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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


Two nations are in your womb; two regimes from your insides shall be separated; the might shall pass from one regime to the other, and the elder shall serve the younger. (25:23)

Rivkah Imeinu was informed of the reality: she was carrying twins. It was not one mixed-up child that she was carrying; it was two children: one righteous and one evil. Her unborn infants represented two powerful nations, each with his own individual, conflicting ideology. The turmoil within her womb was not the result of a single child who was lost and indecisive concerning his religious future. Should he gravitate to the bais ha'medrash, or should he follow his inclination which was pulling him to the house of idol worship? No, it was much simpler. Her two sons were mighty enemies from before their births, their natural tendency of each controlling his destiny. Eisav gravitated to idol worship, because that was where he felt most comfortable. Yaakov, however, found solace only in the bais ha'medrash.

Chazal teach that the two will never be mighty simultaneously. When Eisav reigns, Yaakov is his subject. When Yaakov prevails, Eisav is the underdog. They each represent a theology and a moral posture which is incongruous with that of the other. Morality, justice and ethics cannot coexist with licentiousness, vulgarity and faithlessness. They are opposites and, thus, totally incompatible.

Horav Gamliel Rabinowitz, Shlita, comments that these two opposing values - the holiness dimension versus the dimension of impurity - have a similar frictional relationship within each and every one of us. This is the meaning of, u'l'ome mi'l'ome ye'ematz, "the mighty shall pass from one regime to the other." A person can ascribe to only one dimension. He cannot have it both ways. It is either kedushah, sanctity, or tumah, impurity. Just as fire and water cannot coexist within a single entity, neither can kedushah and tumah. One cannot have his mind on Olam HaBa, the World to Come, if his body is submerged in the lusts of This World.

Rivkah Imeinu confronted this challenge via her two sons. Her choice was much easier than ours. She understood that Yaakov was a tzadik, righteous person, and Eisav was a rasha, evil person. It was clear - cut and dry. We, however, hear two voices; we are compelled by two gravitational pulls: To which one do we listen? Which one do we ignore? Perhaps, the mere fact that we understand that we cannot have it both ways, helps in our decision-making process. Once we ascribe to kedushah, the lusts and desires which would pull us down are quieted. If we give in to our base desires, however, there is no place for kedushah in our lives.

We each have a little bit of Yaakov and a little bit of Eisav in our lives. To which one do we want to give ascendancy? If we would realize how daunting the question is, we would be able to acknowledge the simplicity of the answer.

The might shall pass from one regime to the other. (25:3)

Rashi explains that when this one rises, the other one falls. He supports this with a pasuk in Yechezkel 26:2, Imaleh hacharavah, "I will fill myself from the river." Chazal teach, "The city of Tzur, Tyre, a city inhabited by descendants of Eisav, was not filled, but from the ruins of Yerushalayim." We derive from here that one regime will derive its strength at the expense of the other. Rashi's proof from this pasuk presents a problem. He began with the statement, "When this one rises - the other one falls," and he proves this with a pasuk that implies, "When this one falls - the other one rises." This is not the same thing.

Horav Yitzchak Dov Koppelman, zl, explains that when Klal Yisrael rises, when they maintain a plateau of spiritual purity? becoming the holy nation which they are, Eisav falls. There is no place for Eisav in a world in which Klal Yisrael is spiritually progressive. The only way that Eisav can rise is when Klal Yisrael falls, when they fall off their spiritual perch. Otherwise, Eisav cannot climb to the top; he cannot prevail on his own. He needs Klal Yisrael's support, which comes in the form of their negative activity.

Thus, when Rashi writes, "When this one rises - the other one falls," he refers to Klal Yisrael. When Klal Yisrael rises, it will mean the end of Eisav. The pasuk, however, addresses Eisav's rise, which can occur only when Klal Yisrael falls. We can rise on our own. They can rise only if we fall.

A similar idea applies in our never-ending battle with the yetzer hora, evil inclination. It will prevail over us only once we have given in to depression or other forms of weakness. When we think that we cannot make it, the yetzer hora goes into full swing. Otherwise, it has no power over us. Whatever efficacy the yetzer hora has over us is the result of our weakness. We give it strength.

