This week’s Parsha opens with the story of Rivka’s suffering pain from her fetus. The Torah writes, “Vayitrotzetzu HaBanim Bekirbah,” “And her children agitated within her” (25:22). As Chazal explain, when she passed before the Yeshiva of Sheim and Eiver, her son Yaakov would struggle to leave her womb, and when she passed a house of idolatry, her son Eisav would try to emerge.
Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, in his Sefer Something to Say, quotes the Ma’ayanot HaNetzach, who comments that many crucial factors of a child’s development depend upon the mother. If a mother is used to coming to shul or the Beit Medrash, if she shows a love and appreciation for Judaism, the Yaakov personality within her child strives to come out. If, on the other hand, she prefers the contrary (Chas VeShalom), a culture foreign to our heritage, the child’s Eisav-like tendencies struggle to emerge, and her offspring will emulate the wicked Eisav.
This idea is evident from many different sources. For example, Pirkei Avot 2:11 states about Rabi Yehoshua ben Chanania, “Ashrei Yoladto,” “Praiseworthy is the one who bore him” (i.e. his mother), because his mother always brought him to the Beit Medrash even as an infant so that his ears would become attuned to the sound of Torah study. This instilled in him a love of Torah like that of Yaakov Avinu early in life, enabling him to become a revered rabbi when he grew up.
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch notes that the Hebrew word for mother, Eim, is spelled with the same letters (Aleph and Mem) as the word Im, which means “if.” He explains that the Eim, the mother, is the “Im,” the “if” – the crucial factor in the upbringing of the family. If the input of the mother is consistent with the goals of the end product, the child will most likely follow those goals.
In the Hagadah Shel Pesach, the Baal HaHagadah speaks about four types of children. About the child who is so young that he does not even know how to ask a question, the Hagadah says, “At Petach Lo,” “You (feminine) open up for him.” Many have explained that the feminine form was chosen because when a child is very young, it is primarily the job of the mother to educate him – so it is she who has the greatest influence on what he learns.
There is a famous story told about the Steipler Gaon ZT”L. He was once asked about the secret to his success. The questioner asked him, “How did the Rav become the great Steipler Gaon?” He answered, “Because my mother prays for me.” The puzzled questioner asked his sixty-year-old Rav, “‘Prays?’ Doesn’t the Rav mean ‘prayed?’” The Steipler Gaon replied, “No, I meant ‘prays.’ Even now my mother continues to pray for my success in learning, and that I should be God-fearing.” Her fervent prayers were answered, and her son became one of the greatest Torah giants of our time.
Let us learn this important lesson about instilling the fear of Heaven into our families and being excellent role models to our children. Let us teach by example about the greatness of Torah study and prayer, and hopefully we will see the Yaakov within our children emerge as we fan the spark which they possess. With Hashem’s help, may we see them develop into fine Jewish young men and women.
Well, How About Some Outreach?
by Jesse Dunietz
Yitzchak’s stay in Gerar is quite a story of conflict, as Perek 26 relates in detail. First Avimelech, king of Gerar, almost takes his wife; next the Pelishtim stop up his wells; then Avimelech evicts him from his land; and jealous Pelishti shepherds seize two wells that Yitzchak’s servants dig. Finally, in Pasuk 22, Yitzchak manages to dig a well without any contention. He gratefully calls this well “Rechovot,” because “now Hashem has granted us space and we have been fruitful in the land.”
Immediately after this incident, the Torah relates, “Vayeira Eilav Hashem…Vayomer, ‘Anochi Elokei Avraham Avicha; Al Tira, Ki Itecha Anochi, UVeirachticha…Baavur Avraham Avdi,’” “Hashem appeared to [Yitzchak]…and He said, ‘I am the God of Avraham your father. Do not fear, for I am with you…because of Avraham My servant’” (26:24). This Pasuk seems very puzzling. Why would Hashem suddenly have to reassure Yitzchak now? Is this not merely repeating the same sort of affirmation he made to Yitzchak earlier in the Perek (Pesukim 2-5)?
