This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Vol. 12 No. 6
Sh'lomoh Yitzchak ha'Levi z.t.l.
Yitzchak's (Unrealistic) Plans
(Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim)
There are a number of issues that need to be resolved regarding Yitzchak's attitude towards the B'rachos. Firstly, we need to understand what prompted Yitzchak to favour Eisav over Ya'akov in this regard? Is it feasible that he did not know about Eisav's numerous evil deeds? Can it be that he remained blissfully unaware about Eisav giving free reign to the desires of his heart, causing him to transgress the most severe sins, as is described in the Medrashim? And even if we accept the explanation that Yitzchak was sufficiently naive to be taken in by Eisav's air of righteousness, as he asked his father how one separates Ma'asros on salt, how come that Rifkah never complained to him about Eisav's evil ways, and worse still, about his hypocritical behaviour (though we do not intend with this particular point in this article)? And more than that! Immediately prior to the Parshah of the B'rachos, the Torah relates how Eisav took wives from the B'nei Cheis who, not only worshipped idols, but whose idolatry was considered an act of rebellion against Yitzchak and Rivkah, as well as being instrumental in causing Yitzchak to go virtually blind. Can it be that Yitzchak remained oblivious to all this?
Secondly, how could Yitzchak not have realized the extent of Ya'akov's righteousness? Could he not see that he was an "ish tam, yoshev oholim", as the Pasuk describes him? So what made him give precedence to Eisav on the one hand, and to overlook Ya'akov, on the other?
And thirdly, it is difficult to understand, in light of his decision to bless Eisav despite the above, how he could callously turn to Eisav and inform him that he could only corroborate the B'rachos that he had just given Ya'akov? There stood a broken Eisav, standing ready with the venison that he had taken much trouble to hunt and prepare, sobbing pitifully at having been outwitted and 'deceived' by his brother, who had just tricked his father into giving him the B'rachos that he did not deserve! Surely this was not the time to pour salt on 'poor' Eisav's wounds by telling him that it was just too bad!
R. Yosef Chayim therefore explains the entire issue in the following manner.
To be sure, Yitzchak knew exactly who Eisav and Ya'akov were. And it was precisely because Eisav's tendencies caused such havoc among the people with whom he came into contact, that he came to the conclusion to confer the blessings upon him. Once Eisav received the B'rachos and was blessed with success in all his endeavours he figured, he would no longer find it necessary to rob others and cause them such harm. Surely, he assumed, once G-d blessed him with everything that he needed, he would change his ways and live in peace and harmony with his neighbors. More than that! Once Eisav was blessed with success, Yitzchak was convinced that he would also ensure that Ya'akov shared in his blessing, enabling him to continue to sit in the tents of Torah undisturbed, in peace and tranquility.
Those were Yitzchak's plans. But Rivkah, who had been brought up in the house of Lavan and Besu'el, knew only too well, that this was all wishful thinking. She knew that in the world of Eisav and people like him, success breeds, not gratitude, contentedness and goodwill, but a desire for more success still, for as Chazal have said 'Someone who has a Manah, wants two, and when he has two, he wants four ... '. She, like Sarah before her (see main article, Parshas Lech-Lecha) saw the dangers inherent in her husband's plans. Because it was a fallacy to believe that Eisav would share the B'rachos with Ya'akov. On the contrary, Rivkah knew that he would use his new-found wealth, and the power that went with it, to pursue and hound him mercilessly, in his efforts to destroy him completely. That being the case, giving Eisav, and not Ya'akov, the B'rachos would not only serve no purpose, they would be self-defeating!
And it struck Yitzchak the moment Eisav entered with the venison - before Eisav had said a word, that his theory was wrong. The Torah records how at that moment, he trembled (and it stresses the extent of his trembling). And Rashi quoting the Medrash, attributes this trembling to the fact that he saw Gehinom open underneath him. Surely, according to the way he had envisaged, there was no reason for Eisav to land in Gehinom. On the contrary, he would be a partner with Ya'akov in Gan Eden (like Yisachar and Zevulun). That was when he realized just how much he had erred (I have deviated here from R. Yosef Chayim's version of the events at this juncture, which goes better with Rashi's first explanation as to why Yitzchak trembled - that of Targum Unklus). That was when he realized the peril into which his plan would place Ya'akov (who entered his tent with the smell of Gan Eden, as Rashi explained earlier). Perhaps we can say that he shuddered to think what might have happened, had he blessed Eisav as he originally intended.
