Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Toldos: Proud of Each Other
Volume XVII, No. 6
4 Kislev 5762
November 9, 2002
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Sanhedrin 59
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Eruvin 16
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 (see page 4) 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)
Why did Esav want Yaakov to pour the stew down his throat rather than serving it to him in a bowl? R’ Pinchas Halevi Horowitz z”l (1730-1805; rabbi of Frankfurt am-Main and noted Talmud commentator) explains:
We read in Mishlei (25:25), “Cold water on a tired soul.” This, writes R’ Horowitz, alludes to the power of netilat yadayim / ritual hand-washing to cleanse a soul that is weighted down by impurity. Esav desired a life of impurity, so he did not practice the mitzvah of netilat yadayim. At the same time, he knew that halachah forbids eating with hands that are not washed, and that Yaakov would refuse to offer him food for that reason. Therefore he said, “Pour it down my throat.” (Panim Yafot)
Midrash Rabbah explains: These garments had belonged to Nimrod, and Esav had killed him and taken them. He kept these garments in Yitzchak and Rivka’s house and wore them when he served his father. The Midrash continues: Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel said, “All my days, I did not serve my father with one-hundredth of the honor with which Esav served his father. When I would serve my father, I would wear [ordinary clothes, even if they were] dirty, yet when I went out in the street I put on clean clothes. In contrast, Esav specially dressed in royal garments when he served his father.”
R’ Eliyahu Capsali z”l (Italy and Crete; 16th century) writes in his treatise on the mitzvah of kibbud av va’aim / honoring one’s father and mother: Because Esav honored his father, he was guaranteed great reward. Our Sages say that when Amalek, a descendant of Esav, attacked Bnei Yisrael, Hashem told Moshe, “Tell Bnei Yisrael, `You will not be able to defeat them, for even now the reward for their father’s acts stands them in good stead’.” Our Sages have said further, “Why is the exile of Edom [i.e., our present exile] so long? It is because of the honor that Esav showed his father.” However, Chazal note, there is consolation in this fact, for if such is the reward for one mitzvah, imagine the reward for one who keeps many mitzvot! (Meah Shearim Ch. 69)
[R’ Capsali asks in a footnote: If Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel recognized that his service of his father was not as good as Esav’s, why didn’t he improve his service and change his clothes? He answers that perhaps Rabbi Shimon did not learn until his old age how Esav had served his father. This is implied by Rabbi Shimon’s words, “All my days, I did not serve my father…”
Perhaps we may suggest another answer: The Gemara (Chullin 105a) records that Rav Ukva said, “I am like vinegar from wine compared to my father, for if he ate meat one day, he would not eat dairy for 24 hours, whereas I wait only from one meal until the next.” Commentaries ask: If Rav Ukva recognized that his father’s behavior was superior to his own, why did he not imitate his father? They answer: If one is on a spiritual level where a given stringency is appropriate, let him practice it. However, one should not adopt halachic stringencies merely to imitate another person. Rav Ukva was not bemoaning the fact that he did not act as his father acted. Rather, he was bemoaning the fact that he was not on a level where such a stringency was appropriate for him.
Perhaps this is what Rabbi Shimon meant as well. Perhaps he was not bemoaning the fact that he did not do as Esav did. Rather, he was bemoaning the fact that he did not have sufficient appreciation for the mitzvah of honoring his father. Thus, if he were to change his clothes to serve his father, it would be nothing more than inappropriate imitation.]
R’ Eliezer Papo z”l (1785-1827) writes: The benefits of observing Shabbat are well-known. For example, our Sages taught: “If one observes Shabbat, even if he practices idolatry like the generation of Enosh, he is forgiven.” Our Sages taught further: “If only the Jewish people would keep two Sabbaths properly, they would be redeemed immediately.” They also said, “Shabbat is equivalent to the entire Torah.”
R’ Papo continues (quoting the earlier work Kikar La’aden): It is absolutely essential to observe Shabbat so that the redemption will occur in the near future. It is not possible to cure our wounds in any way other than through Shabbat observance. Even if we repent from all our other sins, all is dependent on Shabbat observance.
