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A King and Queen Debate Lamb Chops & Goat Meat

A Mother and Father Debate Their Two Sons -- Yaakov & Eisav

1 hr 40 min

Class Summary:

This women's class was presented on Tuesday Parshas Toldos, 28 Cheshvon, 5780, November 26, 2019 at the Ohr Chaim Shul, Monsey, NY.

It is one of those seemingly bizarre and absurd Talmudic tales. The king and queen—they were from the Hasmonaean dynasty, ruling during the Second Temple era—sat and debated which food is preferable, the sheep or the goat. The king said, “Goats are better.” The queen said “No! Sheep are better.” They decided to seek the judgment of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest of the Temple, because of his familiarity with these animals which regularly served as sacrifices. The High Priest was the man who cooked and consumed the most lamb and goat in the entire Jewish world; he would be the expert.

They summoned the Kohen Kadol, Named Yissachar, who came from the town of Barkaei. He insolently waved his hand in a gesture that demonstrated disdain to the king. How can the king even consider such a foolish idea that goat meat was superior, said the High Priest, when the daily communal sacrifice was brought from sheep? Yissachar was arguing, if lamb was not superior to goat meat, why would G-d ask for a daily feast of lamb, rather than goat?

The king was furious at the insult and the denigrating wave of the hand. The king declared: Since this man, the High Priest, has no reverence for the king, his right hand should be chopped off, making him unfit to serve at all in the Holy Temple (the Temple service was done primarily with the right hand). The Kohen Gadol bribed the executioner to cut off his left hand instead. When the king found out, he had his remaining hand chopped off as well.

The Talmud then goes on to explain how the High Priest erred. For both the Torah and the Mishnah intimate that, from the Torah perspective, sheep and goats are equal.

What are we to make of this apparently absurd tale? Should we laugh or cry? Is this a humorous tale? A parable? Or a reflection on the monstrous behavior of the monarchs of yore?

And how about the story itself? Do kings and queens have nothing better to do than argue if lamb chaps are superior to goat meat? Anyhow, how can you argue about the taste of a meal? As we say in Hebrew, “Al taam viraich, ain mah lhitvokaich.” You cannot argue objectively about taste or smell.

And what are we to make of the Kohen Gadol’s strange answer? The king and queen were ostensibly arguing about physical taste; how does that get resolved from the daily sacrifice in the Temple? Did the High Priest of Israel really believe that G-d consumed and enjoyed the meat of the offerings?

It was the Maggid of Mezrich, Rabbi Dov Ber, one of the greatest spiritual masters of Judaism, the successor of the Baal Shem Tov, who suggested that this story served also as a parable for life. The debate between the king and the queen about sheep and goat represented the debate between Isaac and Rebecca about their sons Esau and Jacob, in this week’s portion.

Yet, as fate would have it, the student of the Maggid who transcribed this teaching of his master, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz from the city of Lantzut, Poland, known as the Seer of Lublin, forgot the details. It was he, and the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, who suggested what the Maggid might have meant. It provides us with one of the most empowering lessons on educations and leadership in our world today.

Please leave your comment below!

  • D

    Doniel -4 years ago

    The Gemara in Shabbas(77b) says:

    רבי זירא אשכח לרב יהודה דהוה קאי אפיתחא דבי חמוה וחזייה דהוה בדיחא דעתיה ואי בעי מיניה כל חללי עלמא הוה אמר ליה א"ל מ"ט עיזי מסגן ברישא והדר אימרי א"ל כברייתו של עולם דברישא חשוכא והדר נהורא

    Rav Zeiras question seems very similiar to the question of the king and queen. However, here there is an answer to the question. The goat will go ahead of the sheep. This might seem like a contractdiction to the Gemara in Krisus that we were suggesting that they are equal. I thought perhaps that the answer might be that the gemara in shabbas is discussing specifically the question of leadership. Who will go ahead of the flock, meaning who will be the better leader. The answer is the personality of the goat. כברייתו של עולם דברישא חשוכא והדר נהורא. Like Dovid Hamelech that experienced so much darkness but in the end brought out the light within himself will be the one who could lead the flock. The flock that is covered in darkness that needs the light broguht out of them. Although both the Tzadik and The Baal Teshuva have their own unique qualities as mentioned in the shiur when it comes to leadership the goat guides the way for the success of the nation.
    Does the Rabbi have any thoughts?

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  • Anonymous -4 years ago

    Anoy

    The Gemara in Shabbas(77b) says:

     רבי זירא אשכח לרב יהודה דהוה קאי אפיתחא דבי חמוה וחזייה דהוה בדיחא דעתיה ואי בעי מיניה כל חללי עלמא הוה אמר ליה א"ל מ"ט עיזי מסגן ברישא והדר אימרי א"ל כברייתו של עולם דברישא חשוכא והדר נהורא 

    Rav Zeiras question seems very similiar to the question of the king and queen. However, here there is an answer to the question. The goat will go ahead of the sheep. This might seem like a contractdiction to the Gemara in Krisus that we were suggesting that they are equal. I thought perhaps that the answer might be that the gemara in shabbas is discussing specifically the question of leadership. Who will go ahead of the flock, meaning who will be the better leader. The answer is the personality of the goat. כברייתו של עולם דברישא חשוכא והדר נהורא. Like Dovid Hamelech that experienced so much darkness but in the end brought out the light within himself will be the one who could lead the flock. The flock that is covered in darkness that needs the light broguht out of them. Although both the Tzadik and The Baal Teshuva have their own unique qualities as mentioned in the shiur when it comes to leadership the goat guides the way for the success of the nation.

