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Posted on June 7, 2002 (5761) By Rabbi Pinchas Winston | Series: | Level:

Friday Night:

And Ya’akov left Be’er Sheva and went to Charan: (Bereishis 28:10)

Gone are the peaceful days of all-day Torah learning in the quiet tents of Ya’akov. Having taken blessings that were rightfully his, Ya’akov has been forced to flee for his life, though, as the Torah will reveal, where he is going will be just as dangerous. Boy, did the Forefathers ever have it rough; boy, have their descendants also have it rough.

There is a d’var Torah that really belongs to Parashas Chaye Sarah, but, it will also make a good introduction to the story of Jewish history.

We recall how, after the Akeidah, Avraham set his mind on finding the appropriate soul-mate for his almost-sacrificed son and dream, Yitzchak. For this holy and historical task, he chose his trusted C.E.O., Eliezer.

Now, Eliezer himself was also concerned about an error of judgment, knowing how holy his master Yitzchak was, and, after seeing how seriously his master Avraham took the entire matter. Therefore, the Torah reveals to us, that, upon arriving in Padan Aram, Eliezer set up a “test” in order to invoke Divine Providence in making sure the right wife for Yitzchak returned to Be’er Sheva to marry Yitzchak.

However, Eliezer received even more help than he dared ask for. For, not only did the young Rivkah offer drink and hospitality to Eliezer and for his camels, as he had requested, but, he was able to watch how the water rose to fill her containers, and, not the other way around. For such a miracle to occur, Eliezer knew, the young girl before him had to not only be chesedic, but, righteous as well, and these two incidents convinced Eliezer that G-d had fulfilled his request for help.

The miracle is not recorded in to the Torah, but, it is spoken about in Bereishis Rabbah, which Rashi quotes. However, the Ramban goes one step further and explains the basis for the Midrash’s unusual words, by explaining that the Midrash was sensitive to the difference in the wording between the following possukim:

The young girl went down to the spring and filled her jug and then went up. (Bereishis 24:16)

When he had finished drinking, she said, “Let me draw water for your camels She again ran to the well to draw and she drew for the camels. (Bereishis 24:19-20)

In the first verse, says the Ramban, the act of drawing water sounds more passive, as if the jugs became filled, as if it happened for her. In the next two possukim, however, she refers specifically to the act of drawing the water, and, the posuk testifies to the fact that, indeed, she did just that. Furthermore, we might add, in the first verse the well is referred to as a “spring,” which sounds more flowing than the “well” to which the latter possukim refer.

Thus, concludes the Ramban, there is good support for the Midrash’s tradition of what happened that fateful day that destiny was sown — day which the Midrash also compares to the giving of Torah and the money the Jewish people would eventually donate to Temple service. The only question is why? Why the connection to “Mattan Torah,” and, why the change in methodology for drawing water? After all, Rivkah was in the midst of performing a great chesed — should not the miracle have at least continued for her?

The Kedushah HaLevi asked the latter question, and, it is his answer that provides the basis of the answer for the former question. Answers Rav Yitzchak Berditchiver: in the first instance, the water was being drawn for Rivkah herself, but, in the latter case, it was being drawn for Eliezer’s camels. This follows a well-known concept, that being, when it comes to doing chesed, G-d wishes that we make our own effort to execute the mitzvah, in order to become a partner with Him.

In other words, when it comes to the Jew’s own personal physical needs, if he is busy taking care of the needs of others, then, G-d will perform all kinds of miracles to free the person from having to be too involved in this area of life. However, when comes to the actual performance of such mitzvos, then, G-d will withdraw His OVERT support, to give the person the chance to use his own will and energy to fulfill the mitzvah, making him a partner with G-d in creation.

With this information, we can understand the connection to the giving of Torah, for, that is what the acceptance of Torah was all about: entering into a partnership with G-d. Mattan Torah — the Giving of Torah — was the acceptance of the supreme responsibility of taking responsibility for ourselves, and, the world in general. Since Rivkah was the first “outsider” to be inducted into this covenant, she best symbolized the Jewish people who arrived at Har Sinai like “strangers,” in order to convert to a much higher sense of spiritual living.

With this information, we can also put the lives of the Forefathers into perspective, and, that of all their descendants for that matter. For, we see them struggle, struggle hard, and, in spite of their willingness to go with G-d and His ways, still, they have to bang their heads against walls. They have to buy birth rights, go against their natures by doing things like dressing up as their brothers to deceive their fathers, and suffer the trickery of people like Lavan.

It doesn’t have to be that way. G-d could simply make the water come to them, EVERY time. But then again, G-d is not looking for mere servants. He is looking for “partners,” people who will exert themselves of their own volition to fulfill G-d’s purpose for creation. That’s how you become a partner in G-d’s firm, and that is how the purpose of creation is truly fulfilled. And that is the story of the Forefathers, and all those who choose to follow in their foot steps.

