Shabbat Shalom from the Hillel that Was Before There Was Hillel!
25 Cheshvan, 5772
Please note that due to the Thanksgiving Holiday this week's parashah is being published early. The next edition will be on December 1.
This week's parashah revolves around the life of our second national patriarch, Isaac. Called Toldot (Genesis: 25:19-28:9) the parashah touches upon the life of Isaac. Isaac is perhaps our most tragic of the our patriarch's. He is the victim of parental abuse, deceived by his wife and son, and even the parashah dedicated to him spends more time dealing with his sons than with him. Yet despite all that has happens to Isaac, he is a survivor, laughs at life and refuses to allow life to conquer him, but instead turns negative situations into positives.
The parashah begins with Yitzchak. (Isaac) now 40 years old, and after some 20 years of marriage became the father of twins: Esav (Essau) and Yakov (Jacob). Just as in the case of his father, Abraham, Isaac had to deal with a famine. Unlike his father, he never left the land of Israel, but was forced to move south toward what is today Gaza. Being a financial success, Isaac had to learn to deal with the Plishtim who provoke a fight over water rights as a way of manifesting their jealousy toward him. The text teaches us that Isaac, being a good negotiator, was able to establish both commercial relations and a peace treaty with the Plishtim.
The parashah then returns to the story of Isaac's family. We learn that at the age of 40 Esau marries two Canaanite women against his parents' will,. We then learn that Rivkah (Rebecca) decided that Jacob is to receive the "blessing" (confirmation that the nation's continuity will pass through Jacob and not Essau). She tricked Isaac into giving the blessing to their younger son (Jacob). This duplicity provoked Esau's ire. Rebecca fearing for Jacob's life decided on a strategic retreat, sending Jacob back to Haran. Rebecca gave the pretext that her brother, Lavan, would arrange a marriage for Jacob. The parashah ends with Jacob's departure for Padam Aram and Essau's marriage to his third wife.
This parashah is filled with a number of famous episodes, but what really seems to dominate the parashah is the contrast between Jacob and Essau. When we first read the parashah we cannot help but feel sympathy for Essau. He appears to be a righteous individual. He honored his father (although he did not seem to have too much respect for his mother). Essau was physical, and a good athlete; he was a man of this world. Jacob, on the other hand appears to be a much less likeable and charismatic figure.
Jacob, on the other hand, appears to be less sympathetic. He is a yoshev-ohel, literally a person who sat in his tent, what we would call today a homebody. While Essau expressed the physical, Jacob was more concentrated on the spiritual and academic. One appears to be strong in body, the other appears to be strong in character and in intelligence. Is the Torah noting here that while there is a place for the physical, that too much emphasis on the physical, on the game, means that in the end, we become so tired that we accomplish little? Is the text reminding us that too much emphasis on the game, means that in the end we become losers? Did Rebecca understand that the person who puts too much emphasis on the physical in the end squanders his/her opportunities? Jacob, with all his faults understood that while at times we must engage inphysical pleasures but at the same time we must not lose sight of our ultimate goal.
This week's Torah portion then asks us to examine the unnecessary distractions in our own life. Are we so focused on the pleasures of the moment that we lose sight of tomorrow's goals? Do we use the pursuit of the game as an excuse for abandoning the pursuit of both personal and national priorities? Are our priorities appropriate or are we so self-centered that we cease to deserve G'd's blessings.
These are some important questions to ask just before Thanksgiving. May your holiday be one in which you concentrate not on the physical act of eating, but on the spiritual act of appreciation for the blessings that each of has in our own lives.
My family joins me in wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving day.
Youtubes of the Week:
A fascinating visit to Moscow's Jewish Museum
The Humor Section/L'Biddurchem
Why did the turkey cross the road?
It was the chicken's day off.
Asked to write a composition entitled, "What I'm thankful for on Thanksgiving," little Timothy wrote, "I am thankful that I'm not a turkey."
What key has legs and can't open doors?
What sound does a space turkey make?
hubble, hubble, hubble.
Keep your eye off the turkey dressing
It makes him blush!!!!
Why do turkeys always go, "gobble, gobble"?
Because they never learned good table manners!