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The Lamplighter Weekly

Volume 24 Issue 41
Nov. 20-26, 2022 - 26 Cheshvan-2 Kislev, 5783
Torah Reading: Toldos
 Candle Lighting : 5:08 PM
Shabbos Ends: 6:04 PM

 

Parsha Synopsis · A Word From the Rabbi

Essay · Thoughts That Count
Once Upon A Chassid · Tid Bits · Happenings · Notes From Israel

 

Parsha Synopsis

Toldos
Genesis: 25:19-28:9

Isaac and  Rebecca endure twenty childless years, until their  prayers are answered and Rebecca conceives. She experiences a difficult pregnancy as the “ children struggle inside her”;  G‑d tells her that “ there are two nations in your womb,” and that the younger will prevail over the elder.

Esau emerges first;  Jacob is born clutching Esau’s heel. Esau grows up to be “a cunning hunter,  a man of the field”; Jacob is “a wholesome man,” a dweller in the tents of learning.  Isaac favors Esau; Rebecca loves Jacob. Returning exhausted and hungry from the hunt one day,  Esau sells his birthright (his rights as the  firstborn) to Jacob for a pot of red lentil stew.

In Gerar, in the land of the Philistines, Isaac presents Rebecca as his sister, out of fear that he will be killed by someone coveting her beauty. He farms the land, reopens the wells dug by his father  Abraham, and  digs a series of his own wells: over the first two there is strife with the Philistines, but the waters of the third well are enjoyed in tranquility.

Esau marries two Hittite women.  Isaac grows old and blind, and expresses his desire to bless Esau before he dies. While Esau goes off to hunt for his father’s favorite food,  Rebecca dresses Jacob in Esau’s clothes, covers his arms and neck with goatskins to simulate the feel of his hairier brother, prepares a similar dish, and sends Jacob to his father.  Jacob receives his father’s blessings for “the dew of the heaven and the fat of the land” and mastery over his brother. When Esau returns and  the deception is revealed, all Isaac can do for his weeping son is to predict that he will live by his sword, and that when Jacob falters, the younger brother will forfeit his supremacy over the elder.

Jacob leaves home for Charan to flee Esau’s wrath and to find a wife in the family of his mother’s brother, Laban.  Esau marries a third wife—Machalath, the daughter of  Ishmael.

A Word From the Rabbi

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TO LEAD IS TO FOLLOW
The Within the Old

The famous playwright Arthur Miller is said to have been traveling in the late 1950s by airplane. It so happened that the seat next to him was occupied by a prominent Rebbe. In accordance with cultural practice the Rebbe was doted upon by students and family who were traveling along with him on the same flight.

Upfront and close to all the activity surrounding the Rebbe Mr. Miller could not help but marvel over the reverence and care the Rebbe was accorded.

The abundant love and respect bestowed on an old pedagogue by his young protégés triggered Miller’s curiosity. Himself a pillar of secular knowledge, who was accustomed to lecture to university students, he could truly appreciate what this meant.

At one point, as his curiosity piqued, he turned to the Rebbe in amazement and asked: “Rabbi, how come I, a Pulitzer prize winner and modern American icon, am treated cavalierly by my students, while you, a teacher of an archaic tradition, are treated with utmost reverence, almost as a beloved surrogate parent, by your followers?” 

The Rebbe, purportedly smiled and replied: “It is very simple my friend. You; a secular scholar, teach your students that they are descendants of monkeys, so when they look at you, they see someone who is one generation closer to their primitive ape past. No wonder why they treat you that way.

”I, on the other hand, teach my students that they are descendants of the awesome generation who stood at Sinai and witnessed the greatest Divine revelation in history. Given the above, they consider me one generation closer to that transformational face-to-face encounter with the Divine. Is it a wonder then that they so respect me?”

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And these are the offspring of Yitzchak the son of Avraham. Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak—Gen 25:19.

The book of Bereishis is the book of the Patriarchs—their lives, their wives, their children, their activities, circumstances and events.

