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Parashat Toldot

Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Natan Ben Rachel and Malka Bat Garaz A’h by the Marcus Brothers and Their Families

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!

Changing the Course of History

Parashat Toldot begins the story of Yaakov and Esav. 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. No matter the hand dealt, we all have the potential to change the course of history.

Are You Tired?

“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 Yitzchak.

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.

Why Do They Hate Us?

“And there was a famine in the land… and Yitzchak went to Avimelech, the king of the Philistines, to Gerar (26:1).” 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.

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.

Yaakov Dressed as Esav

Rabbi YY Jacobson brings down another interpretation of this event from Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter of Ger. As we mentioned before, Rivkah had prepared Yaakov to receive the bechora from her husband. While Esav was hunting, Rivkah dressed Yaakov in Esav’s clothes, covered his arms and neck with goatskins to simulate the feel of his hairier brother, prepared a similar dish, and sent Yaakov to his father with the food. Yitzchak, sensing something was amiss, asked his son to lean closer, “And he came closer, and he kissed him, and he smelled the fragrance of begadav—his garments, and he blessed him (27:27).”

A very notable question is asked. If Rivkah had valid reasons for why Yaakov should be the one to receive Yitzchak’s blessing, not Esav, why didn’t she just communicate with her husband and explain that he wasn’t making the right decision, as so many women in the Torah have done? And another question is asked, why did Yaakov’s clothes influence Yitzchak’s decision in giving him the bechora?

The answers, according to Rabbi YY Jacobson, are connected. Yitzchak was not influenced by begadav—his garments, rather bogdav—his traitors. We can see the amazing foresight Rivkah had. She knew that one day, there would be Jews who ‘betray’ their nation and try to assimilate and hide their lineage. Rivkah didn’t only want the blessing to go to Yaakov, but for the Yaakov dressed as an Esav. The moment Rivkah dressed her son Yaakov in Esav’s clothes, she insured that the spark of Judaism, the essence of the Jewish soul, the fountain of Jewish faith, would remain embedded in the heart of every single Jew forever, even the Jew that presents himself to the world as an Esav.

The following is a true story about Rav Shlomo Wolbe, A’H, who was one of the greatest Rabbis of our time and who wrote extensively about raising children and the psychology of moral education. He had a very gentle and progressive approach and this story exemplifies many aspects of his method.

One of his daughters had just gotten engaged, and the future in-laws were invited for a Shabbat dinner at the Wolbe home. In an atmosphere of great purity, Rav Wolbe welcomed the new in-laws warmly, and everyone wished each other Shabbat Shalom. When his daughter’s future hatan arrived, he warmly exclaimed, “Welcome, our future son-in-law!” The atmosphere could not have been more joyous and pleasant throughout the Shabbat meal. Suddenly the doorbell rang repeatedly. Everyone was astounded, and there was terrible tension in the room. Who could be breaking the Shabbat at the Wolbes by ringing the doorbell multiple times?

Rav Wolbe opened the door, and in walked his rebellious son, who had left the community and was no longer religious. He was wearing a t-shirt with slang on it, jeans and sneakers. He wasn’t wearing a kippah, and as he walked in, he threw his cell phone and car keys on the hall table.

Rav Wolbe’s response filled everyone with surprise. His voice was filled with love and happiness at seeing his son as he greeted him in the same way he would have greeted him had he been the greatest yeshiva scholar. He said warmly, “Oh welcome my son. Really, what an honor that you came to join us for dinner tonight. How could we have had this very special Shabbat without you? Come, please come in my son, you must be hungry.” The son sat down at the table, to the right of his father, who did not express any hint of disapproval. His voice was full of acceptance, and his message was one of unconditional love. He was not embarrassed or ashamed of his son in any way in front of his future son in-law and his family. He made his son feel that he was so very proud of him.

“I see that you’re looking well, my son,” he said. His son shrugged. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he said flippantly. Rav Wolbe turned to his daughter’s fiancé and said, “You should know that you have an extraordinary brother-in-law, really extraordinary. His intelligence keeps amazing us since he was a child. I’m certain that you’ll get along well together.” He showed only pride for his son and how much he respected him. He continued to praise him in front of the others to raise his self-esteem and to show his unbending love for his son. He could see right into his son’s heart, and he saw that his son was good, and capable of great things, and that is what he chose to focus on. Not any of the negatives, but only giving off positive feelings to his son.

As they were all singing Shabbat songs, Rav Wolbe reached out and laid his hand on his son’s hand. The gesture was full of love and acceptance and said, “No matter what, you are my son I am very proud of you, I miss you, and I will always love you.” At the end of the meal, Rav Wolbe said, “Thank you for coming my son. Our family would never have been complete without you, and we love it so much when you join us.” The son said, “Thank you, dad,” took his car keys and cell phone, and left. As he reached his car, just as he was about to start the engine he hesitated, thought about the evening, and decided to go back to his father. As he entered the house he immediately went over to his father and they hugged each other. He told him, “Thank you for being there for me. I’ll be walking, not driving, tonight.”

The feeling of acceptance from his father, a great Rabbi, instilled the need in the son to return and become a baal teshuvah. The young man who was ‘dressed as Esav,’ once again found meaning and purpose in Judaism and changed his ways to become a true man of Torah.

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. 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 the Jews who dress as Esav feel the connection to Hashem within them and return, and 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:

  • Do we complain about our circumstances instead of working hard to reach our full potential?

  • As Jews, do we tend to disguise ourselves in “Esav’s clothing” and blend into the crowd, or are we proud to be Jewish in society today, and comfortable to be recognizable as members of Am Yisrael?

Summary:

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

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.

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.

Rivkah didn’t communicate with her husband but instead dressed Yaakov as Esav, because she wanted the blessing to go to a Yaakov dressed as Esav. She insured that the spark of Judaism, the essence of the Jewish soul, would remain embedded in the heart of every single Jew forever, even the Jew that presents himself to the world as an Esav.

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

Esther Bat Menucha

Anyone interested in Dedicating this Divre Torah Le'ilui Nishmat or Refuah Shelemah or In Honor of someone, can email me at jrahmey@rahmeyfinancial.com. Checks can be made out to “Mikdash Melech” for $101 and mail to 1326 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11230 (please put in the memo “Divre Torah Food for Shabbat”).

Anyone interested in past parashiot please go to the website ParashaPerspective.org