MACHON MEIR - http://www.virtual.co.il/education/machon-meir/parasha.htm
Message for Today: “Your brother Esau is consoling himself by planning to kill you.”
“Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father will be here soon. I will then be able to kill my brother Jacob.’ Her older son’s plans were reported to Rebecca. She sent word and summoned her younger son Jacob. ‘Your brother Esau is consoling himself by planning to kill you,’ she said” (Genesis 27:41-42).
When Rebecca became aware through Ruach HaKodesh [prophetic intuition] that Esau was thinking about killing Jacob, she hastened to tell Jacob, “Your brother Esau is consoling himself by planning to kill you.” Rashi elaborates: “He regrets the brotherly relationship existing between you, harboring thoughts other than those of brotherhood, to estrange himself from you and to kill you.” Only through Jacob’s death could Esau be comforted.
Saintly Rebecca was the daughter of an evildoer and the brother of an evildoer and had grown up amongst evil men. Yet she was a wise and an intelligent woman who could discern what was happening in the hearts of the wicked, and who could deal with their plotting. She was not a naïve woman, the victim of her own delusions. She knew her wicked son Esau, who presented himself as though he wanted brotherhood and peace while really harboring thoughts of murder and death in his heart.
Today, the words “I will kill my brother Jacob” ring in the hearts of Esau’s and Ishmael’s descendants. Down through the generations, they have been striving to turn those words into reality through the murder of millions of Jews. This occurred in the terrible Holocaust, and we see it once more on an almost daily basis with terror attacks against Jewish men, women and children in Israel and throughout the world. Jews are being killed because they are Jews, for only through the murder of Jews, only through the shedding of Jewish blood, are their enemies comforted.
Our answer to their plotting and to their murder of Jews must be: “If one attacks you to kill you, kill him first” (Sanhedrin 72a). We have to deter Israel’s enemies, and the anti-Semites of the world. We have to strike at them and at those who send them until they fear and despair at the thought of harming Jews or of destroying the State of Israel. We have to strengthen the military and economic power of the State of Israel. We have to strengthen the spirit of the nation and its unity through a return to the Jewish roots which unite us. Most of all, we have to strengthen settlement and offer encouragement to the settlers who are holding on to the land of our life’s blood.
Today, they are the spearhead of the whole nation in its struggle over our continued national rebirth. They are facing up to all those who resent the rebirth of the Jewish People and who are trying to weaken us and to pressure our country to surrender. Such groups would have us capitulate by means of the “Road Map,” whose purpose is to weaken and destroy us. Such people collaborate with those deluded dreamers who already served up a bitter brew, the cursed, wretched “Oslo” pact, and who have learned no lesson.
Yet the Jewish People, experienced in pain and suffering, will know how to protect themselves, for Rebecca’s words flash before their eyes: “Your brother Esau is consoling himself by planning to kill you.”
Looking forward to complete salvation,
Harav Dov Bigon
I offer my prayer to You, O G-d! Help me!
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner
Question: I entreat G-d every single day: “G-d! Help me! Arouse my heart to faith, to love, to sensitivity, to yearning. Help me to be happy, to feel G-d, to change, to become content. Save me from worry, from confusion, from fears, from imaginings, from false hopes, from loneliness. Protect me from sexual sin, from seeing impurity, from doing evil. Give me the strength to do good, kind deeds. G-d! I am weak. I cannot manage alone. Save me!”
For years I have been praying in this manner from deep in my heart, yet nothing happens.
Answer: Good for you that you pray to G-d! Good for you that you pray for spiritual things and not just for your material needs. Obviously, that too is permitted, but prayer for spiritual things is on the highest level.
It is true that you are praying for yourself and not for G-d, His glory, or the sanctification of His name. Yet your prayer is very precious in the eyes of the Master-of-the-Universe.
You didn’t ask if G-d hears you. Apparently it is obvious to you that He does. For some people, prayer is a sort of meditation. It is not a form of clinging to G-d, but of man’s being alone with himself. It is as though man is praying to himself. Such people do not expect G-d to answer them and to help them. Yet from your words it is clear that such is not the case with you. Rather, you look forward to G-d’s helping you.