The first one emerged red entirely like a hairy mantle; so they named him Eisav. After that his brother emerged with his hand grasping onto the heel of Eisav; so he called him Yaakov. (25:25, 26)

Rashi teaches that Eisav was named by everyone present at his birth. In contrast, the "he" referred to in the phrase, "so he called him Yaakov," was actually Hashem, Who gave Yaakov Avinu his name. The name is a play on the word eikav, heel, a reference to Eisav's heel which Yaakov grasped at birth. The fact that Hashem named Eisav as a result of this incident, suggests that Yaakov's holding onto Eisav's heel has considerable cosmic significance. A number of questions present themselves. First, did Yaakov grasp Eisav's heel by design or by chance? Furthermore, is it not most appropriate for a righteous person to distance himself as much as possible from a wicked person? Why would Yaakov want to be in Eisav's proximity - let alone hold onto his heel? Last, we address the text of the Midrash Rabbah, Atun krisun l'chaziraschen shem, af ana l'beni bechori, "You gave a name to your pig; I will also give a name to my firstborn son." Hashem seems to be referring to Eisav as a pig. Why? As a result, He names Yaakov. Clearly, this Midrash alludes to a profound thought.

Horav Pinchas Friedman, Shlita, tackles the above question in his inimitable manner. He quotes the Avnei Nezer, who explains the two kosher signs of accepted animals. They must have completely separated hooves and chew their cud. The Torah then goes on to list four animals. These include: the camel, hyrax and hare - all which chew their cud, but do not have split hooves. They are not kosher. The fourth animal is the pig, whose hooves are split, but who does not chew its cud.

Chazal observe that the Torah has cited only four unkosher animals. They explain that each animal symbolizes one of the four galuyos, exiles, which we, as a nation, have experienced. The camel represents Bavel; the hare, Greece; the hyrax, Media; and the pig, Edom/Rome - or our present exile. In addition, Chazal teach that Galus Edom is equal to the other three exiles. Apparently, this is because the klipah, spiritual husk of the chazir, pig, equals that of the other three.

The Avnei Nezer explains that Yaakov Avinu's middah, attribute, was emes, truth. The Patriarch personified absolute truth. He serves as the nation's briach ha'tichon, middle bar, which miraculously extended the full length of the karshei ha'Mishkan, planks of the Mishkan, keeping the walls braced and sturdy. Likewise, the Patriarch, symbol of truth, maintains the integrity of the Jewish People. The pig has one kosher sign which it thrusts forward, displaying its cloven hooves, as if to mislead onlookers into perceiving it as kosher.

We now begin to understand the incongruity between Yaakov, the symbol of truth, and Eisav/Edom, represented by the pig, the animal that defies integrity, presenting itself as kosher, when, in fact, it is treifah, unkosher. There is nothing as false as the pig, due to its misleading nature. This is like Malchus Edom, which arrogates itself as righteous and humane, when this is nothing but a ruse, as we have seen throughout the millennia by the Edomites of each generation. Rome reared its ugly head in Western Europe, specifically Germany, with its Crusades, which were nothing more than license to murder and plunder innocent people. It culminated with the Nazis and, regrettably, continues to this very day by those who present themselves as humane, honest people when, in fact, they are the heir apparents and modern-day successors to the Roman/Edom/Eisav tradition.

Yaakov is Eisav's nemesis. The Patriarch represents the very foundation of emes, which has kept Klal Yisrael spiritually solvent. Eisav is worse than the other three representatives of evil, because, unlike them, he conceals his malevolence under the veneer of righteousness and piety. A quick perusal of world history supports this idea. Eisav lived a life of aspersion and subterfuge. He spent his time and expended his energy in deceiving everyone. Rather than make the effort to do it right, he looked for ways to cover up the wrong. He was by nature a liar, a swindler.

Rav Friedman takes us further along on a journey through esoteric commentary. The Orach L'Chaim, Parshas Lech Lecha, quotes the Baal Shem Tov, who renders a passage in the Talmud Shabbos 75A, homiletically. Chazal question: "One who slaughters on Shabbos - what sin (which of the 39 Avos Melachos, main categories of labor) does he transgress?" Rav says tzovea, dyeing. The blood which spurts out colors the skin of the animal. Tosfos adds three cryptic words: a shochet d'alma kai. He refers to the one who slaughters the world. This is the literal translation. Tosfos actually is explaining that the Talmud's question is concerning a regular shochet/ritual slaughterer, but, in a play on words, the word alma, which usually is translated as common, is homiletically translated by the Baal Shem Tov as "the world." This refers to the yetzer hora, who slaughters the inhabitants of the world, destroying their lives by inciting them to sin.