Shabbos Day:

And behold, G-d was standing over him and He said, “I am G-d, G-d of Avraham your father and G-d of Yitzchak (Bereishis 28:13)

AND G-D OF YITZCHAK: Even though The Holy One, Blessed is He, does join His Name with tzaddikim during their lifetimes saying “G-d of so-and-so” here He joined His Name with Yitzchak since his eyes were weakened and he was house-bound, he was like one who died and within whom the yetzer hara stopped. (Rashi)

Two questions. First of all, though conceptually that may have been true, still, physically Yitzchak was alive. Secondly, why did Rashi have to conclude by telling us the status of Yitzchak’s yetzer hara; knowing that he had the status of being dead was enough to explain why the posuk refereed to the “G-d of Yitzchak”?

The answer is that it is not being dead that counts when it comes to G-d “attaching” His Holy Name to the names of human beings, but, specifically, being without a yetzer hara. However, for the most part, with the exception of seven people who went to Gan Aiden without dying, dying is the way to rid oneself of the yetzer hara. In fact, that is, according to the Kabbalists, the whole point of death in the first place.

How did we get a yetzer hara in the first place? Actually, the real question is, how did we get an INTERNAL yetzer hara in the first place, for, the yetzer hara came into being even before Adam did — it was a “force” created in Heaven and which later occupied the body of the famous snake. And, even after Adam as created, it remained that way, outside of man, though a force to be reckoned with, obviously.

Then, within three hours of being created, Chava was confronted by the snake. The Kabbalists says that, in the beginning, the snake wasn’t even allowed into the Garden lacking the appropriate holiness to get in. However, when Adam HaRishon made a “study” out of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, innocently enough, he and the entire world was quite instantly transformed into a less holy spiritual environment, and the snake entered.

Through interaction with the snake, again, innocently enough, the snake was able to impart to Chava a spiritual impurity, called “zuhama,” which amounts to the matter from which the yetzer hara is made — and that which stands between man and G-d. But, even then, the zuhama had yet to become an intrinsic part of Chava, or Adam himself, even after interaction with his wife.

However, it was a different story for Kayin, who was the product of spiritual input from Adam and the snake, whose effects had lingered until Kayin’s conception. Thus, Kayin, and then Hevel, and their twin sisters were the ones to first be born with an “internal” yetzer hara, for which there really is no solution but death. And, since death was not a possibility within Gan Aiden, life outside Gan Aiden became imperative.

Thus, it is the absence of one’s yetzer hara that indicates the level of one’s spiritual purity, which is absolutely necessary for a relationship with G-d, and, for G-d to attach His Name to a human being’s name. And, as Rashi indicates, though Yitzchak had been physically alive, he had also been able to, as the result of the Akeidah, free himself of any last vestige of his personal yetzer hara and its accompanying zuhama, as if he had died and remained that way.

And this is why a rare circumstance occurred with respect to Yitzchak, to whose name G-d attached His own, in acknowledgment of the phenomenal purity and spiritual achievements of this particular Forefather. It was a sharp reminder to Ya’akov Avinu, his son who was about to enter a land of impurity and meet up with rather impure people, the spiritual stock from which he had come, and of his need to remain pure nevertheless.


Once Rachel gave birth to Yoseph, Ya’akov said to Lavan, “Send me away, [so that] I can go to my [own] place and to my country.” (Bereishis 30:25)

ONCE RACHEL GAVE BIRTH TO YOSEPH: When the nemesis of Eisav was born, as it says, “The House of Ya’akov will be fire, the House of Yosef will be a flame, and, the House of Eisav will be straw.” (Ovadiah 1:18). Fire without a flame cannot control from the distance; when Yosef was born, Ya’akov trusted in The Holy One, Blessed is He, and wanted to return. (Rashi)

Eisav will only fall by the hands of Yosef’s descendants. (Bava Basra 123b)

When Ya’akov saw the chieftains of Eisav he became afraid and said, “Who can stand up to all of these? The Holy One, Blessed is He said to him, “Your spark will burn it all up — and that spark is Yosef!” (Tanchuma, Vayaishev 1)

It is amazing how much Yosef is played up as the Eisav-slayer in the Midrash, especially given that all of his battles in the Torah are fought against his own kin. Even in Egypt, which were the descendants of Yishmael anyhow, Yosef fared quite well, again, only confronting his own flesh-and-blood later on in life.

And, never before have we needed an Eisav-slayer as much as we do today, for, this final exile is that of Edom — the descendants of Eisav — and redemption seems to depend upon vanquishing them, even though Yishmael seems to present the greatest immediate danger.

Furthermore, Yosef’s tribe is one of the Ten Lost — all Jews today descend from the tribes of Yehudah, Binyomin, or Levi. If Yosef is the spark of redemption necessary to completely consume once-and-for-all the straw that is Eisav, then, it is a buried spark. Where is it?

