Shabbat Schedule:  Friday - Shabbat, Dec. 2-3

 Torah Reading: Toldot: Genesis 25:19 - 28:9
Haftorah: Malachi 1:1 - 2:7

 Shabbat Candle Lighting: 4:11 PM
Shabbat Ends: 5:13 PM   






Eisav’s Crime Spree

It is axiomatic that every detail of the Torah, including its narratives, is significant and contains a message for all times.

In the beginning of this week’s parsha the Torah relates that Eisav came in from the field famished and asked Jacob to feed him some of the lentils that he was cooking. Jacob asks Eisav’s birthright in return, to which he readily agreed.  The Torah derides him for this: “…he ate and drank; he got up and left. Eisav despised the birthright.”

The Midrash explains that on that very day Abraham had passed away.  The lentils cooked by Jacob were the traditional food served to mourners.

If Abraham’s family was busy mourning his passing, what was Eisav doing out in the field? And why does the Torah state that he came in from the field exhausted?

The Midrash states that while Isaac and Jacob were mourning the loss of Abraham, the paragon of virtue, Eisav was out on a crime spree. That day, the Midrash states, Eisav committed three major sins: murder, violation of a betrothed maiden and disgracing his birthright.

The 16th century commentary Ma’asei Hashem explains that these three crimes represented Eisav’s repudiation of the three fundamental principles of Judaism, upon which the Thirteen Principles of Faith enumerated by Maimonides are founded


Eisav and the Immortality of the Soul

These principles are the existence of G‑d, the Divine origin of Torah and the immortality of the soul.

Eisav’s commission of murder, Ma’asei Hashem explains, can be understood as his denial of the existence of the immortal soul. The Torah says as much when quoting Eisav’s rejection of the birthright, “I am going to die so why do I need the birthright.” By saying this he expressed his belief that there was no life beyond the physical world; a tacit denial of the afterlife and the immortality of his soul. The murder he committed was the metaphorical destruction of his own soul. In addition, an actual physical Murder is also denial of the humanity and soul of the victim. Moreover, murder separates a person’s soul from his body, but if there is no soul than there can be no murder.

Maimonides’ enumeration of the Thirteen Principles of Faith does not include belief in the immortality of the soul. However it is contained in the principle of reward and punishment. When we don’t see good people rewarded for their good deeds and evil people punished for their evil doing, it is because G‑d’s reward and punishment might be deferred until the soul’s departure from this world.


Eisav and the Divinity of the Torah

Eisav’s violation of a betrothed maiden metaphorically refers to his rejection of Torah as a Divine writ and a G‑dly way of life. This analogy is based on the Torah’s self characterization as a m’orasha, which means inheritance but is translated by the Talmud as m’orasa-betrothed.

Torah to us is more than just a powerful teaching; it is the most intimate aspect of our lives; we are married to it. This intimate relationship with Torah is based on its Divine nature, which connects to the Divine aspect of our souls. Denying the Divine dimension of Torah is tantamount to violating the integrity of the Torah; a betrothed maiden.


All Firsts are Connected

Eisav’s rejection and denigration of his birthright parallels a denial of G‑d’s existence. The reason the firstborn enjoys a special status, Ma’aseh Hashem explains, is that all firsts are reflections of G‑d, the ultimate First Cause. Denial of the preeminent status of the first born is a subtle rejection of belief in a G‑d who precedes all else and who brought all else into existence.

This understanding of the integrity of the “firsts” also explains the different responses G‑d had to the offerings of Cain and Abel. G‑d accepted Abel’s offering because he, and not Cain, brought the “firstborn of his sheep.” Cain, we might suggest, did not ascribe any importance to the first because he believed as did Plato and Aristotle that the world always existed and to him G‑d was not the First. G‑d, to Cain, was a force superimposed on the world, which needed to be placated with a sacrifice to keep it off his back. In his mind, there was no need to express profound gratitude to Him as the very Source of all that exists. To believe that the world is immortal independent of G‑d is, in truth, a less than subtle rejection of G‑d’s mastery and unity, and, by extension, a rejection of G‑d’s Essence.


Adam’s Heresy

Reflection on and examination of Midrashic and Kabbalistic sources shows that the three principles denied by Eisav were already under assault, starting at the very dawn of humanity.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 38b) states that Adam denied G‑d. Obviously, Adam could not have denied G‑d’s existence, but his partaking of the forbidden fruit represented a concrete form of denial. The Talmud states that the serpent convinced Adam and Eve that G‑d created the world only after He partook of the Tree of Knowledge. In order to accept this notion Adam had to have believed that G‑d was not the First Existence.