Good for you that you have holy aspirations! Prayer indeed does half the work. That’s what they say (Vayikra Rabbah 10:5). Yet the other half is “avodah” – divine service.
Our sages were asked: “What should a person do to become a Torah scholar?” And they answered, “He should learn in yeshiva. Yet what about those who learned and did not become Torah scholars? They should pray. If so, should they go straight to prayer without study? No. One does not suffice without the other. One must both study Torah and pray.
What should a person do to become rich? He should engage in commerce. Yet what about those who engaged in commerce without becoming rich? They should pray. If so, should they go straight to prayer without engaging in business? No. One does not suffice without the other. One must both engage in business and pray.
What should a person do to have children? He should get married. Yet what about those who get married and have no children? They should pray. If so, should one pray right away without getting married? No. One does not suffice without the other. One must both marry and pray (Niddah 70b; 71a).
It is not enough to pray to become a doctor in order to become a doctor. It is not enough to pray to become physically strong for one to become physically strong.
It is true that sometimes one can be wealthy without working, by virtue of an inheritance, but as far as character improvement the Rabbis said, “If someone says, ‘I strove but did not achieve,’ do not believe him. If he says, ‘I achieved without striving,’ do not believe him. If he says, ‘I strove and I achieved,’ you may believe him” (Megillah 6b).
You humbly testify about yourself that you are weak, and that you cannot change your nature overnight, hence you need must effort. The early generations mentioned in the Bible were people of great strength. The very mention of the fact that something was forbidden immediately created in them a psychological inability to sin in that regard.
A mighty man of that sort from recent generations was Rabbi Menachem Mendl of Kotzk, who was unable to fathom how there could be thieves when it says, “Do not steal.” In those generations of great strength, it was enough for someone to know what man’s duty is for him to fulfill that duty.
Later on, however, the generations became weaker. Therefore, the sages of the Mishnah saw a need to repeat their instructions, a hundred times, a thousand times, a million times. They always “used to say” things [see Avot]. In other words, they would not just make due with saying something once, but would repeat it as long as they lived until it penetrated people’s hearts. Likewise, the Men of the Great Assembly decreed the recitation of prayers and blessings into which were invested all the main tenets of ethics and faith (Guide to the Perplexed) in order that the great truths would penetrate the depths of man’s soul, his will and his emotions.
Yet the generations then became still weaker. Even the lessons and prayers could not overcome man’s sinful impulses and weaknesses. Medieval and later sages therefore built up a strategy involving a slow, gradual, unrelenting war, in which “water would wear down stones” (Job 14:19). The high flame of yearning for G-d would have to be divided into individual daily efforts. Fighting spirit and devotion to the homeland would have to be replaced by precise military drills.
This is the secret: taking daily stock of oneself (Mesilat Yesharim, Ch. 3). The great difficulty of life has to be broken down into a number of difficulties, and each of those must be broken down into a number of still smaller difficulties, and each must be dealt with, one by one. We must move from the easier to the harder. A program of action must be built up, by month, by week and by day.
As in the army, one mustn’t say, “Don’t worry about it.” Rather, each morning one must make one’s battle plans, and each night one must do a post-mortem (see Rabbi Mendl of Stanov’s work “Cheshbon HaNefesh” on the value of systematically taking stock of oneself in writing).
This is the secret known in the army: The root is morale and motivation. After that comes the yardstick of effort.
More on Jewish Wedding Practices (Leaflet 434)
1. Regarding escorting the bride and groom to the chuppah: The proper custom is for the groom to be escorted by the two fathers and the bride by the two mothers.
The bride’s female friends should not escort her with song and dance for everyone to see.
2. As far as what I said about not mentioning deceased relatives and friends of the bride and groom who were not privileged to participate in the ceremony, that does not include the parents of the bride and groom who have passed away. Some have a custom of reciting “Kel Malei Rachimim” for them, since their souls descend to take part in the wedding of their children (P’nei Baruch 38:19), but nothing more than that.
3. Blessings under the Chuppah: Those who invite couples to recite the Sheva Brachot in unison, or responsively, are making a grave error. Some grooms wish to recite quotations about love from Jewish or non-Jewish literature. Yet they should not dare to add to what the Men of the Great Assembly decreed for all times, as though their work was unfinished. There is also a prohibition against interrupting the ceremony.
