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by Daneal Weiner

May the merit of this Torah bring a refuah shlaimah for Rachel bas Pelka

It did it again! Parshas Noach began, "These are the offspring of Noach; Noach was a righteous man." We had to ask, what does one have to do with the other? And now

Parshas Toldos

begins, "These are the offspring of Yitschak, son of Avraham; Avraham begot Yitshcak." Well, thanks for the tip! It’s the perfect follow up to last week’s, “The life of Sarah was 127 years was the life of Sarah.” What is going on this time? I'm glad you asked.

Since Rav Wolfson did such a fine job answering for Noach and Chayai Sarah, I thought we'd have a look how he answers this weeks question. Of course, with the Rav, no question stands alone. Question 2) The second verse says that Yitschak was 40 when he took the daughter of Besuel, the sister of Lavan as a wife. Duh hey! (not Rav Wolfson's exact words) Why repeat old news? 3)Then the Torah tells us Yitschak prayed abundantly for Rivka because she was barren. To the untrained eye, what could be wrong with this brand new tidbit of information? To Rav Wolfson, he knows the typical sentence structure of the Torah is to put the situation before the response. It should be written, "Because Rivka was barren [situation], Yitschak prayed [response]." Why did the Torah reverse the syntax? 4) When Rivka is pregnant and walks past an Idolatrous House of Prayer, (an IHOP), she feels the child stir, like he’s trying to get out. Rivka complains, "If so, why am I thus?" Let's see. Sarah moves to Canaan and is hit by a famine. She goes to Egypt and is kidnapped by Pharaoh. She goes back Canaan and her only nephew decides to be a Sodomite. She has to give another woman to her husband so they may have a child. This women bears a child and humiliates Sarah for not having one. Sarah is kidnapped again, by Avimelech. That was the life of Sarah an never a peep out of her! Not only that. Rashi said that every year of Sarah’s life was equally good!! She accepted everything from Hashem like it was a gift and Rivka feels a couple kicks and starts with the "WHY ME”’s??? Something is wrong with this picture! Let's adjust the contrast.

The Midrash on Parshas Lech Lecha, says that Hashem wanted to give the kehunah- priesthood to the descendants of Shem but Shem lost the privilege. After defeating the 4 kings Avraham was greeted on the road home by Malki-Tseddek, king of Shaleim. Rashi says he was Shem, son of Noach. Shem greeted Avraham saying, "Blessed is Avraham..." which he followed up with, "And blessed is Hashem." He put Hashem 2nd to Avraham. To be a good priest, Hashem has to be first and foremost. Hashem took the kehunah away from Shem and gave it to Avraham. That’s certainly Hashem’s prerogative. Problem is that there were 10 generations between Noach and Avraham and the 1st one is SHEM! How do you take the priesthood away from the descendants of Shem and give it to Avraham who is a descendant of Shem? Like the Gothambusser rebbe said, “There wouldn’t be an America if it wasn’t for Columbus.” To which his rebbetsin responded, “There wouldn’t be a Columbus if it wasn’t for his mother.” So who ended up with the kehuna? Shem, Avraham or Avraham’s mother?

The answers begin by knowing that not only was Rivka and Sarah barren but all our forefathers too. When it came to the line which descended from Shem, as soon as it got to Avraham, the buckaroo's stop here! No kids. Hashem miraculously allows Avraham to have a child so whose child is it? Only Avraham's. Not Shem's. Not even his mother’s. The Maharal says this explains the Midrash in which Hashem tells Avraham he is no longer responsible for the commandment of kibude av v’aim- honoring his father and mother. Hashem made Avraham barren so there would be no yichus- ancestral relationship to his father. Apparently not just as far as the grandchildren were concerned but even regarding Avrahm himself, he was released from kibude av. Remember, Avraham was a professional. Please don't try this at home.

