A SUMMARY OF TOLDOT, Gen. 25:18- 28:9, the tale of Yitzchak, Rivka, and their twins, Yaakov and Esav; it ends with blessed Yaakov fleeing to Lavan in Aram to escape Esav's murderous revenge and learn about life .
Esau became a great hunter and Yaakov a beautiful harmonious person, committed to the tents of family and study. AND Yitzchak LOVED ESAU AS HIS GAME WAS IN HIS MOUTH (or, per Ramban, AS HE WAS A VENISON ADDICT!) AND RIVKA LOVES Yaakov (25:28). The Torah hints at a Rabbinic lesson (Avot 5:16)- love contingant upon getting something from the beloved, physical or psychological, will only endure as long as a need is being satisfied- Yitzchak loved Esav AS... (past tense); but love of the essence of the beloved, for no "reason", endures forever- Rivka loves, present tense- even today, tho her love brings conflict with Yitzchak. Such love is the bonding of eternal souls, joining the Oneness of God Himself- ahava, love, = 13= echad, one, with no divisions of place and time.
Yaakov asked Esav to sell his religious office of the firstborn; he agreed, proclaiming no need for it, as he was going to die anyway. He sold it under oath (for a good price- Num. Raba 6:2, Radak). Yaakov ALSO gave him bread and lentils. Esav left, disdaining the birthright (25:33). There is no trickery here. Esav didn't believe in a Divine soul, in life after death. As a religious leader, he would only despise his own role. So "Rabbis", who themselves are not sure of God's existence or concern, can be professors, but not spiritual leaders; they can't fake it. Modern man needs inspiration more than information, street rabbis more than pulpit rabbis (Rav S. Carlebach, ZTz"L). One must be inspired to inspire; only words emitting from the heart enter another's heart.
Yitzchak planted crops and grew very prosperous. The Philistines envied him (cf. Spain, Germany, etc.) and filled Avraham's wells with dirt (idolatry vs. monotheism; Discos vs. Yeshivot). After exile to Wadi Gerar, Yitzchak reopened his father's wells, restoring their original names. Twice his servants dug wells, resulting in quarrels with the local shephards, who claimed the water; he named them Contention (Esek) and Obstruction (Sitnah). The third time there was no quarrel- he called it Spaciousness (Rechovot- 26:20-2). The 3 wells represent the 3 temples; the first two bring enemies to destroy them, due to internal Jewish quarrels and misconduct; the 3rd Temple will be built WITHOUT QUARREL AND FEUD... AND ALL WILL COME TO WORSHIP THERE (Ramban)- this precondition, agreement of even the Arabs, can occur in 2 ways- either God will suddenly appear and build the Temple (perhaps with Israel; cf. Rashi, Ex. 15:17), OR the Jews of Israel will really shape up, becoming a true kingdom of priests, as well as a holy nation, transforming and elevating every realm of human activity- then the Arabs may accept them as their sheik, their leader, and help them build the indestructible 3rd Temple. Premature attempts to build the Temple are futile- a) we don't really know how and b) if we can't even run the Wall properly, why try for the Temple? c) some believe the 3rd Temple will be built 5-56 miles north of Jerusalem-- see Artscrolls Ezekiel 40, 45, 48, Rashash B.B. 122a, Malbim Zech. 14:4.
NOTHING FOR YAAKOV? Could Yitzchak so dislike Yaakov, that he didn't save even one blessing for him? JBS says the opposite- Yitzchak wanted Yaakov, "the perfectly wholesome man" to continue dwelling in the tents of study. Esav, "the man of the field", would take over the material blessings, to run the world, supporting Yaakov's kollel. Rivka, who came from Haran, knew what kind of world resulted, when the righteous let the wicked run things. She was determined that Yaakov should STOP being isolated in holiness; he must fully partake of the blessings of this earth, reserved for Esav. Yitzchak had indeed saved the holy blessings of Avraham and the land of Israel for Yaakov, and refused to give them to Esav. After Yaakov got the blessings of this world too (dew of heaven and fat places of earth), Rivka sent him off to master- manipulator Lavan; there Yaakov learnt the ways of the world, in the school of hard knocks. Yaakov's holy development of his blessings of nature brings blessings back to nature; he restores the original harmonious perfect state of the universe (Zohar).