Perhaps it is Yosef in Yehudah’s, Binyomin’s, or Levi’s clothing. We know from the Zohar on Parashas Mishpatim that souls reincarnate, and, that even parts of souls reincarnate. Perhaps we don’t actually require a physical descendant of Yosef to exist for these prophecies to come true, just a spiritual representation of Yosef in the body of someone who will follow in Yosef’s spiritual steps. This is not hard to consider correct given that we are already told that Moshiach ben Dovid will be the soul of Moshe Rabbeinu reincarnated into the body of one born from the tribe of Yehudah.

The question is, what is Yosef’s role in the Final Redemption? Perhaps, the better question is, what is his legacy?

Yosef was the first person to earn the appellation “tzaddik.” He gained that because he withstood the temptation of the wife of Paroah, thereby exhibiting tremendous fear of G-d and self-control. And, tzaddikim are called the “foundation” of creation, fruit of the very Tree of Life itself:

The fruit of the Tzaddik is the Tree of Life. (Mishlei 11:30): This is Yosef, the Tzaddik, fruit of the Tree of Life. (Zohar Chadash, Chukas)

— and fulfillment of the purpose of creation.

However, the following statement may indicate the correct direction to answer our question, for, it juxtaposes Yosef and exile in one context:

When Yosef the Tzaddik died, the springs and headwaters dried up, and all the Shevatim fell into exile. (Zohar, Shemos 156a)

Thus, there is something about Yosef the Tzaddik that brings the Jewish people to life, that which inspires them and allows them to possess the proper mentality that can banish evil from the world and bring about redemption — all aspects of the Tree of Life. And, what is that?

The Tzaddik is called “Living,” as it says, “The son of a Living Man” (II Shmuel 33:20). He lights his generation the way the Living One Above illuminates the world. The Tzaddik is the Life of the world — alive in two worlds: alive for the World Above and alive for the World Below, which exists and is lighted for him. (Zohar, Bereishis 135b-136a)

This was, and will be the power of Moshiach Ben Yosef. He will be someone, or, perhaps, something, that will re-inspire the Jewish people, and reconnect them to the Tree of Life. Nothing magical about it, but, his very persona will give off light, and, he will cause Jews to become re-connected to the great depths of Torah, and, through him, we will once again be able to feel the soul of Torah.

As such, he will restore Jewish hope, and, after hundreds of years of Western scientific thinking — Eisav’s legacy to mankind — he will cause us to re-build our belief in miracles, thereby enabling and empowering us to see the hand of G-d in life. This will allow us to become fitting “vessels” for the even more brilliant light of Moshiach Ben Dovid, and through this, usher in the longed for period of Final Redemption.

May it come quickly, in our time, and peacefully.


A Song of Ascents for Dovid. G-d, my heart was not proud and my eyes were not haughty, nor did I pursue matters too great and to wondrous for me. I swear that I stilled and silenced my soul, like a suckling child at his mother’s side, like the suckling child is my soul. Let Israel hope to G-d, from this time and forever. (Tehillim 131)

The short tehillah is Dovid HaMelech’s personal testimony to his commitment to the famous dictum:

All is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven. (Brochos 33b)

Conceptually, it is the simplest idea: In spite of the fact that it LOOKS as if I am accomplishing and achieving success, be it physical or spiritual success, the honest truth is that all my successes are from G-d. Though I can take pride in my work, so that I deliver quality performances when fulfilling mitzvos, I cannot take pride in my successes, because, they are G-d-given, along with all my G-d-given abilities to achieve them.

In place of such pride, I must instead feel tremendous gratitude for the success G-d has allowed me to achieve. And, that gratitude must be reflected in the way I deal with myself, other people, and, above all, my relationship to the Source of all my good. Only then can I also achieve true tranquility.

In fact, a suckling child is the epitome of bliss and contentment. It is not just the physical nourishment that calms his entire being and makes him oblivious to the anxiousness of life, but, it is all the loving embrace of his mother that makes him feel completely cocooned against all sources of fear. This is how Dovid HaMelech felt while in the embrace of G-d, where he lived his life; it is the way we all wish to feel, all of our lives.

What people won’t do to simulate such security; what they won’t spend to banish all sources of fear from their lives. In the end, they are really only running away from their fears, unable to control them and unable to avoid them. They know not the bliss of abandonment to the loving care of the only One can control everything.

In a sense, man operates in basically two modes. When he is not running away from his fears, he is proudly building up his world — and taking credit for it. And, occasionally his fears catch up to, and, then he shifts into his afraid gear, and focuses all of his time and energy on resolving them and surviving.

That is Eisav’s approach to life, and a godless one at that. A relationship with G-d is not only not his approach, but, it seems to be an utter waste of time. He’d rather deal with fear in his own way, and, take the chance that maybe the dangers of life will overcome him for good.

He doesn’t know what he is missing. Eisav and all those who follow his ways do not understand the pleasure of acting as G-d’s messenger in This World, of living with gratitude for the good we have, and, of living in peace with our souls. Trust in G-d is a threshold to be crossed, a difficult one at first to even approach. However, having crossed it, when one looks back to the other side, he will wonder how he could have placed his hope anywhere else but in G-d, and how life without such trust could ever have been called life in the first place.

Have a great Shabbos,
Pinchas Winston