Thank G-d, the work Kikar La’aden continues, most people do observe Shabbat in our times. Nevertheless, our pain is great because of two things which cause our downfall. One is that people do not refrain from speaking of weekday matters on Shabbat. The verse (Yishayah 58:13-14), “If you proclaim the Sabbath `a delight,’ and the holy [day] of Hashem `honored,’ and you honor it by not engaging in your own affairs, from seeking your own needs and discussing the forbidden [literally, `speaking speech’], then you will delight in Hashem…” Only if you guard yourself from speaking of weekday matters on Shabbat will you delight in Hashem.
R’ Papo continues: Unfortunately, people do not believe that speaking of weekday matters desecrates the Shabbat. Consider this: The Torah says (in a number of places), “Rest on the seventh day, for six days did Hashem create the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh He rested.” What does it mean that Hashem rested? He means he stopped speaking, for what was creation other than a result of Hashem’s speech, as we read (Tehilim 33:6), “By the word of Hashem the heavens were made . . .!” We are commanded to rest as He rested, and this means not speaking about weekday matters. [Ed. note: Please consult a halachic work or your rabbi for guidance as to what speech is and is not permitted on Shabbat.]
R’ Papo adds: Some people think that if they preface their words with the phrase, “Not to speak of this on Shabbat but . . . ,” then their discussion is permitted. This is, of course, foolishness, for the fact remains that they are discussing the forbidden matter on Shabbat.
[The second common error that R’ Papo discusses relates to having a non-Jew peform work on Shabbat. (This subject too is a complex halachic matter.) R’ Papo concludes:] What then is Shabbat for? For studying Torah. All week long we make excuses that we are too busy to study. If Shabbat comes and we still do not study, our excuses will be discredited and we will be punished for failing to study all week long. (Pele Yoetz: Shabbat)
R’ Gershon Ashkenazi z”l
R’ Gershon ben Yitzchak Ashkenazi, also known as R’ Gershon Ulif, was born in Germany in the early 17th century and may have studied under R’ Meir Schiff (Maharam Schiff) in Frankfurt. However, as a young man, he emigrated to Krakow, where he studied under some of the most eminent scholars of that period: R’ Yoel Sirkes (the Bach), R’ Yehoshua ben Yosef (the Maginei Shlomo), R’ Heshel, and R’ Menachem Mendel Krochmal. R’ Gershon’s first wife was a great-granddaughter of R’ Sirkes, and when she died at a young age, he married the daughter of R’ Krochmal.
R’ Gershon served for a time as a dayan / rabbinical court judge in Krakow. In 1649, he accepted the rabbinate of Prossnitz (Prostejov), Moravia, and, sometime after 1657, he was rabbi in Hanau, Germany. In 1661, R’ Gershon succeeded R’ Krochmal as Chief Rabbi of Nikolsburg and Moravia, but he left after three years to become Chief Rabbi of Vienna. In 1670, the Jews were expelled from Vienna, and R’ Gershon became rabbi of Metz, where he remained until his death.
In Metz, R’ Gershon was a recognized posek / halachic authority whose opinions were widely sought. He also headed a yeshiva with hundreds of students, and his lectures were renowned for being both ingenious and penetrating. Among his students was R’ David Oppenheim, later rabbi of Prague. R’ Oppenheim said of his teacher that if, G-d forbid, the Torah were ever forgotten, R’ Gershon could restore it with his sharp intellect. (Incidentaly, R’ Oppenheim was extremely wealthy and amassed a Torah library that is reputed to have been one of the largest private Torah libraries in history.)
R’ Gershon also authored a number of significant works: Avodat Ha’Gershuni, containing halachic responsa; Tiferet Ha’Gershuni, derashot on parashat ha’shavuah in the pilpul style, with some kabbalistic material; and Chiddushei Ha’Gershuni on Shulchan Aruch. He also left unpublished commentaries on several tractates of Talmud.
R’ Gershon died on 11 Adar II 5453 / 1693, and many communities decreed a ban on music for a full year as a sign of mourning. (Source: The Acharonim p. 199)
Copyright © 2002 by Shlomo Katz and Project Genesis, Inc.
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