Chayei Sarah - First Things First
Chananya Weissman

חיי שרה

השיבתו על ראשון ראשון

[כד:כג-כה] (כג) וַיֹּאמֶר בַּת מִי אַתְּ הַגִּידִי נָא לִי הֲיֵשׁ בֵּית אָבִיךְ מָקוֹם לָנוּ לָלִין: (כד) וַתֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו בַּת בְּתוּאֵל אָנֹכִי בֶּן מִלְכָּה אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה לְנָחוֹר: (כה) וַתֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו גַּם תֶּבֶן גַּם מִסְפּוֹא רַב עִמָּנוּ גַּם מָקוֹם לָלוּן:

רש"י (פסוק כד)

השיבתו על ראשון ראשון ועל אחרון אחרון:

[לא:כו-לב] (כו) וַיֹּאמֶר לָבָן לְיַעֲקֹב מֶה עָשִׂיתָ וַתִּגְנֹב אֶת לְבָבִי וַתְּנַהֵג אֶת בְּנֹתַי כִּשְׁבֻיוֹת חָרֶב: (כז) לָמָּה נַחְבֵּאתָ לִבְרֹחַ וַתִּגְנֹב אֹתִי וְלֹא הִגַּדְתָּ לִּי וָאֲשַׁלֵּחֲךָ בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבְשִׁרִים בְּתֹף וּבְכִנּוֹר: (כח) וְלֹא נְטַשְׁתַּנִי לְנַשֵּׁק לְבָנַי וְלִבְנֹתָי עַתָּה הִסְכַּלְתָּ עֲשׂוֹ: (כט) יֶשׁ לְאֵל יָדִי לַעֲשׂוֹת עִמָּכֶם רָע וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבִיכֶם אֶמֶשׁ אָמַר אֵלַי לֵאמֹר הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ מִדַּבֵּר עִם יַעֲקֹב מִטּוֹב עַד רָע: (ל) וְעַתָּה הָלֹךְ הָלַכְתָּ כִּי נִכְסֹף נִכְסַפְתָּה לְבֵית אָבִיךָ לָמָּה גָנַבְתָּ אֶת אֱלֹהָי: (לא) וַיַּעַן יַעֲקֹב וַיֹּאמֶר לְלָבָן כִּי יָרֵאתִי כִּי אָמַרְתִּי פֶּן תִּגְזֹל אֶת בְּנוֹתֶיךָ מֵעִמִּי: (לב) עִם אֲשֶׁר תִּמְצָא אֶת אֱלֹהֶיךָ לֹא יִחְיֶה נֶגֶד אַחֵינוּ הַכֶּר לְךָ מָה עִמָּדִי וְקַח לָךְ וְלֹא יָדַע יַעֲקֹב כִּי רָחֵל גְּנָבָתַם:

רש"י (פסוק לא)

השיבו על ראשון ראשון...:

Q: What's the significance of responding to a series of questions or comments in the order in which they are presented, to the extent that Chazal should make an issue of it? Also, wouldn't it make more sense to give sequential preference to matters of great importance?

A: It is quite common for people engaged in a disagreement to give little or no credence to the arguments of the other side. In fact, they attempt to zero in on perceived weaknesses in the other side's arguments and ignore everything else. Their goal is not to engage in intellectually honest, genuinely respectful dialogue, but to score points for themselves and whatever agenda they are dogmatically upholding. (Tragically, this sort of thing has become standard practice even in matters directly pertaining to Torah observance, with political and personal agendas superseding Truth and the retzon Hashem. Those who abuse their knowledge of Torah in this fashion would have been better off never being born see Taanis 7A and Tosafos there, as well as my comments in Sefer Keser Chananya.)

When one responds to his friend's comments point by point, he accomplishes several things. First, he demonstrates that he has paid at least basic attention to everything his friend has said. Second, that he heard what his friend was saying, not merely the isolated comments that he wished to hear; after all, he organizes his response based on his friend's order of importance, not his own. Finally, he takes all of his friend's points into account before responding, and thus is less likely to take something out of context in this fashion.

Indeed, responding in sequential order is a great matter of derech eretz and basic kavod for the other person.

[It should be noted that Yaacov did not favor Lavan's more ludicrous remarks with a response, but he still responded in sequential order.]

[Also see Bereishis 32:19 and Shemos 3:12 for more examples of rishon rishon.]