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Vol. 13 No. 6
ben Shlomoh Yitzchak ha'Levi z.t.l.
Yitzchak Blesses Eisav
A while ago, someone asked me why Yitzchak blessed Eisav, or rather, why he intended to bless Eisav. Why did he not leave that task to Hashem to perform, sparing his descendants all the troubles and suffering that they have had to endure ever since?
The question is really based on Rashi in Parshas Chayei Sarah (25:11), who explains that despite G-d having handed the power to bless whoever he chose to Avraham, the latter declined to bless his son Yitzchak. Yes, says the Sifsei Chachamim, he transferred the power to bless others to Yitzchak (as Rashi wrote just a few Pesukim earlier), but he did not actually bless him. He was afraid to do so, says Rashi, because he saw with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh that Eisav would descend from him. Consequently, he was not sure that blessing Yitzchak was the right thing to do, as it would mean that the wicked Eisav would be blessed too. So he left it to the Master of B'rachos to do as He saw fit. That is why the Pasuk records there that, after the death of Avraham, G-d came and blessed Yitzchak.
So if Avraham was afraid to bless Yitzchak because he was loathe to confer a blessing upon Eisav, even though that blessing would have been indirect, how could Yitzchak take it upon himself to bless him directly?
Interestingly, Targum Yonasan ascribes Avraham's reluctance to bless Yitzchak to the fear that Yishmael would hold it against him, and would proceed to take it out of Yitzchak after his (Avraham's) death (much in the same way as Eisav reacted after Yitzchak blessed Ya'akov). Who knows whether, if not for Avraham's foresight in this matter, Yishmael would have done Teshuvah, as in fact he did?
Perhaps our original question will fall away according to Targum Yonasan's explanation. For given Yishmael's evil traits, Avraham had good reason to fear his reaction to his blessing Yitzchak, but the same fear would hardly have applied to Ya'akov, of whose righteousness Yitzchak must surely have been aware.
In fact, I would venture to suggest that Targum Yonasan deliberately avoids ascribing Avraham's fear to Eisav's wickedness (like Rashi), on account of our opening question.
The question remains however, according to Rashi, why Yitzchak attempted to bless Eisav. Why did he not at least, take his cue from his father, who was careful to avoid doing so?
Perhaps even Rashi will agree that Yitzchak (mistakenly) ascribed Avraham's actions to avoid Yishmael's recriminations (like Targum Yonasan did), and we will explain later as to why, according to Yizchak's reckoning, Avraham would have wanted to preclude Yishmael from the B'rachos, but not Eisav.
In addition to this, to explain why Yitzchak more than all the Avos, became virtually blind, Rashi (27:1), writes, among other reasons, that it was to enable Ya'akov to receive the B'rachos. G-d could certainly have employed other less painful means of ensuring that Yitzchak blessed Ya'akov and not Eisav. It seems however, that He wanted Yitzchak to intend to bless Eisav, but that Ya'akov should receive the B'rachos instead. The reason for that would be so that Eisav should bear an eternal grudge against Ya'akov for stealing what he believed was rightfully his. This in turn, became G-d's weapon against K'lal Yisrael throughout history, as this grudge would turn into what would otherwise appear to be a baseless hatred on Eisav's part, developing into a bitter, ongoing enmity, an enmity that time would not heal, for so Chazal have said 'Halachah she'Eisav sonei es Ya'akov' (Halachah is something that is not subject to change). And that is why Yitzchak attributed Avraham's fear to Yishmael's reaction, rather than Eisav's wickedness.
And it will also explain why Rivkah, who recognized Eisav for what he was, never passed on the information to Yitzchak. This was not a lack of communication, as would appear on the surface, but the result of the Divine will. Indeed, we have a precedent for this in the Gemara in Gitin (56b), which explains how R. Yochanan ben Zakai, when granted a favour by the Emperor Vespasian, asked for three relatively minor things, rather than for Yerushalayim to be spared, and the Gemara cites the Pasuk in Yeshayah (44) "He turns the Chachamim back", implying that sometimes G-d prevents the wisest of men from saying the obvious, because it does not conform with His own master plan. Here too, G-d did not want Yitzchak to know about Eisav, so even his own wife would never think of telling him.
That being the case, Yitzchak in his innocence, honestly believed that Eisav had done nothing to lose his rights to the birthright (nor was he aware that Eisav had sold it to Ya'akov and had even sworn to that effect), simply because that was what Hashem wanted him to believe, as we explained. (To be cont.)
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Adapted mainly from the P'ninei Torah
The Cart or the Horse?
"And Yitzchak prayed to Hashem opposite his wife, because she was barren" (25:21).
Why, asks the No'am Megadim, does the Torah present the facts in that order, and not first state that Rivkah was barren and that Yitzchak therefore prayed on her behalf?
