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What is the connection between "sword and ... bow" (Genesis 48:22) with "prayer and ... supplication" (as rendered by Onkelos)?

Verse:

וַאֲנִי נָתַתִּי לְךָ שְׁכֶם אַחַד עַל אַחֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר לָקַחְתִּי מִיַּד הָאֱמֹרִי בְּחַרְבִּי וּבְקַשְׁתִּי

Onkelos:

וַאֲנָא יְהָבִית לָךְ חוּלַק חַד יַתִּיר עַל אַחָיךְ דִּי נְסֵיבִית מִידָא דֶאֱמוֹרָאָה בִּצְלוֹתִי וּבְבָעוּתִי

I came across this while googling about kaddish and this "connection" is from this article from ou.org which did not explain or answer the above question.

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    For the second one, maybe it's a drush of reading וּבְקַשְׁתִּי as וּבַקָּשָׁתִּי – Heshy Jul 18 '18 at 11:12
  • @Danny_Schoemann, thanks for the edit. Please put a link to Onkelos here or in the posting. – ninamag Jul 18 '18 at 11:44
  • In Mechon Mamre's Targum Onqelos it says: "וַאֲנָא יְהַבִית לָךְ, חוּלָק חַד--יַתִּיר עַל אֲחָךְ: דִּנְסֵיבִית מִיְּדָא דֶּאֱמוֹרָאָה, בְּחַרְבִּי וּבְקַשְׁתִּי". – Tamir Evan Jul 18 '18 at 13:32
  • mechon-mamre.org/i/t/u/u0148.htm – ninamag Jul 18 '18 at 14:26
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    Hey @ninamag, I see you posted a bounty on here. What is it about the current answers that you didn’t like that motivated you to seek others? – DonielF Jul 31 '18 at 15:23
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The targum Yerushalmi reads, "not with my sword nor with my bow, but through my righteousness and my good works. "

and this all might be explained by the Gemara in Bava Batra 123a:

The baraita cites additional related verses: And with regard to Jacob’s bequest to Joseph, the verse states: “Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow” (Genesis 48:22). The baraita explains the verse: But is it so that Jacob took the portion with his sword and with his bow? But isn’t it already stated: “Through You do we push down our adversaries; through Your name do we trample those that rise against us. For I trust not in my bow, neither can my sword save me” (Psalms 44:6–7)? Rather, what is the meaning of “with my sword”? This is referring to prayer. What is the meaning of “with my bow”? This is referring to petition. This concludes the baraita.

If your concern is the underlying linguistic/textual connection, the Bartenura reads

י"ל דאשכחן התפלה נקראת חרב כדכתיב רוממות אל בגרונם וחרב פיפיות בידם. ומלת בקשתי דרשת כמו בקשתי מלשון תפלה ותחינה ובקשה והנה בחרבי ובקשתי היא חכמתי ותפלתי:

  • The question's asking for the way the targum makes the connection, not another midrash that makes the came connection. – Heshy Jul 18 '18 at 10:58
  • The other medrash is the braita from which Onkelos might have made his connection. Are you saying that the question should read "Why did the braita connect the concepts" and the answer might relate to Shabbat 63a which points to the language of sword in Tehillim as metaphorical. – rosends Jul 18 '18 at 11:14
  • @rosends where can one read that the mention of a "bow" by itself is (presumably) a short way of saying "bow and arrows"? I don't want to assume that a bow without arrows is useless or that a bow by itself is unusable. – ninamag Jul 19 '18 at 19:07
  • @ninamag 1 Kings 22:34 has "A man drew his bow innocently and hit the king of Israel between the scales and the coat of mail," One would assume that drawing a bow and hurting someone requires arrows even without saying. – rosends Jul 19 '18 at 21:08
  • @rosends well answered! – ninamag Jul 19 '18 at 22:37
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+25

R. J.B. Soloveitchik explained this as follows (Siddur Mesorat HaRav):

Since there is no record of Jacob ever having done battle with the Amorites, the Targum translates these two words metaphorically as "בִּצלוֹתִי וּבבָעוּתִי, with my prayer and with my plea." The distinction between the sword and the bow is that the sword is used for close combat, while the bow and arrow are utilized from a distance. Correspondingly, צלוֹתהוֹן, prayers, are our requests for immediate personal needs, such as wisdom, health and sustenance, while בָּעוּתהוֹן, pleas, are the supplications that relate to Jewish destiny and the ultimate redemption.

