Category Archives: Toldot

Appropriate Alcoholic Consumption (Toldot)

Appropriate Alcoholic Consumption (Toldot)

Gluttony kills more than the sword. -Proverb

Blind Isaac feels old age approaching. In anticipation, he asks his son Esau to bring him food so he can bless him before he dies. Isaac’s wife, Rebecca, feels that the younger son, Esau’s twin, Jacob, should receive the blessing. She instructs Jacob to bring food to Isaac and get the blessing. Jacob masquerades as Esau and taking advantage of his father’s blindness, successfully pretends to be the older sibling.

Jacob enters Isaac’s tent with food in hand and serves his elderly father. The feast includes wine. The meal goes without a hitch. While Isaac is somewhat suspicious, he seems convinced that it is indeed Esau in front of him and proceeds to bless his son with blessings of leadership and material success. Jacob takes leave of Isaac without getting caught. Only later, when Esau arrives ready to serve his own meal, is the charade uncovered to Isaac’s dismay and Esau’s anguish.

Esau’s resulting anger and desire to kill Jacob for the affront and for stealing his blessings results in Jacob’s escape and exile to Haran, to seek refuge by his uncle Laban and eventually to marrying his cousins, Leah and Rachel.

But getting back to the meal itself and Jacob serving his father Isaac wine, the Meshech Chochma on Genesis 27:25 notices that the cantillation note (the musical notes on how to read the Torah) under the word for “wine” is a “double” note.

He connects the double note under the word wine, to the Talmudic dictum (Tractate Beitzah 25b) that whoever drinks his wine in one gulp is a glutton. The Meshech Chochma claims that the note indicates that Isaac, who was well-mannered, didn’t drink his wine in one shot, but rather split it up into the proper etiquette of two gulps, which Jacob served him each time (they probably also didn’t have the large wine glasses we have today).

May we consume our alcoholic beverages (and our food in general) for the right reasons, at the right time, in the right proportion and the right way.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To Doni and Emily Yellin on their marriage. Mazal Tov!

A Father’s Legacy (Toldot)

A Father’s Legacy (Toldot)

I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection. -Sigmund Freud

Isaac is perhaps one of the more saintly characters in our history. He was willing to be sacrificed on Mount Moriah. He steadfastly continued his father’s work, following in Abraham’s footsteps in serving God and bringing the teachings of Abraham to the next generation.

When God speaks to Isaac and tells him that he will inherit the land of Canaan, he warns him against leaving the land and tells him that he and his progeny have received the land in Abraham’s merit.

The Berdichever wonders why the saintly Isaac wasn’t told he would receive the land on his own merit. Isaac was righteous. Isaac was diligent in following his father’s path. Isaac is one of the three founding Patriarchs of the Jewish nation. Did he not have enough divine “credit” like Abraham did, to merit the Promised Land in his own right?

The Berdichver explains that a major part of Abraham’s mission was to “raise the sparks” of the world up to God. In order to accomplish the mission, Abraham needed to travel far and wide and interact with the world outside of the Promised Land. Abraham was able to gather these far-flung sparks and bring them back with him to Canaan.

However, once Abraham had gathered these spiritual sparks to Canaan, Isaac was able to “raise the sparks” from Canaan to Heaven. There was no need for him to leave Canaan. Abraham had passed on to Isaac the power to raise these sparks. Abraham’s gathering of the sparks somehow empowered Isaac to be able to conduct this unique spiritual function. Isaac had what is called “Zchut Avot” – merit of the fathers, which Abraham himself didn’t have.

Because Abraham lacked a father who was able to pass on to him this spiritual power and legacy, he needed to roam the world and develop his own merit. However, Isaac, who did have the merit of being born to and raised by the spiritually developed Abraham, didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. He didn’t have to go on his own geographically challenging journey of spiritual discovery and development. He was able to continue where his father left off in the Promised Land. He was able to take the work his father had done and elevate it higher.

It is due to Abraham, the trailblazer, who came from a spiritually humble upbringing, in whose merit Isaac is told that he and his progeny will receive the Promised Land. While Abraham may have been the trailblazer, it was Isaac who followed, elevated and passed on the trailblazer’s trail.

Both the trailblazer and the one who continues the trailblazer’s work are vitally important. No development of importance can endure without both. It was that spiritually powerful father-and-son team that lead to Jacob, to the tribes of Israel and to the eternal Jewish people.

