Torah Fax

Friday, November 9, 2007 - 28 MarCheshvan, 5767 

Torah Reading: Toldot (Genesis 25:19 - 28:9)  
Candle Lighting: 4:25 PM
Shabbat ends: 5:26 PM

No Pain No Gain

 

Our Parshah tells us that when Isaac summoned his son Esau for the purpose of blessing him before he died, Isaac asked him to go out and hunt and then bring the food to him so that he could partake of it.

 

Why did Isaac ask Esau to bring him food before he would bless him? Had he not eaten that day? And if he wanted his son to perform the Mitzvah of honoring his father, why did he make this request of him at this time and not before?

 

In truth, Esau did hunt and feed his father regularly. Indeed, the reason the Torah gives for Isaac's love for Esau is that Esau provided him with the food that he hunted.

 

Commentators grapple with this fact. It is hard to imagine that Isaac of all people would be blinded by the food he received from Esau. However, the simple explanation is that Isaac would ask Esau to use the food he procured by hunting for the Mitzvah of honoring his father. In that way, Isaac was able to transform the art of hunting – not a very spiritual pursuit – into a Mitzvah.

 

By doing so, Isaac thought Esau's character would be refined and he would become more spiritual.

 

If Esau would have simply taken food already prepared it would not have been as great a Mitzvah because it would have lacked the effort that he was able to expend by hunting for food. And it is the act of the Mitzvah combined with effort and sacrifice that endows it with the ability to change a person's character. Since Isaac knew that Esau's character was far from being refined, he cherished the opportunity to get Esau to go to great lengths to do a Mitzvah.

 

Having said all this, the issue raised earlier is that much more problematic. Why does the Torah make a big fuss about the fact that Isaac asked Esau to provide him with food before he would give him his blessings? Wasn't this routine for Esau? 

 

The answer lies in the fact that in order for a blessing to be effective it must be associated with a Mitzvah.

 

Chassidic thought explains that a blessing is like rain, without which the crops will not grow. Nevertheless, in order for the rain to do its job, one must first cultivate the earth, by plowing it. Similarly, in order for Isaac's blessing to have produced positive results, Esau had to do a special Mitzvah. That Mitzvah would serve as the cultivation of his personality that would make him receptive to the positive energies that were generated by the blessings.

 

Based on this analysis one can raise a question with regard to Jacob’s ultimately receiving the blessings instead of his brother Easu. We know that while Esau was hunting, Rebecca provided her son Jacob with food so he could quickly go to his father, impersonate his brother Esau and receive the blessings before his brother’s return from the hunt. This being the case, how did Jacob receive the blessings when he impersonated his brother Esau? After all, he did not really expend much effort in providing his father with the food – and if the way to be receptive of a blessing, as we are suggesting here, is through investing effort in doing a Mitzvah - how then was Jacob able to receive his father’s blessings??

 

One could perhaps suggest two answers:

 

First, Jacob, in fact, did not need as much cultivation to make him receptive to Isaac's blessings. Jacob had been devoting his entire life to self-refinement and spiritual growth. For him the mere act of the Mitzvah of honoring his father with food sufficed to make him eligible for the blessings.

 

Second, Jacob did in fact expend as much energy as his brother Esau in the pursuit of the Mitzvah of honoring his parents. Indeed, as we shall see, his efforts represented far more of a sacrifice than Esau's hunting.

 

Whereas Esau was simply doing what came natural to him, hunting, Jacob went against his nature of honesty to deceive his father at the behest of his mother. Rebecca commanded him to take the blessings, knowing that Isaac would never have given them to Esau had he known the truth about his sale of his birthright to Jacob. Nevertheless, acting in a sneaky and underhanded manner, impersonating someone else – notwithstanding the fact that that was the correct thing to do under the circumstances - was a most difficult thing for Jacob to do. It was absolutely contrary to his nature. Jacob is described in the Torah as an "ish tam," which implies he was a man of integrity and sincerity. It was the ultimate sacrifice for him to listen to his mother and perform an act of deception, albeit for a noble cause. 

 

Moreover, for a righteous person, bending one's principles for the greater good is far more painful than a physical sacrifice. And it was this sacrifice that made Jacob worthy of the blessings he received from his father.

 

Of all the blessings that have ever been showered upon us from the beginning of our existence, the ultimate blessing is the promise of Moshiach; a time of universal peace, prosperity, goodness, and above all, the revelation of the divine throughout the world.

 

But, all blessings require cultivation. And there is no greater cultivation than the thousands of years the Jewish people have sacrificed everything for their observance of Judaism.

 

But perhaps of all the great sacrifices we can make in order to be even  more worthy of the Messianic blessings, it is the sacrifice that involves changing our habits for the purpose of helping another or going against our nature in the fulfillment of a Mitzvah that is the most valuable.

 

It is needless to say, that we have sufficiently cultivated ourselves throughout our long and arduous existence to deserve the final Redemption. We are ready for Moshiach. However, the more we cultivate ourselves through the observance of all the Mitzvot three things will happen:

 

(a) The more we will hasten the coming of Moshiach,

(b) The easier the process of Redemption will be; it will be a smoother transition form exile.

(c) The more prepared we will be to internalize all the good that we will experience in the Messianic Age.  

 

 

Moshiach Matters       

“It is obvious that doing everything in our power to convince Hashem to bring about the Redemption is in no way connected with the prohibition against “dechikas haketz,” pushing {prematurely} the end of the Exile. That prohibition only disallows extraordinary measures, like using practical Kaballah and consorting with angels. Anything short of that is not only permitted - it is required.”
The Rebbe, Parshas Lech Lecha, 1980
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