november 22nd 2014
heshvan 29th 5775
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by Rabbi David Pinto Shlita
It is written, “So he drew close and kissed him; he smelled the fragrance of his garments and blessed him; he said, ‘See, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field which Hashem has blessed’ ” (Bereshith 27:27).
The Midrash recounts that when Jacob went to see his father Isaac, the latter smelled something in his garments. We need to ask what exactly this was, and what was the significance of that fragrance. We note that the term beged (“garment”) has a numerical value of nine, as well as a value of ten when adding one for the term itself. This corresponds to the ten Sephirot that emanate from the supernal light, meaning Hashem. A tremendous spiritual fragrance emanated from Jacob’s garments, symbolizing the close connection between himself, the ten Sephirot, and the ten emanations that are the foundation of the entire Torah. The reason for this lies in the fact that Jacob’s essence was the holy Torah, to which he cleaved with all his strength, all his heart, and all his soul.
At a deeper level, we may say that even Jacob’s garments had the fragrance of the Torah that dwelled in him. In fact garments symbolize the Torah, for just as garments provide warmth, so too does the Torah. And just as garments are used against the cold, Jacob completely eliminated the evil inclination – which is called “cold,” as stated in regards to Amalek (which is also the evil inclination), as it is written: “He met you [karcha] on the way” (Devarim 25:18), the term karcha being derived from kar (“cold”) – by means of the Torah. Jacob exhibited warmth in serving G-d, and it was from this warmth that he derived all his strength, as we read: “Jacob was an upright man [tam], dwelling in tents” (Bereshith 25:27). Now the term tam is formed by the same letters as met (“dead”), for Jacob literally killed himself in the tent (i.e., the learning) of Torah.
This is precisely what Isaac said: “The voice is the voice of Jacob” (Bereshith 27:22), for when the voice is Jacob’s – when his voice in Torah is heard – at that point the hands of Esav are no more, meaning that Esav cannot disturb him because heat overpowers cold. When Esav would seek to harm Jacob or his descendants with his hands, they would immediately be burned with fire, this being the fire of Jacob’s voice. The term bigdo (“his garment”) has the same numerical value as the Divine Name Yud - Hei, which symbolizes the World to Come (created with the letter yud) and the present world (created with the letter hei). Thus we read, “The heavens are Hashem’s, but the earth He has given to man” (Tehillim 115:16). Man’s work consists of connecting both worlds, to unite the yud with the hei, by living in this world along with the World to Come. We achieve this by deriving our joy from the spirituality of Torah, thereby making the Name Y–H reign over the entire world, as it is written: “For in Y–H, Hashem, is the strength of the worlds” (Isaiah 26:4). This is the meaning of the fragrance that Isaac perceived in Jacob’s garments.
Since we have reached this point, we should be able to understand the connection between Jacob’s garments, when he went to see his father, and Adam’s garments after he sinned. When Adam sinned and realized that he was naked, the Holy One, blessed be He, took him out of the Garden of Eden. This left Adam feeling truly separated from G-d. Only the garments that G-d had given to Adam still connected him to his Creator, for a garment represents the holy Torah, which clothes, warms, and connects man to the ten Sephirot, as explained above.
Furthermore, the Holy One, blessed be He, fashioned a belt for Adam. Now a belt separates the upper part of the body from the lower part, alluding to the fact that a person can choose to distinguish between good and bad, or he can confuse them and live according to his instincts. In fact before Adam’s sin, this ability to choose did not exist, for the divide between good and evil was perfectly clear. Before the sin, we read that Adam and his wife were naked but not ashamed, and it was only after the sin that they were found together and confused. Man’s role is to “distance himself from evil and do good,” and garments (which symbolize the Torah and a connection to Hashem) are a way to achieve that goal.
Be that as it may, Adam was able to wear these garments while still in the Garden of Eden, for after the sin he remained there until the end of Shabbat. This is why, when Jacob went to see his father while wearing Esav’s garments (who, as we know, had stolen them from Nimrod, who in turn had taken them from Adam), they still possessed the fragrance of the Garden of Eden. Hence Isaac sensed the level of Adam in the Garden of Eden through the intermediary of Jacob’s garments. Isaac sensed the connection that Jacob had with Hashem, with the Torah, and with the ten Sephirot. That reality gave Isaac tremendous satisfaction, to the point that the Shechinah rested upon him.
