Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Aaron and Rosa Zonana By all their children
Parashat Toldot begins with the story of Yaakov and Eisav. Passuk 25:29 says, “And Esav returned from the field and he was tired (a-yef)”. Rabbi Frand quotes Rav Nissan Alpert who notes that this is the first time in the entire Torah that we find the word “a-yef”, that someone was tired. If we examine the life of Avraham Avinu, we certainly find cause for him to be tired, but the Torah never says that he was.
Avraham lived a long, hard and arduous life. He had to leave his birthplace, give everything up, and travel to Canaan. There he was confronted by famine, so he had to travel to Egypt. After returning to Canaan, he helped set up his nephew Lot and became involved in intense conflict in order to save Lot. He had children late in life; he was confronted with the trauma of Akeidat Yitzchak. Avraham had a hard, long, tiring life. Nonetheless, the Torah never describes Avraham as being tired. Avraham never starts to contemplate retirement. Eisav is the first person by whom we find the word “a-yef” written. What is this telling us?
Rav Alpert suggests that being tired of life is not a Jewish concept. If a person’s life is involved in spirituality – in Torah and in Mitzvot, then there is a blessing: “Those whose hope is HaShem will have renewed strength; they will grow wings like eagles. They will run and not grow tired, they will walk and not grow weary” [Isaiah 40:31]. One does not become tired from doing Avodat HaShem because it’s rejuvenating. At times it may be frustrating and these devoted people may think that they are running out of strength, but the blessing is that they will not.
It is a different matter when one is an Eisav and when one’s primary role in life is being out in the field ‘hunting’. Our Sages say that on the very day that Eisav came back complaining that he was tired, he had committed five serious sins, including the three cardinal sins. Therefore it is no wonder that Esav came back claiming that he was tired. When a person’s life is devoid of spirituality, when a person has no purpose in his life, then it is very easy to become worn out.
Rav Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986) lived to his nineties. When Rav Moshe’s condition weakened and he was taken to the hospital before he passed away, when he was literally on his death bed, he commented, “I have no more strength”. That was the end of his life. At that point his spiritual goal and his life’s work were finished. When one’s life work is finished, then there is no more strength. But up until that time, although he was 92 and had been sick, “those whose hope is HaShem have renewed strength.” Often our great Torah personalities, despite being very elderly, have the strength to remain on their feet and talk for hours. From where do they get that stamina? This is the idea expressed by Rav Alpert – being tired is not a Jewish concept.
The day that Eisav came back from the field exhausted was the same day that he sold his birthright to Yaakov. Later on in the Parasha, Yitzchak sent Eisav out to get him something to eat so that he could bless his children before he died. Eisav went out to prepare a meal for his father and Rivkah sent Yaakov in to get the Beracha of the Bechor (elder son) that he purchased from Eisav earlier. So in Perek 27 Passuk 22, it says: "So Yaakov drew close to Yitzchok his father who was blind then and he felt him and said, The Voice is Yaakov's Voice, but the Hands are Eisav's". Hakol kol yaakov vehayadayim yedei eisav. Rashi comments that Yitzchok couldn't have meant the sound of the voice, since our Sages tell us that they both sounded alike and Yitzchak could not tell them apart. Rather what Yitzchak meant is that their tone and manner of speaking was different, because Yaakov spoke gently and included Hashem in his speech, whereas Eisav spoke with a toughness that goes hand in hand with being a murderer.
The Vilna Gaon comments on this statement that in the words Hakol Kol Yaakov (the voice is the voice of Yaakov), the first Hakol is written without a 'vav' so it could be read Hakal Kol Yaakov which means “The voice of Yaakov is weak or light.” The Vilna Gaon explains that when the Voice of Am Yisrael is weak, in other words, when the Jewish people are not learning Torah and praying to Hashem, then Eisav(who represents the other nations), will rise up and anti-Semitism will raise its ugly head against us. But when the Jews are diligent in learning Torah and living a kosher and religious life praying to Hashem, keeping Shabbat in the proper way and bringing a Kiddush Hashem to the nations of the world, then we will be worthy of the Berachot of our forefathers.
We have to know that everything we have all these years later, whether it be Parnasah (livelihood), health or knowledge, these are all Berachot from Hashem which we received from our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.
The following story will illustrate how we must distinguish ourselves. Mr. Sol Werdiger, CEO of Outerstuff, a company that produces sports apparel, received a phone call from Mr. Oh Joon, the South Korean UN Ambassador, asking to meet him for lunch at a Kosher restaurant in Manhattan. Although Sol did not know the purpose of the meeting he agreed.
When they met, Mr. Joon told him, “I have always heard negative stereotypes about Jews and Israel and I took it at face value. Then, my daughter took an internship working on design in your company. Throughout the year, she has been telling me how wonderful it is to work at your company.” Mr. Joon continued, “There are four areas which stood out and impressed my daughter. 1) Everyday, at 1:30 p.m., no matter what was going on at the office, all the men including those from neighboring offices, retreated into a room to pray with sincerity and calm. 2) Every Friday the office shuts down early in the afternoon in preparation for your holy Sabbath and is closed on the Sabbath – this includes all workers no matter which faith or religion they maintain. 3) My daughter observed that each petitioner for charity – and there were many – were treated with respect and left with a check in hand. 4) My daughter was treated with the utmost respect and dignity.”
Because of the amazing experience and lessons the company taught his daughter, Mr. Joon took out his checkbook and was ready to write a check returning all his daughter’s earnings! Mr. Werdiger wouldn’t hear of it. “Your daughter worked and earned her salary and rightfully deserves her pay, I will not accept any remuneration.”
Then the Ambassador relayed the most amazing thing. “As you know, I have voting privileges at the UN. Now because of my renewed appreciation of the Jewish people, I abstained from voting on resolutions against Israel on three occasions. At one resolution I was the ninth vote needed to pass the motion and resolution against Israel and because I abstained, it did not pass!”
Mr. Werdiger said that no one at the office had any idea that this girl was the daughter of an Ambassador and no one ever imagined what type of impact their typical conduct at work had on her or how this impacted the votes against Israel. Hashem has entrusted us to follow the example of our forefather Avraham to be trailblazers and to set examples becoming a light to all nations by living exemplary lives as outlined by the laws, personalities and experiences of our precious and timeless Torah!
May we use the above story as an example of how we should always act so we can be a Kiddush Hashem to the other nations of the world. Also may we remember how it says in the Parasha”Hakol kol Yaakov” which teaches us to always keep the voice (Kol) of Torah strong as we teach it to our children and grandchildren. By doing this we will be better prepared and equipped to keep the influences of the other nations of Eisav far away from us. We should always be worthy of the Berachot from Hashem and continue to benefit from the Zechut of our Avot, but also to have a tremendous debt of gratitude to our own Fathers, Grandfathers and Great-Grandfathers who carved out a path for us here in America, where we are able to learn Torah in freedom and enjoy a kosher Jewish life! Amen!
Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of
Rabbi Amram Sananes
Eliyahu Ben Rachel Malka Bat Garaz
Sarah Bat Chanah Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Shulamit Bat Helaina Meir Ben Latifa
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Esther Bat Sarah
Rav Haim Ben Rivka Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Yitzchak Ben Adele Rafael Ben Miriam
Chanah Bat Esther Moshe Ben Mazal
Moshe Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal
Avraham Ben Garaz Ovadia Ben Yosef
Yaakov Ben Rachel
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