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ויתרצצו הבנים בקרבה ותאמר אם כן למה זה אנכי

The children agitated within her, and she said, “If so, why am I thus?” (25:22)

Chazal teach that vayisrotzetzu, “and they agitated,” is derived from rotz, to run. When Rivkah Imeinu passed the yeshivah of Shem and Ever, Yaakov struggled to leave; and when she passed a house of idol worship, Eisav wanted out. The Bais HaLevi asks the well-known question: We are taught that a Heavenly angel teaches the Torah to the growing fetus. If so, why would Yaakov want to escape to the yeshivah? He was learning Torah from an angel; can one ask for more? The Bais HaLevi explains that such learning is not worth it if it means being in the…

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שני גוים בבטנך ושני לאמים ממעיך יפרדו... ורב יעבד צעיר

Two people are in your womb, and two nations from your womb shall separate… and the elder shall serve the younger. (25:23)

The story of Yaakov and Eisav involves complex dynamics between two brothers – two very different brothers who had totally incongruous ways of life, goals and objectives. This was basically the nevuah, prophesy, that Rivkah Imeinu received when she went to the yeshivah of Shem and Ever to seek an explanation for her difficult pregnancy. Much can be derived from the narrative which serves as a lesson concerning family relationships, personal choices and the consequences one must bear as a result of his decisions. Obviously, the entire scenario is cloaked in profound layers of esoteric nature, leaving little for us…

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ויאהב יצחק את עשו... ורבקה אהבת את יעקב

Yitzchak loved Eisav… but Rivkah loved Yaakov. (25:28)

One of the most perplexing aspects of the Yitzchak/Rivkah Yaakov/Eisav narrative is the love Yitzchak showed to Eisav. We have no doubt that Yitzchak was aware of his son’s errant behavior. Certainly, Eisav’s demeanor stood out in stark contrast to Yaakov’s behavior. The commentators grapple with this enigma, each expounding his individual interpretation of Yitzchak Avinu’s positive attitude towards Eisav. Horav Meir Rubman, zl, explains that we can apply two approaches to dealing with – and addressing – the issue of a recalcitrant son who has sadly gone off the derech, who has turned his back on religious observance. It…

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ויבא עשיו מן השדה והוא עיף... ויאמר עשיו אל יעקב הלעיטני נא מן האדום האדם הזה... ויבז עשיו את הבכורה

And Eisav came in from the field… and he was exhausted… pour into me how, some of the red stuff… Eisav spurned the birthright. (29,30,34)

We tend to view one’s present offensive behavior without considering the root cause that led to this indiscretion. From character failing to acting out ignominiously, it often takes time as the person evolves from moral deficiency to offensive action. Just as one does not achieve success overnight, he, likewise, does not suddenly descend to the pit of iniquity. Perhaps if we would take heed of the root cause, we might be able to nip it in the bud. Eisav is a perfect example of this. Chazal (Bava Basra 16b) teach that the fateful day that Eisav returned exhausted and famished…

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ויהיו חיי שרה מאה שנה, עשרים שנה, ושבע שנים שני חיי שרה

Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life. (23:1)

Chazal (Bereishis Rabbah 23:1) quote from Sefer Tehillim (37:18), Yodea Hashem yemei temimim… “Hashem knows the days of the perfect.” K’shem she’heim temimim, kach shenosam temimim, “Just as the righteous are perfect, so are their years perfect.” They say this concerning Sarah Imeinu whose life was one long series of perfection. In an alternative exposition, Rabbi Yochanan says, “Sarah was perfect in her deeds,” k’hada eglesa temimsa, “like an unassuming calf.” Rabbi Yochanan equates temimus, perfection/wholeness, with the trait of obedience and unassuming (no questions asked – no answers expected). She followed instructions i.e. tzivui, command of Hashem, faithfully. As…

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וישקל אברהם לעפרון ... ארבע מאות שקל ...ואחרי כן קבר אברהם את שרה אשתו

