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The Holiness of the Land is in the Fruit Print E-mail
Thursday, 16 November 2023

In Parshat Toldot, at the beginning of Breisheet, Chapter 26, there is a famine in the Land and Yitzchak goes down to Grar (the Gaza strip).

In verses 2-3 we read:

God appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt. Settle (Shechon) in the Land that I will make known to you. Stay temporarily (gur) in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and your descendants I will give all these lands…”

We learn in Bresiheet Raba 64:3: The land that you should live in temporarily is Grar, a place of poor soil, and you shall permanently dwell in the rest of Israel- cultivate the land, be a sower, be a planter- plant seeds, plant trees.

Breisheet Raba also brings another interpretation- Shechon- cause the Shechina (Divine Presence) to dwell in the Land.

Rav David Avraham Spector teaches that not only should we not leave the Land of Israel at a time of crisis, it is the time to develop settlements and agriculture. By building up, settling and cultivating the Land, we will cause the Divine Presence to rest there like it says in Shmot 25:8: “They shall make me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst.”

The Bach (Orach Chayim 208) teaches about the holiness of the fruits grown in the Land of Israel:

The fruits of the Land of Israel are nurtured by the holiness of the Shechina which dwells in the Land. That is why we say the “Bracha Me’ein Shalosh” after we eat fruits from the seven species of Israel: “to eat its fruit and to be sated with its goodness.” When we eat the fruits from the Land of Israel we are being nourished by the holiness of the Shechina.

We complete the bracha with “al peiroteha,” “on her fruit” when the fruit of the seven species was grown in Israel, as opposed to “al hapeirot,” “on the fruit” when the fruit was grown outside of the Land. This is a constant reminder to appreciate the fruits that are grown in Israel which are imbued with an extra element holiness.

On Simchat Torah, in addition to the tremendous loss of life, Hamas destroyed a lot of the crops in Southern Israel by burning down the farms and fields on the kibbutzim. They also murdered and kidnapped many of the foreign workers from Thailand who worked in the fields. Most of the surviving workers were brought back to Thailand.

Moshe Saiid who was best known as Dod (Uncle) Moshe, an Israeli version of Old MacDonald, was murdered on his Kibbutz, Nir Oz and his wife, Adina was taken hostage and is in Gaza. His company, Dod Moshe, promises to continue working the fields to produce the best vegetables including potatoes, radishes and carrots.

Israelis are stepping up to the plate and volunteering to help pick all types of produce including avocados, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. We need more Israelis to seriously consider working in agriculture in order to continue the mission of settling the Land of Israel and benefitting from its produce.

Was Rivka a Prophetess? Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 November 2022

When reading through Parshat Toldot, one may conclude that Rivka was a prophetess. In fact, we find in Breisheet Raba and Yalkut Shimoni that all of the foremothers, Sara, Rivka, Rachel and Leah were prophetesses.

If Rivka was a prophetess then why is Sara the only one of our foremothers who is listed in the Talmud, Megilla 14a:

Seven prophetesses- Who were they? Sara, Miriam, Devora, Chana, Avigail, Hulda and Ester.

The Taz (Breisheet 29:34) explains:

Rivka, Rachel and Leah are not included in the list of prophetesses (Megilla 14a) since the women listed there all had prophecies about someone else. For example, Sara’s prophecy was that Yishmael would not inherit with Yitzchak. Rivka, Rachel and Leah’s prophecies were about what would happen to them personally, not what would happen to others and therefore they were not included on the list even though they did have prophecy.

We see Sara’s prophecy in Breisheet 21:10:

She said to Avraham, “Drive out this slave-woman and her son, for the son of this slave-woman will not inherit with my son, with Yitzchak.”

Avraham was worried and therefore God told him (Breisheet 21:12):

“Do not consider this wrong in your eyes on account of the boy and your slave-woman. Regarding all that Sara tells you listen to her, for only through Yitzchak will seed be considered yours.”

Rashi comments that we learn from here that Avraham was inferior to Sara with regard to prophecy.

Since Sara was sure of her prophecy, she spoke up and told Avraham what needed to be done.

