Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XV, No. 6
5 Kislev 5761
December 2, 2000
Orach Chaim 338:5-7
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Nazir 46
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Bava Batra 11
In this week's parashah we read of the birth of Yaakov and Esav
and the beginning of their rivalry. Said R' Moshe Mordechai
Epstein z"l (whose 77th yahrzeit falls next Thursday; see page
4): If we consider physical strength, Yaakov certainly would pale
in comparison to Esav. In spirit, however, Yisrael is powerful
and mighty. Yisrael's bravery is supernatural. Yisrael
possesses the might to walk between the fires of persecution and
survive. Other nations that are faced with the choice between
death and abandoning their faith usually surrender before their
oppressors, but not so Yisrael. Yisrael emerges from each
oppression - Pharaoh, Assyria, Babylon, Haman, Greece and Rome -
waving the banner of Judaism which remains firm in its hand.
In the Middle Ages, a seven-year old boy might be taken from
his home and lead to a far away land, but we would not be
surprised if that seven-year old boy got the better of his captor
and remained a pure Jew. Certainly such a boy was mightier than
the 30-year-old warrior who kidnapped him! This is the type of
might in which Yisrael takes pride. (Quoted in Haggadah Shel
Pesach Chevron - Knesset Yisrael p. 114)
"The lads grew up, and Esav became the one who knows
hunting, a man of the field; but Yaakov was a wholesome man,
sitting in tents. And Yitzchak loved Esav, for game was in
his mouth, and Rivka loves Yaakov." (25:27-28)
Many commentaries struggle to understand Yitzchak's love for
Esav. R' Nosson Teomim z"l (the "Krystonopol Rav" in Brooklyn;
died 1983) explains as follows:
Mishlei (27:19) teaches: "As water reflects a face back to a
face, so one's heart is reflected back to him by another."
Therefore, in order to influence Esav and prevent him from
abandoning the ways of his parents entirely, Yitzchak had to love
Esav. Significantly, the literal translation of our verse is
not, "Yitzchak loved Esav," but rather, "Yitzchak caused love to
Esav." In other words, it was a struggle for Yitzchak to love
Esav, but he forced himself to do so.
The second phrase, "for game was in his mouth," is usually
translated to mean that Esav fed Yitzchak game that Esav trapped.
In light of the above, we can read the verse to say that Yitzchak
was trying to "trap" Esav with his (Yitzchak's) mouth and heart.
Alternatively, one can explain as follows: Some parents teach
their children only Torah, arguing that nothing else is of value.
Other parents teach their children secular studies as well, and
contend that the greatest kiddush Hashem / sanctification of G-
d's Name results when one observes the Torah meticulously in the
"outside" world. Of course, this second approach is the more
dangerous one, for who can say whether the child will maintain
the high standards necessary to sanctify G-d's Name.
The Sages interpret the words "for game was in his mouth" as
follows: Esav entrapped Yitzchak with his mouth by asking
halachic questions such as, "How does one tithe salt?" In
reality, one does not tithe salt, but Esav's questions made him
appear to be especially meticulous in his mitzvah observance. As
a result, writes R' Teomim, Yitzchak believed that though Esav's
life was centered outside the walls of the yeshiva, he sanctified
G-d's Name through his meticulous mitzvah observance. If so,
Yitzchak felt, Esav deserved more love than Yaakov.
Rivka, however, recognized that Esav was not living up to the
standards expected of him. Therefore, she loved Yaakov, "who sat
in the tents," i.e., the bet midrash / study hall.
"Yaakov was an ish tam / wholesome man." (25:27)
The word "tam" literally means perfect or complete. R'
Yechezkel Sarna z"l (Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva; see
page 4) observes that there is a commandment in the Torah
(Devarim 18:13), "Be tamim!" R' Sarna explains:
One might brush-aside his inadvertent sins, saying, "It was an
accident. I didn't mean it, so how much can it count?" However,
just as one who breaks his wrist by accident is no longer perfect
in a physical sense, so one who sins, even inadvertently, is no
longer perfect in a spiritual sense. The mitzvah to be tamim
instructs us that it is a blemish on one's soul if he lets his
spiritual guard down even to a limited extent.
(Daliot Yechezkel Vol. II, p. 24)
"And Esav came from the field, and he was exhausted."
"Esav spurned the birthright." (25:34)
Rashi says that he was tired because he had just committed a
murder. The midrash states further that Esav had committed other
serious sins on that day, including adultery and idolatry.
