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11/24/2023 12:12:07 PM


The parasha begins "And Jacob left Beer Sheva and went "harana." Literally, that last word means "to (the place) Haran." But midrashically, there is a chasidic tradition that it is connected to the word "haran," which means "anger." We can understand that Yaakov must have been very upset. His brother wanted to kill him, he knows that Uncle Laban had a history of being a trickster, and not a nice guy, and his GPS had not yet been invented, so how was he to get to Haran. Also, according to midrash, his cousin Eliphaz was running after him. So, Jacob had reason to be angry. Perhaps that explains the famous comment of Rashi, that he had made a good impression on the people who knew him. Despite his problems, he had a very fine reputation in Beer Sheva. And this also explains the midrash that he had to daven" maariv on the way.


The name of this parasha is "vayeitsei," meaning "he left."  We pray that the captives should leave their captivity, speedily and in good health.

As I write this, the great news on all of the news media is the “deal” between Israel and Hamas.

Maimonides, in his Mishneh Torah, laws of “presents to the poor” 8:!0, writes that there is no greater mitsvah than redemption of captives.  The Shulhan Aruch quotes Rambam and adds that every moment that you delay is akin to murder. HOWEVER, Shulhan Aruch adds that we do not redeem captives more than they are worth, as this would encourage the enemy to take even more captives.

[I can’t forget the story that I learned as a child, how Maharam of Rotenberg, the leading Ashkenaz rav of the 13th century, who had been wrongfully imprisoned, refused to allow his community to pay a ransom for his release, and thus died in prison.]

This is the great dilemma facing Israel as I write these lines: how far can we go in making a deal?

I include a short excerpt from a lengthy discussion sent me yesterday, written by former Montrealer and Herz grad Dr. Shawn Aster, currently [when. he is not replacing farmers on southern Israeli farms] a Professor of Tanach at Bar Ilan:

….With great effort, bravery, and sacrifice, the IDF has accomplished the following:

a) forcing Hamas out of the above-ground parts of Gaza City and forcing Hamas to abandon its command centers in the Al-Shifa hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza.

b) causing demoralization in Hamas forces around Gaza City

c) emptying Gaza City of civilians who are not dedicated Hamas supporters, thus making it easier to explode the hundreds of km of tunnels under Gaza City. There are no longer civilians anywhere above-ground on the streets in the centre of Gaza City.  Some tunnels have been destroyed, more await destruction.

d) destroying hundreds of missile-launching facilities, mostly in mosques, schools, and kindergartens, making it more difficult for Hamas to send missiles against Israel.

Anyone who still thinks that the IDF is attacking hospitals with disregard for civilians is willfully blind: "There are none so blind as those who will not see".

See here: 

Not surprisingly, once the Hamas terrorists were forced out of Al-Shifa hospital, the hospital staff agreed to evacuate the hospital. Incubators to evacuate the babies were brought by the IDF to the hospital.

The IDF can now focus on destroying the tunnels under the hospital, which are full of Hamas weapons.

But first, the IDF is now moving to areas adjacent to Gaza City:  There are many other towns in the northern Gaza Strip, besides Gaza City. These include Jibalya to the east of Gaza city, Zeitoun to the south of Gaza City, and Beit Lahia to the north of Gaza City, and ...Beit Hanoun .Zeitoun is currently being conquered by the IDF in hard battles against Hamas fighters who come out of tunnels and shoot from houses. The other areas mentioned will be the focus of subsequent battles.

A note on geography: Gaza City is the largest city in Gaza. It lies in the northern part of the strip.  Gaza City + Zeitoun + Jiblalya + Zeitoun + Beit Lahia + Beit Hanoun = the northern half of the Gaza Strip.

The above was sent to me by Dr. Aster on Wednesday morning. The situation changes daily.

We pray for release of all the captives, with a reasonable deal.

Shabbat shalom, Peace in Israel, Rabbi Menahem White

Tue, May 21 2024 13 Iyyar 5784