Friday, November 17, 2006

The Daughter of Abraham

Chayei Sarah—The Daughter of Abraham

The Torah says[1] that HaShem blessed Abraham with Bakol (literally "everything"). One understanding in the Talmud[2]  is that this means that although Abraham had already been blessed with Issac, his blessings reached an apex with the birth of a daughter named Bakol[3]. Tosafos ask[4], if this is true, then according to the opinion that a Noahide may marry his sister[5], why Issac did not marry Bakol. In the first answer, Tosafos say that since Bakol was too young at the time that Issac was looking for a wife, Abraham did not consider taking her as a wife for his son[6]. At the time of the Binding of Issac, when Issac was thirty-seven years old[7], Rebecca, a reincarnation of Sarah, was born[8], married Issac three years later, when Issac was forty[9]. The question then arises why Issac married his young cousin Rebecca, if Rebecca herself was only three years[10] (and a month[11]) old at the time of their marriage, and it seems that Abraham would not have wanted his son to marry a pre-pubescent girl. This seems to be a proof to the opinion recorded in Tosafos[12] that Rebecca was actually fourteen years old at the time of her marriage, not three. In describing Rebecca, the Torah states, "And the maiden [na'arah] was very good in appearance; [she was] a virgin, whom no man had known her[13]". Since the term Na'arah usually refers specifically to a girl over the age of twelve, this implies that Rebecca was "of age" already. Furthermore, the Torah seems to be praising Rebecca for her chastity, which implies that she had reached an age when there is normally a desire to engage in sexual relations, and yet she remained chaste because of her modesty. This age is obviously older than three years old.

Rabbi Shimon Schwab (1908-1993) explains[14] in the name of Rabbi Michael HaCohen Forshlager of Baltimore (a student of the Sochachover Rebbe, the Avnei Nezer) that both opinions are actually correct, and his explanation can incidentally answer the question as to why Issac could have married such a young girl as Rebecca, but not Bakol. He explains that physically, Rebecca was a fourteen-year-old young bride at the time of her marriage, but spiritually she was a reincarnation of Sarah, who had only died three years prior[15]. Only once Sarah's soul left her at the time of the Binding of Issac, did Rebecca become a reincarnation of Sarah, and thus at that time she was "born again." Rabbi Schwab adds that this explains why Rashi explained that when the Torah says, "Issac brought her [Rebecca] into the tent of Sarah, his mother"[16], the Torah means to say that Rebecca was Sarah; this is because they shared a soul.

In a second answer, Tosafos say[17] that Bakol was a daughter of Hagar, not Sarah[18], thus she was not worthy of marriage to Issac. Rabbi Yaakov Emden (1697-1776) explains[19] that even though Hagar converted to Judaism[20], it was still not fitting that Issac, Abraham's son through his main mistress, Sarah, should marry Bakol, who was a daughter of Abraham through his maidservant, Hagar. Furthermore, writes Rabbi Yaakov Emden, when one marries a girl, he is supposed to examine his prospective bride's brothers in order to see if she is worthy for marriage[21]. If Bakol was a daughter of Hagar, then her brother was Ishmael, who had already been established as a wild hunter, whose full sister would be completely unsuitable for marriage.

However, writes Rabbi Yaakov Emden, the original question of Tosafos as to why Issac did not marry Bacoll does not even begin as a question. He writes that Abraham certainly did not have the status of a Noahide once he circumcised himself (which predated Isaac's birth by a year). He also suggests that perhaps Abraham lost his status as a Noahide and became a Jew even before his circumcision, that is, at the time that he began engaging in Torah study[22]. In this detail, Rabbi Yaakov Emden is consistent with his opinion elsewhere[23] where he explained that the betrothed women with whom Esau engaged in adultery were converts from the time of Abraham. This answers the question of Tosafos who ask with which women had halachikly recognizable marriages in the time of Jacob and Esau that Esau could have been vilified for committing adultery[24].

Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin of Brisk/Jerusalem (1818-1898) explains[25] that Bakol was a daughter of Sarah, but she could not have married Issac because she died at the same time as her mother Sarah died[26], which was before Abraham began looking for a match for Issac. A proof to this is that when Abraham came to Hebron to lament the loss of his wife, the chaf in the word ve'livkosoh ("and to cry for her") is written small in the Torah[27], as if it should be omitted and read velivita ("and for her daughter"), meaning that Abraham mourned for his daughter, Bakol, also. However, in a letter dated 1979, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986) questions whether the Maharil Diskin ever said this explanation[28]. Firstly, the order of the verses in the Torah seems to imply that the Bakol lived after Sarah because the verse, which is expounded, is written immediately after the passage describing Abraham's burial procedures for his deceased wife. Secondly, if Bakol had died during the lifetime of Abraham, how can that have been considered a blessing for Abraham? One can also ask that if Bakol died before Issac began searching for a spouse, then why Tosafos asked that Issac should have married her.

