Parshas Toldos 5759

All Yisroel Needs One Another
The interplay of Chesed and Gevurah is at the heart of all human relations.

"These are the chronicles of Yitzchok, the son of Avraham. Avraham begot Yitzchok." (Bereishis 25:19)

The Ba'al Shem Tov understood this verse to be a question with an answer.

The question: "These are the chronicles of Yitzchok.... the son of Avraham?" How could it be that Avraham Avinu, who was the very embodiment of the quality of Chesed (expansiveness, open mindedness, and loving kindness), could be the father of Yitzchok Avinu who is the embodiment of Gevurah (contraction, strictness and judgment).

The answer: "Avraham gave birth to Yitzchok." Avraham indeed begot Yitzchok. Chesed gave rise to gevurah, expansiveness to contraction. Contraction (tzimtzum) in the world causes a condition in which one finds himself lacking for something. When one lacks something, his friend can provide for him. As it is written, "...the world is built from chesed." (Psalms 89:3) In this way there will always be a flow of chesed coming into the world. Indeed, Avraham gave birth to Yitzchok!
(Sefer Ba'al Shem Tov)

Topsy Turvy
Hashem allows us to decide the quality of life we want to live.

"And Yitzchok prayed fervently (vayaetar) to Hashem in the presence of his wife." (Bereishis 27:21)

"Just like a pitchfork (aetar) tosses up and turns over the stalks of grain on the threshing floor, so does the Prayer (aetar) of tzaddikim cause Hashem to reverse His way from judgment (din, gevurah) to compassion (rachamin, chesed)." (Talmud Bavli Tr. Yevamos 64a)

How is that the davvening of tzaddikim can reverse the conduct of Hashem from that of judgment to compassion? The answer is middoh k'neged middoh (loosely - tit for tat). Because tzaddikim convert any longing and desire into a desire for closeness to Hashem, so does Hashem convert his attribute of din into an attribute of justice.
(Toras Avos, Slonim, p.47)

This doesn't apply only to the tzaddikim. Every Jew has this potential. The Ba'al Shem Tov zt"l taught, "In all your ways you shall know Him. . .". (Proverbs 3:6) When one feels a desire for a certain person or food or any thing else, one should think, "Where is the source of desire, from where does it come?" When one feels love for a certain person or even an animal, one should think, "Where is the source of all love, from where does love come?" Inevitably one will arrive at the answer: from Hashem. In this way one is able to fulfill the dictate of the verse, "In all your ways you shall know Him. . .".

This type of transformation in a Jew is like the blast of a shofar, causing Hashem to leap from His Throne of Judgment onto the Throne of Compassion. Then we can hasten the days when, ". . .the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of Hashem as waters cover the (area of ) the sea." (Isaiah 11:9)

Not A Story For Children
Is Esav the firstborn son, or just born first?

"And Yaacov was cooking a pot of (lentil) stew when Esav came in exhausted from his day in the field. And Esav said to Yaacov, 'I'm tired and hungry. Pour some of that red stuff down my throat'. He (Esav was therefore called Edom (the Red One)." (Bereishis 25:29-30)

A child, when given a choice of chocolate or vanilla ice cream, will ask for the white or for the brown, since he desires what his eyes see. The child doesn't yet have enough sophistication to identify the ice cream by its flavor. Esav, in the same way, came in tired and famished and demanded to be fed some of the "red stuff". He is even willing to barter away his birthright in order to get it now.

Later on in the Parsha (Bereishis 27:1), when Yitzchok Avinu called for Esav to bring him a special dish and then receive his blessing, he calls for his big son. The word for big, gadol, is written with the letter "Vav" missing. This is a hint that Yitzchok already knows that the big son is really the small son. In fact, the prophet Ovadiah (1:2), referring to Esav says, "I have made you small among the nations". His behavior is childlike, demonstrating that he is only interested in his own gratification.

A firstborn son requires a mature sense of purpose in order to carry on the work of his father in the world. In this case the task is creating the foundations for the emergence of Klal Yisroel.

(The Halacha allows for a son to assume his father's place in any official community capacity. As long as the son is a fitting candidate for the position, the community is obligated to accept him. That is why the Torah awards the first born an extra portion, above that of his brothers, from the father's estate. That portion is for the purpose of continuing the father's work in the world. Being the first born is a responsibility much more than a privilege.)

Says the Netziv, R' Naftali Zvi Berlin, in HaEmek Davar, that Esav's scene made such a impression, that the Torah declared that he would always be known as Edom, the "Red One"; thereby insuring that what Esav and Edom (Western culture) represent, will never be forgotten. Edom is a shaking off of responsibility in order to pursue self-gratification.

Yaacov, the father of the Jewish people, accepted upon himself the responsibility to be different, to dedicate himself to the service of Hashem and to bring Tikkun (healing) to the world.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
A Study of the trait of "Humility".

"And Yitzchok redug the wells which had been dug in the days of his father Avraham, and which had been plugged up by the Phillistines after the death of Avraham. He called the wells by the same names that his father used." (Bereishis 26:18)

The Avos and Imahos were always involved with wells and flocks. It is to be understood that there is more involved in their activities than just the pursuit of water to drink and food to eat.

When one digs a well, the result is a pit in the ground filled with water and a mound of earth next to it. When Yitzchok dug the wells, the Torah says that they found a "well of living waters". A "well of living waters" is an illusion to Torah, which like water, flows from a high place to a lower one.

When Avraham Avinu left the world, the fountain of wisdom which he open became closed. Similarly, on the day that Moshe Rabbenu died, 300 halachos (Torah laws) were immediately forgotten from the world. Yitzchok endeavors to reclaim and reopen these sources of wisdom.

The Ba'al Shem Tov explained, in order to dig a well, or open up the source of wisdom, one must remove the dirt, mounding it up on the sides of the new well. This dirt hints at the way to prepare oneself for learning Torah; opening up and revealing sources of wisdom. One must first become like that dirt; humble and lowly, something that everybody treads on. Only after the acquisition of the quality of genuine humility can one succeed in finding the well of living waters, the clear, pure, flowing wisdom of the Torah.

The "Beis Pinchas" related the following story concerning the R' Moshe, the Rozvodover Rebbe.

Once the Rozvodover Rebbe was at a wedding and he began to davven Maariv while sitting at the table, without making any of the preparations a person of his spiritual stature would be expected to make.

When asked later about his behavior, he answered citing the Gemarra in Tractate Beitza (2a), about "prepared ashes". (When one ritually slaughters fowl or a wild animal, the spilled blood must be covered with soil. If the slaughtering is done on Yom Tov, then the soil must have been prepared before the onset of the Holiday. Both opinions agree, that the wood ash left in an oven is considered "prepared".)

The Rozvodover Rebbe said that one who considers himself to be no more than "prepared ashes"; that he is as worthless as ashes, can also burst into flames in an instant, just like the small coals remaining in the ashes. Such a person is in a constant state of readiness for any matter of Holiness, and doesn't need any further preparation.

The Essence of It

Once R' Meir'l of Premlishan asked a chossid of R' Yisroel of Ruzhin to say over to him a Torah thought from his Rebbe. The chossid obliged R' Meir'l and gave over a thought that he had heard from the Rizhiner.

"Ah Ahhh," responded R' Meir'l when the chossid had finished, The Rizhiner's Torah you gave over to me, but his sighs and his tears when he said the Torah, those remain solely with him."

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