WWRALD?

Today, the 9th of Nissan, is R’ Aryeh Levin’s 41st yahrzeit. A man who was called “The Tzadiq of Yerushalayim” at a time when Yerushalayim held such greats as Rav Kook, R’ Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, R’ Zundel Salant, Rav Zvi Pesach Frank… “The Father of the Prisoners”.

Every Shabbos and Yom Tov, from 1927 until frailty overtook him nearly 40 years later, he visited the prisoners in the Russian Compound, Jerusalem. He visited the women’s prison in Bet Lehem, and the men sentenced to death for fighting the British, imprisoned in Akko — even as he questioned the morality of the many of the attacks that landed them there. Rav Aryeh Levin, like his rebbe-chaver, Rav Kook, looked to the holiness of the soul, the person willing to risk it all for the love his people, and chose not to focus more attention on actions in the past with which he disagreed. He was able to turn to common murderers, hold their hand warmly, making eye contact, feeling the pain of that soul starving within, and connecting to it. His “children”, as they called themselves, made sure their yarmulkas were on their heads before they arrived. They didn’t wish to cause him pain. As I recently posted, even those standing in the shadow of the gallows — and the British made sure the condemned literally did so, giving them sells from which they can be regularly reminded of their fate — would feel a need to comfort Rav Aryeh of the pain he felt about their predicament.

But he would always leave with the words from the machzor, “teshu’as Hashem kehe’eref ayin — G-d’s redemption could be like the blink of an eye.”

Rav Aryeh Levin at the Kotel

Rav Aryeh Levin was appointed their formal chaplain in 1929, but he only accepted the position on the condition that it not include pay. This was his mitzvah, he wasn’t going to cheapen it by accepting money. When the prisoners of the resistance held a reunion and were going to honor Reb Aryeh, he went for a berakhah first, to beg Hashem not to let the praises change him.

What did the prisoners think of him? The week that they learned his daughter was suddenly paralyzed, after each aliyah, the prisoner asked the gabbai to make a Mi sheBeirakh. But they were prisoners, so when the gabbai would normally say “for the sake of their pledging … to tzedaqah” what could they do? “I pledge a day of my life” “I pledge a week”, “a month”. Dov Tamari, later a professor at Technion, got maftir. He asked the Almighty, “What is our life in prison worth, compared to our Rabbi’s anguish? I pledge all the remaining days of my life to the complete recovery of our rabbi’s daughter.”

After Shabbos Rav Aryeh Levin learned that his daughter started recovering. (But the Almighty didn’t collect on His debt… Prof Tamari passed away at 95 in 2006.)

Portrait by Ahuva Perlov

Rav Aryeh Levin’s “job” was as a mashgiach at a children’s school, Etz Chaim. That meant not only his formal duties. It meant sharing his food with the boys who couldn’t afford regular lunches. It meant bringing food for his own home for the boys who weren’t eating lunch regularly because they simply didn’t like the fare the school could afford to serve.

R’ Yitzchaq Silverstein, R’ Elyashiv’s son-in-law and thus married to R’ Aryeh Levin’s granddaughter, first met his future grandfather-in-law at Etz Chaim. He shared these recollections with readers of Hamodia about how Reb Aryeh related to the people who were fortunate enough to encounter him:

There was once a robbery in a nearby makolet early in the morning, and somebody came running to Reb Aryeh, telling him of the robbery.

Reb Aryeh went over to the thief, who was packing the loot into his car, and said, “The Torah says lo signov, you mustn’t steal!”

That was all he said, yet his words penetrated the thief’s heart. He immediately stopped packing the stolen goods and asked Reb Aryeh what he should do.

“Put it all back, and I’ll help you,” Reb Aryeh replied. And together they returned all the goods to the shelves.