According to the explanation that Bakol died at the same time as Sarah, it is also difficult to understand a Midrash, which explains Abraham marriage to Keturah after Issac's marriage to Rivkah[29]. The Midrash says[30] that Abraham's actions are a fulfillment of the verse[31], "Sow your seed in the morning, but do not rest your hand in the evening". Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Rothenberg/Alter (1847-1905) explains[32] that this seems to say that the reason why Abraham married Keturah is simply to raise children in his older years as he did in his younger years, not in order to fulfill his commandment of procreation, because he already fulfilled it with his daughter Bakol. Abraham fulfilled his obligation to procreate according to both Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel[33] by having two sons, Issac and Ishmael, according to Beis Shammai and a son and daughter, Issac/Ishmael and Bakol. However, if Bakol had already died by that time, then Abraham obviously married Keturah in order to fulfill his commandment of procreation, which Bais Hillel says requires one to father both a son and a daughter—even if one child, heaven forbid, dies, the obligation returns[34]. Perhaps one can answer that Abraham subscribed to Beis Shammai's opinion that two sons is enough to fulfill the obligation or that even according to Beis Hillel, Abraham had another daughter[35]. The Talmud[36] and Midrash[37] both mention based on a verse in Song of Songs that Abraham had a daughter named Nediv.

The Tosefta records[38] the opinion of Rabbi Meir, the husband of the seemingly egalitarian Bruria. Rabbi Meir said that Abraham's blessing was that he did not have any daughters. The simple understanding of this is based on a Talmudic dictum[39], "Woe onto he whose children are female" which implies that having daughters is not a blessing, but rather a curse. Rabbi Yaakov Culi (d. 1732) explains[40] that according to Rabbi Meir, having a daughter would have been a curse for Abraham because he would have been forced to marry his daughter to a native Canaanite, so Abraham was blessed by not birthing daughters. Nachmanides (1194-1270) explains[41] that even if Abraham would have had a daughter and sent her to his family east of the Jordan to get married, then she would have adopted their idol worshipping practices, which would have been a curse for Abraham. Furthermore, Nachmanides understands (unlike the second answer of Tosafos) that Bakol was a daughter of Sarah, and Abraham would not have wanted his daughter from Sarah to leave the Land of Israel, just like Issac never left the land of Israel. Because of these reasons, Rabbi Meir reasoned that Abraham having a daughter would have been more painful for himself than him not having fathered a girl. However, according to Rabbi Yehuda's opinion that Abraham did father a girl named Bakol, one can say that it was not a curse for him because she did not live to a marriageable age, so Abraham never had the pain of having to take an idolatrous son-in-law or send his daughter out of Israel. Rabbi Yehuda reasoned that since Abraham was blessed with "everything", he must have even had a daughter, whose name, Acheirim say, was Bakol. Rabbeinu Bachya ben Asher (d. 1340) adds[42] that usually a man desires to father both girls and boys, so according to the opinion that Abraham had a girl, he fulfilled this desire.

