November 19, 2021 2:27 am at 2:27 am #2030589abukspanParticipant
Vayishlach – An Ox and a Donkey:
By: Rabbi Avraham Bukspan
ויאמר שכם אל חמור אביו לאמר קח לי את הילדה הזאת לאשה
Shechem spoke to Chamor, his father, saying, “Take this girl for me as a wife” (Bereishis 34:4).
The Midrash Tanchuma (Vayishlach: 7) details a conversation between Chamor and Yaakov, in which Chamor tried to persuade Yaakov that a marriage between their children, Dinah and Shechem, would be most suiting. Chamor said to Yaakov, “Your grandfather Avraham was a prince, and I am the prince of this land; thus it will be a marriage of royals.” Yaakov said to him, “Avraham was an ox [based on Bereishis 18:7] and you are Chamor, a donkey. We are not allowed to plow with an ox and a donkey together [Devarim 22:10].”
Was this merely a play on the words, shor (ox) and chamor (donkey), or is there a correlation between the prohibition of having a mixed team of an ox and a donkey, and Shechem marrying Dinah? What profound message was Yaakov imparting?
My father explained: While both oxen and donkeys may be domesticated animals, there is a fundamental difference between them.
A chamor is a beast of burden; it is a pack animal. Its primary purpose is to transport items from Point A to Point B. Upon arriving at a predetermined destination, it delivers its load and its owner is paid. All the benefit of its work is realized at this time. There is no thought given to any future gain.
This is symbolic of a person who lives only for the here and now – a person only interested in his pleasure, with no mind given to delayed gratification. Such a person’s motto is: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we will die.”
A shor, however, does another type of work. Its primary use is to plow the field and prepare it for sowing. At first, we see no benefit from its labor. It is only months later, at harvest, that we see the bounty it helped produce.
This is symbolic of a person who puts in the effort now, fully realizing that the reward will not come until the future. This is an Olam HaBa person, who does not look for instant payoff. His motto is: “Hayom laasosam, le’machar le’kabel secharam – Today to do them [the mitzvos], and tomorrow to receive their reward” (Eiruvin 22a). Like the ox, he does his work now, even though the payoff will not come until later.
Yaakov was telling Chamor that our perspective and purpose in life, our raison d’être, are totally divergent. “You are acting like a chamor, unwilling to work toward a future goal. Why didn’t you come to me before your son took my daughter by force? You and he are not able to put things on hold and do the right thing now. My grandfather Avraham, however, is called a shor. He learned from the ox that one has to put in the effort and do the work now, even though he won’t see the results of his efforts until a future date. Our two children have different motivations and goals.”
With this in mind, we can explain a well-known Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 2:4) regarding the Greek persecution of the Jews. The Greeks ordered the Jews to write on the horns of their oxen that they have no cheilek (portion) in the G-d of Israel.
Why did the Greeks choose specifically the horn of an ox to write this declaration?
The Greeks knew that the Jewish people know how to delay gratification, that we are content to do the hard work today, knowing that the reward will come. This is like the labor of the ox, where the work is done now although the harvest will be in the future.
The Jews were resistant to the Greeks’ attempts at persuading them to adopt a more hedonistic lifestyle, in which idolatry and licentiousness are the norm. Therefore, the Greeks decreed, “Take the horn of the ox – which symbolizes self-denial of pleasure in This World – and write on it, ‘You have no portion in the G-d of Israel.’”
The Greeks wanted to divest us of the idea that there will be an afterlife, but to live by the motto of: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we will die.”
The Greeks have faded from history; they did die on the morrow. We, however, continue to live by Hashem’s promise: “Hayom laasosam, le’machar le’kabel secharam – Today to do them, and tomorrow to receive their reward.”
A Musmach of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, Rabbi Avraham Bukspan has been a high-school and special education rebbe for over 30 years in South Florida. He is the author of Classics and Beyond – Parsha Pearls. Written in an innovative and modern style, it combines anthology and analysis, perfect for anyone who wants a substantive and creative thought on the Parsha.November 19, 2021 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm #2030872Reb EliezerParticipant
The Midrash says that Adam Harishon sacrificed a unicorn. The Ksav Sofer explains that one horn reflects the unique devotion to Hashem as the horn points to the heaven. The Midrash says to write on ‘keren hashor’ rather than karnei hashor indicating that what should reflect the unique existence of G-d they should deny. I heard from Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss that they would use the horn of an ox to feed a baby milk. So they wanted them to deny Hashem from birth.
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