The Gemorah recommends that if a soon-to-be-wed man wants to know what his future children will be like he should check out his soon-to-be-wife's brother. Most children turn out like their uncles. Unrelated to this advice but related to our parsha, halacha- Jewish law states that if a husband and wife do not have children for 10 years then the husband may assume the wife to be barren and may divorce her in order to remarry. The man is the one with the commandment of procreation and halacha does not force or even recommend but allows him the option of divorce. Unlike marriage in America where waking up in the morning allows the option of divorce.

Before drawing any erroneous conclusions, the Gemorah Kesuvos opens with a mishnah bringing a halacha regarding a widow. The question is asked, why not mention the divorced woman in the mishanh for whom the same halacha applies? The answer is that in Judaism, we like to talk about pleasant things. That's the Torah's view of divorce. But the Torah commands the man to have children. He needs it. The Jewish people need it. So after 10 years He has the option to divorce.

Now we can start putting pieces together. We are told that Yitschak was 40 when he married Rivka. She was 3. A woman is not fit for children till at least 12 1/2 years. We are told later that Yitschak was 60 when Rivka gave birth. That means that the 20 years they were married, the first 10 years she could not have kids and the second 10 she did not have kids. She is now halachicly considered and assumed to be barren. The Torah, of course, can tell us if she really is or isn’t. She is. Assumed to be barren, giving birth now would be nothing short of a miracle. A miracle??? Just what the doctor ordered!!! Because who was Rivka's brother? It was just reiterated for us for it’s clearly relevant ramification, it's Lavan! For 10 years Yitschak was concerned his kids would end up like Lavan. He knows Hashem promised him as many descendants as the stars and he can remarry but he wants Rivka to be the mother of those descendants. Being barren means she no longer has yichus to her family. Now they can start to pray and pray he does, abundantly. The prayers Hashem has been waiting for.

The sentence structure of the Torah is to put the situation before the response. It did! Gemorah Yivamos says Hashem desires the prayers of the righteous. "Yitschak entreated Hashem,” that’s the situation Hashem desired “because Rivka was barren." That was Hashem’s response to wanting their prayers.

Rivka is pregnant! A Lavan-free righteous child is on his way into the world. Baruch Hashem! But wait! Rivka goes walking passed the IHOP and the kids wants out! What?!? Rivka had to ask, "If so, why am I thus?" She wasn’t complaining from some hardship. She was asking, “If my kid is just another Lavan, why the 10 years? Why was I barren?" She finds out she is carrying twins. One kid goes after G-d, the other goes after getchkes! Free will verses predetermination is beyond the scope of this paper so for now, we know Hashem tests no man beyond his capabilities. Eisav did have a chance. If he would have chose a Torah life he would have been much greater than Yaakov! He was destined to marry Leah. His head is buried in the Ma'aras Hamachpelah with our holy forefathers. The signs of are all there indicating what could have been. Coulda, woulda shoulda, but wasn’t.

Answering the first question last, but by no means least, "And these are the offspring of Yitschak son of Avraham"- Not Avram. Avraham! After Avraham became someone other than his father’s son. "Avraham begot Yitschak" is just what we need to know to understand how Yitschak begot Yaakov and Eisav. The same miracles. The same Jewish story. The story of the Jews says we can't be but we are. The actions of the fathers are a portent for the children. The Jewish people live tway because we started that way. Not once. Not twice. Next week we'll see that Rachel and Leah were barren too!

There are interesting Rashi's on the few aforementioned verses. On the first verse, 25:19, Rashi says the Torah repeats "Avraham begot Yitschak" to tell us Yitschak was the splittin’ image of Avraham because of the scoffers of the generation. For decades Avraham couldn’t have children with Sarah. Sarah is kidnapped by Avimelech and soon thereafter she is pregnant. The scoffers would have said the child is from Avimelech so Hashem made sure all would know this was not the case. Yitschak looked exactly like his father, Avraham.

