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Parashat Toldot

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From The World of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
“Loving one’s fellow Jew requires one to love the entire person. When one harbors hatred for some part of a person, that is a sign that one’s soul has not yet been purified, such that it is unable to be united in the paradise of supreme love. (Orot 149)

Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir and Machon Ora
Message for Today: “Deliverers Will Rise up on Mount Zion to Judge The Mount of Esau”

The Matriarch Rebecca, already during her pregnancy, could sense a difference between her two sons: “‘The children clashed inside her’ (Genesis 25:22): When she would pass by the Torah study halls of Shem and Ever, Jacob would clamor to exit, and when she would pass by the houses of idolatry, Esau would clamor to exit” (Rashi). When they were born, as well, Rebecca could distinguish the difference between them: “The first one came out reddish, as hairy as a fur coat” (25:25). This redness was an omen that he would become a murderer.

Moreover, when the lads grew up, “Esau became a skilled trapper, a man of the field. Jacob was a scholarly man who remained with the tents” (25:27). Rashi comments: “As long as they were little they were indistinguishable by their deeds and no one could know their exact character. Once they turned thirteen, one [Jacob] went his way to houses of study and the other went his way to worshipping idols.” Of course, when they grew up, Esau’s evil conscience was revealed when he plotted to murder Jacob: “Esau was furious at Jacob because of the blessing that his father had given him. He said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father will be here soon. I will then be able to kill my brother Jacob’” (27:41).

Already during her pregnancy, Rebecca knew through her faith that at issue was not just two children but two nations that would emerge from her, the Kingdom of Israel and the nations of the world: “God’s word to her was, ‘Two nations are in your womb. Two governments will separate from inside you. The upper hand will go from one government to the other. The greater one will serve the younger” (25:23). Moreover, Rashi comments, “They will not be equally great. When one rises the other will fall… Tyre was not built up but from Yerushalayim’s destruction. Conversely, when Israel rise up to rebirth, Jerusalem will be rebuilt.”

Today, how fortunate we are and how good our portion that we have been privileged to see with our own eyes the rebirth of Israel, with the ingathering of the exiles and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. It is true that the process of Israel’s rebirth has not yet been completed. We are still in the height of this process. That is why the nations, of whom it says, “It is a known fact that Esau hates Jacob” (Rashi 33:4), are trying to shake up and delay the redemption process. Only a generation ago the Nazis rose up on the European continent and continued in the path and spirit of Amalek, from the seed of wicked Esau, and they murdered six million Jews – may G-d avenge their blood.

In our day we bear witness to the evil spirit of Amalek in Iran-Persia. In that same country in which wicked Haman acted to annihilate all the Jews, a new-old enemy of the Jews has arisen, and he proclaims those same declarations. He is even trying to develop the atomic bomb and weapons of mass destruction, with the goal of wiping out the remnant of the Jewish People in Eretz Yisrael.

Even in the land of our life’s blood, the Arabs are rising up and acting to delay our rebirth, hoping to establish an Arab state in the very heart of our land, with their entire purpose being to destroy our country. Unfortunately, the European Union as well is supporting them politically and economically, and pipes in hundreds of millions of dollars to them and to those who support the idea of the partitioning of our heartland. By such means, to their utter shame, they are carrying on the program that the Nazis began with their terrible Holocaust.

Yet neither the ones nor the others have succeeded, nor will they succeed, in carrying out their plot. Speedily we shall become the living fulfillment of, “Deliverers shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the Mount of Esau, and the Kingdom shall be the L-rd’s” (Obadiah 1:21). By such means, all mankind will come to recognize that the L-rd G-d of Israel is King, and His sovereignty is over all.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El
“This Jew is Your Brother”

Certainly, the situation of the nation dwelling in Zion gives us a big headache, but the stupidest thing to do would be to “cut off the head”, by which I mean to do anything to jeopardize our status as a united people.

That same Jew that you disagree with, that you are angry at, is your brother. He, too, has a share in the nation — just like you. He too is part of the nation — just like you. Don’t shout, “I’ve got all the truth!” Don’t say, “All the good things are because of me! It’s all because of my group!” That isn’t true. Everything is thanks to everybody, thanks to the people. Don’t think that it is the differences of opinion that are tearing the nation apart. Differences of opinion do no harm, on condition that we respect one another; that we do not reject other shades of thought; that we take note of the common ground; that we understand that what binds us is infinitely greater than what divides us: “Love truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19).

Noticing the negative is easy. Therefore, instead of criticizing others, criticize yourselves and raise yourself up to appreciate others and to give them the benefit of the doubt. Consider the words of Rabbi Shmuel Malzman’s work, “HaEmunah VeHahashgachah” (Chapter 15), which is based on comments of the Vilna Gaon: “It seems puzzling that only the sin of groundless hatred was mentioned as having caused the Second Temple’s destruction. It is well known that there was a great deal of bloodshed, perhaps more than there was in the First Temple, as we learn from the Talmud and Josephus.

“The explanation is, however…. that due to the fire of jealousy and hatred that burned within them, any sin they saw in their fellow man caused them to judge him to be Sadducee or apostate…. These feelings spread like wildfire, such that the accused individual said to himself, ‘If someone sets out to kill you, kill him first.’ The relatives of the slain victim then responded with vengeance killings, and the relatives of the relatives. Each individual was totally justified — in his own eyes — in his dispute. In such a manner, blood was shed like water in the streets of Jerusalem. This is why the sin of bloodshed was only considered a secondary sin, as with the sale of Joseph.”

