Sunday, January 28, 2007

Holiday of Trees

This year the holiday of Tu B'Shevat occurs on February 3, 2007

Tu B'ShvatHoliday for Trees[1]

            The Mishnah says[2] that according to Beis Shammai, the Rosh HaShanah (New Year) for trees is Rosh Chodesh Shevat (the first day of the month of Shevat). However, the students of Hillel rule that the New Year for trees is on the fifteenth of Shevat. Although in Western Astrology the zodiacal representation of Aquarius is the water bearer, in Kabbalah, the sign for the month of Shevat is the bucket of water itself. Based on the words of Rashi[3], Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov (1912-1976) explains[4] that by Tu B'Shvat most of the rainy season's waters have already fallen, and the water collects in the wells[5]. This signifies the end of the process needed to nurture floral growth. Tu B'Shvat is not only an important holiday for trees, but it even has meaning for people. This is because trees and fruits are used throughout Torah literature to serve as metaphors for humans.

            In the realm of Halacha, the Shulchan Aruch (Rabbi Yosef Karo, 1488-1575) rules[6] that the custom is not to recite the Tachanun supplications on Tu B'Shvat[7]. The Magen Avrohom (Rabbi Abraham Abele Gombiner, 1633-1683) adds[8] that on Tu B’Shvat there is a custom to increase our consumption of fruits. Rabbi Yehuda Dov Zinger writes[9] that the custom is specifically to eat fruits from the land of Israel and/or fruits of the seven species for which the land of Israel is praised[10]. He also writes that there is a custom to specifically eat fifteen different types of fruits and recite one of the fifteen songs of ascent[11] between eating each of them. He records a custom in the name of Rabbi Chaim Pelagi (d. 1868) to learn a specific chapter from the Mishnah after each of the fifteen fruits: Eight of the chapters are from Tractate Peah, three from Bikkurim, and four are from Rosh HaShanah. Others have the custom of staying up all night learning Torah or reciting the Tikkun prepared by the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchok Luria, 1534-1572), entitled, Pri Eitz Hadar, "A fruit from a beautiful tree", which is a reference to the fruit of the Esrog (Citron) tree.

            The Satmar Rov, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum (1887-1979), asks[12] why it is the custom to eat fruits on Tu B'Shvat, the New Year for trees, and while on Shavuos, the day on which the world's fruits for the year are judged[13] the custom is to decorate houses and synagogues with trees[14]. Logically, it should be the opposite. He explains[15] that when a father is judged in the heavenly courts, in addition to considering his own actions, the court also examines the actions of his children, to see if the father raised the children properly. Similarly, when a child is judged, his father’s actions are also taken into account. Therefore, on Tu B’Shvat, the day when the trees are judged, the custom is to to give the trees more merits by performing extra mitzvos using the fruits (their “children”), while on Shavuos, the day when the fruits are judged, extra merits are acquired for the fruits by using the trees for Mitzvos.

In a similar fashion, the Talmud[16] compares blessing a Talmudic scholar to blessing a tree. When one Amora (Rabbi from the time of the Talmud) requested a blessing from another, the latter answered with a parable likening the situation to a man who walks in the desert and comes across a tree. He eats from the tree, drinks from a nearby brook, and sits in the tree’s shade. Afterwards, he wants to thank the tree for having saved him from hunger, thirst, and brutal desert sun. However, he realizes that there is nothing with which he can bless the tree because its fruits are already sweet, a creek flows alongside it, and its shoots produce ample shade. Therefore, he blesses the tree that all of its fruits should produce trees which are similar to it. Similarly, a Talmudic scholar is already blessed with all possible blessings. Therefore, the second Talmudic scholar gave the first scholar the greatest possible blessing that he should father children who will follow in his path of greatness.

