Parshas Toldos 5783
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Studying The Story
The story of the episode when Eisav transferred the bechorah to Yaakov is exceptional. If you look elsewhere in the Torah you see that so many pratim, so many details, are usually not given. Large portions of the lives of great men are not related to us at all. Avrohom’s first seventy years, we know nothing about them. Of Moshe Rabeinu’s first eighty years we know nothing. And here the Torah gives details and more details. And therefore we understand that we are expected to derive important information from the story here – stories in the Torah are not told to entertain us; they’re told to teach us.
Now I am not the one who is capable of discovering the lessons. I’m sure there is a great deal that can be said on this subject; I imagine that entire chiburim could be composed on the transaction between the two brothers. I’m not the one to take on that big job, but right now we are going to talk about one detail of the story that is a chibur in itself.
First an introduction. The Chachomim say (Bava Basra 16b) that חָמֵשׁ עֲבֵרוֹת עָבַר עֵשָׂו הָרָשָׁע בְּאוֹתוֹ יוֹם, on that day that Eisav sold the birthright he committed five sins. The Gemara there enumerates five serious transgressions that we blame Eisav for – that’s how he received that unfortunate title of Eisav HaRasha.
As an example, בָּא עַל נַעֲרָה הַמְּאֹרָסָה, Eisav committed adultery with somebody who was already mekudeshes. מְּאֹרָסָה means she has accepted kiddushin from another man, which means she is an eishes ish. The Torah law of a na’arah hameurasah is that both she and the adulterer deserve sekilah, and so that certainly is a serious accusation made against Eisav.
Now Tosfos there asks a kasha on this accusation: “How could that be?” he says. “There’s no such thing as kiddushin before Matan Torah. Before the Torah was given a man didn’t acquire a wife by a transaction, what we call a kinyan. Before Matan Torah a marriage could only happen if he took her as his wife and they were together as man and wife. That made her his wife. But na’arah meurasah means that there was nothing but an act of kiddushin – which meant nothing in those days. So what do you mean to say that Eisav committed adultery with a na’arah meurasah? It’s impossible. That’s Tosfos’s kasha.
Upsetting The Stoliners
Now Tosfos is not interested in looking for zechuyos to defend Eisav, but what could he do? He’s trying to understand the plain peirush of the words of our Sages and he knows that there’s no such thing as eirusin by Ben Noach. And therefore Tosfos explains that it wasn’t actually a na’arah hameurasah. It was a woman who had promised her troth to another man. She had given her word that she would go to marry another man. And then Eisav went ahead and he married her.
Imagine a boy from Lakewood met a girl who had already promised to marry a fellow, let’s say, from Stolin. And he sees that she’s a fine girl, a good catch, and so he tells her “Stolin?! Marry me and you’ll be in Lakewood!” So she consented. She reconsidered and decided that Lakewood is where she wants to be and she marries the Lakewooder.
Would anybody say he was בָּא עַל נַעֲרָה הַמְּאֹרָסָה? Her commitment to the Stoliner was nothing! There was no kiddushin, nothing at all. Maybe it wasn’t ethical to dissuade her from marrying the man she had committed to but that’s all it is. It could be the Stoliner Rebbe would have a taynah, but it’s fair competition. After all, he didn’t force her. She consented to give up the first one and take the second one. And so there’s absolutely nothing at all resembling a sin of adultery. And yet for that same thing, Eisav is blamed.
The Righteous Murderer
Another example of Eisav’s sins. Number two on the list is הָרַג אֶת הַנֶּפֶשׁ. Eisav murdered somebody. But whom did Eisav kill? The Chachomim tell us that Eisav slew Nimrod. Nimrod! Nimrod had attempted to destroy Avrohom Avinu, Eisav’s grandfather. Nimrod was a real rasha, the one who caused the world to get up in rebellion against Hakodosh Boruch Hu. So it was a mitzvah to get rid of him. וּבִעַרְתָּ הָרָע מִקִּרְבֶּךָ. We’re obligated to rid the world of wickedness.
If somebody had killed Hitler and he had come let’s say subsequently to America, he would receive an ovation. He would have received the Presidential Medal of Honor. That’s not important today – today they’ll give that award to every low fellow, to terrorists, but in the olden days you had to deserve an award like that. And he would have received a ticker-tape parade too. Thousands of people would line the streets to celebrate the death of Hitler. Not only from the masses in the street would this ‘murderer’ gain recognition. I’m sure all the rabbonim and all the roshei yeshivah would honor him for killing Hitler. A mitzvah raboh!