To fall prey to the sin of selling Joseph while talking loftily about unity is easy. To make accusations is easy. To see black and white is easy. Yet to understand the complexity of a situation is hard. To toil for unity is hard. I am not talking about unity for the sake of some other political benefit, but unity for the sake of unity, for the sake of heaven, as an ideal, because that is what G-d wants — that we should be united. Not uniform but united.

How we suffered with the Egyptian enslavement, and all so we could exit with “great wealth” (Genesis 15:14) — unity. How we suffered in the two-thousand-year long exile in order to be capable of uniting in our land. Let us not jeopardize what is most essential. Our uniting together constitutes genuine redemption.

Rabbi Ya’akov FilberGuest Lecturer at Machon Meir
“Our Ancestors’ Deeds Presage Our Own”

The principle that “our ancestors’ deeds presage our own” applies on the individual and national level. On the individual level our sages said (Yalkut Shimoni, VaEtchanan 830): “A person must ask himself, ‘When will my own deeds reach the level of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who acquired This World, the World-to-Come and the Messianic Era by way of their good deeds and Torah learning.” Each and every one of us should view their way of life and their conduct as a model to emulate.

Yet the conduct of the Patriarchs further serves as a model for our national behavior. As Ramban wrote (Genesis 12:6): “Let me provide an axiom by which you can understand all the coming sections of the Torah, regarding Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is a major point which our sages mentioned concisely when they said (Tanchuma 9) that everything that happened to the Patriarchs is significant for their descendants. The Torah therefore elaborates in telling about the Patriarchs’ travels, their digging of wells, and all the other incidents. One might think that these stories are superfluous and of no benefit. Yet they all serve to teach us about the future. Whatever happened to the three Patriarchs, we can ponder it and postulate what will happen to their descendants.”

Isaac was the first “Sabra”, the first Jew born in Eretz Yisrael. Seemingly, the trials he faced were easier than those faced by Abraham. Yet they could also be viewed as harder. Abraham’s trials occurred only from time to time, whereas Isaac’s life was one unending trial. Abraham, as one who forged a new path, was living fulfillment of “Who shall ascend the mountain of G-d” (Psalm 24:3). It is no easy task to climb a path that no man has walked before, to face difficulties by which no man has previously been tested, to construct a model for life such as never existed since Adam was created. The ascent to G-d’s mountain is fraught with difficulties, but with effort, with determination and devotion, one can ultimately succeed in withstanding the test.

Thus, Abraham’s entire life he was a wanderer. He wandered from Charan to Eretz Yisrael, and there, as well, he did not stay in one place, passing through the Land to Shechem and Elon Moreh. From there he moved on to Bet El. Then he moved to the Negev, and then to Egypt, and then back to Eretz Yisrael, so much so that the Torah said, “He continued in his travels” (Genesis 13:3). All this he did in order to proclaim G-d’s name wherever he went. For that reason Abraham was a shepherd, and his property was: “sheep, cattle, donkeys, male and female slaves, she-donkeys and camels” (12:16) — the sort of property that could wander with him. Abraham was not a planter, because he didn’t have the time to wait for the seasons of harvesting and gathering in the grain.

By contrast, Isaac was more static. He had to preserve what he received from Abraham. The Torah says, “Isaac farmed in the area. That year, he reaped a hundred times as much as he sowed, for G-d had blessed him” (26:12). Abraham in his wanderings created something out of nothing, and Isaac inherited a situation of everything being ready for him. He received a house of faith and good deeds, a heritage that Abraham passed on to him: “I know of him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they will keep G-d’s way, doing charity and justice” (18:19).

Even so, the mission faced by Isaac contained a facet that was more difficult. It constituted, “Who shall stand in His holy place?” (Psalm 24:3). This refers to standing in one place, preserving that which exists already. It connotes conduct involving humdrum routine that is boring and devoid of valor. Such a situation makes one complacent and unalert, and can ultimately lead to breakdown and disfunction. This danger of sinking into complacency is described by Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (Orot, page 84): “The material comfort that some of our nation will achieve, thereby thinking that they have already reached their final goal, will diminish their spirituality. A time will come when they say they have no spiritual ambitions. The longing for lofty, holy ideals will cease, and the spirit will then sink and wane.”

Isaac received from Abraham a legacy of faith, justice and charity, a home of kindness and tolerance for good people and bad. On becoming master of that home, he had the task of maintaining it and making it endure for generations to come. Only, the trial of routine is not a one-time or occasional experience, but an ongoing test which demands spiritual strength and fortitude if it is to be withstood.

Our ancestors’ deeds presage our own. In our own generation as well, we encounter these two phenomena: The first generation that arrived in the Land in modern times were pioneers. Like Abraham, they too walked from their land and their father’s home to Eretz Yisrael. They too fought against the desolation; if not in the spiritual realm, then in the physical realm of settling Eretz Yisrael. They paved new roads and settled new parts of the Land that no foot had long trod upon. They were a generation that settled the Land in the spirit of “Who shall ascend the Mountain of G-d.”

Yet in the test of Isaac we have failed. We, the second generation, have not succeeded in being the living fulfillment of “Who shall stand in His holy place?” Here, Rav Kook’s vision, quoted above, has been fulfilled.

We thus look forward to the fulfillment of the rest of Rav Kook’s vision, recorded there: “Ultimately a storm will come and foment a revolution. Then it will be seen clearly by all that Israel’s strength lies in timeless holiness, in the light of G-d and in His Torah, in the longing for His spiritual light.”

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