In the end, we are told, that we have received the land in the merit of all three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the Chabad trailblazers and their continuers. Their Kinus Shluchim, the gathering of their emissaries, from all over the globe, was incredibly inspiring.

The Blessing of Multiplication

The Blessing of Multiplication

Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing. -Salvador Dali

Isaac starts to feel his age. He has lost his eyesight. He is uncertain as to when he will die. He wishes to bless his firstborn, Esau. He orders Esau to prepare a festive meal for him. As Esau hunts for game, Isaac’s wife Rebecca directs the younger twin, Jacob, to claim the blessing. Jacob disguises himself as his hairier brother, Esau, serves his father a sumptuous meal, and gets the coveted blessing from mislead blind Isaac. Shortly thereafter, Esau and his father discover the deception and thereafter Esau burns with a murderous hatred for his brother that would send Jacob into exile and influence the entire history of the Jewish people.

Rabbeinu Bechaye on Genesis 27:4 (Toldot) wonders why it is that Isaac requests a festive meal in the first place? What is it about a sumptuous meal of delights that seems to be a prerequisite for giving and receiving a blessing?

He answers that Isaac wanted to bless Esau with material prosperity, and therefore required some sample of material prosperity present to enact the blessing. Hence the need for the festive meal for this particular blessing. Rabbeinu Bechaye brings other examples as supportive evidence:

During Temple times:

  • On Sukot we brought water libations to ask for the blessing of rain.
  • On Passover we brought the first grains to ask for the blessing of produce.
  • On Shavuot we brought the two loaves to ask for the blessing of fruit.

And in general:

  • Whoever is careful to wear Tzitzit merits fine garments.
  • Whoever is careful with the Mitzva of Mezuza merits a fine house.
  • Whoever is careful with Kiddush merits fine wines.

Rabbeinu Bechaye points out that the real rewards for the performance of any Mitzva is actually in the next world, and what we receive in this world are merely the “fruits” of the performance of those particular Mitzvot. Nonetheless, there is a powerful connection between the objects we utilize in our service of God and the blessings that result.

May our possessions be good, useful and beautiful and may we receive the blessing of their positive influence and development.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To Yeshiva University. It was wonderful to spend Shabbat at my alma mater and see how the community has grown and developed since my student days.

Customized Teaching

Customized Teaching 

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. -Sir John Lubbock

frustrated_studentModern parents have mostly outsourced the education of their children. We send them to schools and charge the teachers with the often thankless task of educating the next generation. Within the school system there have been endless debates as to how in fact we should educate our children, what the curriculum should be, what’s a reasonable class size, what are the best methods of instruction, what qualifications the teachers need and much more. None of this, however, absolves the parents of the responsibility of educating and raising their children as best they can.

Rabbi Hirsch on Genesis 25:27 sees fault in the righteous Isaac and Rebecca in their raising of Esau, who the Rabbis named “Esau the Evil”. He explains that they gave their twin boys, Jacob and Esau, the exact same education, without consideration of their very distinct personalities. Jacob was a natural bookworm, comfortable with studying texts, remaining absconded within his tent; a student ideally suited for explorations of the religious and the spiritual. Esau however, was an outdoorsman. He loved nature and the wild. He was physically strong, liked the rugged life, the life of a hunter and perhaps that of a warrior. The study of texts and the spiritual was completely lost on him.

Rabbi Hirsch explains that the boys’ saintly parents forgot or did not heed the dictum, immortalized around 3,000 years ago by King Solomon in Proverbs 22:6 “Instruct the child according to his own way.” Every child (even a twin) has his own unique personality. He will have his own interests, things that excite him and things that bore him. By providing Esau with the same educational curriculum as they did to Jacob, they almost guaranteed that he would come to abandon their beliefs and way of life. Rabbi Hirsch claims that if they had developed a unique curriculum that spoke to Esau’s love of nature, that took into account his strength, skills and courage, it may have directed him to become a mighty man of God, as opposed to merely a mighty hunter.

May we pay attention to and respond accordingly to our children’s’ differing educational needs.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the Hebron Fund, for an incredibly inspiring Shabbat in the City of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

Wells of Truth

 It is easier to perceive error than to find truth, for the former lies on the surface and is easily seen, while the latter lies in the depth, where few are willing to search for it. -Johann von Goethe

Water Well

When one reads parts of the story of Isaac, there is a sense of déjà vu (Genesis Chapter 26). Among the scenes which seem repetitive, Abraham dug wells around the area of the Philistines. Isaac, his son, goes ahead and digs up the same wells. It is curious that after the death of Abraham, the Philistines had covered up those wells.