Chazal have taught, he explains in reply, that it was not a matter of Davening because they could not have children, but rather they could not have children in order that they should Daven. In other words, in the eyes of Hashem, the Tefilos of the Avos was the cause, their wives' barrenness, the effect. So the Pasuk follows suit - putting Yitzchak's Tefilah before Rivkah's inability to have children.
The Mixed-up Kid that Wasn't
"And she went to enquire of Hashem" (25:22).
To see, Rashi explains, what would happen in the end.
R. Bunim from P'shischa, following in the footsteps of the G'ro, explains that Rivkah, unaware that she was carrying twins, thought that her baby, like the people in the days of Eliyahu, was confused, wanting to serve G-d one day, and idols, the next, so she went to enquire what would happen to him in the end (though Rashi says 'be'sofah' - implying that she wanted to know what would happen to her, not to him. Perhaps it is a printing error, and 'be'sofah' should be changed to 'be'sofo').
Back came the reply ("There are two nations in your womb!"), informing her that she was carrying not one baby, but two, rendering her fears groundless.
What Does 'Alef' 'Tav'
"Because Avraham listened to My Voice, and he kept My charge ... " (26:5).
The Gemara in Yuma (28b) derives from this Pasuk that Avraham kept even the Mitzvah of Eiruvei Tavshilin (which is only mi'de'Rabbanan, and which is included in the words "and he kept My charge" ('va'yishmor mishmarti') which has connotations of the Mitzvos de'Rabbanan.
But how do these words imply Eiruv Tavshilin, asks the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ra?
It appears, he answers, that a previous edition had appeared with the abbreviation 'Alef' 'Tav', and that the next printer, erroneously believeing this to mean 'Eiruv Tavshilin', wrote it out accordingly. What the earlier printer had really meant however, was 'Eiruv Techumin', which is indeed hinted in the opening word in the Pasuk, "Eikev". For "Eikev" can also mean a 'heel', a neat reference to the Rabbinical Mitzvah to place an Eiruv within two thousand Amos from the town (an Eiruv Tavshilin), which enables one to walk two thousand Amos further in that direction.
Two Kinds of Love
"And Yitzchak loved Eisav, whereas Rivkah loved Ya'akov" (25:27).
Notice, points out the K'li Yakar, that the word the Torah uses for the first 'loved' is "ohav' (implying a thing of the past), whilst the word for the second 'loved is "oheves" (implying a love that was continuous).
Yitzchak, he explains, loved Eisav because of the delicious venison dishes that Eisav served him. Consequently, that love dissipated with the effects of the food. Rivkah's love for Ya'akov, on the other hand, was unconditional. Such a love lasts for ever. (See Mishnah Pirkei Avos 5:16)
Loud and Clear
"And all the wells ... the P'lishtim stopped them up. And Avimelech said to Yitzchak 'Take leave from us, because you are too powerful for us' " (26:15/16).
At first the P'lishtim were too embarrassed to ask Yitzchak to leave. So what did they do? They made their feelings for him clear. They stopped up all the wells that his father had dug, says the Birchas Avraham. But when he didn't seem to get the message, Avimelech himself paid him a visit and let Yitzchak know what they really wanted.
The Torah here teaches us the true motive for the gentile's hatred towards Yisrael, says the Chafetz Chayim ... They hate us because we are too wealthy for their liking.
The Two Good Goats
"Go please to the flock and take for me two good goats" (27:9).
What does "good" mean, asks the Medrash? Good for you, answers R. Chelbo, since they will earn you the B'rachos; and good for your children, since on account of them, they will receive atonement from their sins on Yom Kipur.
It is well-known, says the P'ninim mi'Shilchan ha'G'ro, that one of the goats that was brought on Yom Kipur came to atone, whilst the other, came to appease the Satan. Likewise he explains, the two goats that Rivkah ordered Ya'akov to bring to Yitzchak served the same purpose, one to receive the B'rachos, the other, to appease the Satan (so that he should not prosecute Ya'akov and prevent him from attaining his goal).
Earning the B'rachos
"And G-d will give you from the dew of the heaven ... " (27:28).
The question is asked how the B'rachos could possibly take effect on Ya'akov, when Yitzchak made them with Eisav in mind?
On the contrary, counters the Ya'aros D'vash, how could they ever have taken effect on Eisav, considering that he would have received them by deceit, by constantly asking his father questions such as how one Ma'asers straw and the likes, making out that he was righteous and worthy of the B'rachos, when in reality he was most certainly not.
The truth of the matter, the Ya'aros D'vash explains, is that 'Mah nafshach' (whichever way round one looks at it) Ya'akov deserved the B'rachos, whether one goes after the mouth or after the heart. If one goes after the mouth, then no-one can deny that Yitzchak blessed Ya'akov clearly and unconditionally; whereas if we go after the heart, then Eisav had forfeited the B'rachos by virtue of his misleading questions, which were uttered from the mouth but not in conjunction with the heart, and Yitzchak's plan to bless Eisav was made in error.