However; upon examination, it becomes rather evident that not all the patriarchs are given equal press and exposure. The focus and attention directed to the three patriarchs is considerably unbalanced.

Avraham is allotted three entire portions, Lech L’cha, Vayeira and Chayei Sara. Yaakov's story spans over five portions, beginning with Vayeitzei, Vayishlach and Vayeishev.

Digressing with the dramatic story of Yosef’s struggles with his brothers, in Vayeishev and Miketz, the attention returns, in the final portions of Vayigash and Vayechi, to Yaakov’s golden years together with his long-lost son Yosef.

Yitzchak, on the other hand, appears in but two Parshas, Parsha Chayei Sara and Toldos—which we read this Shabbos.

Within the two given Parsha’s only a scarce few verses are devoted to events in which Yitzchak plays a leading role.

Why is the middle patriarch given so little attention? It almost appears akin to the proverbial “Middle child” syndrome.

In the first blessing of the Amidah, we refer to G‑d in conjunction with each of the three forefathers: “The G‑d of Avraham, the G‑d of Yitzchak, and the G‑d of Yaakov.”

The language, however, seems redundant. Could it not have simply said: “The G‑d of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov?” Why does the prayer repeat G‑d's Name two extra times?

The repetition, according to the Baal Shem Tov, is to teach that each Patriarch was unique in his Divine service. Avraham was not the only one who had a special relationship with G‑d; Yitzchak and Yaakov did as well.

Avraham’s distinct character and identity is well defined. He is the embodiment of kindness—Chesed; constantly inviting guests into his tent to share a bite and enjoy his warm hospitality.

Avraham understood human nature; he was well ahead of the curve in his realization that the way to a man’s mind is through his stomach. By satisfying their stomachs, Avraham was able to bring them to an awareness of G‑d.

Yaakov’s disposition and ideals were similarly well defined. The third in succession of forefathers is renowned as a pillar of truth and Torah, hence the verse: “Give truth to Yaakov”—Micha 7:20. Truth is synonymous with Torah.

Yaakov is the paradigm of Torah diligence: “Ish Tam Yoshev Ohalim”—an unworldly man who dwells in the tent of Torah study.

The Torah furthermore relates the large family that Yaakov raises and the immense wealth he amasses despite the exploitation of his fraudster uncle Lavan.

While we know what personality and character traits we derive from Avraham and Yaakov, it is not clear what attribute Yitzchak had bequeathed his progeny. What contribution has he made to his descendants?

Unlike Avraham, who discovered the monotheistic qualities of G‑d, founded a new people and acquired a new land, Yitzchak’s identity and contributions are rather obscure.

Contrary to Yaakov, who grew to wrestle with man and angel and to be blessed with a new name, Yitzchak is hardly known.

Who is Yitzchak? What are his accomplishments? What does he represent?

Some might view him as passive since during most of his life things seem to happen to him. Whereas Avraham circumcises himself, Yiztchak is circumcised. He is likewise taken to Mt. Moriah to be sacrificed.  Avraham even arranges a bride for him.

Before we move on to explain this conundrum, it is a good time and place to call attention to the following parenthetical observation.

There is a breed of Rabbis, teachers, speakers and the like, who describe the biblical figures and other Torah teachings in a very human, corporeal even coarse and disrespectful manner.

These authors and commentators treat the holy Torah giants in their D’var Torah’s as if they were contemporary entities, such as the characters of a secular a book or a movie (lhavdil).

One such audacious, so called Dvar Torah, attributes Yitzchak’s characteristics to a pathological challenge: “There is something simplistic; naïve-like, about our second patriarch Yitzchak… 

Yitzhak is forever compliant. He goes to Moriah to be slaughtered without a persistent argument. He seems to agree with everything he's asked to do, no matter the consequences.

Since Yitzchak is easy to deceive, lacks individuality, is spared grief, is compliant and is even laughed at,” the author goes on to assert, “It may be the sign of cognitive impediments.” Heaven forbid!

