Parshas Toldos 5758

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

The Baal ShemTov 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, who was the very embodiment of the quality of Chesed (expansiveness, open mindedness, and loving kindness), could be the father of Yitzchok who is the embodiment of Gevurah (contraction, strictness and judgment).

The answer is " 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 the verse in Tehillim (89:3) says, "...the world is built from Chesed." In this way there will always be a flow of chesed coming into the world. Indeed, Avraham gave birth to Yitzchok!


"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 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 calls 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 now really the small son. In fact, the prophet Ovadia (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 first born 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 created the foundations for the emergence of Klal Yisrael. (That is why the first born gets an extra portion more than his brothers from the father's estate. That portion is for the purpose of continuing the work of his father in the world. Being the first born is a responsibility much more than a privilege.)

Says, the Netziv, R' Naftali Zvi Berlin, 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 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.


"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 dirt 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 passed away, fountain of wisdom which he open became closed. Similarly, on the day that Moshe Rabbenu died, 300 halachos were immediately forgotten from the world. Yitzchok goes now to re-open these sources of wisdom.

The Baal ShemTov 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 the 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 Rebbi Moshe, the Rozvodover Rebbe . Once the Rozvodover Rebbe was at a wedding and he began to daven Maariv while sitting at the table, without any advance preparation. When asked about his behavior, he answered from 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 ashes left from the oven are 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 always in a state of readiness for any matter of Holiness, and doesn't need any further preparation.


"And Yitzchok loved Esav because he brought him game to eat, but Rivka loved Yaacov."

(Bereishis 25:28)

I have always been of the school of thought that one ought to be careful before saying that the Avos or Imahos lacked understand of what was happening around them or that they made careless mistakes.

If the verse tells us that Yitzchok loved Esav, there must be a conscious reason he had for loving him.

The medieval commentator, Dr. Ovadia Seporno learns from verse an important lesson in Chinuch Banim, the education of one's children.

Yitzchok knew that Esav was no Tzaddik. He new that all of his religious talk was nothing more than smooth talk. Esav the hunter baited his father with clever questions to capture his attention and affection. Both father and son knew that Yaacov was destined to be the continuation of the family line.

(Yaacov embodied the quality of Tiferes [truth, beauty, and mercy]. Tiferes is the fusion of Chesed and Gevurah. Yaacov embodied a fusion of the Gevurah of his father Yitzchok, and the Chesed [remember Eliezer's and the camels?]) of his mother Rivka.)

When the verse says the Yitzchok loved Esav and Rivka loved Yaacov, it means that Rivka was able to love only Yaacov. Since her essence was pure kindness, she was not able to suffer a son like Esav. And Yitzchok loved Yaacov, but he also loved Esav. Esav also needed the guidance, support and direction of a father. Nevertheless, since he was possessed of a strong desire to satisfy only himself, he required the tough, stern love which only Yitzchok, with his nature of Gevurah, could provide.


A family in White Russia once had trouble with their young son, Mordechai. He never wanted to study or pray, only to play outside. He also had a penchant to get himself into mischief. It was a source of tremendous anxiety for the parents.

One day they heard that the great Rebbi, R' Aharon of Karlin would soon be visiting their town. They decided that they would bring their son to meet the Rebbe. Maybe he would be able to straighten young Mordechai out. They were able to secure an audience with R' Aharon, and told him their story.

R' Aharon listened to them intently and responded in an unexpectedly rough manner. "I'll have a few words wihim and set him straight! Leave him to me, I'll teach him how to behave."

The parents, a bit unsettled by his roughness, yet assured by his confidence, let R' Aharon bring their Mordechai into his private room. R' Aharon took a good look at the youngster, leaned back on the couch and in a gentle fatherly voice called the boy to come over. He held out his arms and motioned for him to come nearer. Then he pulled Mordechai close and held him against his heart for a long time. Afterwards, they went out together to the anxious parents.

Not revealing his special method of persuasion, R' Aharon again spoke roughly to the parents. "I had a word with him. I expect him to shape up now!"

Indeed the boy did change, and became the well known tzaddik, Rebbi Mordechai of Lecovicz, the father of the Slonima dynasty. He always told his chassidim that he first learned Torah from R' Aharon of Karlin, who taught him Torah from the heart.

A Guten Shabbos!

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