I remember another time when Reb Aryeh asked a woman who had come to visit him to give him a brachah that he shouldn’t have to be helped by his children.Copyright 2009 by Hamodia

I was surprised by him asking such a brachah - he had such chashuvah children, his sons Harav Rafael, Harav Yaakov and Harav Shlomo, and his sons-in-law, Harav Yudelevitz, Harav Yaakobovitz, Harav Elyashiv and Harav Palchinsky, all geonim and talmidei chachamim - so why did Reb Aryeh think it would be so bad if he was helped by them? And why should Reb Aryeh ask for a brachah from this unknown woman in the first place?

After the woman left the room, Reb Aryeh, who had noticed my surprise, explained.

“This woman is a widow who didn’t merit having any children. I was worried that when she saw my grandchildren and great-grandchildren it would make her own sorrow more intense. I therefore tried to ease her grief by showing her that despite my many descendants, a person prefers to care for himself.”

Indeed, after giving the brachah, the widow finally smiled.

In his marriage… There is the famous story of his taking his wife to the doctor when she injured herself. “Doctor,” Reb Aryeh said, “her foot hurts us.”


A Torah thought from R’ Aryeh Levin on a topic from this week’s parashah (Tzav), the qorban Todah, the thankgiving offering.

The qorban todah is the origin of our practice of bentching gomel, thanking G-d when being saved from danger — crossing the sea, the desert, upon being freed from prison, or healed from illness, or when being saved from something life-threatening.

Our sages say that “the qorban todah, the thanksgiving offering, will never stop being brought.” R’ Aryeh asks, how is this a blessing? How is it good news to learn that we will never cease finding ourselves in predicaments that require such salvation?

After Moshe’s first trip to Par’oh, Par’oh increases his requirements of the Jewish slaves, requiring them to maintain quota but also now collect the supplies for brick-making themselves. Moshe asks Hashem (Shemos 5:22-23), “Why have you made things worse for this nation?” To which Hashem simply answers, “You will see!”

[Side-note: This is akin to a later conversation between Moshe and HQBH. After the incident of the Golden Calf, Moshe asks Hashem if He could show him His ways. Hashem replied "You can see me 'from behind' but my 'Face' can not be seen." We never really fully understand G-d's ways. But the glimpses we do get come with hindsight, after we had a chance to see some of the outcomes. -micha]

What did Hashem expect Moshe to see? Rav Aryeh cites a medrash, that when Yoseif died, the Jews started assimilating into the Egyptian people. In fact, at the time Hashem took them out, we are told they were on the 49th level of tum’ah, and any delay would have meant there was no distinct Jewish People left to redeem!

By increasing the hatred the Egyptians felt for us, Hashem slowed that process. The oppression was thus a necessary part of the redemption.

What then was Hashem’s answer? Why did He make things worse in Egypt? So that “You will see.”  Not just you will see why, but the awareness itself is the reason.

It is for that which we bring the qorban todah, and why it is good that the qorban todah never ceases. Sad is the child whose Father provides no limits, no structure.

Similarly, our Sages proclaim that the Land of Israel is acquired only through suffering. Rav Aryeh explains this in light of Devarim 8:5 “And you will know with your heart that the way a man chastises his son, to Hashem your G-d chastises you.” Israel is acquired through suffering, but it is the suffering of a child who knows it comes from the Father’s love.


Philosophers debate the two things about morality: The first, its formal definition — what does it mean to behave morally? The second, finding a pragmatic test — how do I know that a given act in a given situation fits that morality. There are few answers I can offer to that second question as reliable as that in the subject line.

Before acting, ask yourself: What would Rav Aryeh Levin do?

The Structure of Maggid

I recently reworked and expanded an older piece on the structure of the Seder as a whole, and why it comes in fifteen steps grouped by the cups of wine into four. This section is also a rewrite, reflecting parallel changes to Maggid in particular.

Within our framework, Maggid is the substance of the second cup of the seder. It is the cognitive aspect of progressing from the limitations of our current reality to our ideal redeemed state.

