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ויעקב איש תם יושב אהלים

Yaakov was a wholesome man, abiding in tents. (25:27)

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Onkeles interprets ish tam as g’var shlim, perfect/whole man; and yosheiv ohalim as meshamesh bais ulfana, served/studied in the house of Torah study. Yaakov Avinu achieved perfection in that his neshamah, soul, filled his entire body; he essentially became a totally spiritual (spiritually-oriented) person. Yaakov expunged whatever negative spiritual forces that might have existed within him, to the point that his pure soul was in complete control of his being.

Chazal teach (Bava Basra 16a) that Eisav kofar b’Ikar, denied the Ikar, Hashem; he was a heretic who had no regard for anything spiritual. He believed in nothing. He demonstrated his beliefs (non-beliefs) when he sold the bechorah, birthright, because it meant nothing to him. After repudiating the religion, what use would the bechorah be to him? Horav Aharon Kotler, zl (cited by Horav Dov Schwartzman, zl) explains that kofar b’Ikar does not refer to Eisav’s denial of Hashem, but rather, to his eschewing what is ikar, primary/principle/essential in life. He understood the meaning of ruchniyos, spirituality, and did not deny its value, but, as far as he was concerned, it was not the ikar. It was to him tafeil, secondary/ancillary.

Yaakov viewed the primary goal of life, the ikar, in its entirety to be spirituality, which was, indeed, his focus in life. All of life revolved around the ikar: ruchniyos. Eisav, however, divided his life into moments: one moment of fun; another moment, a good meal; the next, satisfying his physical desires. He had no single primary goal. Each moment was for whatever struck his fancy at the moment. This would occupy him and become the focus of his life – at that moment. Moods powered Eisav’s life. Whatever mood he was in at the moment became the center of his attention. He had no ikar, no primary goal, guiding objective. It was all about what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it.

Rav Schwartzman explains that at the onset of one’s commitment of service to the Almighty, he must know, acknowledge, affirm to live by the notion that he has an ikar, and also a tafeil. He lives by – and for – the ikar, which is his lodestar and subsumes his entire essence – to the point that he becomes one with the ikar. The ikar is a life devoted to spiritual ascendance. Yaakov Avinu was the adam ha’shaleim, perfect man, g’var shlim, whose neshamah encompassed his essence. He had one ikar and he lived by it, unlike his brother Eisav, who lived by his whims. He had no ikar other than whatever made him feel good at the moment.

This is a powerful lesson for us. We tend to compartmentalize our lives in such a manner whereby we “make time” for spiritual endeavor alongside our other foci. The problem arises when we have a “conflict,” and a tug of war ensues. One who is focused on a life completely relegated to – and by – the Torah has no conflicts. Ultimately, we can have only one ikar.

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