An enigmatic verse in Isaiah (21:12) can be similarly explained: "אָמַר שֹׁמֵר אָֽתָה בֹֽקֶר וגַם לָילָה אִם תִּבעָיוּן בּעָיוּ, The watchman said, ‘The morning comes, and also the night. If you will inquire, inquire.’" The meaning of the phrase in Isaiah: "אִם־תִּבעָיוּן בּעָֽיוּ, If you will inquire, inquire," is that the dawn of our salvation will break – even though we are in the midst of a dark, bitter night of exile – if our vision is not limited to the present and immediate circumstances, but rather encompasses the boundless opportunities of redemption in the future. If our view is not riveted in current historical circumstances, but rather glimpses our future destiny, salvation is at hand.

  • I like your answer and I upvoted, and I have a technical question. The first sentence of your answer is, "there is no record of Jacob ever having done battle with the Amorites". My questions, which are not necessarily related or dependent on each other, are: Is it possible that Jacob was speaking on behalf of his children who battled with the Amorites? When Jacob said in Genesis 48:22 that he conquered territory with "sword and ... bow", to which territory was he referring? – ninamag Aug 1 '18 at 8:02
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At the simplest level, the point is hakol kol yaakov vehayadayim yedei esav -- Yaakov fights via prayer, while Esav fights with his fists. More accurately -- Yaakov knows that God is in control, so the true fight is with prayer. (Though he still was prepared to take up arms.)

If I'm not mistaken it's R. Shimon Schwab who observes that a sword is always dangerous, and anyone can use one; a bow requires a lot more skill. He suggests that deeply emotional prayer is always effective (like a sword), whereas routine prayer needs a lot more work (like a bow).

  • You wrote, "If I'm not mistaken it's R. Shimon Schwab who observes that ...." Can we have surety on this, as well as link, source .... – ninamag Aug 2 '18 at 5:49
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    Re your final paragraph - Meshech Chochma says this idea here but the other way around - routine fixed prayer is effective like a sword but ad hoc requests require concentration like a bow – Joel K Sep 13 '18 at 9:12
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This is an answer I have heard from a friend from his Rabbi (whose name I didn’t catch). I don’t have a better source than that, but I think it’s a good answer nonetheless.

How does one use a sword? You swing it around, and if it hits something, it hits something. So, too, one’s צליות, his Shemoneh Esrei, is effective however wielded, with no extra effort put into it.

How does one use a bow? You pull back and carefully aim. Its effectiveness is determined by the strength and accuracy of its user. So, too, one’s בעיות, his personal tefillos, are only effective comparative to the effort he puts into them.

  • I believe it's R' Shimon Schwob, and now I forget how the sword-vs-bow lines up to routine-vs-personal prayer. Anyone have a maayana shel Torah handy? – Shalom Jul 18 '18 at 15:53
  • @Shalom If you're referring to מעין בית השואבה, he has no commentary on this verse – b a Jul 31 '18 at 8:07
  • Meshech Chochma says this here (cc @ninamag) – Joel K Sep 13 '18 at 9:10
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Seforno says

בְּחַרְבִּי וּבְקַשְׁתִּי – בְּחָכְמָתִי וּבִינָתִי, שֶׁהֵם חַרְבָּם וְקַשְׁתָּם שֶׁל צַדִּיקִים, כְּאָמְרוֹ ״חֲגוֹר חַרְבְּךָ עַל יָרֵךְ גִּבּוֹר״ (תהלים מ״ה:ד׳). וּכְבָר בֵּאֲרוּ זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה ׳הַהוּא בְּדִבְרֵי תּוֹרָה הוּא דִּכְתִיב׳ (שבת ס״ג.), וּכְעִנְיָן עַל הֵפֶךְ זֶה ״שִׁנֵּיהֶם חֲנִית וְחִצִּים, וּלְשׁוֹנָם חֶרֶב חַדָּה״ (תהלים נ״ז:ה׳), וּכְעִנְיַן ״וַיַּדְרְכוּ אֶת לְשׁוֹנָם קַשְׁתָּם שֶׁקֶר״ (ירמיהו ט׳:ב׳).

That the weapons of a tzadik are his chochmo and bina. Rav Hirsch says

"with my sword and bow", with that which - in contrast to Esav's sword - is my weapon, my spiritual force and my spiritual work

The bow is the weapon that works at long range, the prayers shot up to heaven from the Earth. The sword is the weapon at close range, the *supplication, approaching Hashem in person with his entreaties or as Rav Hirsch says, his spiritual work or performing mitzvos.

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