5- Maggid

Let’s begin with the relevant mishnayos, from Pesachim ch. 10:

ד מזגו לו כוס שני, וכאן הבן שואל.  אם אין דעת בבן–אביו מלמדו, מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות:  שבכל הלילות, אין אנו מטבלין אפילו פעם אחת; והלילה הזה, שתי פעמים.  שבכל הלילות, אנו אוכלין חמץ ומצה; והלילה הזה, כולו מצה.  שבכל הלילות, אנו אוכלין בשר צלי שלוק ומבושל; והלילה הזה, כולו צלי.  לפי דעתו של בן, אביו מלמדו.  מתחיל בגנות, ומסיים בשבח; ודורש מ”ארמי אובד אבי” (דברים כו,ה), עד שהוא גומר את כל הפרשה.

4: They pour him a second cup, and here the son asks question. If the son doesn’t know how, his father teaches him “Mah Nishtanah…” [the entire older version, as said when the pascal offering was part of the seder, is given]. According to the intellect of the son, that’s how the father teaches him.
We begin with the tragic, and end in praise.
And we expound [on the portion of the Torah] from “An Arami destroyed my father / My father was a lost Arami…” until he completes the section.

ה רבן גמליאל אומר, כל שלא אמר שלושה דברים אלו בפסח, לא יצא ידי חובתו; ואלו הן–פסח, מצה, ומרורים.  פסח, על שם שפסח המקום על בתי אבותינו במצריים; מרורים, על שם שמיררו המצריים את חיי אבותינו במצריים; מצה, על שם שנגאלו.  בכל דור ודור, חייב אדם ל[ה]ראות את עצמו כאילו הוא יצא ממצריים; לפיכך אנחנו חייבין להודות להלל לשבח לפאר להדר לרומם לגדל לנצח למי שעשה לנו את כל הניסים האלו, והוציאנו מעבדות לחירות.  ונאמר לפניו, הללו י-ה.

5: Rabban Gamliel says: anyone who doesn’t say these three things on Pesach didn’t fulfill his obligation. And they are: Pesach [offering], Matzah and Marror. Pesach in commemoration of… Merorim… Matzah
In every generation a person must see himself [Rambam: show himself] as though he [personally] left Egypt. Therefore, we are obligated to give thank, laud, praise, give glory, show beauty, exalt, make great, eternalization to He Who did for us all these miracles, and took us from slavery to freedom.
And we say before him “Hallelukah…” [and so on with much of Hallel and a closing berakhah, the details of which is the topic of the next mishnah].

The mishnah spells out three requirements for Maggid.

1- Question and Answer

Ideally, the previous section of the seder was enough to cause spontaneous questions from the child. If not, the father teaches him Mah Nishatanah – or more or less, as per the child. (R’ Rich Wolpoe wondered aloud on Avodah about when Mah Nishtanah became something the child said rather than something the father said when the child had no real questions.)

The question’s answer must be phrased in a particular way — starting from the lowly, and ending in praise. In other words, highlighting that gap between the limitations of the real, and the ideal we strive for.

Rav and Shemu’el disagree as to how we view that gap.

Rav says that this is on a spiritual level, starting with Bitechilah ovdei avodah zarah — in the beginning, our ancestors were idolators.

Shemu’el says it on a physical level. Avadaim hayinu – we were slaves, but now we are free.

We can view the dispute this way: Do we attribute our spiritual redemption to Hashem? Or is redemption our own task, and Hashem’s role is to give us the tools to achieve it. Shemu’el focuses on the latter, and therefore to him yetzi’as Mitzrayim is about Hashem granting us the autonomy to pursue His goals.

We find the same dispute between them with respect to the final redemption. In Rav’s view, the messianic era will be heralded with a change in the natural order. The synagogues and batei medrash from around the world will fly up to Israel. (Although, anyone who visited the yeshivos of Ponovezh, Ramalys, Mir, etc… operating today in Israel could give a more natural explanation. In Shemu’el’s view, it is not a supernatural event. Rather, “ein bein olam hazah liymos hamashiach elah shib’ud malkhios bilvad – there is no difference between this world and the messianic era except subjugation to [foreign] kings alone”. (A position followed by the Rambam.)

