פ’ תולדות – תשע”ה
Volume 6, Issue 6
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
עקב אשר שמע אברהם בקלי וישמר משמרתי מצותי חקותי ותורתי
“Because Avraham obeyed My voice and observed My safeguards, My commandments, My decrees and My Torahs.” (26:5)
Rashi explains that safeguards refer to rabbinical enactments, the barriers Chazal instituted to prevent infringement of biblical prohibitions. Rashi further notes that the verse writes “Torahs” in the plural, referring to the Written and Oral Torahs, both of which Avraham observed.
Ramban remarks that Rashi writes in accordance with Chazal’s teaching (Kiddushin 82a) that the Avos kept the Torah before it was given. Ramban, however, is bothered by the Avos’ apparent transgression of various Torah laws. For example, Yaakov married two sisters. Ramban therefore concludes that the Avos kept the Torah only on Eretz Yisrael, where the highest levels of kedushah can be reached through mitzvah performance.
Meiri, however, in his in introduction to Maseches Avos, expresses a novel explanation for Avraham’s fulfillment of Torah. Every mitzvah, be it of biblical or rabbinic origin, contains a unique lesson in emunah. For example, Shabbos testifies that Hashem created the world in six days and completed it on the seventh. The Yomim Tovim testify to Yetzias Mitzrayim, where Divine providence was clearly manifested. Avraham understood and lived every facet of emunah contained in each mitzvah. According to this interpretation of Chazal, Ramban’s questions are answered. Chazal’s intent was that the Avos performed the mitzvos by living the emunah manifested in them. (Rabbi Gifter, Pirkei Torah)
ויעתר יצחק לה’ לנכח אשתו כי עקרה היא ויעתר לו ה’ ותהר רבקה אשתו
“And Yitzchak entreated G-d opposite his wife because she was barren, and G-d accepted his prayers, and Rivkah, his wife, conceived.” (25:21)
QUESTION: Why does the verse at first refer to “his wife” without mentioning her name, only to conclude “Rivkah, his wife?”
ANSWER: Yitchak’s mother Sarah was barren for many years. It was only after her name was changed from “Sarai” to “Sarah” that she was able to give birth. Had her name remained “Sarai”, she would never have been able to conceive. Yitzchak wondered, “Maybe my wife Rivkah has the same problem as my mother Sarah.” Therefore, when he prayed to Hashem, he pleaded “Please help my wife to have a child,” without mentioning her name.
In response to his prayers, Hashem made a miracle greater than the one He made for his mother. Not only did his barren wife become pregnant; but moreover, she did so while retaining her original name, Rivkah. (Pardes Yosef)
ויעתר לו ה’ ותהר רבקה אשתו
“G-d accepted his prayers, and Rivkah, his wife, conceived.” (25:21)
QUESTION: Rashi explains that Hashem let himself be entreated of him and not of her because the prayer of a tzaddik the son of a tzaddik (Yitzchak) is superior to the prayer of a tzaddik the son of a rasha (Rivkah). This seems to contradict the Gemara (Berachot 34b) that a ba’al teshuvah is greater than a tzaddik?
ANSWER: Yitzchak and Rivkah both prayed to Hashem for a child. Rivkah’s prayer was, “Please G-d, my husband is such a great tzaddik; he indeed deserves a child.” Yitzchak prayed and said, “Please G-d, my wife grew up in the home of such wicked people as Betuel and Lavan, yet she is so righteous. She certainly deserves to be blessed with a child.” Hashem accepted Yitzchak’s plea and argument and blessed Rivkah because she was such a great ba’alat teshuvah. (Vedebarta Bam)
ויעקב איש תם ישב אהלים
“Yaakov was a straight person who sat in tents.” (25:27)
Rashi defines the word tam as a person who is not skilled in deceiving others. As is his heart so are his words. Yaakov was not called a tam, but an ish tam. That is, he was a master over the trait of being a tam. He was totally honest, a man of great integrity. But in those situations when it was appropriate to use cunning strategy to accomplish something, he was able to do so.
