Illuminations #181, Kislev, 5779, Parshat Toldot

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Illuminations #181, Kislev, 5779, Parshat Toldos

Torah Gems

In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Toldot, we read about the birth of twin boys to Yitzchak and Rivka. The Torah tells us that these two children, Yaakov and Esav, were born with extreme opposite personalities and even in their mother’s womb they were already in conflict. Rashi explains that their struggle in their mother’s womb represents the constant battle between the good and evil forces of the world.

The Torah describes an episode where one day Yaakov, the simple and honest younger son, was cooking a lentil dish for his father Yizchok to eat when in walked Esav, the uncouth and deceitful older son. Being tired and hungry from a long day of hunting, Esav demanded that Yakov “pour” the red lentils down his throat because he was so famished. Yaakov agreed to Esav’s request providing that Esav relinquish his rights to the Bechora

To this Esav replied, “Behold I am going to die and for what do I need this Bechorah.

Rashi explains that when Esav learned about all of the complexities of the “avodah” to be performed by the Bechor and that there were numerous warnings, punishments, and deaths for not accomplishing these responsibilities properly, he replied, “If I am going to die because of it, what desire do I have for it?”

According to this explanation we can ask why the Torah later insists that Esav despised the Bechorah. Quite the contrary! His thorough appreciation for the weight of its importance and his understanding of responsibilities associated with it are what caused Esav’s reluctance to keep the Bechora. It seems to be the ultimate level of respect, awe, and reverence, so why does the Torah testify that Esav disrespected the Bechora?

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Bastion of faith, Avraham Fishelis, Moriah Offset, 1973) explains that this teaches us a very important lesson regarding the service of Hashem. One must involve himself in the service of Hashem even if it involves much responsibility and even if it can result in many criticisms being heaped upon him.  One who chooses not to involve himself in the study of Torah or the performance of mitzvot or not to enter any field of Hashem’s service because of the above reason is actually showing that he despises the Torah.

Parsha Pearls

“Yitzhak trembled a great trembling” (Bereishit 27:33)

Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz, the late Rosh Yeshivah of Mir, cited the Sages who stated that when Yitzhak found out that the son he gave the blessing to was Ya’akov and not Esav, he experienced greater fear and anxiety at that moment than he did at the Akedah when he was bound and ready to be killed with a sharp blade. From here we see that the realization that one made a mistake is the greatest of pains. This was not a one-time mistake. Rather, Yitzhak realized that all the years he thought Esav was more deserving than Ya’akov he was in error. The anxiety experienced in the awareness of error is a powerfully painful emotion.

This is important to keep in mind when you are trying to point out to someone his faults and mistakes. You might think, “It is so obvious that this person is wrong. As soon as I tell it to him he should admit it.” But the reality is that admitting a mistake can be extremely painful. For this reason there is a strong tendency for people to deny their mistakes. If you sincerely want to help someone improve, it is crucial to be as tactful as possible. Do all you can to decrease the amount of pain the person will experience. The more sensitive you are to the feelings of the person you are trying to influence, the more effective you will be. (Growth through Torah)

Glimpses of Greatness

The Chozeh of Lublin once wanted to arrive early in the morning to take care of an important matter. The day before, he asked his wife to prepare his evening meal earlier than usual. But it turned out that the meal was prepared much later than usual.

He commented, “It would be natural for me to become angry now. But the only reason I wanted to have the meal early was to do the will of my Creator. This too is the will of my Creator that I should not become angry.”

Halacha Weekly

Q. The Patriarchs raised their hands in prayer to G-d; why don’t we do this? [I-YD 9-244]

A. Bear Shevah (740) writes in Bereishit Raba that we find the midrash that in earlier generations our forefathers raised their hands to G-d above (in prayer): “Rivkeh raised her eyes and saw Yitzchak.” Rav Hunah says she saw that his hands were stretched forth in prayer and she said that certainly this is a great man.  As it says about (Moshe), “‘Let me leave the city to spread my hands,’ as it is says and Moshe stretched his hands (towards heaven spreading out his hands).” Bear Shevah writes perhaps there is reason to say that after it was found that the custom of the idolatrous nations of the world was to worship their avodah Zarah by praying in such a manner (by raising their hands above), and since this practice is well known, therefore we are not now accustomed to pray this way anymore (as our forefathers once did).

The Sages say that the verse ‘lo takim lechah matzevah,’ the negative mitzvah not to make an idolatrous image, is involved here. This practice of raising one’s hands to Heaven can be modified (today); even though it was once beloved before the Holy One in the time of the patriarchs, now this practice is hated (by G-d) after the Canaanites acted this way in worshipping their strange gods.

Hagahot R. Akiva Eiger (Orech Chaim 89) writes in the Sidur Yaavetz (in Introduction Solam Beit El 43)  that at the end of parshat beshallach, the reason we do not raise our hands in prayer is in order that we not burden the Creator more than is necessary.  Ben Ish Chai (Parshath Vayigash first Year 12), however, writes that at the time of tefilah it is permitted to raise one’s hands, and also there is a reason (to do so), in that raising the hands above is (an expression of humility) acting like a servant acts before his master.