            The Bnei Yissascher (Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro of Dinov, 1785-1841) writes[17] that when the Mishnah states[18] that Tu B'Shvat is the Rosh Hashanah for "the tree" in the singular tense, instead of "trees" in the plural, the Mishnah was referring specifically to "the tree" mentioned in the Torah: namely, the Esrog (citron) tree[19]. Based on this, he writes that there is a custom to pray on Tu B'Shvat that he should merit to be granted a beautiful Esrog fruit for use on the holiday of Succos[20]. His great-great-grandson, the Munkatcher Rebbe (Rabbi Chaim Elazar Shapiro of Munkatch, 1871-1937), explained[21] this concept in greater depth. The numerical value of Shevat is equivalent to the numerical value of Ish (which means "man"). Because the word “Esrog” is treated grammatically in Hebrew as if it was in the female tense, the Esrog is a representation of the feminine component in the world. The Talmud says[22] that is the nature of men to actively seek out women, but the nature of women is not to seek men, therefore it serves to reason that during Shevat, the month of "man", one would pray (thereby actively seeking) for a beautiful Esrog, which represents the female element.

It was the custom of the Munkatcher Rebbe not to pickle or otherwise prepare his Esrog for consumption until the eve of Tu B'Shvat. In order to use the Esrog for another Mitzvah (after using it on Sukkos) of eating fruit on Tu B'Shvat, he dipped it in each of the the aforementioned seven species of fruits[23]. The Belzer Rebbe also had[24] the custom of eating from the seven species in varied forms: He drank beer for barley and wine for grapes, he ate bread for wheat, fish soaked in olive oil for olives, date honey, pomegranates, and figs. It was also his custom to say words of Torah at this meal. The Satmar Rebbe[25], however, refrained from speaking Torah and instead sang Psalm 96.

            The Toldos Yitzchok, (Rabbi Yitzchok of Neshchiz) writes[26] that the reason that the Talmud says[27] that one must begin studying the laws of a holiday thirty days before the holiday is because that is when the mystical influences of the holiday begin. Therefore, since Tu B'Shvat is thirty days before the holiday of Purim (in a regular non-leap year), the two must have some connection. He says that Shevat can mean either "rod" or "throwing." Concerning Purim, the Talmud explains[28] that the Jews only sinned outwardly by bowing to the idol of Haman but really they still believed in HaShem. So too HaShem only "outwardly" wanted to punish the Jews by making them feel as if they were going to be destroyed, He had no intention of allowing such a catastrophe to actually occur. Based on this, the Toldos Yitzchok explains that in actuality Shevat means both "rod" and "throwing". For the entire year until Shevat, HaShem holds a "rod" as if to threaten the world that He will destroy them if they do not act as they should. Once Shevat arrives, He "throws" away the stick, and reveals that He was merely trying to scare everyone into proper behavior. This is comparable to a father who rouses fear in his son by threatening him with a rod. However, the father does not intend to actually harm his dear son—he planned the ruse merely to ensure that the son act appropriately.

            In the opening words of Psalms, King David, the psalmist, utilizes a simile to describe a righteous Torah Jew. He writes, "He shall be like a deeply rooted tree on the brooks of water…[29]." In this, King David compares the upright Jew to an upright tree. Two other prophets also use this comparison: Isaiah said, "Just like the days of a tree, so too shall be the days of My people[30]" and Jeremiah said, "He will be like a tree planted near the water[31]". HaShem Himself has compared righteous Jews to trees when He said, "Man is like the tree of a field.[32]" Many Jewish customs developed because of this association between people and trees. There is a law that one may not derive any benefit from a tree’s fruits while the tree is within its first three years (regarding which Tu B'Shvat is considered the beginning of a new year)[33]. Since people are compared to trees—more specifically to fruit trees—a custom developed, based on the Arizal’s Kabbalistic teachings, to not cut a baby boy's hair until he reaches the age of three years.

Rabbeinu Bachaya explains[34] that people are compared to trees because their sustenance comes from trees. King Solomon said, "Torah is a tree of life for all who those grasp it[35]." Rabbi Akiva said[36] that a Jew without a Torah is like a fish out of water. The Prophet Isaiah invited all those who were thirsty to go to the waters[37]; The Talmud[38] assumes that this "water" refers to Torah, and those who were thirsty were seeking its wisdom. Indeed, the Talmud assumes that when King David desired waters from the well in Beis Lechem[39], he wished to clarify a halachik question. Just as water is the sustenance, from which a tree feeds and grows, so too Torah is the sustenance from which a Jew lives and thrives. The Torah is the water from which man—the tree—grows.

