This week, our Parshat HaShevua; Parshat Toldos is being sponsored by Drs. David and Malka Blass and family for a refuah shlaima for Yishaya Shalom ben Malka Gittel. To the Blass family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued your kindnesses throughout the years.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
There are multiple lessons and discussions to come out of both Torah’s description of Rivka Imeinu in Parshat Chayei Sarah, and in our Parshat Toldos. We gain insight as to how the childhood nurturing of Rivka Imeinu, in an atmosphere of wickedness, positioned and enabled her to rise above her surroundings, and thus to act l’Shem Shemayim to do chessed to Eliezer.
Near the end of Parshat Chayei Sarah, after Torah relates how Avraham’s servant travelled to Padan Aram in search of Yitzchak’s shidduch, Torah recounts Yitzchak’s first encounter with Rivka (as rendered in the “New Hirsch Chumash”, Sefer Breish’t, Perek 24, posukim 63-67):
“Yitzchak went out toward evening to mediate in the field. He looked up and saw camels approaching. Rivka, too, looked up and saw Yitzchak and she let herself slip from the camel..”
“She asked the servant: Who is that man there, who is walking through the field to meet us? The servant replied, He is my master! So she took the veil and covered herself.”
“The servant told Yitzchak all the things that he had accomplished..”
“Yitzchak brought her into the tent of Sarah, his Mother. He married Rivka, she became his wife, and he loved her, and only then was Yitzchak comforted for his Mother.”
Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z”l, in the “New Hirsch Chumash” (page 542), cites Breish’t Rabbah 60:16 and comments:
With Sarah’s death, the feminine spirit and feeling departed from the home. Yitzchak then found his Mother again in his wife (hence, “When he brought Rivka into the tent, to him it was as if his Mother were there again.”) (Breish’t Rabbah 60:16)
This is the highest tribute that has ever been paid to the dignity and nobility of woman — and it is in the ancient history of Judaism.
Our Parshat Toldos opens with a brief description of the years and the dwellings of Yishma’el and his descendants and the descendants of Avraham and Yitzchak. Our Parshat then relates:
“Yitzchak was forty years old when he took Rivka, the daughter of Betu’el tha Arami of Padan Aram, the sister of Lavan, the Arami, to be his wife.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 25, posuk 20).
We also gain insight as to how the atmosphere of wickedness surrounding Rivka’s upbringing later served her well — that she knew how and when to be kind, and when cunning was called for, thus insuring that the righteous child — Yaakov, who learned and was nurtured with the attributes of his Mother, would receive the Brachot that Am Yisrael would descend from him and that the nations would serve his descendants. We follow the contrast in personality between Yaakov and Eisev, with his paradigm of feigned Kibud Av V’Eim (honoring one’s parents), and learn of Avraham Aveinu’s death and of Eisev’s selling of his Birthright for some lentil soup. Our parshat tells of Eisev’s character deception of Yitzchak through the “tithing of salt and straw” and the seeming deception through which Yaakov received the Brachot and more..
But here, we will talk about Yitzchak Aveinu’s bracha to Eisev and what it means when/if the Jews stray from Torah and Hashem’s Ways. Our Parsha, as rendered in the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, Sefer Breish’t, Perek 27, posukim 28-29, tells of Yitchak’s Bracha to Yaakov:
“…May Hashem give you of the dew of the heavens and of the fatness of the earth, and abundant grain and wine. People will serve you, and regimes will prostrate themselves to you…, and your mother’s sons will prostrate themselves to you; cursed be they who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you.”
When Eisev appeared, after Yaakov received the Bracha intended for him, Yitzchak answered, as rendered Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, Sefer Breish’t, Perek 27, posukim 37 through 40:
“…Behold, a lord I have made him over you, and all his kin I have given him as servants; with grain and wine have I supported him, and for you, where — what can I do, my son? And Eisev said to his father, ‘Is there but one blessing to you, Father? Bless me too, Father!’ And Eisev raised his voice and wept. So Yitzchak, his father answered, and said to him, ‘Behold, of the fatness of the earth shall be your dwelling and of the dew of the heavens from above. By your sword shall you live, but your brother you shall serve; yet it shall be that when you are aggrieved, you shall cast off his yoke from upon your neck.'”
Rashi notes on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 27, posuk 40 (The Sapirstein edition: The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary):
“…Yet it shall be that when you are aggrieved…” An expression of pain…. as if to say, “When Israel will transgress the laws of the Torah, and you will have a claim to be aggrieved over the blessings that [Yaakov] took, ‘You may remove his yoke…'”
Rabbi Mordechai Katz writes beautifully in his Sefer L’mod U’lamed on our Parsha, page 39:
Yitzchak granted Yaakov the blessing that all nations would come to serve the people who would emerge from his descendants. However, Yitzchak indicated that this blessing would come true only if the B’nei Yisrael adhered to the Torah of Hashem. Once the Jews abandoned the ways of the Torah their enemies would gain superiority over them.