Ramban and Seforno both explain Hashem’s reassurance in terms of the preceding conflict with the Pelishtim. Ramban believes that after Avimelech has driven him away and the shepherds have fought with him, Yitzchak is afraid of a direct attack by the Pelishtim, so Hashem promises him protection. Seforno similarly comments that Hashem is relieving Yitzchak’s fears that the fights with the Pelishtim will result in loss of property. Both of these explanations share a problem, though. Hashem makes this promise immediately after Yitzchak stops having fights with the Pelishtim; two Pesukim earlier, he comments that Hashem has finally “granted him space.” Additionally, Yitzchak has actually just moved out of the land of the Pelishtim to Be’er Sheva (26:23), where presumably he is in much less danger of attack, and certainly of damage from quarrels. Clearly, if Hashem is delivering this message because of the danger of the Pelishtim, he should have done so earlier. Thus, the question stands: what compels Hashem to reaffirm His promise to Yitzchak now?
Another question arises from the reasons Hashem seems to give for protecting Yitzchak. Twice, He emphasizes His relationship with Avraham, and even states that He is “with [Yitzchak]…because of Avraham My servant.” Why does Hashem only mention Avraham’s greatness, and not Yitzchak’s own merit? Indeed, when Hashem previously made a similar promise to Avraham, He said, “Do not fear, Avram, I am a shield for you; your reward is very great” (15:1), referring to Avraham’s own merit as the reason for protection. Why does He not do the same for Yitzchak? Yitzchak certainly has his own great store of merit; in fact, Haamek Davar believes that the last well Yitzchak dug succeeded because he brought his own spiritual weight to bear by personally involving himself in the digging, and not just leaving it to his servants. At the very least, then, Hashem should say that He is protecting Yitzchak both in his own merit and in that of his father. Why is only the latter mentioned?
Perhaps both questions can be answered in light of the difference between Avraham’s and Yitzchak’s styles of serving Hashem. Throughout his life, Avraham was the ultimate Mekareiv; wherever he went, he would be “Korei BeSheim Hashem,” “calling out in the Name of Hashem,” which, as many commentators note, seems to mean that he would spread the message of monotheism. Yitzchak, on the other hand, has historically been more introverted. His greatness, at least up to this point, lay in his personal relationship with Hashem, but not in how he related to other people. In the past several episodes recorded by the Torah, he has been remarkably passive, silently letting his fate be determined by the whims of the Pelishtim. Nowhere up to this point is Yitzchak described as being actively Korei BeSheim Hashem as his father was.
At this point, however, things begin to change. After all the passivity of the previous section, Hashem decides to intervene and point out to Yitzchak the necessity of strengthening this attribute of actively advocating for monotheism. Therefore, He comes to him just after he has moved to Be’er Sheva, Avraham’s home base for his outreach activities (see 21:33 and 22:19), and stresses that the blessings He promised Avraham are sure to fall to Yitzchak – but only because of the type of service that Avraham, not Yitzchak, represented. This may also be why He refers to Avraham as “Avdi,” “My servant”: it is Avraham’s approach to serving Hashem that leads to His protection and blessing.
Yitzchak apparently takes this message to heart. Right away, he builds a Mizbeiach and, for the first time, is Korei BeSheim Hashem (26:25; see 12:8 and 13:4 for the close parallel language regarding Avraham). He is then approached by Avimelech for a covenant in the same manner that Avraham was in 21:22-34. He takes the opportunity to reaffirm the good will between Avraham’s family (i.e. Yitzchak) and Avimelech, and even to strengthen it. Yitzchak even names the place Be’er Sheva a second time, again repeating his father’s actions. Finally, after a brief interjection about Eisav, the Torah describes how Yitzchak realizes that he will have to play an active role in passing Avraham’s legacy to his descendants. He takes the initiative in calling his son (the wrong son for the job, certainly, but his son nonetheless) to pass on to him the mission and the blessings that he received through Avraham. The stories following Hashem’s promise, then, collectively show that Yitzchak accepts Hashem’s veiled rebuke, making himself a stronger, more active carrier of the message of monotheism to other people.
Of course, the importance of including other people as part of one’s service to Hashem is not only a message for Yitzchak, but for people of all generations. Indeed, as Rabbi Chaim Jachter developed extensively in his Shiurim at TABC, the same message is expressed through Noach, Yitro, Moshe, and others (see Rav Moshe Lichtenstein’s Tzir VaTzon for further discussion of this issue with regard to Moshe). We can never settle for a two-way relationship with Hashem. Our spirituality and Avodat Hashem are incomplete unless we strive to include others in them, as well. But if we do actively reach out to others, we will surely merit the blessings that Hashem promised to Avraham, Yitzchak, and all their descendants.
