“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu




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בס"ד

B PARASHAT HASHAVUA B

PARASHA :TOLDOT

Date :2 Kislev 5762 17/11/2001

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (Editor: Arieh Yarden)

Dedicated to the loving memory of Avi Mori

Moshe Reuven ben Yaakov z”l

Please respect the Holiness of these pages

These pages are also sent out weekly via the internet in MS Word format. Anyone interested in receiving them, please feel feee to contact me at the following email address: yarden@seliyahu.org.il - Arieh.

HhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhH

1 - SHABBAT B’SHABBATO (Tzomet)

Extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel

FOLLOWING THE LEAD OF THE FOREFATHERS

by Rabbi Shai Finkelstein, Head of Kollel Torah MiTzion, Memphis, TN

The detailed descriptions of the wells that Yitzchak dug and the names he gave them raise two questions: (1) Why are all the details and the names important? (2) Why did Yitzchak return to Avraham's wells?

According to the Ramban (see 26:20), the digging of the wells is a harbinger of the future, predicting that Yitzchak's offspring would construct wells of fresh water, the holy Temples. Each well symbolizes a Temple. The first is "Eisek," controversy, linked to the destruction of the first Temple, which was caused by the "controversy" and wars of Bnei Yisrael. The second was named "Sitna," hate, a hint of the hateful message written about Bnei Yisrael. "In the kingdom of Achashverosh... words of hate were written about the inhabitants of Yehuda and Jerusalem" [Ezra 4:6]. The third well, "Rechovot," expansion, was named with the expectation of how the third Temple will be built.

This commentary answers the first question we asked above but not the second one. Why did Yitzchak return to the sites of Avraham's wells? In addition, it leads to another question. Why was Yitzchak given the privilege that his actions symbolize the three Temples more than the other forefathers?

The answer to these questions can be seen from a deeper insight into Yitzchak's personality. At the beginning of this week's Torah portion, he is defined as a copy of Avraham, as is written, "Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak" [Bereishit 25:19] (see Rashi). Yitzchak had two important traits. First was self sacrifice, which he inherited from Avraham, as can be seen when they both went together to the "Akeida," ready for the ultimate sacrifice. The second was passivity. Yitzchak's mission was to reinforce the tradition he received. And this second trait explains why he returned to the wells that Avraham had originally dug.

These two characteristics, which were passed on to Yitzchak's descendents, imply that nothing in the world has the power to disrupt the bond between Bnei Yisrael and their G-d. It is written in the Talmud that Yitzchak will defend the nation by saying, "I was willing to sacrifice my soul to you" [Shabbat 89a]. The Maharal explains that this is an expression of Yitzchak's strength, an example of an unbreakable attachment to the Almighty.

This then provides the answer to the questions we asked. Yitzchak reopens the wells that Avraham dug because of his character, to reinforce the past and pass it on to future generations. This action symbolizes the Temples, which are the roots of the attachment to G-d. And even though they have been destroyed, their holiness remains, because of the willingness to sacrifice that we inherited from Yitzchak.

Let us hope and pray for a speedy fulfillment of the verse linked to the name Rechovot, "For now G-d has given us space, and we can expand within the land" [Bereishit 26:22].

COMMENTARY ON PRAYERS: Separating the Sexes

by Rabbi Uri Dasberg

The "mechitza" that separates men from women is one of the main fixtures in every synagogue today. Show me your dividing wall and I can tell you in what sector of Judaism you pray. The minimum size of a mechitza is the subject of a disagreement between two prominent rabbis of the previous generation. The Rabbi of Satmer felt that the purpose of the divider is to completely hide the sight of women from the men, while Rabbi Moshe Feinstein felt that it is sufficient just to keep the two sexes separate.

The Talmudic source for making a separation is in the "great modification" that was made to the Temple at the time of the celebration of "Beit Hasho'eiva" (Succah 51a). The women sat high on a gallery, above the men. Rashi explains, "the women would stand there... and look." This explains Rabbi Feinstein's approach.

It is interesting to note that this change was made to the Temple area only for the special celebration but not during the rest of the year. This is not because women did not come to the Temple the rest of the year. Quite the contrary, they may even have outnumbered the men, in view of the fact that every women was required to bring a sacrifice after giving birth or seeing an impure flow.

It seems that at a time when extra sincerity is needed, we should learn from Yitzchak and Rivka. When they prayed to G-d to have a child, Yitzchak stood in one corner of the room and Rivka stood in another one. In modern times too, the prayers take a relatively long time. This has transformed the synagogue into a place of gathering and meeting (in the positive sense of the word), such that every meeting takes on aspects of the Beit Hasho'eiva celebration of old. In order to subdue the social aspects and make it possible to concentrate on praying to the Almighty, it has become necessary to expand and institutionalize the rules of the mechitza.

