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."