The Sfat Emet in 5635 (1875) takes a more metaphorical look at the story and explains that the “wells” were sources of spiritual light and truth. When the Philistines “covered” them, it created a distance and enmity between them and Isaac to the point where they banished Isaac from their midst. However, once Isaac “uncovered” these mystical “wells”, holiness and light was able to flow once again from them. The glory of God became revealed and the Philistines once again saw the truth. The king of the Philistines then goes with a delegation to Isaac and submits himself, seeking a peace accord with the son of Abraham, clearly exhibiting fear of Isaac.

May our own digging for the truth reveal light, holiness, strength and peace.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To Hillel Neuer of UN Watch who incessantly calls out the truth against the lies of many in the United Nations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beware the Peace Offering

First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/toldot-beware-the-peace-offering/

Baal Haturim Genesis: Toldot

Beware the Peace Offering

Peace, in international affairs, is a period of cheating between two periods of fighting. -Ambrose Bierce

Because of a famine in the mountains of Canaan, our patriarch Isaac heads to the area of Gerar by the Mediterranean coast. There he gets entangled in a variety of problems with the Philistines in general and their King Avimelech in particular. Isaac has the concern, which echoes the experiences of his father Abraham, that the locals may kill him in order to claim his beautiful wife, Rebecca.

Isaac and Rebecca, following the previous generation’s example, pretend to be brother and sister. However, Avimelech discovers the truth and chastises Isaac for the deception. Thereafter, we see that Isaac is blessed with tremendous economic success despite Philistines sabotaging his wells and Avimelech eventually banishing him from Gerar.

Isaac settles by Beer Sheva in the Negev and continues to flourish. King Avimelech, accompanied by his General Fichol, visit Isaac seeking peace with him. Both Isaac and the Baal Haturim on Genesis 26:29 are suspicious of the sudden amity on the part of Avimelech.

The Baal Haturim explains that Avimelech truly wanted to kill Isaac and only after repeated failed efforts does Avimelech pause and tries the strategy of seeking peace – it would seem more out of fear of Isaac’s growing power than for any benevolence or caring for Isaac. It was purely short-term self-interest. The Philistines would remain mortal enemies for centuries to come.

May we achieve peace despite the efforts of our enemies.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To our soldier Eitan on the completion of his training and his assignment.

La crisis de Rebecca

ficción bíblica: Toldot

traducido del Inglés por Caro Cynovich 

La crisis de Rebecca

doreIsaacBlessingligtLas palabras de la profecía resonaron en la cabeza de Rebecca. Ella había guardado esas misteriosas palabras en su corazón desde antes del nacimiento de los mellizos. No habían hecho nada para consolar su dolor, sino que sólo alimentaron su confusión y temor. Rebecca miró hacia la entrada de la tienda de Isaac con ansiedad, las palabras resonando en su mente:

“Dos pueblos hay en tu seno;

dos naciones desde tu interior estarán separadas;

una nación se fortalecerá más que la otra nación,

Y el mayor servirá al menor”

Rebecca no podía soportar la tensión mucho más tiempo. Esaú, su hijo mayor, se acercaba a la tienda de ciego Isaac, mientras que después de lo que pareció una eternidad, Jacob, joven, dulce Jacob, aún no había salido.

Se sentó discretamente y en silencio fuera de la tienda de Isaac. Esaú bruscamente abrió la puerta de la tienda y entró, pero todavía no se veía a Jacob. Rebecca contuvo la respiración ante la explosión inminente. Ella sabía cómo funcionaba el temperamento de Esaú. Esaú entendería inmediatamente que Jacob lo había suplantado, y la farsa habría terminado. Las bendiciones pueden de hecho convertirse en una maldición, tal vez incluso violenta, como Jacob había temido.

Entonces, desde el interior de la tapa de la carpa, Jacob salió inadvertidamente y en silencio, alejándose del área.

Gracias, Dios. Rebecca pensó con gran alivio. Jacob recibió la bendición que Isaac destinado a Esaú, sin ser descubierto.

La creciente agitación de Esaú se escuchó claramente desde el exterior. La confusión que emanaba de la tienda era palpable. Fue entonces que se escuchó un grito que podría retorcer huesos.