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  • Anonymous -4 years ago

    Amazing! Thank you so much! Tizke lmitsvos.

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  • AL

    aharon leib -4 years ago

    I very much enjoyed your shiur this week.   In support that Yitzchak preferred Esau, or goat meat, we see that Rivka 27:9 asks Yaakov to go fetch 2 young goats because "they have the taste that your father prefers"(Rashi).    שבת שלום !

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  • B

    baila -4 years ago

    great

    Thank you for a most moving and magnificent shiur!  The story and deeper interpretation of the king and Queen was INCREDIBLE!!! 

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  • S

    Shaya -4 years ago

    As an avid listener of your amazing speeches, I listened to this past weeks lectures about the goat and lamb to your amazing interpetation, and i thought to add an amazing proof. You mentioned that kohen gadol didn't want to sulify his hands, meaning he held that these type of Jews arent the ones G-d prefers. I thought to mention that you said earlier that David hamelech was like Eisav a redhead etc., but he used it in the proper way. By him we see opposite from the kohen gadol who wore gloves. The gemara brachos brings down David Hamelech said ידי מלוכולכת בדם ובשולייה כדי לטהר אשה לבעלה .  The gemara expresses specifically that he got his hands dirty .
     
    Thanks for spreading the word of G-d and may Hashem give you strength and the peace of mind to be able to continue.

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  • SS

    shaya steinberg -4 years ago

    David Hamelech

    As the Rabbi said in the speech king David was of the same soul as esav and was also called red etc.  I thought to bring to the attention that the kohen gadol didnt want to recoginize this type of soul as being proper hence he wore gloves. We see in the gemara another time mentioning hands while doing stuff that seemingly look outwardly sulifying but this time the gemara mentions that he didnt wear gloves and in fact got his hands dirty. WHo is this David Hamelech who as the rabbi mentioned has the soul of esav so he recignizes the importance of it. Brachos says שכל מלכי מזרח ומערב יושבים אגודות אגודות בכבודם ואני ידי מלוכלכת בדם ובשפיר ובשלייה כדי לטהר אשה לבעלה

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  • SM

    Sara Metzger -4 years ago

    Yitzchak is Gevurah

    There's something I don't understand about Yitzhak and Esauv that has been alluded to not only in this shiur, but also in other sources I have read. Yitzchak is Gevurah which is discipline and severity. This gevuarh has been described as the characteristic that Yitzchak has that makes him see the good in Esauv and his potential. Yitzchak's digging for wells is also alluded to as being a characteristic of always looking for the good e.g. keep digging for water and you will find it. But gevurah seems like it's the opposite trait to have for this kind of behavior. Severity and discipline vs. seeing the good seem opposite. 

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  • Anonymous -4 years ago

    הוספה

    יש להוסיף בכל זה: רבקה ציותה ליעקב להביא שני גדיי עזים, עזים דייקא, כי זוהי הסעודה ה"מטעמים" של עשו, וכמ"ש רש"י שטעם הגדי כטעם הצבי, רץ כצבי. תוקף ועוז של עשו. שצריך להפך לקדושה.

    וברש"י הביא מפדר"א שני גדיי עזים אחד לפסח ואחד לחגיגה. שהרי הפסח בא מן הכבשים או מן העזים, וכמבואר בדברי אמת להחוזה שנת' בהשיעור. כי בלידת עם ישראל חה"פ יש שני סוגים צדיקים ובע"ת. ועל זה אמר יצחק עשה לי מטעמים, לשון רבים, כמבואר בתקו"ז והובא ונתבאר בתניא פרק כז, ע"ש באורך. והם הם הדברים, כל פועל ה' למענהו וגם רשע ליום רעה, ע"ש.

    ובפדר"א שמה שכל הסיפור עם הברכות הי' בליל פסח.

    ועי' לקו"ש ח"כ תולדות על ויגדלו הנערים באריכות, והוא כעין זה. שתי העבודות דחסיד המעולה והכובש יצרו המבוארים ברמב"ם בשמונה פרקים שלו פ"ו, ע"ש.

    וכ"ז מתאים למה שאמרה רבקה ליעקב ואברככה לפני ה', והוא פעם היחידה שנזכרה כאן לפני ה'. וברש"י, שזה צ"ל ברשות השם. וברמב"ן נתבאר באו"א, ע"ש. ובתו"א ביאר רבינו הזקן שהברכה לעשו רק מלפני הוי', למעלה מהשתלשלות, כי מצד המקיף עשו הוא קדושה, אלא שלזה צריך גם יעקב לילך למקום שלמעלה מהשתל' ודבר זה נתבאר במאמר ויתן לך תשכ"ז או כ"ח.

    והדברים נפלאים.

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  • E

    Estee -4 years ago

    Thank you for the magnificent shiur today. Still processing....

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  • PS

    Pinhas Shaool -4 years ago

     

    יישר כח פה מפיק מרגליות אשרינו שזכינו בדורינו

    שיש לנו רב כמוך שנותן אור והבנה בכל מהלך החיים

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Women's Toldos Class

Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • November 26, 2019
  • |
  • 28 Cheshvan 5780
  • |
  • 3263 views

Dedicated by Michael and Liz Muschel in loving memory of Sara ben Reb Yechiel Mechel Muschel, for her Yartzeit on 23 Cheshvan. Born in 1927, she hailed from Veretzki, Czechoslovakia, was sent to Auschwitz in 1944, where her parents were murdered. She survived and went on to become Rebbitzen to a world famous educator, while building a beautiful Jewish family, enjoying Nachas from children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She also rose to become an acclaimed nursing home administrator, cited by NY State for her honorable ethics and rectitude.

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