And so, this requirement of Maggid involves the following elements:

1a-The Questions: Mah Nishtanah.

1b- Shemu’el’s Haggadah: Avadim Hayinu.

The completion of this first retelling ends by noting that this mitzvah is retelling the story of the Exodus, beyond the usual requirement to remember it “kol yimei chayecha – all the days of your life”.

This then invokes a discussion of the four sons, the seder in Benei Beraq, and “Yachol meiRosh Chodesh” about the uniqueness of the night, when the other commemorations exist. Notice that the arguments include various mishnayos and beraisos explaining the requirement for each of the elements we include in Maggid, explaining why Maggid does not end here and instead does include every understanding.

1c- Rav’s Haggadah: The spiritual redemption from Terach, Avraham’s father, the maker of idols. It ends with thanking Hashem that He hastened the redemption, using the earliest possible definition of the end of the exile promised in Avraham’s vision. Before we were spiritually reduced to Egypt’s level, back where the spiritual story began.

Notice the nature of these two addenda: After Shemu’el’s Haggadah, we have a long extension about how to respond. Hashem gives us physical freedom, and so we are called upon to use that to study, to teach our children. Rav’s Haggadah speaks to our spiritual redemption, but is followed by “Vehi She’omda“, how that spiritual journey has stood for us as an anchor of physical survival.

2- Expounding

In contrast to the more natural question-and-answer retelling (sipur) that is at the center of the previous sections, the next thing the mishnah requires is expounding (derash) the words of Devarim, finding details about the Exodus lurking in each word of the section.We look for G-d’s “Hand” in all its nuances in the miracles of the plagues and the crossing of the sea.

3- Rabban Gamliel’s Haggadah: Identifying

Then we find Rabbi Gamliel’s requirement that Maggid can not be divorced from the food mitzvos of the evening, the substance of the third cup, when the night of the Exodus is relived. “A person must see or show himself as though he personally went out of Egypt.” Even the retelling must be subjective, in the first person. The exercise, while cognitive, can not remain abstract.

To the extent that the portion of Hallel found in Maggid derives from Rabban Gamliel’s portion of the hagadah. “Lefikhakh — therefore.” It is because the miracle is a personal one, that I too was redeemed when my ancestors were, that necessitates saying Hallel even at night.

The author of the Hagadah took all three elements of the mishnah, across multiple understandings of the essence of the night, and wove them together to make a single text that satisfies all the opinions. “And whomever says more, he is praiseworthy.”

Who knows four?

The number four appears in the seder so frequently that its presence is often commented upon:

  • The four cups of wine — and the four terms of redemption and the four mentions of the word “cup” when the butler discusses his dream with Yoseif, the sources of this law;
  • The four questions;
  • The four “barukh“s in “Barukh haMaqom“;
  • The four sons;
  • The four names of the holiday: Pesach, Chag haMatzos, Chag haAviv and Zeman Cheiruseinu;
  • The four matzos…

“The four matzos“? Don’t we in fact have three (or, as R’ Moshe Feinstein and R’ JB Soloveitchik did, following the Vilna Gaon, have two) matzos on our seder table? What I mean by that are the four meanings we associate with the mitzvah of matzah:

  1. We start with “Ha lachma anya — this is the poor man’s bread which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt…” The bread of servitude. “Lechem oni — bread of poverty.”
  2. Then we ask questions, and teach Maggid embodying the other idea of “‘lechem oni’, she’onim alav devarim harbei — that we answer upon it many things.”
  3. We have the matzah upon which one must eat the qorban pesach. Historically, this concept of matzah was given third, before the actual redemption.
  4. The matzah also represents the haste of the exodus itself. Rabban Gamliel’s is the matzah that we eat “because the dough lacked [the time] to leaven before the King of Emperors. the Holy One blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them.”