One ought to be wary of the disrespectful trend of liberal style characterizations, which tend to humanize our holy Avos in a way that is untraditional and unbefitting. This tendency has sadly been infiltrating the Divrei Torah of some unexpected proponents.

I’m not going to dignify that type of folly by deliberating its essential flawed character. It is (hopefully) needless to say that such warped ideas and perspectives have no place in true Torah Judaism.

The very thought of analyzing and defining our great Biblical images through the lens of mundane human psychology has, obviously, no place in Torah Judaism.

It should be apparent to anyone with even a partially functioning brain that Yitzchak did not earn the title of “Forefather” Just because he was Avraham’s son.

He was evidently a man of great stature and sainthood, deserving of his Biblical fame and station within Judaism.

Getting back to our discussion, the sense we get from the little that we come to know about Yitzchak is of a far more introverted person than were his father Avraham and his son Yaakov.

Unlike Avraham, Yitzchak spent his days in deep meditation connecting to G‑d. An example of this is the Torah’s account of when he went out “To speak, ‘Lasuach,’ in the field”—Gen 24:63. Oddly, the verse does not mention to whom he is speaking or what he says.

The Talmud—Brachos 26b, interprets that the word “Sicha,” related to “lasuach” is a reference to prayer. It seems, then, that Yitzchak was praying.

Yitzchak’s identity is perhaps best described in Parshas Vayeitzei, where his son Yaakov refers twice to him as “Pachad Yitzchak”—Gen 31:41; 31:53. What does the term “Pachad Yitzchak” mean?

The word “Pachad” means fear. Yitzchak stands for Gevurah, a stricter and more restrained quality than those of his father and son.

Regardless, when we read the narrative of Parshas Toldos, something about Yitzchak seems to stand out. It appears that more than anything else, Yitzchak aspired to replicate the ways of Avraham his father.

The Midrash shares this very sentiment. Regarding the episode of his re-digging his father’s wells the Midrash states: “Behold the humility of Yitzchak.

Ordinarily a person who acquires a house gives it a name; then his son comes along, makes an improvement and calls it by a different name.

Not so Yitzchak: despite the fact that all the wells that his father Avraham dug were entirely stopped-up by the Philistines, when he re-dug them anew, he did not give them new names, he rather reinstated the names given by his father.”

Why, among the very select incidents discussed regarding Yitzchak’s life, does the Torah choose to record his occupation with re-digging his father’s wells for posterity?

The answer is because it holds the secret to Yitzchak’s identity; unyielding determination to follow in his saintly father’s ways and uphold his spiritual achievements.

Much like his father, when there was a famine in Canaan, he too goes to the country of Plishtim. In fact, when Yitzchak was in Gerar, G‑d appeared to him and told him “Do not go down to Egypt…”—Gen Chapter 12.

What, however, gave rise to the notion that he was contemplating a trip to Egypt in the first place? “We know his intent was to go down to Egypt,” says Rashi, “Since that’s what his father had done during the famine of his time.”

Yitzchak’s approach to every situation in life was to ponder: “What would my father have done under these circumstances?” He strived with all is heart to uphold the legacy and tradition of his father.

Knowing Yitzchak’s nature, G‑d did not wait, He intervened before he could get to go to Egypt as his father did. This is the meaning of “Pachad Yitzchak.”

Yitzchak was in constant fear lest he deviate one iota from the path that had been carved by his saintly father, Avraham.

Human nature is for a son not to want to keep the traditions of his father. Fathers are old fashioned; their ways are “Old hat” and “Un-Cool.” 

Children typically want to make their own mark in the world. They do not want to do things the way their father did. They want to improve, expand, update and do it “My own way.”

Yitzchak, however, was the antithesis of this human nature. He said: “If my father dug wells then I am going to dig the same wells. I am going to call them by the same names that my father called them.”

Rabbeinu Bechaye writes explicitly: The fact that the Torah records this about Yitzchak shows it is a praiseworthy attribute and that we should learn a lesson for ourselves not to deviate from the ways of our fathers.

Yitzchak was the first Patriarch to be the son of a righteous father. Avraham did not have a righteous father who would pass on spiritual traditions to him.