Esav also wore Adam’s garments. Yet unlike Jacob, the fragrance of the Garden of Eden did not emanate from them. Rather, it was the odor of Gehinnom. This is because Esav’s body was infused with filth and uncleanliness as a result of the sins he committed. Such was not the case with Jacob’s body, which was entirely devoted to Hashem. Jacob was therefore worthy for Adam’s garments, which he wore, to add still more sanctity to him, to the point that he seemed to be walking in the Garden of Eden. Hence when Jacob wore Adam’s garments, the fragrance of the Garden of Eden emanated from them.
Such was the essence of Jacob, who was very careful to prevent the Satan from having even the smallest influence on him. Jacob fought with immense strength to protect his virtues, to the point that the dust around him flew up because he did not allow it to cling to him. And when the Satan touched Jacob’s thigh, the sun immediately arose, alluding to the fact that the Holy One, blessed be He, healed Jacob from that attack. This is because when a person fights against evil with all his strength, Hashem comes to his aid and heals him. From here Jacob learned that a person’s role in life is to rid himself of the dust of the evil inclination, preventing it from ever clinging to him or disrupting him in serving G-d. Conversely, he must cleave to the dust of the Sages, meaning to their good deeds and teachings, which are called dust, as it is written: “Sit in the dust at their feet” (Pirkei Avoth 1:4).
Real Life Stories
Your Name Says a Lot About You!
It is written, “Esav said to Jacob, ‘Please feed me some of that very red stuff, for I am exhausted’ ” (Bereshith 5:30).
In the Gemara, the Sages warn us about the obligation to wash our hands after a meal (mayim acharonim). In fact they are so adamant about it that they have said that failure to do so “killed a person” (Yoma 83b).
The Gemara recounts a terrible incident in this regard: Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehudah, and Rabbi Yossi went on a journey together. Now Rabbi Meir was in the habit of paying close attention to people’s names, and on Friday as the afternoon was ending, the three stopped at an inn on the way. When they arrived, they asked the innkeeper his name.
“Kidor,” he said.
Rabbi Meir, who would normally evaluate people based on their names, thought to himself: “He’s an evildoer, since it’s written: ‘For they are a generation [ki-dor] of reversals’ [Devarim 32:20].”
Before Shabbat began, Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Yossi entrusted their purses to Kidor, along with the money they contained, whereas Rabbi Meir did not. Instead, he went and hid it by the grave of the innkeeper’s father.
That very same night, Kidor saw his father in a dream, and he told him: “Go, take the purse lying at my head!” In the morning, when Kidor recounted his dream to the Sages who were staying at the inn, they told him that there is nothing to dreams that take place on the night of Shabbat. However Rabbi Meir, being cautious, went to the cemetery to look after the money he had hidden there. At the end of Shabbat, he took his purse and returned to the inn.
On the following day, both Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Yossi went to retrieve their purses from the innkeeper. Yet to their great surprise, he brazenly told them: “You never left anything with me!”
Upon hearing this, Rabbi Meir exclaimed: “Why didn’t you pay attention to his name, to see if he was good or bad?” His two friends replied, “Why didn’t you tell us that we had to?”
Rabbi Meir responded as follows:
“Although I usually evaluate people according to their names, it is simply a hunch. For example, when I learned that the innkeeper’s name was Kidor, I immediately connected it to the verse: ‘For they are a generation [ki-dor] of reversals.’ At that point, I was cautious and suspicious of the man. However I couldn’t be certain and tell you that he was someone who isn’t upright or honest, nor could I warn you not to entrust your money with him!” Later on, as they circled the town, the three Sages saw the innkeeper chatting with his friends.
Upon looking at him closely, they noticed that there were lentils on his mustache from a previous meal. The three Sages immediately returned to Kidor’s home and said to his wife, “Your husband told us that you would return our purses, which we entrusted to him on the eve of Shabbat. The sign that he gave us to certify that it is truly him sending us is that you made him a meal of lentils today.”
Upon hearing the Sages’ request and the sign they had given her – that she had prepared some lentils for her husband on that day – she immediately went to retrieve the purses that her husband had hidden, and she returned them to the Sages.