And Avraham weighed out to Ephron… four hundred silver shekel …and afterwards Avraham buried Sarah his wife. (23:16,19)

Chazal (Pirkei Avos 5:3) state that Avraham Avinu withstood – and emerged successful from – the trials/challenges (to his faith) with which Hashem tested him. This indicates the greatness and deep-rooted faith which our first Patriarch manifested. In his commentary to Avos, Rabbeinu Yonah delineates the ten nisyonos, trials, in ascending order of conviction demonstrated. He places the Akeidas Yitzchak, Binding of Yitzchak (when Avraham Avinu was prepared to slaughter his son to fulfill Hashem’s command), as number nine, with (the travail surrounding) the selecting a gravesite and burying his beloved wife, Sarah Imeinu, as number ten. How are we…

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ותמלא כדה ותעל

She filled her jug and ascended. (24:16)

Chazal interpret the “ascent” of this pasuk as a reference, not to Rivkah, but to the water – the water rose up to “meet” her. Her virtue was so great that a miracle occurred when she came to the well. Eliezer saw the water rise up to Rivkah – a miracle which clearly manifested her elevated spiritual plateau. Miracles do not occur for someone who is undeserving. If so, why did Eliezer require a sign that demonstrated that she excelled in the middah, attribute, of chesed, lovingkindness. Apparently (as expounded by the commentators), miracles do not define a person’s character….

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והנה רבקה יוצאת ... וכדה על שכמה ... וירץ העבד לקראתה ויאמר הגמיאיני נא מעט מים מכדך... ותשקהו ... ותכל להשקותו ותאמר גם לגמליך אשאב

And suddenly Rivkah was coming out … and her jug upon her shoulder … The servant ran towards her and said, “Let me sip, if you please, a little water from your jug.” And she gave him to drink… When she finished giving him drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels until they have finished drinking.” (24:15,17,18,19)

Eliezer prayed to Hashem that Rivkah should offer drink to both him and his camels. Rivkah did more than offer both man and animal to drink; rather, only when Eliezer finished drinking, did Rivkah say that she would now give his camels to drink. In relating the incident to Lavan and Besuel, however, Eliezer did not underscore the fact that Rivkah distinguished between man and animal. Instead, he simply informed them that Rivkah was thoughtful and pleasing in that she not only gave him to drink, but she also quenched the thirst of his camels. Despite her murky roots, Rivkah…

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כי ידעתיו למען אשר יצוה את בניו ואת ביתו אחריו ושמרו דרך ד' לעשות צדקה ומשפט

For I have loved him, because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice. (18:19)

Chazal (Kesubos 8b) apply the above pasuk to Avraham Avinu’s devotion to the middah, character trait, of chesed, acts of lovingkindness. Chazal relate various statements made by Amoraim in an attempt to comfort Rav Chiya bar Abba on the loss of his son. [We will not examine how these statements are comforting, but rather, focus on the statement and its implied message.] Acheinu gomlei chassadim b’nei gomlei chassadim, “Our brothers, who bestow lovingkindness, sons of those who bestow lovingkindness, who embrace b’riso shel Avraham Avinu, the covenant of our Patriarch, Avraham Avinu, as it is stated, ‘For I know him,…

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כי ידעתיו למען אשר יצוה את בניו ואת ביתו אחריו ושמרו דרך ד' לעשות צדקה ומשפט

For I have loved him, because he commands his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice. (18:19)

Avraham Avinu is known as the amud, pillar, of chesed. He went beyond the call of duty in order to provide for the needs of those who were not as fortunate as he. It was this character trait which he introduced and inculcated into the psyche of his descendants. Chesed takes on many forms. It all depends on the attitude of the benefactor. For the most part, they see a need, and they immediately respond. Then there are those who innovate, who think before they act, who understand that chesed goes deeper than fulfilling a need. One must acknowledge the…

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