Simcha Feuerman
Psychology, Torah and the Daf Yomi

Intention and Action: Understanding Legal and Divine Perspectives Gittin 40 Psychology of the Daf Yomi

In our Gemara on Amud Beis, we explore the intentions and legal implications of phrases such as “I will give” in contracts. We examine whether the use of future tense expresses intention or signifies full acquisition and relinquishment. This discussion provides important insights into a perplexing verse and the dialogue between God and Moses in Shemos (6:1-2).

Yismach Moshe (Vaera 1) offers this legal distinction to understand the dialogue between God and Moshe, which involves the use of different names of God. In the verse, God initially speaks to Moshe, saying, “I am Hashem” (YKVK), and then explains that He did not make Himself known to the forefathers by His name (YKVK), but rather as E-L Sha-ddai.

According to Yismach Moshe, this legal issue sheds light on God’s dialogue. When God manifests as Elokim, representing the attribute of strict judgment (Middas Hadin), He conveys to Moses that His promise to give the Land of Israel to the forefathers is an expression of intention, not a completed acquisition. The forefathers experienced God through the manifestations of E-L and Sha-ddai, which are temporal and bound by material rules. In those manifestations, intention does not necessarily result in immediate action.

However, now God is manifesting as YKVK, a name that transcends time and action. In this unlimited manifestation, there are no limitations or boundaries. Thus, God’s intention to give is equivalent to the action of giving.

Furthermore, this understanding provides an explanation for a famous contradiction between two interpretations of Rashi. In Bereishis 13:7, the verse describes a quarrel between the shepherds of Abraham and Lot, with the Canaanites and Perizzites dwelling in the land. 

וַֽיְהִי־רִ֗יב בֵּ֚ין רֹעֵ֣י מִקְנֵֽה־אַבְרָ֔ם וּבֵ֖ין רֹעֵ֣י מִקְנֵה־ל֑וֹט וְהַֽכְּנַעֲנִי֙ וְהַפְּרִזִּ֔י אָ֖ז יֹשֵׁ֥ב בָּאָֽרֶץ׃

And there was quarreling between the herders of Abram’s cattle and those of Lot’s cattle.—The Canaanites and Perizzites were then dwelling in the land.

Rashi notes the juxtaposition of the quarrel and the presence of the indigenous people. Genesis Rabbah explains that this indicates that Abraham did not yet possess the land, so he did not allow his shepherds to graze unfettered.

However, in Genesis 23:3-4, when Abraham requests a burial site from the Hittites, he refers to himself as a “resident alien” (ger) and a “settler” (toshav). 

גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁ֥ב אָנֹכִ֖י עִמָּכֶ֑ם תְּנ֨וּ לִ֤י אֲחֻזַּת־קֶ֙בֶר֙ עִמָּכֶ֔ם וְאֶקְבְּרָ֥ה מֵתִ֖י מִלְּפָנָֽי׃

“I am a resident alien among you; sell me a burial site among you, that I may remove my dead for burial.”

Rashi reconciles this textual contradiction by suggesting that if the Hittites agree to sell him the land, Abraham will consider himself a stranger and pay for it. But if not, he will claim it as a settler, exercising his right to seize the property.

This insight from Yismach Moshe resolves the contradiction by clarifying the distinction between intention and action. Prior to obtaining a chazakah (establishing legal ownership through possession), Abraham did not own the land. However, he had the right to seize it if necessary. Thus, his possession was contingent on the fulfillment of certain conditions. His shepherds were not allowed to graze, but if provoked by a Hittite denial, he could go into action and possess the land militarily since he did have a right to obtain it.

In summary, this understanding offers a fascinating perspective on how God’s manifestations are expressed through different names, indicating the degree of His presence and power in the world. The name YKVK represents the most powerful and unlimited manifestation, capable of surpassing natural limitations and performing extraordinary wonders and signs, as seen during the Exodus. It is a name of immense power, and its usage by us mortals is reserved for extraordinary circumstances, not for ordinary situations and thus not vocalized.

About the Author
Rabbi, Psychotherapist with 30 years experience specializing in high conflict couples and families.
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