4. I wrote that some rabbis have ruled that the bride and groom must refrain from holding hands as they walk from the chuppah to the Yichud room. Other rabbis do consent to their holding hands – but to nothing more than that.
Regarding head coverings for Sephardim following the chuppah, see Mishnah Brurah about engaged girls (Siman 75, se’if katan 11).
5. The Yichud Room: When I wrote that some rabbis say that twenty minutes are enough, that was as far as the couple taking a break. Yet from a halachic standpoint, five minutes certainly suffice.
6. Dancing: If both men and women are dancing, the women must be separated by a sufficiently opaque partition.
“The L-rd reigns. The peoples tremble.”
Recently we have been hearing about the flood of anti-Semitism found everywhere on earth. There have always been Jews who tried to provide all sorts of strange explanations for this bottomless hatred. The common thread of all those explanations is that they blame the Jews. One time they explain that the Jews set themselves apart. Then, when the Jews assimilate, the hatred grows worse. Another time they explain that it is due to the Jews’ ignorance of foreign languages and science. When the Jews become physicians and musicians, the hatred increases. Jabotinsky thought it was Jewish weakness that led to the hatred. He therefore said, “Jews, learn to shoot!” We have learned to shoot, and now the hatred focuses on our “aggressiveness.”
Hatred for the Jewish People goes back to ancient times, and it is not connected to one reality or to another. Rather, it is something very deeply rooted which must necessarily lead to a situation in which “in every generation they rise up against to destroy us” (Pesach Haggadah). The Rabbis said, “It is a law of nature that Esau hates Jacob.” Even if it sometimes appears superficially as though this hatred has ceased to exist, we must realize that beneath the surface that is not the case.
Avimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us. You have become much more powerful than we are” (Genesis 26:16). Later on, when Avimelech wished to forge a covenant with Isaac, Isaac responded, “Why have you come to me? You hate me. You drove me away from you!” (verse 27). Isaac knew and understood that Avimelech’s attempt to forge a covenant did not express any substantial change in Avimelech’s position, but only a tactical change. Avimelech’s men plugged up Isaac’s wells and then asked to make agreements. This approach is well-known to us today as well.
It is true that Isaac investigated the possibility that the two brothers, Jacob and Esau, would live in peace as two parts of one nation. Yet G-d taught him that there could be no connection between the two brothers.
Why do the Jews constitute a target for hatred?
This hatred is directed against the Jewish People and their G-d, who together present a clear system of laws and ethics that combat the beastly and destructive impulses of man. Our sages explain that Mount Chorev was also called “Sinai” because with the giving of the Torah, hatred [sin’a] descended to the world.
The nations of the world like having a general, blurry “conscience.” They noticeably prefer their own decisions. By such means they can change their ethics every day, precisely the way that a salamander changes colors. Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook wrote:
“The nations do not like to undertake duties, and if they undertake them, they harbor resentment against those chiefly responsible for publicizing those duties, for those duties restrain their barbaric spirits from fulfilling all their hearts’ desires.”
From the standpoint of the nations, every Jew, by being a Jew, bears the tidings of Torah ethics, whether he is “religious” or assimilated.
Avimelech’s demand that Isaac go away because he had become “much more powerful” does not relate to Isaac’s economic power, but to his moral power. Since the days of Abraham, the moral yardsticks of Abraham’s and Isaac’s shepherds have disturbed the nations of the World.
“The Jews are hated precisely due to their spiritual superiority, their being set apart to be better, their superiority to everyone else. They are also hated because they gave the world Christianity, subdued the beast in man and aroused the conscience and the emotion of love for one’s fellow man… From time immemorial, the Jewish People have served as a lighthouse, spreading the light of fierce protest against the filth and lowliness in human life.” (Maxim Gorki, “Regarding the Jews.” Pravda Publications). Therefore, one of the “important” attacks on the Jews is on their “unethical behavior,” so to speak. If the Jews are behaving immorally, the nations then feel freed of all morality and from everything the Jews represent.
