This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Toldot (5760)
This week the Parsha begins with the words "These are the offspring of Yitzchak the son of Avraham, Avraham begat Yitzchak."
The redundancy of the sentence is immediately noticeable, obviously if Yitchak is the son of Avraham it is unnecessary to tell us that Avraham begot him.
There are many answers to this question but I want to try to explain one of them. It goes like this; Avraham represents two types of Love of G-d, (lower and upper), and Yitzchak two similar types of fear. What the Torah is trying to tell us here is, that when and if these emotions appear in the Jewish personality, the order in which they usually appear is 1)FEAR, 2)LOVE, 3)LOVE, and 4)FEAR.
First let us understand What is this 'love and fear' and why are they so important?
To illustrate this I have a JOKE: One cold winter day in Chicago a poor Jewish man was slowly walking home from the factory when he passed by a fancy, expensive restaurant. He stopped before the huge glass window and gazed for several minutes at the rich people sitting in the plush warm room talking and laughing while eating delicious blintzes, completely oblivious of him as though they were in another higher dimension.
"Blintzes" He muttered to himself as he turned and continued home.
"Sarah" he announced to his wife as he closed the door behind him and threw his coat over a chair, "Sarah, I've been thinking, do you think you could make me blintzes, I would really like a blintz or two!"
"Of course Max" she answered "I'll try my best."
Sarah took out her old cookbook and opened it up to 'Blintzes' "Ah Ha!" She happily exclaimed, "Here they are… blintzes!"
She then proceeded to the task: Two cups of flour, cup of water, "Uh oh!" she exclaimed, "look here Max, it says we need cream cheese. We don't have cream cheese" she said sadly. "Listen Sarah, you know what? forget the cheese" Consoled Max.
" Look here" she called out again "It says we need walnuts, honey and raisins!" "Forget that stuff too" He continued. "Oh you are such a good husband Max! But, what's this? What about cinnamon and brown sugar" she read out from the book "Not necessary!" he decreed. "Just please start baking already Sarah, I'm really hungry"
So she ceremoniously lit the oven, mixed the flour and water, rolled it into cigar shapes put them in to bake and in just minutes there they were! sitting on a plate before a very happy Max, napkin tucked into his collar.
His knife and fork immediately went to work and within seconds he was actually doing it! He was chewing on the blintz!
Sarah watched him proudly as he slowly swallowed. After several seconds of complete silence she couldn't resist "Nu, what do you think? Do you like it?" She asked.
"You know Sarah," He said, as he looked her straight in the eyes "You know, I don't understand what those rich people see in blintzes"
Judiasm: learning G-d's Torah and doing His Commandments, without love and fear of G-d is like a blintz without any filling.
The filling is what Avraham gave us. Avraham was the first man to really love G-d. Others before Avraham were like Mr. Goldberg in the following fish story.
The Rabbi comes into a resturant and sees the president of his shul, Mr. Goldberg, crudely gorging himself with fish. "Oh Hi Rabbi, 'Scuse the way I'm eating but wow, do I love fish!" "No, Mr Goldberg, you are lying" exclaimed the Rabbi " If you loved fish you would let the fish eat you! You love yourself, therefore you eat the fish"
Love is a feeling, so is fear. They are such deep feelings that often people give their lives for them, take the love of money, for instance, or the fear of losing it.
There are, to be sure, less selfish emotions as well, such as love of one's nation, one's family, or one's religion. But these still are still based on personal urges; we love these things because we want to receive from them, or because we owe them something, in short, they all revolve around the "Capital 'I'".
Avraham searched for something more real to love, something whose existence was not temporary and dependent on his own. He rejected devoting himself to the spiritual, like all the 'idol worshipers of his time. They worshiped, through symbolic statues, 'gods' of success, pleasure, beauty, wisdom etc. but all for their own profit, whether physical or spiritual (like going to heaven etc.)
He wondered if it could be that all creation, including the spiritual, has a source, and that this source has a 'personality' that we can relate to in a personal way.
His contemplation led him to the conclusion that not only is there such a 'G-d of gods', but that in truth, there is no other REAL existence except for Him, and all other existence is constantly (because time is also a creation) being created by Him.
In other words; Avraham discovered that G-d is ONE, and ONLY.
But as novel as all this was (and still is), this was not Avraham's main discovery. Avraham revealed something even more amazing: that G-d has a PURPOSE for this creation, namely that man must improve the world and especially himself, through LOVE.
