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Robert and Hannah Klein
on the yahrzeit of his mother
(Devorah bat Avraham a"h)
Mishnah: Sotah 2:1-2
Tanach: Shmuel II 5-6
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Shabbat 45
Halachah: Mishnah Berurah 154:2-4
In this week’s parashah, Yitzchak gives Yaakov the blessing that begins (27:28), “Ve’yi’tain lecha” / “May G-d give you of the dew of the heavens and of the fatness of the earth, and abundant grain and wine.” Many communities and individuals have the custom to recite this blessing and other verses containing blessings on Motza’ei Shabbat. Below is some of what has been written regarding this custom [quoted from Zemirot Matok Mi’dvash p. 231 and Azamer B’shevachin: Zemirot L’Shabbat Kodesh p.243]:
It is customary to recite verses with blessings on Motza’ei Shabbat so that one’s handiwork will be blessed. (Tur ch.295)
The Arizal used to recite these verses when he would recite havdalah over wine in order to draw goodwill and blessing to the beginning of the workweek. (Sha’ar Ha’kavanot)
The Zohar (cited below) seems to imply that these verses should be recited in shul. Perhaps, the Arizal also said these verses in shul when he davened among Ashkenazim, while he said them at home when he had davened among Sephardim, since it is not their custom to recite these verses in shul. (Siddur R’ Shabtai)
If one delays [in reciting havdalah] until after reciting Kedusha D’sidra [i.e., “Atah Kadosh”], all of the wicked people in Gehinnom affirm that he should receive all of the blessings that were recited by the congregation, i.e., “Ve’yi’tain lecha,” because he has delayed havdalah [which delays the return of the wicked to Gehinnom, from which they had a reprieve during Shabbat.] (Hakdamat Ha’Zohar with the commentary Matok Mi’dvash)
The Sages established the recitation of verses from the Torah, the Nevi’im / Prophets, and the Ketuvim / Writings so that a person will begin his week by fulfilling his obligation to occupy himself with each of these parts of the Torah. Some also add beraitot / teachings of the Sages, all for the purpose of ensuring that people fulfill their obligation to occupy themselves with Torah. (Siddur Rabbeinu Shlomo ben R’ Shimshon Mi’Germaiza)
“Yitzchak entreated Hashem opposite his wife, because she was barren. Hashem answered him, and his wife Rivka conceived.” (25:21)
Rashi z”l writes: “‘Him’ and not her, because there is no comparison between the prayer of a righteous person the child of a righteous person and the prayer of a righteous person the child of a wicked person.”
Our Sages say that, in a place where a ba’al teshuvah stands, even a perfect tzaddik cannot stand! How is Rashi’s comment consistent with Rivka’s lofty status as a ba’alat teshuvah?
R’ Eliezer David Gruenwald z”l (1867-1928; Hungary) explains: Rashi is not commenting on the relative status of Yitzchak and Rivka. Rather, the Gemara (Berachot 10b) teaches that if one prays in his own merit, he will be answered in someone else’s merit whereas, if he prays in someone else’s merit, he will be answered in his own merit. Yitzchak, as the son of tzaddikim, could pray in his parents’ merit, whereas, Rivka, as a ba’alat teshuvah, had no choice but to pray in her own merit. That is the reason his prayer was answered. (Keren L’David)
“Hashem appeared to him [Yitzchak] and said, ‘Do not descend to Egypt; dwell in the land that I will show you. Live in this land . . .’” (26:2-3)
R’ Yitzchak Isaac Chaver z”l (1789-1852; rabbi of Suvalk, Lithuania) writes: Hashem has two ways of relating to the world–through the fixed laws of nature and through hashgachah pratit / specific intervention in the life of a person or nation. The first person whose entire life was characterized by the latter type of relationship was Yitzchak, for he was born miraculously to parents who were naturally barren. That was possible only after Avraham was circumcised, for the removal of man’s physical orlah / foreskin has the effect of removing the barriers in Heaven that prevent G-d’s hashgachah pratit from being perceived. It was because of this unique relationship that Yitzchak was prohibited from leaving Eretz Yisrael, the place where G-d’s hashgachah pratit reigns. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Yad Mitzrayim: Potei’ach Yad)
“Because Avraham obeyed My voice, and observed My safeguards, My commandments, My decrees, and My Torahs.” (26:5)
The Gemara (Yoma 28b) comments: Avraham Avinu kept all of the commandments, even the Rabbinic imperative of Eruv Tavshilin.
R’ Meir ben Eliyahu z”l (great-nephew of the Vilna Gaon z”l; died 1842) asks: How is this possible when so many of the commandments are dependent of the existence of a Bet Hamikdash or on the existence of kohanim or levi’im or a king?