The Talmud in Succah 52A teaches: "In the future (End of Days) Hashem will take the yetzer hora and slaughter it." We now understand the question posed by Chazal in the Talmud Shabbos: "When Hashem slaughters the yetzer hora, why does He do this? After all, the evil inclination is only 'doing his job.' His function is to seduce people into sinning, a job he carries out with great expertise and success. Why hold it against him?" To this (interpretation of the question) Rav answers: "Because of tzovea, dyeing." One who dyes a garment covers up its actual color. A hypocrite is an adam tzavua, a "dyed man," a faker, a deceiver.

There are two ways the yetzer hora can "attack" a person. The first is a frontal attack, in which the yetzer hora goes openly and without embellishment, attempting to convince the individual to sin. While this yetzer hora is clearly dangerous, he can overcome it. The mere fact that it acts overtly allows a G-d-fearing person to perceive its attack and circumvent it. It is the other yetzer hora that gives us the greatest challenge and trepidation when it comes at us covertly, with subterfuge and cunning. "This" yetzer hora knows that, under normal circumstances, the person will not sin. Therefore, it presents the aveirah, sin, as a mitzvah, a good deed, something that will be good for the community. This yetzer hora is the one from which we have most to fear. This personifies Eisav in all his infamy.

Hashem created the yetzer hora to seduce man to sin. There was, however, a precondition: man must be made aware of the pitfall; he must realize that he is about to transgress G-d's word. The yetzer hora has a mind of its own. It rebells against its Creator, because it takes its job seriously, with glee and vitriol combined. Thus, in the End of Days, Hashem will slaughter the yetzer hora - because this is what it deserves. Chazal questioned this: "After all, why? He is doing his job!" The immediate response is, "Tzovea! He fools people. That is not his job!"

Eisav is the father of all this evil. Like the pig, it proudly displays cloven hooves as a ruse to fool people. Yaakov Avinu, the antithesis of Eisav, the father of Truth, attempted to prevent Eisav's subterfuge. Therefore, he grabbed for his heel - in order to pull back on his foot! Symbolically, Eisav, the "pig," was trying to fool him. I am making an attempt to call attention to his hypocrisy. It was Hashem Who gave Yaakov his name, because Hashem was thereby making a statement: "I support Yaakov in his battle against the pig, Eisav. Yaakov is truth - I am truth". Eisav must immediately be stopped, at all costs. The only way we will triumph in galus Edom is by clinging to Yaakov's middah of emes. This can only be effected through the study of Torah. The Torah provides us with the spectacles to see through the sham of the outside world and its conveyors of falsehood.

Yaakov simmered a stew, and Eisav came in from the field, and he was exhausted. (25:29)

Yaakov Avinu was not cooking red lentil soup because he had a yen for eating legumes. Lentils are round, and hence, an appropriate food to be eaten in the house of a mourner. Round brings to mind the cycle of life. A circle has no opening - no beginning - no end. A mourner is cloaked in grief; thus, he has no mouth. They were mourning the passing of Avraham Avinu who had died that day. To Eisav, however, it was nothing more than a quick fix: grab a bite and go on his merry way. The world is mourning the passing of its great spiritual mentor. Eisav, his grandson, is busy going about his usual daily endeavor of evil in order to satisfy his base desires.

Chazal teach that Avraham's passing was actually untimely. He had originally been destined to live five more years. His life was cut short, so that he would not witness his grandson's wicked ways. Five years is an incredibly long time. So much can be achieved in five years - especially if one is Avraham! Time is Hashem's greatest gift to man. When Horav Naftali Trop, the Rosh Yeshivah of Radin, became gravely ill, the yeshivah students made an appeal, requesting each student to donate part of his life to the Rosh Yeshivah. Together, the students donated a considerable amount of years to the Rosh Yeshivah. Although it was highly unusual to do this - Rav Naftali Trop was an unusual person. They even dispatched one of the students to the home of the Chafetz Chaim to ask if he would also participate.

When the bachur, student, presented the request, the Chafetz Chaim replied that he would think about it. A short time later, the Chafetz Chaim asked the student to return. He then said that, after deep thought and thorough introspection, he was willing to contribute five minutes! To the Chafetz Chaim, five minutes was an eternity! He could achieve so much in five minutes, because he never wasted a second. Yet, for the Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Naftali, he would part with five minutes.