Dr. Tamar Frankiel points out in her book, The Voice of Sarah:

Sarah saw the character of Yishmael and had him banished from the household. Rivka saw the character of Esav and contrived to have his father’s favor taken away, then separated him from his brother by sending Yaakov far away…Rivka’s story adds something new. The rivalrous sons were both her own sons, not children of two different wives; and she had to send her favorite son away, not, as in Sarah’s case, the misbehaving one…

Rivka, as far as we see in the text, did not discuss the prophecies that she received about her children with Yitzchak. Instead, she took action behind the scenes to make sure that Yaakov would inherit the Land of Israel.

Yitzchak’s Disengagement Print E-mail
Thursday, 19 November 2020

In Parshat Toldot, Breisheet 26:1-3, there is a famine in the Land so Yitzchak and Rivka head down to Avimelech, king of the Plishtim in Grar (region of the Gaza strip) as Avraham did. God appeared to Yitzchak and said:

“Do not go down to Egypt: dwell (shchon) in the land which I will make known to you. Reside (gur) in this land and I will be with you and bless you for to your descendents I will give all these lands (kol ha’artzot ha’el). I will thus fulfill the oath that I swore to Avraham, your father.”

The Midrash in Breisheet Rabba 64:3 explains that the name of the city, Grar comes from the word Garua (the worst) as the area of the Gaza strip was dry without water or good air. Rabbi Dostai taught in the name of Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman: it is a bad settlement, not good for planting and not good for living. This settlement extends until the Straits of Egypt, the Southern border of Israel on the Southwestern side.

Even though Yitzchak lived in the worst spot within Israel's borders, he still was able to find blessings there. As we see in Breisheet 26:12-13:

Yitzchak planted in that land. That year he reaped a hundred fold, for God had blessed him. The man prospered. He continued to prosper until he became very great.

Unfortunately, we see in verses 14-17 that Yitzchak’s success did not last:

He owned flocks and sheep, herds of cattle, and many slaves, and the Plishtim were jealous of him. All the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of his father, Avraham- the Plishtim plugged them, and filled them with earth. Avimelech said to Yitzvhak “Go away from us. You have become more powerful than us.” Yitzchak went away from there…

However, once Yitzchak was back in Be’er Sheva, Avimelech and Pichol, his general went to meet with Yitzchak in order to make peace.

In sentence 31 they make the peace treaty: “They got up early in the morning, and they each swore to the other. Yitzchak sent them away and they left in peace.”

The Midrash then asks why it says: “For to you and to your seed I will give all of these lands (aratzot ha'el)” in shortened form.

The Midrash answers: It says “ha'el” and not “ha'ela” to teach that God is only giving some of the promised lands to His children in this world (in the days of Yehoshua, David and Shlomo). And when will He give the rest? In the future, in the days of the Mashiach they will receive all ten lands as promised to Avraham.

In Jewish history we have a concept of “Maaseh Avot Siman Libanim”, what happened to our forefathers will happen to their descendents.

So much of what happened to Yitzchak has happened in our lifetime as well. In 1967, Israel returned to the Gaza strip and made it grow and bloom by creating 21 beautiful settlements.

For the sake of peace, Yitzchak left the region. Fifteen years ago, in 2005, Israel pulled out of the Gaza strip, also for the sake of peace. However, since the Israelis left Gaza, the situation has deteriorated. Rockets, balloons with bombs attached and explosive kites are being launched into Israel on a regular basis.

Those who were forced to leave Gaza during the disengagement believe that one day they will go back and rebuild their lives there.

May we see a time of peace and tranquility on the border of the Gaza strip and throughout Israel.

Do Rivka and Yitzchak communicate? Print E-mail
Monday, 25 November 2019

 Commemorating Harry V. DuBrow’s Yahrzeit

You need to look very hard at Parshat Toldot in order to find Rivka and Yitzchak communicating.

When Rivka is having a difficult pregnancy, she goes to seek out God, and is told (Breisheet 25:23) “Two nations are in your womb and two kingdoms will separate within you. One government will be mightier than the other, but the greater one will serve the smaller one.” Yet we don’t see her reveal God’s message to Yitzchak.

When they go down to Grar, during the famine, Yitzchak doesn’t tell Rivka to act as his sister, rather he tells people that she is his sister.

When it is time to bless the twins, Yitzchak calls in Esav without consulting Rivka. She then goes behind Yitzchak’s back, dressing Yaakov as Esav to make sure that Yaakov receives the blessing that Yitzchak intended for Esav.

