By: Rav Moshe Weber, Shlita, Editor: Rabbi I. Ido Weber Erlich, Shlita
Eng. Translation: Emanuel Behar, Ari Chester
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One must strive to concentrate in prayer.
One must distance himself from scoffing.
A person should not say: “I will fulfill the Mitzvot of the Torah and occupy myself in it’s wisdom in order to receive all the blessings which are contained therein.”
Insights on life: One must strive to concentrate in prayer, because “prayer is more efficacious than good deeds and sacrifices” (Brochot 32b). Indeed, good deeds and sacrifices prompt Nachos Ruach, satisfaction to Hashem, blessed be He - “Because you did My will, there was satisfaction before Me” (Sifray Pinchas 28:20). Further, our sages, of blessed memory, say “The Holy One, blessed be He, desires the prayers of the righteous” (Yevamoth 64a); we learn that all Jews are considered righteous, as it says, “and your people are all righteous” (Isaiah 60:21). Hashem, blessed be He, desires the blessings - the priestly benediction of the Priests, as it says, “so shall they put My Name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:27). The priests, by blessing the people, place the name of Hashem on them, so to speak, to His delight (Rashi, Sotah 38b). This desire of Hashem for the prayers of the righteous, the Tzaddikim, is discussed in the Talmud (Brochot 7a): “R. Ishmael ben Elisha says: I once entered into the innermost part [of the Sanctuary] to offer incense, and I saw... the Lord of Hosts, seated upon a high and exalted throne. He said to me: ‘Ishmael my son, bless me!’ I replied, ‘Will that Your mercy may suppress Your anger and prevail over Your other attributes, so that You may deal with Your children according to the attribute of mercy and may You, on their behalf, stop short of the limit of strict justice!’ And He nodded to me with His head.
What is the source in the Parsha? “Isaac entreated Hashem opposite his wife, because she was barren” (25:21). It would have been proper if the verse were to have said, “and Rebecca was barren,” and then, “and Isaac entreated Hashem opposite his wife...” The reason for this - that the Torah first mentions the prayers of Isaac, and then the barrenness of Rebecca - is to teach us that Rebecca was barren because Hashem, blessed be He, yearned for her prayers, and those of Isaac. So write our sages, of blessed memory, “Why were our ancestors barren? Because Hashem, blessed be He, desires to hear the prayers of the Tzaddikim” (Yevamoth 32b). Further, our sages write, “Why are the prayers of the Tzaddikim likened to a pitchfork? To teach us that just as a pitchfork turns over corn hither and tither, so do the prayers of the Tzaddikim ‘turn over’ the mind of the Holy One, blessed be He, from the attribute of harshness t that of mercy” (Succah 14a).
This teaches us the significance of prayer. For Hashem, blessed be He, makes Himself ‘harsh’ (so to speak) in order that we pray to Him, beseeching of Him that the attribute of cruelty changes into that of mercy, as illustrated in the Parsha.
Insights on Life: One must distance himself from scoffing, since this sin causes the exile of the Shechina; the Talmud says concerning scoffing, “it is impossible to receive the presence of the Shechina (Divine Presence)” (Sotah 42a).
What is the source in the Parsha? “Abraham begot Isaac” (25:19). “The scoffers of the generation were saying: Sarah became pregnant by Abimelech. So what did Hashem, blessed be He, do? He fashioned the form of Isaac’s face to resemble Abraham’s face (Rashi). Explains Rav Chidah, of blessed memory: the scoffers of the generation claimed that Sarah became pregnant by Abimelech (since Hashem granted Sarah a child on the merit of her husband’s prayers for Abimelech) (Bava Kama 92b). The claims of these scoffers caused Hashem to trouble Himself, so to speak, to form the physiognomy of Isaac’s face to resemble that of Abraham his father, so that people would not believe the scoffers. This incident demonstrates the severe sinfulness of scoffing.
Insights on Life: A person should not say: “I will fulfill the Mitzvot of the Torah and occupy myself in it’s wisdom in order to receive all the blessings which are contained therein or in order to merit the life of the world to come. [Neither should he say] I will separate myself from all the sins which the Torah warned against so that I will be saved from all the curses contained in the Torah or so that [my soul] will not be cut off from the life of the world to come. It is not fitting to serve G-d in this manner. A person whose service is motivated by these factors is considered one who serves out of fear. He is not on the level of the prophets or of the wise. The only ones who serve G-d in this manner are common people... and minors. They are trained to serve G-d out of fear until their knowledge increases and they serve out of love... [Ultimately, they] do what is true because it is true, and ultimately good will come because of it.” (Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah, chap 10). When we serve Hashem out of love, for His sake, this love is eternal, as write our sages, of blessed memory, “Any love that is dependent upon a specific consideration, when that consideration vanishes, the love ceases; but if it [the love] is not dependent upon a specific consideration, it will never cease” (Avot, chap 5).
