These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: #1225 – The Bar Mitzvah Bochur Who Leined His Haftorah by Heart. Good Shabbos!
The pasuk says, “And Yaakov boiled a stew, and Eisav came in from the field, and he was exhausted.” (Bereshis 25:29). The sad news reached the family that Avraham Avinu has passed away. Yaakov Avinu was cooking lentils because it is customary to serve a mourner round food items. (This is why an egg is typically eaten at the Seudah Mafsekes before Tisha B’Av.) Yaakov Avinu was cooking lentil soup for his father as part of the customary “Seudas Havra’ah” (the first meal a mourner consumes following the funeral, typically prepared by neighbors). Eisav came home from the field tired and famished. We know the rest of the story. Eisav asked for the lentil soup. Yaakov made a deal with him. Eisav sold the birthright to Yaakov, and thus abandoned the bechora. This is the beginning of Parshas Toldos.
The Tolner Rebbe asks three interesting questions:
- On the above cited pasuk (vayazed Yaakov nazid), Rashi explains that the word vayazed means to cook. However, the far more common word for cooking in the Torah is the word bishul or some derivative of that root word. Why suddenly over here when the Torah wants to say that Yaakov was cooking lentil soup does the Torah use the word vayazed, necessitating for Rashi to explain that vayazed is the same as bishul?
- What was the dish that Yaakov cooked? The Torah here calls it nazid (some kind of soup). It is not until five pesukim later (Bereshis 25:34) that the Torah calls it nazid adashim (lentil soup). Why do we need to wait to find out what Yaakov was cooking? Get to the point right away!
- Yitzchak was a wealthy man. Avraham Avinu was a wealthy man and he gave everything that he had to Yitzchak. We are not aware of Yitzchak suffering any financial setbacks. Would we not expect Yitzchak to have servants in his house who did the cooking? Yaakov was a diligent student. He spent his time in the Yeshiva of Shem v’Ever. He learns all the time. Later in life, he learned fourteen years straight without sleeping. Yet what is he doing at the beginning of Parshas Toldos? He is cooking! What about the servants? In fact, the Medrash here points out the humility of Yaakov Avinu that he was cooking lentil soup himself, despite the fact that his father had many servants!
The Tolner Rebbe cites a Malbim who explains the relationship between the word vayazed and the idea of cooking. The Torah uses the same root word in the expression “Ki ba’davar she’ZADU aleihem” (Shemos 18:11), where it means planned or schemed. The Malbim asks: Why is the same root word in Lashon HaKodesh used for cooking and also for planning and scheming? The Malbim answers that when a person schemes, he is cooking up a plan. The word zeidim (as in the expression zeidim b’yad osekei Torasecha) refers to people who plan nefarious and malevolent schemes. These plans that they “cook up” need to first percolate until they are fully ready to be put into action.
There is an expression – if someone wants to cheat in business, he “cooks the books”. What kind of expression is that? It is the same idea. If someone wants to try to fool his partner or the government or someone else, he may plan how to charge this expense and how to charge that expense. That is “cooking the books”.
That is why the expression vayazed is synonymous with the expression “bishul“—it requires this great forethought of planning, which is synonymous with “cooking up a plan” to do something.
Now we can explain why the pasuk specifically uses the verb vayazed Yaakov nazid. The Torah is trying to indicate that Yaakov Avinu carefully planned this activity with great forethought and intent. He reasoned: My father just became an avel. I want to cook for him. Yaakov’s action was done with great planning and forethought in order to fulfill the commandment of honoring his father. This answers the first question.
That is why he did not just let the servants cook the soup—the third question. This was not just a bowl of soup. This was Kibbud Av. Yaakov wanted to do it, and he wanted to do it from the get go. “I don’t just want to serve my father. I want to cook the soup and I want to prepare the soup. This is how I want to serve my father.” The purpose of the cooking was not just to get something on the plate (for which the word bishul would have sufficed). The cooking over here was a well thought out plan of providing the Seudas Havra’ah and fulfilling the mitzvah of Kibbud Av v’Em.
This is also why the Torah does not state right away that it was a bowl of lentil soup—the second question. That is immaterial at this point. At this point, the Torah is interested in stating that Yaakov was doing the act of cooking, the act of preparing food to serve his bereaved father. If his only interest was to convey the bottom line, then the menu would have been mentioned up front: A bowl of lentil soup. However, that is not the Torah’s intent over here. The Torah is trying to emphasize that Yaakov did this entire act with great forethought.
This answers all three questions.