History has borne out this prediction. While the Jews acted properly, they enjoyed the presence of His Beit Hamikdosh. However, when they refused to heed His warnings to repent, they suffered the loss of the Holy Temple and were reduced to living under gentile oppression in exile. Later, Jews tried to assimilate and become like the citizens of foreign countries such as Greece, Rome, Russia, Germany. What they forgot was that the gentiles, the sons of Eisev, have always been their enemies. As a result, all attempts by Jews to assimilate have been met by oppression, pogroms, and wars. It was only when the Jews remembered that they are Jews and tried to comply with the laws of the Torah, that they emerged supreme, self-confident and happy.
This lesson has been hammered home again and yet again throughout our history — they were “good Russians”, “good Germans” — Jews who abandoned Torah ways to assimilate into the society of their current residence only to be met with outright disdain and hatred of Jews by that society, and we bear the historical results, culminating with the Sho’a. And now, “Good Americans?” “Good Israelis”?
One cannot help but ponder how easily many American Jews, who have forsaken their Jewish “bread-and-butter issues” for knee-jerk, reflexual liberal votes, brought to power a president/deity based on fallacious characterization of skin color, can now be deceived over and over as conditions worsen in the US –even as this president/”deity” evolves ever more publicly in his disdain and hatred for Israel (read: Jews) . American Jews continue to exhibit a “herd of sheep” (being led to slaughter) mentality by voting one certain way all the time — knee jerk — in national elections, or local elections, afflicted by a blindness which obscures facts, past track-records and subversive affiliations and mentors so obviously evident with the evolution and growth of the internet as an instant source of facts, ie. Bill Ayers, his wife and others who planted bombs in American government buildings.
In today’s Israel, perhaps this means that those who love and cleave to our Divine legacy of Eretz Yisrael and who love their fellow Jews as brothers ought to think and act outside-the-box and employ their wits, their backgrounds, their social networking skills L’Shem Shemayim, to morally and ethically best the political and governing hacks, the media, the intelligencia, the bureaucracy — who have long ago mostly lost sight of the Jewish national mission in, and connection with, Eretz Yisrael: adherence to the Torah of Hashem.
We learn in Torah how Jews are to conduct themselves in wars of Torah survival, how we are to present ourselves in the sight of the nations and how we are to treat our fellow Jews — V’ahavtah L’re’echa Komocha (to do for our brother as we, ourselves would want to be treated).
Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz, in his sefer, “Majesty of Man” (pages 80-81), cites Reb Dovid Leibowitz, founder of Yeshivat Chofetz Chaim:
…The lofty level of ahavah — love — for our fellow [is what] Torah demands of us.
All Jews, regardless of their worthiness, deserve our love and our empathy with their pain. Although we may never reach the level of Yaakov Avinu, we have an obligation, within our own individual capabilities, to live up to the Torah’s standards and strive towards that goal: to enhance our love for and heighten our sensitivities toward our fellow [Jew].
And it would seem that how we treat and empathize with our fellow Jews is an important barometer in Shemayim in determining if Israel has transgressed Torah law and if Eisev has grounds to be aggrieved.
These political and governing hacks, media and intelligencia types, and bureaucrats who have lost their way have, for generations, dumbed down large segments of Israel’s population attempting to rob them of their Jewish heritage. As a result, there has been a collective loss of Jewish courage, principle, backbone, connection to Our Land and loss of Emunah (faith) in Hashem among many Israelis who have evolved into disdain and worse for their brethren who love and connect to Eretz Yisrael. We have borne witness yet again, with the renewal of Gaza war almost 1 1/2 years ago, and with the current renewal of Islamic terror warfare in Jerusalem and in Yehudah and the Shomron, to the indecision, indecisiveness and equivocation by a government on the field of battle.
Doesn’t it seem as if we keep failing because we can’t or won’t follow the Rivka Imeinu model and rise above our natures, the atmosphere of our upbringings and our societal norms, and because we can’t or won’t perceive Hashem’s tests?
Unfortunately, the solutions to the problem, how most of us are blinded to contemporary evils, have yet to found. A solid L’Shem Shemayim methodology for besting, neutralizing and discrediting, at their own game, either an evil Israeli governance, or individuals who cloak themselves in perceived, projected righteousness and legitimacy, has yet to be struck upon. There seems to be noone in our time so imbued with Divine wisdom as Yitzchak Avinu, Rivka Emeinu and Yaakov Avinu were. Hopefully, the time for such answers will come speedily. May our actions regarding our fellow Jews merit acquiring such Divine wisdom as necessary to humble the evil-doers.
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza war of 1 1/2 years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.