He explains: The Torah which we know is the outer cloak, a physical manifestation, of the inner Torah which is known in the “upper worlds.” Of course, now that the Torah was given on earth, “it is not in the Heavens” (Devarim 30:12); thus, man must observe the actual mitzvot according to the letter of the law. Before that, however, each person observed the Torah according to his understanding of its secrets. For example, Yaakov Avinu, who lived before the Torah was given, married two sisters because he understood that Jewish history required him to do so. After the Torah was given, one cannot act according to his understanding of the Torah’s secrets, but only according to halachah. (Nachalat Avot p.13)
“Ha’kol kol / The voice is Yaakov’s voice . . .” (27:22)
R’ Yochanan Luria z”l (Germany; 15th century) writes: The first occurrence of “kol” is written without the letter “vav,” so it can be read “Ha’kal.” I have heard that this teaches that even the prayer of a “kal” / simpleton can be effective when it is said with proper concentration. (Meshivat Nafesh)
“The voice is Yaakov’s voice, and the hands are Esav’s hands.” (27:22)
The midrash Eichah Rabbah relates that Bil’am advised the gentile nations: If the voices of [Jewish] children can be heard, you cannot defeat them. If they cannot be heard, then you can defeat them. This is because their father already promised them, “The voice is Yaakov’s voice, and the hands are Esav’s hands” - so long as Yaakov’s voice is heard in the shuls and batei midrash, the hands will not be Esav’s hands.
Commentaries ask: The last phrase in the midrash seems to be contrary to the straightforward reading of the pasuk!
R’ Shlomo Kluger z”l (1784-1869; rabbi of Brody, Galicia) explains: The verse is teaching that Esav was given the power of the sword (“The hands are Esav’s hands”), while Yaakov was given the blessing of the voice (“The voice is Yaakov’s voice”). In contrast, the midrash is teaching that, so long as Yaakov guards his blessing, using his voice to learn Torah and pray, then Yaakov’s hands will not be like the hands of Esav, i.e., Yaakov will not have to resort to Esav’s tool, which is the sword.
On the other hand, if Yaakov abandons his own gift–the voice, then he will have to resort to Esav’s gift–the sword. “If the voice is not the voice of Yaakov, then the hands, i.e., Yaakov’s hands, are the hands of Esav.” (Dimat Ha’ashukim p.9)
“So he [Yitzchak] drew close and kissed him [Yaakov]; he smelled the fragrance of begadav / his garments and blessed him . . .” (27:27)
The Midrash Rabbah states: “Don’t read, ‘begadav’ / ‘his garments,’ but rather ‘bogdav’ / ‘his traitors’.”
R’ Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z”l (1865-1935; first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) explains: The emunah / faith in G-d which is in the Jewish heart cannot be quantified and has no comparison. Even a Jewish non-believer is a greater believer than all of the gentile nations [as demonstrated by the fact that Jewish non-believers are so often motivated by perceived injustice–a reflection of their anticipation of a better world (R’ Yuval Freund shlita)]. Even among those who express words of mockery and heresy, deep in their neshamah there is a light of G- d, of thirsting for the Living G-d of Israel, even to the point of giving their lives for Him. The emunah which is demonstrated by this martyrdom was always present, but it was concealed by the impurity that comes from living among the gentile nations. (Midot Ha’Ra’ayah: Emunah 10 [Rosh Yehudi ed. p.56])
Letters from Our Sages
This letter was written by R’ Yosef Chaim z”l of Baghdad (1832- 1909). Best known as the author of “Ben Ish Chai” and “Ben Yehoyada,” he authored dozens of works covering chumash, halachah, mussar and kabbalah. The work from which this letter is taken was written under the pen-name Yechezkel Kachali.
Question: When Eliyahu Hanavi, zachur la’tov / may he be remembered for good, comes to this world dressed in human form and he sits among Torah scholars and learns with them, and he comes and goes like any person, does he have the legal status of an angel or perhaps the status of a human prophet? The practical significance of this question is whether he is obligated to pray and to perform other mitzvot while he is in this world, and whether he can be counted for a minyan. Please instruct us!
Answer: Even when he comes to this world dressed in human form and he sits among Torah scholars and he comes and goes like any person, he has the status of an angel in all respects and is not considered to be a person. The proof to this is from the Gemara (Pesachim 81b), where it is stated expressly: “What is ‘tum’ah / impurity of the depths’? It is tum’ah of which no one in the world is aware [i.e., a long lost grave]. If anyone, anywhere in the world, is aware of the tum’ah, it is not called ‘tum’ah of the depths’.” [Whether tum’ah is “tum’ah of the depths” has certain implications for kohanim and the Temple service.] This law is codified by Rambam in the laws of a nazir. Now, Eliyahu Hanavi, zachur la’tov presumably is aware of the location of all lost graves; thus, if he were considered to be a person, there would be no such thing as “tum’ah of the depths” so long as he is visiting this world, for there would be someone on earth who was aware of the tum’ah. Thus, it must be that he is considered to be an angel, and his awareness [of any lost grave] has no impact because he is not a person, may his merit protect us! (Torah Lishmah no. 380)