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Beit Hamidrash

Loved & Hated Brothers


what does the Torah mean by the word "sekel"? what are The differences between Yehushoas generation and Gidons generation? and what is Yaacovs message to both generations

A.  "Crossed (sekel) his hands" – what does the Torah mean by the word "sekel"?

The story of the blessings Yakkov gave both Efrayim and Menashe, is a known story. Yosef brings both his children to get a blessings from his father. Yosef puts Menashe the older one on Yakkov's left so he'll put his right hand, the stronger hand, on the older child and the left hand on Efryamin the younger child. But then as the Torah says "And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Menashe's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the first-born". We all remember that when we were young we were told that Yaakov just did a X with his hands, but the word "sekel" the torah uses is very unique and we need to explain why the torah uses it. 

Unkelus says sekel is "smartly", which means that there was a special wisdom in crossing his hands. What is the special wisdom behind it? Hezkuni says that Yaakov should have just put Menashe to his right and Efrayim to his left why go through the process of crossing his hands? Hezkuni answered that Yaakov didn't want to humiliate Menashe so he crossed his hands, and didn't move them around. 

The burning question is why Yaakov's move of crossing his hands prevents Menashe from getting humiliated, Menashe obviously realized Yaakov crossed his hands? Or is it possible to hide that motion from being viewed by someone else? Maybe he should have just changed his grandchildren's places. What's the wisdom behind what Yaakov did?   

B. Gidon and Yehushua descendants of Menashe and Efrayim

Based on Hazal Rashi explains to us why Yaakov decided to cross his hands:

Menashe's Blessing: "he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great" – Gidon will be his descendant, Hashem will do a miracle with him.

Efrayim Blessing: "howbeit his younger brother shall be greater than he" – Yehushua will be his descendant, and he will bring Israel to the land and he will teach Israel torah." His seed shall become a multitude of nations" – The whole world will hear him when Yehusha will make the sun and moon stay put and Emek Ayalon.

This explanation means Yaakov crossed his hands not because Efrayim is greater than Menashe, but because of their descendants, their future.  Menashe will have Gidon, a Shofet and a leader of Israel, he will save them from the Pleashteim, however Efrayim will have Yehusha, the leader that will bring Israel to the promised land, moreover the sun and moon will stand put on his word, so he his bigger than Gidon.

What Rash says is a bit difficult. Based on future leaders Yaakov crossed his hands? Since when do we compare which leader is better? This Perush means the blessings were not for Menashe and Efayim but for Yehusha and Gidon.

We thought this saying is on all of us but the midrash says it's Yehusha and Gidon.

What are Hazal trying to teach us by moving the blessing from Menashe and Efrayim to Yehusha and Gidon? Saying the blessing is on a specific time really limits it. How can we still learn something for all the generations from Yaakov's blessing?

C. Gidon and Yehusha – parallels in the bible

It seems that Hazal's reason to compare both leaders isn't just the fact that they are both descendants of Menashe and Efrayim, because if we look closely at their stories we can find a lot of matching points. We'll now take a look at 4 points: 

  1. The angel's appearance

In the book of Yehusha we can see the angel's appearance right after the making of the covenant: "13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand; and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him: 'Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?' 14 And he said: 'Nay, but I am captain of the host of the LORD; I am now come.' And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said unto him: 'What saith my lord unto his servant?'15 And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua: 'Put off thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy.' And Joshua did so." 

The angel's appearance in Gidon:

11) And the angel of the LORD came, and sat under the terebinth which was in Ophrah, that( belonged unto Joash the Abiezrite; and his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress, to 'The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.' 

In both appearances, the angel's talk turns into god direct talk to the leader:

At Yehusha: (2) And the LORD said unto Joshua: 'See, I have given into thy hand Jericho, and the king thereof, even the mighty men of valour.

At Gidon: (14) And the LORD turned towards him, and said: 'Go in this thy might, and save Israel from the hand of Midian; have not I sent thee?'  

2. The time of the angel's appearance is Passover

In both cases the god's angel appears on Passover.

In Yehusha, Am Israel can finally celebrate the Passover as it's meant to be celebrated.

