VOLUME 68 NUMBER 5 | November 21, 2014 |CHESHVAN 28, 5775
Candle-lighting Time 4:20 PM
This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated in honor of the birth of a son to Doug and Rachel Thorner. Mazel Tov!
This Sunday is Rosh Chodesh Kislev, and the 25th of Kislev is the first day of Chanukah, which falls out this year on December 16. Time to pull out your menorah!
Join us for a special JCafe with Rabbi Yonah Weinrib, renowned Judaic artist and educator from New York who will be teaching and sharing his work at our Center on Wednesday, December 3 at 7 p.m. Many of his beautiful pieces will be available for purchase.
Twins have always been a source of fascination to me. They happen to run in my wife’s family, and the midwife who helped us deliver our first child and son said there may actually have been a potential twin with him at some point. In retrospect, I think two might have been a bit much. Especially if they were anything like Rivka’s twins, born in this week’s parsha.
It’s the Kids
In Parshas Toldos, which means “descendants,” Rivka and Isaac give birth to two sons.
Even before they were born, Rivka knew there was going to be trouble, and she wasn’t wrong.
Their first child was Eisav (Esau in English), a source of constant anguish. If he wasn’t out marrying women from the wrong side of the tracks, he was busy plotting to kill his brother. Oy.
Their second child, however, was Yaakov (Jacob in English). He was a good student, listened to his parents and could even cook. From Yaakov, they had nachas.
The very names of the two children reveal their divergent dispositions.
The name Eisav comes from the past tense of the verb la’asot, meaning “to do.” Because he was born with a full head of red hair, he appeared very “done” (i.e., he spent a little too much time in the oven). The spiritual implication is that of being done, finished, finito. Eisav’s rotten character was a direct result of his sense of being all done. Nothing left to achieve, no where else to grow. I am who I am.
The name Yaakov, on the other hand, comes from the word eikev, meaning heel or footstep. Yaakov was so called because he was born clutching his brother’s heel.
Spiritually, the name can be understood to mean taking steps, moving forward, making progress. A life that is in progress, with ambition and an ideology of growth, such a life is a source of joy to a parent.
We, thank G-d, are all descendants of Yaakov. We are the B’nei Yisroel (children of Israel, Yaakov’s other name) and our spiritual roots are clear. We must be true to our namesake and lead lives of movement, progress, and growth.
By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
A famine occurs during Yitzchok’s lifetime and Hashem bars him from traveling to Egypt as his father Avrohom had. Rashi cites the Midrash that, since he had been offered as a fully burnt sacrifice on the altar, he should therefore remain only in the confines of Israel and not outside its borders. The commentator Mizrachi understands this Midrash in that a fully burnt sacrifice has the status of the holiest of offerings and the entire Land of Israel is viewed as the courtyard area of the Beis Hamikdash.
Therefore, Yitzchok was allowed to go anywhere he wanted within the borders of Israel. However, outside of Israel is deemed to be like the city of Jerusalem where such a sacrifice would not be permitted to be taken. The question is then posed about the specific confinement pertaining to sacrifices, which is only relevant after they have been slaughtered and offered on the altar. In this case, although Avrohom almost offered his son Yitzchok as a sacrifice, the angel stopped him in the nick of time, so those laws would not truly pertain to Yitzchok.
Be’er B’sadeh resolves this difficulty and quotes the Zohar, a book of mystical teachings, saying that Yitzchok’s soul actually departed from him at the time of the akeidah. In essence, Yitzchok truly was an offering, for he was actually sacrificed and then brought back to life! Therefore, although he was presently living, his previous death experience qualified him as an offering.
The Zohar’s teaching that Yitzchok indeed was slaughtered is quite interesting and certainly begs for clarification. Each of the Patriarchs represented a specific attribute that they introduced into the mix, which became known as the Jewish people. Yitzchok’s attribute was that of gevurah (strength or dominance). At the root of each person’s struggle in life is the allure or appeal of the physical and the ability to control or suppress those urges, which represent the more animalistic tendency that man possesses. Subjugation of one’s physical activities for the sake of spiritual elevation is the ongoing process by which we draw closer to or further from Hashem.
This is truly the power that we can utilize in our lives, to conquer those forces that inhibit us from accomplishing our worthy and lofty goals. Yitzchok also attained this level when he negated his physical existence and rather hinged it on the spiritual. It is quite clear as to why the akeidah is such a central theme in our lives because it symbolizes and typifies the type of lifestyle which we need to promote and proclaim.
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
It is noteworthy that the thought of death drives the evil to corruption while the same concern gives the righteous the ambition to strive for success. Eisav told Yaakov that he doesn’t need the first-born rights, thereby allowing him to serve Hashem in a higher capacity because he will die eventually. Whereas we learn in Pirkei Avos that one should always recall that he will die and encounter Hashem. Therefore, one should always repent since he doesn’t know when his last day will be.