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Haftarah: Malachi 1:1-2:7

NOVEMBER 20-21, 2009 4 KISLEV 5770


"And [Yitzhak] said, 'The voice is the voice of Ya'akob but the hands are the hands of Esav.'"(Beresheet 27:22)

Ya'akob disguises himself as Esav, hoping to receive the cherished blessings from Yitzhak Abinu. He wore the garments of Esav upon his mother's instructions. However, Yitzhak suspected that the one posing as Esav was really Ya'akob, so he said, "The voice is like Ya'akob but the hairy feeling of the hands belongs to Esav." What raised Yitzhak' suspicions? Rashi explains: For he speaks in a supplicating tone, "Rise up please." But Esav spoke in an antagonistic tone, "My father should rise." The word please was out of character for Esav.

This explanation seems to contradict a Midrashic statement, that Esav was one hundred times greater in honoring parents than Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel. The Midrash said Esav wore beautiful clothing while serving his father. If so, how is it possible that Esav, who dressed in such clothing to honor his father, could have spoken so disrespectfully to him? Even if Esav hadn't revered his father, wouldn't he have tried his utmost to please his father then, when the priceless eternal blessings were being given?

Rabbi A. Henoch Leibowitz answers that the power of speech is unique among all human faculties in its direct connection to the heart and mind. While it may be possible to act with our limbs and organs in a manner that does not represent our true voices, our tongues are different. A vulgar person cannot help but talk in a vulgar manner, a refined person in a refined manner. Esav, with all his honor for Yitzhak, was still an unrefined person, and he could not simply change his vocabulary to talk in a refined and polite manner. Ya'akob was the opposite. Trying with all his wisdom to act like Esav, he could not force himself to speak impolitely. He said, "Please arise, father," which aroused his father's suspicions.

The important lesson here is that people are willing to expose themselves to indecency, thinking that it would not have a negative impact. They say, "Don't worry. I would never talk that way in front of my kids." We see from Esav, however, that a person's behavior inevitably finds expression in the way he speaks. If we expose ourselves to the vulgarity of much of today's society through the media, in the street, in work, it will affect us. Eventually it will come out. On the other hand, the more we purify ourselves by safeguarding our environment, the more our speech will reflect that purity. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"They called his name Esav" Beresheet 25:25)

Not only did Ya'akob and Esav differ in the way they looked, their names also had different implications. Ya'akob comes from the word ceg which means heel, and this signifies humility, amongst other traits. Esav comes from the word huag - already finished - because he was born with hair, nails and teeth like an adult who is already finished. The implication of this name is that he doesn't need to improve, he is already finished, whereas Ya'akob means someone on a lower level who has to grow higher. Indeed, Ya'akob got his name changed to ktrah - Yisrael - which means 'prince,' because he recognized in himself the need to improve.

Many of us are content to stay on a certain level without thinking about growth. The fact that we are on this level means we grew this far, so why continue? That is the way Esav looked upon himself because he felt he was already finished. We who came from Ya'akob have within us the capacity to grow by realizing we are not there yet. So long as we have the energy, we must strive for higher levels, and as is guaranteed by Hashem, "He who comes to be purified will be helped from Heaven." Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Because Abraham listened to My voice, and guarded that which I gave in his charge, My commandments, My laws and My teachings." (Beresheet 26:5)

The Seforno comments that although the Zechut Abot (merit of our ancestors) is a fundamental concept of Judaism, it is only invoked regarding Yitzhak. Among the three Abot, Abraham had to develop his own merits, while Ya'akob, like his grandfather, proclaimed the name of Hashem and taught it to others. Yitzhak, however, being the Olah Temimah, "perfect sacrifice," was very special and practiced his faith in private and never had the opportunity to instill and imbue others with the belief in Hashem. He therefore needed his ancestors' merit for his own preservation. This was only before he was inspired to call upon the name of Hashem (Beresheet 26:25). However, once he called upon the name of Hashem, he was worthy on his own to be blessed by Hashem. As it is written, "Abimelech the king of Gerar came to Yitzhak and said, 'We saw that Hashem was with you, and you are now blessed by Hashem.'" After this he was no longer plagued by the hardships of envy and quarrels, which he had previously experienced.

It may be noted from Seforno's commentary that an integral part of the misvah of Torah study is the teaching of Torah to others. This point is clearly indicated in our daily prayer of Ahabat Olam where we ask "to instill understanding in our hearts, to learn Torah, and to teach, safeguard and perform." Teaching Torah to others is an essential prerequisite for the fulfillment of the misvah of Torah study. (Peninim on the Torah)


Becoming a happy person is easier said than done. Even people who understand that they have so much more than others are struck with dissatisfaction as soon as someone else appears with a new possession that the observer lacks. "Sure, I do have a lot - but I am also missing many of the things that make people happy," is the thought that immediately crosses the hungry mind. In Chobot haLebabot, Rabenu Bachye says: "One should always keep one's eye on those who have fewer benefits in life, and not on those who have more."

The Gemara tells of the poverty of Rabbi Akiba and his new wife, Rachel. When they got married, her millionaire father disowned her because he was unhappy with her choice of Rabbi Akiba as a spouse. The couple accepted their lot. They lived in a barn where they covered themselves with straw to keep warm for lack of anything else to provide warmth. One day, Eliyahu haNabi came to them, disguised as a pauper, and begged for some straw with which to cover his destitute wife and newborn infant. Rachel gladly gave from her limited supply of worldly comfort and agreed with Rabbi Akiba, who said, "See, here is one who does not even have the straw with which we are blessed."

Life is a matter of relativity. There will always be people who have more than you do, and there will always be others who have less. It's all a matter of how you look at things.

When the pangs of dissatisfaction strike your heart, adjust you sights from looking at one who is wealthier than you to one who has less. The laws of relativity will determine you happiness quotient. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

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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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