We finally hear Rivka speak to Yitzchak near the end of the parsha, when the blessings were already given out, after Rivka heard that Esav wanted to kill Yaakov and after Rivka already told Yaakov that he needs to flee to her brother, Lavan in Charan until Esav calms down. None of which does Rivka mention to Yitzchak.

Instead, Rivka tells Yitzchak (Breisheet 27:46) “I am disgusted with my life because of the daughters of Chet. If Yaakov marries a woman of the daughters of Chet, like these, from the daughters of the land, what is life worth to me?”

After Rivka tells him this information (Breisheet 28:1-4), Yitzchak follows her advice:

Yitzchak called Yaakov and blessed him. He commanded him and said to him, “Do not marry a woman of the daughters of C’naan. Set out and go to Padan Aram, to the house of Betuel, your mother’s father, and marry one of the daughters of Lavan, your mother’s brother. May E-l Shad-ai bless you, make you fruitful and multiply you. May you become an assembly of peoples. May He give you the blessing of Avraham, to you and to your descendents with you, that you may inherit the land of your dwelling which God gave to Avraham.

At that moment, it was a life and death situation (even though Yitzchak didn’t know that Esav wanted to kill Yaakov) so Rivka had to speak up and when she did, Yitzchak listened to her.

What held Rivka back from communicating with Yitzchak until that point?

The Netziv, in his commentary, HaEmek Davar, explains that from the moment that Rivka first saw Yitzchak, when she arrived with Avraham’s servant, she feared him.

 We see their first encounter in Breisheet 24:64-65:

Rivka raised her eyes and saw Yitzchak. She let herself down from the camel. She said to the servant, “Who is that man walking through the field towards us?” The servant said, “He is my master.” She then took the veil and covered herself.

According to the Netziv when Rivka saw Yitzchak praying, he was like an awe inspiring angel. Even before she knew for sure who the man meditating was, Rivka slipped off the camel out of fear and awe. She covered her face when she realized that this is the man that she would be marrying and she felt embarrassed, afraid and unworthy of being his wife.

The Netziv adds that their relationship was very different from Sarah and Avraham and Rachel and Yaakov where the wives weren’t afraid to say what was on their minds (Sarah told Avraham to send away Hagar, Rachel demanded that Yaakov give her children etc.).

The Netziv concludes that their relationship was set up this way as part of God’s plan to make sure that Yaakov would receive the blessings in the manner that he received them. If Rivka and Yitzchak had communicated like Sarah and Avraham and Rachel and Yaakov, then Yaakov would not have received the blessings in the same way. It was all part of hashgacha pratit, Divine Providence that Rivka first saw Yitzchak like an angel while he was connecting with God.

Yitzchak and Rivka were on a totally different wave length and we will never fully understand their relationship. However, they were both aware that the blessing of the Land of Israel belonged to Yaakov and that intermarrying with idol worshipers was unacceptable. 

The smell of Eden Print E-mail
Tuesday, 13 November 2018

In Parshat Toldot (Breisheet 27:15), Rivka dresses Yaakov in Esav’s garments in order to make sure that Yaakov receives the better blessing: “Rivka took the garments of Esav, her elder son, that were coveted (hachamudot), that were in her keeping in the house and put them on Yaakov, her younger son.”

Breisheet Rabba 65:16 teaches that the coveted garments were the garments that God made for Adam and Chava in the Garden of Eden (Breisheet 3:21, “And God made for Adam and his wife leather coats and he clothed them.”) According to Pirkei D’Rebi Eliezer 21, these garments were taken on the ark and after the flood, Cham, Noach’s son gave them to Nimrod. Esav saw Nimrod with the garments, coveted them, killed Nimrod and took the garments. Esav kept the special clothing at his parent’s home and wore them to serve his father.

In Breisheet 27:26-27, we read: “His father Yitzchak said to him ‘Come close to me and kiss me, my son.’ He came close and kissed him. He (Yitzchak) smelled the fragrance of his garments and he blessed him. He said, ‘See, my son’s fragrance is like the fragrance of the field blessed by God.’”

In the Talmud, Taanit 29b, Rav Yehuda the son of Rav Shmuel bar Shilat said in the name of Rav: The garments smell like the fragrance of a field of tapuchim.

Tapuchim in Modern Hebrew mean apples, but the original meaning was a swelled fruit. We see this even today with the Hebrew names for potatoes and oranges which are also variations on the word “tapuach”, tapuach adama, tapucha zahav=tapuz.

