April 14, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 14, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Zera Shimshon on Parshas Vayishlach

וַיִּירָא יַעֲקֹב מְאֹד וַיֵּצֶר לוֹ וַיַּחַץ אֶת הָעָם אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ וְאֶת הַצֹּאן וְאֶת הַבָּקָר וְהַגְּמַלִּים לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת: וַיֹּאמֶר אִם יָבוֹא עֵשָׂו אֶל הַמַּחֲנֶה הָאַחַת וְהִכָּהוּ וְהָיָה הַמַּחֲנֶה הַנִּשְׁאָר לִפְלֵיטָה: (בראשית לג/א)

Rav Yitzchok said; Why did Ovadyah receive the gift of prophecy? R ‘ Yitzchok answered because he hid a hundred prophets in caves, as it is written, “For it was so when Izzevel cut off the prophets of Hashem that Ovadyah took100 prophets and hid them, 50 in a cave.” Why did he hide 50 in two separate caves and not all 100 in one cave? Rav Eliezer said: He learned this lesson from Yaakov, who split up his family and belongings into two camps. As it is written, “v’hamachaneh ha’nishar l’flaitah, The camp which is left, shall escape.” Rav Avuhah said: It was because one cave was not big enough to hold more than 50 prophets. (Sanhedrin 39b)

Zera Shimshon asks in the name of the Maharsha; how does the Gemara know that Ovadyah learned to divide the prophets into two groups from Yaakov? Maybe he thought of the idea on his own, just like Yaakov Avinu did?

Zera Shimshon answers in light of the Yerushalmi that says that in the days of Achav there were no informers! The proof of this: On Har Carmel, Eliyahu Hanavi declared that he was the only prophet left alive from Achav’s massacre. Even though everyone knew that Ovadyah hid 100 prophets and Eliyahu lied, no one said anything!

This being so, it cannot be that it was Ovadyah’s own idea to divide the prophets because in truth there was no reason to do it. If there was an informer, they would squeal to Achav no matter how many places Ovadyah had hid the prophets. And if there were no informers, Achav won’t find the prophets even if they were all in one cave. Therefore, there was no reason to divide them!

This is the meaning of the Gemara’s question, “Why 50 in two caves and not 100 in one cave?”

Rav Eliezer answers, “He learned this lesson from Yaakov, who split up his family and belongings into two camps.” This answer, though, has to be understood. How could Ovadyah use what Yaakov did as an example for what he should do? Yaakov had a good reason to divide his camp; “v’hamachaneh ha’neeshar l’flaitah,” the camp which is left, shall escape, meaning he did it so even in the worst scenario at least half of his possessions and children will be able to escape. Ovadyah, on the other hand,gained nothing by dividing his camp into two! How then can it be that Ovadyah based his behavior on Yaakov’s?

Zera Shimshon explains in light of a Medrash (Bereishis Rabah 76/3) that Yaakov dividing his camp teaches derech eretz, the proper way of conduct, that one should not put all of his money and belongings in one place. Zera Shimshon understood from this Medrash the reason Yaakov divided his camp into two groups wasn’t only to ensure that at least some of his children would survive. He also did it to teach derech eretz to future generations to also do proper hishtadlus, human effort, when there is imminent danger and not to rely on Hashem to save them through a miracle.

According to this, even though there was really no good reason for Ovadyah to divide the prophets, he did it anyway because he learned from Yaakov the need to teach hishtadlus. If Ovadyah would have put all the prophets into one cave, some people might think there are at least a few informers among the Jewish people and Ovadyah didn’t bother to split them up because he held that one doesn’t have to do any hishtadlus and could rely that Hashem would perform a miracle. This is 100% contrary to Yaakov’s teaching! Therefore, he split them up so people would learn the lesson that Yaakov wanted to teach—that one must make hishtadlus.

Rebbi Avohue argues and explains that Ovadyah divided the students only because there was not enough room in one cave. Zera Shimshon explains that he also holds that one must make hishtadlus in a situation of imminent danger. Rav Avohue held that if there would have been place in one cave Ovadyah would have kept them all in that one cave, because splitting them up into two caves could cause a commotion of people coming and going to bring food and drink to the prophets, which could actually cause Achav to find and kill them. In other words, it was bad hishtadlus. Therefore, it was only because there was no room in one cave and Ovadyah had no other choice so he split them up into two groups.

To summarize, Achav killed all of the prophets in his day except for 100 of them who hid. Ovadyah divided these prophets into two groups and placed them in two caves. There is a machlokos (dispute) in the Gemara why he split them up. Rav Yitzchak holds that even though it was safe to put them in one cave he split them into two groups because he learned from Yaakov, who split up his camp when he met Eisav, that one must teach all generations that one must make proper hishtadlus. Rav Avohue agrees with Rav Yitzchak that generally speaking one must do hishtadlus. However, in the specific case of Ovadyah, Rav Avohue held that dividing the prophets and putting them in two caves wasn’t a good hishtadlus because it would enable Achav to find them. Therefore, the reason why Ovadyah did put them into two caves was only because there was not enough room in any one cave to hold all one hundred prophets.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles