|Tractate Berachot, Chapter 6
Rebbi Dostai Bar Yanai says in the name of Rebbi Meir, ‘It says [in the Torah] regarding Yitzchak “… and I will bless you and I will make your seed abundant for the sake of Avraham, My servant.”2 (Bereishit 26:24) Yitchak expounded and said, “A blessing only settles [on a person] through physical deeds.”3 [Then] he got up and he planted [seeds in the field], as it says, “And Yitzchak planted in that land, and he founded in that year Mea Shearim (literally One Hundred Gates), and Hashem blessed him.”4 (Bereishit 26:12) One hundred [is referring to] types [of seeds that Yitzchak planted. In that case why does the verse say] Mea Shearim (i.e. One Hundred Gates and not One Hundred Types of Seeds)?5 [Because the word Shearim is not referring to gates, but rather to measurements,]6 that they (i.e. Yitzchak’s workers) measured a hundred times [more than they planted].7 It comes out [that] for every one [seed that they planted, they received back] a hundred [units of crops] according to what they measured.8, 9
מסכת ברכות פרק ו
רבי דוסתאי בר ינאי אומר משום רבי מאיר הרי הוא אומר ביצחק (בראשית כו:כד) וברכתיך והרביתי את זרעך בעבור אברהם עבדי. דרש יצחק ואמר הואיל ואין ברכה שורה אלא במעשה ידים. עמד וזרע שנאמר (בראשית כו:יב) ויזרע יצחק בארץ ההוא וימצא בשנה ההוא מאה שערים ויברכהו ה’. ומאה מינין. מאה שערים? ששערו מאה פעמים, נמצא על אחד מאה במה ששיערו.
- This Tosefta is Aggadic in nature. It is not related to any Mishna. Cheshek Shlomo suggests that the reason this Tosefta has been placed here is because it follows up with a similar teaching to the previous Tosefta. In the previous Tosefta we have learned that a person cannot expect something from nothing, even if he prays for it, and that such a prayer is considered to be frivolous. In this Tosefta we learn that our forefather, Yitzchak, felt that eventhough God has promised him a blessing, still in order for that blessing to become real he had to work for it, and not expect God to give him all kinds of wealth out of nothing. The message being that in this life there is no free lunch even if it comes directly from God.
- This verse is a part of God’s speech to Yitzchak when He appeared to him at night after Yitzchak moved to Beer Sheva. In it God promised Yitzchak to give him a blessing and make his descendants very numerous. God did not specify which kind of blessing He is going to give Yitzchak, although it is implied that it was going to be something different from God’s second promise of making Yitzchak’s children very numerous.
- In other words, this is what Yitzchak thought to himself, that God will not simply grant a person any kind of a blessing and make something out of nothing. The person must do something with his hands and then God will make that work prosperous and blessed.
- This verse is taken out of order in the narrative since it describes what Yitzchak did while he still lived in Gerar, before he moved to Beer Sheva. The blessing that this verse is referring to is not the same blessing that God promised Yitzchak in the verse that was mentioned previously, since it took place later in time. However this is a common occurrence in Aggadic derivations to take verses out of context and expound upon them in order to teach a valuable lesson. It should be noted that in The Living Torah edition of the Chumash, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan translates this verse not literally as I have translated it above, but rather as follows, “Isaac farmed in the area. That year, he reaped a hundred times [as much as he sowed], for God has blessed him.” (Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, The Living Torah, Moznaim, 1981. Genesis 26:12) His translation is clearly based on the explanation of this Tosefta and I have to admit although linguistically it does not fit very well, it makes the text flow much better than the literal tarnslation.
- The word Mea Shearim seems to refer to a name of a place, meaning that Yitzchak has founded a town and called it Mea Shearim. However the Tosefta takes these words to refer to his produce and not to a name of a town that he has founded.
- The Hebrew word שערים (Shearim) can possibly come from two different words. The simplest possibility is the word שער (Shaar) which means “a gate”. But an alternative possibility is the word שיעור (Shiur) which means “an amount” or “a measurement”. Of course the word שיעור in it plural form is spelled שיעורים (Shiurim), but that does not seem to bother the Tosefta so much since letters י (Yud) and ו (Vav) are commonly omitted in the Tanach.
- In other words, they reaped a hundred times as much as they sowed.
- This last sentence in the Tosefta explains why does the Torah use the word “measured” as opposed to the word “reaped”, since it would have been much easier to say “they reaped a hundred times as much as they sowed” than saying “they measured a hundred times as much as they sowed”. Therefore the Tosefta explains that they only discovered how much they have sowed while they were measuring the collected produce.
- It should be noted that there is abig controversy about how to interpret this Tosefta due to its obscure wording. I have explained the Tosefta based on the way it is explained in Cheshek Shlomo and the way the text is written mainly in the Erfurt manuscript with some emendations from the Vienna manuscript. However, other commentators are not sure how to explain this Tosefta in a way that could be read into the text, especially the way it appears in the Vienna manuscript and the printed editions. Therefore they have decided to change the text somewhat significantly based on their own investigative work and the way the text appears in other places in Talmudic literature. See Higayon Aryeh, Michat Bikkurim and Chasdei David commentaries on this Tosefta. However, I think that all of their emendations are not necessary and the text of the Tosefta is correct the way it appears in the Erfurt manuscript.