Tosafot interpret the word tapuchim in the Talmud, Taanit 29b and Shabbat 88a as etrogim (not apples as we know them today) whose fruit precedes its leaves. The etrog, hadar is unique as the fruit remains (dar) on the tree from year to year.

The Targum on Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) 2:3 translates tapuach as etrog. Later, in 2:5 it is translated as k’tapuchei gunata d’Eden, the tapuach of the Garden of Eden (not ordinary apples). Further, in 7:9 the unique smell of the fruit is specifically singled out.

In Breisheet (3:6), we read about the forbidden fruit: “The woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was tempting to the eyes and that the tree was desireable (nechmad)…”

According to Ramban, Vayikra 23:40, etrog, pri etz hadar which is called “nechmad”, desireable is from the same root as chamudot, coveted.

Since the garments were “chamudot”, there is a good chance that they smelled like the coveted fruit.

The ertog has a very strong smell and the miracle of the garments which came from the Garden of Eden was that the fragrance remained for so many years. Even Esav, the hunter smelled good when he wore them.

Why Giving Tuesday is more important than Black Friday Print E-mail
Thursday, 16 November 2017

Sponsored by Stanley and Marc Futterman in memory of

Stephanie Futterman z”l


Why Giving Tuesday is more important than Black Friday

In Parshat Toldot, Yitzchak blesses Yaakov with the following words (Breisheet 27:28):

And may God give you of the dew (tal) of heaven and of the fatness (riches) of the land, and abundance of grain (dagan) and wine (tirosh).

According to Rashi, the blessing is that God will keep giving over and over again.

Ramban adds that God’s gifts will be steady without interruption.

Rabbi Aharon Greenberg in his book “Iturei Torah” points out that some new possessions make you happy for a day or two. When you get used to those possessions, you begin looking to acquire more things. Yitzchak’s gift to Yaakov is that he will be satisfied as his success will continue to grow every day.

Rabbi Zalman Sarotzkin in his work “Oznaim LaTorah” teaches that grain (bread) is a staple that everyone needs while wine is a luxury. Yitzchak is hinting in his blessing that at a time where there is plenty of bread for both the rich and the poor and nobody is hungry then wine is permitted for the wealthy to drink. However, when there is a shortage of bread, the wealthy should not drink wine even if they can afford it. Rather, they should give the money that they would have spent on wine to the poor so that they too can have bread.

As we gear up for Thanksgiving, we must take a moment to be thankful for the bread on our plates and the luxury to drink wine if we so desire. We should appreciate what we have and not get carried away by the shopping season that follows beginning on Black Friday. Instead of buying more things that we may not need, we should first consider helping those who are really in need. For that reason, #GivingTuesday was established to ensure that we do not forget about those who are less fortunate. Giving Tuesday, the day after Cyber Monday is a global day of giving which kicks off the end of the calendar year charity season.

May we continue to be blessed with Yitzchak’s blessing each and every day. 

The True Heroes Print E-mail
Tuesday, 06 December 2016

I grew up in the North Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York in the 1970s. As there were no Modern Orthodox synagogues near my home at that time, we used to take a long walk along the Henry Hudson Parkway every Shabbat morning until we finally reached the Riverdale Jewish Center. Along the way, we passed many different churches and synagogues of every denomination.

As a young child, while studying about Rivka’s pregnancy in Parsha Toldot, I imagined Rivka walking through Riverdale and being pulled in all different directions as it says in Breisheet 25:22 “The children were running (vayitrotzetzu) inside of her.” Rashi’s comment, quoting from Breisheet Raba 63:6 always reminded me of my own neighborhood which was dotted with churches and synagogues: “When she would pass the doorways of Torah study of Shem and Ever, Yaakov would agitate and rush to come out. When she would pass doorways of other houses of worship, Eisav would agitate to come out.”

Another place that we would pass along the highway was the Riverdale fire station which I finally was able to visit on an elementary school trip. Although different from the houses of worship, it too is a holy place with firefighters dedicated to saving lives who put their lives at risk on September 11, 2001 and every day.

