Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Other Devorah

The Cloud and The Bee by Al-Baum
Torah by Rabbi Yissocher Frand

This week's parsha records the death of Rivka's nursemaid, Devorah: "Devorah, the wet nurse of Rebecca died and she was buried below Beth-El, below the Allon, and he named it, Allon-bachuth" [Vayishlach 35:8]. Rashi wonders what Rivka's nanny was doing in Yaakov's household, such that Yaakov should wind up burying her. The Medrash states that Devorah was 133 years old at the time of her death. Rashi states that Rivka had sent her old nursemaid to Yaakov in fulfillment of her promise to him that she would send word to him when it was time to come home from Padan Aram [Vayishlach 27:45]. Devorah died on the journey back home after having carried out this mission.

Rashi's words are very difficult to comprehend. Why would Rivka choose this elderly woman to journey on this long trip to carry out such a mission? Could she not find a more appropriate messenger to send word to her son that it was time to come home?

Rav Dov Weinberger makes a beautiful comment on this Rashi. Yaakov was most reluctant to leave the house of Yitzchak and Rivka. Rikva insisted that he must leave. But Yaakov protested: "What will be with my spirituality? How can I leave this holy household and survive in the house of Lavan the crook?" Rivka promised "I will take you back and I will restore to you what you lost spiritually in the years you were away."

To accomplish such a mission, one cannot send a young kid. On such a mission, one must send a "great grandmother." To restore the idea of what the House of Yitzchak was like in Yaakov's mind, it was necessary to send someone from the older generation. The person who grew up in yesteryear presents an untarnished image. They come from the "old home." Unlike the "younger generation," they represent "the way it is supposed to be."

Many times we will meet a person, not from our generation and not even from the generation of our parents, but someone from two generations ago. It is sometimes worthwhile just to observe how an old Jew acts. He witnessed what things were like "when times were spiritually correct."

Those old enough to remember Rav Ruderman saw a connection to the glory of what European Jewry was in its prime. He corresponded with the Ohr Sameach. He saw the Chofetz Chaim. He sat on Reb Chaim Soloveitchik's lap. He took walks with Reb Chaim Ozer. His reactions were Torah reactions. He knew instinctively what Yiddishkeit [Judaism] was all about.

When Rivka wanted to spiritually retrieve Yaakov from the house of Lavan, she had no choice but to send a delegate who represented the previous generation.

The Chofetz Chaim lived to be a very old man. He died when he was 93 years old. At the end of his life, he wanted to travel to Eretz Yisrael and spend the last days of his life in the Holy Land. He wanted to study the laws of Kodshim and the Temple Sacrifice there. As a Kohen, he hoped he would merit to witness the coming of Moshiach and to participate in the Divine Service in the rebuilt Beis HaMikdash.

He felt that he was an old frail man and could not contribute much more to European Jewry and therefore wanted to "retire" to the Holy Land. He took counsel with Rav Chaim Ozer, the (much younger) leader of European Jewry at the time. Rav Chaim Ozer advised him not to leave Europe. He told him "Even if you cannot be in the Yeshiva any more and you cannot give Torah lectures any more and even if you cannot write any more because of your age -- still, if you remain, people will be able to see what a Jew is supposed to look like."

This can be compared to children sitting at their parents' table. Many times they misbehave. But when their grandpa [Opa/Zeida/Saba] is sitting at the table, the behavior is different. When a member of the previous generation is there, a bit of awe and respect is present as well.

This was Rav Chaim Ozer's message to the Chofetz Chaim, and this explains Rivka's choice of messenger to retrieve her son Yaakov back from Padan Aram.


Torah by Rabbi Azarya Berzon

Apparently, there was an underground movement in Charan which preached Avraham's morality and circulated his teachings. Rivka belonged to that movement. She knew Avraham's world, his hashkafot, and when she became his daughter-in-law she didn't have to learn it from scratch. She had received her special training even while living in a pagan home. Avraham's teaching had spread across the borders and many people in many lands were impressed. But who was the leader? Who was the teacher? It couldn't have been Rivka for she was too young. No doubt many were opposed to this movement and it had to go underground. We find its leader briefly mentioned in Chayei Sarah and then three weeks later in Parshat Vayishlach.

The leader was Devorah - Rivka's nurse [Bereishit 35:8], דברה מינקת רבקה . Why does the Torah find it necessary to tell us [Breishit 24:59] וישלחו את רבקה אחתם ואת מניקתה . What is the chiddush here? After all it was not uncommon for an aristocratic family to employ a nurse for a child and to send this nurse wherever the child went. Furthermore, in Parshat Vayishlach [35:6-8], the Torah adds a sentence which seems unimportant, ותחת דבורה מינקת רבקה ותקבר מתחת לבית אל  - And Devorah the nurse of Rivka died near Beth El, and was buried under the tree, and it was called Alon Bachut [the tree of weeping] -  Is it so important that an old woman died and they named a tree after her?

The answer is found in Parshat Toldot. When Rivka sends Yaakov to Charan, she tells him [Bereishit 27:43-45]:  ''So now, my son, heed my voice and arise; flee to my brother Lavan, to Charan. And remain with him a short while until your brother's wrath subsides. Until your brother's anger against you subsides and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send and bring you from there; why should I be bereaved of both of your on the same day?"

Rivka told Yaakov: ''When the time will come, I'll send someone to get you!''. Whom did she send? It was Devorah! Why her? Rivka was afraid that Yaakov would get too used to Padan Aram . Why send Devorah? Because Rivka knew what a great person Devorah was and what a great job she had done teaching and educating herself and others. When Devorah died, Yaakov was so shaken that he proclaimed a period of mourning. It was Devorah who had trained Rivka for being the mother of the covenant! It was Devorah who was sent to bring Yaakov back from Charan to Eretz Canaan. By adding the words וישלחו את רבקה ואת מניקתה , Hashem confirmed the greatness of Devorah, and her impact upon Rivka. And, by telling us about the death of Devorah and the mourning for her, the Torah confirmed: A great leader was lost.

Source: Mevaseret

1 comment:

Tali said...

I've always wanted to know more about Devorah the meneket. These insights were fascinating. Thank you.