Torah Weekly

For the week ending 25 November 2006 / 4 Kislev 5767

Parshat Toldot

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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After 20 years of marriage, Yitzchak's prayers are answered and Rivka conceives twins. The pregnancy is extremely painful. G-d reveals to Rivka that the suffering is a microcosmic prelude to the worldwide conflict that will rage between the two great nations descended from these twins, Rome and Israel. Esav is born, and then Yaakov, holding onto Esavs heel. They grow and Esav becomes a hunter, a man of the physical world, whereas Yaakov sits in the tents of Torah developing his soul. On the day of their grandfather Avrahams funeral, Yaakov is cooking lentils, the traditional mourner's meal. Esav rushes in, ravenous from a hard days hunting, and sells his birthright (and its concomitant spiritual responsibilities) for a bowl of lentils, demonstrating his unworthiness for the position of firstborn. A famine strikes Canaan and Yitzchak thinksof escaping to Egypt, but G-d tells him that because he was bound as a sacrifice, he has become holy and must remain in the Holy Land. He relocates to Gerar in the land of the Philistines, where, to protect Rivka, he has to say she is his sister. The Philistines grow jealous of Yitzchak when he becomes immensely wealthy, and Avimelech the king asks him to leave. Yitzchak re-digs three wells dug by his father, prophetically alluding to the three future Temples. Avimelech, seeing that Yitzchak is blessed by G-d, makes a treaty with him. When Yitzchak senses his end approaching, he summons Esav to give him his blessings. Rivka, acting on a prophetic command that the blessings must go to Yaakov, arranges for Yaakov to impersonate Esav and receive the blessings. When Esav in frustration reveals to his father that Yaakov has bought the birthright, Yitzchak realizes that the birthright has been bestowed correctly on Yaakov and confirms the blessings he has given Yaakov. Esav vows to kill Yaakov, so Rivka sends Yaakov to her brother Lavan where he may find a suitable wife.


As Close To Eternity

“Yitzchak loved Esav, for game [food] was in his mouth; but Rivka loves Yaakov.” (25:28)

Not far from where I lived as a child there was a particularly fascinating shop. On the sides of the entrance doors two mirrors faced each other, and as you extended your leg over the threshold, millions of legs, in perfect synchronization, also extended themselves to your right and left.

It seemed that the reflections went on forever. And indeed they did. There was no beginning and no end.

To my young mind this was as close to eternity as you could get.

Of all the misrepresented words in the English language, “love” must be up there with the top scorers.

Love is unique because it’s like those mirrors. In love, the cause and the effect are indistinguishable. Any love that depends on a reason will evaporate when the reason is no longer valid. If you love someone because they are young, their old age will not appeal to you; because they’re beautiful – they better watch the lines around their eyes, the chins under their chins and the escalating battle of the bulge. Love that depends on something else isn’t really love. It’s love of… love of this; love of that.

Real love is defined as zero distance between cause and effect.

G-d chose Noach because he was a righteous person. In Parshat Lech Lecha, however, the Torah describes how G-d chose Avraham without mentioning anything about his prototypical kindness or his hospitality or any of his other merits. The reason is that G-d chose Avraham for no other reason than that He loved him. Why did He love him? Because He loved him! The cause was the effect, and the effect was the cause, like an infinite unceasing reflection.

“Yitzchak loved Esav for game [food] was in his mouth; but Rivka loves Yaakov.”

The grammar of this verse is strange: The love of Yitzchak for Eisav is described in the past tense “Yitzchak loved Esav…” The love of Rivka for Yaakov, however, is portrayed in the present: “Rivka loves Yaakov.” The love of Yitzchak was a love that depended on an outside factor: He loved Esav because “game was in his mouth.” When that external reason turned out to be misplaced, the love ceased. Rivka’s love, on the other hand, was a love that was self-sustaining, it needed no cause, and thus the Torah describes it in the present tense, for it never came to an end.

  • Based on the Ramban and the Shelah HaKadosh

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