The Tolner Rebbe explains further that within this idea of planning and forethought lies one of the fundamental differences between Yaakov and Eisav. Eisav (as we also see from his name and from his whole life) is not interested in process. He is not interested in preparation. He is interested in the bottom line. That is why the name Eisav is related to the verb ossuei (done). Yaakov comes from the word Akov – crooked. Yaakov’s whole life was a life of process, a life of growing, a life of becoming. His life was a life in which the journey and the path itself had merit.
Eisav is a “Just get it done” person. That is why Chazal say that when Yitzchak Avinu told Eisav “Go out and hunt for me,” the Medrash says that Eisav said to himself – If I find an animal quickly, fine, I will hunt for it, otherwise I will steal an animal from someone who has already found one. To Eisav, it was just a matter of getting it done. How? Where? The process is all immaterial.
This is reflected in the difference between Yiddishkeit and secularism. Yiddishkeit emphasizes process and growing in stages. “Going through the motions” itself has value. This is not the case in the secular world. They are not interested in process. What’s your batting average? How many runs did you score? How much money do you make? They are not interested in the effort you put into it. It is just the “bottom line.” This is not a Jewish value.
Anu ameilim v’hem ameilim (we toil, and they toil). We are rewarded even for the toil (even when it does not necessarily lead to concrete accomplishment). This is the difference between Yaakov and Eisav.
The Tolner Rebbe told an amazing story at the end of this presentation:
In Europe there were a number of very brilliant people. There was a child prodigy known in Europe as the prodigy from Meit’zat. He wrote a sefer called Chidushei ha’Ilui m’Meit’zat (https://www.hebrewbooks.org/50602). He later came to America and was a Rosh Yeshiva in Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchonon. His name was Rav Shlomo Polacheck (1877-1928). His son told over an amazing story about his father:
When Rav Polacheck came to America from Poland and he saw children playing with toys and games, he cried. Why? He said “If I would have had the opportunity to play with toys and be a child when I was young, I would be a bigger Talmid Chochom than I am today – because the process of growing up is important.” There is a thing called maturation. There is a stage called childhood and a stage called adolescence and a stage called adulthood. He was such a prodigy that perhaps he knew Mishnayos by heart at age three. Someone who knows Mishanyos by heart is not able to play around with whatever little toys three-year-olds played around with in Europe. So, he did not really experience childhood. He said about himself that if he would have had a proper childhood, he could have become an even greater Talmid Chochom (which is hard to imagine).
That is the point of the Tolner Rebbe’s whole shtickle Torah. Process and development have value. A person cannot just skip to the bottom line or skip to the end. That is what we learn from “vaYazed Yaakov nazid.”
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Toldos is provided below:
- # 031 – Marriage Between Relatives
- # 073 – Non-Kosher Medicines and the Birchas Hareiach (Scents)
- # 122 – G’neivas Da’as: Deception and Your Fellow Man
- # 169 – The Blind Person in Halacha
- # 215 – V’sain Tal U’matar
- # 259 – “Sorfin Al Hachzakos”: The Concept of Chazaka in Halacha
- # 305 – The Bracha of “Baruch Sheptarani”
- # 349 – Must Mincha Have a “Chazoras Hashatz”?
- # 393 – Neitz Hachama vs. Tefilah B’tzibur
- # 437 – Accepting Tzedaka from Women
- # 481 – Lying to Keep What’s Yours
- # 525 – Maris Ayin
- # 569 – Yichud With Relatives
- # 613 – Shiva and the Wayward Son
- # 657 – Fascinating Insights into the Tefilah of Mincha
- # 701 – Fasting on The Wedding Day
- # 745 – The Cost of Stealing a Mizvah
- # 789 – The Power of Your Own Words
- # 833 – Six or Ten People for Chazoras Hashatz?
- # 877 – Bar Mitzvah Sh’ailos
- # 921 – Accepting Someone Else’s Curse
- # 964 – The Non-Observant at Your Yom Tov Meal: Good idea or Problem?
- #1008 – “I Don’t Want You To Marry That Man” Must A Daughter Listen?
- #1052 – Seudas Hav’ra’ah and Sending Food During Shiva
- #1095 – Fascinating Bar Mitzvah Sh’ailos
- #1138 – Who’s Better For A Shliach Tzibur – A FFB or BT?
- #1181 – Maaser Money On Chasunah Gifts – Must You?
- #1225 – The Bar Mitzvah Bochur Who Leined His Haftorah by Heart
- #1269 – The B.T. Dilemma: Can He Trust His Non-Observant Parents That All Will Be Kosher?
- #1313 – An Orthodox Minyan in a Conservative Shul: Is there A Problem with Ma’aris Ayin?
- #1357 – Blood and DNA Test in Determining Paternity
- #1401 – Keeping Your Website Open For Business On Shabbos – Is there a Problem?
- (2019) – The December Office Party at Ruth Chris Steak House – Can You Attend?
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.