Now, with this in mind, Horav Yeruchem Levovitz, zl, points out that Avaham Avinu's time was certainly no less valuable than that of the Chafetz Chaim. Indeed, a righteous person's time becomes more valuable as he ages and his spiritual plateau becomes elevated. Thus, Avraham's service to Hashem at age 175 years old was more than anything we could imagine. During the next allotted five years of his life, he could have soared to spiritual heights beyond the scope of our ability to perceive. Yet, Hashem granted him a special favor by shortening his lifespan by five years. All this was just so that he would not see his grandson, Eisav, go off the derech, alienate himself from Judaism. Do we now have any idea concerning the suffering of a parent when their child turns away? We have just witnessed the pain of a grandfather. Certainly, the pain of a parent supersedes even that. We might take the above into consideration when we meet someone who has undergone such an experience. Perhaps a little empathy might be in order.

Yaakov simmered a stew, and Eisav came in from the field and he was exhausted. Eisav said to Yaakov, "Pour into me, now, some of that very red stuff. Yaakov gave Eisav bread and lentil stew." (25:29, 30:34)

Eisav asked for soup. Yaakov Avinu was a magnanimous host, and he gave him soup and bread! Why did Yaakov give Eisav bread in addition to the soup? This question was asked of Horav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, who rendered a halachic response. There is a question in Meseches Berachos concerning which brachah one should recite on beans that have been cooked for a long time. Should it be Borei pri ha'adamah, since beans grow from the ground; or, because they have been cooked so long, should the berachah be, She'ha'kol ni'heh'yeh b'devaro? To avoid any halachic issues, one should wash on bread and make the brachah, Ha'motzi lechem min ha'aretz, a blessing that would include almost anything eaten during the meal. To circumvent any problems Eisav would have concerning the berachah, Yaakov gave Eisav bread. This reply intimates that Eisav was a halachic scholar who might have been concerned with the blessings he recited on food.

Horav Eliyahu Mann, Shlita, then asked Rav Kanievsky concerning a comment he once made regarding a statement made by the Meshech Chochmah. Apparently, this comment was not consistent with his present explanation of Yaakov's actions. The Meshech Chochmah observes from the text of (24:54, 55) that Lavan and his mother did not eat together with everyone at Rivkah's seudas eirusin, festive meal, in honor of her betrothal to Yitzchak. Apparently, Besuel, their husband and father, had suddenly died, rendering them aveilim, mourners. Thus, they could not partake of the festive meal. Rav Chaim commented that the Meshech Chochmah turned them into bigger lamdanim, scholars, than they were. "If so," queried Rav Mann, "why did Rav Kanievsky turn Eisav into such a big lamdan?" Not fazed, Rav Chaim replied that Eisav had a father who was a talmid chacham, who had certainly studied with him. Lavan's pedigree was not as distinguished. He had no one to teach him the halachos of aveilus.

Rav Mann countered, "Could Eisav have been so concerned with hilchos berachos when he was, in fact, returning from his first major sojourn into iniquity? He was guilty of murder, immorality and heresy. Could such a person have cared about which berachah to recite?"

Rav Chaim replied, "Yes. There are many people in today's society who act in a like manner."

We might add that, while they might not kill with bullets, they kill with slander; they maim with their mouths. Immorality also comes in many forms. It does not have to be outright adultery to be considered immoral. Last, one does not have to deny Hashem to be viewed as a heretic. Chazal have expressed various parameters of activity which fall under this category. Yet, these same individuals still stand for a long Shemoneh Esrai and pontificate with righteous indignation every instance that Torah observance does not own up to their perverted system of calibration. Eisav was evil; only he did not necessarily dress or publicly act the part. This makes his nature even more insidious

Perhaps my father will feel me, and shall seem to him as a deceiver. (27:12)

Chazal derive from the Torah's use of the word k'masatea, as a deceiver, that one who disguises his speech, so that he would not be recognized, is considered as if he worships idols. The Meiri explains that machlif b'diburo, the term used by Chazal for one who disguises his speech, applies equally to one who does not keep his word. They cite the pasuk in Yirmiyahu 10:15, which employs the root of titua: heimah maaseh tatuim, "They (idol worship) are vanity, the work of deception," as support for this statement. The connection between Yaakov Avinu's act of "misrepresentation" and idol worship seems questionable. The idol is the creation of a deceiver; the idol deceives. The idol worshipper is nothing more than a gullible fool who believes in a stone god. How is one who deceives others to be compared with an idol worshipper?