In addition to requiring water in order to be properly nurtured, a tree also requires sunlight—fire. Similarly, in order to be successfully developed, a Jew needs both the depths of the “waters of Torah” and the passionate and fiery debates in Torah—the fire. While Isaiah compared men to trees because both require water, Jeremiah asked rhetorically in the name of HaShem, "Are My words not like fire?[40]" The Talmud explains[41] that just as a fire cannot burn alone, so too the words of Torah cannot prevail in isolation and just as a fire is built from many logs, so too the words of Torah survive only through the minds of the many. Interestingly, Moses began to elucidate the Torah in great depth for the Jewish people (before his death, a month and a week later) in the beginning of the month of Shevat[42].

            A custom popularized by contemporary society is to plant trees (especially in Israel) on Tu B'Shvat. Although this custom lacks a clear source within Rabbinic literature, one can conjecture that this custom developed from Az Yashir which the Jews famously sang after the splitting of the Red Sea in Az Yashir (which is always read on Shabbos Shira, the week of Tu B’Shvat). One line of this song is "You shall bring them and plant them on the mountain of Your heritage, the foundation of Your dwelling-place that has been prepared by You, HaShem—the Sanctuary of HaShem which Your hands established.[43]" Perhaps the source of the custom to plant trees in Israel stems from this concept of planting something in Eretz Yisroel. However, others explain that the planting mentioned in this passage refers not to physically planting greenery in the Land of Israel, but rather to the building of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem on Mount Zion—upon the mountain of HaShem's inheritance. Regarding the conclusion of this verse the Talmud says, "Great is the Holy Temple which is written in between two instances of HaShem's name.[44]" May it be the will of HaShem that we merit to see the building of the Holy Temple, speedily and in our days and return to our roots in Jerusalem: Amen.

[1] This essay was published in the “Young Israel Tu B’Shvat Virtual Sourcebook” for 2008 and 2009 ( For a more extensive discussion of Tu B’Shvat and its meaning and customs, see Birkas Dovid by Rabbi Avrohom Dovid Mandelbaum of Bnei Baraq.
[2] Rosh HaShanah 2a
[3] To Rosh HaShanah 14b
[4] In Sefer HaToda'ah’s description of Shevat
[5] See also Siddur Ya’avetz, Shaar HaGay
[6] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim §131:6
[7] However, it has been recorded in many places that the French Jewish communities of Mainz and Worms did say Tachanun on Tu B'Shvat
[8] Magen Avrohom ad loc., see also Mishnah Berurah and Beiur Heitiv ad loc. in the name of Tikkun Yissaschar.
[9] Ziv HaMinhagim
[10] They are: Wheat, barley, grape, fig, pomegranate, olive, and date honey
[11] Psalms 120-134
[12] Mahari Tab page 143
[13] Rosh HaShanah 1:2
[14] See Mishnah Berurah, §494:10
[15] A similar explanation is found in the writings of Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630) who explained (in Shnei Luchos HaBris) why Leviticus 26:42 lists the three forefathers in reverse chronological order instead of the usual chronological listing
[16] Ta'anis 5b-6a
[17] Bnei Yissaschar to Tu B'Shvat
[18] Rosh HaShanah 1:1
[19] Although others, such as Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen Rabinowitz of Lublin (1823-1900), understand that the singular expression of "the tree" refers to the Tree of Life (Eitz HaChaim) in the Garden of Eden. See Pri Tzadik who elaborates on this concept at great length.
[20] Leviticus 23:40
[21] Sha'ar Yissaschar, Tu B'Shvat
[22] Kiddushin 2b
[23] Darchei Chaim V'Sholom
[24] Minhagei Belzah
[25] Machzor Divrei Yoel to Tu B'Shvat
[26] Toldos Yitzchok on Tu B'Shvat
[27] Megillah 29b
[28] Megillah 12a
[29] Psalms 1:3
[30] Isaiah 65:22
[31] Jeremiah 17:8
[32] Deuteronomy 20:19,  see Ta’anis 7a which explains that this refers specifically to a Talmid Chacham.
[33] See Tractate Orlah
[34] Rabbeinu Bachaya to Deuteronomy 20:19
[35] Proverbs 3:18
[36] Brachos 61b
[37] Isaiah 55:1
[38] Bava Kamma 17a, Bava Kamma 82a, Avoda Zarah 5b
[39] See Samuel II 23:15
[40] Jeremiah 23:29
[41] Taanis 7a
[42] See Deuteronomy 1:3. See also Zechariah 1:7 that the eleventh month is the month of Shevat.
[43] Exodus 15:17
[44] Brachos 33a

