dedicated by Larry and Marsha Wachsman l'Iluy Nishmas their aunt, the late Mrs. Rachel Potack (bas Rav Moshe) Z"L -- a true "Eshes Chayil" and "Ba'alas Midos" -- who passed away b'Seivah Tovah in Yerushalayim on 2 Kislev 5761.


QUESTION: The Gemara says that when Yosef took Yakov Avinu's coffin to Eretz Yisrael, the kings of the other nations came to meet them, and they placed their 36 crowns upon the coffin until it was adorned liked a thorn bush. From where did these 36 crowns come?


(a) RASHI explains that 12 crowns came from the 12 Nesi'im of Yishmael (mentioned at the end of Parshas Chayei Sarah). Another 23 came from the Alufim of Esav (mentioned at the end of Parshas Vayishlach), and one crown was the Keser of Yosef.

The SHITAH MEKUBETZES asks that the Alufim of Esav are mentioned in two groups in the end of Parshas Vayishlach: first, the Torah mentions a group of 14 Alufim, and then it mentions a group of 11 (with two repeated, as Rashi points out). However, the two groups cannot be joined together to place their crowns upon the coffin of Yakov, because, they lived during different periods. The first group were the grandchildren of Esav. The others, in the second group, ruled only after the dynasty of Esav lost sovereignty, after the passing of the last of the eight kings who ruled from the line of Esav (as it says in Divrei ha'Yamim; see Rashi to Bereishis 36:40). In addition, when the Torah lists the second group of Alufim, it is not mentioning their names, but rather it is mentioning the places where the Alufim lived (see also RASHASH).

Apparently, Rashi in the Gemara is learning that the Torah is also referring to the Alufim at the end of the Parshah by their names and not by their places, and, furthermore, Rashi maintains that these Alufim remained in power even after the last king of Esav died, while the power of most Alufim of the first group of Alufim waned. (It is not surprising that Rashi here is explaining differently than what he writes in his commentary on the Chumash, because Rashi clearly differs here from what he writes there in other ways, because there (36:5) he writes that there was only one Aluf of Korach and not two.)

(b) TOSFOS SHANTZ here (and cited in the Shitah Mekubetzes in the name of Tosfos ha'Rosh), explains that the 36 crowns included 12 of Yishmael and only 14 of Esav (the grandchildren (the first group of Alufim)). The other 10 were from Bnei Keturah, who are also mentioned here in the Gemara.

When listing the descendants of Keturah, the Torah (at the end of Parshas Chayei Sarah) lists six children of Keturah, two grandchildren from one child (Yakshan), and five grandchildren from another child (Midyan), which totals 13. This, however, brings the total number of crowns to 39 -- or three too many! The Shitah Mekubetzes gives two different approaches how to subtract three of them from the count (see there). (A simple approach might be to exclude the two fathers who had grandchildren, since they passed on their crowns to their children, and not to count 14 from Esav but 13, because -- like Rashi on the Chumash says -- the two Korachs were the same person.)

(c) The VILNA GA'ON (Kol Eliyahu #100) cites the Zohar that explains that the seventy nations of the world are be divided into two groups -- those who follow the lead of Yishmael and those who follow the lead of Esav. Perhaps the crowns did *not* include the descendants of Esav, but only those of Yishmael. (Support for this can be found in the Midrash Tanchuma, end of Parshas Vayechi. This is logically sound as well, because Esav attempted to prevent the burial and thus he obviously did not participate cooperatively with it.) Accordingly, 35 crowns came from the nations that follow the lead of Yishmael, and the 36th crown was that of Yosef, like Rashi says.

(d) The KEREN ORAH explains the Gemara in an allegorical sense. He explains that the reason why 36 crowns were placed on the coffin of Yakov Avinu was to hint to his great spiritual attainment. The Sages point out that there are 36 sins which are punishable by Kares. Kares -- being cut off from the Shechinah -- is the lowest spiritual level. Yakov Avinu reached the opposite extreme -- the highest spiritual level. He was on such a high spiritual level that the Gemara says that "Yakov Avinu did not die" (Ta'anis 5b). Therefore, he was crowned with 36 crowns to represent the 36 degrees of Kares which he opposed and from which he reached the opposite extreme. The word "Keser" (crown) is comprised of the letters that spell "Kares," and this shows that Yakov attained the reverse of the low spiritual level represented by Kares and achieved the "Keser."

QUESTION: The Gemara says that Chushim, the son of Dan, was hard of hearing. When he saw that the funeral procession of Yakov Avinu was being held up, he asked someone why it had stopped. When he was informed that they were waiting for Naftali to bring the deed of ownership from Mitzrayim, Chushim became very upset and declared, "My grandfather must lie in disgrace until Naftali returns from Mitzrayim?!" He took a staff and struck the head of Esav with it, killing him.

It is clear from the Gemara that the fact that Chushim was deaf contributed to his reaction. What difference, though, did it make that he was deaf? Even those who could hear well would have been expected to act that way when Esav held up the funeral procession!


(a) The simple explanation is that Chushim thought that Esav was just making a front, finding an excuse to delay the funeral, and that he did not have any valid claim since everyone knew that Yakov had bought the Bechorah from Esav and it was not necessary to bring any document of proof. Had he been able to hear, though, he would have heard that Esav's claim was not for the portion of the Bechorah (the first-born) in the burial grounds, but for the portion due to him as a normal son ("Pashut") of Yitzchak. It was not so well-known that when Yakov returned from the house of Lavan, Esav had sold to him his portion of the "Pashut" as well.

(b) RAV CHAIM SHMULEVITZ (Sichos Musar 5731:32, 5733:6; see also Chidushei Agados of MAHARAL) explains that those who were able to hear what was going on did not become so upset, because they heard Esav present to them his arguments, and they then had to argue back. As time passed during the argument, they became desensitized to the fact that a terrible injustice was being done. Chushim, on the other hand, who heard none of it as it was happening and then heard about it all at one moment, naturally became very upset and therefore reacted the way he did.


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