I remember when General Pershing came back. When Pershing came back from France after World War I, they showered him with flowers. They were so happy they didn’t know what to do for him. And some of you younger fellows maybe remember Eisenhower when he returned after World War II. People went wild over him!
And so we are blaming Eisav for bloodshed, but actually he deserves medals. In our society Eisav would have gone down Broadway in an open limousine and he would have been showered with flowers for killing Nimrod, and here, poor Eisav, his reputation is blackened: הָרַג אֶת הַנֶּפֶשׁ, as if he did some sin.
The Righteous Judge
But the answer is this: Hakodosh Boruch Hu judges a man by his motives. If Eisav had killed Nimrod purely out of the honor of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, that’s one thing. But Eisav, when he was doing it, he was getting some satisfaction out of the act. He gained pleasure from bloodshed, and that’s how Hakodosh Boruch Hu judged him.
Now to us, nowadays, who would stop to examine the motives? Let’s say some mean fellow, even a convicted murderer would have sneaked into Germany and would have killed Hitler, we would forget all of his past. And if he did it because of a blood lust, so what? We would forgive everything!
But that’s because we don’t examine motives. But when it comes to great people, when it comes to a son of Yitzchok and Rivkah much more is expected and Hashem does examine. For a son of other parents there would have been nothing to criticize. But for a son of such great people, nevi’im, everything is expected and therefore Hakodosh Boruch Hu expected of Eisav very great perfection. And therefore, when Eisav is judged, it’s only on the basis of his thoughts, not because of his acts. And the things that Eisav is criticized for, we wouldn’t have found fault in him.
Like it states elsewhere about certain kings, וַיַּעַשׂ הָרַע בְּעֵינֵי הַשֵּׁם – he did what was evil in the Eyes of Hashem. Not our eyes. We wouldn’t have seen what to criticize but in the Eyes of Hashem there was something there. Whenever that’s written it doesn’t mean it was what we would consider bad at all. Only that a melech who was over the Am Yisroel, much more should have been achieved by him, much more shleimus, much greater perfection. And therefore what is said וַיַּעַשׂ הָרַע בְּעֵינֵי הַשֵּׁם is a rare kind of criticism. Of course it was a criticism that’s approachable by us. Even we could understand it. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been written. But you must understand it’s not what we would have criticized.
And what you just heard is a klal gadol, a great principle in understanding Tanach. These kings were not as bad as they are made to appear. And surely when the Chachomim report about terrible deeds that they did in private, you must understand that it’s not k’peshuto. Whatever is said you have to understand it in a different sense. They’re being criticized only according to what they should have been.
And the same thing is when they reported about Eisav being בָּא עַל נַעֲרָה הַמְּאֹרָסָה and הָרַג אֶת הַנֶּפֶשׁ, it’s on an entirely different level that Eisav is being criticized; not on our level but on the level of a son of Yitzchok and Rivkah. And only according to the expectations was he criticized. And the other sins mentioned there too, we’ll understand it the same way. If you look at the other accusations, whatever they are, we have to understand them all in the same sense of these criticisms.
Now that explains why these ‘sins’ are not written in the Torah at all. You might find a remez in midrashim, some hint, but in the Chumash such a thing is not mentioned at all. And that’s because the Torah would be untruthful in leveling such a criticism that people couldn’t understand or would misunderstand. And although in the Beis Din shel ma’alah when Eisav is being judged so our Chachomim were allowed to take a look and see what went on and they reported to us that this was considered an accusation. But down below it’s too much for people to be told and therefore it’s not in the Torah.
He Would Have Been Praised
However, of the five sins of which Eisav is accused one of them is written befeirush in the Torah. It’s stated as openly as could be and it’s written ba’arichus, at length, in detail. And that is שָׁט אֶת הַבְּכוֹרָה, he scorned the birthright. That’s one of Eisav’s five sins and the Torah says it openly: וַיִּבֶז עֵשָׂו אֶת הַבְּכֹרָה. Eisav scorned his birthright. It couldn’t be more open than that. And about this sin the Torah tells the story because it’s the most important lesson for us.
Now, the truth is that even this aveirah, it’s not so simple to discover what was so bad. So he scorned the bechorah, what about it? Actually if people in that time would have read this parshah and they wouldn’t have seen the last sentence, they would have said, “Eisav, that’s a kadosh! A man who runs away from glory, he gives up kavod. Don’t we know Yehudah ben Tabai did the same thing (Yerushalmi Chagigah 2:5). When they wanted to make him the nasi so he ran away. They wanted to make him av beis din so he ran away to Mitzrayim. And it’s considered a shevach. He’s praised for that. And so Eisav would have been praised by the people.
