DECEMBER 1-2, 2000 5 KISLEV 5761
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And Yitzhak entreated Hashem opposite his wife" (Beresheet 19:21)
Our perashah opens with a difficult situation. Yitzhak marries Ribkah. However, Ribkah is unable to conceive. The Torah states that Yitzhak was forty years old when he married Ribkah, and she gave birth when he was sixty. Therefore, the Torah actually states that Yitzhak and Ribkah prayed for 20 years. They "entreated," which means fervent prayer with tears. The Talmud (Yebamot 64) states that the reason why the forefathers were barren was because Hashem desires the prayers of the sadikim.
Rabbi R. Melamed asks, "Doesn't it seem unfair to put these righteous ones through such agony because Hashem loves their prayers?" The answer could be understood with the following comparison. A woman who has a child goes through a lot of difficulty, especially at the time of birth. However, the joy of having a child far outweighs the pain. Similarly, the joy that the sadik has knowing that Hashem loves her prayer and brings her closer to Hashem far outweighs the sorrow of not having a child. This closeness to Hashem is our eternity and joy in the next world. Rabbi Avigdor Miller adds that the many years of childlessness caused these great personalities, the forefathers and Matriarchs, to pour out their hearts in countless fervent prayers, thus gaining for themselves greater awareness of G-d, and more keen perception of His control over the destinies of men. This perfection is what Hashem "desires of the righteous," for their own benefit - out of His love for them.
I will end off with a beautiful thought from Rabbi Miller that is most relevant today. The Torah in Perashat Vayera said that Abraham and Sarah were old, well on in years, the way of the women ceased to be with Sarah. This is the expression of an almost lost hope, when the old pair had full cause to despair. One of the reasons why Hashem caused them to wait so long was to teach the symbolic lesson that G-d's plan will be carried out eventually, even when all hope seems to be lost. Thus the nation which is derived from Yitzhak is given the model of faith in G-d's final salvation despite the long era of exile and persecution and opposition by the nations and their ideologies. Keep the faith! Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And Yitzhak was extremely frightened" (Beresheet 27:33)
When Yitzhak realized that he gave the blessings to Ya'akob, instead of to Esav, he grew extremely frightened. He realized that his whole life he was under the impression that Esav needs the blessings and not Ya'akob, and all of a sudden he sees that he is grossly mistaken. Through Divine Providence, it was shown to him that Ya'akob should get the blessings. The Midrash says that Yitzhak was more frightened when he discovered who took the blessings than when he was lying on the altar, ready to be slaughtered! Can we imagine a person ready to die, waiting for the blade to fall, and yet this is more terrifying? The answer is that when a person lives his life one way and then realizes his whole life he was mistaken, that is a terrible shock, as great if not greater than facing death. To realize that his whole approach was not correct is a difficult test!
We can understand why many people who are faced with this realization don't want to admit their mistakes. They would rather justify their previous behavior rather than confront the truth. We must ask ourselves if we are not guilty of this same human nature. Be it our misvah observance or our character development, or our total attitude towards life, are we avoiding change because we can't admit our past mistakes? We come from Yitzhak, who, although he was terrified by this prospect, nevertheless admitted that Ya'akob needed the blessings and he, Yitzhak, had not been correct in his perception. We also have this inner strength inside of our spiritual genes!
"Yitzhak loved Esav because he provided him with food" (Beresheet 25:28)
Yitzhak was a wealthy man. Why was he dependant on Esav for food? The Gemara (Shabbat 89b) states that in the future Hashem will complain to the Patriarchs that their children (the Jewish people) have sinned. Abraham and Ya'akob will respond, "Let them be annihilated for the sake of Your Holy Name."
Yitzhak will come to their defense and plead on behalf 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."
Yitzhak will prove his case by stating that he, too, had a son who was far from being a sadik, and yet he loved him merely because he was his son. Thus, Yitzhak loved Esav because through him he had "food for argument" with which to defend the Jewish people and assure their survival. (Vedibarta Bam)
"So [Esav] took Mahalat, in addition to his wives, as a wife for himself" (Beresheet 28:9)
The Gemara teaches that at that moment, Esav had thoughts about doing teshubah. This is hinted to in the name of his new wife - Mahalat, which is similar to the word "mahal", which means "to forgive". Our Sages state that if Esav had first divorced his first wives before marrying Mahalat, he would have been successful in doing teshubah. However, since he kept his first wives, it only compounded the problem.
Rabbi Meir Rubeman derives from here a great lesson in regards to doing teshubah for one's sins. A person may resolve to improve his ways and increase his misvah observance, and yet, his spirituality doesn't increase at all. What prevents him from reaching higher levels of spirituality? It is his refusal to completely stop committing the sins. Instead, he is simply trying to pile on extra misvot to compensate for them.. This is similar to Esav, who married Mahalat without first divorcing his first wives.
This can be explained with a parable. A man needed to take a train to another town, and accidentally boarded the wrong train. Instead of travelling east towards his destination, the train he was on was travelling west. When he realized what was happening, he jumped out of his seat and ran east at full speed toward the back of the train. Obviously, this would do him no good as long as the train was continuing to travel west. The only way for him to correct the matter would be for him to first get off the train, and only then begin travelling in his intended direction. (Lekah Tob)
This week's Haftarah: Malachi 1:1 - 2:7.
In this week's haftarah, which takes place during the second Bet Hamikdash, Hashem rebukes the Kohanim and all of Israel for scorning the services in the Temple. The connection to this week's perashah is found in the beginning of the haftarah where Hashem proves His love for Israel. He says, "If you should ask, 'How do we know that You loved us,' remember that Esav was Ya'akob's brother, and nevertheless, I loved Ya'akob, and blessed him. Esav, however, is destined to be destroyed." Because, the contrast between Ya'akob and Esav is mentioned, it is linked to our perashah.
Answer to Pop Quiz: Forty years old.
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