The midrash tells us that Avraham became so obsessed with this idea that it drove him to engineer a wild advertising stunt. He built a beautiful hotel in the middle of the desert with free everything and loads of surprises, in order that maybe others would also come to think about, and perhaps love, his G-d "The G-d of Avraham". Needless to say he and his wild One G-d theory soon became the talk of the Middle East.
But Avraham discovered a third, and more important, principle in the service of G-d: the only way to begin to feel this love of G-d is through using one's power of contemplation. According to the type of contemplation, then, is the resultant type of love. (this is where it gets hard. But it's fun!)
Here are two examples:
Let us consider G-d in relation to the Creation. Just think of it; He is the Creator, the provider, and the life force of the entire world! Look around you, at each detail, each blade of grass each tree. Look above at the infinite sky. Feel the air you breathe. G-d is good!
This type of deep thinking brings to an emotion called LOVE. It is called 'lower love' because one feels G-d but only in relation to what He does for ME, namely one feels one's self as well.
Now let us try to think higher and bigger. Imagine the goodness of G-d Himself, not in relation to the world, but the essential infinite Kindness of G-d before any creation. This is much more difficult and takes more preparation but it brings to a much more total and consuming type of love than the first. This is called 'Upper Love' because it is much less 'self' oriented and much more involved in the reality of HaShem (another name for G-d).
These two types of love are the 'filling for the blintz' that Avraham contributed to Judaism.
Yitzchak, however, contributed the aspect of fear, or more exactly 'Gevura'. 'Gevura' usually implies 'Power and Change'. This is also the nature of fear, when one has fear, for instance fear of another person, his personality may change totally and he will do things completely against his own nature; the mighty become placid and the weak become warriors etc.
Yitzchak, therefore, wanted to transform the world drastically. The Torah relates in length that Yitzchak was a digger of wells. He saw desert and he wanted to negate it and transform it by force into an oasis.
(Avraham also tried to affect the world, but through love: he only gave and added to what already was (free hotel etc.) and did not try to change by force.)
There are, in general, also two levels of fear of G-d, according to the type of thought which arouses them. If one thinks of how great and powerful G-d is in relation to the world; how everything is dependent on Him and how just one thought of His could return the universe, and everyone in it, including me, back to nothing, this brings a feeling of uncertainty and dependence or 'fear' of G-d called lower fear. Lower because although one feels completely subservient to HaShem, never the less one feels like a separate entity.
If, however, one contemplates the Awesomeness of G-d Himself, and begins to feel that in reality the world does not 'really' exist at all, this brings the emotion of 'Upper Fear' or a feeling of infinite smallness and 'self-negation' ('Bitul').
Now we can return to the first sentence of our Torah portion, it is explaining the order of things: Fear, love, love, and fear. Yitzchak, Avraham, Avraham, and Yitzchak, as follows:.
If one wants to serve G-d in a personal way ('penimius') the way to begin is with the lower fear; think deeply and realistically about how G-d is bigger and more powerful than all creation including ME, everything depends on Him and He can turn the whole business off whenever he wants to. This arouses a basic 'lower' fear of The Creator,
After this one can begin to feel G-d's kindness and come to the lower love. Namely, although G-d is All-Powerful and nothing can force Him to do anything, never the less He creates and sustains me and the world constantly every instant for no reason other than Pure Goodness. It is called 'lower love' because it is not completely involved with the Creator; rather I love G-d because He is good to ME.
This lower love now can open our hearts to an even 'higher love'; a desire to be included in G-d's oneness. It comes from the feeling of G-d's infinite, unfathomable Goodness in itself, which is higher than just His beneficence to the world. This contemplation eventually inflames the emotions into love. One feels "I want to give myself completely and be infinitely close to my creator".
And finally from this third level one can begin to feel what is called Awe or Higher Fear. That is, the feeling that in fact G-d is all, and I am really much more negated than the greatest level of love could possibly bring me. This is also referred to as intense humility, as it is written of Moshe, that he was the most humble of men in the world.
That is why Avraham and Yitzchak are called 'Fathers', because they inherited to their offspring, the Jewish nation, the ability to tap into these G-dly emotions, and our Torah portion is hinting at how to do it. How to fill ourselves with the Love and Fear of HaShem.
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