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Parshas Toldos Volume 20, Number 9
he Torah tells us that when Ya’akov and Eisav grew up, Eisav became an “ish yodeya tzayid” – a man who knew trapping, while Ya'akov became an “ish tam, yoshev ohalim” – a complete man who abided in tents. “And Yitzchak loved Eisav, because trapping was in his mouth, and Rivkah loved Ya'akov” (Bereishis 25:27-28). The difference between Yitzchak and Rivkah in their respective love for their children appears, at first blush, to be disturbing, and needs to be understood. Rabbi Avraham ben HaRambam explains that Yitzchak loved Eisav because he provided him with food, as the Targum explains. R. Avraham adds that some midrashim explain “ki tzayid befiv” (“because trapping was in his mouth”) to mean that Eisav trapped Yitzchak with his mouth by saying things that deceived Yitzchak and led him to believe he was careful about keeping mitzvos. This midrash clarifies
A Grain of Salt
Rabbi Joshua Hoffman the flow of the passuk: Yitzchak was able to retain his natural love for Eisav (despite his general deviation from God's path) because Eisav had been representing himself as being observant of the mitzvos. Even according to the midrash, however, Yitzchak's love came as a natural result of the physical benefit that he derived from him. Rivkah, however, loved Ya'akov beyond the natural love of a parent, because he spent more time at home, being a dweller of tents, and she therefore simply saw him more than she saw Eisav.
Rashi first cites the explanation of the Targum, just as R. Avraham does. He then cites the midrash, but he seems to understand it differently. Whereas R. Avraham finds a way to reconcile the midrash with the simple meaning of the verse, Rashi seems to understand it as being in contradiction to its simple meaning. Eisav, says the midrash,
When Eisav discovered that Ya'akov deprived him of their father's blessings, he said in his heart: "The days of mourning for my father will draw near, then I will kill my brother Ya'akov" (Bereishis 27:41). Rashi there writes that this is to be understood 'as it sounds,' meaning, in its literal sense, that Eisav did not want to cause his father pain. Therefore, he would wait to kill Ya’akov until after his father's
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asked his father how one tithes straw and salt. In point of fact, only things which grow from the ground need to be tithed, and, so, Yitzchak was Rav Hershel Schachter impressed by Eisav's scrupulousness n the days of the Talmud in trying to fulfill the mitzvos. Rashi's taxes were collected for the purpose of enriching the king. apparent understanding of the Based on the Parshas midrash, explaining it to mean that HaMelech in Sefer Shmuel, the Eisav deliberately fooled Yitzchak, is Rabbis formulated the princivery difficult because it is in conflict ple of dina demalchusa dina, with his approach to other midrashim literally, the “law of the land is about Eisav, as reflected in his comthe law”: everyone must pay mentary later in the parsha.
Taxation and Dina Demachusa
n this week’s Parasha we are confronted with the story in which Ya’akov buys the firstborn privileges from his older brother Eisav. In this passage, Eisav declares: “Here I am about to die – what good is the birthright to me?” (Genesis 25:32). The Chafetz Chaim explains this declaration to mean that Eisav
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T a b l e Torah
Reflecting upon our Mortality
knew that just like all other men, some day he too would die. Eisav, however, saw his day of death as a reason to enjoy this world as much as possible while he had the chance. In this manner, Eisav justified his hedonism and laziness. The burden of the birthright did not fit into Eisav’s reason for living.
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taxes. In Shulchan Aruch, the Rishonim are quoted as having pointed out that if the taxes are unfair, or discriminatory (which is also unfair,) this would not constitute “dina” demalchusa – “the law of the land,” but rather “gazlanusa” demalchusa – “the embezzlement of the land,” and such tax laws are not binding. A system of graduated income tax is considered fair and reasonable. There was a theory among some of the Baalei HaTosfos that the idea behind paying
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This issue is sponsored by Aryeh Sova in honor of the recent engagement of Danny Gottesman to Aliza Breiteart and Tal Kerem in honor of the recent engagement of Michael Schmidt and Tali Berger. Mazel Tov!!
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The Chafetz Chaim notes that the manner in which a person approaches his day of death is indicative of what kind of person this individual is. In Jewish literature, the day of death is viewed as a source of motivation to inspire people to life full lives. May we all strive to attain such levels of spiritual growth.
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Chatzot 11:45 A.M.
Which mitzvos did Avraham keep?
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s Yitzchak dwells in Gerar during a famine, Hashem instructs him to stay there and promises to fulfill the covenant that He made with Avraham. This promise is appropriate, says Hashem, "because Avraham obeyed My voice, and he kept My decrees, My commandments, My regulations, and My instructions." (Hebrew: "vayishmor mishmarti mitzvosai chukosai vesorosai" - Bereshis 26:5). Which commandments Avraham keep? did
antecedent elsewhere in the Torah.
