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

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Vol. 16   No. 6

This issue is sponsored by
Shabsi and Leah Rubin n"y
in honor of their new grandson, son of
Pinchas and Faigie Parkel n"y

Parshas Toldos

Yitzchak's Tefilah
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Torah informs us that Yitzchak Davened to Hashem ("Va'ye'tar Yitzchak la'Hashem") because she was barren. Surely it would have been more correct to begin by telling us that Rivkah was barren, and then informing us that Yitzchak Davened? Ordinarily it would, answers R. Bachye! Only the Torah deliberately inverted the order to teach us that it was not a matter of Yitzchak Davenning because Rivkah was barren, but rather that G-d made Rivkah barren in order that Yitzchak should Daven for her. Hence the mantra 'Why were the mothers barren? Because G-d desires the Tefilos of Tzadikim.'

It is generally accepted that a person suffers for one of three reasons - either as a punishment (in this Gilgul or in a previous one), in which case it serves as a Kaparah (to cleanse him from his sins), or as a test, or in order to increase his reward in the World to Come. Here we have a fourth reason; because G-d wants His Tefilos.


Furthermore, R. Bachye adds, we can learn the power of prayer from the current prayers of Yitzchak and Rivkah. To the point that it can effect a supernatural change in one's situation. Rivkah was barren, and no amount of medical attention could possibly have changed that. But prayer could and prayer did!

(To be sure, the Mishnah in B'rachos teaches us that 'Someone who prays for something that has already happened [he hears a scream and prays that it should not have come from his house] has prayed in vain, yet that does not rule out the possibility of prayer affecting miracles, under certain circumstances. Perhaps we can reconcile the two by differentiating between open miracles and hidden ones).


And the above explains why the Torah describes Yitzchak's Tefilah as "Va'ye'tar", as opposed to 'Va'yispalel' or even 'Va'yitz'ak', conforming with Rashi who, citing the Gemara in Succah, gives the root of the word as 'Asar' (a pitchfork), because, he says, prayer, like a pitchfork, can turn things upside-down. R. Bachye elaborates: Just as a pitchfork moves the hay that is at the top to the bottom and that which is at the bottom to the top, so too, do the Tefilos of Tzadikim change the Mind of Hashem, to switch the Midah of Achzoriyus (harshness) into that of mercy.


The word "va'Ye'tar" also stems from the word 'Machteres' (an underground tunnel), says R. Bachye, citing the Gemara in Sanhedrin. The Gemara there (103a), based on the same expression used by the Pasuk with regard to King Menasheh as that used here with regard to Yitzchak, explains that although Menasheh had caused so much harm that the Midas ha'Din would not allow his Teshuvah to be accepted, G-d dug a tunnel in the sky, for his Teshuvah to pass through, and He accepted it. Presumably, the connection to our case is the fact that the supernatural nature of the miracle (of which we spoke earlier) that was needed to cure Rivkah required special Divine intercession.


Of the Four Mothers, R. Bachye comments, the Torah specifically describes three of them (Sarah, Rivkah and Rachel) as being barren, and he concludes by giving the reasons for each one.

Sarah was barren, firstly, so that Avraham should father Yishmael (as the Pasuk specifically writes in Lech-L'cha, quoting Sarah - "Behold, G-d has stopped me from bearing children; Come now to my maidservant"); and secondly, in order to change her name (from Sarai, with a 'Yud' to Sarah with as 'Hey'). This in turn, was necessary to teach us a basic lesson in faith, that just as G-d created the world with a 'Hey' (see Rashi Bereishis 2:4), so too, was He capable of changing the power of the Mazal with a 'Hey' (i.e. the 'Hey' of Sarah). In other words, on the one hand, G-d created the Heavenly bodies (some of which serve as Mazalos, which steer the world along its natural course), whilst on the other, He retains control over those bodies, to override the Mazal as He deems fit.

Rivkah was barren, in order to delay the birth of Eisav by twenty years (Yitzchak was forty when he married Rivkah, and sixty when Eisav and Ya'akov were born). The purpose of this delay was to prevent his going off the path during Avraham's lifetime, in keeping with G-d's promise to Avraham "and you will come to your fathers in peace" (see Rashi 15:15). And so we find that on the day that Avraham died, Eisav went off the path (see Rashi, 25: 30).

And as for Rachel, R. Bachye concludes, G-d made her barren to enable Bilhah and Zilpah (Ya'akov's remaining two wives) to give birth to Dan and Naftali and to Gad and Asher, respectively.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

A Play on Words

"I am Eisav your firstborn." (27:19).

Indeed! How could Ya'akov, the epitome of Emes, lie, ask the commentaries?

See Rashi.