And that was why he spoke openly to Eisav, and told him "Gam baruch yih'yeh". Until now, he had thought that Eisav was deserving of the B'rachos. Now he knew that he was not. And he immediately admitted that he had erred.
* * *
(Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim)
Five Years Before His Time
"And Yitzchak entreated Hashem on behalf of his wife, because she was barren, and Hashem answered his entreaties ("va'ye'oser lo Hashem"), and Rivkah his wife became pregnant" (25:21).
Commenting on 'and Hashem answered his entreaties', Rashi writes 'nispatezer, ve'nispayes ve'nispateh lo' (three expressions with connotations of being talked over).
What exactly, is Rashi trying to tell us? Why could he not leave the Pasuk as it stands, to mean that Hashem allowed Himself to be entreated, without the extra explanatory terms, which seem to add nothing to the context?
To understand Rashi's comment, let us glance at another Rashi in connection with a Pasuk later in the Parshah. On the Pasuk describing how Eisav returned from his hunting and asked Ya'akov for some of the lentil broth that he was cooking, Rashi comments that Avraham had died on that day, in order to spare him the anguish of seeing his grandson Eisav turn to evil ways. Because had he witnessed that calamity, it would not have conformed with 'the good old age' that G-d had promised Avraham he would reach. To that end, G-d saw fit to deduct five years from Avraham's life, who was otherwise destined to live a hundred and eighty years, like his son Yitzchak.
And Ya'akov was cooking the lentil broth for his father Yitzchak, since lentils are considered mourner's food, as Rashi explains.
It transpires that Avraham had to die five years prematurely, in order not to see Eisav turn to evil ways. Conversely, had Eisav been born five years later, Avraham would have been able to live out his full life- span.
As a matter of fact, R. Yosef Chayim explains, Eisav was destined to be born five years later, and it was due to Yitzchak's fervent prayers that Hashem cured Rivkah five years earlier than He had intended. And this is hinted in the numerical value of "va'ye'oser lo Hashem", which remarkably, is equivalent to that of 'Chomesh Shonim'.
When R. Aharon Kotler heard this Gematriyah, he could barely restrain himself with excitement, and declared that it was said with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh. And it was he who added that the above explanation sheds light on Rashi's seemingly superfluous string of expressions 'nispatezer, ve'nispayes ve'nispateh lo'. It was indeed not easy for Hashem to accept Yitzchak's Tefilah in this instance, as it would result in Avraham Avinu having to lose five years of his life. Yet so precious was Yitzchak's prayer in His eyes, that He allowed Himself to be 'nispatezer, ve'nispayes ve'nispateh', and granted him his request, consequences notwithstanding.
"And G-d said to her, 'there are two nations in your stomach … two peoples will separate from your insides ... and the older one will serve the younger one".
We need to understand, asks R. Yosef Chayim, what lay in these words that had the desired affect of causing Rivkah's anxiety to die down? After all, she did go for Divine assistance, and this was the Divine reply.
Rashi gives two explanations for the struggle that took place between Ya'akov and Eisav inside Rivkah's stomach. One, that whenever she passed the portals of the Yeshivah of Shem and Eiver, Ya'akov struggled to get out, and whenever she passed the doors of a house where Avodah-Zarah was worshipped, it was Eisav who struggled to get out. The other, that they were struggling over the inheritance of the two worlds.
According to the first explanation, R. Yosef Chayim explains, Rivkah's initial concern was based on her being unaware that she was carrying two children. She thought that this was one confused child, who could not make up his mind whether to serve G-d or whether to serve idols. So he took to serving both. But we know from Eliyahu ha'Navi, who told the people that it was better to serve Ba'al than to 'jump between two thresholds', and serve G-d one day and Ba'al the next, that this is the worst policy. Better to serve idols all the time, he told them, because that is a sign of sincerity, and there is a fair chance that tomorrow, they would revert to serving G-d.