POINT OF VIEW: Are Parents Responsible?

by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen

"Behold, there were twins in her womb... And the boys grew up, and Esav was a hunter, a man of the field, while Yaacov was a complete man, who remained in the tent. And Yitzchak loved Esav... while Rivka loved Yaacov." [Bereishit 25:24-28].

We will first turn to the Ha'amek Davar, by the Natziv, from the end of last week's Torah portion. "'And she took the veil and covered herself [24:65].' This was because of mixed feelings of fear and shame... And from that moment on, her heart felt fear, and she did not act towards Yitzchak like Sarah did with Avraham or like Rachel with Yaacov... All of this is an introduction to what will be told in the portion of Toldot about the difference of opinion between Yitzchak and Rivka." It is hard not to ask an obvious question: If communication between Yitzchak and Rivka had been better, would their children Yaacov and Esav have been different? Would this have reduced the tension between the two brothers? Would history have been different?

As far as I am concerned, the Torah's answer to this question is in the negative. The eternal controversy between Esav and Yaacov stems from their different natures. A hunter as opposed to a complete man, and a man of the field as opposed to one who remains in the tent. This was also seen in the physical differences, a "hairy man" versus a "smooth man" [27:11]. The differences between them stem from the womb ("they will separate from within you" [25:23]), and are not a result of faulty education or a lack of harmony between their parents. The Torah emphasizes that they were "twins" - they were the same but at the same time very different from each other.

There will probably be educators who will point their fingers at the verse quoted above, "Yitzchak loved Esav... while Rivka loved Yaacov," as an indication of preferring a mother's love to a father's emotions. But is the purpose of this verse really to teach us which of the two parents was more sensitive to the children's behavior, the mother in the kitchen ("I will make them into tasty food" [27:9]) or the father in the field ("we have found water" [26:32])? I seriously doubt this.

It seems to me that the intent of this week's portion is not to highlight the difference between "your father's tradition" and "your mother's teachings" [Mishlei 1:8]. As far as I am concerned, the central educational theme of the portion is the free will of the two boys. In spite of their closeness at birth, they reach different ends of the spectrum, but not because of the influence of their parents. In my opinion, the verse, "Yitzchak loved Esav... while Rivka loved Yaacov," which shows the different approaches of the parents, is related to the similarity between the boys and not to their differences or disputes. The underlying theme of the Torah portion is Yaacov versus Esav and not Yitzchak versus Rivka.

There is a lesson to be learned for modern times. Unfortunately, some families among us suffer from the fact that (some of) their children have turned away from our traditions. This can also happen to parents who have given all their children identical education, the same treatment, and identical surroundings. Unfortunately, there are cases when in spite of this the parents suddenly find that their hopes have been shattered. One child develops into a "hunter," while another remains a "complete man." One who is "smooth" may turn into a "hairy" person, and a man of the field may use his guile to trap others.

Many such parents suffer with the question, "Where did we go wrong?" This sometimes leads to self accusations and unnecessary incriminations. "Could we have been too harsh in this, were we too lax somewhere else? What a pity that we didn't send our son to a different school! Could we have helped our daughter find more appropriate friends?"

This week's portion argues against such torment and offers a degree of consolation. The parents are not always at fault! Education has a large effect, as does the surroundings, together with personal example, not to mention the role of prayer. However, on the other hand, much of the end result is caused by "the inclination of the heart" [Bereishit 8:21], the availability of free will, and many external temptations. And above all is the strong effect of luck and chance, irrational and unforeseen forces that the parents cannot control in any way.

All of this refers to a situation after the fact, as a small consolation if a child has abandoned our traditions. It goes without saying that in advance, while the children are growing up, the parents have a duty to bless them profusely and give them proper education, and not to say that education has no role to play. There is a developing theory of "education" based on an approach that "we should not interfere with the children's development." According to this, the role of the parents is simply to build an open school, and to let the children then make all their own decisions. This is certainly not a good approach. If we accept this, modern liberalism and freedom will have made their way into family life, and from there the path is very short to the era before the Mashiach, when "a son casts aspersions on a father, and a daughter rises up against her mother" (see Sotah 49b).