Thus, Rashi defines "mishmarti" as rabbinical ordinances, such as forbidden secondary relationships and shvus prohibi-
had not stated them. "Chukosai" are the seemingly illogical commandments, such as the restrictions against eating pig-meat or wearing sha'atnez. "Torosai" include the tradition
means that the "mitzvos" that the Torah says Avraham kept must be limited to the instructions that appeared earlier in the Torah.
Ramban writes [that] the family of Avraham did not keep all 613 mitzvos before Matan Torah.
of the Oral Torah and halacha le-Moshe mi-Sinai – laws that were given to Moshe on Har Sinai of which there is no reference to in the Torah. Ramban, like most medieval commentators, adopts the "closed canon" approach. This
Taxation and Dina Demalchusa
taxes is the principle of rent. The land of each country belongs to the ruler (or the government) of that particular country, and the owner of any real estate is entitled to charge rent from all those who want to live on their property. The one exception to this rule (according to this view) is Eretz Yisroel, which the Torah declares belongs to Hashem. Since Hashem is the true property owner, and he has encouraged all of Bnei Yisroel to live in Eretz Yisroel, no government in control there ever has the right to charge taxes (rent,) because they are not the rightful landlord. The Landlord (with a capital “L”) has granted permission for all of Bnei Yisroel to live in His country (what is called the “paltin shel melech” – “the palace of the king.) This view is quoted by the Ran in his commentary to Nedarim. There are many religious people who are not that knowledgeable of any other comments made by the Ran in his commentary on Nedarim, either before or after this and are only familiar with this one position of the Ran. The truth of the matter is that not only has this view not been accepted in Shulchan Aruch, it didn’t even gain honorable menEINAYIM L’TORAH • 2
Rashi, following a Midrashic precedent, adopts (in this context) what Rabbi Hayyim Angel has called the "open canon" approach. This means that an unidentified person, place, or object need not refer to an
tions on Shabbos, which prevent people from violating the Torah commandments themselves. "Mitzvosai" are logical commandments, such as the prohibitions against murder and theft, that would be ethically imperative even if the Torah
Thus, at the end of his comment, Ramban identifies "mishmarti" as Avraham's belief in one God. "Mitzvosai" are onceonly personal instructions, such as "lech lecha" (leaving his homeland), Akeidas Yitzchak, and banishing Hagar and Yishma'el. "Chukosai" represent the mission to follow and to teach Hashem's noble attributes of mercy, justice, and the like. "Torosai" include all permanent family-wide commandments, which are circumcision and the seven mitzvos bnei Noach – commandments given to non-Jews.
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tion. The Shulchan Aruch quotes verbatim from the Rambam that one is obligated to pay taxes both in Eretz Yisroel as well as in other countries. It is important to note that today the basis for taxation is totally different from what it was in Talmudic times. Today, all modern countries provide a variety of services: They provide streets and highways, and maintain forests and museums. They provide fire, police, and military protection. They collect garbage and deliver mail. They do medical research to discover cures for diseases, etc. The taxes are collected for the purpose of covering the annual budget, which pays for all of these projects. The halacha views all of the people living in the same neighborhood as “shutfim” – “partners,” sharing a common need for a shul, yeshiva, mikveh and an eruv, and therefore, the “partners” can force each other to put up the needed amount to further their partnership. So too, all people who live in the same city, state, and country are considered “shutfim” with respect to the services provided by that city, state, and country. The purpose behind the taxes is no longer
“to enrich the king” in the slightest. In addition to all the other expenses, the government officials have to be paid as well, but it is because they serve as the employees of all the citizens for the purpose of looking after all these services, and seeing to it that they are properly taken care of. In our modern world, one who does not pay his proper share of taxes is no longer viewed as cheating the king (or the ruler) of the country, but rather as cheating (i.e. stealing from) his partners. The amount of money not paid by the one who cheats will have to be taken care of by having the rest of the “partners” put up more money from their pockets to cover all the expenses of the partnership. And even if much of the tax money goes towards expenditures that are not to one’s personal liking and that one gets nothing out of, such is the halacha of any partnership: the majority of the partners have the right to determine what are the reasonable needs of the partnership. Therefore, this majority has the legitimate right to force the minority to contribute their share towards properly furthering the partnership.
vhv, ohn, Which mitzvos did Avraham keep?
Ramban writes before this that even according to Rashi, the family of Avraham did not keep all 613 mitzvos before Matan Torah. For example, Ya'akov married Rachel and Leah, who were sisters of each other, even though in Vayikra 18:18 this is prohibited. Rather, Avraham learned the entire Torah through ruach hakodesh – divine inspiration - and chose to keep its commandments only within the land of Israel. Ya'akov was thus allowed to marry two sisters outside of Israel.
