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This Issue's Halacha Article

Parshat Toldot

5 Cheshvan 5767

November 25, 2006

Vol.16 No.10

In This Issue:

What's it Worth to You?

by Rabbi Avi Pollak

A story is told about a hard working man who simply couldn't make a living. Under pressure from his wife and kids, he went to a local fortune teller for advice. "Go to the market and spend your last dollars on the first thing you see," advised the fortune teller. The man decided to follow this advice, as no other strategy had brought him success.

He went to the market and in the first booth he saw was a jewel dealer. "I'd like to buy a jewel, but I've only got $50," said the man. "Ha! For $50, you can't even buy a counterfeit jewel!" replied the merchant. "I beg you," responded the man, "sell me something for $50 - anything!" The merchant thought for a moment and made an offer. "If you really insist, I'll give you my share in the world to come for $50." The man agreed, paid the money and walked away. He had followed the fortune teller's advice and the merchant thought he'd earned himself a few bucks for nothing.

When the merchant told his wife about what had transpired that day, she was furious. "Even if you are no great believer, why are you so reckless as to throw away something that might have real value for something so insignificant in return? Go find that buyer and demand that he return your share in the world to come!"

When the merchant found the man and asked for his Olam Haba back, the man resisted. "I'll sell it back for $10,000, but no less," replied the man, realizing he had a chance to turn a fast profit. The merchant was livid that the man would try to make such a profit off of him, but the man stubbornly refused to return it for less than the sum of $10,000. After some time, they agreed to approach the Rav of their town to resolve their dispute.

The Rav sided with the poor man, and explained his decision to the merchant. "When you sold your share of Olam Haba to the man, it was truly worth nothing to you. Now that you've reconsidered what you have sold, you realize that its value is beyond measure! $10,000 is a bargain for your share in Olam Haba and the man has every right to sell it for that much."

This story helps us understand the difficult incident with Yaakov and Esav in our Parsha. An exhausted Esav returns from the field one day and sells Yaakov his Bechorah in return for some lentil soup. The Pasuk comments that by selling the birthright for just a bowl of soup (25:34), "VaYivez Esav Et HaBechora," "Esav dishonored the birthright." Later, Esav reflects (27:36), VaYaakveni Zeh Pa'amayim," "You have tricked me two times." If Esav agreed to sell the Bechorah, why does he later blame Yaakov for tricking him into selling it?

The Steipler Gaon zt"l explains that, in reality, Esav knew that Yaakov did not trick him at all; he was simply in denial of the fact that he had been tricked. By recklessly putting his temporary needs in front of what he knew was of greater value, he demonstrated that he was not worthy of the great Zechut inherent in being the Bechor. He explains further that when the Pasuk stated (25:29), "ViHu Ayef," "And he was exhausted," it meant that he was sick and tired of observing the Torah and its Mitzvot. Chazal add that he committed five terrible sins on that day, declaring once and for all that he had given up on his family's tradition of religious excellence.

Later, when he considered what he had sold, and realized how valuable the birthright was that he had sold for so little, he was too late to retrieve it. He had already shown his true colors and had demonstrated that Yaakov was the appropriate heir to the legacies of Avraham and Yitzchak.

Speak Softly

by Tzvi Atkin

Before Yaakov deceives Yitzchak into thinking he is Eisav, he tells Rivkah (Bereishit 27:12), "Ulay Yemusheini Avi VeHayiti BeEinav KiMitatei'ah, VeHeiveiti Alay Kelalah VeLo Berachah," "Perhaps my father will feel me and I will be as a mocker in his eyes; I will therefore bring upon myself a curse rather than a blessing." Rivkah solves Yaakov's problem by making him wear Eisav's clothes and by putting animal skins on his arms so that Yitzchak would think that he was Eisav. When Yaakov approaches Yitzchak and Yitzchak feels the skins he says (27:22), "HaKol Kol Yaakov VeHaYadayim Yedei Eisav," "The voice is the voice of Yaakov, and the hands are the hands of Eisav." Yitzchak then gives Yaakov the Bechorah, the birthright. Why was Yaakov so concerned with making his hands like those of Eisav? Shouldn't he have worried more about his voice, which would obviously stand out more than the physical feeling of his arms?

Rashi, based on a Midrash, says that the reason that Yaakov was not concerned was that he and Eisav had identical voices. However, Yitzchak was able to recognize that he was talking to Yaakov because Yaakov spoke with a gentle voice and did so in a manner that would make a Kiddush Hashem. In addition to this answer, Ramban says that another possible explanation of why Yaakov was not worried is because he was a master at impersonating his brother. (Although Yitzchak was able to distinguish between them.)

