Torah Weekly

For the week ending 21 November 2009 / 3 Kislev 5770

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 Avraham's 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 thinks of 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.


Wake-Up Call

“And Yitzchak prayed to Hashem opposite his wife.” (25:20)

The verse here doesn’t say that Yitzchak prayed ‘about’ his wife, rather, ‘opposite’ his wife. The Talmud (Yevamot 64) learns from this anomaly that both Yitzchak and Rivka were barren. And why, asks the Talmud, were our Patriarchs incapable of bearing children? Because G-d desires the prayers of the righteous.

“The will of those that fear Him, He will do, and to their cries He will hearken and save them.” (Tehillim 145:19)

Ostensibly, the second half of the verse is redundant. If G-d does the will of those that fear Him, surely that means that He will hear their cries and save them. What is the second half of the verse adding here?

Someone who truly fears G-d has no will or desire. To a person like this, all is good and appropriate and thus he or she seeks for nothing from G-d.

However, since G-d desires the prayers of the righteous, He awakens in them the desire for something. This is the explanation of the verse in Tehillim. The first part of the verse can also be read, “He will make desire in those that fear Him,” and thus they will need to pray for that thing, and then afterwards, “Their cries He will hear and save them," for G-d desires the prayers of the righteous.

  • Source: Kotzke Rebbe in Iturei Torah

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