Dvar Torah on Parshat Toldot 5776 2015 – Are You For Real?

We are told:
וַיֶּאֱהַב יִצְחָק אֶת עֵשָׂו כִּי צַיִד בְּפִיו וְרִבְקָה אֹהֶבֶת אֶת יַעֲקֹב(Gen. 25, 28). Yitzhak was an honest individual and he could not imagine that anyone would lie. When Esav wanted to impress his father about his religiosity he would ask questions about Jewish law. Yitzhak believed he was sincere and he was able to love him. Rivka, on the other hand, had grown up in Lavan’s house and she knew what deception was. She thus saw through Esav’s fraud of his father and could not love him. She saw the honesty of Yaakov and loved him.

It takes a bit of wisdom to see through the charades of people. We must give everyone the benefit of the doubt but should not be so believing that we are easily deceived.

There are some people who can lie with a straight face and can, as the expression goes, sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. While we should not suspect people when we have no reason to but we should be careful with whom we deal. Just because we are honest does not mean that everyone is.

Dvar Torah on the Parsha | Toldot 5774 2013

Yitzchak settled in Gerar, and Avimelech, king of the Philistines, came to make a covenant with him. His reason for desiring this covenant, he explains, was because he saw that Hashem was with Yitzchak. After the terms were completed Yitzchak makes a parting meal for Avimelech.

The Torah then says: וַיֹּאכְלוּ וַיִּשְׁתּוּ וַיֵּלְכוּ מֵאִתּוֹ בְּשָׁלוֹם …, “…and they ate and they drank…and they departed from him in peace.” (Gen. 26,30-31)

Rabbi Simcha Bunim observes that ordinarily when an intelligent man visits a great personality he usually recognizes the great difference between him and the prominent and extraordinary personality. Avimelech though did not comprehend the difference between himself and the uniqueness of the person he just visited.

We are told, he ate and drank and left. The greatness of Yitzchak had no effect upon him. This indicates the Avimelech was not a genuinely great individual.

If we have the privilege of meeting an outstanding personality, we should make every effort to go away a bit changed in our own personality.

Dvar Torah Parshat Toldot 5773 2012

The motive of people’s actions is often difficult to comprehend. It is not rare to misunderstand what someone does and we frequently read into the act a misleading explanation.

Rivka plots to have Yaakov receive the blessing that Yitzchak intends to give to his oldest son Esav. It is understandable why she prefers Yaakov to get that blessing but where does she get the justification for her intention to mislead her husband Yitzchak?

When we look back to the time Rivka was expecting to give birth and she found childbearing very difficult she went to the prophet of her day to seek an explanation of her trouble. She was told she will give birth to twins:
וְרַב יַעֲבֹד צָעִיר, “…and the elder shall serve the younger.” (Gen. 25,23)

For some unexplainable reason Rivka never told Yitzchak of this prophecy. Perhaps, she had some grounds to feel this knowledge would perturb him. We cannot understand her motive in not telling him but this fact may explain her intention in deceiving her husband.

Rivka saw that her oldest son was about to get the blessing that really belonged to the youngest, based on the prophecy she received before they were born. Thus she felt justified in devising a scheme that would right the wrong that was about to happen.

This incident should make us stop and think before we start criticizing when we see someone acting in a manner which we consider improper.

Dvar Torah Parshat Toldot 5772 2011

Yaakov goes to his father Yitzchak to receive the blessings intended for Esav. His mother Rivka advises him to don the garments of his brother so if his father will draw him close he will realize that it is not Esav. Yaakov complies with his mother’s advice and enters into his father’s chambers.

His father does, indeed, feel him and decides that it is Esav and gives him the blessings. What were these blessings? He starts by saying VE’YITEN LECHA HA’ELOKIM MITAL HASHAMAYIM UMI SHEMANEY HA’ARETZ, “And may Hashem give you of the dew of the heavens and of the fatness of the earth and abundant grain and wine.” He continues to grant him superiority over nations who will be subjected under him.