Yitzchak's a strong, kind, and quiet farmer, rather than a roaming shepherd. Tho a Tzadik, son of a Tzadik, Avraham's servant, Eliezer, arranges his marriage to Rivka, a little ex-idolatress from Aram, his sole soulmate. Avraham and Yaakov are self-defining activists; Yitzchak's defined by others- he's Avraham's son, Rivka's husband, and the father of Yaakov and Esav; he's even passive in Avraham's great test- Yitzchak's sacrifice, The Akada. His name never changes, unlike Avram's and Yaakov's. Rivka and Yaakov trick him out of blessing Esav, of whose true nature he seems blind. Avimelech abuses him. Yitzchak appears to be a but a passive link between Avraham and Yaakov.
STILL WATERS RUN DEEP: Yet we pray to the God of Avraham, THE GOD OF YITZCHAK, and the God of Yaakov; he too created a unique indispensable aspect of the man-God relationship. The Zohar describes the essence of Yitzchak's personality as gevurah (might)- self-mastery, inner structure, and discipline Just as Yaakov only appreciates his father much later, so, at the end of days Israel proclaims: FOR YOU'RE (Yitzchak) OUR FATHER, FOR AVRAHAM DIDN'T KNOW US, NOR DID YISROEL RECOGNIZE US; YOU, O LORD,ARE OUR FATHER; OUR EVERLASTING REDEEMER IS YOUR NAME. (Is. 63:16, per R. Yonaton, Shab. 89b)- only Yitzchak will successfully debate God and save Israel at the end of days.
A SHORT STUDY OF TOLDOT, GEN. 25:19- 28:9:
We open with the saga of Yitzchak, symbol of depth, discipline and introspection. Unlike his outreach extrovert Dad, Avraham the Pioneer, he never leaves the Holy Land, nor wages war; he doesn't even go about preaching and teaching. He's a strong, kind, and quiet farmer, rather than a roaming shepherd. Tho a Tzadik, son of a Tzadik, he marries Rivka, a little ex- idolatress from Aram, his soul soulmate, picked for him by Eliezer.
Avraham and Yaakov are self-defining activists; Yitzchak's defined by others- he's Avraham's son, Rivka's husband, and father of Yaakov and Esav; he's even passive in Avraham's great test- Yitzchak's sacrifice, The Akada. His patriarchal name never changes. Rivka and Yaakov trick him out of blessing Esav, of whose true nature he seems blind. Avimelech abuses him. Yitzchak appears to be a but a passive link between Avraham and Yaakov.
STILL WATERS RUN DEEP: Yet we pray to the God of Avraham, THE GOD OF YITZCHAK, and the God of Yaakov; he too created a unique indispensable aspect of the man-God relationship. Still waters run deep (cf. a firecracker and a yahrtzeit candle or the race between the tortise and the hare). Just as Yaakov only appreciates his father much later, so, at the end of days, Israel proclaims: FOR YOU (who?) ARE OUR FATHER, FOR AVRAHAM DIDN'T KNOW US, NOR DID YISROEL RECOGNIZE US; YOU, GOD, ARE OUR FATHER; OUR EVERLASTING REDEEMER IS YOUR NAME (Is. 63:16)- Yitzchak is missing!
YITZCHAK, OUR REBBE & LAWYER: R. Yonatan (Shab. 89b) applies this verse to the distant future; God judges the Jews- they have sinned so much- noone would dream that these are descendants of the Patriarchs. Avraham and Yaakov DO NOT plead for them; they prefer that God's name be sanctified by their destruction (cf. today's small Neturei Karta community). God finds these patriarchs lacking in sensitive understanding, despite Yaakov's suffering with his own children.
Only Yitzchak successfully debates God and saves Israel- he argues that they are His devoted children, who proclaimed: WE SHALL DO AND (then) WE SHALL UNDERSTAND (these same sinning souls were at Sinai). The Jews express their great gratitude- FOR (only) YOU (Yitzchak) ARE OUR FATHER... He tells them to praise only God, stirring them to true return to Him. They then proclaim: YOU GOD ARE OUR FATHER, OUR EVERLASTING REDEEMER...
Avraham and Yaakov were harsh with their own children- Avraham expelled Yishmael, Yaakov cursed the holy wrath of Shimon and Levi; Yitzchak, however, even tried to see the good potential of his wicked son Esav, whose name= 376= peace (Baal Haturim); love covers all sins, but his compassion for Esav can harm Yaakov, Rivka's concern. The rabbis say that one who is merciful, when he should be firm, will, later, be harsh where he should be merciful (e.g. Saul).