This, said the Rebbe from Lublin, is the way we should be with all traits. A person needs to be the master over all of his traits. Even the most negative traits have situations when they are appropriate. As the Sages say, “Whoever is compassionate when he should be cruel will eventually be cruel when he should be compassionate.” If a person fails to apply so-called negative traits in their proper times, he will end up applying them when it is wrong to do so. (Maayanah Shel Torah)
ויאהב יצחק את עשו כי ציד בפיו
“Yitzchak loved Eisav because he provided him with food.” (25:28)
QUESTION: Yitzchak was a wealthy man. Why was he dependent on Eisav for food?
ANSWER: The Gemara (Shabbat 89b) states that in the future Hashem will complain to the Patriarchs that their children (the Jewish people) have sinned. Avraham and Yaakov will respond, “Let them be annihilated for the sake of your Holy name.” Yitzchak will come to the defense of the Jewish people. His defense will be the following: “Almighty G-d, though they have sinned, they deserve your love, because after all, you are their father and they are your children.”
Yitchak will prove his case by stating the fact that he, too, had a son who was far from being a tzaddik, and yet he loved him merely because he was his son. Thus, Yitzchak loved Eisav because through him he had “food for argument” with which to defend the Jewish people and assure their survival. (R’ Meir M’Premishlan)
ועשה לי מטעמים כאשר אהבתי והביאה לי ואכלה בעבור תברכך נפשי בטרם אמות
“Then make me delicacies such as I love and bring them to me, and I will eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die.” (27:4)
Why did Yitzchak request food in preparation to bless? What does the mundane act of eating have to do with giving a berachah?
Seforno explains that although Yitzchak did not recognize the full extent of Eisav’s wickedness, he nonetheless felt Eisav unworthy of receiving his berachah. Yitzchak, however, felt that through the performance of kibbud av, Eisav could elevate himself – even if only temporarily – to a level worthy of berachah. He therefore requested that Eisav bring him a meal.
When Yitzchak later blessed Yaakov (before Yaakov left for Haran), he did not request any food, for Yaakov did not need extra elevation to be worthy of berachah. Through sincere mitzvah performance, one who is not worthy of berachah can become so; the kedushah of the mitzvah itself elevates him to new heights.
Another explanation of why Yitzchak asked for the meal is that since he was so removed from mundane pleasures, he could not relate to them. He asked for the delicacies so that he could better relate to the physical aspects of the berachah and bestow the berachah befittingly. Later, however, when blessing Yaakov solely for spiritual matters, Yitzchak required no such preparations, for he had no difficulty in relating to spiritual matters. (Rabbi Gifter, Pirkei Torah)
וישמע יעקב אל אביו ואל אמו וילך פדנה ארם
“And Yaakov listened to his father and to his mother, and he left for Padan Aram.” (28:7)
Why doesn’t the Torah simply state that Yaakov “listened to his father and mother”? What is the significance of the additional wording “to his father and to his mother”?
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky explains that Yaakov had two distinct purposes in going to Padan Aram – to find a suitable wife for himself and to escape the murderous wrath of his brother Eisav; the former at the behest of his father, the latter, of his mother. If Yaakov had wished for it to be considered that he was obeying the wishes of each of his parents, then he would have to go with both purposes in mind. Indeed, this is precisely what he did, as the Torah informs us. He “listened to his father” and he also “listened to his mother.” (Torah Anthology)
This week’s parsha sheet is sponsored in memory of the victims of this week’s terrorist attack inside a shul in Har Nof; Rabbi Moshe Twersky ztl, Rabbi Avraham Shmeul Goldberg ztl, Rabbi Kalman Levine tzl and Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky tzl. For future sponsorship opportunities or to receive this publication, please call Steve Zuckerman at 516 652 5266 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Rabbi Lichter at email@example.com. Sponsorships in memory of or in honor of someone are $50.00 per issue.