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29 Cheshvan 5766 - November 30, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Parshas Toldos: A Conversation That Changed History

by Rabbi Yechezkel Spanglet

Conversations come and go. But in this week's parsha, a dialogue took place which changed the face of history.

Yaakov was preparing a lentil stew on the day of the death of his grandfather, Avrohom. Eisov entered from the follies of the field. He had a busy day. He committed murder, immorality, denied the belief in techiyas hameisim and Olam Habo. Now he was famished. Eisov declared to Yaakov, "How about pouring that red concoction down my throat?"

To which Yaakov replied, "Not so quick. I'll do it if you sell me your birthright."

Eisov retorted, "Behold, I am going to die and what profit would this birthright be to me?" (Bereishis 25:32)

Eisov's statement begs explanation. Have we heard previously of Eisov's imminent death? Why did he oppose the birthright?

Rashi elucidates this enigma. Eisov queried, "What is the nature of this service for me?" Yaakov replied, "There are many warnings, penalties and deaths involved in it . . . "(Bereishis 25:32)."

Yaakov explained, My brother, this avoda will spell only trouble for you. Whenever you step forward to offer korbonos, you are risking punishment, perhaps even death.

For example, you'll saunter in from a hunt with blood on your hands, ready to perform the avodoh, and you'll be tomei. Or, after stumbling in from the bar, the designated time for offering sacrifices will arrive. Doing the avodoh in both of these circumstances carries the death penalty. Rashi records Eisov's reply, "I am going to die through this [birthright]. If so, what desire do I have for it?" (Bereishis 25:32)

Eisov was not suffering from a fatal disease. But he certainly would have to endure a responsibility with potentially fatal consequences. The birthright also portended additional "risks" for him. Why should Eisov forgo his instinctual lifestyle? What will happen to the "immediate pleasures" of life? The birthright was not for him.

Everything Yaakov said to Eisov was true. Yaakov was an ish tam. He would not lie. If so, what was the lure of the birthright to him?

The avodoh meant to Yaakov the opportunity to cling to the Shechina. Additionally, by offering the korbonos he would provide the conduit for hashpo'as brochos, an abundance of blessings, to flow down to the earth. He would also merit continuing the awesome mission of his grandfather to spread Hashem's will to the world. Any potential pitfalls would pale in the face of such exhilarating challenges.

We see from this that two individuals can view the identical object or event and come to opposing conclusions. HaRav Eliyohu Dessler, in Michtav MeEliyohu (Parshas Chayei Soroh) develops an invaluable theme which can be applied to unravel this startling phenomenon. Rav Dessler teaches that each person has a "field of vision," that is, a perspective through which he views the world and the stimuli that he comes in contact with. The higher his madreigoh, the greater is his perception of the spiritual realities around him.

Rav Dessler develops this principle from Eliezer's description to Besuel and Lovon of the events that lead up to first meeting Rivka. He relates to them that when he approached the well, he prayed that a young lady would come forward and offer him and his camels a drink, as a sign that she would be an appropriate match for Yitzchok. When this actually transpired, he requested her identity. She replied, "The daughter of Besuel." Subsequently, he presented her with the gold ring and two golden bracelets.

In truth, Eliezer graced her with the gifts before requesting her identity. Why did he reverse the order when he retold the episode to Besuel and Lovon? Rav Dessler explains that Eliezer could not possibly have expounded the events as they actually occurred because Besuel and Lovon were not on the level of emunoh and bitochon to view this as rational behavior. Had Eliezer stated that he gave away such expensive jewelry before knowing who Rivka was, they would thought that he was "off his rocker" (and it would probably have ruined the shidduch).

Eliezer, however, filled with emunah and elation over the neis that transpired, presented Rivka the gifts before asking her identity. He was able to do this because of his high madreigoh and level of spiritual perspective.

Applying this principle to our case Yaakov, due to his high spiritual level and perspective, was able to view the birthright as a positive, powerful force to utilize in serving and becoming closer Hashem.

Eisov, unable to rise above the more base, mundane level of existence, could not grasp the spiritual profundity that stemmed from the birthright and could only view it from its flip side: a negative and restrictive perspective.

Perspective and attitude were of equal importance to our other Ovos, Avrohom and Yitzchok. A poignant example of this is conveyed to us in Parshas Vayera. Enroute to the Akeidoh, the posuk teaches us, "On the third day, Avrohom lifted up his eyes and saw the place from a distance." (Bereishis 22:4)

Rashi states, "He saw a cloud attached to the top of the mountain." The master commentator must be telling us more than the weather report. The midrash elucidates, `He [Avrohom] asked Yitzchok do you see what I see?' He answered, 'Yes.' He [Avrohom] asked the youths [Eliezer and Yishmoel], `Do you see what I see?' They answered him, `No.' Avrohom responded, `Since a donkey doesn't see and you [also] don't see, stay here with the donkey.' (Bereishis Rabba 56:2).

Avrohom and Yitzchok, who lived every moment with the knowledge of, and the longing for the Shechina, saw a manifestation of the Shechina. The "youths" viewed the world from a different weltanshauung. Their "fields of vision" and desires revolved around the physical. It follows that they only saw the physical. To this end, they were instructed by Avrohom to remain with the "chamor," the lowliest of creatures. The word chamor is similar to chomer, meaning physical matter. The youths were not ready to proceed beyond the physical, material realm.

We all have some Eisov in us. Sometimes, when morning breaks, our eyelids are heavy. Boulders seem to be resting on our shoulders. That is the time to remember that we are rising to the "avoda" of life as Yaakov Ovinu did.

With the advent of the microscope and telescope, we understand that what we see with the naked eye is not necessarily the reality. This is a reflection of the spiritual world. We look around and see trees and flowers and yes, mountains. However, in actuality "the entire world is filled with His Glory." The Shechina is everywhere! Furthermore, we can continually build spiritual worlds through our ma'asim (Nefesh HaChaim). We can see the "cloud attached to the mountain", as did Avrohom and Yitzchok.

When one peers at the skies, he observes it as a sea of planets and stars. The Chovos Hatalmidim views Shomayim as the place of the neshomos of tzaddikim, celestial beings, and the Kisei Hakovod. He explains that when our eyes are turned upward and the words "kodosh, kodosh, kodosh," (of the Kedusha prayer) emanate from our lips, our Father in Heaven has no other desire, as it were, than to "look," in turn, into our eyes. He then takes hold of the Kisei Hakovod in the image of Yaakov Ovinu, embraces and kisses him (representative of every member of Am Yisroel), and hastens the geula (Sefer Heicholos).

May our spiritual "fields of vision" pierce through the veil of the physical universe. Drawing from the lessons of our Ovos, may we be zocheh to approach the manifestation of Shechina all around us. May we reach the madreigoh where our ma'asim will truly change the course of history.

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