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1 Kislev 5760 - November 10, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Masters and Servants of the Heart: A Shmuess for Parshas Toldos

By HaRav Sholom Schwadron zt'l

True Blessing

"And may Elokim give you from the dew of the Heavens and from the fat of the land, and much corn and oil" (Bereishis 27:28).

Rashi explains that the use of the Name Elokim, which denotes the trait of Divine judgment, implies that in Yaakov's case, receiving the blessings is contingent upon deserving them. "To Eisov however," Rashi continues, "he said, `Your dwelling should be among the fat [places] of the land'; whether righteous or wicked, He will give this to you. Shlomo Hamelech learned from Yaakov when he built the Beis Hamikdosh and prayed that in the case of Jews who come to pray there, `You should give each man in accordance with all his ways, according to Your knowledge of his heart' (Melochim I 8:39), for a Jew will acknowledge Divine justice [even if his request is not granted] and will not argue, whereas for gentiles who lack faith he said, `And You shall hear from Heaven . . . and do whatever the stranger calls to You' (ibid. posuk 43). Give him what he asks for, whether he deserves it or not, so that he shouldn't complain against You."

Many of the Rishonim are amazed at this. Were the blessings to have been given the other way around, with Yaakov receiving Eisov's blessing to be maintained from the fat of the land whether righteous or not, Klal Yisroel would not have suffered so much in the course of the terrible exile and all our troubles R'l. However, Yitzchok did not give the blessings this way and Chazal stress that the principle governing Klal Yisroel is, "And You should give each man in accordance with all his ways." Why is this?

The answer is that were every Jew to receive the goodness of this world whether or not he deserves it, he would spend his time pursuing pleasures and would forget his true purpose, which is to prepare himself for Olom Haboh. What do the good things of this world give to a person? If he fattens himself with fine meat and smokes drugs -- is there any point to this?

The pleasures of this world are like creditors. The more a person is drawn after them, the more they demand from him, may Hashem protect us! This is why Shlomo Hamelech prayed,"And You should give each man in accordance with all his ways!"

The Hidden Blemish

"And Eisov said in his heart" (Bereishis 27:41). We find the idea of speaking in one's heart six more times in Tanach: "And Yerovom said in his heart"; "Novol said in his heart"; "And Homon said in his heart" -- these three are examples of Chazal's teaching that, "Reshoim are controlled by their hearts." There are three more which show that "Tzadikim are in control of their hearts": "And Dovid said to his heart"; "And Channoh was speaking to her heart"; "And Doniel took it to heart."

I want to begin discussing Yaakov and Eisov by pointing out that although the Torah speaks about them at great length, devoting an entire parsha to them, it is not as easy as we imagine to gain a correct understanding of Eisov's true nature. He was, of course, Eisov horoshoh, however the Torah does not deal with ordinary, simple people [and Eisov's wickedness was not the straightforward lowly and depraved type]. The tzaddikim mentioned in the Torah were very great tzaddikim and the reshoim were very great reshoim yet they were unlike the reshoim we see today who are wicked because of their foolishness. Eisov's wickedness was not discernible and it is the Torah that reveals his true nature to us.

When we learn that Eisov asked Yaakov, "Feed me now with some of that red stuff," which Rashi explains by noting that the word hal'iteini which Eisov used, is used for forcing food down the gullet of an animal, we picture to ourselves Eisov with his mouth wide open like a camel, and Yaakov pouring a lot of food into it! Although the truth is that it did happen this way, we ought not to let our imaginations trick us into thinking that it was as simple as it seems.

Chazal tell us that Eisov was overcome by bulmus, a craving for food, and under such circumstances, halocho allows a person to be fed unclean food, for his life is really in danger. Eisov had noble lineage and even though Yaakov would not have conducted himself in such a way [even if he were suffering the same danger, it would be wrong to think of Eisov as a savage].

In the haftorah (Malachi 1:2-3) we read, "I have loved you, says Hashem . . . Is Eisov not Yaakov's brother? Yet I hated Eisov and I loved Yaakov . . . " HaRav Isaac Sher zt'l, points out that were Eisov simply to have been a "regular" rosho, as we are used to imagining him, this posuk would not be informing us of any particular sign of love towards Klal Yisroel. Of course Hashem would hate Eisov. Why should He love him? We see therefore, that though Eisov was truly a rosho, we would not have been able to tell, had the posuk not revealed this to us.