This hatred increases particularly at times when the Jewish People display strength. Our sages thus say regarding the verse, “The L-rd reigns. The peoples tremble” (Psalm 99:1): “When the nations hear that G-d is increasing Israel’s stature and bringing them into the land, they begin to tremble with anger.”
During one of the past waves of Anti-Semitism, Chaim Herzog, who was then the Israeli Ambassador to the U.N., wrote:
“We represent principles and values that are so repugnant to so many of the world’s regimes that we must continue to expect a flood of false libels against the Jewish People and against Israel… the Jewish People’s task is to stand united against the new wave of international anti-Semitism. We must defend our heritage, tradition and values with pride and with determination. We owe it to our predecessors and we owe it to our children and to future generations.”
We have to remember that the very existence of the Jewish People constitutes a problem for the nations, and the existence of a victorious Jewish army is a grave provocation from their point of view. We must recall our nature, going back to Jacob’s struggle with Esau in the womb, and we must understand that we’ve got a long way to go before we reach the situation in which all the nations steam to Jerusalem and proclaim, “The G-d of Israel is King and His kingdom rules over all.”
When the Torah relates the story of the birth of Yaakov and Eisav, an unusual word is used, "ve'hinei tomim be'vitnah" "then behold! There were twins in her womb" (25:24). The Rashbam comments that the word "hinei" implies some element of surprise, that something is taking place not in accordance with what was previously assumed. But who was surprised when twins were born? Rivka was informed by HaShem that she was pregnant with twins, she knew what to expect. Sforno comments that the midwives also knew that this was a twin pregnancy. Could it be that Rivka never told Yitzchak that she was pregnant with twins? This may not seem so strange when we consider that Rivka did not share with Yitzchak the prophecy that was given her from HaShem, that "the elder shall serve the younger" (25:23). If Yitzchak had known this prophecy, it would have been unnecessary for Rivka to resort to subterfuge to make sure that Yaakov received the appropriate blessing.
Our Sages note that there were multiple instances where Rivka did not share information with Yitzchak. The Maharal, in his commentary Gur Aryeh, writes that Rivka did not tell Yitzchak of the hardships that she felt during her difficult pregnancy. Instead "she went to inquire of HaShem" (25:22). The Maharal explains that Rivka was embarrassed to tell her husband of her trouble. She did not want Yitzchak to think that this was happening to her as a punishment for her idolatrous past during her years growing up in the house of Betuel. The Netziv, in his commentary Hamek Davar, writes that from the moment that Rivka first saw Yitzchak, a saintly figure praying in the field, she felt awe and fear. The Netziv explains that Rivka was filled with feelings of inadequacy, she did not feel worthy of marrying such a holy man. Out of shame she covered herself with a scarf, and out of fear she fell off of her camel. The Netziv states that because of these feelings Rivka was unable to communicate with Yitzchak and express to him who she felt really deserved his holy blessing, and instead had to resort to subterfuge.
In fact, the only time the Torah quotes a direct statement made by Rivka to Yitzchak is when she makes up a reason for Yaakov to run away to Padan Aram (27:46).
She claims that Yaakov should go away in order that he should not marry a local girl. The Rashbam explains that Rivka did not want to reveal to her husband the truth, that Yaakov's life was in danger. Rav Sorotzkin, in his commentary Oznayim LaTorah, explains that this is hinted to in the small letter kuf in the word 'katzti' with which Rivka begins her statement to Yitzchak. From all this we see the great difficulty that Rivka had in speaking to Yitzchak. This all stemmed from her feeling that she was not worthy to be the wife of a great tzaddik.
Yitzchak tried to do everything right, but the feelings that Rivka had persisted. Though from an intellectual perspective, we can say that Rivka should not have felt this way, emotions do not always follow the rules of logic. The story of Yitzchak and Rivka demonstrates to us the complicated thoughts and emotions that are present in relationships between people with different levels of observance. Sometimes there is not much we can do, and even when we try our best to be sensitive, people react in unexpected ways. Still, we have to do our best. We should always have in mind to think about the feelings of others and their particular concerns, so that everyone will feel that the world of Torah Judaism is open and welcoming.