[1] Genesis 24:1
[2] Bava Basra 116b
[3] See Eitz Yosef to Bava Basra 116b
[4] To Bava Basra 141a
[5] Sanhedrin 58b
[6] Perhaps this is because marrying a pre-pubescent girl, who cannot yet conceive, delays the arrival of Moshiach (Niddah 13b) or because when the Talmud said (Pesachim 113a) one should marry off one's daughter as quickly as possible, even to one's slave, that was said only once she becomes "of age" and not before.
[7] Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer, Chapter 31, Yalkut Shimoni, beginning of Toldos
[8] Genesis Rabbah §57
[9] Genesis 35:20
[10] Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer Chapter 32, Seder Olam, and Tosafos to Yevamos 61b
[11] Tractate Sofrim, end of Chapter 21
[12] Yevamos 61b
[13] Genesis 24?:16
[14] Maayan Beis ha-Sho'eva to Genesis 25:20
[15] See Leviticus Rabbah §20, Midrash Tanchuma end of Vayera, Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer Ch. 32, which say that Sarah died around the time of the Binding of Issac
[16] Genesis 24:67
[17] To Bava Basra 141a
[18] Tosafos HaShalaeim (Genesis 16:2) write that Bakol was indeed the daughter of Sarah, not Hagar. They explain that so is evident from an implication in a scriptural passage in which, before the conception of Isaac, Sarah tells Abraham (ibid.) that G-d has stopped (atazar) her from birthing. In a similar story, Rebecca prayers (Genesis 25:21) to become pregnant because she was barren (akar). From the fact that by Sarah the Torah says stopped and by Rebecca says she was barren (or uprooted from having children according to a literal transaltion of akar), Tosafos HaShaleim infer that Sarah did give birth previously, i.e. to Bakol, and was merely telling Abraham that she had failed to sire him a son. While, on the other hand, Rebecca did not have any children at all because she was completely barren.
[19] Hagahos Ya'avetz to Bava Basra 141a
[20] Yevamos 100b
[21] Bava Basra 110a. This is learned out from the fact that the Torah (Exodus 6:23) tells that Aharon HaKohen married Elisheva, daughter of Aminadav and that she was the sister of Nachshon. The Talmud understands that Aharon HaKohen decided she was a suitable wife because her brother was the prince of the tribe of Judah.
[22]The halachik status of the forefather is an issue which is beyond the scope of this essay.
[23] Hagahos Ya'avetz to Tosafos to Bava Basra 16b
[24] Tosafos to Bava Basra 16b
[25] Kisvei Maharil Diskin
[26] Shai L’Torah (Parsha Chayei Sarah) writes in the name of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky that a recently-published early medieval source, known as Mincha Bellulah, writes the exact same explantion as Rabbi Diskin. This explanation is also found in the introduction to responsa Binyan Shlomo (new ed.) from Rabbi Shlomo HaKohen of Vilna (1828-1905) in the Torah novellae written by the father of the author (Parshas Chayeh Sara).
[27] Genesis 23:2
[28] Iggress Moshe, Volume 4 of Orach Chaim, §6
[29] Genesis 25:1
[30] Genesis Rabbah §61:3
[31] Ecclesiastes 11:6
[32] Sefas Emes to Parshas Chayei Sarah
[33] Yevamos 61b
[34] Yevamos 62a
[35] See "Avrohom and Pru U'revu - What About His (Not So Well-Known) Daughter?" by Rabbi Moshe Heigh
[36] Chagigah 3a
[37] Song of Songs Rabbah §7:2
[38] Kiddushin 5:14
[39] Kiddushin 82b, see also Sanhedrin 100b which explains why daughters are such a "curse."
[40] Me'Am Loez To Genesis 24:1
[41] Ramban to Genesis 24:1
[42] Rabbeinu Bachaya to Genesis 24:1


Anonymous said...

Rav Schwab's vort, (part of which he actually brings from Rav Fohrshlager) is wonderful. It is useful in explaining how "eilu v'eilu" could address the various shittos about how old Rivkah was when she married Yitzchak. The idea that a person can accrue an addtional neshama is interesting as well.

kishnevi said...

Welcome back!

Reuven Chaim Klein said...

I love that vort from Rav Schwab. I always felt that it was אמת לאמיתא של תורה or at least if not that then קרוב לאמת.

Reuven Chaim Klein said...

In a message dated 9/30/2012 2:19:12 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:
The Torah was written in a way that in order to properly understand the Written Torah one must also be adept at the Oral Torah.

By the way, I'm not a Rabbi, I'm just a kid with a computer...

Reb Chaim HaQoton

On Sun, Sep 30, 2012 at 2:56 AM, wrote:
Dear Rabbi Chaim,

With regard to the link you sent, Akedat Yitzhak is but a brief mention. I would think that on a subject which has been widely written about and commented on, you would have also written.

With regard to Bakol, if Abraham did have a daughter by Sarah, it is curious why she is not at all talked about. If Abraham had a daughter by Hagar it too is curious why the text is not clear. I realize daughters and women are not mentioned to any extent it the Torah, but for the text not to formally write that Abraham had a daughter by either Sarah or Hagar is most curious. Not much more would have to have been said but the phrase and so and so "Holid et" Bakol. To say in code that Abraham was blessed with Bakol and for the author to assume that the reader understood this to mean that one of Abraham's women ( not even mentioning who among the women) gave birth to a daughter is a leap. Here like in the case of Numbers 12:1 the text is so ambiguous we do also not know whether Moses had another wife, a Cushite, 40 years prior to Zipporah, or after Zipporah, or not at all. Why is the text written so ambiguously if it wanted the reader to understand?


In a message dated 9/29/2012 2:03:15 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:
I don't seem to remember discussing Akeidat Yitzhak specifically, but it comes up alot in this essay:

I assume that you mean the actual Akeidat Yitzchok, not the sefer written by Rabbi Isaac ibn Aramah.

Gut Yuntiff,
Reb Chaim HaQoton

On Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 4:54 PM, wrote:
R' Chaim,

Have you written on Akeidat Yitzhak? If so, what date since your blog does not seem to have a search feature.

