This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Toldot (5772)
This week's Torah portion tells us the story of two twin brothers; Yaakov and Aesov. Both from the same parents, identical upbringings and similar environments. Yaakov became the righteous father of the Jews and Aesov became the evil progenitor of the biggest sinners and anti-Semites of all time.
This raises a big question to those who believe that all psychological problems stem from varying childhood conflicts. But it raises even a bigger question to those who teach that G-d creates and controls everything constantly; why would G-d create anti-Semites like Aesov to make problems holy people like the patriarch Yaakov?
Shouldn't it be that if a person chooses the path of G-d, as Yaakov did, G-d should give him an pleasant, blessed life free of conflicts, threats and the evil designs of people like Aesov?
To understand this here is a story that was just sent to me by The Avner Institute.
Rabbi Shimon Sonnenfeld, of Kiryat Malachi, Israel related:
One Friday afternoon several years ago, a van with eight teenage boys, students of a yeshiva (Torah Academy)from Migdal Emek in northern Israel, were traveling on a winding road in the Galilee. As every Friday, they were visiting different settlements in order to give the residents a taste of Judaism: opportunity to put on Tefillin (phylacteries), have their mezuzot checked or jus read the pamphlets they distributed explaining various mitzvoth.
After hours of traveling and outreach work without a moment of rest, the time had come to return to the yeshiva. But they were tired, hungry, and thirsty. “Let’s have a short rest by the roadside,” said one of them. “There seems to be a nice spot over there.”
The boys exited the van, spread a blanket in the shade of a large, ancient olive tree, opened a few bottles of soda, and relaxed as they breathed in the clear air of the Galilee hills and conversed.
One of the boys had stayed up the entire night before and was in no mood for anything but taking a nap. So he went a short distance away from his companions where their talking wouldn't disturb him, laid down in the shade of a tree for a few minutes and fell fast asleep.
After ten minutes the boys stood up, folded their blanket, returned to the van and, somehow not noticing that one was missing (perhaps because he wasn't a regular member of the crew, or perhaps because they were in a hurry) and drove back to the Yeshiva.
After about an hour, the boy awoke and to his surprise discovered that his friends had disappeared. He ran to the road, but there was no trace of the van.
Here he was, alone on a dusty road in the Galilee, and Shabbat was approaching! How would he make his way back to the yeshiva on time? Where would he stay for Shabbat? Where would he eat the Shabbat meals? Where would he pray and listen to the Torah reading? And how would he be able to shower and change his clothes in honor of Shabbat?
He started to walk briskly along the road. Perhaps he could reach a main road and flag down a car that would take him to the yeshiva. But the road was silent and no cars were passing by on that late Friday afternoon.
The sun cast its red rays on his face as it set on the western horizon as he hastened his steps with the hope of reaching some Jewish settlement before the entrance of the day of rest. However, the only settlements he could see were Arab villages where naturally he had no desire to spend Shabbat. But in the far distance he saw what looked like a Jewish one.
Since carrying on Shabbat was forbidden, he removed whatever he had in his pockets and placed them under a stone careful to leave a sign in order to find them later.
Darkness had already descended upon the Galilee hills when he reached the settlement. What luck! He thanked G-d for providing him a place to keep the Shabbat but he was in for a disappointment; it was a secular kibbutz where the members were totally non-observant.
He approached someone and said, “Excuse me. I have nowhere to stay in this area for Shabbat. Is it possible to find a place for me to stay in your kibbutz?”
“The kibbutz secretary lives in the third house on the right. You should ask him,” was the reply.
When he found the secretary he was very understanding. He showed him a room where he could sleep and even invited him to supper in the kibbutz dining hall. But he had to refuse. He thanked him warmly and explained that he felt that he could not eat there as the kibbutz lacked a kosher kitchen.
He just asked for two whole loves of bread and some vegetables, returned to his room, prayed the Shabbat evening prayers alone, much of which he fortunately knew by heart, made Kiddush on the bread and ate his Shabbat meal—bread, water and tomatoes.
