Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayeshev
To dedicate this lesson
Vayeshev 5779

At The Shabbat Table


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Kislev 20 5779
"…and they could not speak to him peacefully" (Bereishit 36:4)
Rashi: From their disgrace, we learn their praise, [because this indicates] that they did not have one thing in their mouth, and another thing in their heart.

The Ceremonial Offer

Mazal tov! Shlomi and Tamar welcomed their sweet little baby boy into the world. Within minutes, Shlomi and Tamar were on the phone with their parents, sharing the wonderful news of the birth of their first child. After hanging up with his parents, Shlomi picked up the phone again, and called his uncle Avraham.

"It’s a boy!" Shlomi exclaimed.

"That’s wonderful, Shlomi," responded Uncle Avraham. "That means that I’ll get to be the sandek!"

"Sandek?!" stammered Shlomi.

"Of course. I know that you want your dear uncle to be the sandek for your first child, and I’m happy to oblige!" Uncle Avraham explained.

Shlomi was at a loss. Yes, he loved his Uncle Avraham. But sandek? For his firstborn son? Shlomi had in mind that a Torah scholar, or his father or father-in-law, would be the sandek. And yet Uncle Avraham seemed convinced that he was the first choice!

"Uh, listen Uncle Avraham, I don’t think that we’ll make you the sandek this time." Shlomi paused long enough to hear Uncle Avraham gasp, on the other end of the line. "But don’t worry, you can do even better, Uncle Avraham! You can be mesader kiddushin at our baby’s wedding!" Shlomi hurried to finish, eager to placate his agitated uncle.

"A wonderful idea, Shlomi!" Uncle Avraham replied. "I’m looking forward already."

Avraham wished Shlomi a hearty mazal tov, and hung up the phone, leaving Shlomi alone with his thoughts. Mesader kiddushin? His uncle was hardly qualified. The truth was, though, that Shlomi assumed that, given his uncle’s advanced age, he wouldn’t make it to the baby’s wedding at all.

Despite Shlomi’s intent, as little Eli grew up, Great Uncle Avraham took every opportunity to remind the young man that Avraham planned to officiate at Eli’s wedding. So it went at Eli’s first haircut, Eli’s Bar Mitzva party, and, eventually, at Eli’s engagement party.

Shlomi was a loss. He had told Uncle Avraham, as an act of desperation, that Avraham would officiate at Eli’s future wedding. And yet, Eli and his bride, Sarah, and the rest of the family, for that matter, were none too eager to have Avraham officiate. They had in mind that a great rabbi, who was planning on attending, would be given the position of mesader kiddushin. Avraham was a nice person, but he could hardly read a page of Gemara!

What should Eli and Sarah do?

Answer of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, shlita:

Shlomi made a promise, and he must keep it!
It would not be correct for Shlomi to attempt to appease his uncle, with explanations and excuses, in order to avoid having Avraham officiate at the wedding. A person must keep his word.
However, if the bride’s family protests that they do not want to have an unsuitable mesader kiddushin, we would have to find some sort of resolution to the problem. Barring this scenario, Shlomi is obligated to uphold his promise.

Here is a story that relates to the answer that one must do as he promised.

Rabbi David Levin, the grandson of the great Reb Arye Levine, tells this story about a loan that his grandfather accepted. Reb Arye tried very hard to avoid borrowing money, but one time it was quite urgent. In addition, his salary was about to come imminently, that very evening. So he asked a shopkeeper in Machane Yehuda to allow him to take items needed on credit. Reb Arye took 50 pounds worth of merchandise and told the store owner he would return in the evening. That night, there was a heavy snow storm in Jerusalem. Reb Arye was a bit hesitant to go out due to the weather, and did not even have proper winter clothing nor shoes. But his wife implored him to keep his word and go out, which he did. The walk was a good distance. When he approached the shopkeeper's house, he heard a loud argument coming from inside. The man's wife was berating him for lending a customer the relatively large sum of 50 pounds. She angrily wanted to know how her husband was so sure the customer would pay up. The shopkeeper retorted that there was nothing to worry about as the legendary Reb Arye was completely trustworthy. As Reb Arye knocked on the front door, the wife answered it. She promptly blurted out, "Really, Reb Arye! For this you had to walk your feet off in this nasty, miserable weather? Could it not have waited until tomorrow?"

Translated by Avigail Kirsch

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