Volume 38, No. 6
5 Kislev 5784
November 18, 2023
Sponsored by Robert and Hannah Klein on the yahrzeits of his mother, Dorothy Klein (Devorah bat Avraham a”h), and his brother, Kenneth H. Klein (Kalman Hershel ben Meir a”h) and Esther Edeson and the Edeson & Stern families in memory of her father, Nathan Salsbury (Nachum ben Yaakov a”h), father-in-law Joseph N. Edeson (Yosef Nosson ben Moshe Shalom a”h), her brother Harry Walter Salsbury a”h, and her aunts Florence Bucher Gordon a”h and Mary Scher a”h
In this week’s Parashah, we read about the birth of Yaakov and Esav. Rashi z”l writes that the name “Esav” alludes to his being born a “made person”–on the simplest level, a reference to his being born covered with hair like an adult.
R’ Yaakov ben Asher z”l (the “Ba’al Ha’turim”; Germany and Spain; 1269-1343) notes that the Gematria of “Esav” equals the Gematria of “Shalom.” He explains: If not for the “peace” within his name, Esav would already have destroyed the world.
R’ Yaakov Moshe Hillel shlita (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Ahavat Shalom in Yerushalayim) writes: The allusion to Shalom in Esav’s name could also be referring to the same thing that Rashi writes, i.e., that Esav was born “Shalem” / “complete.” But, R’ Hillel asks, what is the nature of this completeness?
He explains: Yaakov’s and Esav’s names tell us about their essence. Esav was a man of the physical world, interested only in what the world he can sense has to offer. Thus, he was complete as soon as he was born, because everything he cared about was right in front of him.
Not so Yaakov, writes R’ Hillel. Yaakov’s focus was on spiritual growth, referred to in Hebrew as “Aliyah” / “rising.” He was fittingly named after the Eikev / heel, the lowest part of the body, for that is where he pictured himself: at the bottom, needing to climb upwards. (The letter “Yud” placed in front of the word “Eikev” to form “Yaakov” alludes to the spark of Kedushah / holiness within him.) After Yaakov fought Esav’s angel, he was renamed “Yisrael” which contains within it the letters of the word “Rosh” / “head,” signifying the success of Yaakov’s “climb.” (Sulam Yaakov)
“And these are the offspring of Yitzchak son of Avraham–Avraham fathered Yitzchak.” (25:19)
R’ Yaakov Abuchatzeira z”l (1806-1880; Morocco; known as “Abir Yaakov”) asks: Why does the verse interrupt and speak about Avraham and never mention the offspring of Yitzchak? (They are not mentioned until later.)
R’ Abuchatzeira answers: Rashi z”l (to Bereishit 6:9) writes that the primary progeny of the righteous are their good deeds. Accordingly, our verse could be read as saying: Yitzchak’s progeny were his good deeds, and whoever saw him said, “He is a worthy son of Avraham!” (Pituchei Chotam)
“Yitzchak sowed in that land, and in that year he reaped a hundredfold; thus had Hashem blessed him.” (26:12)
Rashi z”l comments: Our Sages say that the estimate was made for the purpose of Ma’aser / tithing. [Until here from Rashi]
R’ Moshe Yirmiyahu Narol Hakohen z”l (rabbi in Narol, Poland and Metz, France; died 1659) asks: How do our Sages know that?
He answers: The Gemara (Ta’anit 9a) teaches that it is forbidden to test Hashem, except with regard to tithes, about which it is written (Malachi 3:10), “‘Bring the entire tithe to the storehouse and let there be food in My House — and test Me now thereby,’ says Hashem, Master of Legions, ‘[and see] if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour down for you blessing beyond your capacity’.” Why is one permitted to test Hashem regarding tithes?
R’ Narol explains: On the one hand, one may not estimate when giving tithes; he must make a precise calculation. On the other hand, our Sages (Ta’anit 8b) teach that blessings rest only on things that are hidden, not on things whose quantity is known. Thus, one would expect that counting one’s produce in order to tithe it would be harmful. No! says Hashem. Test Me by giving tithes, and you will see that I will bless your produce even though you counted it.