The next morning he awoke when the sun’s rays penetrated his window and remembered at once where he was. Now he had to get ready for the Shabbat day, praying by himself, without the synagogue Torah reading, without the Shabbat meals together with his friends in the yeshiva.
He prayed again what he remembered by heart and read the Torah portion in a Bible from the kibbutz library and afterwards had his meal consisting of the same menu as the night before.
With many hours left until the end of Shabbat he decided to be more positive, stop feeling sorry for himself, thank G-d for what he had and take a Shabbat stroll through the kibbutz. As he walked he saw the many children strolling around and an idea crossed his mind. “Hey, while I’m here, maybe I should make a children’s gathering and tell them something about Yiddishkeit (Judaism)!”
He approached the children and asked if they wanted to participate in a small party. A big group readily agreed. A few youth counselors from the kibbutz also joined in order to see what was going on.
The yeshiva boy started to sing Jewish songs together with the children. They all happily joined in with loud voices, clapping their hands. He told them about the weekly Torah portion and a number of Chassidic stories. All the children gave him their full attention. This was the first time in their lives that anyone had introduced them to authentic Judaism. They enjoyed every moment of the Shabbat party.
Towards the end, he said to the children:
“You should know that everything that happens in the world is by Divine Providence. The Creator of the world prepares the steps of each man. Wherever we go we have a certain Divine mission to fulfill, although we are not always able to understand the purpose of everything that happens.
“For instance, look at what happened to me and where I am now. I was supposed to be together with my friends in my yeshiva right now, and instead I ended up here, together with you.
“I am one hundred percent sure that it was not by pure chance that we decided to stop that van exactly next to those olive trees on the side of the road. It was not by chance that I fell asleep under a tree at a distance from my friends. It was not because of ‘luck’ or ‘bad luck’ that my friends continued the trip back without noticing I was missing. Neither was it a coincidence that no cars passed by on the road and I continued by foot until I reached the first Jewish settlement on my way – which was your kibbutz.
“Why did I have to come here? Well, I do not know the answer to that, but I am sure that....”
His speech was suddenly interrupted. One of the girl counselors jumped up and exclaimed, “I know the reason for your coming here!”
All of them present turned around and stared at her in amazement.
“I have always taken an interest in my religion,” the girl continued, “and I always wanted to learn more. I heard that you Lubavitchers (Chabad Chassidim) organize evenings with explanations about Judaism, and I asked the head of the cultural committee here to invite you but he always turned it down. Despite my efforts, my request was always rejected.
“Finally I decided to do something I had never done. I had no one to turn to so I prayed to G-d for help. I figured that if G-d really exists He might even answer my prayers. During this whole week I have been praying to G-d to send a Lubavitcher to our kibbutz—and here you are!”
This explains our question.
G-d did not create a pre-set movie or a total illusion as some religions preach. Nor did He make a meaningless world as some philosophies expound. Rather He created a real, living, ever-changing, dynamic world full of challenges and meaning and put it in our hands... to reveal the good and bring G-d's blessing in everything we do.
This is the battle between Yaakov and Aesov. Aesov (which means complete) is the feeling that we and the world around us need not be essentially improved or altered. Rather the main purpose of life is to get what we can, while we can (power, success, riches, fun, heaven etc). In other words "Self-serve".
Whereas Yaakov is the feeling that we have a responsibility to improve ourselves and the entire world around us, in other words "Serve G-d". This is what the boy in our story did; he first changed his own attitude and then began changing the children of the Kibbutz.
And it was only then that he saw the amazing Divine Providence and good in every detail; transforming what he thought had been an awesome misfortune to a great fortune.
So too with us; when Moshiach arrives we will see how all the evil deeds, expulsions, pogroms, holocausts, etc perpetrated by the offspring of Aesov, indeed, how each detail of this awful 'exile' we have suffered for thousands of years and are suffering now, are really the biggest blessing of all.
Then even the offspring of Aesov (and Yishm'ail) themselves will transform, recognize the folly of their religions and come to love and serve only the G-d of Israel (the Creator) as the Rambam writes in the very end of his 14 volume treatise.
It is all in our hands: One more good deed, word or even thought can bring….
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