R. Bachye demonstrates how not a false word ever came out of Ya'akov's mouth, by referring to his promise to give a tenth of everything that G-d would give him, which, he goes on to prove, he kept to the letter (even by giving Him one of his sons), even though, it is not recorded in the Torah.

Here too, he explains, when Ya'akov claimed to be Yitzchak's firstborn, what he really meant was - that he had come in place of Eisav his firstborn. After all, he says, Ya'akov had purchased the birthright from Eisav, in which case whatever was due to Eisav in his capacity as the firstborn, now belonged to him by right.

And he proves his point from angels and prophets, who often referred to themselves as 'Hashem', because they were taking His place in their current missions.

It would have been unjustifiable for Ya'akov to say "Onochi Eisav" and stop, since neither was he Eisav, not could he claim to be standing in his place. His only claim to the B'rachos was due to the fact that he had purchased the Bechorah from Eisav, and that he was now taking his place in that capacity, exclusively.

Likewise later (in Pasuk 24), when Yitzchak asked him whether he was his son Eisav, he replied "I am" (he did not say 'I am Eisav', which would have been a lie). In response to his father's question (which was meant to determine whether he was the one whom he (Yitzchak) wanted to bless, he responded that he was (as we explained earlier).


And when he added "I did all that you commanded (to) me", even though it was Eisav that G-d had commanded (see Rashi), and not him, what he meant was, not what G-d commanded to him, but what he commanded for him (i.e. on his behalf).Since it was for his personal benefit that Yitzchak spoke to Eisav, to be overheard by Rivkah, with the result that he was about to receive the B'rachos.


Why Ya'akov Was Punished

And Yitzchak sent Ya'akov " (28:5).

The question arises, R. Bachye points, as to why Ya'akov was punished (by losing Yosef for twenty-two years), bearing in mind that his journey to Charan to find a wife was undertaken with his parents' express permission and blessings?

Perhaps, he suggests, it is because they intended Ya'akov to travel to Lavan, marry Le'ah (it is not clear why the author says Le'ah, when, as is well-known, the older son [Eisav] was initially destined to marry the older daughter [Le'ah] and the younger son [Ya'akov], the younger sister [Rachel?]) and return immediately (much in the same way as Eliezer had done). The decision to wait seven years for Rachel (twice) was entirely Ya'akov's (not to speak of the last six years, which he spent with Lavan at his own behest, after having already married his four wives and born most of his children). And that is why he was punished.

And this delay is all the more striking when we compare it to Eliezer, who refused point blank to delay even for one day longer than necessary (see Chayei Sarah, 24:56).


Why Lavan?

" to Lavan the son of Besu'el" (Ibid.)

Why specifically Lavan, asks R. Bachye?

Citing his Rebbe (probably the Rashba), he answers by referring to the seemingly superfluous phrase "the mother of Ya'akov and Eisav" with which this Pasuk concludes (see following Pearl).

Seeing as Ya'akov and Eisav were both sons of Rivkah, they were also both Lavan's nephews, in which case he would be unlikely to allow Eisav to harm Ya'akov. She sent Ya'akov to Lavan, he explains, because there he would find a haven of refuge, where he would be safe from Eisav.

It is noteworthy that the Torah itself supplies the reason as to why Yitzchak ordered Ya'akov to go to Lavan, and R. Bachye has now supplied a reason for Rivkah's choice. And what's more, the two respective reasons take into account the fact that whereas Rivkah was aware of Eisav's hatred towards Ya'akov, Yitzchak was not.

(It is strange though, that the Torah inserts the words in question in the section dealing with Yitzchak's dialogue with Ya'akov, rather than the one dealing with that of Rivkah).


In view of the above explanation, it is interesting that the Medrash relates how, the moment Ya'akov left his house many years later, it was Lavan who informed Eisav that Ya'akov was on his way, and that he was now free to attack him. As long as Ya'akov was his guest, Lavan did indeed protect him, as Rivkah had anticipated. But the moment he left !


"Rivkah, Lavan's Sister,
Mother of Ya'akov & Eisav"


But don't we already know that Rivkah was Lavan's sister and mother of Ya'akov and Eisav?

To be sure we do, R. Bachye explains. But the Torah is teaching us here two important things. Firstly, it is informing us as to what prompted Ya'akov to even think of marrying a daughter of a rasha, the son of a rasha (" to Lavan the Arami [the swindler]"). This was because he was the brother of Rivkah the Tzadekes, and their daughters were more likely to resemble their father's sister.

And the Torah adds "the mother of Ya'akov and Lavan" in praise of Rivkah. A woman with two sons would normally love them both equally; if anything, it would be the firstborn who would enjoy a special place in her heart. Yet Rivkah preferred Ya'akov, because on the one hand, she perceived his wonderful Midos, whilst on the other, she saw through Eisav.