Vesom Sechel: Tefillin of Rashi and Rabbenu Tam

Vesom Sechel: Tefillin of Rashi and Rabbenu Tam
Reading this post reminded me of a story that I read in Seder HaDoros (Year 4930) in which there is a מח' between ר"ת and משה רבינו up in the שמים. They argue about Tefillin as well, and come out that we pasken like Rabbeinu Tam. Iteresting story, the angel מ"ט also plays a role in this story, as does Rabbeinu Eliyahu from Paris, the Tosafist.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Satmar and Slavery

Recommended background music for this post: This music video of
the Satmar Rebbe singing Psalms 42:3 [Hattip:
Reb Ariel]

HaShem told Abraham that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt for four-hundred years.[1] However, even if one adds all the years of Kohath, Amram, and Moses together, the total does not approach the four-hundred years prescribed, in fact, the total amount of years that the Jewish nation spent in servitude in Egypt was merely two-hundred and ten years[2]. The question then arises: Why were the Jews exiled in the land of Egypt for only two-hundred years and, according to some, they were only indentured as slaves for one-hundred and sixteen years[3], instead of four hundred years like HaShem told Abraham? Furthermore, the Torah testifies twice[4] that the Jews stayed in the land of Egypt for four-hundred and thirty years. How is this reckoning to be reconciled with the simple calculations? The Midrash answers[5] that Ephraim and Manasseh were in Egypt for five years before Jacob and the Jacobean family descendant to Egypt from the Land of Canaan and the Israelites worked in Egypt day and night for two-hundred and ten years. In adding the total ten years that Ephraim and Manasseh lived in Egypt with the doubled two-hundred and ten years that the Jews worked in Egypt (because the day and night are to be counted separately), one arrives to the grand total of four-hundred and thirty years.

The Satmar Rebbe of Kiryas Joel, Grand Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum, says[6] that this is a proof that the Abrahamic family before the Sinaitic revelation had the status of Jews, not Noachides. Had the Israelites had the status of Noachides, then they would have had the status of Canaanite Slaves under the Pharaoh and would thus have been required to work day and night[7]. However, since day and night were counted separately in the reckoning the years of slavery, it must be that the Israelites had the status of Jews, and were thus Hebrew Slaves who are only required to work during the day, not at night[8]. Similarly, when Moses added[9] an extra day to the three days of preparation[10] for the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, he wanted there to be three periods of night-followed-by-day in order to insure that all the Jews were properly ritually pure[11]. However, HaShem had only originally commanded so for three periods of day-followed-by-night ("today and tomorrow"[12]). The root of the "disagreement" between HaShem and Moses is whether the Israelites had the status of Jews or Noachides. Had they been Noachides, three periods of day-followed-by-night would suffice for their purification because for Noachides the day precedes the night[13]; while for Jews the night precedes the day[14]. In the end, HaShem concurred to the opinion of Moses and decided that the Israelites then had the status of Jews, not Noachides, so He allowed the extra day of preparation and switched the commandment to prepare to "three days"[15].[16]

The Satmar Rebbe said there is another very fundamental combination of answers to explain why the Jews were only slaves in Egypt for two-hundred and ten years, instead of four-hundred years. One answer says that since the Talmud says[17] that sanctification can break the bonds of servitude, so even though the Jews were supposed to be slaves in Egypt for four-hundred years, since they sanctified themselves, they were liberated early. Another answer says that the extra years which the Jews did not suffer in Egypt are scattered within the subsequent exiles, and the Jews are still "paying off" the four-hundred years of servitude. By combining these two answers, the Satmar Rebbe said that one can say that if one sanctifies himself through the learning of Torah and properly serving HaShem, he can avoid the clutches of the current exile and merit to see the coming of the Messiah and the rebuilding of the Third Holy Temple in Jerusalem, may it come speedily and in our days: Amen.

