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Haftarah: Shemuel I 20:18-42

NOVEMBER 28-29, 2008 2 KISLEV 5769

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Pop Quiz: What "nickname" did Esav get after the incident of the lentil soup?


"May G-d give you the dew of the heavens and the fatness of the earth" (Beresheet 27:28)

Imagine you are at a beautiful wedding. The bride and groom are both under the huppah, canopy, sharing the same talet. The hazzan takes the mike in hand and sings out the beautiful berachah of Yitzhak to his son, Ya'akob as quoted above. This verse is sung at all of our weddings while we all agree and bless this new family with all of the blessings included in this verse. However it is interesting to note that the name Elokim is used here. The name Elokim represents the attribute of justice, which at times means a strict and demanding G-d. Rashi explains that the berachah of Yitzhak to Ya'akob was given on condition. If Ya'akob deserves it, then he would be showered with bounty. The abundance will come if the children of Ya'akob keep the Torah and misvot. One would think that we should recite a berachah at our weddings more similar to the berachah given to Esav, which was unconditional.

The truth is, says Rabbi Frand, that this conditional berachah is the more desirable one. Yitzhak gave Ya'akob the greatest gift in the world. Since our berachah is conditional, we need to maintain a certain relationship with Hashem. Hashem wants us to depend on his kindness if we deserve it. This way it is ensured that we will observe His Torah and misvot and thereby merit eternal life in the World to Come, which is the reason for our creation. It is like a loving father who offers his son an incentive to be a good boy. He does this to his own son because he loves him the most, more than all the other kids on the block.

In retrospect, we cannot think of a more fitting berachah to a new couple beginning their life together - that they should bring Hashem into their new home, observe His beautiful misvot and thereby deserve Hashem's limitless bounty in this and the next world. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And Yitzhak was extremely frightened" (Beresheet 27:33)

When Yitzhak realized that he gave the blessings to Ya'akob, instead of to Esav, he grew extremely frightened. He realized that his whole life he was under the impression that Esav needs the blessings and not Ya'akob, and all of a sudden he sees that he is grossly mistaken. Through Divine Providence, it was shown to him that Ya'akob should get the blessings. The Midrash says that Yitzhak was more frightened when he discovered who took the blessings than when he was lying on the altar, ready to be slaughtered! Can we imagine a person ready to die, waiting for the blade to fall, and yet this is more terrifying? The answer is that when a person lives his life one way and then realizes his whole life he was mistaken, that is a terrible shock, as great if not greater than facing death. To realize that his whole approach was not correct is a difficult test!

We can understand why many people who are faced with this realization don't want to admit their mistakes. They would rather justify their previous behavior rather than confront the truth. We must ask ourselves if we are not guilty of this same human nature. Be it our misvah observance or our character development, or our total attitude towards life, are we avoiding change because we can't admit our past mistakes? We come from Yitzhak, who, although he was terrified by this prospect, nevertheless admitted that Ya'akob needed the blessings and he, Yitzhak, had not been correct in his perception. We also have this inner strength inside of our spiritual genes!

Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And [Esav] cried out with a great and exceedingly bitter cry." (Beresheet 27:34)

The Torah depicts two brothers who go their separate ways. Esav was the quintessential hunter, blood thirsty, shrewd and cunning. With his eloquent pious fraud, he was able to cultivate the love of his father. Ya'akob, on the other hand, was the son who inherited his father's characteristics. He was the simple student, the home loving son who served his parents obediently and piously.

Moreshet Moshe points out that these two sons grew up with divergent lifestyles. Ya'akob requested that Esav sell him the spiritual birthright because it had no meaning to Esav. Esav readily agreed to the arrangement, since he had no interest in preserving the spiritual heritage. Yitzhak, unaware of this eternal transaction, was deceived by Esav's smooth speech and pretense, and called him over to bless him. Ribkah, knowing that Esav could not be entrusted with such a noble spiritual heritage, advised Ya'akob to go in and secure the blessings which he had fairly acquired. The rest is history. Esav entered only to find out that "his" blessings had been taken by Ya'akob. He cried out bitterly with animosity towards Ya'akob.

From that day on, we, the sole inheritors of this heritage have been scorned by the sons of Esav. The Zohar states that the Mashiah will not arrive "until Esav's tears will dry up." What is the meaning of this? Haven't we shed enough tears at the hand of Esav's descendants that they long ago should have overwhelmed the tears of Esav?

Esav's tears will cease when the nations of the world reconcile themselves with the "lie" of Ya'akob's "stealing" the birthright. This can occur only when the Jew justifies his spiritual superiority by his mode of lifestyle. He can thereby claim the right of possession to Esav's birthright and consequently, Yitzhak's blessing. Too often, the apparent distinction between Jew and non-Jew is so slight that an objective observer could hardly notice any difference. As long as Esav's tears have not dried, as long as we have not justified our spiritual ascendancy and moral dominance, we will continue to be in exile. When the world sees that the Name of Hashem is written on the Jew in all of his endeavors, mankind will be reconciled with the historic fact that the blessing was conferred upon us. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Edom.

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

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