Quite the contrary, Avraham was the iconoclast who had to blaze his own spiritual trail. But Yitzchak had tradition. He had a righteous father, so the role he modeled for his children was Pachad Yitzchak—the fear and hesitancy of veering, slight as it might be, off the spiritual course blazed by his righteous father.

Was not Yitzchak himself an innovator, one may wonder. Does not the Rambam teach that Yitzchak instituted the Mincha prayer and was the first to offer tithes—Mishneh Torah Hilchos Melachim 9:1?

In truth, however, there is no contradiction. As one of the three patriarchs and architects of the Jewish faith system, Yitzchak has surely contributed his share of innovation, otherwise what has he added to the equation?

Clearly Yitzchak did not suffice with his father’s level; he obviously did not take the position that “Since my father prayed once a day, so too I must pray only once a day.”

As mentioned above, he did establish the added prayer of Mincha as well as other inventions. He did so because he felt that he was not as great as his father. While his father could suffice with one prayer service a day, on his lower level, he needed to pray at least twice a day.

He likewise felt that his father did not need to quantify his feelings of gratitude to the Almighty because it came to him naturally. However, since he was not on his father’s level, he had to tangibly quantify his feelings of thankfulness by committing to give tithes.

So, in what way was he unique; in what way was he devoted to the ways of his father? The answer is that his “innovations” were not trailblazing, new spiritual institutions, but rather enhanced the innovations of his father.

All that he innovated and instituted was in the context and framework of his father’s teachings and legacy.

Essentially what Yitzchak innovated is the true Jewish way in how to innovate. He taught how to innovate while at the same time remain fiercely true and dedicated to one’s mentor and traditions.

Yitzchak’s contribution to the Jewish faith system is truly brilliant and fundamental. It is permeated through and through with authenticity and truth.

In a system that is predicated on truth, one does not, in the name of progress, throw away yesterday’s essential beliefs, principles and values and reinvent truth and reality from scratch, but rather builds on the existing foundation.

Yitzchak’s essential characteristic and contribution to Judaism is how to innovate and grow while staying true to the established truths and realities. His consummate lesson is that the greater the follower the greater the leader and the lesser the follower the lesser the leader.

The aforementioned tenet has been the guiding principle that has kept Judaism alive and intact through history.

Those who have abandoned this creed have broken ranks with tradition and have fallen by the wayside. Those who have followed Yitzchak’s essential lesson, remain cleaved to the tree of life. Not a bad innovation for a little-known introverted enigma of a man.

By our taking to heart the message bequeathed to us through our ancestor Yitzchak of innovating within the existing context and framework, we will merit to fulfill the mission which our forefathers initiated with the coming of the righteous Moshiach BBA.

Gut Shabbos

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Rabbi Kahanov is the founder/director of Chabad in Northeast FL, consisting of 6 Chabad Centers
He is also the author of "What Chabad Really Believes"
If you like this, you might be interested in purchasing his book click here for more information 

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The True Heir

When Jacob outsmarted Esau and received his father Isaac's blessings, Esau was outraged. "He cried out a great and bitter cry, and he said to his father, 'Bless me too, O my father!'… And Esau raised his voice and wept." Esau had been anticipating these blessings for many years, and for decades long Esau had feigned religious observance because he wanted his father to believe that he was worthy of these blessings. He was utterly devastated when he realized that he, the on-the-ball, worldly hunter, had been outwitted by his religious "goody-goody" brother.

It is remarkable that this person who was a murderer, rapist and glutton was so eager to receive the blessing of a tzaddik (righteous person). Esau wasn't out for a large inheritance; after all, Isaac was an elderly, blind person who had nothing to offer other than his blessings. Rather, as someone who was raised in the households of Abraham and Isaac, he was well aware of the value of a tzaddik's blessing. Esau was a Jew who was born to a Jewish mother, and therefore possessed a Jewish soul which imbued him with a strong belief in G‑d and the super-natural. His "Jewish heart," however, did not manifest itself in his immoral lifestyle, which was contrary to all he had learned in his father's home. He knew what was right, but was unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to live an ethical, spiritual life.