Eisav’s words would have been a model for us. הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי הוֹלֵךְ לָמוּת – I’m going to die one day. Those are words that tzaddikim say, “This world is only a temporary place. We’re going to leave this world one day and so what does glory in this world mean anyhow?”
If people would have heard that, they would have admired Eisav no end; and I’m sure that Eisav admired himself to no end for that. I’m sure he always looked back and congratulated himself. He didn’t say those words, וַיִּבֶז עֵשָׂו אֶת הַבְּכֹרָה . He said everything up to that. Only that when Hakodosh Boruch Hu dictated the Torah to Moshe Rabeinu, He told him to add these words because that’s the maskanah, the conclusion, of the whole story. He scorned the birthright – that’s the punchline of the whole story.
The Allure Of Freedom
So the question is ‘Mai ka mashma lon’, what’s the purpose of telling us that? We don’t get the punchline! What’s the sin that we’re supposed to see over there? So what if he scorned the bechorah? It’s an important question, by the way, because the better we understand what the sin was, the better we’ll grab a practical lesson for ourselves from this Torah story.
Now you have to understand that the bechorah meant opportunity; it was opportunity to serve Hashem because in those days the firstborn officiated at the mizbeach, at the bamah. Every family had its mizbeach where they served Hashem and the bechor was the one who led the way. The bechor in those days became the teacher of the family. He was like the priest, the kohen of the family.
But Eisav was thinking, “Am I going to be tied down to a mizbeach?” A mizbeach requires a lot of things. You have to learn the practice of sacrifices on a mizbeach. They didn’t just kill animals; everything was done with certain time consuming procedures and Eisav didn’t want to tie himself down. “I want to be a free man.”
Sin Of Squander
I’m sure he made some good excuses for himself. “I’ll wander in the fields and hunt animals for my father, to bring him food to eat. Kibud av!” “I’ll look at the trees and the birds; I’ll see niflaos haBorei. Shaar HaBechina!” There’s never a shortage of excuses – especially when it comes to avodas Hashem. And therefore it didn’t bother his conscience. So Yaakov will be the bechor. What of it? As long as the avodah will continue I can go into the forests to hunt.
That’s the sin! To squander opportunities! Opportunities to serve Hashem! And even though it might require you to stay home because they’ll need you on the mizbeach; you won’t be able to go out on all the trips that your heart desires. You’ll have to stay at home and make something of yourself. Of course you always have your justifications. “It’s Niagara Falls, it’s niflaos haBorei.” Or, “It’s Eretz Yisroel” or this and that. But you’re squandering opportunity, that’s the real terutz.
The Real Kosel
Here’s a justification a man tells me why he needs to waste time traveling: “But it’s Eretz Yisroel; it’s the Kosel!” So you’re going to give up on your Torah learning in the evenings, your chavrusahs, shiurim, to go to Eretz Yisroel and to stand at a wall that’s just a zeicher of yimei kedem, a remembrance of our glorious past. It’s something, I’m not saying no, but that’s also included in this sin of squandering opportunity. To give up learning to go to the Kosel Ma’aravi?!
If you want to go to the Kosel then you should know that the Shas Bavli is your Kosel Ma’aravi. Make the seforim shrank with the Shas Bavli in it your Kosel Ma’aravi. That’s your success.
The success of life is the transferring the contents of the Shas into your mind. So stand in front of that Shas on the shelf in your living room and make that your Kosel Ma’aravi. After you close your Gemara for the night and you put it back on the shelf you can stand there and put kvitlach, prayer notes, in between the Gemaras and pray to Hashem. The Shas is our everything! There’s nothing in the world more kadosh, more special, to Hakodosh Boruch Hu than the daled amos shel halacha. Since the churban Beis haMikdash He has nothing in the world that is more important than the Shas and our Torah seforim. So what are you thinking? To forego learning Torah for a cheap substitute?!
Missing And Sinning
Now, when people hear such examples, so they take me for an extremist. But that’s because we don’t understand the gravity of that sin of giving up opportunities. If we’re going to realize how serious an accusation, how serious a sin it is, we’ll have to spend a little time first on understanding what the word cheit means.