"And Eisov raised his voice and wept" (Bereishis 27:38). He was then sixty-three years old. Picture an elderly man, over sixty years old, coming to the Steipler zt'l, to ask for a brocho and being refused. The old man then starts to weep over not having been blessed . . . we would certainly say that this old man is a very special person, for he recognizes the worth of a blessing from a tzaddik. The Zohar further tells us that Eisov's head is buried in the Cave of Machpeloh because it was as great as Yaakov's head, and it was just his heart that was no good.

Chazal also tell us that in the future, Eisov will don a tallis with tzitzis and techeiles and will go and sit among the tzaddikim and that despite the spirit of holiness that rests upon them, the tzaddikim will be unaware that this is Eisov the rosho. Clearly, because they allowed Eisov to enter, the mal'ochim will also not have realized who he is. This will continue until Hakodosh Boruch Hu Himself comes and says, "Rosho! Get out of here!" and Eisov will respond, "How am I a rosho?"

Hakodosh Boruch Hu will then say, "You said, `The days of mourning for my father will approach and I will kill Yaakov my brother'," and Eisov will answer, "I did not say that" . . . To answer with such chutzpah! It's utterly amazing!

Hakodosh Boruch Hu will say to him, "I am Hashem, who searches hearts and appraises [the thoughts of the] kidneys and I say that you did say it, as the posuk says," And Eisov said in his heart, the days of mourning for my father will approach . . . "

In other words, Eisov was indeed unaware of having said such a thing but he had thought it and Hashem revealed to him that he had thus stumbled in the mitzvo of honoring his father. This is what Chazal mean when they tell us that, "Reshoim are controlled by their hearts." Deep down in Eisov's heart lurked the thought that when his father died, he would avenge himself against Yaakov Ovinu. What kind of honor was that for his father, to be awaiting his death?

In the Merit of One Mitzvo

In his commentary to the last mishnah in Makkos, "Rabbi Chananya ben Akashyah says, `Hakodosh Boruch Hu wanted to provide Yisroel with merits, so He gave them an abundance of Torah and mitzvos,' " the Rambam writes, "It is one of the principles of faith in Torah that when a person fulfills mitzvos correctly and fittingly, and does not combine any kind of worldly intention whatsoever with his fulfillment, doing the mitzvos solely out of love for Hashem and for His sake . . . he thereby merits life in Olom Haboh. Rabbi Chanina thus says that since there are many mitzvos, it is impossible that during a lifetime a person will not have fulfilled at least one of them once properly, exactly as it should be, and for having fulfilled that one mitzvo, his soul will live [in Olom Haboh]."

The Rambam is apparently telling us that it is impossible to merit Olom Haboh through doing a mitzvo unless it is performed in purity and perfection. The reason for this is that all there is in Olom Haboh is truth and if some personal motivation is involved in doing a mitzvo, it is no longer a manifestation of the truth. The mishnah thus means, "Hakodosh Boruch Hu wanted lezakos, to provide Yisroel with merits" -- the word lezakos being related to zikuch and zakkus, meaning purity i.e. He wanted to ensure that a person would fulfill a mitzvo at least once in a lifetime with the necessary purity of intention -- "therefore He gave them an abundance of Torah and mitzvos."

Eisov too had one such mitzvo -- honoring his father -- and he thought that he had fulfilled it to perfection, which he did seem to have done, as we see in the gemora (Kiddushin), "Rabbon Gamliel said,`I have honored my father all my life, yet I have not attained one hundredth of the honor that Eisov the rosho accorded his father.' " Yaakov too, was worried on his own account because of Eisov's merits for kibbud av. He thought that Eisov had fulfilled this mitzvo perfectly. So did the mal'ochim who, thinking that he had earned Olom Haboh for this mitzvo, let Eisov in to sit among the tzaddikim.