The Ultimate Battle
by Yitzchok Richmond
At the beginning of Parsht Toldot, we see that in order to figure out what is happening in her womb, “Vateilech Lidrosh Et Hashem,” “[Rivkah] went to seek out God” (5:22). Rashi comments that Rivkah wanted to know “Mah Tehei BeSofah,” what would happen in the end with her situation. The Kol Simcha points out that Rivkah thought that she would have one baby. When there was kicking by the Beit Medrash and the temples of Avodah Zarah, she had no idea there were two babies kicking, rather, she believed, it was the fight between the Yeitzer HaTov and the Yeitzer HaRa. Sometimes the Yeitzer HaTov is wins, and unfortunately sometimes the Yeitzer HaRa will overcome the Yeitzer HaTov. Therefore, Rivkah wanted to know: “Mah Tehei BeSofah” - what will be the end of the battle in the heart? Which Yeitzer will be victorious in the greatest battle of man?
Throughout our lives, we are always faced with this battle between our will and inclination to do good and to do bad. We always have to look at ourselves and evaluate how we are doing in the battle. Are we running out to do Chesed, learn Torah, or be nice to our fellow Jew? Or are we running out to Chas VeShalom to do Aveirot, to turn somebody down when they need our help, to engage in wasting our time doing nothing constructive, or to even degrade a fellow Jew and make him feel bad? Rivkah knew very well that morals are extremely important, and felt she had to know what kind of values her child would have. We should always be aware of who we are and where we are standing.
A Familiar Deception
by Tzvi Zuckier
Parshat Toldot states (25:28), “Vaye’ehav Yitzchak Et Eisav Ki Tzayid BeFiv, VerRvkah Ohevet Et Yaakov,” “And Yitzchak loved Eisav because trapping was in his mouth, and Rivkah loved Yaakov.” Rashi interprets “trapping was in his mouth” to mean that he tricked his father by asking him halachic questions like, “How does one take Maaser from salt [something which is not subject to the Maaser laws]?” This made Yitzchak think that Eisav was careful to keep Mitzvot. However, Rivkah saw through it with ease, as did Yaakov. Why did Yitzchak not realize the trickery of Eisav the Rasha as well? After all, Eisav lived for many years with him – was there not a single instance in which Eisav’s Rish’ut was revealed?
The Maayanah Shel Torah quotes a Peirush explaining that Yitzchak had been brought as a Korban, an offering, and was holier than the average person. He was separated from the world, and he did not even think of the idea that someone could be sly and deceitful. This is why he thought of Eisav as a Tzaddik when he was a Rasha and believed his trickery. Rivkah, on the other hand, grew up in a household of deceivers, including Lavan HaArami, which can be seen as Lavan HaRamai, Lavan the Trickster. She was therefore fully aware of the fact that someone could be a Rasha and at the same time ask questions similar to those who are careful to observe Mitzvot. This is why she opted to love Yaakov instead of Eisav Harasha.
Perhaps this could explain how Rivkah was able to trick Yitzchak so easily into believing Yaakov was Eisav. Rivkah knew that Yitzchak was someone who could be deceived very easily, so she simply dressed Yaakov in Eisav’s clothes and gave him food to give to Yitzchak. However, unlike Eisav’s deception, she used the trickery to attain the firstborn blessing, which Yaakov deserved from the time he purchased it from Eisav, and which he desired for the right reasons, not for evil motives, as Eisav did.
We must learn important lessons learned from Yitzchak and Rivkah. Even though we live in a society where there are some liars and cheaters, we must be like Rivkah in the way that she never lied and cheated in the evil ways her relatives did; we must not give in to pressure and do Aveirot. We must also be aware of the fact that other people will deceive us, and we have to be able to see through it. However, we must also be like Avraham, who was always able to be Dan LeKaf Zechut, to judge people in their favor, and not come to quick conclusions about people and their actions.
Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Ariel Caplan, Jesse Dunietz
Managing Editors: Etan Bluman, Roni Kaplan
Publication Managers: Josh Markovic, Gavriel Metzger
Publication Editors: Kevin Beckoff, Avi Levinson
Business Manager: Jesse Nowlin
Webmaster: Avi Wollman
Staff: David Gross, Shmuel Reece, Dov Rossman, Chaim Strassman, Yitzchak Richmond, Josh Rubin
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter