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November 21, 1998 2 Kislev 5758

Pop Quiz: Where did Yitzhak settle when the famine began?

NAME CALLING by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"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 'ekeb' which means heel, and this signifies humility, amongst other traits. Esav comes from the word 'asui' - 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 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.

TO TELL THE TRUTH by Rabbi Reuven Semah "And Ya'akob said to his father: I am Esav, your first born" (Beresheet 27:19)

Ya'akob is always described as the man of truth. Yet we find Ya'akob lying to his father. Is he really lying? Rabbi Avigdor Miller quotes the Talmud telling us of the conversation between Bet Hillel and Bet Shamai, the two major Torah schools of that time. The question is: 'ketzad merakdim lifnei hakalah', which means: How do we dance in front of the bride? Rashi explains: How do we describe her? Bet Shamai says a bride should be described just as she is and Bet Hillel says you should say, "She is a beautiful and graceful bride." Bet Shamai asks Bet Hillel: "But is she was lame or blind, wouldn't it be against the Torah, which forbids us to lie?" Bet Hillel responds and says: "If one purchased an unsatisfactory product for himself, should we praise it in his eyes or belittle it in his eyes?" (The Talmud in Ketubot 17a says we should praise it.)

Thus we learn that the criterion of truth is that which Hashem wishes us to speak. To make a man happy with his bride is truth, but to tell him that which causes unhappiness is falsehood. To rescue the future holy nation of G-d is the greatest service of Hashem and Ya'akob did the most righteous deed when he induced Yitzhak to bless the son who was worthy of producing such a nation. Such an act is the highest form of truth. Shabbat Shalom.


"Ribkah took the garments of Esav, her older son and put them on Ya'akob, her younger son" (Beresheet 27:15)

Why is it necessary for the Torah to tell us that Esav was the older and Ya'akob the younger?

The terms "gadol" and "katan" - "older" and "younger" - do not only refer to the age of Esav and Ya'akob, but also to Esav's much larger size compared to Ya'akob.

Ya'akob was reluctant to go to his father to obtain the blessing. He pleaded with his mother, "Please do not force me to go; I am afraid that I will be cursed." His mother responded, "Your curse be upon me, my son" (27:13).

Though Ribkah made a very brave statement, she still was curious to find out for herself if she was doing the right thing. She decided that the test by which she could prove it would be the clothing. Esav was physically much bigger than Ya'akob. She was amazed when Esav's clothing fit Ya'akob exactly. This proved that she was doing the proper thing in sending Ya'akob to get the blessing. (Vedibarta Bam)


"Make me that my soul may bless you before I die" (Beresheet 27:4)

The Gemara in Masechet Yoma teaches that no person can take something from another person if that other person is destined to have it. By the same token, a person cannot experience a loss as a direct result of another person's actions. Our daily lives, though, tend to indicate that just the opposite is true. It usually appears that the person who puts in a greater effort tends to acquire more. It therefore becomes our daily task to remind ourselves constantly that Hashem is the only One Who determines how much we receive.

Rabbi Yehezkel Levenstein explains that this idea can be learned from the story of Ya'akob receiving the blessings from Yitzhak. We know that Yitzhak wanted to give Esav the blessings, but in the end, he gave them to Ya'akob because he thought that Ya'akob was really Esav. If we think about, we should wonder how it could be that a father would not recognize his own son, especially when his son was already living with him for 63 years! Ya'akob and Esav certainly differed in many ways, such as their voices, their manners, and their ways of speaking. It is obviously an open miracle that Yitzhak didn't realize that Ya'akob was standing before him. Hashem prevented him from noticing it because He wanted Ya'akob to receive the blessings.

When Ya'akob expressed his fear to Ribkah that Yitzhak would catch on and curse him, Ribkah replied, "The curse will be upon me." According to Targum Unkelos, Ribkah told Ya'akob, "I was told in a prophecy that you will not be cursed." In other words, if she hadn't received the prophecy, Yaakob's fears would have been justified, and Ribkah would not have sent Ya'akob in to get the blessings. Logically, there was no way that Yitzhak wouldn't realize that Ya'akob was there instead of Esav.

One must then ask why Ribkah found it necessary to dress Ya'akob in goatskins in case Yitzhak would feel him. Without the prophecy, she would not have expected her plan to work, whereas with the prophecy, she should have seen no need to dress Ya'akob up.

Rabbi Levenstein teaches a fundamental rule from this story. Even if one is assured that things will work out in his favor, he must put in a legitimate effort in order to succeed. One may not sit back and wait for a miracle. However, one must also always remember that his actions are not the cause of his success. The only reason we must make the effort is because this is the will of Hashem. (Lekah Tob)

Answer to Pop Quiz: In Gerar.

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