We spend a lot of time in our tefillos saying to Hashem חָטָאנוּ – We sinned. Again and again, in our tefillos, סְלַח לָנוּ אָבִינוּ כִּי חָטָאנוּ, we say. And so it makes sense that we should investigate the meaning of that word. I know people think they know but most are mistaken. Listen now because you’re going to hear a chiddush now. Cheit doesn’t mean what we think, to go and do a sin. It doesn’t mean a positive misstep, a positive sin. What it means is the lack of achieving. That’s what a cheit really means. Chatanu doesn’t mean “we rebelled;” it means “We missed out.”
The Sinless Slingers
How do we know that? In the Book of Shoftim (20:16) it’s describing the slingshot shooters of the Shevet Binyamin and it states about them that קֹלֵעַ בָּאֶבֶן אֶל הַשַּׂעֲרָה וְלֹא יַחֲטִא – they could aim at the hairsbreadth, וְלֹא יַחֲטִא – and wouldn’t miss. That’s how expert they were. They were able to take the slingshots and sling the stones and hit the target right in the middle. לֹא יַחֲטִא, They would never miss the target.
Now, there was no sin there, no aveirah. It was just a question of missing the target. וְלֹא יַחֲטִא means they wouldn’t miss. So we see that cheit, sin, actually means “to miss.”
The Sinless Successor
Another example. You remember when Dovid Hamelech was on his deathbed, so his wife Bas-Sheva came to him and said, “Look, you told me that you decided that Shlomo would be your successor, that he should be the next king, and here is Adoniyahu ben Chagis, one of your other sons, and he’s right now proclaiming himself the future king. He made a great assembly of people and he’s scheming to announce himself king. וְהָיִיתִי אֲנִי וּבְנִי שְׁלֹמֹה חַטָּאִים – And now if you don’t take quick action then Shlomo and I will be the chato’im.” (Melochim I, 1:21).
What does chato’im there mean? Not sinners; what does sinners have to do with it? It means “the losers.” Shlomo and I will be the ones who miss out if you don’t deal with it now. You promised me that my son would be king and if you don’t stop Adoniyahu now, he will be king “and I and my son will be the chato’im, the losers.”
So we’re discovering now the original meaning of cheit. It’s something new to us but it’s the truth: cheit means to lose out, to miss out. It’s not the doing wrong; it’s the missed opportunity to do good.
The Sinless Trucker
I always give one mashal. I’ll say it again for the tenth time, the same mashal. You hired a man with a truck to go to Los Angeles to pick up merchandise to bring it back. So he went across the country with your truck and now he finally came back. So you ask him, “How was it?”
He said, “The trip was excellent.” He had no accidents. “I didn’t get a single traffic ticket. Everything was wonderful. No flat tires, nothing. An excellent trip.”
So you say, “What about the merchandise that you were supposed to pick up?”
“Oh, I forgot to pick up the merchandise,” he says.
“Oh no! What is that worth for me? I sent you to Los Angeles merely to avoid traffic tickets, to avoid accidents?”
So Hashem says, “I sent you to this world merely to avoid aveiros?” Certainly you have to avoid aveiros. When you’re driving a truck absolutely you must beware of smash ups. But when you come back to the boss and you forgot to deliver the goods so the whole trip was wasted. That’s what Hashem says, “Where is the merchandise you were supposed to bring back? לְהָשִׁיב אֲמָרִים אֱמֶת לְשֹׁלְחֶיךָ – to bring back the emes to the one who sends you (Mishlei 22:21)! All the mitzvos, the accomplishments! Where are they?” Naturally if you’re going to get your truck into traffic accidents, you won’t be able to deliver the goods either, but we don’t come to this world merely to avoid sins.
The Next World
And why is that? It’s because if a person did aveiros, the worst that can happen to him is he goes to Gehenom. Now Gehenom is not a pleasure, it’s not a resort, but usually if he’s a ma’amin, if he believes in Hakodosh Boruch Hu and he believes in Matan Torah, so when he goes to Gehenom, he is purified. It’s a painful process. They use detergents there; it hurts terribly but finally he is cleansed of all of his sins.
“The punishment for the wicked Jews in Gehenom is twelve months and that’s all” (Eduyos 2:10). After that, he comes out and now he’s ready for the great happiness of Olam Habo, to enjoy his mitzvos, his achievements. And the reward for mitzvos is not for twelve months. For his mitzvos, his Torah, his perfection of character, he’s rewarded forever and ever and ever. For aveiros, there’s punishment, terrible punishment, but the time comes when the punishment is finished and now he starts the happy existence in the Gan Eden where he’ll be rewarded forever and ever.