The Bais Halevi asks, ‘Scoffers?' Someone has the gall to say Sarah slept with another man and passed the kid off as Avraham's and Rashi calls them ‘scoffers’? POND SCUM is more like it! (not the Bais Halevi's exact words) Only Risha'im gamurim- the purely wicked would say such a thing! Giving birth at 90 is an obvious miracle to everyone. Hashem would have Sarah become miraculously pregnant from someone other than Avraham? This isn’t the Jerusalem Post. Rashi can’t mean what we think. So what were the scoffers scoffing at which made them only scoffers?

The implication would have been that the test Sarah passed by rejecting Avimelech’s advances is what merited her having the child and not the prayers of Avraham. That’s what’s behind, "The child is from Avimelech." Although they’d mean it merit-wise, the double innuendo implied otherwise and this generation’s mockery is the next generation’s rewritten history. Hashem made sure no such thing would happen. Yitshak had Avraham written all over him.

25:21> "Yitschak entreated Hashem opposite his wife because she was barren. Hashem allowed Himself to be entreated by him, and his wife, Rivka, conceived." The famous Rashi on the words, "entreated by him", reads, "Him and not her because there is no comparison between the prayers of a Tsaddik ben Tsaddik to a Tsaddik ben Rasha- the prayers of a righteous son of a righteous man to a righteous son of a wicked man, therefore him and not her." The typical explanation is that the Tsaddik Yitschak is the son of the Tsaddik Avraham and the Tsaddekes Rivka is the daughter of the Rasha Besuel. Why are the former’s merits greater? It makes sense to say to grow up righteous in the house of the wicked is a tremendous accomplishment. Growing up in the house of a Tsaddik makes one an automatic Tsaddik. Even Lot while living in Sodom was willing to take guests into his house at the threat of his life because he grew up in the house of Avraham. What makes the Tsaddik ben Tsaddik’s prayers greater?

If the son of a Tsaddik just emulated his father, then his prayers would not merit more. But when a Tsaddik ben Tsaddik can forge a new path of righteousness above and beyond his father, now that takes incredible effort and is an accomplishment greater than the Tsaddik ben Rasha. Yitshack achieved that level of righteousness. So, as Rashi said, Hashem listened to the prayers of the son of a Tsaddik more than the prayers of a… son… of a Rasha? Rivka, a son?? Just when you thought we finished the vort we have to start all over!

At the end of his comment on the verse Rashi footnotes the Gemorah which discusses this biblical verse, Yivamos 64a. In Rashi's commentary in the Gemorah he writes Hashem listened to the prayers of a “Tsaddik son of a Tsaddik rather than the Tsaddekes daughter of a Rasha”!?! Rashi gets an A+ for gender recognition in the Gemorah but what happened when he wrote his commentary on Chumash? The question becomes even bigger when we look back at Rashi’s words and see he wrote, “him and not her” twice! He opened and closed his remarks with “him and not her”. Certainly a question in and of itself, why the repetition? Obviously, Rashi doesn't mean what we think. (He did it again!)

The Gan Ravah explains Rashi like this. The verse says Hashem was “entreated by him” so the first thing Rashi wants you to know is it doesn't mean “them”. The Torah went out of it’s way to tell us they were both praying and with all the times the Torah does use a singular expression for a group Rashi is clarifying this isn’t one of those times. Rivka has been excluded. "Him and not her." Now Rashi wants us to know why Hashem had been entreated by Yitschak… over…. Avraham!!! You think Avraham didn’t pray for children? Avraham had to change his address, change his name, change his wife's name, go through Hagar, circumcise himself and only then does he and Sarah have a son. Yitschak stands in a corner a few minutes and zing, call the mohel! So Rashi says it’s because “there's no comparing the prayers of Tsaddik son of Tsaddik to Tsaddik son of a Rasha!” And that’s why (for the second time) "him and not her." The first time simply clarified the verse. The second time explained that Rivka came off the same boat as Avraham!

Not only is Yitschak identical to Avraham in appearance but due to famine, Yitschak takes Rivka and heads for Egpyt. Hashem tells him he is too holy to leave the holy land. They turn and settle in Gerar, the territory of Avimelech, king of the Plishtim. The Plishtim, no more G-d fearing now than when Avraham dealt with them, forces Yitschak to say Rivka is his sister so they do not kill him in order to take her.