—¡¡Nooooooo!! —gimió Esaú.

¿Qué he hecho? Rebecca se preguntó.

No podía creer lo que oía. Su fuerte y contundente hijo Esaú comenzó a llorar con un amargo y profundo grito que le heló la sangre.

—No tienes más que una sola bendición, ¿padre? —Esaú rogó—: ¡Bendíceme también a mí, padre!

Lo siento, hijo mío. Rebecca se dijo a sí misma. No tenía otra opción. La profecía debe cumplirse. Tú realmente no es digno de ser el heredero de Isaac. “El mayor servirá al menor”.

Isaac le otorgó alguna bendición improvisada a Esaú. Esaú se fue de la tienda de su padre hecho una furia, con asesinato en su mente. La sangre abandonó el rostro de Rebecca cuando ella alcanzó a ver sus ojos.

Matará a mi Jacob. Le debo advertir. Tengo que hacer que Jacob se vaya lejos de aquí.

Hubo unos minutos de silencio en la tienda, mientras Isaac se ordenaba a sí mismo.

—Rebecca, esposa mía —Isaac llamó—. Sé que puedes oírme. Por favor entra.

Rebecca entró en la tienda con gracia y se arrodilló junto a su marido ciego.

—Sí , mi marido.

—Por favor, siéntate, mi querida.

—Gracias, Isaac.

—Rebecca, sé que tú has planeado este engaño. ¿Por qué no hablaste de esto conmigo? —Isaac preguntó con voz dolorida.

Rebecca estaba preparada para ese momento. Tengo que darle la noticia con cuidado. Isaac ama a Esaú. Él es ciego a la maldad de Esaú, a su ira y furia. Yo misma no sé de dónde viene.

—¿Hubieras escuchado mis palabras?

—Eres muy inteligente y de buen corazón. Tus palabras son siempre de gran valor.

Esa es la forma educada de decir que no. Yo tuve razón al haberlo engañado. Tengo que ir con cuidado. Debo proteger a Jacob para que él tenga el derecho de ser el primogénito. “El mayor servirá al menor”.

—Esaú no es tan inocente como te imaginas. Él no es digno de seguir sus tradiciones.

—Él es el mayor. Él es un hombre de mundo. El cumplimiento de la primogenitura requiere una cierta rugosidad, una buena capacidad de liderazgo. Esaú posee estos atributos – incluso más que yo, y más de Jacob.

Él no ve. No entiende. Él está justificando su amor ciego por Esaú. Debería haberlo entendido a esta altura.

—Aún así, mi amor, él puede ser cruel, incluso perverso —replicó Rebecca—. Ese no es nuestro camino. No es tu camino. No es lo que tu padre Abraham hubiera querido.

—Así que ahora, mi amor, ¿tú eres la intérprete de las tradiciones de mi padre? —Isaac preguntó con cierta incredulidad.

Debo intentar un ángulo diferente. Tengo que traerle pruebas y moverlo a la acción. No va a ser persuadido con acusaciones no verificadas.

—Mira a las esposas de Esaú – ¡son adoradoras de ídolos! Estoy disgustada con mi vida por causa de estas hijas de Het —Rebecca dijo con vehemencia—. Si Jacob toma mujer de las hijas de Het, como éstas, hijas de esta tierra, ¿para qué voy a vivir?

Isaac se sorprendió de la ferocidad de Rebecca. Por tercera vez en un día, se encontró confundido y desorientado, sorprendido por cada encuentro, pero sintiendo una mayor revelación en cada uno. Él no respondió, pero se inclinó hacia delante, mirando pensativo la nada.

Isaac podía percibir que la mano de Dios había estado muy involucrada en los acontecimientos del día. Isaac siempre había supuesto que Esaú era la opción correcta, sin embargo, Dios claramente había intervenido. Jacob había mostrado un gran coraje y habilidad para hacerse pasar por Esaú.

Y la bendición continuó. Isaac sintió que la presencia divina aprobaba la bendición. Jacob había sido realmente bendecido. Tiene que haber cierta validez en la compra que hizo Jacob de la primogenitura de Esaú. Cuanto más Isaac pensaba en ello, más se daba cuenta de que Rebecca estaba en lo cierto. Por mucho que le doliera, se dio cuenta de Esaú no era el que heredaría sus tradiciones – sería Jacob. El mayor servirá al menor.

