His Father's Son
Volume 19, No. 6
29 Marcheshvan 5765
November 13, 2004
the Marwick family
in memory of Samuel Sklaroff a"h
The Benn family
on the yahrzeit of David Benn
(Dovid ben R' Mordechai a"h)
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Kreitot 28
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Kiddushin 20
Our parashah opens: "And these are the offspring of Yitzchak the
son of Avraham - Avraham fathered Yitzchak." Many commentaries wonder
why the Torah mentions that Avraham was the father of Yitzchak, a fact
that we surely know. (See Rashi, for example.) R' Menachem Mendel
Krochmal z"l (17th century Poland) offers the following explanation:
The Midrash Tanchuma teaches: Sometimes a son suffers degradation
because of his father, as the righteous King Yoshiyahu suffered
degradation because of his father, the wicked King Amon (see Melachim
II chapters 21-22), and as the righteous King Chizkiyahu suffered
degradation because of his father, the wicked King Achaz (see Melachim
II chapter 16). On the other hand, a father sometimes suffers
degradation because of his children, as the prophet Shmuel did because
of his sons and the Kohen Gadol Eli did because of his sons (see
Shmuel I 8:3 and 2:22).
However, concludes the Midrash, neither Avraham nor Yitzchak ever
suffered degradation on account of the other. To the contrary, each
one was made more distinguished because of his association with the
other. Perhaps, writes R' Krochmal, this is the message of our verse.
Yitzchak was proud to be Avraham's son, and Avraham was proud to be
Yitzchak's father. We find similarly that Moshe and Yitro each took
pride in his relationship with the other.
R' Krochmal adds: It is the way of wise men and it is a sign of
righteousness to always attribute one's accomplishments to others.
Avraham attributed his accomplishments to Yitzchak, and Yitzchak, to
Avraham. Our parashah records also that Yitzchak and Rivka prayed
for children "opposite" each other. This means, similarly, that each
prayed for children in the other's merit. (Pi Tzaddik: Drush 3)
"Esav became one who knows hunting, a man of the field; but
Yaakov was a wholesome man, dwelling in tents." (25:27)
Rashi explains: "Knows hunting"--"literally understanding
hunting; understanding how to entrap and deceive his father with his
mouth; He would ask him, `Father how should salt and straw be tithed?'
Consequently his father believed him to be very punctilious in
observing the commandments."
R' Elazar Meir Preil z"l (1881-1933; rabbi of Elizabeth, N.J.)
writes: Esav was the type of person who acts like a Roman when among
Romans and a Yerushalmi when in Jerusalem, like an Orthodox Jew when
among the Orthodox and a non-religious Jew when among the
nonobservant. Can such a lifestyle bring a person happiness? Esav's
own words demonstrate that it cannot, for he complained to Yaakov
(25:32), "Look, I am going to die, so of what use to me is a
In contrast, Yaakov lived a life of consistency. In his youth,
he was a wholesome man, dwelling in the tents of Torah study. When he
grew up and left home, where did he go? Chazal tell us that on his
way to his uncle Lavan's home he detoured to the yeshiva of Shem and
Ever for 14 years of Torah study. Where did all of this lead Yaakov?
We read (33:18): "Yaakov arrived whole at the city of Shechem." In
contrast to the chameleon-like Esav, Yaakov was the same wholesome
person he had been as a youth.
Why doesn't the Torah say, "Yaakov was a wholesome man who knows
Torah," just as it says that Esav "knows hunting"?
R' Shmuel Halevi Wosner shlita (one of the elder rabbis of Bnei
Brak) explains: A Torah student's future success is determined not by
what he knows, but by his diligence. Yaakov was not content to know
the Torah. Rather, he sat in his tent and toiled to reach greater and
(Quoted in Otztrotaihem Shel Tzaddikim)
"Hashem appeared to him [Yitzchak] that night and said, `I am
the G-d of your father Avraham--Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bless you and increase your offspring because of
Avraham my servant'." (26:24)
R' Zvi Elimelech Spira z"l (the Bnei Yissaschar; died 1841) asks:
Why did Hashem appear to Yitzchak at night? Our Sages teach that
Hashem generally appears to prophets in the day-time, and only the
likes of Bil'am generally experienced their prophetic visions at
He explains: Kabbalists teach that on the first night after a
person arrives in Eretz Yisrael from abroad, his soul is exchanged for
a loftier one. Yitzchak was returning from the territory of the
Plishtim (Philistines) which, although technically part of Eretz
Yisrael, is on a lower spiritual level than the central portions of
the Land. Accordingly, Hashem appeared to Yitzchak on the first night
after his return when is soul was "exchanged" and elevated.