In the song “Echad mi yodei’ah?” each verse combines the answers of the previous verses. So that when you get to “Who knows four?” the answer is “Four are the mothers, three are the fathers, two are the luchos haberis, one is Hashem…”

I would like to suggest that the answer doesn’t end after the word “imahos” (mothers), but includes the whole sequence. The meaning of four is due to the meaning of three, which flows from the meaning of two, which in turn comes from the One.

G-d is One.

Man is created in His Image, which means we exist to similarly be free-willed creative beings, but also we exist as recipients of His good. Therefore man lives in two worlds: G-d’s and the one we share with our fellow man. And these are expressed in the two tablets: one containing mitzvos between us and Hashem, the other between people.

This balancing act requires that we have three loci in our soul: our existence in this world, our existence in heaven, and the world within our minds, where we choose between them. The chesed of Avraham, the avodah of Yitzchaq, and the torah study of Yaaqov. Three are the fathers.

As actors, we act in three planes. However, in receiving from G-d, we realize we receive on planes beyond three — reception is perceived in fours. Rosh haShanah, when we act to repent and earn our redemption, we have a three-part Mussaf (Malkhos, Zichronos, Shoferos). Pesach, the gifted redemption, is in four.

The meaning of four is therefore built on that of three, which in turn comes from two and The One.

The work of the seder is therefore to make the transition from being a oni (impoverished), a creature batted around by the winds of fate, living in “Mitzrayim” between two narrows, between “the pan and the fire”. And both through thought and through deed we accept our redemption, becoming a servant of G-d.

To take things in a slightly different direction for a moment…

The Rambam famously breaks down teshuvah into four steps:

  1. charatah (regret),
  2. vidui (confession),
  3. azivas hacheit (abandoning the sin), and
  4. qabbalah al ha’asid (resolving to do better in the future).

Now, as R’ Ephraim Becker puts it, Mussar is about three things: the real, the ideal, and the path to get there. If we applying this to the four steps in Hilkhos Teshuvah:

  1. Charatah — One begins with an awareness of the problem.
  2. Transformation from the flawed reality to the ideal occurs via two channels — cognitive and behavioral.

  3. Vidui — verbally reinforcing the concept of change
  4. Azivas hacheit – implementing the new behavior
  5. and finally, with Hashem’s help, one can succeed at

  6. Qabbalah al haasid — and actually better live up to the ideal in the future.

The same pattern is seen in the “four matzos”:

  1. Poverty and suffering of the “poor man’s bread”, transformed through
  2. Torah study (“the bread over which we answer many things”) and
  3. mitzvah observance — including the obligation to eat the qorban with matzah, becomes
  4. redemption — “Hashem’s salvation comes as in the blink of an eye”, the matzah baked on their backs as they fled Egypt.

The four Mothers, the four elements of reception.

The story of Mitrayim and Yetzi’as Mitzrayim is that exile and troubles exist for the sole purpose of turning them into opportunities for growth and redemption. The seder is a mussar ladder. We not only recall the Exodus from Egyptian bondage 3319 or so years ago, but also the Exodus from the spiritual degradation. The Exodus is not merely a one time event, but an interruption of history designed to show us what is constantly occurring in our own lives.

That too is how the four cups divide the seder:

1- First cup :

Qadeish: necessary before drinking wine
Urchatz: necessary before…
Karpas: Vegetables, as in “the cucumbers we had in Egypt” that the exodus generation complained of missing in the desert, dipped in salt water resembling tears
Yachatz: breaking the middle matzah, because poor people need to save for later, and saying “Ha lachmah anya“. By using the cups to separate the steps of the seder, “Ha lachmah anya — this bread of poverty”, becomes part of Yachatz an explantion for why we are breaking the middle matzah, and Maggid begins with the filling of the next cup.