Per Rava (ibid), all 3 patriarchs lacked ultimate concern for their far-off descendants; All 3 failed to pray when told of Israel's future suffering; Only God has unlimited eternal mercy. So David warns not to have faith in even the greatest humans; mortals are limited (Ps. 146). Better to seek God's mercy, than the tzadik's! He assures His forgiveness to those who repent- THO YOUR SINS BE "KASHANIM" (AS SCARLET or OF MANY YEARS' DURATION), THEY SHALL BE (WHITE) AS SNOW... Israel will learn directly from God, not the Messiah, once that master rabbi convinces them to make aliya (Gen. Rab.98:9)! He'll then only teach the gentiles- all Harlem should chant: "We want Meshiach now!", while Israel quietly awaits God.
Rivka finally gets pregnant, God's answer to Yitzchak's prayers; her twins struggle in a love-hate relationship, from her womb to our Messianic era. Esav's an adventurer, a man of the world, Yaakov a man of spirit and family. Esav despised his firstborn birthright, religious leadership, and sold it to Yaakov, while lusting for some blood-red stew.
CH. 26: God warns Yitzchak not to descend to Egypt, despite famine; his blessings, and those which he'll bestow upon the world, will only come from Zion. He wandered to Philistia, where God intervened to save Rivka from jetset King Avimelech. Yitzchak prospered; jealous Philistines drove him off to Gerar, where herdsmen claimed his first 2 wells; they didn't object to the 3rd, called R'chovot- it's a symbol of the 3rd Temple, only to be built by peaceful agreement (Ramban, vs. the Temple Mt. Faithful)- either God will reappear and command it, or the Jews will shape up and the Arabs will then help them build it. Yitzchak moved to Beersheva, where he made peace with Avimelech. Esav married 2 Canaanite floozies at 40, a pain to his folks.
CH. 27, per Rav J. Soloveichik: Blind old Yitzchak decides to give his worldly blessings to Esav, saving his spiritual blessings- Israel and Avraham's mission- for Yaakov, who's to remain a holy man, supported by Esav. Rivka knows what happens to the world, when holy men are not actively involved- it's time for Yaakov to STOP being a pure man of the tents, to become an activist. Together they deceive Yitzchak into giving him the worldly blessing too. Esav's fit to be tied, but all he gets are promises of prosperity and temporary supremacy, when Israel rebels. Rivka overhears Esav's plans to bump off Yaakov; she sends him to brother Lavan, for refuge, education in the school of hard knocks, and to find a wife. Yitzchak sends him off with his original spiritual blessings; Esav gets the message and adds 2 respectable wives.
THE HAFTORAH (Mal. 1:1- 2:7) proclaims Yaakov's superiority to Esav. Malachi then reminds the Jews that they are far from realizing their potential. God reminds them of His universal glory; he contrasts their second-rate service with the ideal they are to show the other nations (cf. those who fight, yell, and beg at the Wall). Our non-Jewish friend, Prof. Marcel Dubois, writes in Paradoxes and Mystery of Israel: "The Jewish soul is, by its vocation, so God-shaped, so oriented towards worship, that it is prone to a sort of absolutism. This gift is at once magnificent and terrible, because a soul dedicated to a heavenly assignment is condemned, if it abandons its monotheistic creed, to something approaching idolatry. Secular causes are pursued with the same fervour, that was programmed originally for the service of God. It is the story of the Golden Calf. There is a Jewish way of being atheistic. The vehemence, the fever, the despair, that a Jew will give to the negation of God, carry the mark of the adoration of the Divine, to which he was bidden, and for which he was created. This is incidentally one of the causes of anti-Semitism. The Jews bring to all subjects a talent that was designed for God's purposes. They thus arouse the envy and hostility of the "goy". It is important to understand how this Jewish virtuosity accentuates the estrangement of the Jewish people, an estrangement which is the reverse side of their preordination"- his dream is a Yossi Sarid wearing a kippa! (JP, Nov. 9, '89).
The tribe of Levi is not only to supervise ritual; he is to teach and guide the people in truth, justice, and peace; this can only occur when he, the rabbi, is himself a true angelic messenger of the God of Hosts (2:7). As no mortal is truly angelic, the Belzer rebbe explained-- angels view themselves as part of God's team, each with his necessary, tho often opposite, function; each respects the other; so with a teacher of Torah- one should not follow him unless he respects other teachers of Torah, tho their team-role may be the opposite. A true spreader of Torah should not really care whether one learns from him, his Yeshiva, or his Rebbe- each should study Torah in the place most suitable for her own unique personality and background. The Israelight Intermediate Yeshiva (M & F) now provides a welcome alternative of depth and breadth for many who seek a blend of Torah, Zionism, and the way of the earth.
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