Illuminations #51, Cheshvan 5776, Parshat Toldot

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Illuminations #51, Cheshvan 5776, Parshat Toldot

Torah Gems

In this week’s parsha, the pasuk tell us ויהי כי זקן יצחק ותכהנה עניו. The meforshim give different reasons as to why Yitzchak was blind: some say so he would be able to get tricked by Yaakov and give him the blessings, others say it’s the smoke of עבודה זרה that עשו’s wives were doing. But these explanations do not explain what this has to do with the beginning of the verse, “And when Yitzchak got old his eyes dimmed,” which sounds like Yitzchak’s blindness had to do with the זקנה, old age.

I’d like to suggest a different interpretation to this פסוק. The gemara in Shabbat 152 b brings down a story about grave diggers who were digging along side Rav Chama bar Yoshiya. As they were digging, they heard a voice telling them to leave. They ran to Rav Nachman who owned the land. Rav Nachman went to the grave and asked, “Who are you?” The voice answered, “I’m Chama bar Yoshiya.” So Rav Nachman asked him, ” Did you not hear what Rav Mori said, that even tzadikim after death disintegrate?” The voice replied, ” Who is Rav Mori?” Rav nachman continued, “Did you not see the pasuk וישוב העפר על הארץ, and the sand will return to the ground?” So the voice of Rav Chama bar Yoshiya replied, “I see you learned קהלת but משלי you did not learn, for it says in משלי,  that disintegration to the bones is jealousy ורקב עצמות קנאה.”

The question is raised: what does jealousy have anything to do with disintegration after death? In last week’ s parasha the Torah tells us that אליעזר gave רבקה jewelry and that he had alot of gold and silver with him. The Torah says ולרבקה אח ושמו לבן וירץ לבן אל האיש החוצה אל העין. Rashi asks: why did לבן run? He answers עיניו נתן בממון, he saw the money and ran to kill Eliezer.

The מפרשים on Rashi ask why it matters to ask for a reason that לבן ran; he ran because people run. They answer that the gemara tells us a person who takes big steps reduces 1/500 of his eye sight, so Rashi asked why did לבן run because he must have had a great reason to run and reduce from his eyesight. For that he answered עיניו נתן בממון, he gave his eyes for the money.

And that is the concept of jealousy: that you would give anything to be in the other’s shoes. However during ברכת המזון we say הרחמן הוא יברך את כל אחד ואחד ממנו כמו שנתברכו אבותינו אברהם יצחק ויעקב בכל מכן כל כן יברך אותנו etc.. We ask hashem to bless us like he blessed our forefathers בכל מכל כל. The definition of these words are: in-everything, from-everything, everything.

Our forefathers were blessed with the knowledge that what they had is what they needed. The pasuk by Avraham is ואברהם זקן בא בימים וה׳ ברך את אברהם בכל, “And avraham is old, coming with days, and God blessed him with all.” What does being old have to do with being blessed with everything?

The gemara in Yoma 28b tells us that the word זקן means that Avraham studied Torah and that the word זקן by Yitzchak is also that he studied Torah. By Avraham the pasuk said ואברהם זקן בא בימים וה׳ ברך את אברהם בכל, meaning Abraham studied Torah for he understood that God blessed him with all that he needs and therfore he wasn’t worried about anything other than studying Torah. And by Yitzchak the pasuk said ויהי כי זקן יצחק ותכהנה עיניו מראות, meaning to tell us that Yitzchak, too, was studying Torah and gave from his eyesight for the Torah as opposed to לבן who ran to the money, giving from his eye- sight for money. This same concept we find by Yaakov Avinu as it says in the pasuk, ועיני ישראל כבדו מזוקן, ” The eyes of Yisrael weakened from old age.” But that gemara we mentioned earlier used the word זוקן to teach us that Yaakov, too, was learning Torah, so we can here attach Yaakov’s loss of vision to the studying of Torah as opposed to running after money.