The first cup is dominated by symbols of life in Mitzrayim. Reenacting servitude. But also, the reason given for karpas and yachatz i s also to motivate our children to ask the questions upon which we base Maggid. We create an awareness or our need for redemption.

Then we fill the second cup…

2- Second cup:

Maggid: telling over the story. The matzah of teaching. A cognitive analysis of redemption. (I intend to revisit the structure of Maggid in a future post.)

3- Third cup:

Motzi, Matzah, Maror, Koreich, Shulchan Areich, Tzafun, Bareich: these steps will (G-d willing, soon) be the actual eating of the qorban pesach “on matzos and maror“. The matzah of the mitzvah, and of reenacting the night Hashem took us out of Egypt, eating the offering as they did on the night of redemption. An experiential repeat of redemption.

4- Fourth cup:

Hallel, Nirtzah: Praising G-d. The post-redemption Jew.

There were 15 semicircular steps up to the last courtyard before the Temple. The levi’im would stand on them and sing. When ascending them for certain ceremonies, they would pause at each step and sing the 15 chapters of Tehillim that begin with the words Shir haMaalos (a song of ascents) or Shir laMa’alos. Ffifteen then is a number by which we ascend to sing G-d’s praises, and speak of his loftiness. For this reason there are 15 things that Hashem did for us in the Exodus which we count out in Dayeinu — any one alone would justify the seder night. And there are therefore 15 steps in the seder.

Something to think about tonight, during bedikas chameitz: Chameitz then is the ignoring of this gift of redemption. Standing back when the opportunity is there. The passivity of letting the dough rise. Falling short on one’s Torah study and mitzvah observance; perhaps one even takes these tools in hand, but doesn’t use them redemptively. This is the chameitz of which the Ari haQadosh writes, “Anyone who removes all chameitz from their house is guaranteed to have a year without sin.”

Chag kasher vesamei’ach! (belashon “lo zu af zu“)

Dai- Dai- Einu…

Chassidim have a tendency of finding lessons in Jewish practices on the basis that “if they are not prophets, they are the ‘children of prophets’”. (“Children of prophets” is an idiom in Tanakh for those studying for prophecy.) Along those lines…

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I lack the patience to sing the entire Dayeinu, all 15 stanzas, to that “Dai, dai-, -einu, dai-, dai-, einu…” tune. So, we tend to only bother every fifth stanza or so.

However, even something as late and as trivial as this may have a deep holy lesson for us!

From the Y-mi Berakhos 67b-68a, in a discussion of things that the sages decreed down below and was ratified in the heavenly court:

R’ Avun in the name of R’ Yehoshua ben Levi: Even maaser [tithes, which is rabbinic when the majority of Jews aren't living in Israel]. As it says (Malakhi 3:10) “Bring all the maaser[, so that there may be foor in My house... would I not open the windows of heaven and pour for you a blessing ad beli dai]”

What is “ad beli dai” [until there is no enough]?

R’ Yosi bar Shim’on bar Ba in the name of R’ Yochanan: Something that is impossible to say about it “enough” is a berakah.

R’ Berachah, R’ Chelbo, and R’ Aba bar Ilai [68a] in the name of Rav: until your lips tire of saying “dai — enough”.

So it would seem there is value to a tune that thanks Hashem for all the berakhos He bestowed on us during the Exodus that tires out our lips saying “dai“!