Verse 26:8, "And it came to pass as his [Yitschaks] days there lengthened, that Avimelech, king of the Plishtim, gazed through the window and he saw and behold, Yitschak was ‘mitsachek’- jesting with Rivka." Rashi says they were having relations. The Torah uses a clean expression. Avimelech now knows that Yitschak and Rivka are really husband and wife. What’s odd is Rashi doesn't make his comment on the word ‘mitsachek’ or even ‘and he saw’. Rashi makes his comment on the words ‘Avimelech gazed’!!! All the way back there? Obviously, (all together now) Rashi doesn't mean what we think. Well, OK, he does. But the verse is not what we think.

We are talking about our holy ancestors of whom Hashem just described as too holy to leave the holy land. Yitschak and Rivka don't do things carelessly, inappropriately, nor without sanctity and that includes not being together in front of open windows. The Maskil L'David points out that the word the Torah used for window, chalone, appears in the Zohar and there it means a crystal ball of sorts. A ‘looking glass’. Rashi's comment of what Avimelech saw was in an unusual place to attest to the unusual way he was doing his looking. Avimelech was spying on his guests with black magic.

Not even 7 verses ago we were just told Avimelech was the king of the Plishtim. In our verse in question it says it again! For the rest of the story, about 4 more times he’s just ‘Avimelech’? My guess is, similar to the above explanation for the repetition of Rivka , “the sister of Lavan” so too here the Torah is emphasizing a point. The Plishtim may have been low lives, but Avimelech was king of the low lives!

Yitschak knew where they were and whom he was dealing with. For protection he used Hashem's Name to ‘block’ Avimelech's chalone. Remember our verse opened with, "[Yitschak's] days were lengthened there." It's been a long time! How many times do you dial a busy number before you say forget it? How many times do you try a radio station that doesn't come in clear before you say forget it? How many times could Avimelech try gazing unsuccessfully before he said forget it? Yitschak didn't want to use Hashem's Name in vein so after a long time passed, he stopped...and there was Avimelech! King of the low lives!!!

Rav Wolfson points out that Toldos is the 6th parsha in the Torah. Yoseph is the 6th Ushpizin- guest welcomed into the Sukkah. Yoseph carries with him an idea of bracha- blessing. In Hallel we say, "Yivorech es beis Yisrael….Yoseph Hashem alaichem…bruchim atem l'Hashem"- May Hashem bless Israel… May He increase it upon us… [Israel] is the blessed of Hashem. The named Yoseph means ‘He will increase’ used in the context of blessing. In this 6th parsha some form of the word bracha appears 33 times in 6 of the 7 divisions of the parsha. The very last mishna of the 6th order says, “Hashefound no better vessel to hold the blessings of Israel then Shalom. As it says, ‘Hashem will give might to His nation, Hashem will bless His nation with Shalom.’” The priestly blessings end with the word shalom. The Shmoneh Esray- Silent Prayer ends with shalom. Shalom is the vessel. When we have Shalom we have the capacity to retain bracha.

Eisav, Yaakov’s arch rival, is the antithesis of Shalom. The nachash- snake, the force which takes a Jew away from Hashem is the antithesis of the Mashiach who will return all Jews to Hashem. Nachash and Mashiach have the same numeric equivalent. So too does Eisav and Shalom. They are equal opposites. Diametric opposition. What breaks the vessel of Shalom is machlokes- conflict not for the sake of Hashem. There is no conflict without the nachash, without Eisav in it, chipping away at our vessel of Shalom. We have to make ourselves into strong vessels. Clog any holes. Thicken our walls. May Parshas Toldos and it’s abundance of bracha overflow, and fill our vessels of Shalom, with Shalom, for Shalom. May Hashem send a refuah and yeshuah to all Israel. May we soon see the coming of the Mashiach.

Help make it happen. Avoid machlokes. Have a peaceful Shabbot Shalom.

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