What’s the source in the Parsha? “Isaac loved Esav for trapping was in his mouth; but Rebecca loves Jacob” (25:28). His love of Esav was dependent upon a specific consideration - “for trapping was in his mouth,” wherefore love is written in the past tense; yet concerning the love between Rebecca and Jacob, love is in the present tense, suggesting permanence. (The Shlah).
Themes in the Parsha
“And it was when Isaac had become old, and his eyes dimmed from seeing” (27:1).
Rashi explains, “When [Isaac] was bound upon the alter, and his father was about to slaughter him, at that time the heavens opened up, and the ministering angels beheld that which was about to occur, and they were crying. Their tears descended, falling on [Isaac’s] eyes. This is why his eyes [eventually] dimmed. Alternatively: [his eyes dimmed] so that Jacob should receive the blessing [as opposed to Esav].” Rashi’s words are quite astonishing, leaving us with many questions. First, why was Isaac punished after having delivered his soul to Hashem upon the alter, as his eyesight faded upon aging? Second, why didn’t his eyes fade immediately, upon contact with the tears of the angels? Third, these angels were angels of mercy, for they cried upon perceiving Isaac bound on the alter; therefore, how did their tears result in the punishment of Isaac? Fourth, why are the angels even crying? When Abraham and Isaac were performing the Akedah, they did so with earnest joy to fulfill the will of Hashem, as explained by Rashi concerning the verse, “and the two of them went together” (22:6). Further, to expand this question, we see concerning the life of King Saul (Samuel, chap 28): “At the same hour that King Saul went to war, the Holy One, blessed be He, called to His ministering angels, and He said to them, ‘Come and see the creation that I created in my world. Behold Saul - he is going to war and he knows that he will die, [yet despite this] he took his sons with him and was joyous over the attribute of strict judgment that has befallen upon him’.” Hashem, blessed be He, did not command Saul to fight in the war which would result in his death and the death of his sons; so why did the angels cry when Abraham bound Isaac upon the Alter? For both Abraham and Isaac, like Saul and his sons, were delighted to fulfill the will of Hashem; and more importantly, unlike Saul and his sons, Hashem commanded them to do this! Lastly, what is the inner meaning of, “the heavens opened up?”
One explanation is based on Rashi’s expression, “Alternatively” (lit, another thing). Seemingly, this is superfluous. When we read Rashi without this term, we read, “When [Isaac] was bound upon the alter, and his father was about to slaughter him, at that time the heavens opened up, and the ministering angels beheld that which was about to occur, and they were crying. Their tears descended, falling on [Isaac’s] eyes. This is why his eyes [eventually] dimmed, so that Jacob should receive the blessing [as opposed to Esav].” To explain, the heavens “opened up” so that Isaac’s descendants would be blessed by Hashem. The ministering angels beheld the Akedah, and also the opening of the heavens so that his descendants would be blessed, and they worried that perhaps, G-d forbid, the blessings would pass to Esav, the wicked son. Indeed, Isaac desired to bless Esav, as he says, “Make delicacies for me... so that my soul may bless you.” Concerning this the Ramban (Nachmanides) writes, (21:6) “And she [Sarah] said to him [Jacob]: The blessing will be before Hashem with Ruach Hakodesh (‘Divine Inspiration’), and Esav your brother will be blessed. It will remain with him and his descendants forever, and you will have no standing before him” Thus the ministering angles cried - they pitied Jacob, who was innocent and honest; and they pitied his descendants. Consequently, through the merciful tears of the ministering angels, Hashem, blessed be He, shaped destiny so that when Isaac aged, and was about to bless Esav, his eyes would be dim, so that Jacob would receive the blessing instead of his wicked brother.
Secrets of the Torah.
“And the children struggled within her... and she went to inquire of Hashem” (24:22).
The reason for the pain from the twins in her womb was so that Rebecca would pray to Hashem (Ramban). Hashem answered her, saying, “Two nations are in your womb... and the elder shall serve the younger” (25:23). (Rashi says that this message from Hashem was conveyed through a ‘messenger’ (prophet, Shem).
The Tzaddik R’ Chaim Zonenfeld, of blessed memory, presents a question: How did the prophet wish to calm the pain of Rebecca by saying to her, “Two nations are in your womb... and the elder shall serve the younger?” He explains the struggling of Jacob and Esav, each desiring to leave the womb first so as to inherit the birthright, caused Rebecca’s pain. But when Shem informed Rebecca that the “elder shall serve the younger,” both Jacob and Esav stopped struggling to be born first, for neither wanted to fulfill this prophecy. Therefore, her pain ceased.
