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

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Vol. 21   No. 6

This issue is sponsored
in honour of the marriage of
יונתן ואבגיל נדב נ"י
Yonatan and Avigail Nadav
שיזכו לבנות בית נאמן בישראל

Parshas Toldos

Eisav's Kibud Av
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

"And Eisav hated Ya'akov on account of the B'rachah his father blessed him, and Eisav said in his heart, 'Let the days of mourning of my father approach and I will kill Ya'akov my brother!' " (27:41).

It appears that Eisav's anger against Ya'akov was more powerful than his love for his father, says the Oznayim la'Torah. Granted, he did not want to murder his brother during his father's lifetime, so as not to cause his father pain. Nevertheless, in his heart, he hoped that his father's death would come quickly so that he would be able to carry out his murderous plans as soon as possible.


The Medrash Tehilim goes even further. Commenting on the words "and Eisav said in his heart," the Medrash quotes him as saying that, since killing his father outright would not be 'correct', he would arrange with Yishma'el his (Yitzchak's) brother (who bore his brother a grudge like he did his own brother) to assassinate him - indeed, that is why he married his daughter. Then he would go and kill his brother Ya'akov as well as Yishmael (others say in his capacity as Go'el ha'Dam [next of kin to Yitzchak], as an act of revenge). In that way, he would inherit the entire family fortune.

To reconcile Eisav's plans with his well-known Kibud Av - a Kibud Av so unique that Raban Gamliel claimed that he could not match it - the Oznayim la'Torah reconstructs the various stages in Eisav's life and comes up with the following facts.

At one stage, Eisav realized that his grandfather Avraham had two sons, and that, because the firstborn had not followed the path that his father had set out for him, he banished him from his house and bequeathed everything that he owned to the younger son. And it dawned on him, that his brother Ya'akov, like his father before him, was a man of perfection, who spent his time in the tents of Torah, whilst he (Eisav), opted for a life of pleasure. Consequently, unless he did something about it, he too, like his uncle Yishmael, would find that his father would hand over all his possessions to Ya'akov, leaving him with nothing. And what's more, he had aggravated the situation, adding fuel to the flames, by selling his brother the birthright.

That was when he decided to put on a new front for his father's benefit. That was when he began to hide his evil deeds from his father; that was when he began to display an interest in Torah and Mitzvos, by asking his father how to Ma'aser salt, and by pretending that he too, like his brother Ya'akov, attended the Yeshivah of Shem and Eiver, by telling him snippets of Torah that he had overheard from 'behind the walls' of the Yeshivah. And that was when he began to serve his father in earnest, bringing him venison that he had hunted and wine (Medrash). All of this, he did in the hope that his father would bequeath him all the rights of a firstborn, or at least, that he would not send him away empty-handed, as Avraham had with Yishma'el.


And it was when Yitzchak confirmed the coveted B'rachos that he had just conferred upon Ya'akov, adding that he had nothing left for him that it occurred to Eisav that all his efforts were in vain. At that point he gave up his original strategy. Honouring his father was of no more importance, and he came up with his new plan of action. (According to Targum Yonasan, who relates that when, a short time earlier, he failed to catch any deer to bring his father, he brought him a dog to eat instead, it seems that even during the charade of Kibud Av, Eisav was perfectly capable of doing what it takes to obtain the B'rachos, with Kibud Av or without it.)


Unfortunately for Eisav, his new plans too, came to naught, when Yishma'el died immediately after the engagement of his daughter Machalas to Eisav. In any event, the author points out, Yishma'el would have been unlikely to have agreed with Eisav's plan, since he had already done Teshuvah and conceded the birthright to Yitzchak, as Rashi points out earlier in the Parshah.

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Parshah Pearls
(Based on the Oznayim la'Torah)

Why Rivkah was Barren

" … And Yitzchak was forty years old when he took Rivkah, the daughter of Besuel, the sister of Lavan … . And Yitzchak Davened to G-d on behalf of his wife because she was barren …" (25:20/21).

The Pasuk juxtaposes these two Pesukim, says the Oznayim la'Torah, to teach us that the B'rachah of that Rasha (Lavan [See 24:60]) did not bear fruit, and that Rivkah remained barren, in spite of it. It was only after Yitzchak Davened for her, twenty years later, that she conceived.