"And may G-d give you of the dew of the heavens and of the
fatness of the earth, and abundant grain and wine." (27:28)
The Midrash Breishit Rabbah comments: "And may G-d give you of
the dew of the heavens"-This refers to scripture. "And of the fatness
of the earth"- This refers to Mishnah. "And abundant grain"-This
refers to Gemara. "And wine"-This refers to Aggadah / the non-
halachic portions of the Talmud.
What does this Midrash mean? Furthermore, how are these
different sections of the Torah alluded to in our verse? R' Moshe ibn
Chaviv z"l (1654-1696; Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim) explains:
The Midrash was bothered by the question: Why would Yitzchak
bless his son with material, rather than spiritual, blessings? The
Midrash also was bothered by the fact that Yitzchak blessed his son
with "dew" rather than with "rain." Therefore the Midrash explains
that "dew" refers to scripture. How so? For we read (Devarim 32:2),
"May My utterance flow like the dew." In addition, our Sages teach
that when Hashem gave the Torah to Bnei Yisrael, the Jews' souls left
them with every word that He uttered. Only when He sprinkled over
them the "dew of techiyat ha'maitim" were they revived. [R' ibn Chaviv
does not explain what our Sages mean by the expression "dew of
How does the "fatness of the earth" allude to Mishnah? This can
be understood in two ways, either pejoratively or as a complement.
First, in comparison to the study of Gemara, which requires toil and
sweat, Mishnah is light reading. Those who do not exert themselves in
study and content themselves with Mishnah are akin to someone who does
not exercise his body and becomes fat. Alternatively, because
becoming expert in Mishnah requires constant review, only a person who
lives in comfortable circumstances and is not distracted by earning a
living can excel in Mishnah.
Why is Gemara referred to as "abundant grain"? We are taught,
"If there is no flour, there is no Torah." Gemara is the essence of
Torah, for it is from Gemara that we derive halachah and learn what
the Torah expects of us. Gemara, like flour, is essential to us;
therefore, Gemara too is called "flour" or "grain."
Finally, why is Aggadah called "wine"? Because Aggadah is the
part of Torah that most attracts people. Just as wine makes man's
heart rejoice, so does Aggadah.
(Derashot Maharam Chaviv)
R' David Luria z"l
R' David Luria was born in approximately 1797. He was neither a
communal rabbi nor a rosh yeshiva, but he is well known as a
commentator on Gemara and Midrash. His commentaries are known as
"Radal"--the acronym of "R' David Luria." He also composed halachic
responsa and a commentary on Rambam's Mishneh Torah.
R' David was a student of Vilna's rabbi, R' Shaul
Katzenellenbogen. At R' Shaul's request, R' David was blessed by R'
Chaim Volozhin, the preeminent student of the Vilna Gaon and the
founder of the first modern yeshiva, that he would achieve great fame.
Radal's dedication to learning was legendary. It is said that he
did not sleep more than one hour during the short summer nights and
three hours in the winter, in addition to an afternoon nap of
precisely 12 minutes. Also unparalleled was his joy at each new sefer
In 1854, he was offered the rabbinate of Warsaw. He refused this
position despite the encouragement of the Gerrer Rebbe that he take
it. However, R' David did involve himself in communal needs,
including a meeting in 1846 (together with R' Yitzchak of Volozhin)
with Sir Moses Montiefore to address the needs of Russian Jewry.
(Sir Moses was a wealthy, yet observant, British Jew who lobbied
for Jewish causes around the world, most notably in Russia and Syria.
His vast wealth also supported many Jewish settlers and institutions
in 19th century Eretz Yisrael.)
Radal died on 5 Kislev 5615 (1855)
Copyright © 2004 by Shlomo Katz
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