There are two questions that one may ask concerning these blessings. First, he starts with the conjunction “and”, which is a word that connects what proceeded in a sentence and what follows. In the blessing nothing preceded. Why start with the word “and”?

Secondly, these are merely physical and earthly blessings. Nowhere does he mention any spiritual advantages. They are all worldly benefits. One would expect Yitzchak to give his son blessings for spiritual growth and attainment.

From a Midrash we may have an answer to both questions. We are told when Yaakov drew near to Yitzchak, his father suddenly smelled the aroma of Gan Eden, of the Garden of Eden. This, of course, was the pinnacle of spiritual heights. There was no need to offer him that blessing for he already had it. Hence he started with “and” as a continuation of the blessing he had and added the worldly blessing to accompany what he already possessed.

Some people are fortunate that they possess innate gifts and need only to attain other blessings that they did not previously enjoy.

Dvar Torah Parshat Toldot 5771 2010

The Torah tells us: VAYE’EHAV YITZCHAK ET ESAV KI TZAYID BEFIV VERIVKA OHEVET ET YAAKOV, “Yitzchak loved Esav because game was in his mouth, but Rivka loves Yaakov.” (Gen. 25,28) An obvious question that can be asked is why in the case of Esav the past tense, “loved”, is used and with respect to Yaakov the present tense, “loves” is used.

To answer this question we can look at a statement in Pirke Avot where we are told: Any love that depends on a specific cause, when the cause is gone the love is gone; but if it does not depend on a specific cause the love will never cease. (Avot 5;19)

The love of Yitzchak for Esav was dependent on some physical pleasure that he got. That love is not lasting; hence it is referred to in the past tense. The love of Rivka for Yaakov was not because of a special cause but rather because she saw in him the wonderful qualities he possessed. That love will never end. Hence the present tense is used.

Dvar Tora Parshat Toldot (Toldos) 5770 2009

When Rivka gave birth to twins the Torah tells us the names they were given. One was called Esav and the other Yaakov. The first one was born and was covered entirely with hair. Because of this feature he was called ESAV. Rashi explains that he was given this name because he appeared fully developed. His hair was like that of a grown person. The name comes from the root ASO which means made or done. The next one born was given the name Yaakov from the root AKEV which means heel. He was born holding on to the heel of Esav.

These are the literal meanings of the names as explained in the Torah. There is, however, another implied meaning in these names. Esav was born accomplished. He became a hunter and devoted his life to this skill. He was completely “made”. He was “done”. He had no desire to change or to improve himself. The name Yaakov, on the other hand, can have another meaning. True, the root comes from “heel”. But this can imply a “step”. Yaakov was always trying to take another step to improve himself. He wanted to take one step after the other to climb to greater heights.

This trait has survived in his descendants who have always been in the forefront of developing civilizations. His descendants have always been the leaders of new developments and new discoveries throughout history, to this day.

Dvar Torah Parshat Toldot 2008 – 5768 דבר תורה פדשת תולדות

Yitzchak’s people dug wells for water and when they were successful their surrounding neighbors suddenly started to claim: LANU HAMAYIM, “…the water is ours…”. (Gen. 26,20) These people did not dig and did not work to find water. They left it up to Yitzchak’s people to do. When they were successful suddenly the neighbors woke up to claim the wells as their own.

History repeats itself. For centuries very few Jews lived in the land of Israel. They had been chased our, exiled and not permitted to rebuild the land. All the conquerors had the land for generations upon generations and no one did anything with it.

The Jews started to return and began building the land. They made a prosperous country from desolate land. They made the desert bloom. They built industries and the land of Israel suddenly became a desirable spot. Now the neighbors of today like the neighbors of old started to claim that it is their’s. When the Jews were not developing the land no one did and no one claimed it as their homeland. Only after the Jews returned and built it up, only then did enemies spring up and claim, “The water is ours, the land belongs to us”. History has a peculiar way of repeating itself.