Xxxviv

1. A. Why (at Lev. 26:42) are the patriarchs listed in reverse order [Jacob,

Isaac, Abraham]?

B. It is as if to say, if the deeds of Jacob are insufficient, there are the deeds of Isaac, and if the deeds of Isaac are insufficient, there are the deeds of Abraham.

C. Each one of them is sufficient for [his merit] to sustain [the world],

2. A. And why is the matter of remembrance stated with respect to Abra ham and Jacob but not with respect to Isaac?

B. R. Berekhiah and rabbis:

C. R. Berekhiah said, "It was because he was a child born of sorrow."

D. And rabbis say, "They regard the ashes of Isaac as if they were piled up on the altar."

3. A. And why is the word "even" used with respect to Abraham and Isaac but not with respect to Jacob?

B. It was because the fruit of the bed of Jacob, our father, was whole [and unblemished], while from the bed of Abraham came forth dross, Ishmael and the sons of Keturah, and from the bed of Isaac came forth dross, Esau and all of his nobles.

C. But in the case of Jacob, his bed was unblemished, for all the sons that were born of him were righteous men.

4. A. I know that that is the case of the patriarchs. How do I know that

[God remembers the merit of the matriarchs]?

B. Scripture uses the accusative particle (3T) three times, and these refer only to the matriarchs,

C. For it is said, "There they buried Abraham and [accusative particle] Sarah his wife" (Gen. 49:31).

5. A. And then why, when the Scripture (at Lev. 26:42) makes mention of the patriarchs, does it make mention of the merit of the land with them?

B. Said R. Simeon b. Laqish, "[The matter may be compared] to a king who had three sons, and one handmaiden raised them all. When, therefore, the king would ask about how his sons were, he would also say, 'Tell me about the welfare of the one who raises them.'

C. "So the Holy One, blessed be he, makes mention of the merit of the fathers and alongside he makes mention of the merit of the land: 'Then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, [and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham,] and I will remember the land'" (Lev. 26:42).

XXXVI:VI

1. A. [Returning to] the body [of the matter:] How long does the merit of the patriarchs endure?

B. R. Tanhuma made this statement, Rab in the name of R. Hiyya the Elder, R. Menehama said it, R. Berekhiah and R. Helbo in the name of R. Abba bar Zabeda: "Down to Jehoahaz. 'But the lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them [and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them; nor has he cast them from his presence until now]' [2 Kgs. 13:23],

C. "Until now [the time of Jehoahaz, 2 Kgs. 13:22] the merit of the patriarchs has endured."

D. R. Joshua b. Levi said, "Until the time of Elijah: 'And it came to pass at the time of the evening offering, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O Lord, [the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, this day let it be known that you are God"' [1 Kgs. 18:36], Thus, to this day the merit endured, but not afterward.]"

E. Samuel said, "Down to the time of Hosea: 'Now will I uncover her shame in the sight of her lovers, and no man will [ever again] deliver her out of my hand' [Hos. 2:12],

F. " 'Man' refers then to Abraham, as it is said in Scripture: 'And now, return the wife of the man' [Gen. 20:7],

G. " 'Man' refers only to Isaac, as it is said, 'Who is this man?' [Gen. 24:65].

H. " 'Man' refers only to Jacob, as it is said, 'Jacob, a quiet man, dwelling in tents'" (Gen. 28:27).

I. R. Yudan said, "Down to the time of Hezekiah: 'That the government may be increased [and of peace there be no end ... the zeal of the Lord of hosts [thus: not the merit of the patriarchs] does this'" (Is. 9:6).

J. R. Yudan bar Hanan in the name of R. Berekhiah said, "If you see that the merit of the patriarchs is slipping away, and the merit of the matriarchs is trembling, then go and cleave to the performance of deeds of loving kindness.

K. "That is in line with the following verse of Scripture: 'For the mountains will melt (YMWSW), and the hills will tremble, [but my love will not depart from you]' [Is. 54:10].

L. " 'Mountains' refers to the patriarchs, and 'hills' to the matriarchs.

M. "Henceforward: 'But my love will not (YMWS) depart from you'" (Is. 54:10).

N. Said R. Aha, "The merit of the patriarchs endures forever. Forever do people call it to mind, saying, 'For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant he made with your fathers'" (Deut. 4:31).

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