This of course is because our forefathers understood that what we have is what we need thereby leaving their heads clear to study Torah.

We can now understand what jealosy has to do with rotting after death: because a person who is willing to give from himself for money and for jealousy and is busy being jealous instead of studying Torah will give more of his body underground, but someone who is not jealous and studies Torah can be saved.

Parsha Pearls

Rashi explains that every time Rivka passed the bet medrash the baby would kick and when she passed a place of idol worship the baby would kick. The passuk continues ותלך לדרוש את ה׳ “And she went to ask from Hashem.”

The question is asked that usually if someone is having complications during pregnancy they would go to a doctor, not to a bet medrash: why did rivkah go to a bet medrash?

Rivka assumed she was having one baby and she was worried about how it can be that the baby has such a desire to study Toah and the same desire to worship idols? She realized it can not be at the same time; Rivka felt like she could live with it if he was a רשע in the beginning of his life and later became a בעל תשובה because in a place that a baal teshuva stands even great tzadikim don’t stand.

But Rivka was worried that the child would first study Torah and later go off the derech.

As the medrash says, she first passed by the bet medrash and later she passed the place of idol worship. That’s why Rivka went to ask in the bet medrash.

The Chida asks the following: it is known that יצר הרע only comes to a child at birth, not before. If that is true, how did Esav run after  idol worshiping?

He answers that the יצר הרע is not dominant over the body when the baby is in the womb, but when it comes out the יצר הרע dominates the body, like the passuk says:  לפתח חטאת the word חטאת is בלשון נקבה the next word רובץ is בלשון זכר the חטאת is waiting at the opening to רובץ .

Glimpses of Greatness

On the lower east side lived an odd Jew known as “the Professor.” The Professor imagined himself to be both a medical genius and a high ranking army official. Attired in a long army coat, he would walk into hospitals and bark orders that were either laughed at or ignored. He was a harmless fellow and most people paid little attention to him. Rav Eliyahu Moshe Shisgal, son in law of Rav Moshe Feinstein, who was widely known for his chesed and ahavas yisrael, befriended this man and the Professor became a familiar face in the Shisgal home. He would join the family for meals and they would often prepare food for him to take along to wherever he might be going. Rabbi Peretz Steinberg, a prime disciple of Rav Shisgal, once visited Rav Shisgal’s home and found that his rebbi had company. Rav Shisgal introduced the Professor to him explaining that this is what he likes to be called. The Professor had brought along a transistor radio which he was proudly showing off. He turned the radio to its highest volume and proceeded to switch from station to station over and over again. The Professor was enjoying himself immensely and assumed the others were as well. Rav Shisgal did not have the heart to dampen the man’s spirits by asking him to turn off the radio. Suddenly, Rav Shisgal had an idea. He put his ear to the radio and said, “Professor, are these military secrets that I hear?” “Yes!” the Professor shouted excitedly. “This is a military radio and it carries military secrets!” “Well,” said Rav Shisgal, “as you know, I am not a member of the military. I should probably not be hearing these things.” “You are right,” the Professor replied and promptly turned off the radio.

Halacha Weekly

Q. How should one honor one’s parents when visiting with them?
A. When parents are guest at their children’s home, it would be an obligation on the child to let them wash first before a meal and honor them with all other respects that one normally extends to distinguished guests. It is also praiseworthy to seat one’s parents at the head of one’s table, but this is not an obligation.
Part of the commandment of Kibud Av V’Eim is that one should visit one’s parents or, if one can not visit them, to at least call them frequently.
One is not allowed to sit in the chair that their parent normally sits in or stand in the place that their parent normally stands. However, after a parent’s passing, one is permitted to sit or stand in their place. Therefore, in the synagogue one should not sit or stand at the place where the father prays but after they pass on, one is allowed to.

In loving memory of Rut bat Ahuva, A”H
by Rabbi and Mrs. Menashe Manasseh