Today, for the first time, I had the honor to meet Jerusalem’s firefighters while distributing cards and gift baskets at the Jerusalem fire station which is hidden on the edge of the Givat Mordechai neighborhood. It was amazing to meet the men and women who are on call 24 hours a day, the heroes who fought the fires last week in the cities surrounding Jerusalem.

The firefighters were touched that people from the United States and Israel were thinking of them during these difficult times sending gifts and cards. They were also appreciative of the firefighters who came from abroad (including from the United States) to help out, staying until the heavy rains began to fall.

What surprised me was that aside from the usual fire trucks and fire house that you find in a regular fire station, although they did not have a fire pole or a Dalmation, they had a synagogue on the premises including a women’s section.  

How fortunate we are to have firefighters in Israel and abroad who deserve our love and appreciation every day of the year.

Rivka’s Prophecies Print E-mail
Thursday, 12 November 2015

Rivka is a very confident woman. In Parshat Chayei Sarah, we see her confidence when giving water to a stranger and his ten camels, inviting him and his camels to stay over at her family’s home, following him to meet Yitzchak and knowing right away that Yitzchak is “the one” for her. In Parshat Toldot, she is confident in telling Yaakov to deceive his father and take Esav’s blessing as well as when she tells Yitzchak that Yaakov must find a wife in Padan Aram (where her family lives).


Rivka’s confidence came from the fact that she was a prophetess.


For twenty years Rivka was unable to conceive. She is finally expecting and is having a very difficult pregnancy but doesn’t understand why. In Breisheet 25:22 “She went to inquire (lidrosh) of God”. According to Ramban, “lidrosh” is used in the context of prayer. She went to pray to God. His answer is in sentence 23: “God said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb and two Kingdoms will separate from within you. One government will be mightier than the other but the greater one will serve the smaller one.’”


This is clearly a prophecy of what is yet to come.


When Rivka sees that Esav chooses the dangerous profession of a hunter and marries Cnaanite women who are a source of spiritual bitterness (26:35) she knows that the prophecy is being fulfilled and that Esav is not destined be the inheritor of the Land of Israel or the father of the Jewish nation. Esav, the older son is destined to serve Yaakov, the younger son.


Rivka is confident in carrying out her plan to make sure that Yaakov receives the blessing of the firstborn even if deception has to be used. Rivka tells Yaakov three times (27:8, 13, 43) to listen to her voice (Shma bikoli). Rashi comments that when God told Avraham to listen to Sarah’s voice, he was referring to the voice of prophecy as Sarah was on a higher level of prophecy than Avraham. It is clear from here as well that Rivka was working from a prophecy that Yitzchak had not been exposed to.


Midrash Tanchuma, Toldot 8 states that when Esav married Cnaanite women, Yitzchak no longer received prophecy as he grew up in a pure home and never confronted idol worship before.  Rivka however continued to receive prophecy (as she was raised in a home of idol worship so it had no effect on her).


After Esav found out that Yaakov tricked his father and took his blessing we read: 27:41-42: “Esav hated Yaakov because of the blessing with which his father blessed him. Esav said in his heart, ‘The mourning days for my father are approaching. I will then kill my brother Yaakov.’ Rivka was informed about these words of Esav, her oldest son and she sent a messenger to call Yaakov, her younger son and she said to him: ‘Behold, your brother Esav is consoled through you for he intends to kill you.’”


Breisheet Rabba explains that through prophecy (Ruach HaKodesh) Rivka was informed of what Esav said in his heart. How else could she possibly know what he said in his heart?


According to Breisheet Rabba, all of the Imahot (foremothers) were prophetesses.


Rivka was driven by her prophecies and was therefore confident with her actions even when they seemed out of the ordinary. She tried to shelter Yitzchak as much as possible from Esav’s wickedness. While she told Yaakov: 27:43: “Now my son, listen to me. Get up and flee to Lavan, my brother, to Charan”, all she tells Yitzchak is “I am disgusted with my life because of the daughters of Chet. If Yaakov marries a woman of Chet like these, from the daughters of the land, what is life worth to me”, in other words Yaakov needs to leave town because he needs to find a wife in Padan Aram. She doesn’t have the heart to tell Yitzchak that Esav plans to kill Yaakov and therefore he needs to run away.


Rivka did not gloat to Yitzchak about the prophecies that she received. She actually kept them a secret from him. She learned from her prophecies and from her life experience what needed to be done in order to insure proper continuity. Yitzchak had never been exposed to the cruel outside world that Rivka came from and she did her best to keep him as sheltered from it as much as possible.


