Thursday, November 25, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
This Shabbos I will be in the Golan with yeshiva so I won’t have time to write over a full Dvar Torah. Instead, I’d like to say over a thought I heard from my friend, Aron Hertz.
Chazal teach us that each one of the Avos had one specific middah in which they “specialized”. Avraham’s was Chesed, kindness and good deeds, Yitzchak’s was Avodah, serving Hashem, and Yaakov’s was Emes, truth. Yitzchak inherited Avraham’s middah of Chesed and combined it with his middah of Avodah, and Yaakov took both the middos of Avraham and Yitzchak and combined them with his own qualities, using them to personify the middah of emes. What this means exactly is something which could take pages to explain (maybe we will write about it next week), but in the meantime let’s leave it at that.
Aron wanted to explain how each one of these middos has stayed with us as we have traveled through our different galuyot (exiles). After the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple), the Jews knew from a prophecy by Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) that they would return to Eretz Yisrael and rebuild the Beis Hamikdash after seventy years. They considered this a great chesed from Hashem that even though they had sinned enough to have the Temple destroyed, it would only be seventy years till its’ rebuilding. Here we have Avraham’s middah. This not only includes you doing chesed, but also being able to recognize the chesed that someone else does for you. This is known as Hakaras Hatov, literally translated as recognizing good, basically meaning appreciation, which is one of the most important traits a Jew must have according to Chazal.
Skipping ahead a few hundred years, we come to the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash and the galus that continues since then. We have no promise as to when this galus will end and as a result, we must constantly work on our Avodas Hashem in order to stay strong in this time of darkness. At the times when we were shut out from the rest of the world, in the shtetls in Europe and the Jews in third world countries in Asia, we used them to build up our connection to Hashem through davening, learning Torah and living Jewish lives.
After World War II, when the walls of the shtetls and ghettos were torn down, and the Sephardic Jews came west, we entered the third stage of the galus. Now that we are again at the forefront of the world, it is more important now than ever for us to stick to our beliefs. It is our job as Jews to take all that is impure in the world and turn it into the good and pure thing it was supposed to be when Hashem created it. We must use the middah of Emes to insure that we stay true to our Jewish values in a world of turmoil. And just like Yaakov combined the middos of Avraham and Yitzchak in order to complete his middah of emes, we must also utilize all the middos of our Avos in order to stay truthful to our faith and each other.
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Thursday, November 4, 2010
rashi says to look in pirkei d'rebbi elazar, perek 32. i saw it today and it seems to be saying that we have to stand up and take it from esav. what does that mean?
Please email or comment below with your ideas.
This week’s parshah transitions us from Avraham to Yitzchak, and ends with the beginning of Yaakov’s journey as he begins building the Jewish people. Many famous stories are found in this parshah such as, the details surrounding Yaakov and Esav’s birth, Yitzchak going to Grar, and Yaakov “stealing” the brachos from Esav. However, I would like to focus on a very small and seemingly unimportant Rashi found at the end of the parshah.
After Yaakov tricks Yitzchak into giving him the brachos, Esav swears to kill him in revenge. Rivka, their mother, quickly learns of the situation, and arranges for Yaakov to flee immediately to her brother Lavan’s house. She tells Yaakov to hide out there until Esav calms down and it is safe for Yaakov to return home. And so, in the first pasuk of the seventh aliyah, the pasuk states, “וַיִּשְׁלַח יִצְחָק אֶת יַעֲקֹב וַיֵּלֶךְ פַּדֶּנָה אֲרָם אֶל לָבָן בֶּן בְּתוּאֵל הָאֲרַמִּי אֲחִי רִבְקָה אֵם יַעֲקֹב וְעֵשָׂו” “And Yitzchak sent Yaakov and he went to Padan Aram, to Lavan the son of Besuel the Arami, the brother of Rivka, the mother of Yaakov and Esav.”(Bereishis 28:5) Avery obvious question on this pasuk is why did we have to say again that Rivka is Yaakov and Esav’s mother? By this point in the parshah we are pretty clear on this!
Rashi says something very strange here in his explanation. “אם יעקב ועשו: איני יודע מה מלמדנו” “I do not know what this is coming to teach us.” Wow! What could Rashi mean by this? The commentaries immediately try to answer what exactly Rashi is trying to say here. After all, if he didn’t have an explanation, why say anything? The Mizrachi answers that Rashi had several answers to choose from, but he couldn’t pick which one he felt was the most correct. Therefore, he wrote that he does not know what the explanation is in order that we would realize that there really is something to answer, we just have to figure out for ourselves which one is the most correct. (Notice how I say most correct and not just the correct one. This is because all the explanations are right since everyone who says an answer is saying with the right intentions, that this is all purely for the sake of learning Torah.) The Chizkuni says two answers. First, this is a proof to a gemarah in Baba Basra which says that most boys will be similar to their mother’s brother. Rivka had two sons, one was a tzaddik, and one was a rasha like her brother. Secondly, the pasuk is showing us that even though one was a tzaddik who was going to become the father of the Jewish people, and one was an evil man who was trying to kill him, she was the mother of both of them and therefore was equally concerned for both.
I think, however, that the most important point to take out of this Rashi is in the actual words that he says. “I don’t know”. How hard is it for us to admit something like that? Whether to teachers, parents, friends, and even to ourselves, it is very hard for people to admit that they are ignorant of something. So here is Rashi, the foremost commentator on pretty much every part of the Written and Oral Torah, coming right out and saying that he just does not know what the Torah was trying to tell us! Even if you say like the Mizrachi that Rashi had several answers, still, he doesn’t write that in his commentary, he does not use that to try and defend himself. He just comes right out and says it, “I don’t know what this pasuk is coming to teach us”. Can we imagine something like that? Being able to write down in a book which millions of people have already and will read, to openly admit that you don’t understand what is going on? And if you think this was a onetime thing, think again. Rabbi Akiva Eiger in Maseches Berachos (25b) lists forty- four places from all over Chumash, Gemarah, and other parts of the Torah, where Rashi says he does not know the explanation.
As much as we use the Torah and the stories of our forefathers to learn how we should live our lives, there is much to be gained from the people who studied the Torah as well, for they received all of their middos (character traits) from their study of it.
May we all internalize the lessons of this week’s parshah as well as the lessons of Rashi so that we may all witness the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash in our time.