Efrat, Israel - “And it was that Isaac had grown old and his eyesight was fading. He summoned his elder son Esau, ‘…trap me some game… My soul will then bless you before I die’” (Genesis 27:1,3,4).
The agonizing question which continues to plague all the commentaries is why Father Isaac initially chooses to give the blessing – birthright to Esau. The immediate verse preceding Isaac’s invitation to Esau tells us that “Esau’s (Hittite wives) became a source of spiritual bitterness to Isaac and Rebecca” (Genesis 26:35); in Biblical terms, Esau had intermarried! Moreover, Isaac certainly knew that Esau had sold and scorned the birthright, and he had most probably heard from his wife the Divine prophesy that “the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). So even if his blindness had prevented him from seeing the immoral behavior of Esau, how could Isaac have chosen Esau over Jacob for the blessings – birthright?
I believe that a careful reading of the text will provide the answer. The Biblical chapter preceding the bestowal of the blessings opens with a famine in the Land of Israel, causing Isaac to settle in Gerar – the city of the Philistine King Abimelekh, situated on the southern border of Israel. He receives a Divine promise that eventually this land will be part of his patrimony of Israel, and goes through a similar experience as had his father Abraham, since both father and son had seen their wives taken into – and freed from – the harem of Abimelekh. Abraham had also made a treaty with Abimelekh, presumably allowing the descendants of each to dwell on that land (Genesis 20:15, 21:23 ff). Abimelekh seems to be honoring his treaty, because he instructs his nation that if anyone even touches Isaac or his wife, the criminal will be put to death (Genesis 26:11).
However, the fly in the ointment becomes apparent as Isaac waxes wealthy, owning flocks of sheep, herds of cattle, retinues of slaves. The Philistines become jealous, and plug up all the wells which Abraham’s servants had dug in the area during Abraham’s lifetime. Abimelekh then confronts Isaac, chasing him away and charging him with having become more powerful than they by taking over their wealth (Genesis 26:16). Apparently Abimelekh has forgotten his previous promises and treaties, and Isaac doesn’t even bother to remind him of them: “And Isaac went away from there and camped in the Gerar valley.” (Genesis 26:16)
Isaac’s servants dig new wells in their exiled place of habitation, his rights to two out of three of them being contested by the Philistines. To add insult to injury, Abimelekh flanked in a Mafiosolike manner on both sides by a group of “friends” as well as his general Pikhol – comes to Isaac in order to make a new treaty with him, an offer he can’t possibly refuse given the composition of his visitors. A dumbstruck Isaac incredulously asks, “Why do you come to me? You hate me and you drove me away from you.” (Genesis 26:27). Abimelekh, apparently desirous of protecting himself on every side since Isaac seems to always land on his feet and G-d appears to be guarding over him, shamelessly responds, “You dare not do any ill towards us since we did not harm you; indeed, we only did good to you by allowing you to leave in peace…” (Genesis 26:29). And Isaac makes a treaty with Abimelekh. It is at this point in the text that we are told that Esau took Hittite wives, but nevertheless Isaac summons Esau for the blessing – birthright…
I believe that the Biblical order speaks for itself and explains Isaac’s choice. Isaac loves the Land of Israel; he alone out of all the patriarchs never forsakes its sacred earth. He is pictured “laying seeds in the land, and extracting in one year one hundred times as much as he sowed” (Genesis 26:12). Yet, he is at a loss to protect the land, even to protect his right to continue to live on the land even under Philistine rule, even after two previous treaties, one with Abraham and one with him. He is told that he ought be grateful that he was merely banished from the land and not personally harmed; and he is humiliated into entering into yet another treaty with the same deceitful rogue who has so callously reneges on his past treaties.
Isaac understands that although G-d has promised us the land, we will most probably have to do battle for the land in order to occupy it. He is probably disappointed in his own lack of ability to stand up for his rights, to strike back at Abimelekh. And when he looks at his twin sons, the naive dweller in tents Yankele and the aggressive hunter Esau, he concludes that only an Esau will have the wherewithal to stand up to our enemies and fight for the patrimony. Indeed, as Isaac bestows the blessing –birthright, he first smells the fragrance of the garments, declaring, “Behold, the fragrance of my son is as the fragrance of the fields which have been blessed by G-d.”