Now suppose that when he gets to Gan Eden he finds that he gave up opportunities. “Oh, I remember that day when I got a letter in the mail from a talmid chochom in Yerushalayim, a tzadik who sits and learns all day long, and he was marrying off his tenth daughter. I threw it in the wastebasket. I lost out; a chotei.”
Or, “I remember now when the rabbi was giving a lecture in the evening and I convinced myself that I was too busy to go.” It’s a terrible thing! Learning Torah is one of the great forms of utilizing life.
You know what an opportunity it is to learn just one line of Gemara, to learn one line and know it well. You’re saying the words of the Chazal, the words of the greatest people who came after the Nevi’im, and you’re saying it and able to repeat it and sometimes you even know more or less the whole idea. If you say two lines, three lines, whoooo! You know a whole page of Gemara? You’re a millionaire.
If you learn just one amud Gemara and go over it again and again until you can run through it like ashrei, even if you don’t know the pshat well, you just translate the words more or less and run through it like ashrei, it’s an achievement. People keep on learning a new blatt every day and the old Gemara was always too weakly learned so it becomes eradicated quickly from the mind. No, that’s not the way to learn, that’s not how you use the opportunity of life. You should sit and chazer the same amud again four times. And then if you want it to be even better, talk over ba’al peh the whole shakla vatarya, not every word. Talk it over ba’al peh.
And so if you have five minutes to learn, two minutes to learn, it’s a tremendous opportunity! Two minutes of Torah! You’ll never make it up again! And even though you’ll learn hours and hours later, you’ll learn for days and weeks, but those five minutes are lost. That’s chatos! You missed out!
And in Gan Eden, you’ll break your hands with weeping, “Why did I lose those five minutes?” But no teshuva will help and no Gehenom will help. Teshuva and Gehenom can’t accomplish for you. It can clean you for the sin of not accomplishing but it will never accomplish for you the opportunities you scorned. You missed it and you’ll never get it back.
That’s what we learn from Eisav. He made the biggest cheit a person could make, the most tragic mistake of his life. וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלַךְ – he picked himself up and walked away from an opportunity, וַיִּבֶז עֵשָׂו אֶת הַבְּכֹרָה – Eisav scorned the bechorah.
What does it mean he scorned the bechorah? In one word he scorned opportunity. That was the big sin, the big chatos. He threw away a tremendous opportunity to utilize this life for accomplishing in avodas Hashem.
Yaakov on the other hand, lived for the purpose of achieving shleimus, and any opportunity that came his way. That was his hashkafas hachaim: “Yaaakov,” he was always telling himself, “There’s so much more you could accomplish in life!”
Now to study everything that Yaakov Avinu did with his life according to this hashkafah, this attitude that life is a precious string of opportunities, that’s impossible. I’m not able to explain to you the greatness of Yaakov Avinu. It’s like an ant trying to measure the height of men. I wouldn’t even presume to try it. I’m not capable.
But our Sages, they were capable and they tell us right away about one of Yaakov Avinu’s great accomplishments. He got busy making use of the opportunity to build a family, to create a nation. Neither Avrohom Avinu nor Yitzchok Avinu had that zechus.
Opportunity Of Family
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 19b) quotes a possuk about Yaakov: כֹּה אָמַר הַשֵּׁם אֶל בֵּית יַעֲקֹב אֲשֶׁר פָּדָה אֶת אַבְרָהָם – So said Hashem about the house of Yaakov, the one who redeemed Avrohom (Yeshayah 29:22). Fregt the Gemara, הֵיכָן מָצִינוּ בְּיַעֲקֹב שֶׁפְּדָאוֹ לְאַבְרָהָם – Where did you find that Yaakov redeemed Avrohom? What does that mean?
And the Gemara answers, אָמַר רַב יְהוּדָה שֶׁפְּדָאוֹ מִצַּעַר גִּדּוּל בָּנִים – Yaakov redeemed Avrohom from the difficulties of raising children. You know that for almost a hundred years Avrohom was free from raising children. Why was that? Don’t think it was an accident, a tragedy. Hakodosh Boruch Hu wanted Avrohom to be a man of leisure so that he’d have the time to think. That was Avrohom’s special opportunity – not to raise children but to raise himself.
Now pay attention. What do we need children for? Are we little girls that we need baby dolls, something to play with? It’s irrational. And it’s selfish. That’s what children are for?
The answer is that children are given to us by Hashem as an opportunity, a responsibility – we’re raising the Am Hashem. And we have no right to dodge it. Certainly you have to marry young and have as many as you can because that’s Hakodosh Boruch Hu’s command. פרו ורבו! You must do that.