The Divine plan determined that Jacob, not Esau, receive the blessings. For Jacob was a Jew not only at heart, but in practice as well. With faith alone we cannot accomplish the mission of revealing G‑dliness in this world, and transforming ourselves and the world around us into a Divine abode. Only through actually practicing Torah and mitzvot can this goal be achieved. 

In microcosm, many can relate to Esau's dilemma. Most people know what is proper, but oftentimes lack the strength and willpower to implement that which is proper into their daily lives. We must always remember that only the practice of Torah and mitzvot makes us a worthy receptacle for Divine blessings. Faith isn't a product of our labor; it naturally exists within every Jew due to our G‑dly soul which was instilled within us. Blessings must be earned. Only the hard work of applying the faith in everyday life makes a person worthy of all of G‑d's blessings.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.

 

Thoughts That Count
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And they called his name Esau...and he called his name Jacob (Gen. 25:25-6)

Why is the plural – “and they called his name” – used for Esau, but the singular – “and he called” – used for Jacob? Esau is the father of all falsehood; many are those who find him attractive and seek him out. Jacob, however, is the source of truth; only the rare individual desires his acquaintance. (Kli Yakar)

Jacob was an honest man, a dweller of tents (Gen. 25:27)

Of all the superior character traits possessed by our ancestor Jacob, the Torah chooses “an honest man” as the highest praise, to teach us that nothing is more worthy of our respect and admiration than a life lived with honesty and righteous ness. (Shaloh HaKadosh)

Two nations are in your womb...and one nation will be stronger Than the other nation (Gen. 25:23)

Rashi comments: When one rises, the other falls. Jacob and Esau symbolize the struggle between the G‑dly soul and the animal soul, between a person’s good and evil inclinations. When a Jew’s G‑dly soul is dominant and exerts itself, there is no need to combat the animal soul—it “falls” by itself. Light does not have to fight darkness to illuminate—as soon as it appears, the darkness vanishes. So too, does the light of holiness dispel all evil. (Sefer Hamaamarim)

That my soul may bless you (Gen. 27:4)

Why did Isaac want to bless Esau instead of Jacob? Jacob was “a pure man, a dweller in tents (of Torah),” and even without a blessing he would stay away from evil. Esau, however, was very likely to fall into bad ways, and needed the assistance of his father’s blessing. (Ohr HaTorah)

Once Upon A Chassid

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Digging for Noodles

And the servants of Isaac dug in the valley, and they found a well of living water (26:19)

If a person tells you "I have toiled but I have not found"—do not believe him. (Talmud, Megillah 6b)

Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch was deep in thought, struggling with some elusive idea deep in the recesses of his mighty mind. A bowl of soup had been set before him some time earlier, but the Rebbe was in another world; sharp lines of concentration plowed his forehead, as he sat gazing into the bowl and slowly stirring the soup with his spoon.

The Rebbe's servant, who figured that the Rebbe must be searching for the egg noodles, exclaimed: "Rebbe, dig in further! The lokshen lies deeper down."

A wave of contentment passed over the Rebbe's tensed features. "Thank you," he said to his servant, "You have revived my soul . . ."

 

Tid Bits
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6,500 Rabbis and Guests Celebrate and the Annual Kinus HaShluchim
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EDISON, N.J.—The lights dimmed on the 6,500 rabbis and guests at the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries (Kinus Hashluchim), and the haunting cry of a violin filled the silence of the 150,000-square-foot New Jersey Convention Center. Then, 11-year-old Yitzchak Aizik Levitansky began singing an old Chassidic song:  Nye Bayus Ya Nekogo—I fear no one, ee nye vyeru nikamu—and believe in no one, tolka B-ga adnavo—except G‑d alone.