[1] See Genesis 15:13
[2] See Rashi to Exodus 6:18-20
[3] Sifsei Chochmim to Exodus 6:16
[4] Exodus 12:40 and ibid. vs. 41
[5] Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer Ch. 48
[6] In a speech delivered on 24th Teves, 5767
[7] Bava Kamma 87b
[8] Although Rashi to Deuteronomy 15:18 and Kiddushin 15a say that a master can make his Hebrew Slave work at night by mating him with a Canaanite Maid, that is not necessarily called "work" in the legalistic sense.
[9] Yevamos 62a
[10] See Exodus 19:11-15
[11] Shabbos 86b
[12] Exodus 19:10
[13] Based on Genesis 8:22
[14] Based on Genesis 1:5
[15] Exodus 19:11ff
[16] A similar discussion regarding this topic can be found in the Chasam Sofer: Toras Moshe to Exodus 19:10 written by Rabbi Moshe Sofer (1762-1838)
[17] Yevamos 46a

Marriage and Divorce in Egypt

Seventeen years after his reunion with his son Joseph and migration to Egypt, Jacob realized that the end of his days were coming, so he summoned his son Joseph and his two grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to bless them before his death. However, as Jacob was about to bless Ephraim and Manasseh, he saw in a vision that evil kings from the Israelite Kingdom would descend from them, so the Holy Presence of G-d momentarily left him and he was unable to bless his grandsons. Instead, he asked Joseph, "Who are these?" as if to inquire from whom did such people descend[1]. Rabbi Dovid Pardo (1719-1792)[2] and Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik (1886-1959)[3] explain that Jacob was really asking Joseph whether their mother, Joseph's wife, properly converted to Judaism before she married Joseph and mothered these children. In answer to this question, Joseph showed Jacob a document of Kiddushin and a Kesubah document, which insured that he had legally married the "Egyptian" mother of Ephraim and Manasseh and their lineage, was not tainted, so they deserved a blessing. After this, Jacob was once again granted the Holy Presence of G-d to rest on him, and he was able to bless his two grandsons. This entire episode seems to imply that even before the Sinaitic Revelation, the Abrahamic family kept the laws pertaining to the sanctity of Jewish marriage because they had the status of Jews, not Noachides.

The Talmud[4] relates that Amram, the father of Moses, was the leader of the Israelite nation during the exile to Egypt. Rashi explains[5] that this means that the entire nation listened to everything that Amram told them, and that he was the head of the Sanhedrin in Egypt[6]. In detailing the history of the Torah's commandments before Sinai, Maimonides writes[7] that while still in Egypt, HaShem revealed certain commandments to Amram. Rabbi Baruch ben Dovid Frankel-Thumim (1760-1828) says[8] that once the Jews in Egypt received special commandments from HaShem through Amram, they left their status as Noachides and became halachikly Jewish. However, Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575) asks[9] what was Maimonides source in saying that Amram was commanded certain commandments. The Talmud says[10] that after Pharaoh decreed that all baby boys should be thrown into the river, Amram divorced his wife Jochebed. Since Amram was the leader of his generation, the entire nation followed suit and they all divorced their wives. Following this, Miriam, the daughter of Amram, admonished her father by telling him that Pharaoh only decreed the destruction of male Jewry, but he was destroying the entire nation. The Torah then says "And a man from the House of Levi went"[11], meaning that Amram followed the advice of his prophetess daughter and re-married her mother, Jochebed, "the daughter of Levi", whereupon all the men re-married their wives as well. The Talmud states that Amram specifically performed an "act of taking" meaning Kiddushin in returning his wife. Based on this, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Chayos (1805-1855) explains[12] that when Maimonides wrote that extra commandments were given to Amram in Egypt, he was referring to the commandment of Kiddushin—a Torah-ordained manner of marriage. Had Amram not been given the commandments regarding Jewish marriage, he would merely have carnally taken Jochebed as a wife and that would have sufficed as Maimonides himself writes[13] that before the Torah, if a man met a woman in the marketplace and they agreed to wed, he merely had to lie with her in order for them to be considered married.

