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Parshas Toldos - Vol. 5,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Vayetar Yitzchok L’Hashem l’nochach ishto ki akarah hi vayei’aseir lo Hashem vatahar Rivkah ishto (25:21)
After 20 childless years of marriage, Yitzchok and Rivkah petitioned and beseeched Hashem to give them children. Rashi explains that they didn’t pray as one would typically pray, but rather they entreated Hashem repeatedly and with tremendous fervor before they were finally answered. What was Hashem’s rationale for making them endure such intense and prolonged suffering? Why didn’t He answer their prayers immediately?
Rav Meir Shapiro and Rav Elyashiv note that Rashi writes (25:30) that Avrohom died five years prematurely so that he wouldn’t have to endure the pain of seeing his grandson Eisav commit terrible sins. Recognizing that this would occur made it incredibly difficult for Hashem to answer the prayers of Yitzchok and Rivkah. Hashem understood that the sooner He would give them the children for which they were pleading, the sooner Eisav would embark upon his path of wickedness, and the sooner His beloved Avrohom would have to die to be spared the anguish of witnessing Eisav’s actions.
Therefore, Hashem put off answering the heartfelt pleas of Yitzchok and Rivkah until they prayed repeatedly with so much intent that He was “forced” to grant their request. Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld suggests that this explanation is alluded to by the fact that “Vayei’aseir lo Hashem” – and Hashem was entreated by Yitzchok – has the same numerical value (748) as “Chameish shanim” – five years!
Many times in life we are convinced that we need something for the sake of our happiness and well-being. We pray and cry and pray again, eventually becoming frustrated at Hashem’s apparent cruelty in ignoring or rejecting what we feel are heartfelt and reasonable requests. At such times, we should remind ourselves of this lesson and take comfort in the knowledge that sometimes Hashem, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, recognizes that what we are firmly convinced we need and deserve may in reality not be in our own long-term best interest.
Vayeitzei harishon admoni kulo k’aderes seiar vayikr’u sh’mo Eisav v’acharei chein yatza achiv v’yado ochezes b’akeiv Eisav vayikra sh’mo Yaakov (25:25-26)
Although Yaakov and Eisav were identical twins, they had little in common. Their goals and values couldn’t have been farther apart. The Alter of Kelm explains that the tremendous gap between them lies in one fundamental difference. In contrast to other animals which are born already capable of sustaining themselves, human babies are born needing a great deal of care. The Alter explains that Hashem made it this way is so that they will be prepared to learn from their parents and elders.
The name Eisav is related to the word “asu’y” – made. Rashi writes that Eisav was born with hair, much like an older child. Eisav was born viewing himself as a completed package, and he had no interest in learning from others. This stands in stark contrast to Yaakov. The name Yaakov is associated with the word “eikev” – heel. Yaakov viewed himself as being at the bottom of his life’s work. Additionally, Yaakov’s name is expressed in the future tense, as he understood that he wasn’t a finished product. He constantly had to work to maximize his potential.
In his dream in next week’s parsha (28:12), he sees a ladder which reaches all the way to Heaven. This is the potential of a person who constantly seeks to improve himself. At the age of 63, Yaakov opted to spend an additional 14 years studying in yeshiva before seeking a wife (Rashi 28:9). Later, as he traveled with his family to Egypt to be reunited with Yosef at the advanced age of 130, his first priority was to send Yehuda ahead to establish a yeshiva so that he wouldn’t miss out on even one day of his studies (Rashi 46:28).
The verse in Hoshea states (11:1) “Ki na’ar Yisroel v’ahaveihu” – Hashem declares His love for the Jewish people because no matter how old and wise we grow, we still view themselves as an adolescent who has much to learn. The greatest level a yeshiva student strives to attain is that of “Talmid Chochom” – Torah scholar. Even a sage who reaches such a level is still referred to as a “Talmid,” a student with much still to learn.
Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky was once seated next to a non-religious Jew on an airplane. While exchanging pleasantries, the man mentioned that he was a biology professor in a local university. During the course of the flight, the man was astonished to notice Rav Yaakov’s grandchildren, who were traveling with him, constantly coming to check on him and to see if there was anything they could do to make his flight more comfortable.