And as they come and you’re going crazy from even two of them, so go crazy from ten. It’s a big mistake; women think if they don’t have more they won’t go crazy. I’ve seen women who claim they are crazy from one baby. So you might as well go crazy over a lot.
But suppose Hakodosh Boruch Hu didn’t give; so it’s silly for a person to waste his life in sadness. No question, it’s sad, but if that’s what Hashem gave you, don’t be overwhelmed by sadness. On the contrary, breathe a sigh of relief, and be grateful; now you can go ahead and do the great things in life. The Chovos Halevovos says that. You hear such a thing?! You should be grateful that He absolved you from the obligation of children.
A woman can become very great now just because she has no children. How many women have time to read a Kuzari or to read the Chovos Halevovos? You can read it in translation too. You know how much you can transform yourself by reading Mesillas Yesharim ten times? You know what it means to learn Chumash and Mishlei and Koheles? It’s life-changing! No question, you won’t be the same woman anymore.
Now, mothers of families תָּבוֹא עֲלֵיהֶם בְּרָכָה – blessed should they be with all their chores; certainly Hakodosh Boruch Hu will reward them. But the Chovos Halevovos says that if Hashem has exonerated you from those obligations so now you can do a lot of things that people with children cannot do.
And if you waste your life mourning, that shows that you don’t understand the purpose of life. The purpose of life is to serve Hakodosh Boruch Hu. How do you serve Him? In whatever manner He requires of you. So if he deposits children on your doorstep, so that’s what’s required of you. And if He doesn’t, so He requires other things. There are so many requirements in life that there’s never any spare time.
The most important attitude is not to scorn whatever opportunity comes your way. Whether it’s raising children or raising somebody else’s children or by raising money for people to have children or by raising your mind to heights of avodas Hashem by creating a mind filled with all the attitudes and ideals of the Torah.
Creating A Mind
That’s what Avrohom did. He was thinking through and developing all the yesodos, all of the Torah-truths; he was creating a Torah mind that was going to be the foundation of the ideology of the Torah nation. Because he was redeemed by Yaakov from raising the nation, so his mind was at leisure to discern the Hand of Hashem in nature. He saw the wonders of nature and he studied how everything has plan and purpose and how it is all for kindliness, for the benefit of mankind. By means of utilizing the opportunity, Avrohom became very, very great in hakarah of Hakodosh Baruch Hu as a source of chessed in the world.
And Yitzchak, by the way, added to that. It says in the Medrash that Yitzchak added even more than Avrohom Avinu. כְּנַנָּס עַל גַּבֵּי עֲנָק, like a dwarf sitting on the shoulder of a giant. Avrohom was the giant but when the dwarf sits on the giant’s shoulders, the dwarf is higher than the giant. And so Yitzchak had even more knowledge of these great ideas than Avrohom Avinu. You have to know that Avrohom and Yitzchok became giants in avodas Hashem.
And now Yaakov came along and he inherited all of that from them. He inherited all the philosophy, all the Torah, all the wisdom that Avrohom Avinu was mechadesh and now Hashem said to him, “Since the two Avos discovered all the great secrets of life and you’re standing on their shoulders already worked out all the great truths of life, now you get busy raising children. Take all of that ideology and make a nation from it!”
Bringing Up Children
And so Yaakov got busy with children. What a job it was! Don’t say, “Well, he just had twelve boys and one girl. Eisav had a lot of children too.” There’s a big difference. Eisav had children, yes, but he didn’t bring them up. They grew up. Like bushes grow up wild, that’s how they grew up. Maybe he taught them some things, I don’t know but he had already scorned the opportunity and now it was too late for him.
Yaakov, on the other hand, grabbed the opportunity. Yaakov Avinu was raising a nation and therefore every detail mattered and so he put his life into the boys.
Now, I say ‘Yaakov’ but of course I mean, Beis Yaakov, the House of Yaakov, like the possuk says. The Imahos too, Rochel and Leah, just as much. When a couple has children, and they dedicate their lives to raising them al pi Torah, it’s such a tremendous achievement. And every child will someday be a grandfather of a big family. Just think what happens. If you raise up the child in the right way, he’s going to be an oved Hashem. He’s going to teach his children the derech Hashem. They’ll continue all the traditions that we have from the kadmonim.
