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 birthright?”
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 greater heights.
(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 night!
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 techiyat ha’maitim.”]
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 he acquired.
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)
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