The professor couldn’t help but contrast the behavior of Rav Yaakov’s grandchildren with that of his own, who barely made time to visit or talk to him, and he asked Rav Yaakov to explain the secret of how he created such close family bonds. Rav Yaakov responded that it has nothing to do with any superior methodology, but with the underlying philosophical differences between them.
Rav Yaakov explained that Orthodox Jews believe in a concept of “yeridas ha’doros” – declining spiritual generations – as each successive generation is further removed from the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. As such, we emphasize the paramount important of Mesorah (tradition), and young children inherently respect and care for their parents and elders. My grandchildren view me as a critical link in their connection to the Torah, and as such, they naturally want to interact with me and help care for me.
Turning to his neighbor, Rav Yaakov said, “You on the other hand spend your time teaching the theory of evolution, which teaches that each successive generation is more sophisticated and evolved than the previous one. Instead of looking at you as being closer to Moshe Rabbeinu, your grandchildren view you as being closer to a monkey. Is it any wonder that they don’t make much time for you!?”
We live in a society which views its elders with anything but reverence. We must combat this pervasive attitude by learning from our forefather Yaakov, who teaches us the importance of respecting and always seeking to learn from our parents, elders, and teachers.
V’atah b’ni shema b’koli l’asher ani metzavah osach lech na el ha’tzon v’kach li misham shnei g’dayei izim tovim v’e’eseh osam matamim l’avicha ka’asher aheiv v’heiveisa l’avicha v’achal ba’avor asher y’varech’cha lifnei moso (27:8-10)
It is interesting to note a substantial difference between the approach taken by Rivkah in her interactions with her husband Yitzchok and the style chosen by Sorah in her dealings with Avrohom. When Sorah noticed the evil ways of Yishmael, she directly confronted Avrohom and ordered Yishmael’s immediate expulsion (21:9-10). In our parsha, although Rivkah was clearly aware of the difference between her twin sons, she never directly told Yitzchok the truth about their wicked son Eisav. Instead, she resorted to a backhanded scheme to ensure that the righteous Yaakov would receive the blessings. Why didn’t she confront Yitzchok in the same manner that her mother-in-law had previously employed?
The Netziv explains that when Rivkah first encountered Yitzchok, she was returning with Eliezer and his servants and observed Yitzchok in the field reciting the afternoon prayers. When he prayed, he was so removed from this world that he appeared totally angelic and spiritual. Hence, she slipped off her donkey and covered herself out of awe and reverence for this holy man (24:64-65).
This initial encounter made such a deep impression on Rivkah that she found herself unable to directly confront him for the rest of their married life due to the deeply-ingrained respect she had for her husband. As a result, when she realized that Yitzchok erred in his judgment about which son to bless, she had no choice but to indirectly circumvent his intentions in order to bring about the proper outcome in which Yaakov received the blessings that he deserved.
Others answer by noting that there is one critical difference between the two cases. Sorah did not give birth to Yishmael as Rivkah did to Eisav. Yishmael was the son of Avrohom and Hagar, Sorah’s maidservant. No matter how bad a child may behave, a mother is still a mother. The natural love that Rivkah felt toward her biological son Eisav prevented her from confronting Yitzchok and insisting that he be sent away in the manner that Sorah was able to insist that Yishmael, who was not her son, be banished.
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Arizal teaches that Shimshon was a combination of the souls of Yefes and Eisav. In what way did Shimshon rectify their sins and errors?
2) If Eisav hated Yaakov for taking the blessings from their father Yitzchok and wanted to kill him to get revenge, why did he plan to wait to do so until after Yitzchok would die (27:41) instead of attempting to do so immediately? (Targum Yonason ben Uziel , Kli Yakar)
3) If Yitzchok knew that his brother-in-law Lavan was wicked, why did he instruct Yaakov (28:2) to marry one of his daughters? (Moshav Z’keinim)
4) Rashi writes (25:9) that Yishmael repented his sins before the death of his father Avrohom. Why did he subsequently allow (28:9) the wicked Eisav to marry his daughter? (Emunas Yirmiyah)
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