Our verse, too, ends with the words “Hashem blessed him,” writes R’ Narol. Since Yitzchak counted his produce and Hashem blessed him nevertheless, he must have done so for the purpose of tithing. (Birkat Tov)
Why is blessing found only in things that are hidden from the eye? R’ Yehuda Loewe z”l (Maharal of Prague; died 1609) answers: When we see things with our eyes, we visualize their physical limits. In contrast, “blessing” is the absence of limits. Therefore, the two are inconsistent. (Chiddushei Aggadot: Bava Metzia 42a)
R’ Yerucham Levovitz z”l (Mashgiach Ruchani of the Mir Yeshiva; died 1936) writes: When a person counts his wealth, he surely blesses himself that he should prosper. However, compared to the blessing that Hashem can offer, any blessing that we offer ourselves is puny, almost a curse. Therefore, it is better to leave our wealth uncounted [except when counting is necessary in order to tithe correctly]. (Da’at Chochmah U’mussar II p.13)
“Yitzchak’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of fresh water. The shepherds of Gerar quarreled with Yitzchak’s shepherds saying, ‘The water is ours’ . . . Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over it also . . . He relocated from there and dug another well. They did not quarrel over it, so he called its name ‘Rechovot,’ and said, ‘For now Hashem has granted us ample space, and we can be fruitful in the land’.” (26:19-22)
Targum Yonatan ben Uziel (an Aramaic translation and commentary of the Torah dating to the end of the Second Temple period) relates that after the shepherds of Gerar misappropriated the first well, it dried up, and they returned it to Yitzchak. After they misappropriated the second well, it also dried up, but they did not return it to Yitzchak. Why?
R’ Tzvi Abba Gorelick z”l (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedolah Zichron Moshe in South Fallsburg, N.Y.; died 2010) explains: When Yitzchak dug the first well, the shepherds of Gerar claimed, “The water is ours.” They did not claim that the well stood on their land, only that the well was being fed by a spring that belonged to them. When a miracle occurred and the well gave its water only to Yitzchak, they had to admit that the well was not drawing from their spring, and they returned it to Yitzchak.
In contrast, when Yitzchak dug the second well, the shepherds of Gerar claimed that he had actually dug it on their property. Thus the verse says that they “quarreled over it,” not over the water. And, therefore, whether it was giving water or not, they did not return it to Yitzchak, because they claimed the place itself was theirs. This explains why, before Yitzchak dug another well, “He relocated from there,” i.e., he moved far away so that the shepherds of Gerar would not claim that he was on their land. And, indeed, they did not quarrel with him over that well. (Pirkei Mikra)
The Gemara (Bava Batra 75a) states that, in the future, Hashem will make a feast for Tzaddikim from the flesh of the Leviathan (see also Rashi z”l to Bereishit 1:21). R’ Yisrael Eliyahu Weintraub z”l (1932-2010; Bnei Brak, Israel) quotes R’ Eliyahu z”l (1720-1797; the Vilna Gaon) as saying that this feast will take place at the end of our present world, before the inauguration of the World-to-Come–like the first Seudat Shabbat / Friday night meal, which one may eat during “Tosefet Shabbat”/ the last few minutes of Erev Shabbat that we make part of Shabbat.
R’ Weintraub explains: Throughout the story of Creation (Bereishit ch.1), G-d is referred to as “Elokim”–never by the Four Letter Name that we pronounce “Hashem.” The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 5) teaches that “Elokim” means “Master of all forces”–implying that there are other forces besides G-d, but He is the Master of them all. That is how the created world appears to us–as if there are other forces, notably the forces of nature–and that is why the Name Elokim is used in connection with Creation. While we do believe that G-d is superior to those forces, we do not perceive Him as the only force. Instead, we see Him as Elokim–Master of all the forces. (In contrast, “Hashem” refers to G-d’s Unity, which is not evident in Creation. Therefore, that Name is not used in describing Creation.)
In the World-to-Come, everything will become clear, and we will finally see Him as the One and Only Force, as we read (Yeshayah 2:12), “Hashem alone will be exalted on that day.” About this we read also (Yeshayah 40:5), “The glory of Hashem shall be revealed, and all flesh as one shall see that the Mouth of Hashem has spoken.”
On Shabbat, we obtain a glimpse of that future clarity, R’ Weintraub continues. This is why we say in the Friday night prayers, “You have sanctified the Seventh Day for Your Name”–i.e., the Name “Hashem,” which is associated with the clarity of a future time. (This is the message also of the familiar verse (Zechariah 14:9), “On that day, Hashem will be One and His Name will be One.”) When we observe Shabbat, we are, in effect, ushering in the World-to-Come a little early, just as, in this world, we usher in the Sabbath Day a few minutes before the actual end of Erev Shabbat. And just as we may enjoy our Seudat Shabbat during Tosefet Shabbat, so the Feast of the Leviathan will take place in the moments just before the beginning of the World-to-Come. (Nefesh Eliyahu: Bereishit p.174)