May we all have the confidence that Rivka had to do what we know is right.

Never underestimate the power of jealousy and the power of envy to destroy. Never underestimate that Print E-mail
Thursday, 20 November 2014

In Parshat Toldot, Breisheet 26:13-15 we read: “The man (Yitzchak) prospered. He continued to prosper until he became very great. He owned flocks of sheep, herds of cattle and many enterprises and the Plishtim were jealous of him. All the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of his father, Avraham- the Plishtim plugged them and filled them with earth.”

According to Sforno, the Plishtim were jealous of Yitzchak since they planted a lot yet they had very few crops that actually grew while Yitzchak only planted a little bit yet he grew many crops.

Chizkuni points out that the Philistines plugged up the wells because they didn’t want Yitzchak to have a stronghold on the land.

The issues that Yitzchak had are still relevant for us today.

When the Jewish people returned to the Land of Israel, they made the desert bloom. No other nation was ever capable of that.

The fact that the Jewish people were able to reinvigorate the land has brought about jealousy. This jealousy has led to the damage of the property as well as the loss of lives of innocent people.

We still have residents of Israel who don’t like the idea of the Jews having a stronghold on the land and will do everything in their power to try to get us out.

Just as Yitzchak was simply trying to live in peace and make a living, so are most Israelis.

The time has come to put jealousy aside and work together to make a better future for all of Israel’s citizens.

Every Child Deserves to be Blessed Print E-mail
Friday, 01 November 2013

Both Yitzchak and Rivka were aware that Esav was not the perfect son. We see this in Parshat Toldot, Breisheet 26:34-35: “Esav was forty years old when he married Yehudit, the daughter of Be’eri the Chitite and Bosmat the daughter of Eylon the Chitite. They were a source of spiritual bitterness to Yitzchak and Rivka.”


What was so bad about these wives that caused Yitzchak and Rivka so much distress?


The Chitim were one of the seven nations that the forefathers specifically asked their children not to marry.


Breisheet Raba 65:4 explains that these women were idol worshippers.


Radak states that Esav specifically married these women in order to aggravate his parents.


If that is the case, then why did Yitzchak want to bless Esav?


Both Radak and Or HaChayim believe that Yitzchak did in fact see Esav’s faults, yet he was hoping that giving Esav a blessing may help improve his behavior.


Did Yitzchak’s blessing help influence Esav to become a better person?


We do see Esav making a slight effort to please his parents in Chapter 28:8-9: “Esav realized that the daughters of Cnaan were evil in the eyes of his father. Esav then went to Yishmael and took Mochlat the daughter of Yishmael, the son of Avraham and sister of Nevayot in addition to his other wives for a wife.”


It looks from here that Esav did take notice that Yitzchak told Yaakov not to marry the Cananite women.


According to Chizkuni, Esav thought that the reason that his father did not bless him with the inheritance of the Land of Israel was because he married the Cananite wives. Esav was hoping that if he would marry Yishmael’s daughter then maybe he would be worthy of inheriting the Land of Israel.


Marrying Yishmael’s daughter was a step up from marrying the Canaanite wives yet he remained married to his first wives as it says “in addition to his other wives”. Rashi points out that Esav did not divorce his first wives.


It is hard to imagine that a child who strayed off of the path will come back. However we must continue to bless all of our children.


Even Esav who seemed so far gone still said to his father in 27:32: “Bless me too, my father.”


In the end, Esav did not inherit the Land of Israel. However he did receive the blessing in 27:40: “…When you have cause to be grieved, you will throw off your brother’s yoke from your neck.”


According to Rashi, if the Israelites transgress the Torah and are undeserving of dominion, then Esav will have a right to be aggrieved that Yaakov has taken the blessing and then Esav may cast off Yaakov’s yolk from his neck. This is the fulfillment of Rivka’s prophecy from when she was expecting the twins: the two sons would not be able to coexist, when one ascended, the other would decline.


Yitzchak’s blessing for Esav was fulfilled. The Romans are descendents of Esav and there are countless times in history that they ruled over the Jewish people.


We learn from here that we can never give our children too many blessings and there is no reason to exclude any of our children from being blessed.