As mentioned before, Rashi clearly states that Avraham and his family began to keep the entire Torah before it was commanded. Rambam, however, essentially agrees with Ramban, and says that Avraham's partial Torah observance was a step in the organic process that led to matan Torah at Sinai. Rambam writes (hilchos Melachim 9:1):
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until Avraham. Avraham was commanded, besides the foregoing, to do circumcision, and he prayed in the morning. Yitzchak sepnoon. arated a tithe and added a prayer in the after-
"Adam was commanded on six things…[Hashem] added for Noach [the prohibition against eating] limbs of a living animal…So it was throughout the world
personality, as he really did care for and honor his father. Therefore, Rashi felt that the midrash, while reflect the simple meaning of the Torah, which presplexities. ents people as human beings, with all of their comIn light of Nechama Leibovitz's insight, it seems ning of the parsha would cite a midrash that seems to contradict the simple meaning of the verse, and, his father. Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz answers that, in reality, Eisav was sincere in his questions. Indeed, both tions were valid: there are situations in which one Rabbi Yosef Rosen (the Rogatchover Gaon) and Rabbi Chaim Kanyevski point out that Eisav’s quesmust, in fact, tithe straw or salt. One could add that about tithing because this was a mitzvah that Eisav specifically asked his father detailed questions Yitzchak took special care to keep, as pointed out by moreover, calls into question the love Eisav had for very difficult to understand why Rashi in the beginimportant for the message it conveyed, did not
against eating] the sciatic nerve and prayed in the evening. In Egypt, Amram was given pleted by him."
Ya'akov added [the prohibition
additional commandments, until Moshe Rabbeinu arrived and the Torah was com-
A Grain of Salt
death. Rashi then points out that there are aggadic midrashim which explain the verse in several ways. approach to citing midrashim, points out that there
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the Rambam in his Laws of Kings. Eisav, then, was performing the mitzvos of honoring his father and demeanor.
Nechama Leibovitz, in a seminal essay on Rashi's are often many midrashim to any particular verse, but Rashi very seldom tells us this. When he does, he means to reject those midrashim as not being in this particular instance, the other midrashim view conformity to the simple meaning of the verse. In Eisav as representing an additional stage in the Ya’akov? Eisav thought that when Kayin killed his brother Hevel, he made a mistake in not waiting development of evil in the world. Why did Eisav wish to wait until after his father’s death to kill until their father had passed away and could not fur-
not consciously trying to fool his father. However, one cannot ignore the fact that his scrupulousness in tithing his crop were exceptions in his general Rabbi Levovitz says that this is the meaning of the words “ki tzayid befiv” – Eisav's mouth and his father and tending to his needs, he did and said all have an overall dedication to God. Ya'akov, on the the right things. However, in his heart, he did not other hand, is described as an “ish tam,” a complete sistent with his overall demeanor. Ya'akov, unlike his rather, he was a complete and integrated person, and tion to future generations. brother Eisav, did not adopt stringencies in one area thereby merited to be the one to carry on the tradiman, in that everything he did was fitting and conof divine service and completely neglect other areas; heart were not consistent. When speaking to his
ther divide his estate. Therefore, Eisav decided to wait until after Yitzchak died, and then kill Ya’akov, so he would not lose his inheritance. Rashi disagrees in that this view of Eisav represents him solely in a negative light, as a symbol of evil. Rashi maintains that Eisav, in fact, had a variegated
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PARSHAT TOLDOS • 3
Parsha Points in Toldos
• Yitzchak and Rivkah pray for children after 20 years of infertility. Hashem responds by giving them Yaakov and Eisav. • Eisav sells his first-born privileges to Yaakov for a pot of beans. • Hashem commands Yitzchak to remain in Israel, even though it was struck by famine. There, Yitzchak has altercations with the Philistines who are jealous of his and his father’s accomplishments. These conclude when he signs a treaty with Avimelech their king. • Eisav marries, and his wives embitter his parents’ lives. • Yitzchak’s sight dims as he ages. He instructs Eisav to prepare him a feast to merit his pre-mortem blessings. Rivkah helps Yaakov take these blessings by disguising him as Eisav and giving him the feast. Eisav returns, discovers their trick, and vows to kill Yaakov. Yitzchak and Rivkah send Yaakov to Lavan, to find a wife and to escape Eisav’s wrath. • Yaakov’s blessings include wealth and sovereignty over his brother; Yitzchak blesses Eisav to live by the sword, and to gain power if Yaakov’s descendants sin.
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EINAYIM L’TORAH • 4