Rebecca miró los rasgos de Isaac. Su rostro parecía contorsionarse con las emociones de sus pensamientos. ¿Lo he empujado demasiado fuerte? ¿Cómo podemos superar esto?

Esaú era demasiado peligroso, pensó Isaac. Sin embargo, se mostraba con tanto respeto ante Isaac que era un placer tenerlo a su alrededor. Ese hijo confiado, fuerte y valiente había sido la esperanza de Isaac para el futuro. Pero eso no era lo que tenía que suceder. Dios lo había indicado.

Isaac le tendió la mano derecha a Rebecca. Instintivamente Rebecca puso su mano en la suya. Isaac le cubrió la mano con la mano izquierda y la acarició suavemente.

—Amor de mi vida —dijo Isaac en voz baja—, ¿por qué se ha llegado a esto? ¿Por qué debes manipular y hacer planes a mis espaldas? ¿Es que no hay confianza entre nosotros? ¿No hay más confianza en esta familia – en los descendientes de Abraham?

Pequeñas lágrimas comenzaron a rodar por el rostro de Rebecca.

Oh Isaac. ¡Te quiero tanto! ¿Cómo puedo explicar mi decepción? ¿Cómo puedo decirte acerca de la profecía secreta que he llevado durante tanto tiempo? ¿Cómo puedo mostrarte lo que te niegas a ver?

—A pesar de nuestras instrucciones y esfuerzos, Esaú ha tomado el mal camino —dijo Rebecca suavemente—. Me rompe el corazón verlo. Pero debemos recordar nuestra misión. No podemos abandonar al Dios de tu padre y la amabilidad y la bondad que él dirige. Jacob es el que va a seguir su camino. Las bendiciones que nos ha otorgado confirman eso. Ahora tenemos que asegurarnos de que se case bien por el bien de la próxima generación.

—No ha respondido a mi pregunta —Isaac dijo mientras limpiaba tiernamente las lágrimas que no podía ver desde la mejilla de Rebecca— ¿Crees que soy tan ciego que no conozco a mis propios hijos?

Terco. Terco. Él se centra en la farsa y no en lo que tenemos que hacer a continuación. Ha sido profundamente ofendido por el engaño.

—Lo siento —respondió Rebecca—. Yo no vi otra manera. Esaú siempre ha sido tu favorito. Yo no creía que iba a cambiar tus ideas con sólo mi sugiriéndotelo. No podía correr el riesgo de que el niño malo fuera a recibir tu bendición.

—¿Qué hay de la confianza? ¿Cómo puede haber amor, cómo puede haber matrimonio o una relación, sin confianza? —y ahora era Isaac quien derramó lágrimas.

Él está en tanto dolor. Por favor, Dios, ¡ayúdame! No sé qué más decir.

Isaac y Rebeca se sentaron en silencio, cada uno sosteniendo las manos del otro.

—Es la voluntad de Dios —anunció Isaac—. Tal vez mi ceguera no es sólo física. Este problema de los niños nos ha dividido durante algún tiempo. Nunca debimos haber elegido favoritos.

Sí. Ahora empiezas a entender.

—Le mostré demasiado afecto y comprensión a Esaú —continuó Isaac—.  Los actos de los padres son una señal para los hijos. Parece que he repetido el error de otro.

Así como Abraham acepta y justifica la conducta de Ismael, tú has hecho la vista gorda al comportamiento de Esaú.

—Isaac, ambos hemos cometido errores —explicó Rebecca, con su mano todavía en la de él—. Vamos a aprender de ellos, pero no insistir en ellos. Por favor no dudes de mi compromiso, dedicación y amor por ti. Haré lo que sea necesario para cumplir con el trabajo de tu vida – incluso si esto significa engañarte o esconder cosas de ti.

Isaac la miró con sus ojos ciegos.

—Debe haber sido muy difícil para ti. Has sido muy fuerte y valiente para diseñar y llevar a cabo el engaño.

Gracias, Dios. ¡Él entiende!

Isaac y Rebeca se abrazaron y celebraron el uno al otro en silencio. Un abismo de muchos años finalmente había sido salvado.

—Vamos a llamar a Jacob —dijo Isaac—. Voy a volver a confirmar mis bendiciones hacia él, esta vez consciente de su verdadera identidad. Le voy a ordenar que encuentre esposas de tu familia y no hijas de esta tierra

¡Gracias, Dios! Gracias, Gracias. Gracias. Mi misión está cumplida y mi amor ha vuelto a mí.