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 190:3

ג: כְּשֵׁם שֶׁצָּרִיךְ הָאָדָם לְהִזָּהֵר בְּגוּפוֹ שֶׁלֹּא לְאַבְּדוֹ וְשֶׁלֹּא לְקַלְקְלוֹ וְשֶׁלֹּא לְהַזִּיקוֹ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, “הִשָּׁ֣מֶר לְךָ֩ וּשְׁמֹ֨ר נַפְשְׁךָ֜ מְאֹ֗ד”, כָּךְ צָרִיךְ לְהִזָּהֵר בְּמָמוֹנוֹ שֶׁלֹּא לְאַבְּדוֹ וְשֶׁלֹּא לְקַלְקְלוֹ וְשֶׁלֹּא לְהַזִּיקוֹ. וְכָל הַמְשַּׁבֵּר כְּלִי, אוֹ קוֹרֵעַ בֶּגֶד, אוֹ מְאַבֵּד מַאֲכָל אוֹ מַשְׁקֶה אוֹ מְמָאֲסָם, אוֹ זוֹרֵק מָעוֹת לְאִבּוּד, וְכֵן הַמְקַלְקֵל שְׁאָר כָּל דָּבָר שֶׁהָיָה רָאוּי שֶׁיֵהָנוּ בוֹ בְּנֵי אָדָם, עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא-תַעֲשֶׂה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, “לֹֽא־תַשְׁחִ֤ית אֶת־עֵצָהּ֙ [לִנְדֹּ֤חַ עָלָיו֙ גַּרְזֶ֔ן כִּ֚י מִמֶּ֣נּוּ תֹאכֵ֔ל וְאֹת֖וֹ לֹ֣א תִכְרֹ֑ת]” וְגוֹמֶר

Just as a person must be careful with his body not to lose [ie kill] it or destroy it or damage it, as it says “”[Just] guard for yourself and guard your life-soul a lot…” (Devarim 4:9; as discussed in the previous se’if) similarly he must be careful with his money not to lose it, ruin it, or damage it. Anyone who breaks a utensil or tears a garment or destroys food or drink or makes them disgusting [inedible] or throws money out to waste, and similarly anyone who ruins any other thing that is fitting for people to enjoy violates a prohibition. As it says, “[When you besiege a city for a long time, in making war against it to take it] do not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them, because you could eat from them — so do not cut them down” etc… (Devarim 20:19)


The final law in our series is that of bal tashchis, needless waste. I wrote a longer piece on why the Torah places such value on money and why Yaaqov bothered to risk facing Esav to go back across the river for a few small jugs. To quote the conclusion, which is a fitting conclusion to our entire survey:

Why did Yaakov go back for a small jug? Didn’t he just gratefully leave Eisav behind in that area, happy that there was no fighting? Doesn’t that mean it was dangerous?

Rashi on Vayishlach quotes Chazal that Yaaqov went back because the righteous consider their money precious, because they earn their money honestly. Proper business ethics isn’t “just” the permissable way to conduct business, it actually sanctifies the activity. And therefore, the pachim qetanim were sacred to Yaaqov, not to be simply left behind.

Eisav’s role in the ideal universe was mastered by Yaaqov — he internalized the notion of the role of the physical and how to sanctify the physical. Of course at that point Yaaqov is challenged by Eisav’s guardian and succeeds.  …

Sha’ul’s mission for his kingship [after he is annointed using the same jug] is to vanquish Amaleiq. Amaleiq is a nation whose namesake forefather was Eisav’s grandson. …

The Shunamit was supported in her time of need by the rewards of Yaaqov’s sacred toiling in this world [through oil Elisha poured from that jug into all the vessels she could find or borrow]. The money which was earned through honest and forthright business dealings will always suffice.

Which brings us to Chanukah. … And then they find the jug of oil. The jug of holy wordliness, of sanctifying the universe through halakhah. Not disdain for the physical or the beautiful, but knowing its value — as a tool. And with that concept the Chashmonaim revived Jewish loyalty, disbanded Hellenist oppression, and restored the concept of Jewish autonomy for the next two centuries. And when we couldn’t maintain that, we still had the notion that there was a role for Yefetic culture but not a clear idea of what that role was, in stepped Edom. Through that struggle with Edom, we can restore the world to “two great lights” — Yisrael and Eisav working in harmony.

הדרן עלך

קיצור שולחן ערוך דיני ממנות

והדרך עלן!