This letter was addressed to R. Yosef Flier.

B”H, Tuesday, 23 MarCheshvan, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Greetings and blessings,

In response to your letter [sent] at the end of last week together with a check for $41 for subscriptions to Shmuessen and Talks and Tales as per the list which you sent: The issues for Tishrei and MarCheshvan were immediately sent to those subscribers.

With regard to the Chumashim: It is possible to obtain a Chumash Bereishis with Rashi’s commentary at a cost of between 41 and 45 cents a Chumash. If these are the type of Chumashim you expressed interested in and you agree to the price, we would be willing to help in organizing the purchase and shipment.

To conclude with words of Torah: With regard to the conclusion of last week’s Torah reading:1 “And his concubine... bore... Maachah.” Generally, when teaching children, Maachah is interpreted as referring to the name of the concubine’s daughter. I noticed, [however,] that this interpretation is disputed.

[To explain:] I have seen three interpretations with regard to the intent of the Torah in mentioning the concubine’s [descendants]:

a) The Torah relates the entire report that was conveyed to Avraham (Ramban).

b) The narrative relates that his concubine gave birth to Maachah who was also fit to marry [Avraham’s] son if he did not choose Rivkah (Seforno).

c) “The family of [Milkah, Nachor’s wife,] was equated to the family of Avraham. [In her instance as well,] there were eight sons of the matron and four sons of the concubine (Rashi, based on Bereishis Rabbah.Our Sages use the singular conjugation implying that the reference is to Milkah alone. Perhaps the intent is that the children of a concubine are considered as having a connection to the wife, as we find with regard to Hagar, Bilhah, and Zilpah. The similarity is not complete, however, for the latter were maid-servants. Clarification is still necessary.)

According to the opinion of Seforno, Maachah is the name of a woman. But according to Rashi, the foremost commentary, and according to the Midrash, we are forced to say that it is the name of a son. For if not, there would have to be another child in Nachor’s family equivalent to Dinah. Afterwards, I saw that Seder HaDoros states explicitly that Maachah was the son of Nachor.

It appears that the custom of interpreting the name as referring to a girl and thus deviating from the conclusion that Rashi’s commentary necessarily implies stems from the fact that the point is not explicitly stated by Rashi and in the study of Nach, we are accustomed to treat Maachahas the name of a woman. (This was the name of David’s wife and the name of Rechovam’s wife or that of his son Aviyam; see Rashi, gloss to II Divrei HaYomim 13:2.)

We also find Maachah as referring to a man’s name (I Divrei HaYomim 11:43; 23:16; it is difficult to say that the intent is that the individuals mentioned there were called by their mother’s name). For there are many names that can be used both for men and women (Ibn Ezra, the conclusion of Parshas Vayishlach; see also the commentary of Ramban).

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Executive Director