In a similar vein, Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai (1724-1806) answers[14] that Maimonides wrote that Amram had extra commandments in Egypt because the Talmud says that Amram specifically divorced his wife, like the Torah says[15]. Had he not been commanded the Mitzvah of divorce, he could have merely separated from his wife and not divorced using the parameters of Jewish divorce (e.g. with a Get, etc…). Rabbi Meir Don Plotzky of Ostrova (a pre-World War One Rabbinic figure) writes[16] that just like the death of one's husband is not enough to consider a married Noachide woman unmarried anymore[17], so too a Noachide divorcee is also still considered married. He explains that the source of Noachide marriage is Genesis 2:24, which says that a man should "cling to his wife", which excludes a woman who is married to another man[18], and it says "they shall become one flesh", which implies that once man and wife join together in holy matrimony, they become inseparable, even after death and/or divorce. He writes that this explains why when the Torah said "Amram took his aunt, Jochebed, as a wife"[19], Onkelos[20] changes "aunt" to "father's sister." This is because one's father's sister is the only type of aunt that a Noachide male can ever marry (if maternal, see below), because one's father's brother's wife is still considered one's aunt even after one's father's brother's death because death does not break the bond of Noachidic marriage.

The Torah says that one is prohibited from marrying his "aunt"[21]. It is clear from the context that "aunt" there refers to one's father's brother's wife. Rashi and Onkelos specifically point out that Amram did not marry his "aunt" in that sense because she would always be prohibited to him because a Noachide's marriage is everlasting, rather that he married his "aunt", meaning his father's sister. The Talmud[22] says that Amram was allowed to marry Jochebed even though there is a Noahidic prohibition against marrying one's father's sister[23] because that prohibition is only one's father's maternal sister, but Jochebed was only Kohath's paternal sister. One Midrash says that Levi married a great-granddaughter of Eber named Adina[24], however another Midrash says based on Numbers 26:29 that Levi's wife was named Osah[25]. Based on this, the Tosafists concluded[26] that Levi had two wives; Adina was the mother of Kohath while Osah was the mother of Jochebed. Therefore, Amram, the son of Kohath, was only the paternal nephew of Jochebed. Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner (1749-1821) writes[27] that Amram knew that there were deep metaphysical Kabbalistic reasons for him to have had to marry Jochebed, even though it should have really been forbidden according to Torah Law. It was for this reason that the Torah was not given to Amram himself, but rather to his son, Moses.

Amram was allowed to divorce his wife because he had already fulfilled his commandment of procreation by fathering Aaron and Miriam[28]. In imitating their leader, all the Jewish men also divorced their wives. Rabbi Aharon Rotter[29] points out that only those men, who had already fulfilled the commandment of "being fruitful and multiplying", like Amram, divorced their wives, but the others did not. According to this, Rabbi Yonason ben Uziel writes[30] that Elzaphan, a son of Amram's brother Uziel, married Jochebed between the time that Amram divorced Jochebed and the time that he remarried her. However, this statement is difficult to understand because the Torah explicitly forbids[31] remarrying one's divorcee if she marries someone else in the interim lest one think that women are mere objects of lust which can be traded back and forth between husbands[32]. The son of the Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Alter (1877-1942), explains[33] that Amram was only given the commandments of marriage and divorce, but had not yet received the prohibition of remarrying one's divorcee who married since the divorce. Others[34] explain that Jochebed only married Elzaphan after the death of Amram, and then birthed Eldad and Meidad. Still others explain that she was not even their mother, but Amram was their father; when the Torah says[35], "Crying according to their families" it means[36] crying after the Sinaitic Revelation they were about matters pertaining to family issues because they had to divorce their wives if they married newly-prohibited women. The Tosafists[37] write that this applies even Amram who had to divorce Jochebed after the acceptance of the Torah, and so he then married another woman and fathered Eldad and Meidad. However, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky asks[38] on this understanding that if Eldad and Meidad were born after the encampment at Mount Sinai, then they must have been only one year old when they prophesied in the camp[39].

