Illuminations #98, Kislev 5777, Parshat Toldot

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Illuminations #98, Kislev 5777, Parshat Toldot

Torah Gems

One of the most elusive mysteries of life is to comprehend the significance of hardship. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 65:9) sheds light on the root and reason for human distress:

“Rabbi Yehudah ben Shimon said: ‘Yitzchak requested discomfort. He pleaded: “Master of the universe, When a person dies without bearing hardship, the attribute of justice is stretched out against him; but if You cause him distress, the attribute of justice will not be stretched out against him.” Hashem said to him: “By your life, you have asked well, and I will commence with you.” Thus harship is not mentioned from the beggining of the Torah until this point: “And it came to pass that when Yitzchak was old, his eyes were dim”(Bereishis 26:1).'”

This passage is a great comfort to those who bear misfortune. Yitzchak Avinu was a “pure offering,” one of our three patriarchs, who were unique in their exalted level of holiness, wisdom and absolute purity. Nevertheless, Yitzchak feared that unless he experienced distress in this world to atone for his sins, he would be subject to judgements in the World to Come.

Hashem concurred with Yitzchak’s request, saying, “You have asked well.” This response implies that Yitzchak’s concern about his accountability in the next world was well-founded.

This midrash brings solace to all those who bear adversity. Yitzchak actually pleaded for misfortune so that his sins would be atoned for in this world rather than in the next world. Hence, any affliction we endure in this world serves to cleanse the sins that we have comitted and spares us from punishment in the spiritual world. May Hashem endow us with the clarity to see the healing that comes from hardship and bless us to inherit an eternal place in Gan Eden.

Parsha Pearls

The Torah compares the characters of  Esav and Yaakov: “Esav became one who knows hunting… but Yaakov was a wholesome man…” (Bereishis 25:27). Rashi explains the phrase “who knows hunting.” He says that Esav knew how to “trap” and deceive his father with deceptive words, whereas the concept of deception was completely foreign to Yaakov, who was a tam, a wholesome man – that is, his words and his heart were one.

The honesty of Yaakov is superior to the falsehood of Esav as light is superior to darkness. Nevertheless, it would appear that the ability to deceive requires an aspect of cleverness that is lacking in a wholesome person. Indeed, his lack of guile may be a weakness that renders him naiive and vulnerable.

However, we find just the opposite to be true. Our Sages tell us that Yaakov  affirmed about himself, “I am equal to Esav in the ability to decieve.” But how could this be? His temimus, his wholesomeness, prevented him from employing deception except in situations where it was necessary to employ deceptive tactics for survival. On the other hand, a person who acts with deceit is the opposite of a wholesome person. His inner corruption spurs him to trap others with his sly words and schemes. He has no scruples when it comes to pursuing his self-serving ambitions. Let us follow in the footsteps of Yaakov Avinu, whose words were one with his heart. If we make every effort to conduct ourselves with honesty, Hashem will bless our lives with success and peace of mind.

Glimpses of Greatness

When Reb Moshe and his family arrived in America in 1936, there was only one kosher bakery on the Lower East Side. Reb Moshe knew that the proprietor was a sincere Orthodox Jew, but this did not mean that he was knowledgeable in the halachos that a baker needs to know. Specifically, he did not know whether or not the bakery fulfilled the Mitzvah of separating challah from each dough. Reb Moshe pondered the matter until he came up with a way of determining this without insulting the owner. He entered the store, greeted the owner and said, “Our family has just arrived in America. Since coming here my wife has yet to fulfill the Mitzvah of separating challah. Would it be possible for her to come to the bakery every so often to do this mitzvah?” From the owner’s response it was obvious that the bakery fullfilled this Mitzvah regularly.


Halacha Weekly

Q. Can one partner with a non-Jew in a business which is open on Shabbat?

A. Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim (345-1) states that a Jew and non-Jew that have a field, or oven, or bath house, or water mill in partnership, or that are partners in a retail store, if they set as a condition from the time that they enter into the partnership that the income of Shabbat belongs to the non-Jew alone, whether it is large or small, and the income of one other day that is corresponding to Shabbat belongs to the Jew alone, then it is permitted.  The rest they may split [evenly]. And if the income of Shabbat is known, then the non-Jew alone takes one seventh of the income, and the rest is divided equally.  Rama says that there are those that permit the income after the fact. Even if they do not make a condition and divide in general, and it appears to me that where there may be great loss involved, one can rely on him.