Torah Weekly

For the week ending 6 November 2010 / 28 Heshvan 5771

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.


The Blind Museum

“So he (Yitzchak) drew close and kissed him (Yaakov); he smelled the fragrance of his garments and blessed him; he said, 'See, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field that Hashem has blessed…'” (27:27)

Finding a place to take the kids on the “Intermediate Days” of a Festival is always a challenge.

I find it difficult to get excited at the prospect of making a picnic in a park in Tel Aviv with a couple of thousand other families. I'm just funny that way I guess.

So it was to my great pleasure that I discovered the "Blind Museum" in the city of Holon.

You are led through several large rooms in total darkness. The only way you can sense where you are is by using your other senses — touch, smell and hearing.

The place is a fascinating experience of what it must like to be blind.

The next morning when I said the blessing to G-d "Who gives sight to the blind," I said that blessing as I had never said it before in my life.

Blindness plays a central role in this week's Torah Portion. Yitzchak cannot see that it is really Yaakov to whom he is giving the blessings instead of Esav. Yet on a deeper level he “sees” who is the correct recipient of those blessings. Through the pungent smell of the washed goatskins that wrapped Yaakov's arms, Yitzchak was able to detect the aroma of the Garden of Eden that accompanied Yaakov when he entered the room.

The guides who take you around the Blind Museum are all sightless themselves, yet they have developed their other senses to a remarkable extent. They are able to navigate the site as though they could see.

In many ways this world is like that museum. In this world we think we see, but there is more that is hidden from our eyes than that penetrates them.

From looking at the world would you know that from sunset on Friday night a different existence takes hold, giving one an opportunity to experience an “out-of-body” experience? And as exhilarating as that experience is, it is accompanied by great danger? For example, turning on a light between Friday night and Saturday night might cost you your life. Can you see that with your eyes?

And yet there are those among us who, while they cannot see those realities in their totality, have developed their spiritual “eyes” so they can make out that spiritual world far more clearly than the rest of us.

Those people are the great Torah Scholars of every generation who guide us around this Blind Museum that we call the world.

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