ABOUT AND BY THE COMMENTATORS: Loving the Land and its Mitzvot

by Rabbi Amnon Bazak

Rabbi Ashtori Haparchi was one of the most prominent lovers of Eretz Yisrael, but in spite of this he does not consider settling the land as one of the mitzvot (as opposed to the well known approach of the Ramban). This is because he does not count as mitzvot commands given to the forefathers. He uses this principle to explain why the Rambam does not consider calling Avraham by his former name Avram a sin (see Berachot 13a). He adds, "if it were so (that is, if a command to the forefathers were to be considered a mitzva), settling the land would indeed be a mitzva, as is written, 'live in the land where I will tell you' [Bereishit 26:2]" [Kaftor Vaferach, chapter 42].

Rabbi Ashtori Haparchi (approximately 1280-1355) was born in Province, where he studied not only Torah but also medicine and science. He moved to Eretz Yisrael and settled in Beit She'an, where he worked as a doctor. He studied various matters based on his travels around the land. His book, Kaftor Vaferach, discusses such subjects as the borders of the land, laws of the land, and other related topics. Many other authors, both early and later sages, referred to this basic book, since it is the only one written during the era of the early sages that discusses Eretz Yisrael and its mitzvot.

Rabbi Haparchi fled Province on 6 Av 5066 (22 August 1306), when the Jews of France were expelled. He writes that this is symbolized by the words "av hatum'a" (the highest level of impurity), where "av" is the month and the numerical value of "hatum'a" is the year, 66. As another sign, he quotes the verse, "They went without strength" [Eichah 1:6]. That is, "we went on Friday the year 'yeilechu' (a numerical value of 66)... Let G-d return us quickly to His holy kingdom, where the exiles of Yisrael will be gathered." [Kaftor Vaferach, chapter 51].

TORAH AND GOVERNMENT: The Authority of the King

by Rabbi Yosef Carmel, Eretz Chemdah Institute

In last week's article, we ended by asking what is the source for Shmuel's harsh "rules of a kingdom." In Amud Yemini (1:9), Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli suggests two possibilities:

(1) Shmuel had a tradition ("halacha given to Moshe at Sinai") - This would mean that there is no possibility of either broadening or limiting the powers, since they were divinely set. (2) The rules are to be negotiated between the king and his subjects or their representatives (such as the Sanhedrin). For example, this is what happened during the time of Rechavam.

Rabbi Yisraeli refuses as an axiom to accept the suggestion that Shmuel gave his rules as prophesy, telling us G-d's will for all time. This is because we have an "iron-clad principle" that "a prophet cannot make any new laws."

The difference between the two suggestions is relevant "for our time, with respect to the authority of the elected government... If we say that the authority of the king is absolute and fixed, all we must do is determine what power the king had in ancient times. And this will define the authority of the government. However, if everything depends on acceptance by the people, the powers of government will also depend on decisions by the people or their duly elected representatives. And anything the people decide, whether in financial or personal matters, will be binding and will have the authority of the Torah."

It should be noted that Rabbi Yisraeli feels that the nation has the power to give the king extended rights, and it is therefore clear that with the agreement of the people the authority can be expanded, according to their desires. However, the king's authority cannot be curtailed without his consent. In future articles, we will deal with the question of whether the people can abrogate the agreement and remove the king's authority, thus in effect deposing him. In addition, we will try to understand why the term "as all the other nations," which usually has a negative connotation in the Torah, is an integral part of the nation's request, both in the Torah (Devarim 17:14) and during the time of Shmuel (I Shmuel 8:5).

NOTES ON THE DAILY "DAF": Perspective and "Peruta"

by Rabbi Yehuda Shaviv

The Correct Perspective

"One is permitted to swear to murderers, bandits, and tax collectors that his grain is Teruma" [Bava Kama 113a]. That is, "travelers on the road who have with them... grain, who have met murderers or bandits who want to take the grain... are permitted to swear that it is Teruma... even though this is not true" [Meiri, Beit Habechira]. It is not easy to understand these murderers and bandits - they are not inhibited by murder and theft, but if they are told that grain is Teruma and therefore holy, they will not take it! This is an example of the verse, "the heart is as deceitful as possible, who can understand it?" [Yirmiyahu 17:10].

The Importance of a "Peruta"

The last Mishna of Bava Kama seems at first glance to be related to small and insignificant items. "Fibers found by the one who washes the wool belong to him, while what is found by one who combs the wool belongs to the owner. The one who washes it can take three threads, and they belong to him. Anything more than that belongs to the owner." [Bava Kama 119a]. These seemingly unimportant laws are brought here in order to emphasize the principle that the law treats a small sum just as seriously as a large one. A few threads are just as important in the halacha as a large sum of money.

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