If Esav committed such serious sins all in one day, asks R'
Aharon Kotler z"l (Lakewood Rosh Yeshiva; died 1962), why does
the Torah single out only the fact that he spurned the
birthright? He explains:
The birthright did not give its bearer only material rights,
but also (and primarily) spiritual responsibilities. What
kohanim and levi'im were later in history -- "For the lips of the
kohen should safeguard knowledge, and people should seek Torah
from his mouth" (Malachi 2:7 - this week's haftarah) -- the
firstborn were in Yaakov's and Esav's time. It was these
responsibilities that Esav rejected when he spurned the
birthright, and he thus demonstrated his attitude towards
By telling us that Esav spurned the birthright, says R' Kotler,
the Torah is informing us of the root cause of all of his other
sins. The details of Esav's sins do not matter; what is
important is that Esav had an improper attitude.
(Mishnat Rabbi Aharon Vol. III, p. 191)
"And it came to pass, when Yitzchak had become old, and his
eyes dimmed from seeing, that he summoned Esav, his older
son, and said to him, "My son! . . . Now sharpen, if you
please, your gear . . . and go out to the field and hunt
game / tzayid for me." (27:1-3)
Rashi explains: Yitzchak told Esav to sharpen his knife so that
he could slaughter an animal and would not serve Yitzchak non-
Asks R' Hillel Lichtenstein z"l (1815-1891; rabbi of Kolomyya,
Ukraine): By this time, Esav had been hunting and feeding meat
to Yitzchak for 50 years! Why, all of sudden, was Yitzchak
concerned about the kashrut of Esav's shechitah?
R' Lichtenstein explains: The Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 18:17) rules
that every shochet must periodically present his knife to a Torah
scholar for inspection. That inspection consists of two parts -
the Torah scholar runs his fingernail over the blade to feel any
nicks, and he makes a visual inspection.
Presumably, Esav used to present his knife to Yitzchak for
inspection. However, as the verse relates, "when Yitzchak had
become old, his eyes dimmed from seeing." He could not inspect
the knife any longer, and that is why he reminded Esav to sharpen
R' Lichtenstein adds: The word tzayid / game is spelled in our
verse with a silent "heh" at the end. The gemara (Menachot 29b)
states in another context that the letter heh alludes to
teshuvah. Why would Yitzchak remind Esav on this occasion to
repent before going to hunt?
Kabbalists say that the more righteous a person is, the more
delicate are his senses. Thus, since Yitzchak could not inspect
Esav's knife, he wanted Esav to repent, and thus refine his own
sense of touch, before he inspected the knife himself.
R' Shraga Feivel Frank z"l
R' Frank was not a rosh yeshiva or town rabbi, but rather was
an "ordinary" ba'al ha'bayit / layman. Nevertheless, he was
renowned in Lithuania for his righteousness and charity, and many
of the leading roshei yeshiva of this century were his
descendants. Among the regular guests in his house were
R' Yisrael Salanter, R' Yitzchak Blazer and the Chafetz Chaim.
It is said that R' Frank personally supported half of the
families in Slobodka, although they did not know it. He used to
drive through town after midnight with a wagon full of food,
dropping sacks of flour, rice, potatoes and other needs on
From time-to-time, R' Frank would approach poor Torah scholars
and ask them to guard various amounts of cash that he had on
hand. He would explain that the money was not safe in his house
because he was so well-known, and that they (the Torah scholars)
were free to use the money if they needed. Whenever these
individuals would attempt to return the money, R' Frank would say
that he still did not have a safe place to keep it and would
prefer to leave it in their houses instead.
R' Frank passed away in 1886 at the age of 43. R' Yitzchak
Elchanan Spektor, the leading posek / halachic authority of the
time, personally participated in the taharah / washing and
dressing the body. R' Spektor began to eulogize R' Frank with
the words, "Look! Our Reb Feivel is gone," but when those words
brought the entire assemblage to tears, R' Spektor eulogized no
R' Frank left four unmarried daughters, and he asked his wife
to ensure that they married Torah scholars. The four sons-in-law
she found were:
- R' Moshe M.ordechai Epstein (rosh yeshiva in Slobodka and
Chevron; father-in-law of R' Yechezkel Sarna and R' Moshe
- R' Isser Zalman Meltzer (rosh yeshiva in Slutsk and at the
Eitz Chaim Yeshiva in Yerushalayim; father-in-law of R'
- R' Baruch Yehoshua Horowitz (president of the Agudas
Harabbanim of Lithuania); and
- R' Sheftel Kramer (rosh yeshiva in New Haven and
Cleveland; father-in-law of R' Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman
and R' Naftali Neuberger).
R' Shraga Feivel's nephew was R' Zvi Pesach Frank, Chief Rabbi
of Yerushalayim. (Sources: Gedolei Ha'dorot p. 760; The Torah
World p. 22)
The Marwick family
on the yahrzeit of Samuel Sklaroff
Copyright © 2000 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
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