And that is precisely why Rivkah felt relieved, on two scores, when the Navi informed her that she was expecting twins: a. because she was expecting a son who was destined to be a Tzadik; and b. because she was expecting a son who was a Rasha, which is preferable to being a mixture of both, as Eliyahu taught later.
According to the second explanation, it is just as easily understood. Both babies had been struggling to be born first, since as we know from the subsequent events, when it comes to matters of inheritance, the firstborn has a distinct advantage over the one who is born second.
But when they heard the Navi's prediction that 'the older one will serve the younger one', they lost interest in coming out first. This time, it wasn't Rivkah who was (directly) affected by the Navi's message, but the struggling twins themselves.
"And the boys grew up, and Eisav was ... a man of the field, whilst Ya'akov was a straightforward man (a man of perfection according to Targum Unklus)" (25:27).
Rashi interprets "Ish Sadeh" as an idle person, who spent his time hunting wild animals and birds (see Sifsei Chachamim).
Whereas with regard to "Ish Tam" he comments 'he was not an expert in all these (with reference to the preceding description of Eisav "Ish yodei'a tzayid" [see Rashi there]); his heart and his mouth were of one opinion. Someone who is not cunning to trick people is called 'Tam' '.
The question arises, says R, Yosef Chayim, why, according to Rashi's explanation, the Torah saw fit to add the word "Ish" (and did not simply write 've'Ya'akov Tam")?
And he answers that without "Ish", the Pasuk would mean that Ya'akov was a straightforward man, perhaps because that was his nature. But to be a straightforward man by nature is not in itself, ideal. Take for example, the Midah of Rachamim (mercy), which on the one hand, Chazal describe (together with bashfulness and kindheartedness), as the mark of a Jew. Yet on the other hand, they have said that someone who is merciful to the cruel, will eventually end up by being cruel to the merciful.
So we see that, admirable though the Midah of mercy is, it is only ideal if its owner is in full control over it, knowing when to put it to good use, and when to keep it under tabs.
And so it is with all good Midos, including Temimus. They are wonderful as long as the owner knows when to use them and when not. Which is why the Torah writes "ve'Ya'akov Ish Tam", to teach us that Ya'akov was master over his Temimus. Indeed, it will not be long before we read about his handling of Lavan, using every trick of the trade to survive, not at all in keeping with the Temimus for which he is praised here.
Ya'akov's Brilliant Strategy
"Your brother came with cunning (be'mirmah) and took your blessing" (27:35).
At least, this is what the Pasuk appears to be saying. Unklus however, translates 'be'mirmah' as 'with wisdom'.
We need to understand, R. Yosef Chayim comments, why he deviates from the Pasuk's simple meaning.
And he explains the depth of Ya'akov's wisdom like this.
Ya'akov knew that Eisav would be able to repair a fair part of the damage by offering his father the venison that he had brought him. It is clear that irrespective of the reason, Yitzchak found this irresistible, and what's more, it created a strong bond between him and his son Eisav. Indeed, Eisav's first words were "Arise my father, and eat from your son's venison ... ". And Ya'akov was afraid that, if that happened, Yitzchak would respond in a way that would undo much, if not all, of what he had achieved.
So what did he do? He came up with the brilliant strategy of serving his father the Afikoman (indeed the commentaries explain that one of the goats that he brought him was the Korban Pesach, of which nowadays, the Afikoman reminds us) before Eisav arrived. Consequently, when Eisav would turn up with his fine fare, Yitzchak would be forced to decline, since it is forbidden to eat after the Afikomon (perhaps Yitzchak's statement to Eisav "And I ate from everything" hints at that). With masterful foresight, Ya'akov had nipped in the bud, any turn of events that threatened to undo all that he had just achieved.
And we know this, R. Yosef Chayim concludes, from the word "be'mirmah", which has the same numerical value as 'Afikoman'.
