This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Chayei Sarah (5763)
This week's portion tells us in great length how Isaac, the second of the three Forefathers of Judaism, was matched up with his wife Rivka bride and got married.
Just before this story begins, however, we read (24:1) "G-d blessed Abraham with EVERYTHING" ('Kol').
And afterwards we read that (25:5) "Abraham gave EVERYTHING he had to Isaac."
At first glance this is totally not clear.
First of all why is Isaac considered to be a Father of Judaism and why is this story of Isaac's marriage so important? Neither he nor this story seem to contain anything very Biblical, miraculous or even instructive!
And second, Did G-d really bless Abraham with 'everything'? Is this to be taken literally? After all, G-d 'owns' the entire world! Is that what he gave to Abraham? And did Abraham really give 'everything'; even the clothes off his back, to his Isaac?
To understand this here are two stories.
The first comes from The Talmud (Sanhedren 91a).
When Alexander the Great ruled the world some 2,500 years ago he allowed the Jews to remain in Israel.
But it wasn't long before the other nations sent delegations to him to demand that he change his mind.
The Africans said "Israel is called the Land of Canaan (Num. 34) and Canaan was our relative! The land belongs to us!"
The Egyptians quoted Exodus 12:35 "The Jews robbed us of all our wealth when they left Egypt with Moses, we demand repayment."
The Arabs said "It says clearly in the Torah 'these are the generations of Ishmael the son of Abraham' (our section 25:12) as well as "These are the generations of Isaac ben Abraham" (25:19) We also have as much a right to the land as they do.
Alexander did not know what to answer. After all, each of them brought impressive proofs from the Torah and even he knew that the Torah is the source of truth. So he called on the Rabbi's to rebut their claims.
The Rabbi's were also in a quandary. If they answered in a way that Alexander didn't appreciate it could mean big trouble. But a simple, hunchbacked Jew called G'via ben P'sisa solved the problem.
"Let me try to reply" he said. "If I don't succeed then just say that I was an impetuous simpleton. But if I win, you can say that despite my ignorance the Torah was victorious."
The Rabbis agreed, G'via presented himself in Alexander's court and the debate began.
He calmly heard their claims stood up and immediately replied.
To the Africans he said. "If you rely on the Torah so will I. In Genesis 9:27 Canaan is called a slave and a slave has no possessions of his own. In other words, you have no claim to anything! And certainly not the holy land!"
Alexander gave the Africans three days to reply and when they realized they couldn't, they ran away in fear and shame.
To the Egyptians he said. "You claim that we Jews owe you money? It says in the Torah that over 600,000 of us, not counting the women and children, served you at hard labor for four hundred and twenty years! If you reckon it out I think you owe us much more than we took."
Alexander also gave them three days to come up with something and when they realized they couldn't, they too disappeared.
Finally (and this is what is relevant to us) he answered the Arabs. "True your ancestor was the son of Abraham. But none the less the Torah tells us (our section 25:5) "Abraham gave EVERYTHING he had to Isaac!"
Alexander gave them three days to reply and they too used the time to make their getaway.
The land of Israel remained in the hands of the Jews.
The second story happened about one hundred and fifty years ago in Czarist Russia.
At that time the country was under the total control of the Russian Orthodox Church. The people, all the rulers and even the King were devoutly religious and it goes without saying that anti-Jewish decrees were commonplace.
But often anti-Semitism came from Jews themselves.
One apostate, let's call him Yehuda, came up with an original idea; that the government close down all the Jewish printing shops in Russia! "The Jews have a book called the Talmud which is filled with curses against all of us!" he claimed "Let the Jews come and defend themselves against me! Let them dare lie to the Royal Court!!"
The Czar, a rabid anti-Semite himself, called for three prominent Jews to answer these serious charges.
To represent the non-Chassidic Jews was Rabbi Yitzchak of Velozhin. To represent the Chassic Jews one Rabbi Halperin and to represent Chabad was the Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (third Rebbe of Chabad who was called the Tzemach Tzedik)
The apostate stood up, cleared his throat and addressed the Judges. "It is known that the Jewish book called the Talmud, which is the main source of Jewish knowledge, is filled with poisonous statements against our religion.
