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Parashat Toldot

Dedicated in honor of my wife Sarah by Moey Levy

Parashat Toldot

At the end of last week’s parasha (24:67), we read “vayikah et rivka vat’hi lo l’isha ve’ye’ehaveha — He (Yitzhak) married Rivka, and she became his wife, and he loved her.” As Jews we know that the Torah is emmet, and we learn from the Torah that today’s society has it backwards. Society dictates that you meet someone, fall in love, then marry them. This order of events contributes to the fact that more than fifty percent of marriages in the United States and many other Western countries unfortunately end in divorce. One leading reason for this is that many relationships and marriages are based on a very superficial foundation of infatuation and lust. The Torah teaches us the opposite in this parasha: When we want to get married, we need to look for shared values with which to build our marriages and families. This will ultimately bring each couple to a love that’s emmet!

Are You Tired?

Parashat Toldot begins with the story of Yaakov and Esav. Passuk 25:29 says, “And Esav returned from the field and he was tired (ayef).” Rabbi Frand quotes Rav Nissan Alpert, who notes that this is the first time in the entire Torah that we find the word ayef, 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 an intense conflict in order to save him. He had children late in life, then he was confronted with the trauma of akedat Yitzhak.

Avraham had a hard, long, tiring life. Nonetheless, the Torah never describes Avraham as being tired. Avraham never started to contemplate retirement. Esav is the first person by whom we find the word ayef written. What does this tell us?

Rav Alpert suggests that being tired of life is not a Jewish concept. If a person is involved in spirituality — in Torah and 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 Esav, and when one’s primary role in life is being out in the field “hunting.” Our Sages say that on the very day that Esav 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. 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.

Hakol Kol Yaakov

The day that Esav came back from the field exhausted was the same day that he sold his birthright to Yaakov. Many years later when Yitzhak felt he was near the end of his life, he sent Esav out to get him something to eat so that he could bless his children before he died. When Esav went out to prepare a meal for his father, Rivka sent Yaakov in to get the beracha of the bechor (elder son) that he had purchased from Esav earlier that day.

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 Esav’s hands’ — hakol kol Yaakov vehayadayim yedeh Esav.” Rashi comments that Yitzchok couldn’t have been talking about the sound of the voice itself, since our Sages tell us that Yaakov and Esav sounded alike and Yitzhak could not tell them apart. Rather, what Yitzhak meant was that their tone and manner of speaking was different. Yaakov spoke gently and included Hashem in his speech, whereas Esav spoke with a toughness that goes hand in hand with being a murderer.

The Vilna Gaon comments that the word hakol in “hakol kol Yaakov — the voice is the voice of Yaakov” is written without a vav; so it could be read “hakal kol Yaakov — 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 Esav (who represents the other nations) will rise up, and anti-Semitism will raise its ugly head. 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 our forefather’s berachot.

We have to know that everything we have all these years later, whether it be parnassa (livelihood), health, or knowledge, are all berachot from Hashem which we received from our forefathers Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov.

Why Do They Hate Us?

Rabbi Frand discusses that in Parashat Toldot, we are introduced to an aspect of ma’aseh avot siman l’banim which has been with us since time immemorial – namely, Sin’at Yisroel, the hatred of Jews for no reason whatsoever. This concept is articulated when Avimelech tells Yitzchak that it is time for him to leave: “Go away from us, because you have become much mightier than us (atzamta mi’menu meod)” [Bereshis 26:16]. The Medrash elaborates on this charge of Avimelech: “All the strength and power that you have accumulated – is it not from us?”

This becomes the prototype of all future anti-Semitism. No matter what the Jew does, the nations of the world will find a reason to blame him for his behavior. The Reisha Rav suggests homiletically that the verse “Judah went into exile from poverty and from an abundance of work” [Eicha 1:3] hints at this same idea. Whatever we do, the nations will always find fault with us. When Yitzchak first came to Gerar, the population did not want to have anything to do with him because he was poor. “We do not like Jews. They are too poor!” When Yitzchak became wealthy, they said “We do not want you. You are too rich!” Sometimes they wish to send Jews into exile because we are too poor and sometimes they wish to exile us because we are too industrious or too rich (m’rov avodah). The bottom line is, whatever the reason may be, they will always find a reason to dislike the Jews.

November 7th was the anniversary of the communist revolution in 1917. This event is no longer marked in the former Soviet Union. They no longer celebrate communism; it has been sent to the ash bin of history. Is it not ironic: when communism started, we were blamed for being responsible for bringing it in. In the 1930s, the Jews were purged from being members in the communist party. Then, they blamed the Jews for being capitalists. Today, they are blaming the Jews for the fall of communism.

Make up your mind — Did we start communism? Did we defeat communism? Were we capitalists? Were we communists? Did we make it work or did we make it fall? Tell us, what did we do?

The answer is that it does not make a difference. Jews are exiled for both wealth and for poverty. The nations do not like us however we are.

There’s an interesting video that went around a few months ago showing a young man waiting at a bus stop in Israel wearing a tattoo and tattered jeans. He was approached by an elderly religious man who greeted him and addressed him, “Shalom Alechem my brother” the young man quickly replied...“Why do you call me brother? I’m not your brother...You don’t accept me, look at my tattoo”. The eldery man said, “I also have a tattoo” as he began to tell the young man that he had a teacher many years ago that taught him well, that we are all brothers! The young man asked, “who was your teacher?” The man began to raise his sleeve to show him the # tattooed on his left he said...”that teacher I had was Adolph Hitler and he taught us that lesson that we are all brothers well!”

We are now just recovering from the horrific news of the worst anti-Semitic act in US history where 11 Jews were murdered. They were killed for one simple reason and that is because they were Jews! This act occurred in a quiet neighborhood in Pittsburgh and it must resonate with each and everyone of us that we are living in Galut (exile) as we have been for the last 2000 years. As Rabbi Diamond always taught us, “we must not be disillusioned that this is not our home no matter how safe we may feel living here on the shores of America”.

May we know that being tired is not a jewish concept and 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 equipped to keep the influences of the other nations of Esav far away from us. We should always be worthy of the berachot from Hashem, and continue to benefit from the zechut of our forefathers. May we also be aware that although we feel safe here in America, know that we are living in Galut as we are still witnessing these acts of Anti-Semitisim. May Hashem bless us and bring the Mashiach speedily in our days! Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

Discussion Points:

· How did you and your spouse meet? How did other couples in your family meet?

· What do we do in life that makes us tired?

· What gives us the energy to keep on going?

· What impression of Jews do people get from observing us in our daily lives?

· Are we aware of our surroundings and conscious of the people around us in order to make a

Kiddush Hashem?

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Leiluiy Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Sarah Bat Chanah Esther Bat Sarah

Shulamit Bat Helaina Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rafael Ben Miriam

Rav Haim Ben Rivka Moshe Ben Mazal

Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal

Chanah Bat Esthe Ovadia Ben Esther

Moshe Ben Garaz Rahamim Ben Mazal

Avraham Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal

Yaakov Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Kami

Meir Ben Latifa Moshe Ben Yael

Malka Bat Garaz Mordechai Ben Rachel

Yaakov Ben Leah

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