Rabbi Baruch Frankel[40] understood based on the words of Maimonides that only once Amram received certain commandments did the Abrahamic family lose their status as Noachides and become Jews. According to the Chida, Maimonides learned this from the fact that Amram divorced his wife in a way which was halachik and only Jews have a halachik divorce, so they must have been Jewish from then on. However, if merely divorcing proves that the forefathers had a status of Jews instead of Noachides, then even Abraham must have not had the status of a Noachide already. This is because Rabbeinu Bachaya relates[41] in the name of Rabbeinu Chananel Ben Chushiel (990-1053) that when Abraham migrated to the Philistinian city of Gerrar, Abraham was afraid that his beautiful wife Sarah would be taken by another man and would be forced to commit adultery with him, so he divorced his wife. However, this divorce was carried out under duress and thus was not completely legally effective. Therefore, when the Philistine King Abimelech abducted Sarah, he was asked by HaShem to return the woman to her rightful husband[42]. Had Abraham been a Noachide, his divorcing Sarah would have amounted to nothing even it was not under undue pressure because there should be no such thing as a Noahidic divorce. Rather, one must say that according to Rabbi Frankel, the source of Maimonides' assertion that Amram accepted certain commandments in Egypt is implied in a passage quoted in the commentary of Nachmanides. When introducing Himself to Moses, HaShem says[43], "I am the G-d of your father, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Issac, and the G-d of Jacob." Nachmanides writes[44] that some explain that "G-d of your father" refers to Amram. Based on this Rabbi Meir Simcha HaKohen of Dvinsk (1843-1926) writes[45] that just as Abraham, Issac, and Jacob received commandments from Above, so did Amram and this is the source of Maimonides' assertion to that effect.

[1] See Rashi to Genesis 48:8 and Midrash Tanchuma to Genesis §6
[2] Maskil LeDavid to Rashi to Genesis 48:8
[3] Chiddushei HaGriz Al HaTorah (Stencil)
[4] Sotah 12a
[5] To Sotah 12a
[6] Exodus Rabbah 1:13
[7] Laws of Kings 9:1
[8] Imrei Baruch to Turei Even to Megillah 13a
[9] Kesef Mishnah Laws of Kings 9:1
[10] Sotah 12a
[11] Exodus 2:1
[12] Maharitz Chayos to Sotah 12a
[13] Laws of Marriage 1:1
[14] Responsa Chaim Shaol Volume 1, §95
[15] Deuteronomy 24:1-4
[16] Kli Chemdah, Va'era §2
[17] See Pnei Yehoshua to Kiddushin 13a
[18] See Maimonides, Laws of Kings 9:4
[19] Exodus 6:20
[20] Targum Onkelos to Exodus 6:20 and quoted by Rashi ibid.
[21] Leviticus 18:14
[22] Sanhedrin 58b, see also Yevamos 54-55 which discusses the halachik definition of an "aunt."
[23] Leviticus 18:12
[24] Seder HaDoros Year 2217
[25] Seder HaDoros Year 2364
[26] Da'as Zekanim to Numbers 26:29
[27] Nefesh HaChaim 1:21
[28] Like Bais Hillel, Yevamos 61b who says one fulfills the commandment by fathering a son and a daughter
[29] Sha'arei Aharon to Exodus 6:20
[30] Targum Yonasaon ben Uziel to Numbers 11:26
[31] Deuteronomy 24:4
[32] Sefer HaChinuch Mitzvah #580
[33] In his glosses to Rabbi Yosef Patzanavsky's Pardes Yosef to Exodus 2:1
[34] Including Rashi and Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer as quoted in Seder HaDoros Year 2410
[35] Numbers 11:10
[36] Shabbos 130a and Yoma 75a
[37] Da'as Zekanim to Numbers 11:10
[38] Siach HaSadeh, Volume 1, B'Shaar HaMelech
[39] Numbers 11:26ff
[40] Cited above
[41] Rabbeinu Bachya to Genesis 20:2
[42] See Zahav MiShva from Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Shapiro (1918-2006) to Genesis 20:3
[43] Exodus 3:6
[44] Chiddushei HaRamban to Exodus 3:6
[45] Meshech Chochmah to Exodus 3:6

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