Torah blessings in our everyday life

The Parasha in the daily life - Parashat Toldot - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5780

Yaakov Avinu is the first to receive the nickname אִ֣ישׁ תָּ֔ם יֹשֵׁ֖ב אֹהָלִֽים "mild man who stayed in camp" (Bereshit 25:27). Generally, it is common to think that someone who is 'a mild man', and 'sitting in the tents of the Beit Midrash' is detached from leadership and life. But the meaning of "Tam- mild" is not naïve but perfection: "Yaakov Avinu's main trend was to show everyone, that these two concepts do not contradict each other but complement and strengthen the other". (Rabbi Kook, "Ein Ayah" Shabbat 33:284).

Rabbi Kook, also explains, that the discussion between Yitzhak and Rivka, about the blessings, that appear in the Parasha, revolves around this element - Yaakov's ability to combine the two fields, the holy and the profane, the spiritual world and action: "Even in the opinion of Yitzhak that Esav merited a blessing, he knew he was not in the same level as Yaakov, for he saw Yaakov sitting in tents and study Torah, while Esav dealt with mundane things. But Yitzhak thought there are two kinds of perfection: There is human perfection on the part of the human mind, which includes all the Mitzvot between man and his fellow, charity and kindness to the brethren, and dwelling in the world; benefit for the brethren which is really an act of kindness, such as bridges and markets and the like, and Yaakov’s level was higher. For he was a man dedicated to G-d, above the human mind. And he thought it was impossible for the two perfections to be together! Therefore, he thought of blessing Esav on human perfection, so he would frequently do a great deal of charity and goodness, and all the human good virtues, etc. But Rivka saw that if this were the case, Yaakov's hands would be tied, as Esav would not let him influence or work, and Yaakov himself would not be able to achieve his own perfection. Therefore, it is good that Yaakov had some carrying to do, he carries heavy freight on his shoulders as he has responsibility for the world, even though this might lower him in working Hashem, but this way he will come to a complete purpose ("Meorot Hareayah" Yerach Haeitanim p. 39).

In this way, Rabbi Kook explained why when Yaakov came to the outskirts of שכם Shechem “And Yaakov came whole to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram; and he graced the countenance of the city” (Bereshit 33:18). Rav said, the meaning of: And Yaakov came whole, is: Whole in his body, whole in his money, whole in his Torah. And what did he do? And he graced the countenance of the city; he performed gracious acts to benefit the city. Rav said: Jacob established a currency for them. And Shmuel said: He established marketplaces for them. And Rabbi Yoḥanan said: He established bathhouses for them”. (Shabbat 33b): "For he saw thru a Divine Spirit that Shechem will have the calamity of the division of the Kingdom of David, and the basis as stated in the Midrash, of the three sins that need to be rectified etc. It is because of this belief that a king who is engaged in Torah and Wisdom like David and Shlomo, should be able to engage nicely in the kingdom leadership, that Yaakov, the man sitting in tents, is giving a sign that he also makes markets and baths." (Igrot Hareiyah)

The inclusion of Torah and sacred in the daily life is the purpose of the Torah and its blessing. It is an expression of the fact that the Torah is not just an idea and a theoretical concept taught in the Beit Midrash, but a life path that is supposed to exist in reality, in the world of action. To integrate the holy and the profane in a complete and harmonious way: "What one learns, and what one prays, and what one does settling the world, whether things that are necessary for man, or things that may expand one's mind and improve one's life, all goes to one place, to one division; to complete the general amendment of the entire world, to approach the ideal goal sought, to make life good and decent, and more worthy of holy eternal connection" (Orot HaKodesh 3 Pp 148).

Rabbi Kook continued to elaborate that it is not enough to say that they are not contradictory, nor that they are two things that fulfill side by side as a compromise. But they are two things that create one ideal harmonic perfection that is greater than its parts. Ideal perfection to be applied in individual and general life. And on it lies Yaakov’s spirit. In his creative space he did not settle for general statements but rather expanded and accomplished the elements of this challenge.

However, this is a complicated and complex task. The challenge is at the door of the Eretz-Israeli Beit Midrash. It needs to find out and pave the way for the general public, especially its graduates, who are about to leave. So that they can prepare for the unexpected challenges that can fall on them by surprise, or maybe they will need to formulate ways to deal with the challenges ‘as they go’.

