These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape #393 Neitz Hachama vs. Tefilah B’tzibur. Good Shabbos!
It’s Important To Know The Rest of the Story
The opening pasukim [verses] in this week’s parsha read: “These are the offspring of Yitzchak son of Avraham — Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak. And Yitzchak was forty years old when he took Rivka the daughter of Besuel from Paddan Aram, the sister of Lavan the Aramean to himself for a wife.” [Bereishis 25:19-20]. Rashi comments that “The offspring of Yitzchak refers to Yaakov and Eisav who are spoken of in this parsha”.
Rashi was bothered by a question. The parsha begins by announcing that it will be discussing the offspring of Yitzchak, but then the Torah goes off on a tangent — discussing Yitzchak’s father, his wife, father-in-law and brother-in-law. What happened to the “offspring of Yitzchak?” Rashi must explain: “Wait. Be patient. They will be discussed later in the narration. The Torah has to go through a little background information first.”
Why is it necessary to go through all this background? Why doesn’t the Torah start talking about Yaakov and Eisav directly? Rav Schwab makes a simple but very important observation on this narration: the history of a person does not begin with his birth on such and such a date in such and such a city. The biography of a person begins with who his parents were, how they got married, where they were from, and who their fathers were. If the biography of Yaakov and Eisav only began with the fact that they were born, it would be telling only part of the story. We need to know what happened during their mother’s pregnancy and who their parents and grandparents were. Only then can we begin to understand them.
Rav Schwab’s point is that people who are seeking mates for themselves or people who are seeking to help others find a proper mate should feel the full responsibility that is upon them. When two people get married, it is not merely a union that involves those two people — there are many preceding generations that are being united. There are generations to come that will be impacted by this marriage. The responsibility of putting two people together is a tremendous responsibility.
Bride & Groom Fast To Atone For Sins Committed On Way To Chuppah
A related matter emerges from the last pasuk [verse] of the parsha: “So Eisav went to Yishmael and took Machalas, the daughter of Yishmael son of Avraham, sister of Nebaioth, in addition to his wives, as a wife for himself” [Bereishis 28:9]. Our Sages etymologically relate the name Machalas to the word Mechilah [forgiveness]. They say that we see from here that on the day a person gets married, all his sins are forgiven. It is a type of pseudo-Yom Kippur. That is why the groom and bride customarily fast on their wedding day. The Mincha [afternoon prayer] that a chosson [bridegroom] recites on the day of his marriage includes the confession [vidui] recited on Yom Kippur.
Rav Avraham Pam once offered an interesting explanation for why the couple fast on the day of their marriage. Specifically, for which sins do they need this special atonement? Rav Pam explained that the Chosson and Kallah [bride] fast on the day of their wedding to atone for the sins they committed while on the way to their wedding day. It is not uncommon for young men and women to hurt people’s feelings very severely while involved in the process of making their way to the Chuppah.
At Least We Should Try To Act Like Eisav!
The Torah speaks of Eisav’s special set of clothes in which Rivka disguised Yaakov [Bereishis 27:15]. Our Sages infer that this was a special set of clothing that Eisav reserved for serving his father. In spite of the fact that he was a thoroughly wicked person, he showed tremendous respect to his father and honored him in an extraordinary fashion. Whenever Yitzchak asked him to do something, Eisav would not merely appear in his street clothes or his hunting clothes. He had a special set of clothing reserved only for the service of his father. Rabban Shimeon ben Gamliel comments in the Medrash “all my life I tried to faithfully serve my father according to halacha, but I did not pay him 1% of the honor that Eisav gave to his father, Yitzchak.”
At this point in time, Yitzchak was already blind, as we clearly see from the story of the blessings. So when Eisav would dress up in his special clothing, it did not even make a difference to Yitzchak. Yitzchak would have no way of knowing what Eisav was wearing. Therefore, this fact demonstrates that when Eisav was serving his father it was not merely an act. He put on his best clothes even when his father was not aware of it. That was the extent of the Kibud Av of Eisav.
Many people are blessed with parents who are older. Sometimes when people become old, they loose awareness of their surroundings Sometimes it is Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes there are other factors. The parents may sometimes not even recognize that the person in the room is their son or daughter.
We must learn from Eisav. Eisav dressed up for his father, even when his father would not have known if Eisav was wearing street clothes or Shabbos clothes or no clothes. His Kibbud Av was such that “It does not matter what my father knows or what my father realizes. I have a responsibility to honor my father.” In this sense we all must try to emulate Eisav.
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Yerushalayim.
This write-up was adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tape series on the weekly Torah portion. The complete list of halachic topics covered in this series for Parshas Toldos are provided below:
- Tape # 031 – Marriage Between Relatives
- Tape # 073 – Non-Kosher Medicines and the Birchas Hareiach (Scents)
- Tape # 122 – G’neivas Da’as: Deception and Your Fellow Man
- Tape # 169 – The Blind Person in Halacha
- Tape # 215 – V’sain Tal U’matar
- Tape # 259 – “Sorfin Al Hachzakos”: The Concept of Chazaka in Halacha
- Tape # 305 – The Bracha of “Baruch Sheptarani”
- Tape # 349 – Must Mincha Have a “Chazoras Hashatz”?
- Tape # 393 – Neitz Hachama vs. Tefilah B’tzibur
- Tape # 437 – Accepting Tzedaka from Women
- Tape # 481 – Lying to Keep What’s Yours
- Tape # 525 – Maris Ayin
- Tape # 569 – Yichud With Relatives
- Tape # 613 – Shiva and the Wayward Son
- Tape # 658 – Fascinating Insights into the Tefilah of Mincha
Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from:
Yad Yechiel Institute
PO Box 511
Owings Mills, MD 21117-0511
Call (410) 358-0416 for further information.
Also Available: Mesorah / Artscroll has published a collection of Rabbi Frand’s essays. The book is entitled:
and is available through your local Hebrew book store.