This week, our Parshat HaShevua Toldos is being sponsored anonymously in the merit of Kol B’nai Yisrael. To our anonymous sponsor, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.
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 our Parshat Toldos: the Eisev paradigm of Kibud Av V’Eim (honoring one’s parents), how the childhood nurturing of Rivka Imeinu, in an atmosphere of wickedness, positioned and enabled her to rise above her surroundings and to act l’Shem Shemayim to do chessed to Eliezer. We also learn how the atmosphere of wickedness surrounding Rifka’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 would receive the Brachot that Am Yisrael would descend from him and that the nations would serve his descendents. We follow the contrast in personality between Yaakov and Eisev, and learn of Avraham Aveinu’s death and of Eisev’s selling of his Birthright for some lentil soup. Our parsha 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 descendents. 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 Hamikdash. However, when the 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, 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 setting up a common man as a president/deity based on falicious 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 publically 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, i.e., 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 and their backgrounds, 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 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 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), seems to put a different spin on the inter-play between Yaakov and Eisev regarding the Birthright and the Bracha which seems in accord with how Torah mandates that we treat our fellow Jews. He equates Eisev’s grief at the loss of the Bracha with Mordechai’s reaction, centuries later, to Haman’s decree to annihilate the Jewish people. R’ Leibowitz cites Megillat Esther, Perek 4, posuk 1:
“And he cried a great and bitter cry”
R’ Leibowitz then cites Chazal (Breish’t Rabbah 67:1) explaining:
The similarity of language indicates that the decree was in retribution for Yaakov’s actions toward Eisev in taking Ytizchak’s blessings.
…What error had Yaakov committed? He didn’t steal the … blessing, it was rightfully his. Yaakov, although born second, legitimately purchased the birthright from his brother. That sale included the eventual blessings of the firstborn. His actions were not thievery, but merely claiming that which was his.
Perhaps the fault lay in his motives, not his actions. That… was not the case, Yaakov was not driven by desire for glory or [by] greed. He realized that Eisev was not worthy of the birthright or his father’s blessing…. Furthermore, his mother Rivka perceived through prophesy that the bracha belonged to Yaakov. She all but physically forced him to enter his father’s tent to receive the blessing (Breish’t Rabbah 65:15).
We see that Yaakov was not motivated by any personal agenda; rather he was charged with a holy mission — to rescue the bracha from his unworthy brother.
R’ Leibowitz cites Reb Dovid Leibowitz, founder of Yeshivat Chofetz Chaim:
Yaakov was not punished for the pain he caused Eisev, but for an infinitesimal shortcoming in not feeling sufficiently anguished that Eisev had to suffer…. Yaakov should have empathized to a greater degree with Eisev’s plight. …We can be sure that he shed tears for Eisev — and his tears were sincere — in Heaven those tears were scrutinized and perhaps there were not enough of them, or perhaps they didn’t flow from the innermost depth of his soul. It was for this miniscule lack of brotherly love that the Jews of Shushan were taken to task centuries later.
…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, in this summer’s renewal of Gaza war, to indecision, indecisiveness and equivocation by a government on the field of battle, as well as in responding to these past weeks’ spate of terror attacks upon Jews in Jerusalem and in Yehuda and the Shomron.
Doesn’t it seem as if we keep failing because we can’t or don’t rise above our natures, the atmosphere of our upbringings and our societal norms, nor can we 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 MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. 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 V’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.