Archive for the 'Toledot' Category

Calling to Yaakov

December 6th, 2005 by Yaakov Ellis

ויגד לרבקה את דברי עשו בנה הגדל, ותשלח ותקרא ליעקב בנה הקטן, ותאמר אליו הנה עשו אחיך מתנחם לך להרגך

And Rivka was told the words of Esav, her older son, and she send and called to (ל) her younger son, and she said to him: behold, Esav your brother is intending to kill you

Bereishit 27:42

ויקרא יצחק אל יעקב, ויברך אתו; ויצוהו ויאמר לו: לא תקח אשה מבנות כנען

And Yitzchak called to (אל) Yaakov and commanded him and said to him: do not take a wife from the daughters fo Canaan

Bereishit 28:1

After Yaakov received the blessing from Yitzchak, both Yitzchak and Rivka both called to Yaakov in order to give him marriage advice. However, as it is recorded in the Torah, they each addressed him in a slightly different way. When Rivka called to Yaakov it is written ותקרא ליעקב – the letter ל is used to denote Yaakov as the object of Rivka’s calling. When Yitzchak called to Yaakov, it says ויקרא יצחק אל יעקב – here instead of a ל, the word אל is used.

The Netziv (here and at Shemot 8:21) explains that in the Torah there are two ways of calling:

  1. Two people are not near each other. One calls to the other to come closer. This way of calling is delineated with a ל.
  2. Two people are near each other. One person calls to the other by name in order to make clear to them their feelings, their countenance. This way of calling is delineated with the word אל.

After receiving the blessing from Yizchak, Yaakov fled the house of his father in order not risk an encounter with his brother Esav. Rivka called to Yaakov in the first manner of calling – she wanted him to come back close to her so that she could speak with him.

When Yitzchak called to Yaakov, Yaakov was not far away. However, Yaakov was avoiding his father because he was afraid that Yitzchak was mad at him because of how he had received the blessing. Yitzchak called out to Yaakov in the second way, in order to let him know that he harbored no ill will against Yaakov (which is immediately confirmed when he blesses Yaakov again).

The First FFB

November 30th, 2005 by Yaakov Ellis

ADDeRabbi protrays Yitzchak Avinu as the first Frum From Birth Jew.

He makes an interesting point about the difference between Yitzchak (FFB) and Rivka (comes from a non-Orthodox home). Chazal portray them as Tzaddik-ben-Tzaddik (Yitzchak, who was righteous was the son of Avraham who was also righteous) and Tzadik-bat-Rasha (Rivka, who was righteous was the daughter of the wicked Betu’el). It is for this reason that Yitzchak’s prayers are answered (and not Rivka’s). One might have thought that this is a pretty shvach reason for the prayers of one person to be “better” than the prayers of another. Don’t our prayers depend on who we are and our kavana, not on our yichus?

ADDeRabbi points out that “It’s no small matter for a person to become a ‘tzaddik ben tzaddik’.” This very process of becoming a tzaddik when one is expected to be one, and is always in the shadow of another tzaddik is very difficult.

…interior growth with no external manifestation is very, very, difficult to affect and engenders constant insecurity with one’s own religious state. The verb ‘to pray’, in Hebrew, is reflexive. Jewish tradition has understood prayer as a process of self-discovery and self-judgment. The prayer of a tzaddik ben tzaddik is indeed a potent prayer.

Thus, for Yitzchak to become an actual tzaddik was itself a journey of self-improvement, one that enabled him to end up on a higher level than his wife. It is not the mere fact that Yitzchak was a tzaddik-ben-tzaddik that enabled his prayers to be answered. It was what it had taken to reach that point.

Different Types of Twins

November 29th, 2005 by Yaakov Ellis

ויאמר ה’ לה, שני גוים בבטנך, ושני לאמים ממעיך יפרדו, ולאם מלאם יאמץ ורב יעבד צעיר. וימלאו ימיה ללדת, והנה תומם בבטנה

And God said to her: there are two nations in your womb, and two governments will separate from within you, one government will be stronger than the other and the greater one will serve the younger one. And the days of her pregnancy were completed, and behold there were twins in her womb

Bereishit 25:23-24

If Rivka had already received a prophecy (through Shem) that there were two nations growing within her womb, why does the Torah need to point out to us in the very next verse that “behold, there were twins in her womb”. Was this such a surprise?

Something else that is out of the ordinary here: in the second verse above (25:24), the word that is used for twins is תומם. Normally this is spelled תאומים. Why the change here?

Rashi explains that the word for twins is spelled differently here (without the alef) to signify that in this case one of the children was righteous and one wicked (in distinction to the case with Tamar a few weeks down the line, where both of her children were righteous and thus the normal spelling of תאומים is used). The spelling is changed because they were not twins in every way.

The Netziv takes this idea one step farther: he says that Rivka expected that her two children would be very different – this is obvious from the prophecy that she received (25:24). However what she did not expect was that this difference would be noticeable while her children were still in utero. The differences between her children were already developed and present at the time of their birth (see the next two verses, 25:25-26).

(Question: whatever happened to yir’at shamayim being in the hands of the person? Was Esav destined for wickedness?)