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NOVEMBER 28-29, 2003 4 KISLEV 5764

Pop Quiz: What did Ya'akob serve Yitzhak when he went in for the blessings?


"The man became great and kept becoming greater" (Beresheet 26:13)

Yitzhak Abinu becomes fabulously wealthy. Rashi says that the Philistines who lived with Yitzhak said, "Better the dung (fertilizer) from Yitzhak's mules than the silver and gold of Abimelech." They said this because in the previous verse it says that when Yitzhak planted in the land, the yield was me'ah she'arim, one hundred fold more than normal. The gentiles were idolaters, and when they saw this tremendous abundance, they attributed this to Yitzhak having some miracle formulas. They thought he put it in the dung of his mules that was used to fertilize the land. Therefore they said that this dung was worth more than gold and silver.

They weren't completely wrong. Yitzhak used these mules to dig his wells of water. These wells all provided precious water, an unusual feat. Many times wells are dug without success, but here they always hit water, which sanctified Hashem's name. Since these mules were blessed, because they brought about the sanctification of Hashem's name, their dung provided tremendous amounts of produce. The gentiles attributed the success to some miracle potion, but it wasn't that at all. It was the spiritual greatness of Yitzhak.

Imagine today, if someone we know opens a store in a certain neighborhood. In a short amount of time the store is a tremendous success. The store, always packed with customers, consistently sells all the goods that the owner puts in. You can bet that someone who notices this will open a store in that same neighborhood. That person figures it's the great location, therefore he opens a store close by. That person is thinking like the Philistines. He attributes the success to some physical factor and wants to duplicate it. This shows a lack of understanding of the true source of blessing.

Whenever we see success try to find the merit that causes that success, instead of a talent. If we copy that merit, we can gain success too. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"The children agitated within her [Ribkah]" (Beresheet 25:22)

Rashi brings the Midrash that explains what brought on the agitation - when Ribkah passed the academy of Shem and Eber, Ya'akob struggled to come out, and when she passed a temple of idol worship, Esav struggled to come out. The Rabbis ask an interesting question. It says that a baby is taught the entire Torah while in the mother's womb, so why would Ya'akob want to go out to the academy of Shem and Eber? He would be learning less Torah!

The answer is that it's better to learn less Torah and be in a good environment than to be in the same 'yeshivah' with someone like Esav.

The lesson for us is that we must watch the environment that we allow our families to be in even if it means giving up certain other advantages. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And Esav despised the birthright" (Beresheet 25:34)

Whenever one studies this narrative, he will never cease to be amazed at Esav's apparent lack of sensitivity to anything of spiritual value. How does one sink so low as to exchange his prized inheritance for a mere bowl of lentil soup? Did Esav completely lose his concept of spirituality? Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein notes that this is truly a case in which people follow a misguided perspective of life. How often do we measure success by the yardstick of prosperity, position or social standing, while simultaneously belittling success in the field of Torah endeavor? How often do we exchange our children's "birthright" for a glorified bowl of lentil soup? It is unfortunate that we are so amazed at Esav's actions, and at the same time we are entirely complacent with our own! Perhaps this is the meaning of the words of Rabenu Yonah, "How did I exchange a passing world for one that stands forever?" (Peninim on the Torah)


Question: Why do we walk to an aliyah through the shortest distance and leave through the longest?

Answer: We walk to an aliyah in the shortest path possible so as not to make the congregation wait and not to "make the Torah wait." The oleh returns to his seat in the longest way possible to make sure the Torah does not seem, G-d forbid, to be a burden upon him. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


"Until your brother's fury turns away, until your brother's anger turns away from you." (Beresheet 27:44-45)

When Ribkah sent her son, Ya'akob, to Laban's house to escape Esav's wrath, she told him to stay there until Esav's anger subsided. One may ask, though, why she said twice "until your brother's anger turns away." What additional message was she telling Ya'akob?

Shelomo Hamelech taught in Mishlei: As water reflects the image of a face, so the heart of man corresponds to the heart of his fellow man." Ribkah knew that Ya'akob also felt anger towards Esav for the pain and suffering Esav brought on his parents. So she told Ya'akob: "When you anger towards Esav has subsided, then you can be sure that Esav no longer has animosity towards you." If a person feels anger or contempt towards others, then those people will, like a reflection in water, have the same feelings for him. On the other hand, if a person has genuine respect and good feelings towards others, then he is sure to be beloved to all.

Question: Think of one person who is often critical of others, and one person who accepts everyone for who they are. Do you notice that the critical one often comes under attack from others, while the accepting one is generally greeted with a smile and a kind word? On what point of the spectrum would you place yourself?


This Week's Haftarah: Malachi 1:1 - 2:7.

In our perashah, Ya'akob manages to get the birthright from Esav, first by selling him the lentil soup and second by taking the blessing from Yitzhak. It is clear that the Torah is telling us that Ya'akob is meant to be the chosen brother, carrying the legacy of Abraham and Yitzhak forward.

In our haftarah, the prophet Malachi finds himself facing a Jewish nation that does not believe that G-d loves them. What can he use as proof that G-d still loves his people?

Malachi recounts the story of Esav and Ya'akob, telling the people that Ya'akob was chosen because G-d saw the future of the Jewish people in him. Indeed, the fact that the Jewish nation still exists today, even though in every generation there have been those who want to destroy us, proves that G-d hasn't changed His mind. (Tell it from the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Goat's meat and wine.

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