Dedicated In Honor of My Wife Sylvi by Her Husband Joey Esses
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 (Yitzchak) 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! Blessed With Children Parashat Toldot begins with Yitzchak praying for his wife to have children. Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair told a story about a couple that was having a hard time having children. They went to the Lubavitch Rebbe, and the Rebbe gave them many blessings, except the one they needed most, the one to be blessed with children. Time passed, and Hashem had still not blessed them with a child. Their friends not only had had children, but some of them were marrying them off. With every party they went to, their pain grew and grew. They went to the Rebbe again to get blessings, and again he skipped the beracha for them to conceive. They managed to get a private audience with him, and the wife broke down crying and asked, “Why won’t the Rebbe bless us so Hashem can give us a child? Please, why is Hashem denying me the one thing that is so dear to me? What can I do to remove this gezerah – decree?” The Rebbe said, “Years ago, one of you hurt someone very much, and this person never forgave you. You have to find this person and beg for forgiveness.” The husband and wife thought very hard to remember who they had wronged. The husband, Shlomo, suddenly remembered something from years ago when he was in yeshivah. The boys in his class were headed on a trip to Chicago on a van. There was one boy in the class who had a particular mitzvah that he took very seriously. He would make sure to not walk three steps before he made netilah every morning, so he would keep a cup and bowl by his bed. The kids were on the van through the night, so he brought a cup with water and a bowl and put it on the seat next to him on the van. Shlomo, the husband from the childless couple, remembered that he had thought this boy was silly and so he hid the cup and bowl while the boy was sleeping. When he woke and couldn’t find the cup, he became very distraught, and the rest of the boys on the van started pointing and laughing at him, before the van driver intervened and made them give it back. The young boy looked at all his classmates and zeroed in on Shlomo and said, “I will never forgive you for this.” Shlomo tracked this man down and explained that he had been married for decades, praying to have children. The man remembered how horrible he felt when Shlomo hid his cup and embarrassed him, and he refused to forgive him. Shlomo begged, “Please, the Rebbe sent me. He said I should beg you to forgive me.” The man said, “Okay, but only for the Rebbe.” A year later, the couple had a baby boy. We have to be incredibly sensitive to people’s feelings and treat everyone with respect. We also have to be very careful to forgive those who’ve wronged us, because they can be suffering terribly from our hands. Changing the Course of History In this week’s 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. 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. 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. 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:
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?
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.
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