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PARASHAT TOLDOT

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From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook

“With all the shortcomings we are witnessing in this generation in our lives as a people in general, and in Eretz Yisrael in particular, we have to feel that we are being reborn. From the bottom rung we are being fashioned anew as in days of old.”                      (Erpalei Tohar 95)


Rabbi Dov BegonRosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir

Message for Today:

None Shall Remain of the House of Esau; for the L-rd has Spoken

The difference between Jacob and Esau, the one in his righteousness and the other in his wickedness, is gradually revealed. At first, Rebecca senses the differences when the boys struggle inside her. When she would pass the houses of Torah study of Shem and Ever, Jacob would clamor to leave the womb. Then, after birth, the older they grew, the more the differences between them became recognizable: “The boys grew up. Esau became a skilled trapper, a man of the field. Jacob was a pure-hearted man who remained with the tents” (Genesis 25:27). As Rashi points out, Esau was a “skilled trapper” in that he knew how to ensnare and mislead his father. Jacob, by contrast, was a pure-hearted man, unversed in such deceit, whose words and thoughts were one.

Then, once Isaac their father blessed them, the enormity of Esau’s wickedness and hatred were revealed: “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).

Today, as we know, two nations have emerged from Jacob and Esau. As G-d told Rebecca, “‘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). For the past two thousand years, these two nations have continued to struggle, and they are likened to a seesaw – when the one ascends, the other declines, and vice versa. As our sages taught, “Tyre ascended only when Jerusalem was destroyed” (Megillah 6a).

In our generation we have been privileged to see with our own eyes how Jerusalem is being rebuilt more and more, and emerging from its destruction. Millions of Jews are coming home to Eretz Yisrael following 2,000 years during which Jerusalem was desolate. During that time, the residents of Edom, whom our sages identify with the Christians, achieved ascendancy and took control of the world.

Now at least we are on the rise, and that same religion which for thousands of years incited against the existence of the Jewish People, bringing about the murder of Jews throughout the exilic period, is on the wane.

It is true that they are making desperate efforts to extinguish the light of the State of Israel, the Jewish People and Jerusalem, beacon of the world, by supporting, directly or indirectly, the enemies of the State of Israel, the Arabs. They also arrange for “conferences” of one sort or another, whose purpose it is to weaken the State of Israel, to diminish the size of our country, and to divide Jerusalem. Unfortunately, from within the Jewish People, as well, there are leaders who deceive themselves into believing that if they heed the voice of Europe and the U.S. and establish a state for the Arabs in Eretz Yisrael and divide Jerusalem and hand over to the Arabs or to others the site of our holy Temple, redemption will come to Israel. Yet the smallest schoolchild knows what the malicious intent of our enemies is.

Let us pray that G-d should open the eyes and minds of our leaders so that they repent. Quite the contrary, let them strengthen the Jewish People, and let them continue to build Eretz Yisrael and to settle all parts of it, especially Jerusalem, our eternal capital.

By such means will be speedily fulfilled through us the words of Ovadiah (1:18,21): “The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the L-rd hath spoken… And saviors shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau”; as well as the words of Zechariah 14:9: “On that day shall the L-rd be One, and His name one”
Looking forward to complete salvation,
Shabbat Shalom.

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Rabbi Shlomo AvinerChief Rabbi of Beit El

Sheep Without a Shepherd

Question: I have the feeling that we are like sheep without a shepherd. Without wishing to insult anyone, G-d forbid, I feel like we have no political leadership and no spiritual leadership. Therefore, we roam around every which way, treading in place and never advancing. Neither do I see any shepherd on the horizon.
What will be? How shall we break out of our dilemma?

Answer: You may be right that we are like sheep without a shepherd. But what sheep we are! Marvelous sheep! Talented sheep! Remarkable sheep!
Who was it who rebuilt the Land and achieved such a strong economy? The sheep. Clearly there are many individuals who deserve a lot of credit, but the ones who did the work and accomplished it were the sheep.

Who accomplished the return to Zion? The sheep. G-d shall pay the reward of all the arousers and organizers, but the real address is the sheep.
Who established the Jewish State without depriving anyone? The sheep.
Who won the War of Independence? The people. And the rest of Israel’s wars? The people! Who restored the Torah to Eretz Yisrael? The people.
In every case – it was the people.

Regarding the verse, “A star shall go forth from Jacob, and a staff shall arise in Israel” (Numbers 24:17), the Ohr HaChaim explains that the meaning of “staff” [Hebrew shevet] is a group of people who foment an upheaval, a revolution, as occurs within nations. In the past it was an individual of the nation’s elite, “a star of Jacob”, who pushed things forward. Now it is “a staff in Israel”, the Jewish People.

Rashi brings a parable from our sages about a king who grew angry, destroyed the pen, threw out the sheep and exiled the shepherd. Afterward the king was appeased, rebuilt the pen and restored the sheep. The “shepherd”, i.e., King David, i.e., the Messianic King, asked, “What about me?” and the king answered, that he certainly remembers him (see Rashi on Psalm 70:1). Previously the verse states, “For G-d will save Zion and build the cities of Judah; and they shall abide there and possess it” (Psalm 69:36). In other words, it is “Jews” in the aggregate, and not necessarily religious Jews, who are to achieve the rebuilding, resettling and possessing of the Land. Only afterwards, “the seed of His servants shall inherit it; they that love His name shall dwell therein” (verse 37). The turn will come of the G-d fearing Jews to possess and inhabit the Land, concluding with, “A psalm recalling David” (70:1), the Messiah’s arrival.

The people did it all. Our leader is the people. Our “Rebbe” is the people, i.e., the soul of the nation. Every Jew has a soul, and that soul itself has a soul, the soul of the soul. The soul has a root – which is the soul of the entire Jewish People.

Certainly, great men achieved great deeds and we owe them our gratitude, but if they weren’t here, G-d would have found other emissaries, because the strength, energy and force, the valor, wisdom and devotion and enthusiasm all derive from the people.

Those great individuals acted by dint of the people’s strength. They were faithful emissaries of the people. They could feel the vitality of the people. They fulfilled, “Go your way forth by the footsteps of the flock” (Song of Songs 1:8).
I therefore love you – my people. I appreciate you – my people. I revere you – my people.
By “my people” I means the soul of the people, the Divine Presence that resides within the people, and by association, the people themselves – this people, now, this generation, now (see Mesillat Yesharim at the end of Chapter 18).

Friend, be careful not to fall prey to what happened to Joseph’s brothers, who Rashi says “absconded from brotherhood” (see Genesis 37:17).
Let us remember well that everything begins with the One “who chose us from among all nations”, the soul of Israel, the People of Israel, the Jewish People.

Rabbi Ya’akov Filber Guest 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.”

Translation: R. Blumberg

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