Friday, November 9, 2018

Dvar Torah & Podcast for Parshas Toldos

       Parshas Toldos is filled with the stories that begin the historical rivalry between Yaakov and Esav. Beginning with the famous story of how Yaakov bought the firstborn from Esav, and ending with Yitzchak intending to bless Esav with certain special blessings, until Rivka and Yaakov joined forces to swoop in and allow Yaakov to receive them instead. Exactly how Yaakov was allowed to receive them this way, why Yitzchak wanted Esav to receive the brachos in the first place, and if Yaakov could buy the firstborn at all are all good questions that we have discussed in previous years. This year, however, I’d like to focus on a pasuk later on in the parsha.

       When Esav realizes he has lost the brachos to Yaakov, he is furious. He didn’t dare do anything while his father was living, but he immediately began making plans to take revenge on Yaakov at the earliest opportunity. Rivka sensed this and convinced Yitzchak to send Yaakov away to her brother Lavan’s house. As Yitzchak sent Yaakov away, Lavan is given a full introduction in the pasuk; “אֲחִ֣י רִבְקָ֔ה אֵ֥ם יַֽעֲקֹ֖ב וְעֵשָֽׂו“The brother of Rivka the mother of Yaakov and Esav” (Bereishis 28:8). The reason for the Torah having to tell us the relationship between Rivka and her sons, an extremely obvious connection, is of much debate among the commentaries. It’s a question we have discussed before, and this year, I’d like to focus on a new answer.

       Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky goes back several pesukim to when Yitzchak is giving Yaakov some final blessings before he leaves his house. “וְאֵל שַׁדַּי יְבָרֵךְ אֹתְךָ וְיַפְרְךָ וְיַרְבֶּךָ וְהָיִיתָ לִקְהַל עַמִּים וְיִתֶּן לְךָ אֶת בִּרְכַּת אַבְרָהָם לְךָ וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אִתָּךְ לְרִשְׁתְּךָ אֶת אֶרֶץ מְגֻרֶיךָ“And may the Almighty God bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and you shall become an assembly of peoples. And may He give you the blessing of Avraham, to you and to your seed with you, that you may inherit the land of your sojournings…” (ibid: 3-4). In pesukim 1-2, Yitzchak warned Yaakov to only marry a woman from Lavan’s house, a woman who, as we learn in pesukim 3-4, would be worthy of receiving the brachos of Hashem to Avraham, to father the nation of Yisrael.

       When Yaakov bought the firstborn rights from Esav, this was reason in part why he was able to take the brachos from Esav later on. Explains Reb Yaakov, the Torah in pesukim 3-4 is giving us one final proof that Yaakov deserved those blessings as the rightful firstborn and heir to Avraham. How do we see this? From the connecting letter “vav” at the beginning of pasuk 4. In pesukim 1-2, Yitzchak warns Yaakov to only marry a worthy woman. He then continues in pasuk 3 that if Yaakov does so, Hashem will bless him as a great nation. But we don’t know necessarily that this is the blessing of Avraham. By including a ‘vav’ at the beginning of pasuk 4, which discusses the blessing of Avraham, we see that this blessing is also dependent on him marrying a worthy woman.

       The Torah shows us that not only did Yitzchak approve of Yaakov getting his special brachos over Esav (See 27:33 for more), he also affirmed Yaakov’s purchase of the firstborn rights from Esav, thereby giving him the brachah of Avraham as well. Therefore, he had to warn Yaakov to only marry someone appropriate for this mission. And finally, this brings us back to our original question. The Torah specifically tells us Rivka was the mother of Yaakov and Esav, not to remind us of their relationship, but just to put them in the proper order! Yaakov first and then Esav; the real firstborn, our forefather, in his rightful position.

Shabbat Shalom!

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