I think the answer lies in the act of deception. One succeeds in deceiving someone who wants to believe in him. The deceived individual, thus, plays a role in the deception. Yitzchak Avinu wanted very much to believe that it was Eisav who stood before him. What about the "voice of Yaakov"? Perhaps Eisav repented. Is that not what every father wants? Likewise, the idol worshipper gives license to the idol and its creators to fool him. He wants to believe that the stone standing before him has miraculous powers.

In any event, machlif b'diburo, one who outright deceives or does not keep his word, is acting immorally. His deception is no less iniquitous than one who worships idols. What about Yaakov, the paradigm of emes, truth? In his commentary to the Talmud Makkos 24A, Rashi writes that Yaakov acted under the direction of his mother, who supported her request with a prophetic vision. In other words, she intimated to him that Hashem had given His blessing to this subterfuge. Horav Avraham Grodzenski, zl, supports this, citing the pasuk in Malachi 2:6 Toras emes haysah b'fihu v'avlah lo nimtzah b'sfasav, "The Torah of truth was on his (Aharon's) mouth and iniquity was not found on his lips" as a reference to Aharon HaKohen, who was the ohaiv sholom, the one who loved peace and pursued peace. When we take into account the tactic that Aharon employed in order to achieve peace between disputants, it seems far from the "truth." He would tell each one that the other one was remorseful and regretted the breakup. In the end, they would agree to make up. Yet, Aharon is called a man of truth.

Apparently, there is more to the "truth" than meets the eye. We may suggest that it depends on what the misrepresentation of the truth is attempting to achieve. In the case of Yaakov, the Patriarch was trying to retrieve the blessing which was his by right. He had purchased the birthright from Eisav. Thus, by apparently bending the truth, he was actually sustaining the truth. For Eisav to receive the blessings would have been a lie!

Likewise, every Jew wants to get along with his fellow. Circumstances and situations are created in which something gets in the way, preventing the truth from being actualized. Enter Aharon with his little ruse which will achieve the truth. A lie is a lie if it supports and sustains a lie. If it is the only means for validating the truth - it is not a lie.

The Chafetz Chaim once asked a prominent lay person to participate in a specific endeavor which would involve time on the man's part. The Vaad Ha'Yeshivos, conference of yeshivos, was in dire need of someone to represent them before the government. The man demurred, claiming ill-health. A number of years later, Horav Elchonan Wasserman, zl, met the man and was shocked to see that he was gravely ill. He could hardly get out of bed, and he was dependent on aides to care for him round the clock. Later, Rav Elchonon ruminated that earlier, this man had refused the Chafetz Chaim because of ill health. Hashem arranged that he would not be considered a deceiver, by sending him this illness. When we lie, Hashem sees to it that we are transmitting the truth.

Va'ani Tefillah

U'l'kayeim es kol divrei salmud Torasecha b'ahavah And fulfill all the words of Your Torah's teaching with love.

We have supplicated Hashem that our involvement in Torah study and observance suffuse our entire life's activities, that it guides us when we are not in the bais ha'medrash, during our social activities; throughout our ventures in the world of commerce; and in our periods of leisure. Torah must encompass our entire lives. We now ask that our proficiency in Torah extend to all of Torah. We want to know Talmud, the Codes and myriad commentaries, but, this is not all. We realize that knowledge without love and enthusiasm is short-lived. Thus, we entreat Hashem that we carry this out "with love," with desire, joy and enthusiasm. We are acutely aware that love goes far beyond starry-eyed infatuation. Love means an intense devotion, commitment above and beyond anything that is demanded of us. We stand by the Torah under all circumstances and through all challenges. We love the Torah with all our heart, because we love its Author and because we realize that a life without Torah is no life at all.

our husband, father and grandfather
on his yahrtzeit
Elchanan ben Peretz z"|
niftar 11 Kislev 5759
Esther Kurant
Mordechai & Jenny Kurant
Aliza & Avrohom Wrona
Naomi & Avrohom Yitzchok Weinberger
Dovid & Chavi Kurant
Yossi & Chani Kurant

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