He relocated from there and dug another well; and they did not quarrel over it, so he called it’s name Rochovot (‘wide spaces’)” (26.22).
“And they did not quarrel over it” because Isaac distanced himself from the caves of the Philistines. So it says, “He relocated from there” (Rashbam). Nachmanides, the Ramban, explains that the three wells correlate to the three Holy Temples. As the first two wells were destroyed, so were the first two Holy Temples. But the third and final Temple, in the era of Moshiach, will not be destroyed, corresponding to the third well, which was called “Rechovot.”
When we read, “He relocated from there” (26:22), the Torah hints to us that the future redemption will come about as we distance ourselves from the deeds and manners of the goyim (non-Jews), and thus the cause of the Diaspora, of our exile, that we “mingled with the nations and learned their ways,” will be negated and nullified, and Hashem’s anger will be appeased. In other words, the Torah hints that the future Redemption will come about through Teshuvah (repentance, ‘returning’), which is the opinion of the Rambam: “The Torah has already promised that, ultimately, Israel will repent towards the end of her exile and, immediately, she will be redeemed, as it says [Deut. 30:1-3]: There shall come a time when [you shall experience] all these things... and you will return to G-d, your Lord... [He] will bring back your captivity and have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from among the nations were G-d, your Lord, has scattered you.” (Hilchot Teshuvah, chap 7). The separation from the ways of the goyim is the essence of Teshuva, which will remove us from our previous situation, from the abyss of exile; and through which we will attach ourselves, so to speak, to Hashem, blessed be He, and we will be “fruitful in the land” (26:22).
The Ways of the World (“Halichot”) are His. Do not Read “Halichot” but “Halachot,” Torah Laws.
“Hashem allowed Himself to be entreated by him” - “But not by her” (Rashi, 25:21).
It is beneficial that the leader of a congregation (‘Shliach Tzibor’) is the son of a Tzaddik, for the prayer of a Tzaddik’s son is not equal to the prayers of a Rasha’s son (son of, lit, wicked man’) (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 53:7, in the name of Magen-Avraham). However, some say when the son of a Rasha prays, his prayers are heard even more than those of a Tzaddik’s son, since he does not have the merit of his father, and is therefore meek (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, in the name of the Taz). (Note: The law itself is that each individual Shliach Tzibor should be judged on his own merits - if he is meek because he lacks the merit of his father, judge him accordingly; or if he does have the merit of his father, judge him accordingly.)
However, in explaining the above verse (“Hashem allowed Himself to be entreated by him [Isaac]”), Rashi writes, “But not by her [Rebecca], for the prayer of a Tzaddik who is the child of a Rasha is not comparable to the prayer of a Tzaddik who is the child of another Tzaddik. Therefore, ‘by him’ but not ‘ by her’ (25:21).” If so, the opinion of Rashi contradicts the second opinion above, which is that the son a Rasha is preferable to lead a congregation in prayer.
To explain this contradiction, the second opinion mentioned above, that the son of a Tzaddik, is based on the premise that the former is more meek than the later. But when we consider our Patriarchs, “over whom the evil inclination had no power” (Baba Basra 17a), and who “constituted the ‘Chariot’” (Tanya, chap 18); and especially when we consider Isaac, who was the ‘complete burnt-offering’ and upon whom Hashem, blessed be He, placed His name, while he was still alive, then the second opinion is irrelevant. For Isaac was absolutely humble and modest. Therefore, although both Isaac and Rebecca were righteous and absolutely humble, Isaac was the son of a Tzaddik, yet Rebecca was the daughter of a Rasha. This is why it says, “Hashem allowed Himself to be entreated by him” - “but not by her” (Rashi).
Who is Fit to Be a Rabbi
“They shall seek Torah from his mouth for He is like an angel of Hashem...” (Haftorah, Malachi 2)
A young man once entered the Chassam Sofer’s study. He had a request: “I would like a rabbinical ordination (smichah).”
The Chassam Sofer noticed that the man had not kissed the mezuzah upon entering the room. It both surprised and disturbed him but he dismissed it as a chance happening. He turned to the young man and said, “I have no time today. Please come back tomorrow.”
The young man left the room. This time, the Chassam Sofer watched him carefully. He again did not kiss the mezuzah.
The next day, when he returned, the young man again omitted kissing the mezuzah upon entering the room.
The Chassam Sofer then said to him: “I saw you pass through my doorway three times. Not once did you put your hand up to kiss the mezuzah. You are not fit to be a Rabbi!”
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