* * *
AND THEIR MEANING
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)
Not to Manufacture an Image
The Manufacture of images to be worshipped is forbidden, even if the manufacture himself does not intend to worship them. Manufacturing them per se is prohibited, in order to prevent a stumbling-block. Neither does it make a difference whether one makes the image oneself or one commissions others to do so, as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:4) "Do not make for yourself a carved image ... ". And someone who orders others to make them is the one who causes their manufacture. This is the opinion of the Rambam.
The Ramban however, maintains that the prohibition of manufacturing images applies only to someone who makes them for himself to worship. He also holds that this Pasuk is not the source of the prohibition, but the Pasuk in Kedoshim (19:4) "Do not turn to images, and do not manufacture for yourselves molten gods". The Pasuk here, he claims, is not referring to the manufacture of idols, but to adopting them as gods with a view to worshipping them. The Torah here is presenting the actual Isur of idolatry, for which one is Chayav Miysah, and not that of manufacturing idols, which is a plain La'av, which is subject only to Malkos, as long as one does not actually worship them. In other words, the current La'av is part of the overall Isur discussed in this Pasuk. Basically, it is a prohibition not to admit that any other god is Divine, incorporating accepting it as a god (by declaring 'You are my god'), prostrating oneself before it, or worshipping it either by means of one of the four standard Avodos, or in the conventional manner by which it is generally worshipped (as we discussed in the previous Mitzvah).
And the author himself wonders at the Rambam, who makes no distinction as to whether one makes the image oneself or one issues instructions to others to do so, as (based on the principle 'Ein sheli'ach li'd'var aveirah'), we rule that if Reuven sends Shimon on a sinful errand, it is not Reuven who is Chayav but Shimon.
The reason for this Mitzvah is obviously to distance oneself from Avodah-Zarah.
Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... such as which kind of images a manufacturer is forbidden to produce, and which ones he is permitted ... The distinction between an image that protrudes and one that is sunken ... The Din of a signet ring that contains a seal in the form of a picture of a forbidden image ... and the remaining details, are discussed in Maseches Avodah-Zarah, and in Yoreh De'ah Si'man 139-141).
This Mitzvah applies everywhere, to men and women alike. Anybody who contravenes it and manufactures an image to be worshipped, is subject to Malkos.
Not to Turn to
the Worship of Idols,
in Thought, in Speech or in Sight
It is forbidden to turn to idolatry in thought, in speech or even just to look at it, in order not to come to worship it, as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:4) "Do not turn to idols", and Chazal explained in the Sifra that someone who turns to them will eventually adopt them as gods. What they mean is that once one starts to believe the stupidities that their adherents claim (that such and such a Mazel or star will do this or that wonder if one performs a certain act, or if one offers to it a certain incense or worships it in this way or that); or if one constantly gazes at the images that those who worship it make, in order to become acquainted with the way it is served. All of these will eventually cause a person to become attracted to it and to worship it. Indeed, the Sifra explicitly forbids even gazing at an image, when it quotes Rebbi Yehudah, who says 'Do not turn, to look at them'. Besides the reason that we gave for this, it is also forbidden so as not to waste precious time with such nonsense, seeing as man was created solely to serve his Creator. And this is what the Gemara in Shabbos (149a) says 'And the image itself is forbidden (to look at) even during the week, because the Torah writes "Do not turn to idols". How is that implied? Rebbi Yochanan explains the Pasuk as if it had written 'Do not turn G-d away from your thoughts'.
And this La'av is repeated in the second Parshah of Sh'ma, where the Pasuk writes "Take great care lest your heart goes astray, and you turn and serve other gods", implying that allowing your hearts to think about other gods will cause you to turn from the straight path and to indulge in worshipping them.
And furthermore the Torah writes in this connection "And lest you raise your eyes heavenwards and see the sun and the moon ... ". This is not a prohibition against turning one's head upward and looking at the heavenly bodies, but against gazing at them with the intention of gaining knowledge about their powers and inner workings, as the Torah writes "And lest you enquire about their gods saying, how do these nations worship their gods, so that I can do likewise" (Re'ei 12:30). What the Torah prohibits is that one searches for information about how to worship them, because all this leads a person to stray after them.
* * *