The Sefer Ohev Yisrael has a completely different interpretation of this episode. The Pesukim state (27:6-7), "VeRivkah Amerah El Yaakov Benah Leimor, Hinei Shamati Et Avicha Medaber El Eisav Achicha Leimor, Haviah Li Tzayid VaAsei Li Matamim VeOcheilah," "And Rivkah said to Yaakov, her son, saying, 'Behold I heard your father telling your brother Eisav, 'Bring me some caught food and make me delicacies to eat.''" The Sefer Ohev Yisrael infers from here that Yitzchak expected Yaakov to speak like Eisav. He knew from the word "Leimor," "Saying," that Rivkah was really telling Yaakov to speak in his usual voice. This is because she overheard Yitzchak telling Eisav to speak to him in Yaakov's tone of voice because he knew that if Yaakov would come to deceive him then he would do so in Eisav's voice. (Yitzchak used reverse psychology to figure out what Yaakov would do.) However, since Rivkah overheard this, she told Yaakov the sign between Yitzchak and Eisav, and he therefore knew to speak in his regular tone of voice. Therefore, it appears from the Ohev Yisrael that Yitzchak's comment of "HaKol Kol Yaakov…" was not one of confusion whether it was Yaakov or not; rather, it was a statement, "I know that since the voice is Yaakov's, the very sign I told Eisav, and his hands also feel like Eisav's, it must indeed be Eisav."

The commonality between the three approaches is clear. The way Yaakov spoke distinguished him from Eisav. The Vilna Gaon says (based on a Pasuk in Mishlei 22:15) that people often make a mistake when they try to convince another person of something. He says that when they want to prove their point, they yell louder and louder. However, says the Vilna Gaon, in reality they the best way to prove a point or teach someone something is by speaking to him in a calm, gentle manner. If he yells to make his point, he will just frustrate the other person and lose any chance of convincing him.

We learn from Yaakov that the proper way to speak is with a gentle manner, in order to make a Kiddush Hashem. It is this manner of speaking which we need in our everyday interactions and conversations with others in order not to cause conflict. In addition, if we want to be an "Ohr LaGoyim", a "Light to the Nations," we need to be able to convince them, by making a Kiddush Hashem, the proper way to speak to other people. We should learn from Yaakov the proper way to conduct our daily interactions.

-Adapted from Imrei Baruch, a Sefer written by Rav Baruch Simon, Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University.)

A Holy Commandment

by Ilan Griboff

At the beginning of Parshat Toldot, Yitzchak goes to Gerar because of a famine. While there, Hashem comes to him and says (Bereishit 26:2), "Al Teireid Mitzraimah," "Do not descend to Egypt." Rashi explains that Yitzchak was forbidden to go down to Mitzrayim because he was considered a Korban. Each Korban has its own area that it is not allowed to leave. Yitzchak's area was Eretz Yisrael, so he could not go down to Mitzrayim.

The Chidushei Harim wonders why Yitzchak couldn't he leave Eretz Yisrael. After all, a Korban is only forbidden to be removed from its area after is has been slaughtered and all of its procedures have been performed. Since Yitzchak was not actually slaughtered, why was he forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael?

The answer is that according to Rashi, Hashem never intended for Avraham to slaughter Yitzchak. He said only (Bereishit 22:2), "VeHaaleihu Sham LeOlah," "Bring him up as an Olah offering." Therefore since he was already brought up to the mountain, his service had actually been completed and he now had the status of a Korban. Therefore, Yitzchak was forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael.

Use It or Lose It

by Benjy Lebowitz

Chazal derive from a Pasuk in Parshat Toldot that Avraham observed the entire Torah even before it was given. The Torah says (Bereishit 26:5), "Because Avraham hearkened to My voice, and obeyed My safeguards, My commandments, My decrees, and My Torahs.

If this is so, how could Avraham acquire Maarat HaMachpeilah for only 400 shekels (considering that Adam and Chavah were buried there)? Similarly, how could Yaakov purchase the firstborn rights for only bread and lentil stew? After all, both of the Avot knew the true value of their respective purchases. It seems that these transactions violate (Vayikra 25:14) "Al Tonu," the commandment not to engage in deceiving business practices.

The Torah tells us (Bereishit 25:34) that Eisav spurned the birthright. Therefore, the bread and stew were appropriate payment. Also, the Zohar in Parshat Chayei Sarah informs us that Efron "looked into Maarat HaMachpeilah and saw only darkness. However, when Avraham looked in, he saw light." Thus, Efron received an exceedingly fair price for his darkness, at the same time as Avraham was purchasing his entrance to Gan Eden.

If one respects a concept, it will stand with him and enhance him. However, if he doesn't show respect toward it, it will abandon him. Eisav mocked the birthright, so it was then taken from him. Yaakov, who highly respected the birthright, acquired it.

We encounter this concept in the Gemara (Berachot 62b). The Gemara records that David showed disrespect for clothing (he cut off the corner of Shaul's garment). Therefore, when David was old and covered himself with garments, they could not warm him.

In a few weeks, we will be celebrating Chanukah. In his commentary to the Shulchan Aruch, the Bach (O.C. 670) writes that at the time of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash, the Jews were laidback in their temple service. Because of this, they almost lost it, and were forced to fight back for it. Once they showed that they were willing to give up their lives for the Beit HaMikdash, they were worthy of repossessing it.

The Torah communicates this to us in the succinct phrase, "VaYivez Eisav Et HaBechorah," and Eisav spurned the birthright. Since Eisav disrespected it, Yaakov had an opportunity to value the birthright, and he did so. Therefore, Hashem ensures that the blessings of the birthright continue to be showered upon Yaakov.

-Adapted from a Devar Torah by Rabbi Benjamin Yudin

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