Make Sure That You Like Your Future Brother in Law Print E-mail
Friday, 05 November 2010

At the end of Parshat Toldot, Breisheet 28:5 we read: “And Yitzchak sent away Yaakov: and he went to Padan Aram to Lavan, son of Betuel the Aramian, the brother of Rivka, mother of Yaakov and Esav”.


Why does the Torah which does not waste words have to mention that Rivka was the mother of Yaakov and Esav? The entire Parsha talks about Rivka from her pregnancy with the twins, their childhood, their personalities and their fight for Yitzchak to bless them.


Rashi has so much difficulty with this pasuk that he actually says “I don’t know what this is here to teach us”.


The Riyva, Yehuda Ben Eliezer, a commentary on Rashi, suggests that the Torah wished to explain how it was that Yitzchak and Rivka came to have Esav, a wicked son. The text therefore mentioned that Rivka had some unsavory kinsmen.


Chizkuni points out that in the Gemara in Baba Batra110a it says that most children turn out to be similar to their mother’s brother. A woman’s brother is the male product of the upbringing that she received from her parents and therefore she is most likely to pass on some of those values to her own children. Chizkuni concludes that it is not unusual for Esav to be similar to Lavan.


The Gemara continues saying that one who seeks to marry a woman should first examine the character of her brothers.

Is Lentil Soup Really Red? Print E-mail
Thursday, 27 November 2008



Is Lentil Soup Really Red?


In Parshat Toldot, Breisheet 25:30, Esav tells Yaakov “Haliteni na min ha’adom ha’adom hazeh ki ayef anochi”, “Give me “na” a swallow of this red stuff since I am exhausted”.


Rashi says that the red stuff is soup made of red lentils.


Anyone familiar with lentil soup knows that red lentils are no longer red once they are cooked (rather they turn brown).


Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu Leib points out that in the book Mar Kashisha written by Baal Chut Yair, the word “na” refers to raw. Just as we are told that we are not allowed to eat the Korban Pesach (Lamb) raw (Shmot 12:9) “al tochlu mimenu na”, Esav says “na” in order to tell Yaakov that he will eat the soup even though it is still red (raw/not fully cooked). 


How do we know that when Esav says “na” he is not being mannerly and saying “Please give me...?”


In 27:31, Esav says to Yitzchak his father: “Let my father rise up and eat of his son’s trapping”- no please mentioned there! While in 27:19 Yaakov says to Yitzchak “Rise if you please “na”, sit up and eat of my trapping so that your soul will bless me.”


If Esav didn’t say please to his father it would not make sense for him to say please to his brother (and honor and respect him more than his father).


W learn from here that Esav was so hungry and had such a desire for Yaakov’s cooking that he was willing to eat his soup raw and sell his birthright down the river without a thought as it says in 28:34: “Esav ate and drank, got up and left and Esav scorned the birthright”.



Torat Reva Yerushalayim is proud to give you the opportunity to have a learned person recite Psalms on your behalf on a weekly basis at the Kotel (Western Wall).

Jacob, our Forefather calls Jerusalem “The gate of heaven”. According to Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan z”l, “Just as things can go in through a gate, so can they emerge. Thus, all spiritual sustenance and blessing come only through Jerusalem , as it is written, ‘God will bless you from Zion ’ (Psalms 128:5). It is taught in the Zohar that God first sends a blessing to Jerusalem , and from there it flows to the entire world. Today, when the Temple no longer stands, the source of this blessing is the Western Wall.”

Tehillim (Psalms) at the Western Wall can be recited on your behalf for the following:

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  • Repentance
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With your monthly donation of $18 or more (or yearly donation of $180 or more) to Torat Reva Yerushalayim, you will be performing the important mitzvah of contributing toward the Torah education of the forgotten population of senior citizens in Jerusalem, while having your prayers recited by a learned person at the footsteps of Judaism’s holiest site.

Your contribution can be made by mailing a check to Torat Reva Yerushalayim,

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Too Close for Comfort Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 November 2007

After trying to conceive for twenty years, in Parshat Toldot, Rivka finally became pregnant.

Rivka’s pregnancy was different from the pregnancies of the other matriarchs. In the cases of Sara, Rachel and Leah who were all barren, once they were able to conceive we don’t hear any details of their pregnancies. Each time the Torah simply states “vatahar vateled”, “she conceived and gave birth”.

Unlike the pregnancies of the other matriarchs, we have details about Rivka’s pregnancy.