When Kidor returned home, his wife told him that the three Sages had come to their home and asked for their “collateral.” They had even given her a sign which they had heard from his own mouth, namely that he had eaten a meal of lentils on that day. “What did you do?” Kidor asked in a panic. “I returned their money to them,” his wife replied. Upon hearing this, Kidor flew into a rage and killed her.
The Gemara (Yoma 83b) ends its account by saying that failure to use the mayim acharonim after a meal “killed a person.” This is because, had Kidor fulfilled the mitzvah of washing his hands after a meal, as stipulated by the Sages, he would have washed his moustache. In that case, the three Sages would not have seen that he had eaten lentils on that day, meaning that Kidor would not have killed his wife. Because Kidor did not heed the words of the Sages, he neglected this mitzvah and ended up killing her.
In his book Sha’arei Yehoshua, the gaon and tzaddik Rabbi Yehoshua Attiya Zatzal uses this story to explain why Esav told Jacob, “Please feed me some of that very red stuff.” After all, why did Jacob have to pour this food into his mouth? Although he was exhausted at the time, could Esav not have served himself?
Actually, Isaac did not allow lentils into his home, for he was afraid that something unfortunate would happen if he did.
The wicked Esav obviously paid no attention to the mitzvah of mayim acharonim (whereas the Patriarchs observed the entire Torah). Esav had such a great desire to eat lentils, and they were so important to him, that he agreed to sell his birthright just to taste them.
People were mourning the death of Abraham at the time, and lentils were being cooked in Isaac’s home (since lentils are a meal for mourners). Esav then feared that Jacob would not allow him to taste it (since Jacob obeyed their father), which is why Esav came up with a plan. He said to Jacob, “Please feed me some of that very red stuff.” In other words, “I don’t want to eat lentils with my own hands because I don’t want to dirty my hands and mouth. But you can take the pot of lentils and pour it directly into my mouth.” That being the case, he argued, he would have no obligation to wash his mouth after eating, and things would not deteriorate, as the Sages have said: Neglecting the mitzvah of mayim acharonim can lead to death.
Esav even justified his reasoning by telling himself, “If my face still gets dirty with lentils, I can claim that I was exhausted. After all, people have a redder complexion when they’re exhausted, so nobody will know if I ate some lentils.”
In the Light of the Zohar
Measure for Measure
It is written, “And Isaac shuddered a great shudder, and he said, ‘Who – where [epho]?’ ” (Bereshith 27:33).
Rabbi Yehudah said, “For having caused his father [Isaac] to shudder, Jacob was punished by being thrown into a similar shudder when his sons showed him Joseph’s coat and said, ‘We have found this’ [Bereshith 37:32]” (Zohar I:144b).
Isaac had asked, “Who – where [epho]?” This was the very same word used to announce the punishment of Jacob through the loss of Joseph, who, when sent to look for his brothers, said: “Where [epho] are they feeding the flock?” (Bereshith 37:16). Although G-d had approved of Isaac’s blessings, Jacob was still punished.
In the Footsteps of our Fathers
Just How Exacting Heaven Is!
It is written, “Jacob simmered a stew” (Bereshith 25:29).
Was cooking stew a particular custom of Jacob, described as an “upright man, dwelling in tents” (Bereshith 25:27)?
In the Midrash, our Sages explain that Isaac had many servants and maid-servants. Yet whenever Jacob would return home late from the house of study, all these servants were already sleeping, and Jacob did not want to disturb or upset them by asking them to serve him. Hence he would prepare his own meals. Our father Jacob, who personified the attributes of truth, righteousness, and perfection in the service of G-d, thus teaches us an important lesson in the laws governing proper conduct. He teaches us the importance of being careful not to disturb others, whoever they may be, even if they work for us and their role is to serve us. The Mechilta recounts a story in which we find an example of refined and sensitive conduct, as demonstrated by our Sages:
“As Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Shimon were being led to their execution, Rabbi Shimon turned to Rabbi Yishmael and said: ‘My heart grieves, for I do not know the deed for which I am being executed.’
“Rabbi Yishmael replied, ‘Did a man ever stand before you in judgment or come to you with a question, but you made him wait until you had finished drinking, or you had put on your shoes or garments? [The Torah says] aneh te'aneh [Shemot 22:22] – one suffering is large, the other is small.’ With this he replied, ‘Rebbe, you have consoled me’ ” (Mechilta, Mishpatim, ch. 18).
