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Parashat Toldot

Dedicated Le'ilui Nishmat Ezra ben Adele, Ezra Safdeye A'h by the Saff Family

Parashat Toldot

And He Loved Her

At the end of last week’s parasha we read, “Vayikah et Rivkah vat’hi lo l’isha va’ye’ehaveha — He (Yitzhak) married Rivkah, and she became his wife, and he loved her (24:67).” 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. “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 challenged with the trauma of akedat Yitzhak. 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 (Yeshayahu 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 won’t.

It is a different matter when one is like Esav, 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 lived to his nineties, baruch Hashem. 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 at the very 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 will have renewed strength.”

Often our great Torah personalities, despite being elderly, have the strength to remain on their feet and talk for hours. 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. When Yitzchak 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, Rivkah sent Yaakov in to get the beracha of the bechor (eldest son) that he had purchased from Esav earlier.

“So Yaakov drew close to Yitzchak, 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 ve’hayadayim yedeh Esav (27:22).” Rashi comments that Yitzchak couldn’t have been talking about the sound of the voice itself, since our Sages tell us that Yaakov and Esav sounded alike and Yitzchak could not tell them apart. Rather, what Yitzchak meant was that their tone and manner of speaking was different. Yaakov spoke gently and included Hashem in his speech, whereas Esav spoke with the roughness of 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. 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, when the Jewish people are not learning Torah and praying to Hashem, then Esav—who represents the other nations—will rise, 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 forefathers' berachot.

We must know that everything we have all these years later, parnassah—livelihood, health, or knowledge, are all berachot from Hashem which we received from our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.

Why Do They Hate Us?

Rabbi Frand discusses that in Parashat Toldot, we are introduced to the concept of “Ma’aseh avot siman l’banim” in this case, sinat Yisrael, baseless hatred of Jews. 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 (26:16).”

This becomes the precedent for 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 that the verse “Yehuda went into exile from poverty and from an abundance of work (Echa 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 m’rov avodah—industrious or rich. 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 1930’s, 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.

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.

Changing the Course of History

Earlier in the parasha, when Rivkah was expecting her sons, it says, “The children struggled within her (25:22).” Rashi comments on this, elaborating, “When she passed by the entrances of the Torah academies of Shem and Ever, Yaakov would run and struggle to come out. When she passed the entrance of a temple of idolatry, Esav would run and struggle to come out.”

Rav Moshe Sternbuch asks a question in his book On the Parasha. How could it be that Yitzchak Avinu would have a son predestined to serve idols? The answer is that although he was inclined to serve idols from birth, his task in life was to overcome it and to have a hand in completely eradicating it from the world. Yaakov’s task was to realize his potential for perfection and ultimately achieve that. The goals were equally difficult, but only Yaakov was able to accomplish his mission and be successful.

Had Esav realized his potential and achieve his life’s task, the world as we know it would be entirely different. There would have been no heresy, no Paganism, no Christianity, Buddhism, or even Atheism. The complete course of human history would have changed.

Each Jew is born with a different task, as well as the potential to fulfill it. Many people with simple backgrounds or mediocre abilities work hard and achieve the impossible.

May we remember how it says in the parasha, “hakol kol Yaakov,” which teaches us to always keep the voice (kol) of Torah strong and 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 we be able to truly achieve our task in life and reach our potential like Yaakov Avinu. May Hashem bless us and bring the Mashiach speedily in our days! Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Discussion Points:

  • Are we aware of our surroundings and conscious of the people around us in order to make a kiddush Hashem?


  • The Torah teaches us through Yitzchak and Rivkah that it is so important to focus on shared values as opposed to infatuation during shidduchim.

  • Esav came in from the field “tired” because he was not involved in Torah and mitzvot, rather he sinned repeatedly. When someone is involved in avodat Hashem, he is blessed with energy and strength, not lethargy.

  • We learn from the lack of a vav in “hakol kol Yaakov,” that when the voice of Am Yisrael is weak and we are not learning Torah and being a light to other nations, anti-Semitism will rise, and we will not be worthy of the bechorah, the berachot of our forefathers.

  • Yaakov and Esav had equally hard tasks in life, to reach their full potential. Unfortunately, Esav did not accomplish his mission of eradicating avodah zarah from the world. But if he had, the world would be entirely different today. We all can change the future; it is a matter of working hard to reach our full potential by living a life according to the Torah.

Le’ilui Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel

Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Avraham Ben Garaz

Sarah Bat Chanah

Esther Bat Sarah

Avraham Ben Mazal

Shulamit Bat Helaina

Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Rahamim Ben Mazal

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther

Rafael Ben Miriam

Ovadia Ben Esther

Rav Haim Ben Rivka

Moshe Ben Mazal

Moshe Ben Yael

Yitzchak Ben Adele

Avraham Ben Mazal

Meir Ben Latifa

Chanah Bat Esther

Yaakov Ben Rachel

Malka Bat Garaz

Moshe Ben Garaz

Avraham Ben Kami

Yaakov Ben Leah

Mordechai Ben Rachel

Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

Natan Ben Rachel

Saadia Ben Miriam

Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon

Margalit Bat Mazal

Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky

Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama

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