Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 6 No. 6

Parshas Toldos

Proud of One's Parents
Proud of One's Children

"The crown of the grandfathers are their grandchildren, and the glory of children is their fathers" (Mishlei 17:6).

Shlomoh ha'Melech is teaching us here that the children are the crown and the glory of their parents. Indeed, we find that Terach’s esteem was raised through Avrohom his son. As a matter of fact, Shlomoh chooses his words carefully - describing righteous descendants as the crown of their grandparents, and righteous ancestors as the glory of their descendants. This is because "atoroh" (a crown) is greater than 'tif'eres' (glory). It is a higher form of praise, because righteous children boost their fathers more than children boost their parents.


When are parents considered the glory of their children? Only when the children follow in their footsteps. Otherwise, not only are they not a source of pride to them, but quite to the contrary, they are a source of shame and embarrassment, an inadequacy, much in the same way as a bad branch betrays the strong roots from which it grew.


The Medrash explains that 'the crown of grandfathers are their grandchildren' refers to Avrohom who was crowned with the merits of his grandson Ya'akov, for, when Nimrod cast Avrohom into the furnace, it was on the merits of Ya'akov that he was saved, as the possuk in Yeshayah writes "Therefore, so says Hashem to the house of Ya'akov who redeemed Avrohom".

Ya'akov redeemed Avrohom?

Yes, it was on the merits of Ya'akov (who had yet to be born) that Avrohom was saved!


Now, let us discuss the children who bask in the glory of the fathers: when Ya'akov left Lovon, and Lovon chased after him to bring him back, what did Ya'akov say to him? "Were it not for the fact that the G-d of Avrohom and the One whom Yitzchok fears was with me, and rebuked you yesterday" (31:42).

It was due to the merits of Ya'akov's father and grandfather, he was telling Lovon, that G-d protected him and warned Lovon to leave him be.

Similarly, it was due to the merits of our forefathers that Par'oh's decree to throw all the Jewish babies into the Nile was nullified, that Homon's plans to wipe out, kill and destroy all the Jews and that Bil'om's intentions to curse Yisroel, did not materialise - and that all of these boomeranged onto the perpetrators, all of whom soon met their untimely end.

This is what the Novi meant when he said "And all sharpened weapons will not succeed against you" (Yeshayah 54:17).

And that is what the Medrash Tanchuma means when it writes: 'The Emperor Hadrian said to Rebbi Yehoshua ben Chananyoh 'How great is the strength of the sheep that survives among seventy wolves!' (meaning Yisroel among the nations of the world).

'How great,' replied Rebbi Yehoshuah 'is the Shepherd who rescues it from their hands, and then goes on to smash them before its very eyes' as the possuk says "And all sharpened weapons will not succeed against you". This refers to the gentile nations who will ultimately be destroyed. That is why Yirmiyah compares those who 'consume' Yisroel to a non-Cohen who eats Terumah, and whose punishment is death at the hands of G-d. Indeed, this is precisely what happened to all those who set out to destroy Yisroel, who are called Holy, just like Terumah is called Holy: Par'oh, Amolek, Sisro, Sancheriv, Nevuchadnetzar, Titus, Hadrian and the likes of them, as the Novi concludes "Whoever consumes them will be proclaimed guilty" (Yirmiyah 2:3).


And so we find Avrohom priding himself with his son Yitzchok, and Yitzchok with his father Avrohom. Consequently, because the mockers of the generation were saying that it was from Avimelech that Soroh became pregnant and that Yitzchok was his son, the opening possuk of the Parshah stresses "Avrohom bore (conceived) Yitzchok", leaving the world in no doubt as to whose son he really was.

Parshah Pearls
His Father Called Him Ya'akov

"And he called his name Ya'akov" (25:26).

Who called him 'Ya'akov'?

The obvious person to have given Ya'akov his name would be his father Yitzchok, and that is how Rashi learns in his second explanation. Indeed, this is borne out by the Yerushalmi, who ascribes the fact that, whereas the names of Avrohom and Ya'akov were changed, that of Yitzchok was not, to the fact that they were named by their fathers, whereas he was named by Hashem (and his name was therefore not subject to change).


G-d Called Him Ya'akov

In his first explanation however, Rashi writes that it was Hakodosh Boruch Hu who called him 'Ya'akov'. 'You gave your first-born (Eisov) his name,' said Hashem, 'so I will give My first-born his name!'

The Or ha'Chayim supports this explanation from the posuk itself, which continues "and Yitzchok was sixty years old when he bore them". Now if Yitzchok was the one to have given Ya'akov his name, then grammatically speaking, the possuk should have continued "and he was sixty years old when he bore them". (More accurately, the Torah should have placed the word "Yitzchok" earlier, and written "And Yitzchok called his name Ya'akov, and he was sixty" etc.) By placing "Yitzchok" where it does, the Torah implies that Yitzchok was not the one to give Ya'akov his name!


His Grandfather Called Him Ya'akov

A fascinating compromise is presented by the Ba'al ha'Turim ha'Sholeim, who points out that the numerical value of 'Va'yikro' is equivalent to that of 'Avrohom Ovinu', indicating that it was his grandfather Avrohom who gave his name. According to that, it becomes possible to retain the Yerushalmi's explanation as to why Yitzchok's name was the only one to remain unchanged, without being faced with the grammatical problem posed by the Or ha'Chayim.


Eisov's Heel

Why was Ya'akov holding on to Eisov's heel when the twins were born?

The obvious explanation is that he was staking his claim to the birthrite, at least by ensuring that Eisov was not clearly born first.

Rashi adds that it was a sign that Ya'akov and Eisov would always be at loggerheads, taking the rulership from one another.