And therefore for a mother to raise up children, she feeds them and she has all kinds of difficulties, illnesses and sometimes trouble and she brings them up, she’s raising them not to be Italians or Puerto Ricans — she’s raising them to be the Am Hashem! It’s a tremendous zechus. It’s an achievement that’s unequalled. Nothing could be better!
Defunding the Police
And the more the better. That’s one of the reasons I love Williamsburg. In Williamsburg they know what it means not to scorn the opportunity to create a nation. All the houses are bursting at the seams. That’s why last year when a homeless man beat up a Jew and ran away, so the Williamsburg Jews are not fools. They couldn’t appeal to the police; the police wouldn’t do anything anyhow. So one or two chassidim began to run after him and they called to their neighbors for help. “Chaptzem! Catch him! Chaptzem!”
All of a sudden the windows and doors of the apartment buildings open up and there are chassidim pouring out from everywhere into the streets. Troops of Jews! Grown men, little men, fat men, skinny men, children; they’re climbing down the fire escapes. They’re closing their suspenders while they’re climbing down.
Now, such a thing wouldn’t happen in East Orange or someplace where they’re busy practicing birth control. Even if they’d open the windows in East Orange there’s nobody to come out. One forty-five year old bachelor is living at home by himself. Where are the troops?! Nothing doing. They were never brought into the world. It was an opportunity scorned. Plain and simple, birth control means וַיִּבֶז אֶת הַבְּכֹרָה.
It’s so silly what some girls are doing today; to give up a career of being a mother and say, “I’ll be in Manhattan. I’ll have my own apartment. I’ll be working in an office. I’ll be an important personality on my own.”
It’s a big rachmonus. What are you accomplishing? At the end of your days you’ll look back and see you were just one more cog in the industrial machine. You wasted your life. Where are all the children you could have produced? Children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Think of all the families that would have come from you, that would have been your merit. You could have raised them leshem Shomayim. You would have lived a life of productivity in avodas Hashem. You scorned the opportunity to add even greater numbers to the Am Yisroel, to strengthen us and to bring more Shechinah down.
That’s the sin of Eisav; scorning opportunity. If you were born a girl, don’t scorn that glorious birthright. Don’t allow anybody to come and persuade you there’s something that’s just as good, that in the offices in Manhattan you’ll find bigger and better. Sheker v’chazav! There’s nothing as good as being a Jewish mother; there’s nothing greater than raising a big frum family; nothing better.
A woman who is busy raising children should know that she’s living in a form of avodas Hashem even better than a rosh yeshivah. She’s making the bnei Torah. She’s producing them and she’s raising them up and feeding them.
And that’s the great lesson of וַיִּבֶז אֶת הַבְּכֹרָה – And he scorned the birthright. That was the great sin of Eisav! He killed Nimrod? Ok, it’s not so bad. He convinced a girl who had already committed to someone else? Ok, it’s not praiseworthy maybe but it’s not the biggest sin. But to give up opportunity?! To scorn opportunities to serve Hashem? Nothing could be worse than that!
The Torah is warning us, don’t allow anybody – yourself included – to cheat you out of the birthright. You were born a Jew? בְּנִי בְּכוֹרִי יִשְׂרָאֵל! Hashem says, “You, the Am Yisroel, are My firstborn.” Don’t allow anybody to come and persuade you that your success you’ll find elsewhere. Your success is in being a frum Jew. Your success, your greatness, is in the beis medrash and the synagogue, in the house raising children, in Shabbos and Yomim Tovim, in chesed and mitzvos, in Shas and the Chumash and the mussar seforim.
Nothing is as good as being a Jew, an oved Hashem who accomplish in this world. That’s your birthright! That’s your bechorah! That’s where all of our opportunities can be found and we should never squander any bit of that – no matter how many pots of red lentils the outside world entices us with!
Have A Wonderful Shabbos
A Life of Opportunities
Yaakov Avinu was chosen over Eisav because he cherished opportunity rather than scorning it. This week I will train myself to walk in the footsteps of Yaakov Avinu to grab as many opportunities as possible to serve Hakodosh Boruch Hu. As a reminder, every day when I daven shemonah esrei, I will bli neder pause for a moment at the words “Elokei Yaakov” and remember that we say those words and not “Elokei Eisav” because Yaakov was one who delighted in opportunities. And I will accept upon myself to grab whatever opportunity in avodas Hashem may present itself, and I will reflect on whether I missed out on any opportunities between this prayer and the last one.
Tapes: 434 – Do Not Be Sidetracked | 829 – The Harp and The Soul | 850 – Errors of Eisav | E-255 – Wealth Of This World
“Yanky! Throw it here!” called Yitzy as he and his friend ran through the yard of the cheder during recess.