Either way, the B'rachos were due to Ya'akov and not to Eisav.
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AND THEIR MEANING
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)
Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article
reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch
and are not necessarily Halachah.
Not To Build the Mizbei'ach
Out of Hewn Stones
One may not build the Mizbei'ach (the Altar) out of stones that were 'touched' by metal, as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:22) "Do not build it out of hewn stones" (i.e. that have been hewn with metal tools). If one does, the Mizbei'ach is Pasul.
A reason for the Mitzvah is ... to remind us already from the moment that it is built, that the Mizbei'ach serves to bring forgiveness for our sins, blessing and peace on K'lal Yisrael. This being the case, we are forbidden to use in its construction, vessels that have connotations of destruction, such as metal, which cuts down and which is always ready to spill blood. The author points out once again, as he has explained many times, how a person is influenced by his deeds, and his thoughts follow the flow of his actions. This explains, he says, the importance of doing things that lead one's thoughts in the right direction.
Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... That the stones with which to build the Mizbei'ach were hewn from virgin soil or from the Mediterranean Sea ... Whether the entire Mizbei'ach becomes Pasul, if one of its stones is touched by metal after the Mizbei'ach has already been built, or only the stone that was touched ... Chazal also said that when they whitewashed the Mizbei'ach twice annually, they would take care not to do so using a metal vessel, to avoid metal touching it ... together with all its remaining details, are discussed in Maseches Midos.
This Mitzvah applies during the time that the Beis-Hamikdash is standing, to men and women alike. Someone who contravenes it and builds into the Mizbei'ach or the ramp a stone that was touched by metal is subject to Malkos.
Not to Take Large Strides
When Ascending the Mizbei'ach
One may not climb up steps in order to reach the Mizbei'ach, so as to avoid taking large strides as one ascends, as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:23) "And do not climb up steps to reach the Mizbei'ach, so that your nakedness will not show on it". When ascending, one takes small steps ('heel to toe)'.
A reason for the Mitzvah is ... to fix in our minds a deep respect for the place and its importance (as we wrote in the previous Mitzvah). It is therefore not befitting to behave in its vicinity in a lighthearted or frivolous manner. Now everybody knows that stones, which can neither see nor hear, do not really care how one treats them. Only, as we just explained, it is not so much for the stones as for ourselves, that the Torah issues us with these instructions, to treat the Mizbei'ach with the deep respect that it deserves.
Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... How one builds the ramp leading up to it (in a way that avoids transgressing the current Isur), its shape and all the details pertaining to it, are discussed in the third Perek of Midos.
The Mitzvah applies whilst the Beis-Hamikdash stands to men and women. Someone who contravenes it be'Meizid, and takes large strides on the Mizbei'ach, in a way that reveals his nakedness, is subject to Malkos.
To Judge the Din of an Eved Ivri
It is a Mitzvah to judge the Din of a Jewish servant, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (21:2) "When you purchase an Eved Ivri, he shall work for six years ... ", meaning that Beis-Din is obliged to see to it that the Dinim mentioned in the Parshah are in fact, carried out, such as going free in the seventh year, or even earlier, should the Yovel year arrive, by paying for his freedom, or with the death of his master, in the event that he does not leave a male heir to inherit him. And the same applies to setting free an Eved Ivri who has had his ear pierced, thereby enabling him to stay until the Yovel year, according to the Dinim that the Torah prescribes in this regard, all in accordance with the Gemara in Kidushin (14b).
A reason for the Mitzvah is ... that G-d wants the people that He chose as His nation, the Holy nation Yisrael, to wear a crown of the finest Midos that exist, because as a result, they will enable Divine blessing to take effect, and kindness and compassion are certainly among the finest Midos. Therefore, He commanded us to have compassion on those whom He places under our jurisdiction, and to perform with them Chesed, in the way that this Parshah and oral tradition prescribe.
Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The differences between an Eved Ivri who sells himself and one who is sold by Beis-Din ... How he can be acquired and how he goes free, as well as the other Dinim pertaining to him ... are all discussed there in Kidushin.
This Mitzvah applies to males, but not to females, since a woman is not permitted to acquire an Eved Ivri. It is also restricted to when Yisrael are living on their land (but not during the period of exile), for as the Gemara explains in Erchin (29a) 'The Din of Eved Ivri only applies when the Yovel applies', and the Din of Yovel only applies when the majority of K'lal Yisrael are living in Eretz Yisrael. Someone who contravenes this Mitzvah and fails to do to an Eved Ivri what the Torah prescribes concerning him, has negated it; in addition, he trains himself to be cruel, all but attesting that he does not belong to K'lal Yisrael, for compassion is one of the three Midos without which Chazal have said one is not worthy of being a member of K'lal Yisrael, who are merciful sons of merciful forefathers.
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