The Kli Yokor adds that the heel (symbolising the end) is a sign that although they will be doing this throughout history, it is Ya'akov who will ultimately prevail - when Edom is destroyed and Yisroel will rule.


Hold Tight

According to the Chofetz Chayim however, Ya'akov grabbed Eisov's heel, to prevent him from trampling him underfoot. And this is symbolical of our common history. Eisov's descendants are constantly trying to crush us, and we barely manage to survive, by holding on to his heel.


... For Tomorrow We Die

"And Eisov said, behold I am going to die, so what use to me is the birthrite?" (28:32).

Is it not remarkable, asks the Chofetz Chayim, that the very same mention of the day of death which inspires a Jew to do teshuvah and to fear G-d (see B'rochos 5a), had the opposite effect on Eisov, causing him to reject the holy institution of the birthrite (see possuk 34)?

This can be explained, points out the Ma'asei la'Melech, by the different attitudes of the Jew and the non-Jew towards death. The reason that a Jew who is reminded of the day of his death, is prevented from sinning, is because he views death as the transition from this world to the next. He sees this world as nothing more than a medium, where one prepares oneself for the World to Come. Someone who is about to sin, has momentarily forgotten that he will not live forever, and recalling the day of death will serve to remind him that life here soon comes to an end, and of the need to get on with his preparations.

A non-Jew on the other hand, sees this world as the ultimate arena of gratification, and death as the inevitable buffer. The only effect that recalling the day of death therefore will have on him, is to cause him to apply the maxim 'Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die'. It was clearly Eisov's policy that, anything which interfered with his pursuit of pleasure had to be discarded, even the birthrite!

(Note: this is not exactly what the Ma'asei la'Melech writes. It is however, based on his explanation.)


About the Mitzvos

Meaning to Do Good or Bad - Part I

Our sages have taught us that if a Jew intends to perform a mitzvah, but is prevented from doing so by circumstances beyond his control, then Hashem nevertheless reckons as if he had actually performed it (B'rochos 6a), ascribing the mitzvah to his credit. If, on the other hand, he intends to sin, but is similarly prevented from carrying out his intentions, then Hashem ignores his intentions, and the sin is not recorded in his name.

Why is that?

Because, the commentaries explain, it is the nature of a Jew to want to carry out G-d's will. That is why the Rambam writes that a Jew who has to be forced to bring the sacrifice that he vowed he would bring, has fulfilled his obligation, in spite of the fact that he had to be physically coerced into bringing it - and a sacrifice must be brought willingly if it is to be valid. Now how can one possibly refer to someone who has to be forced to do something, as doing it willingly? Unless we presume that, in his heart, he really wants to do it anyway.

And when it comes to sinning, we apply exactly the same principle and say that a Jew who intends to sin and is prevented from doing so does not really want to sin at all. He is under the influence of the Yeitzer ho'Ra, and is only too pleased that circumstances released him from a situation which he did not want in the first place.

Now all is clear: The heart of a person is his most important organ, as Chazal have said ‘Hashem wants the heart’! So if a Jew really wants to perform a mitzvah (but is prevented from doing so), that mitzvah is ascribed to him, and he will be rewarded accordingly, irrespective of whether he performed it or not. And with regard to sin, the reverse is true: since in his heart of hearts, he really did not want to transgress (but was temporarily overcome by his Yeitzer ho’Ra), there is no reason for a person who intends to sin but is then prevented from doing so, to receive punishment for the evil intention.


(The Mitzvos Asei)

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim).

60. To love every Jew like oneself - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:18) "And you shall love your neighbour like yourself ". Therefore, one is obligated to show concern for his friends' body, property and honour, no less than for his own.

(It goes without saying that someone who fulfills this mitzvah carefully, will avoid hurting his fellow-Jew, thereby averting many sins - above all, that of loshon ho'ra and its many branches. It is not for nothing that Rebbi Akiva referred to it as 'the great principle of the Torah'. This becomes even more evident when we bear in mind that the word "rei'a'cho" [your neighbour] refers to G-d as well [see Mishlei 27:10]).

Someone who derives honour from his friend's dishonour, forfeits his portion in the World to Come. Included in the mitzvah is making peace between man and wife, two enemies - between any two Jews who are not at peace with each other.

This mitzvah applies everywhere, and at all times, to men and women alike.

61. To love the convert - as the Torah writes in Eikev (10:19) "And you shall love the proselyte". This mitzvah is in addition to the previous one, seeing as a convert is a Jew, too. G-d loves the converts, as the Torah writes there (10:18) "and He loves the convert to give him food and clothes". And the Torah also writes (as a reason for sympathising with him) in Mishpotim (23:9) "And you know (from personal experience) the soul of the stranger". Here the Torah is referring to a stranger who comes from a foreign country to live with us, and it goes without saying that this will apply equally to a convert.

This mitzvah applies everywhere at all times, to men and women alike.

62. To lend a poor Jew - as the Torah writes in Mishpotim (22-24) "If you will lend My people money". In spite of the wording, this is an obligatory mitzvah, not a voluntary one. This mitzvah is greater than that of Tzedokoh, over which it takes precedence. The Torah is angry with someone who refrains from lending money to a poor man, as it is written in Re'ei "and your eye is evil against your needy brother ... and it shall be in you a sin" (see also Lo Sa'aseh 56).

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.

63. To return a security (for a loan) to the owner when he needs it - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (24:13) "You shall surely return the security".

It makes no difference whether the creditor received the security through Beis-din, or whether he took it by force or with the consent of the debtor - he is obliged to return it. He must give back his cushion by night, and vessels with which he works, or the clothes that he wears by day - these he must return each morning for the duration of the day.

Someone who transgresses and fails to return a security in its time, has nullified this mitzvah, and violated one la'v (see la'v 61).

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