After all however, Eisov remained a rosho. Since he lacked Torah and mitzvos, which were given to provide merit to Klal Yisroel [by ensuring that they fulfill at least one mitzvo in purity], there was an imperfection in his kibbud av, for he said in his heart, "The days of mourning for my father will approach . . . " Hakodosh Boruch Hu therefore said to him, "Get out, rosho! You can't acquire Olom Haboh through this mitzvo because you didn't fulfill it to perfection!"

Taking the Truth to Heart

In support of his explanation, the Rambam adds, "This is the meaning of the question which Rabbi Chananya ben Teradyon asked, `What is my standing regarding Olom Haboh?' His respondent answered, `Has any deed presented itself to you?' In other words, have you had any opportunity to fulfill a mitzvo properly? Rabbi Chananya replied that he had an opportunity to fulfill the mitzvo of tzedokoh to the highest possible degree of perfection. Through this deed he merited Olom Haboh."

We learn about Rabbi Chananya's act of tzedokoh at the end of maseches Kallah. "Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov said, `A talmid chochom may not place his money in a purse in which tzedokoh money is kept, unless the one appointed over it is of the caliber of Rabbi Chananya ben Teradyon. It was said that once, Rabbi Chananya confused money that had been collected for Purim with tzedokoh money. He sat and wondered, "Woe is me! Perhaps I have become liable for death from Heaven!' "

Let's consider what an ordinary person would have done in this situation. He'd simply have distributed all the money to tzedokoh. Rabbi Chananya however was worried that he would be punished just for having gotten the monies confused.

"While he was sitting and wondering, an executioner came and said, `Rabbi, it has been decreed that you will be wrapped up in a sefer Torah and burned with it.'

"He stood up and he surrounded him with bundles of twigs and lit the fire. The fire grew cold and kept away from him.

"Shocked, the executioner got up and said, `Rabbi, are you the one whom they decreed should be burned?'

"`Yes,' he replied.

"`So why is the fire going out?'

"He said, `I have sworn in the Name of my Owner that it should not touch me until I know whether it has been decreed upon me from Heaven. Wait a while for me and I will tell you.'

"The executioner was sitting and wondering, `Why are these people, who have control over their own lives and deaths, under the yoke of the gentiles?' He said, `You get up, and the authorities can do whatever they want with me.'

"He said, `Empty one! A heavenly decree has [already] been accepted with regard to me. If you do not put me to death, the Almighty has many other executioners. There are many bears, many tigers, lions and wolves, and many snakes and scorpions that can wound me. [Yet,] nonetheless, [it is true that] the Almighty will ultimately punish you for shedding my blood.'

"The executioner realized that this was true. He jumped and cast himself into the flames and his voice could be heard from within the fire, `As you die, I shall die and there I shall be buried! As you live, I shall live!'

"A heavenly voice immediately went out and said, `Rabbi Chananya ben Teradyon and his executioner are summoned to life in Olom Haboh!' "

Eisov did not accept the yoke of fulfilling the mitzvos properly, so the one mitzvo which he did fulfill was unable to protect him, for "Reshoim are controlled by their hearts." The posuk (Bereishis 28:8-9) says, "And Eisov saw that the Canaanite daughters were evil in his father's eyes and he went to Mochalas the daughter of Yishmoel -- Chazal say that she was given this name because Eisov was pardoned for all his sins, for he married her according to the halocho, and Chazal also tell us that Eisov intended to convert . . . in which case, why do we still refer to him as Eisov the rosho? The answer can be found in the continuing words -- `And he married Mochalas . . . in addition to his wives.' Chazal tell us that if he had divorced his first wives, he would have been called `Eisov the tzaddik,' but he didn't do so. He married Mochalas as well, merely adding, as Chazal tell us `one more evildoer to the ones he had.' This teaches that if a person wants to elevate himself, he must first remove the evil from himself and then do good, as the posuk (Tehillim 34:15) says, `Turn from evil and do good.'

Tzadikim, on the other hand, are in control of their hearts, as we see from the pesukim, `And Channah was speaking to her heart'(Shmuel I 1:13), `And Dovid said to his heart' (Shmuel I 27:1), `And Doniel took it to heart' (Doniel 1:8). May Hakodosh Boruch Hu help us to control our hearts, enabling us to withstand the tests of Olom hazeh!

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