Over Shabbos, I heard the same dvar Torah twice - basically, that which the Talmud says Yaakov went back for his small vessels that he had forgotten (Bereishis 32:25) was because he understood that everything he had was a gift from Hashem and he wanted to use everything for kedusha (spiritual matters).

It's a nice idea, and I myself used to think that was the p'shat (the simplest explanation of the verse). But the Gemara (Chulin 91a) that introduces this idea itself says a different explanation - that the righteous value their possessions because they do not steal. So it seems Yaakov went back for the small vessels because he either didn't want to come to ever be tempted to steal, or because he won't be able to make up for it by stealing if he loses these things. Or something else, but either way it has something to do with not stealing.

I don't want to get caught up on the example - my question is a general one, and that is, is there any validity or justification to giving a different explanation to a story/fact/mitzvah/halacha when the source of that story/fact/mitzvah/halacha itself reports the explanation?


The question seems to be confusing some people, so let me clarify what I am asking and what I am not asking.

My question was only in a situation like that which I mentioned - Quoting a Chazal, then giving an explanation to that Chazal which is different than how Chazal themselves explain it. It is neither of the following: a) quoting a chazal, then attributing an explanation to Chazal which they do not say b) not quoting a Chazal, and making up your own p'shat which may happen to coincide with a Chazal, and then making up your own explanation for your own p'shat.

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    One point. The story in the Torah did not give Yaakov's reasoning. Chazzal in a gemara did. So I think your question would be more correct to focus on if it is validated to give an explanation that is different than chazzal's. – user6591 Dec 7 '14 at 3:34
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    @user6591 I think you missed the point - the same gemara that says he went back for pachim ketanim says why he went back. The story in the Torah doesn't mention pachim ketanim just as much as it doesn't mention his reasoning. So to take the gemara's account and then not take the gemara's explanation of it is what is bothering me. – Y     e     z Dec 7 '14 at 4:10
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    Is the reexplanation claiming the Gemara as basis? If not, then how is this different from anyone else making up a nice Drash to teach a message? – Double AA Dec 7 '14 at 4:21
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    Like user6591, based on your example I think that there are two separate questions here: (1) what's the deal with giving explanations different than Chazal/Gemara, (2) can we give explanations alternative to the pasuk (such as if we'd give a reason for the command of pidyon bechor other than as a reminder of the Exodus) – הנער הזה Dec 7 '14 at 17:25
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    @YeZ It may be wise when you find all the right content to include to reorganize the question completely into essential content followed by example and thereby remove the need for an Edit section. – Double AA Dec 7 '14 at 20:39

Just because the redactors of the gemora decided to include a certain exposition in the gemora for some reason known to them, does not negate the existence neither in the past or the future of other possibilities.

Using the example that you bring in the question, Ya’akov was left alone because he went back for some reason. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 77:2) says he went back to see if he had forgotten anything and expounds that he found some silk (according to one of the commentaries). The gemora records a different suggestion, that he found small vessels, and there may have been many other suggestions as to what he found. The gemora then recorded one particular explanation as to why he checked for forgotten items, but again there could well have been many reasons given at that time but the redactors of the gemora chose to teach us only this one reason.

Thus those who give a different explanation as to why Ya’akov returned for the small vessels are doing nothing unusual, and requires no justification.

  • If you could source this (that there could well have been many reasons but they only chose one), it would be a big improvement in this answer (check-mark worthy). – Y     e     z Dec 7 '14 at 23:59

Although you ask not to get hung up on the example, I think it must be addressed. ויעבור את אשר לו means that he was involved with bringing his possessions over the river. The fact that he was on one side of the river by himself basically implies he was making the last trip across himself or that he forgot something and went back. Chazzal told us it was the latter, and why he cared. Rashi himself split this chazzal by quoting the fact that he forgot the little vessels without explainng why Yaakov cared. The vessels therefore are implied in the passuk while the reason is not. It would then be well within the rights of a darshan to expound on the reasoning.

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    "The vessels therefore are implied in the passuk while the reason is not." I don't see how either is implied in the pasuk. – Double AA Dec 7 '14 at 18:52
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    @Double the words right before the ones i quoted state he took over all the people. The words right after say he was there alone. Seemingly, he was there to take care of the possessions mentioned. – user6591 Dec 7 '14 at 19:09
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    Also, logically, what would be there? Something that he was aware of? So why take everyone beforehand and do it alone? Had it been big he would have been forced to take help. That leaves something small that he had forgotten. – user6591 Dec 7 '14 at 19:12
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    @user6591 who says he forgot anything? Maybe he left some small things on purpose because he could handle them himself, and let his family go to sleep. And IAE, what would give someone the right to make a derasha on their own, which happens to coincide with chazal, and call it what chazal say? – Y     e     z Dec 7 '14 at 19:53
  • @YeZ (No one ever has the right to say Chazal said something that they didn't say. This is obvious and the OP here isn't contradicting that...) – Double AA Dec 7 '14 at 20:01

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