For instance let us look at what it says in Mesechtas Sofrim (Chap. 15)
"Tov Sh'Be'Acum Harog" The best of the gentiles should be murdered!"
How can the court, indeed, how can any G-d fearing gentile hear these words without disgust and revulsion filling his very bones!? These books and the heretics that wrote them must be destroyed!!!" At this point he was screaming, his face was red with emotion his finger was raised dramatically on high his and voice was raised to a high pitch. He looked about him and sat down.
The Tzemach Tzedik then turned to Rabbi of Velozhin and said "You answer!"
He cleared his throat, stood from his chair and replied.
"Your honor, this man" He pointed to the apostate, "is using the government court system to settle his own personal scores. He is obviously so filled with hatred against his own people that he has lost his reason.
The Jews have always been the faithful servants of the Czar and never slandered his religion. As for the quoted Talmudic passage
…. it says exactly the opposite of what our accuser says it does!
It says "'Tov' Sh'Be'Acum 'KATOL'" (Katol means 'kill' in Aramaic)
Which means, "The best of the gentiles are the Catholics" (Katol)'!!
The judge was astounded. He paused for a moment turned to the apostate who ordered that a Talmud be brought and when he saw that, in fact, it wasn't written "Harog' as he said but rather "Katol" as the Rabbi said, the case was dismissed.
When they were outside of the court Rabbi Velozhin turned to the Tzemach Tzedek and said.
"I know the entire Talmud by heart and it doesn't say 'Katol' it says 'Harog' like he said!
'You are right" The Rebbe answered "But G-d must have arranged it that they had the one edition that is written differently!
"But" the Rabbi from Velozhin continued, "I never heard that answer that 'Katol' means Catholics! You put that answer into my mind!"
The Rebbe smiled and nodded.
"If so," continued the Rabbi "why didn't you say the answer yourself?
"Because I didn't want to say that any idolatry was good." The Tzemach Tzedik answered.
This answers our questions.
The greatness of Isaac is something so high it cannot be revealed. It is called 'The Jewish Soul'. As the Tanya explains in the second chapter, it is the impossible of impossibilities; a portion of the Infinite Creator Himself, in a limited human body…. Something like it was in the Holy Temple.
And, as in the Holy Temple, even a 'limited' revelation of G-d contains EVERYTHING.
That is what it means that G-d blessed Abraham with EVERYTHING, and that Abraham gave EVERYTHING to Isaac.
Namely that Abraham received a Jewish soul from G-d and he passed it on to Isaac and from him to his son Yisroel who passed it to all the Jewish people 'Bnei Yisroel'.
But there is more. This Jewish soul has a purpose. It gives every Jew the inspiration and power to transform this entire world into the truth; to reveal G-d is everywhere and creates EVERYTHING constantly and purposefully.
That is why Isaac (Yitzchak) also implies 'Laughter' (Gen. 21:6).
Because this ability to transform and to reveal meaning in every aspect of creation is something like a joyous wedding; it unites G-d with the world like a groom with the bride. And that is why the Torah tells us in such detail about Isaac's wedding; it is the prototype of how to unite G-d with the world.
That is the point of the above stories. The gentiles want to keep G-d far from the world. But Jews, through the power of Yitzchak, will succeed in revealing G-d in EVERYTHING.
And that is also why this sentence ('Abraham gave everything to Issac') was used against the Arabs to prove that the physical LAND of Israel is ours.
This will finally be accomplished by Moshiach. He will bring the Jews back to Israel, he will rebuild the Temple and he will unite G-d with the world.
As we say in the wedding blessings "Speedily will be heard in the cities of Judah etc. the voice of the Groom and the voice of the Bride". And as we say in Psalms (126:2) "Then our mouths will be filled with Laughter"
But it all depends on us Jews; G-d's chosen people. G-d chose us to inform all mankind that G-d creates them from love: and that each person is important and each moment is filled with potential blessing.
Even one more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scales and bring …….
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