Two Trees


Quoting Chazal, the Oznayim la'Torah points out that whereas a non fruit-bearing tree grows by itself, a fruit-bearing tree needs attention (watering, pruning). Without it, the fruit will not grow.

Likewise, they explain, Resha'im bear children automatically. Tzadikim on the other hand, require Tefilah; without Tefilah, they will remain childless. Hence Chazal have said 'G-d desires the prayers of Tzadikim'. He deliberately makes them barren, they say, so that they offer up the Tefilos which He eagerly anticipates. That is why the Avos and the Imahos were, for the most part, barren. The very fact that they were barren bears witnesses to their righteousness.


Yitzchak Davened on Har ha'Moriyah

"And Yitzchak Davened to Hashem" (20:21).

According to Targum Yonsasan, he went to Daven on Har ha'Moriyah.

Not only was Har ha'Moriyah the gateway to Heaven, says the Oznayim LaTorah, it was also the very spot where Yitzchak was bound at the Akeidah. Moreover, it was the location where G-d promised Avraham that he would increase his children, using the expression "Harboh arbeh", and as Chazal have said (to explain the double expression) - "Harboh", with reference to Avraham, and "arbeh", with reference to Yitzchak. Little wonder that Yitzchak chose Har ha'Moriyah to Daven for children.


A Fight to the Death

"And the boys (Eisav and Ya'kov) struggled inside her" (25:22).

Each one, the Medrash explains, struggled to kill the other.

In Parshas Vayishlach (32:38), Rashi explains that Ya'akov was worried that he might have to kill others. How can it then be, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, that even before he is born, he is attempting to kill Eisav?

And he answers that Ya'akov was not worried about killing Eisav, Eisav was a Rasha, and it was a Mitzvah to kill him. It was the four hundred men who came with Eisav that troubled him.

That will explain why Rashi talks about 'killing others' (rather than 'killing Eisav', which would otherwise have been more appropriate).


A Change of Heart

" … the older one will serve the younger one" (25:23).

Citing R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld, the Oznayim la'Torah explains that these words were not only a prophecy, but also had the effect of alleviating Rivka's pains.

Chazal explain that, until these words were said, the two boys were fighting to leave the womb first, in order to gain the benefits of being the firstborn. Once they heard the prophecy that the older son was destined to serve the younger one, the quarreling stopped, as they realized that it would pay off coming out last.

And in support of the idea of fetuses reacting to statements, he cites the Gemara in Yuma (82), which relates cases of pregnant women who had an urge to eat on Yom Kipur, and what happened next when someone whispered in their ear that it was Yom Kipur. Here too, he explains, the Navi whispered the prophecy in Rivkah's ear, and the two brothers responded immediately.

The author points out however, that this explanation does not conform with that of Rashi, who describes a few Pesukim later how Ya'akov was holding on to Eisav's heel to prevent him from being the firstborn.


Chochmas Ya'akov (1)

" … Ya'akov gave Eisav bread and a broth of lentils" (26:34).

The Oznayim la'Torah asks why Ya'akov, who sold Eisav the birthright for a lentil-broth, gave Eisav bread.

And he answers that, had he not given him bread, Eisav (who had just murdered Nimrod, from whose men he had had to flee) could later have argued that he was starving when he sold the birthright, thereby negating the sale. So Ya'akov cleverly gave him bread first to still his hunger, and then fed him the broth. The fact that Eisav proceeded to eat the broth without a word of complaint, proved that he had sold the birthright, not out of hunger, but because it meant so little to him (as the Pasuk itself concludes).


Chochmas Ya'akov (2)

… "and he (Eisav) ate and drank, arose and left" (Ibid.).

In those days, it was the accepted thing to drink wine after a meal, particularly in the house of a mourner.

One can therefore assume, comments the Oznayim la'Torah, that Eisav (a man who indulged in the pleasures of this world), would have got drunk. The Torah however, tells us that after eating and drinking, he got up and left, as sober as when he came.

Here again, says the author, Ya'akov was careful not to serve him enough wine to get drunk, depriving him of the opportunity to subsequently invalidate the sale by claiming that he was not sober when he sold the birthright. And here too, the Torah testifies that he sold the birthright for as little as a plate of broth, not because he was drunk, but because he despised the birthright!

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