See also previous and following Pearls.


We have just offered two good reasons as to why the Torah adds the words "the mother of Ya'akov and Eisav".

Here is a third, which Rabeinu Bachye lists under the heading of 'Chochmas ha'Teva'. It is well-known, he says, that when a woman is expecting twins, each twin develops in his own individual placenta, in which he is also born. The great wonder about Ya'akov and Eisav is that they shared the same placenta, which explains the struggle that took place prior to their birth, that so troubled Rivkah. And the Torah hints at that here, to reflect Rivkah's tremendous patience and endurance.


According to the Riva, the Torah is coming to explain how it is possible for a Tzadekes like Rivkah to give birth to a wicked son like Eisav. That is why the Torah adds here that Rivkah may have been the mother of Ya'akov and Eisav, but that she was the sister of Lavan, and as Chazal have taught 'the majority of children turn out to be like the brother of their mother'.

* * *


'And Eisav went to Yishmael, and he married Mochalas, alias Bosmas (see Rashi Vayishlach 36:3), the daughter of Yishmael the son of Avraham, the maternal sister of Nevoyos ' (28:9).



" and Avraham bore (holid) Yitzchak" (25:19)

The word "holid", the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, has the same Gematriyah as 'domeh' (similar), a hint at the striking physical resemblance between Avraham and Yitzchak (see Rashi ).


Yitzchak Was Barren Too - Or Was He?

"And Yitzchak was forty years old when he took (be'kachto) Rivkah the daughter of Besu'el the Arami " (25:21).

The same word "be'kachto" appears in Yirmiyah (40:1), when the Navi was taken in chains before Nevuzraden (the Babylonian general).; to teach us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that just as Yirmiyah was bound, so too, was Yitzchak (in that he, like Rivkah, was barren), and it is from Yitzchak that we can learn that Mano'ach (the father of Shimshon) was barren too, since the same word that is used here ("va'Ye'tar" [and he beseeched]) is also used there (Shoftim 13:8), when the latter prayed for a child.

And Yitzchak's infertility is supported by the next Pasuk, which, with reference to Rivkah's state of baronnes, uses the word "hi", which is spelt with a 'Vav', which, in turn, translates as 'him' (and not her).


On the other hand, says the B.H., there are others who prefer to extrapolate from the word "hi" (as it is read) that Rivkah (exclusively) was barren and not Yitzchak.

They emphatically reject the first suggestion, on the basis of the Pasuk in Vayeira (21:12) "because in you (Avraham) there will be called seed (with reference to Yitzchak), a clear indication that Yitzchak was the integral link in the chain of Avraham's descendancy, in which case he could hardly have been barren!


The Mother of 'Straw' and 'Fire'

" and Rivkah his wife (ishto) gave birth" (Ibid.)

The Gematriyah of "ishto", says the B.H. is equivalent to that of 'kash; (straw) & 'eish' (fire), which, represent Eisav and Yosef, respectively (see Rashi, Vayeitzei 30:25).


Seeking the Advice of a Sage

" and she went to seek (li'd'rosh) Hashem" (25:22).

And how does one seek Hashem, you may ask?

The answer lies in Gematriyah of "li'd'rosh", which is equivalent to that of 'min Shem ben No'ach'.


United Nations

"Two nations (Goyim) are in your womb" (25:23).

The 'Vav" in the word "Goyim" is replaced with a 'Yud' (see Rashi). This hints at the ten nations that participated in the destruction of the second Beis-Hamikdash (as a result of which we have suffered for the vast majority of our nationhood), as listed in Tehilim 63) "Ohalei Edom ve'Yishmael, Mo'av & Hagrim . "Alternatively, the Gematriyah of "Ge'im" is sixty-three, reminiscent of the one who was blessed at the age of sixty-three, and the other, who came to destroy the Beis-Hamikdash with the backing of sixty-three nations (since seven of the seventy nations had become obsolete by that time).

* * *

(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.

Mitzvah 121:
The Korban Chatas of a Yachid (cont.)

It transpires that, all in all, there are forty-three sins be'Meizid for which one brings a fixed Chatas be'Shogeg, most of them, in connection with Arayos (adultery and incest) Chazal also said in Shabbos (102a) that it is someone who is Shogeg from beginning to end who brings a Chatas (but not if there is an element of Meizid at any point of the transgression) Also the issue of how much one does, or does not know, whilst transgressing, are many together with the numerous other details are all discussed in Horiyos, in K'risus and in parts of Shabbos, Shavu'os and Zevachim.

This Mitzvah applies at the time of the Beis-Hamikdash to men and women. Whoever contravenes it and fails to bring a fixed Chatas for his Shogeg, has negated a Mitzvas Asei.

* * *

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