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 Parshas Toldos - Vol. 8, Issue 6
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Vayeitzei ha'rishon admoni kulo k'aderes sei'ar vayikr'u sh'mo Eisav (25:25)

Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky was once traveling with his son and granddaughter on an airplane. Seated next to him was the non-religious head of the Histadrut, the General Federation of Labor in Israel. During the course of the flight, he was astonished to notice Rav Yaakov’s son and granddaughter constantly coming to check on him to see if there was anything they could do to make his flight more comfortable.

The man couldn’t help but sadly contrast the behavior of Rav Yaakov’s family 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 and reverential family bonds. Rav Yaakov responded that the warm relationships he enjoyed with his children and grandchildren had nothing to do with any superior methodology, but with the underlying philosophical differences between him and his seatmate.
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, and young children inherently respect and care for their parents and elders. Our children and grandchildren view us as a critical link in their connection to the Torah, and as such, they naturally want to interact with us and help care for us.

Turning to his neighbor, Rav Yaakov concluded, “You, on the other hand, believe in and promulgate 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 family views you as being closer to a monkey. Is it any wonder that they don’t make much time for you!?”

The dichotomy that Rav Yaakov so keenly expressed can help us appreciate the difference between Yaakov and Eisav. Although Yaakov and Eisav were twins, they had little in common. Their goals and values couldn’t have been further 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 us this way is so that we will be prepared to learn from our parents and elders.

The name Eisav is related to the word "asu'y" – made. Rashi writes (25:25) 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 - and just as the heel is located at the bottom of the human body, so too did Yaakov view 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 Yaakov's dream in next week’s parsha, he sees a ladder which reaches all the way to Heaven (28:12). 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 Torah studies (Rashi 46:28).

The verse in Hoshea states (11:1) "Ki na'ar Yisroel va'ohaveihu" – Hashem declares His love for the Jewish people because no matter how old and wise we grow, we still view ourselves as a na'ar – an adolescent who has much to learn. The greatest level that a yeshiva student strives to attain is that of talmid chacham – Torah scholar - but even a sage who reaches such a level is referred to as a talmid, a student with much still to learn.

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 sh'ma b'koli (27:8)

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.

Vayisa Eisav kolo va'yeivk (27:38)

Parshas Toldos revolves around Yitzchok's twin sons, Yaakov and Eisav. After Yitzchok grew old and blind, he decided to bless his older son Eisav, but his wife Rivkah overheard his plan and arranged to substitute the more righteous Yaakov to receive his father's blessings. When Eisav realized what had transpired and that the blessings intended for him had been cunningly taken by Yaakov, he began to cry. The Zohar HaKadosh (Vol. 2 12b) teaches that the tears shed by Eisav as a result of his intense pain over not receiving his father's blessings enabled his descendants to send Yaakov's offspring into galus (exile). The Zohar adds that when the tears shed by the Jewish people wash away Eisav's tears, they will be redeemed from exile.

Rav Shmelke of Nikolsburg questions this statement. Throughout the generations, suffering and afflicted Jews have cried millions of tears. Why haven't they been sufficient to eliminate the few tears shed by Eisav so many thousands of years ago? He answers that the Gemora (Chullin 98b) teaches that - it is only possible to nullify an item by combining it with a more numerous item of a different type, but an object cannot be nullified by adding to it more of the same. Therefore, the tears cried by the Jewish people lack the ability to cancel out Eisav's tears. However, this reasoning is difficult to understand. How is it possible to say that the tears shed by Eisav and those shed by the Jewish people are considered the same type of tears? Do we really cry for the same reason as Eisav?

Rav Shmelke explains that Eisav cried over the loss of the blessings that Yitzchok gave to Yaakov, which were clearly materialistic in nature (27:28-29). From the fact that our copious tears throughout the generations have been unable to wipe away his, it must be that our tears are also for mundane and earthly issues, and for this reason they are considered comparable to Eisav's tears and unable to nullify them. If we would only begin to cry not over our unfulfilled physical needs, but our spiritual yearnings, then our tears would no longer be classified as the same type of tears that Eisav shed and would be able to nullify them, which would bring us the long-awaited fulfillment of the Zohar's promise for our redemption from galus with the coming of Moshiach, may it be speedily in our days.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at oalport@optonline.net.

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) What is the significance of the fact that this week’s parsha is named Toldos, and why is it specifically read at this time of the year? (Emunas Itecha)

2) Rashi writes (25:26) that Yaakov came out of his mother’s womb holding the heel of his twin brother Eisav. In what way did this conduct demonstrate Yaakov’s righteousness even at such a young age? (Paneiach Raza)

3) Why did Yaakov bring his father wine to drink (27:25) when his mother only commanded him (27:17) to give him bread and meat, and from where did he get the wine? (Daas Z’keinim, Chizkuni, Tosefes Bracha, Torah L’Daas Vol. 9)

  © 2012 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to parshapotpourri@optonline.net


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