Thank You,
Isaac Zetooney
New Jersey, USA

Reuven Chaim Klein said...

In a message dated 10/1/2012 12:46:42 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:
I hear your questions on the Talmudic opinion that Abraham's daughter was Bakol, you are asking that it does not necessarily fit with a grammatic reading of the Scripture. Indeed, this is the way of Talmudic and Midrashic homeltics which lends credence to the rule אין משיבין על הדרש. Furthermore, although this does not fit with the a simple reading of the Scripture, undoubtedly this opinion held there to be a Mesoratic tradition which teaches that her name was Bakol and he was simply saying that one can say that this tradition is hinted to in the Scriptures. But I did enjoy your question that according to this opinion it should say וה' ברך את אברהם בבכל and not וה' ברך את אברהם בכל. For further discussion of this issue, I suggest that you examine the Talmud's text itself (if you cannot read Hebrew, see here).

We must also bear in mind that the Scriptures do not always elaborate on every detail of its characters' lives and even in those points which they do describe, they still do not describe things in full detail. Thus, it is possible that Bakol really did leave with Hagar, but the Scriptures never felt a need to mention it, or for some reason she actually stayed with Abraham while Hagar and Ishmael were sent away or she wasn't yet born etc..., therefore I do not find it difficult that Bakol was not mentioned there.

I also suggest familiarizing yourself with the concept of the Oral Torah and the Mesorah in order to have a better understanding as to the role of Talmudic and Midrashic interpretation.

Lastly, the picture in my blogger profile is not of myself, rather it is a picture of the famous Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky (of whom I consider myself to be a student of sorts). That's why my tagline says "I'm the OTHER Reb Chaim".

Gut Moyed,
Reb Chaim HaQoton

On Sun, Sep 30, 2012 at 2:03 PM, wrote:
According to the pasuk "Abraham was blessed with Bakol," the translation would have to be
Abraham was blessed WITH (the beth) Kol, just as it would say "Abraham was blessed BeYitzhak,"
Abraham was blessed with Yitzhak. So I do not see the name of his daughter as BaKol, but Kol.
In addition as I have said, had Abraham a daughter with Hagar the text should have said that when she left with Ishmael she took her daughter. Were she a daughter of Sarah I would think we should have heard a little more about her (especially how she was a blessing).

What you just said was the Torah is ambiguous absent additional information. Given the turbulent history of our people and all the destruction at the hands of the Egyptians under Shishak after the death of Solomon, at the hands of the Assyrians twice (destroying the Northern kingdom and later the Southern kingdom all except Jerusalem, at the hands of the Babylonians and then the Romans etc. to leave the understanding
of the Torah to the memories of a population that was always at war and on the losing side frequently is taking a great chance that information won't be lost with a stray arrow or sword hitting an important individual.

Lastly, is that not a photo of you on the link?


Reuven Chaim Klein said...

Please do not email me on Yuntiff. I will not be complicit in your desecration of the holiday...

On Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 12:54 AM, wrote:
An understanding that Abraham had a daughter named Bakol who was a blessing to him and no other word is mentioned about her, NOT EVEN HER MOTHER'S NAME shows how low the author of the Torah held
the respect for women. Because she was female she did not deserve further comment. Were she the daughter of Sarah and Abraham this would seem outrageous. Were she the daughter of Hagar it is more understandable because she and her son as well as her daughter are persona non grata.

In addition, the Talmud was not around for 1000 years + after the Torah and Tanach were in writing. To
think that the Tanach as a stand alone text was written incomprehensibly and was waiting for a companion text to explain it to the illiterate congregation who possessed not personal copies of their own is mind boggling. And to think the Tanach depended on word of mouth and the memories of people over the generations, and would not think that the message was corrupted or subject to alteration over time is inconceivable especially with all the upheavals in society of the people over time.

Lastly, you should post your own photo on your blog.


Unknown said...

Very well written and researched.
One minor correction: You say that from the gemara and medrash, Avraham had (another) daughter named Nediv.
In the gemara Chagiga, daf gimmel amud aleph that you footnote, I think you may have skimmed it, without properly reviewing it.
"Nediv" is referring to Avraham in the posuk. Bas Nediv means the daughter of Avraham. See Rashi who explains why Avraham is referred to as Nediv.
I did not look up the medrash.

Reuven Chaim Klein said...

You are correct. I actually realized that a while ago and I fixed it in my personal notes, but I never bothered to update the blog post...

Unknown said...

Very nice post. Do chazal address the fact that Yitzchak himself did not have a daughter and how this would shtim (or not) with the mitzvah of pru u'revu?

Reuven Chaim Klein said...

I don't recall anyone in particular discussing that.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...