For this reason, it is not enough to have general statements that combine Torah in daily life, further dropping to details and challenges is necessary, and how to deal with them.

Taking into account that the world of action is dynamic and changing. In the Yeshiva Beit Midrash and at the Seminary we devote special studying to this - as a regular, before the graduates leave for the practical life. A large part of the study also includes the detailed concepts mentioned by Rabbi Kook on this issue.

We will deal with some of them in our series of articles this year on "The Parasha in the daily life."

Solidarity time

In memory of those who were killed in a terrorist attack in the Pittsburgh Synagogue on Shabbat Vayera

Parsha and its fulfillment - Parashat Toldot - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald- 5769

At the beginning of our Parasha we see the birth of Yaacov and Esav to Yitzchak and Rivka. At the end, after taking the blessings from his brother, Yitzchak sends Yaakov to Padan Aram to set up his house there, the house of Israel: "“And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him: 'Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother. And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a congregation of peoples; and give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land of thy sojournings, which God gave unto Abraham. And Isaac sent away Jacob; and he went to Paddan-aram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob's and Esau's mother”. (Genesis 28: 1-5).

From the family of Yaacov came the people of Israel. And from his sons came the twelve tribes. But even in Yaacov’s family, even before the creation of the Jewish people, the question of unity was raised in the house. How to form unity despite the lack of uniformity. Not only as a social value but as a spiritual value.

Hence generations. The nation of Israel must strive for "brotherly love" in routine and in distress: " Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, profaning the covenant of our fathers? (Malachi 2), “And who is like Thy people, like Israel, a nation one in the earth” (2 Samuel 7,23), and we have one Torah and one law. And it is therefore fitting for us to have one heart and one will. Needless to say, free hatred became the people of Israel’s worst misfortune. The hatred of freedom caused more damage to the people of Israel than the hardest and strongest of its enemies could have caused. We commemorate these events during the fast days of the year, which are meant for remembrance and self-examination.

The need to sharpen the importance of fraternity and free love is mainly important in controversial matters, and at a time when the differences of opinion between segments of the Jewish people are prominent. When everyone agrees, there is no need for it. It is precisely when the winds are heated by the fire of controversy that we must emphasize that there is a common denominator between us. That we must be proportionate and not try to intensify the dispute and sharpen the differences beyond what they really are. And that dealing with the difficulty of creating a dialogue and preventing a rupture is preferable to the price that may be paid if the dispute grows into a rift. As in the past.

The terrible murder that took place on Shabbat Vayera in the Synagogue of the Conservative congregation in Pittsburgh by a hateful anti-Semite, brought up again the antisemitism in the world that does not discriminate between Jews and Jews.

In the face of this event, we must all embrace, from a distance, our Jewish brothers and members of the community, to be with them in their difficult hour and try to strengthen them as best we can. And remember that we are "the sons of one man in the land of Canaan" (Genesis 42:13). This is not the time to mention and sharpen our differences and differences in perceptions between Orthodoxy and the Conservative and Reform movements. The disagreements do indeed stand, they are harsh, polar and unambiguous, and should not be taken lightly. No one is going to blur them. This 'time of trouble' should be ‘time of fraternity'. At this time, we should put the disputes aside. This is a 'time to embrace' and to emphasize that we are brothers, and the plight of our brothers is our problem.

It is precisely at this time that we must mention the clear Halacha that a Jew who was killed by non-Jews, just because he was a Jew, when the intention of killing him was for no other reason than because he was Jewish, is considered to be one who died in the sanctification of G-d- Kidush Hahsem. Perfect Tzaddikim.

Unfortunately, at this difficult hour, there were those who tried to inflame the dispute and argue that Orthodoxy believes that Conservative and Reform Jews are not Jews, G-d forbid. And to polarize the relationship between the people living in Israel and Diaspora Jewry.

Tragically, the murderer reminded us, like all the anti-Semites of all generations, that we are "brothers" with a common destiny. And we all get the same hatred indiscriminately.

This is the time for Solidarity, not for controversy. We must not let it slip away.

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