Another manifestation of Adam’s heresy was his attempt to hide his nakedness from G‑d. The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge stimulated him to think he could hide from G‑d. This was a denial of G‑d’s omnipresence, which is tantamount to denial of G‑d’s transcendence of time and space.

Another interpretation of Adam’s denial is based on the understanding that the Tree of Knowledge represents secular philosophy which, when left to its own devices, can lead a person to reach heretical and atheistic conclusions. Thus, even if Adam himself did not deny G‑d’s existence, he did sow the seeds for, and introduce into the world, a discipline which would eventually prove to be a significant source of denial.

Sensual Desire and Tainted Humanity

Adam, the Midrash states, was also guilty of the sin of forbidden relations. This may be traced back to the way the Torah characterizes Adam and Eve’s desire for the forbidden fruit.  It uses terminology that is strikingly close to that used to discuss the lust and sensual desire that causes one to engage in illicit relations. Moreover, their transgression and submission to the serpent, the embodiment of evil, injected impurity into the human condition, which infected Cain and caused the death of Abel.

In short, we can see that the three vices associated with Eisav had their genesis with Adam.

Patriarchal Reversal

The Kabbalists, based on various Midrashic sources, explain that the Patriarchs and Matriarchs were the first humans to reverse the damage caused by Adam and Eve’s sin.

Abraham devoted his life to promote belief in and awareness of one G‑d. Wherever he went he declared that G‑d is the Creator of the world. Moreover, he also influenced others to declare G‑d as Creator. Thousands of pagans embraced strict Monotheism as a result of Abraham’s efforts.

Isaac, by allowing himself to be a sacrifice, we are taught, atoned for the bloodshed that was introduced into the world as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin. We have seen that bloodshed is a denial of the immortality of the soul and the afterlife. Isaac, our Sages teach, actually died at the Akeidah and was resurrected. This alludes to the fact that the soul lives on and can never be destroyed; it can and indeed will be restored to the dead in the age of the Resurrection after the Final Redemption.

Our Patriarch Jacob brought further atonement for the immorality associated with Adam and Eve. As was discussed above, forbidden relations with a betrothed maiden is a metaphor for undermining the divinity of Torah. Jacob was therefore described as one who “dwelled in tents,” a reference to the tents of Torah study. 

However, their joint accomplishments were not without some formidable challenges. On the last day that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived contemporaneously, Eisav attempted to sabotage their joint accomplishments by violating these three fundamental principles, whether by actual deed or in his perverted theological mindset.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Throughout the last 3,500 years since the days of the Patriarch’s and the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, we have been laboring in our efforts to reverse Adam and Eve’s shortcomings.  These efforts were begun by the Patriarchs, particularly, Jacob, in neutralizing the influence of Eisav and his heirs.

Moshiach’s Perfection of the Three Ideals

We now stand on the cusp of the Final Redemption through Moshiach, when these three cardinal sins, in all their incarnations and nuances, will be removed permanently.

Moshiach, the leader who ushers in this glorious age, is imbued with the most sophisticated awareness of G‑d’s presence. The prophet Isaiah (11:2) describes Moshiach thus: “The spirit of G‑d will rest upon him…”

Moshiach will also prove himself by demonstrating his total dedication to the Torah and will be the ultimate teacher of Torah. Even Moses will be one of Moshiach’s students of Torah.

Moshiach also distinguishes himself by his possession of the highest soul power, known in Chassidic literature as the Yechidah. It the loftiest part of the soul; it is most intimate with G‑d. Revelation of this level leads to unmitigated life. Moshiach will ignite the Yechidah of each and every one of us, which will lead to the Resurrection of the Dead and eternal life.

Chassidus is the Force of Redemption

The message for us is that in these last moments of Galus we must prepare for the future Redemption by, among other preparations, focusing on the three primary tenets of Judaism: the belief and awareness of G‑d as the First; our intimacy with Torah; and third, realization that the soul is eternal and so is its life with the body in the Age of the Resurrection.

The study of Chassidus is the direct approach to achieving a sophisticated awareness and understanding of these three principles. Chassidus focuses on making G‑d a reality in our consciousness. It is the part of Torah through which its divinity is fully exposed and, as the Yechidah/soul of Torah, it enables us to reveal our own Yechidah.  This is the sacred path to eternal life, as our Sages state that the Resurrection will occur by G‑d feeding us “the dew of Torah.”


Moshiach Matters: 

The Talmud (Suka, 52a) states: "In the time to come, G‑d will bring the Evil Inclination and slaughter it" This shechita - slaughtering for kosher consumption - implies the removal of the evil within the Evil Inclination, so that what is left is a holy angel. In this way, the "scoundrel" is transposed and transformed into "a white one".