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Rashi says that Jacob made lentils for Esau as they are round like a wheel as this day was the day Abraham died and aveilut is the wheel(galgal) of the world.

The Maharal from Prague comments that aveilut is connected to the wheel.

What does this mean? Why would Jacob want this symbolism and what does the Maharal mean by his commentary?

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    I remember hearing that it symbolises the 'circle of life', i.e. that everyone must die at some point and that helps to be Menachem Avel. I don't know if this is true or if it's what the maharal is getting at
    – Lo ani
    Nov 23, 2023 at 18:46

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If you look at Rashi in full there he goes on to explain the connection:

וְלָמָּה עֲדָשִׁים? שֶׁדּוֹמוֹת לְגַלְגַּל, שֶׁהָאֲבֵלוּת גַּלְגַּל הַחוֹזֵר בָּעוֹלָם

And why lentil? Because they are comparable to a wheel, since mourning is a wheel that revolves in the world

In other words, in the same way a wheel rotates and is a cycle, so too the same is with life, people are born and eventually die, and so the circle of life goes on.

Bava Basra 16b writes exactly this:

מָה עֲדָשָׁה זוֹ מְגוּלְגֶּלֶת, אַף אֲבֵילוּת מְגַלְגֶּלֶת וּמְחַזֶּרֶת עַל בָּאֵי הָעוֹלָם

Just as this lentil is completely round, so too mourning comes around to the inhabitants of the world.

The Maharal in his Gur Aryeh writes:

שהאבלות הוא גלגל שחוזר בעולם. כי ההויה וההפסד תלוי בגלגל, ולפיכך נקרא האבילות 'גלגל שחוזר בעולם'. ואף על גב שגם ההויה הוא מן הגלגל, אין זה דומה, כי עצם הויה הוא בלי זמן, ולפיכך לא נקרא עצם הויה 'גלגל שחוזר בעולם', אבל עצם ההפסד הוא שתולה בגלגל, והבן זה היטב

"Since mourning is a wheel that revolves in the world" - Because the existence (i.e. being born) and the loss (i.e. dying) depend on the wheel, and therefore the mourning is called 'the wheel that revolves in the world'. And even though the existence is also from the wheel, it is not similar, because the essence of existence is without time, and therefore the essence of being is not called a 'wheel that revolves in the world', but the very essence of loss is dependent on the wheel and understand this well.

I believe the Maharal first explains Rashi like we have done. But then he adds that it is possible to argue that only the mourning stage is like a wheel that rotates, as everyone eventually dies. However, being born is not to be regarded as a wheel as it is somehow devoid of time?

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  • This is the pshat in Rashi but as I understood the Maharal he does not understand like this. Nov 23, 2023 at 22:39
  • Can you link the Maharal and I will take a look. There was no Gur Aryeh on that verse?
    – Dov
    Nov 23, 2023 at 22:44
  • @VyacheslavYosefDobrovych - I have located the Maharal and translated it - just working it out now...
    – Dov
    Nov 23, 2023 at 22:53
  • thank you so much! Nov 25, 2023 at 17:55
  • Pleasure! If you're happy with it as an answer feel free to click the checkmark :-)
    – Dov
    Nov 25, 2023 at 17:57

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