Yanky threw the frisbee to his friend, but it just sailed over Yitzy’s head – he didn’t even try to catch it!
“Yitzy, what’s going on? That was a perfect throw!”
But Yitzy didn’t even seem to be looking at Yanky – he was just kind of standing there with his mouth open. Yanky turned around to see what Yitzy was staring at, and his jaw dropped too as he saw a helicopter flying towards them, getting lower and lower, with flames billowing out of the tail of the aircraft!
“Oy vey!” cried Yitzy. “It’s going to crash!”
Seconds later, Yitzy’s prediction came true, as the helicopter slammed into some power lines over an empty parking lot in the nearby neighborhood and exploded in a fiery ball of flames.
The next few minutes were a bit of a haze, as dozens of police cars, fire engines, and ambulances all raced to the scene of the crash.
After things calmed down, Rebbe Caplan led the boys back to the classroom. “It seems that the helicopter crash took out all of the power in that neighborhood,” he said.
“But it’s such a cold day!” said Yanky. “People will be freezing!”
“And hungry,” added Moishy. “If there’s no electricity, then they can’t use their ovens and the food in their fridges will spoil.”
“Maybe we should bring them hot food,” said Yitzy. “It will keep them from being hungry and help them stay warm!”
“That’s a great idea, Yitzy!” Rebbe Caplan said warmly. Turning to Moishy, whose father was the city’s Hatzalah coordinator, he added “Moishy, I would like you to run this project. Go down to the cheder kitchen and tell the cook that we need to make 5,000 hot dogs as quickly as possible. Yanky and Yitzy, I want you to help Moishy with whatever he needs to get this done. Okay boys? This is a huge chessed you’re doing!” he finished with a smile.
Immediately, Moishy began giving orders to Yanky and Yitzy, from buying the hot dogs at a nearby store to putting together a list of all the families in the neighborhood of the crash and how many hot dogs each house would need.
Meanwhile, Rebbe Caplan went to the Menahel’s office to let him know what was going on, but when he came back, he saw Yitzy standing outside of his classroom, looking a bit sad.
“Is everything okay, Yitzy?” Rebbe Caplan asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” replied Yitzy quietly. “I just don’t feel like helping with this project.”
“But it was your idea?” Rebbe Caplan said, surprised. “Why don’t you want to help?”
“Well,” Yitzy said, blushing sheepishly. “That’s just the thing. It was my idea – so why does Moishy get to be in charge?”
“Well, Moishy has a lot of experience helping his father with situations like these, so I think it makes the most sense for him to run the project.”
“Okay, that’s fine, I get that,” Yitzy said. “But if I’m not going to be in charge, I kinda don’t want to do it at all.”
“I understand how you feel,” Rebbe Caplan said, smiling sadly at Yitzy. “But I also know that you are going to end up assisting Moishy with this project.”
“How do you know that?” asked Yitzy.
“Because you’re not an Eisav,” Rebbe Caplan replied.
“Of course I’m not Eisav!” Yitzy said, hurt. “I don’t kill and rob people.”
“Well actually,” Rebbe Caplan said, “besides those things, there’s another thing that Eisav did wrong and that’s what I’m talking about now.”’
Yitzy looked at Rebbe Caplan waiting to hear what it was that made Rebbe think about Eisav when it came to not wanting to help Moishy with the hot dog project.
“Eisav gave up his entire Olam Habo when he refused to be number two to Yaakov Avinu. You see, Yaakov Avinu was the one who was best suited to be the leader of Klal Yisroel. But Eisav could still have been a part of the Am Yisroel – he could have had Torah too. His job was to support Yaakov, to help him, to provide him with what he needed in order to be the Gadol Hador.
“Had Eisav done that, his children and Yaakov’s children would be part of one great nation, serving Hashem together. But instead, look what happened – he gave it all away, just because he didn’t want to be number two to Yaakov.”
“Rebbe,” Yitzy said suddenly. “I have to go.”
“Where?” asked Rebbe Caplan, concerned. “Is everything okay? Is it something I said?”
“Yes, everything is amazing!” Yitzy replied. “But I don’t want to be an Eisav. I want to help Moishy cook 5,000 hot dogs and not lose out on the opportunity to do chessed for all of those families without power!”
Have A Wonderful Shabbos!
Takeaway: Everyone has a different role in serving Hashem. It’s not just the leader who is important, everyone has a job and is equally important in the Eyes of Hashem.