"And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal; and they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho. And they did eat of the produce of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes and parched corn, in the selfsame day. And the manna ceased on the morrow, after they had eaten of the produce of the land; neither had the children of Israel

Right after that the angel appears to Yehusha.

In Gidon's story, we see Gidon arguing with the angel telling him: "And Gideon said unto him: 'Oh, my lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where are all His wondrous works which our fathers told us of, saying: Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath cast us off, and delivered us into the hand of Midian."

Rashi explains that it was Passover, because Gidon tells the angel that yesterday he read the Hallel and when he read of Israel's exodus, he felt god left him, and that his Father's (the ones that got out of Egypt) good fortune did not continue upon him. 

3. Wars with Shofarot

In both wars, the leaders, Yehosha and Gidon use Shofarot in their war.

In Yehusha:" And the seven priests bearing the seven rams' horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually, and blew with the horns; and the armed men went before them; and the rearward came after the ark of the LORD, [the priests] blowing with the horns continually."

In Gidon:" So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outermost part of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch, when they had but newly set the watch; and they blew the horns, and broke in pieces the pitchers that were in their hands."

 4."God will fight for you"

In both wars god is the one fighting for Am Israel, they only need to finish the war.

In Yehusha: "So the people shouted, and [the priests] blew with the horns. And it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the horn, that the people shouted with a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city."

In Gidon:" And they blew the three hundred horns, and the LORD set every man's sword a against his fellow, even throughout all the host; and the host fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath

D. The differences between Yehushoa's generation and Gidon's generation

We showed the matching signs in both leaders, but even though there are those matching signs, there is one big difference, a difference that will explain to us why Yaakov's move was a message for future generations.

Yehusha's generation is a great one. A generation that endured the dessert, experienced god's miracles and entered Eretz Yisrael. Yehusha's generation celebrate Passover on it's correct date and goes through Brit Mila. By doing Passover and Brit Mila we see the strong connection this generations has with god. A generation that deserves miracles in entering the holy land such as – The Yarden's drying, the fallen walls of Jericho, and Yehusha's miracle making the sun stay up.

However, Gidon's generation is despicable. On one hand they celebrate Passover, on the other hand they worship the wrong gods. They are so despicable that when Gidon ruins his father's sculptures, the people claim against Gidon that his father should kill him.

This huge difference between both generations isn't obvious at first, but when you look closer you can tell it's also reflected on the way the Torah commands us to do the Passover. In the Torah it's written in one pasuk, and the pasuk has two words referring to the Sacrefise. "pull.. and take". Pull refers to us pulling from Avoda Zara, and this is the meaning that gidon's generation needs to follow.

However the other meaning in the word "take" is, that when we take the Pesech and do it properly god "takes us as a Am, to be our god", and this meaning is for Yehusha's generation, as they follow god and take the Pesech and god will be with them.

 E. Yaacov's message to both generations

After all this we can explain why Yaakov crossed his hands. When both children are standing in front of him, he can see Yehusha and Gidon's generations as the descendants. The normal reaction would have been to change the children's places and distance Menashe and give him the lesser blessings, and on the other hand to bring Efrayim closer and give him a better blessing.  However Yaakov chooses to cross his hands, because he does need to give Efayim the better blessing because he deserves it, but he won't change the children's places because deep down god's connection to Gidon's generation is stronger because even though they worship the wrong gods they still get god's help and miracles at the wars. And when god helps a generation which at first seems less deserving it shows us, that generation has a stronger connection with god, because it means god didn't lose hope for them and still tries to help them back on their feet.  The fact that god has a strong connection to a generation that seems like it doesn't deserve it, shows the special connection between god and Am Yisrael, a connection between a father and a son, which contains uncondtional love. Meaning no matter what a father will always love his son and be there for him, like god will always be there for Israel no matter what.

The special wisdom we referred  to in the beginning, is the wisdom to keep the people who at first seem far away closer, so you won't lose him

Now we can understand the Rav Cook's complicated attitude towards the Haluzim which came on Aliya, "Loved and Hated Brothers". On the one hand they don't deserve to get a blessing, however they do lose Am Israel they are doing everything out of love to Eretz Israel and Am Israel, and that's why he won't push they away, they are part of Am Israel and they give their life for Israel.