Levitansky is the son of Rabbi Yechiel Shlomo and Rochi Levitansky, directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Sumy, Ukraine, a city on the northeastern border of that war-torn country and a place hard hit in the fighting of this past year. The song of defiance and belief in the Almighty G‑d, sung by Chassidim through generations of unthinkable hardships, set the tone for the evening’s gathering of the vanguard of the Jewish world, the emissaries of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, on all corners of the globe.

This year, a Year of Hakhel, marked the 120th since the Rebbe’s 1902 birth in Nikolayev (Mykolayiv), Ukraine, and tehillim (psalms) were read by Rabbi Sholom Gotlieb, chief rabbi and director of Chabad of the south-central Ukrainian city since 1996. He was followed by Rabbi Mendel Hecht, director of Chabad of Auckland, New Zealand; a special psalm for the safety of the people of Israel was recited by Rabbi Dovid Lau, Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel.

Noting how the volcanic landscape in Iceland, his adopted homeland since 2018, resembled the craters on the moon, Rabbi Avraham Feldman spoke about how the he and his fellow Chabad emissaries dig deep into the fertile ground of the Jewis soul finding passion, fire, and Jewish identity bubbling to the surface.

Representing the newest crop of Chabad emissaries, Rabbi Laivy Mochkin, who recently moved to Palo Alto, Calif., said, “Although I never merited to meet the Rebbe in person, I did encounter on a daily basis the Rebbe’s message and mission. And that inspired my wife and me to similarly dedicate our own lives to our fellow Jews.”

As part of the presentation, Mochkin’s grandfather, Rabbi Berel Mochkin, senior Chabad representative in Montreal also spoke, a representative of the generation of emissaries dispatched by the Rebbe in the 1950s. He was followed by one emissary from each decade, concluding with the younger Mochkin, who himself grew up the son of Chabad representatives in Rochester, N.Y.

The evening’s host, Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, introduced the guest speaker, legendary philanthropist patron of Jewish life all over the world, Mr. George Rohr, as his “best friend for over 45 years,” who, following in the footsteps of his late parents, has spearheaded the growth of Chabad on six continents.

In his speech, Rohr recounted in particular one of those encounters with the Rebbe, when he attended the Rebbe’s audience with members of the Machne Yisrael Development Fund in the autumn of 1991. “The [verse] states ‘Rejoice, Zevulun, in your excursions—meaning your business excursions—and Yissachar in your tents,’” Rohr said. “Two of Jacob’s sons were partners. Zevulun, the businessman, and Issachar, the Torah scholar. The Torah is specifically telling Zevulun to rejoice.

“In his talk at a Machne Israel Development Fund …that I was privileged to attend, the Rebbe asked: why does Zevulun rejoice? Firstly, said the Rebbe, because he works to exercise his individual potential to the fullest. And second, because Zevulun’s happiness stems mainly from his connection to Yissachar –i.e., to Torah, to its study, and its scholars,” Rohr said. “The two brothers, continued the Rebbe, established a full and multidimensional partnership, transforming Zevulun’s life, granting him fulfillment, purpose and peace of mind, as he supports Yissachar’s endeavors in learning and teaching Torah.”

“We supporters need to understand our relationship with the shluchim differently. We are not donors, and the shluchim are not recipients. We and they are us. We are partners. Partners in the work of Chabad, partners in the great vision of the Rebbe.”

Rohr's talk was followed by a presentation on the herculean efforts of the Chabad emissaries in Ukraine during the course of the war, including an uplifting address by Rabbi Yechiel Levitansky of Sumy, Ukraine, who spoke with amazement of how 40 Jews braved the tension of war to celebrate Sukkot with his family in the sukkah.

Then, as Kotlarsky ran through his annual role call of Shluchim in all 50 states and 109 countries, he announced that a couple had been dispatched to Zambia, one of more than 120 new locations to welcome Chabad emissaries this year.

Celebration Welcomes 36 New Torah Scrolls

The evening concluded with the hoisting up of 36 new Torah scrolls—each of which will be sent to another Chabad center around the globe—before the scrolls were joyously carried around the cavernous hall during the jubilant dancing that capped the evening.

 

Happenings

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