As the gaon Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz points out in his book Da'at Torah, from here we learn just how exacting Heaven is in enacting strict justice. Indeed, if we enter into the category of “I will kill you with the sword” by simply making someone wait unnecessarily, what happens if we cause him more substantial suffering? As such, we must constantly watch that our deeds and actions cause no sorrow to anyone. Rabbi Yerucham jolts us with penetrating remarks that are relevant even today: “I normally don’t close the door to the room where I meet with the public, even though it costs me a little time and makes me somewhat more disorganized. I cannot accept this act of cruelty, which would make young people wait needlessly for hours, along with all the negative consequences that would result from it. In our days, the waiting rooms that we prepare, where people must wait before seeing someone – at times for a very long time – seem to me to be a transgression of the prohibition against aneh te'aneh [causing suffering].”
Back in Place
The gaon Rabbi Moshe Feinstein made great efforts to never disturb a member of his family or one of his students. During his final years, when he found it difficult to walk in his old age, his daughter the Rebbetzin Tendler would usually arrange a row of chairs for her father to lean on as he walked from his bed to drink his coffee in the morning, or as he walked towards his study to learn. Every morning, these chairs were found back around the table, in their proper place, and everyone thought that another family member had put them back. However it turned out that this other “family member” was none other than Reb Moshe himself, who didn’t want to disturb anyone by having them put these chairs back in place!
But He’ll Fire Him!
The book Meir Einei Israel describes the conduct of the Chafetz Chaim, who was very careful not to cause the least harm to anyone. When the book Mishnah Berurah (written by none other than the Chafetz Chaim himself) was printed in Warsaw, he personally went to the printing house in order to proofread the copies being made. Rabbi Nachman Shlomo Grinspan often visited the Chafetz Chaim there, and one day he found him upset. The look on the Chafetz Chaim’s face expressed distress and anger, and he was sighing from time to time as he went over the freshly printed pages. Concerned, Rav Grinspan asked him what was causing him such grief.
As he showed him the printed sheets, the Chafetz Chaim exclaimed: “These pages aren’t correctly ordered! The worker reversed the pages, and it’s causing me great distress.” Rav Grinspan tried to console him, saying: “It’s not so serious. We can easily put them in the right order.”
Surprised, the Chafetz Chaim responded: “Do you think that I’m upset because of the loss that I’ve incurred? G-d forbid! I’m afraid, and it’s very probable, that the printer will fire his worker when he learns that he doesn’t know how to sequence the pages correctly. Yet that worker is a head of a household, with young children to feed! How can we change things so that he doesn’t suffer the consequences of his mistake? Hiding this from the printer is also forbidden!” The Chafetz Chaim only calmed down when the printer made a deal with him, promising that no harm would come to the worker because of this incident.
Men of Faith
Stories of the Tzaddikim from the Pinto Family
Sanctifying His Name
Near the city of Mogador, an Algerian Arab owned a hotel that allowed him to enjoy a comfortable living. When relations between Morocco and Algeria grew tense, suspicions began to swirl around this man, and the Moroccan authorities closed his hotel. The man, who recognized the greatness and holiness of the tzaddik Rabbi Haim Pinto Zatzal, went with his wife to visit the grave of the tzaddik on his Hilloula. There he implored the tzaddik to help him reopen his hotel. He also asked the Jews who were there to pray for him: “Just as G-d performs miracles for Jews, may He also perform them for Arabs.” On the following day, he received a letter from the government informing him that he was the only one authorized to run a hotel in the area, and that it could reopen. The letter was accompanied by a copy of the hotel’s operating license. Obviously, immense joy and unbound happiness filled the home of this man, and on that day G-d’s Name was sanctified among all the surrounding peoples.
At the Source
Without a Blessing
It is written, “He ate and drank, and he arose and departed” (Bereshith 25:34).
This verse is explained allegorically in the book Etz Chaim:
Immediately after he ate and drank, Esav arose and departed without reciting the blessing at the end of the meal, for the verse ends by stating: “Thus Esav spurned the birthright.” Now the term habechora (“birthright”) has the same letters as beracha (“blessing”), meaning that Esav did not say a blessing over his meal.