Parshat Toldot 25:22 states: “vayitrotzetzu habanim bekirba”, “the children were running inside of her”. Breishit Raba 63:6 explains that when she would pass the doorways where Torah was being studied in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever, Yaakov would run and try to come out. When she would pass the doorways of idol worshipers, Esav would run and try to come out.

The Gemara in Nida 30b explains that the months in the womb are the best months of a person’s life. The unborn child learns the entire Torah from a malach (angel) while in the womb. HaRav Bunim of Peshischa asks: Why then was Yaakov in such a rush to come out? HaRav Bunim answers that it was very difficult for Yaakov who was destined to be a Tzadik (righteous person) to be stuck in such close quarters with Esav. In order to get away from Esav he was willing to give up the opportunity to study Torah with the malach.

The Chatam Sofer was very strict on making sure that his children would study with good friends. Yaakov felt that even Torah study from a malach would be dangerous if he had to be with Esav.

We can learn from here the importance of surrounding ourselves with good friends and influences in school, synagogue or our place of business while taking care to stay away from those who may be bad influences.




The True Blessing Is The Land of Israel Print E-mail
Wednesday, 22 November 2006

In Parshat Toldot, Yaakov followed his mother Rivka's advice and dressed up like his brother Esav. The reason why Yaakov went to all of this trouble was to ensure that he would receive the first and best blessing.

In reality, the true blessing was not the first blessing which was given when Yitzchak was being deceived. The true blessing was in fact the third blessing which Yitzchak gave to Yaakov knowing full well who he was blessing. The third blessing is found in Breisheet 28: 3-4: "May God bless you, make you fruitful and multiply you. May you become an assembly of peoples. May He give you the blessing of Avraham, to you and your descendants with you that you may inherit the land of your dwelling that God gave to Avraham".

According to Rashi, the blessing of Avraham refers to the brachot of "I will make you a great nation" and "Through your children all of the nations of the world will be blessed".

Radak points out that Yitzchak was making it clear to Yaakov that he (not Esav) is the special offspring who will be the inheritor. Yitzchak himself was Avraham's special offspring and inheritor (even though Avraham had other children as well).

Sforno adds that when the offspring are righteous, they will be worthy of inheriting the land of Israel. They will be a .Kiddush HaShem", sanctification of God's name as opposed to a Chilul HaShem, desecration of God's name.

It is our mission to fulfill this blessing by accepting the land of Israel as our inheritance. In order to hold on to the land of Israel, the Jewish people in Israel and abroad must serve as an "Or Lagoyim", a light to the nations, a true sanctification of God's name.

Making the Desert Bloom Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 December 2005


In Parshat Toldot, Breisheet 26:13-15,19-20 we read "And the man (Yitzchack) grew great and went forward and grew until he became very great: for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great store of servants: and the Plishtim envied him. For all of the wells which his father's servants had dug in the day of Avraham his father, the Plishtim had stopped them up and filled them with earth.And Yitzchack's servants dug in the valley (nachal) and found there a well of springing water (be'er mayim chayim). And the herd men of Gerar did strive with Yitzchack's herd men saying .the water is ours'."

Radak asks why the jealous Philistines stopped up the wells. Why didn't they just keep the wells so that they would have water for themselves? Radak's answer is that they were worried that Yitzchak would become too powerful and that he would try to take the wells back. They would rather have no water at all than give Yitzchack the satisfaction of being able to take back the wells in the future.

Only Yitzchack's servants were able to dig in the nachal (valley with no water) and produce a well of springing water yet the Philistines were quick to claim that the water was theirs.

We have seen this phenomenon over and over again throughout the millennia. When the Jewish people lived in Israel, they made the desert bloom and when they didn't, it was a wasteland.

In 1867, Mark Twin visited the Land of Israel. His reactions are described in his famous book, Innocents Abroad.

"Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are un-picturesque in shape. The valleys are unsightly deserts fringed with a feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being sorrowful and despondent. The Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee sleep in the midst of a vast stretch of hill and plain wherein the eye rests upon no pleasant tint, no striking object, no soft picture dreaming in a purple haze. It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land.

Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies.

Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why should it be otherwise? Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land?

Palestine is no more of this work-day world. It is sacred to poetry and tradition--it is dream-land."

If only Mark Twain could have seen Israel today!