Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

16 Kislev 5761 - December 13, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
A World that is Wholly Good

by L. Jungerman

"And he lifted up his eyes and he saw the women and the children and he said: Who are these with you? And he said: These are the children whom Hashem has graciously given your servant."

The Midrash (Tono Devei Eliyohu Zuta chap. 19) describes the conversation that took place between Yaakov and Eisov during their encounter, an exchange whose contents are world- encompassing.

Chazal said that while Yaakov and Eisov were still in their mother's womb, Yaakov said to Eisov: My brother! We are siblings to our father and two worlds lie before us: this world and the next. This world offers food and drink, economic endeavor, establishing a family. The World to Come has none of these features. If you like, you can have this world while I will take the World to Come.

Eisov decided to claim his share in this world, while Yaakov chose Olom Habo.

When Yaakov returned from the house of Lovon, Eisov saw that he was fully supplied with wives and sons, servants and maids, cattle and much gold and silver. Thereupon, he immediately said to Yaakov: My brother, did you not tell me that you would take the next world and I would have this one? How did you come to acquire the features of this world: wives and sons, money, servants and maids? Why are you enjoying the bounty of this world, which is my domain?

Yaakov replied: What you see before you is what Hashem supplied me with in order to serve Him in this world. As it says: And he lifted his eyes and he saw the women and the children and he said: Who are these to you? And he said: These are the children which Hashem graciously gave to your servant.

Thereupon, Eisov declared: if this is Olom Hazeh, of which Yaakov claims not to have a portion, yet he has been granted it by Hashem, how much greater will his portion be in the World to Come, which is what he claimed for himself!

Yaakov and Eisov struggle, wrestling over the heritage of the two worlds. Eisov chooses this world and wishes to restrict Yaakov's boundaries to the Next World. But this world -- is all for him to enjoy. In Yaakov's eyes, there are not two worlds. "You screened (covered) my head on the day of neshek -- battle." The letters of this root are identical to the word for `kiss': that point where this world and the next coincide or touch. Everything in this world serves as a means to cleave unto Hashem and to bask in the glow of His Shechina "which is the greatest bliss one can ever experience."

In Eisov's eyes, this world is an end and a goal, not a means. For him, the choice between this world and the next is an exclusive either-or situation. If so, he chooses this world. He is not prepared to forego its pleasures. In exchange, Yaakov settles for Olom Habo, exclusively, and relinquishes all the pleasures of this world.

Then Eisov meets up with Yaakov and to his astonishment, he discovers that Yaakov has a good life, too. He has a family, means. And he reacts with incredulity: Yaakov, my brother, why are you utilizing those very features of this world, just like me? It is not fair to take advantage of this world as a means to secure your portion in the next world! His concept of the pleasures of this world is that they are purely physical, without any spiritual content whatsoever. Eisov's mind is incapable of digesting the fact that one can live a life in this world and sublimate its advantages, and still maintain the goal of purity that is the hallmark of the next world.

But Yaakov sums up his weltanschauung in his reply to Eisov: This bit of property which Hashem gave me is only a means to serve Him; it is the wherewithal that sustains me in this world so as to reach the next one. I don't `live it up' in your sense of the word. I don't take pleasure in this world just for the sake of pleasure. I utilize what I have. I exploit- for-the-good all that this world offers merely as a sum total of possibilities and opportunities to do what is right and proper in the eyes of Hashem and thereby, to attain a goodly portion in the next world (according to `Michtav MeEliahu').

In Yaakov's approach, this thesis serves as the sword's point in his battle with Eisov. The Midrash says: And it came about when Rochel gave birth to Yosef -- as soon as the adversary of that wicked one was born, Yaakov said to Lovon: Send me off and I will go.

When Yaakov Ovinu saw Eisov and his chiefs, he became afraid. Said Hashem to him: You are afraid of these? One spark of yours and one spark from your son can consume them all totally. This is what is written: And the house of Yaakov will be fire and the house of Yosef a flame.

What is the secret of Yosef's uniqueness in the battle against Eisov? Why can his fire annihilate the proverbial haystack of Eisov?

Because Yosef is the tzaddik. And a tzaddik is the foundation of the world. Yosef withstood all the temptations of this world and prevailed, remained with his purity intact to the very end. Who better than Yosef can prove that even in this world, Yaakov is entitled to inherit, and not Eisov?

"And the house of Yaakov will be fire and the house of Yosef a flame, and the house of Eisov straw -- a fire without a shooting flame cannot spread, says Rashi in Vayeitzei. Shem MiShmuel explains that the difference between a fire without a flame and a fire with a flame is evident through the distance it can affect. Fire that consumes a candle is no less a fire, but its radius of operation is very limited. A bonfire, however, can shed light afar and spread increasingly to consume huge areas all around.

What are those areas that are distant from the fire of spirituality? The area of leeway, permission, and these are far reaching. A very ardent fire is necessary to include this area within its sphere. This is the commandment of "You shall be holy," which translates into, "Sanctify yourself through that which is permissible."

Sanctity is the eternal and final answer to Eisov. Yosef symbolizes the flame whose impact reaches far. This flame moves outwards and consumes the very raison d'etre of Eisov, his claim to existence. It stifles his arguments. Eisov thought that he would seize this world, but Yaakov's fire, fed by the flame of Yosef Hatzaddik, proves to him what this world is all about, its purpose in Hashem's scheme.

His end is perdition. The end of Amolek, seed of Eisov: oblivion. He forfeits completely every right to exist in this world. He will become effaced from under the sun. Wiped out; he will lose all form, for he corrupted the divine image in man, who was created to properly combine matter and spirit.

The sphere of influence that a spiritual fire can affect in this world is broad and distant. A fire with flames is necessary in order for it to spread. This is the commandment of "You shall be holy" -- "Sanctify yourself through what is permissible." Holiness is the eternal antidote to Eisov. It refutes his arguments. He maintained that this world was rightfully his, but the fire of Yaakov, fanned by Yosef's flame, will prove to him what this world really means.

His future, his end, is perdition, like the declared end of Amolek, seed of Eisov. He completely forfeits every right of existence in this world. He shall be effaced from under the sun. His form shall be unrecognizable since he demolished the divine image of man, created for the purpose of accurately melding matter and spirit. Therefore shall his physical form perish (Maharal).

This world resembles the antechamber, it is the pathway leading to the palace of Olom Habo. Rights of tenure belong only to those who utilize it as a passageway, a corridor leading onward. Whoever squats in it for the purpose of turning it into the palace will be forcibly evicted. "And the saviors will ascend Har Zion to judge Har Eisov and sovereignty shall be unto Hashem."

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