In the very next verse we read, “There was a famine in the land” (Bereshith 26:1). This alludes to what our Sages have said in the Gemara: “To enjoy this world without a benediction is like robbing the Holy One, blessed be He” (Berachot 35b). This leads to a reduction in the things that He lavishes upon us.
Little by Little
It is written, “The man became great and kept becoming greater, until he was very great” (Bereshith 26:13).
The author of Kaf HaChaim gives us a beautiful explanation on the repetition of Isaac’s greatness in this verse (“became great…greater…very great”):
A person’s greatness can only endure when it comes to him gradually, little by little. On the other hand, if his greatness comes all at once, and he suddenly ascends over all others, both in the financial and political realms, then it is likely that his ascension will not last, be it as a result of the evil eye or for a completely different reason. Hence through the verse, “The man became great and kept becoming greater, until he was very great,” the text tells us that Isaac’s greatness was permanent because it came to him gradually. This is why Isaac benefited from enduring greatness, as the verse states: “until he was very great.”
It is written, “They dug another well, and they quarreled about it also; so he named it Sitnah” (Bereshith 26:21).
In his book Pnei David, the Chida writes that when a poor person has set his heart on something, but then someone comes and takes it from him, the latter is called wicked. Rashi adds that the same applies to an object whose owner is not known: If a person finds it, but then someone comes and takes it from him, the latter is called wicked. The Ran points out, however, that this applies only when the person who finds it is poor. If a wealthy man throws himself into a project that could be profitable, and then another person comes and takes it from him, the second person is not called wicked because the wealthy man is not reduced to a state of want.
Thus when Isaac dug the first well, the shepherds of Gerar declared that he was wealthy, whereas they were poor and in need of water. Isaac therefore did not enter into the category of “a poor man who saw it first.” Yet these shepherds had water when Isaac dug the second well, and so they quarreled with him at that point simply because they wanted to harm him. Hence Isaac named this well sitnah (“hatred”).
The Measure of a Man
It is written, “Rebecca took the costly garments of Esav…which were with her in the house” (Bereshith 27:15).
Did Esav not have several wives? Why did he entrust his garments to his mother? Rashi responds: “He was well aware of their deeds, and he was suspicious of them.”
Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman affirms that even the wicked eventually recognize that every man imbued with a fear of G-d and who performs mitzvot is a worthy individual. Although Esav had several wives who were capable of keeping his most costly garments, he did not leave them with these women, preferring instead to entrust them to his mother with a tranquil heart and complete confidence.
It therefore appears that even the wicked are aware that the fear of G-d is a virtue. Yet in their eyes, it is only a virtue, nothing more.
King Solomon teaches us that this is not the case: “Fear G-d and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man” (Kohelet 12:14).
This means that the fear of G-d is the defining measure of a man, and whoever is not infused with such fear is not even considered a man! He is simply an animal, like all the rest.
In the Light of the Parsha
In the End, the Evil Inclination Must Give Up
It is written, “Isaac again dug the wells” (Bereshith 26:18).
Why did Isaac make an effort to return and dig a well that had already been dug by his father Abraham? Why did he not stop and wait to find a well that the Philistines would not claim as their own? The Zohar explains the significance of his actions, namely that the Patriarchs dug wells so that everyone would be able to drink. Thus people would come to their homes, where the Patriarchs could then teach them Torah. It is also for this reason that the Philistines plugged up these wells and fought over them: They were the emissaries of the evil inclination, which fights against the teaching of Torah and tries to prevent it. However Isaac did not allow himself to be ensnared by the evil inclination’s traps. On the contrary, “Isaac again dug the wells…. And they dug another well…. And he dug another well” (Bereshith 26:18-22). Isaac did not interrupt his mission, but instead pursued his path despite all obstacles, as it is written: “The righteous man may fall seven times, but he will arise” (Mishlei 24:16).
Once Isaac dug the third well, we read that “they did not quarrel over it; so he named it Rehovot” (Bereshith 26:22). This teaches us that if someone overcomes the obstacles of the evil inclination, it will eventually give up and he will be able to serve Hashem in tranquility (rehavah).
Guard Your Tongue
Even when a person is not speaking in the presence of the subject – such as when he tells his friend, “I heard Reuben saying such-and-such about Shimon” – it is still considered rechilut [talebearing]. In fact by circulating from one person to another, such remarks are likely to cause strife between Reuben and the person he is speaking about.
– Chafetz Chaim