Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Table Talk - Toldos 5768

Most of us consider Meah Shearim a rather religious neighborhood. From the numerous yeshivot to the seforim stores to the requested (and required) modesty restrictions, people classically associate Meah Shearim with frumkeit (religiosity). This association is really nothing new. Meah Shearim has always been a rather religious region.
While living in an area called G’rar, Yitzchak plants produce – and does well. וימצא בשנה ההיא מאה שערים ויברכהו ה' – “and he found that year ‘one hundred measures’ and God blessed him.” What are these מאה שארים (pronounced Meah Shearim) – “hundred measures?” What does Yitzchak find?
Rashi explains that after Yitzchak projects the anticipated yield for the crop that year, the field actually produces one hundred times the projected yield. Rashi adds, “And our rabbis said that this crop approximation was for the purpose of tithes.”

Siftei Chachamim (a super commentary on Rashi) wonders: why does Rashi feel the need to add this piece of information? Who cares why they approximated the field’s yield? He suggests that Judaism always frowns on measuring one’s wealth. The gemara in Baba Metzia (42a) tells us that, “We don’t find blessing in something counted and measured.” God gives His gifts whether we count them or not. For this reason, we refrain from counting our blessing, or chickens or even crops. If so, how could Yitzchak measure his expected field yield?

According to Siftei Chachamim, this must be why Rashi explains why Yitzchak counts his crop. He must measures merely for the purpose of tzedakah – to know how much to tithe from his crop, reinforcing the association between Meah Shearim and frumkeit (and tzedakah) to this day.