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Parshat Toldot (5762)
This week we read about how the blind and aged Patriarch Yitzchak almost made a big mistake and blessed his evil son Aisav, and how his righteous son Yaakov had to resort to deception to save the day.
Why does the Torah tell us this embarrassing story? Yitzchak was supposed to be a perfect Tzadik, certainly he did not need physical eyes to see through wicked Aisav's tricks. How could he have made such a mistake as to want to bless him?
To understand this here is another story.
Just at the turn of the century there were big troubles brewing for all the Jews in Czarist Russia. Caused by Jews themselves.
For over three thousand years, through impossible obstacles and against all odds, Jews, all Jews, had observed the Torah. The very idea of a completely non-observant Jew was almost unheard of.
Until the age of "enlightenment" in the early 1700s. Suddenly a spirit of reason began lifting Europe from the dark ages of Church oppression and certain Jews decided to use it to remove the G-dly wisdom and morality of the Torah as well.
These maskilim (enlightened, or "rational" Jews as they called themselves) had presented the Minister of the Interior, a wicked man called Stolipin, with a proposition that all Rabbis be forced to acquire a thorough secular education before getting permission to lead a congregation. Their plan was to deprive the Jews of true Jewish leadership and then take over.
The Czar, being a devoutly Russian Orthodox Catholic, would be delighted because it would make the Jews susceptible to conversion. The minister was sure to sign because he was a rabid anti-Semite. And the maskilim would rejoice in "freeing" their Jewish brothers, as they had freed themselves, from the limits of Jewish identity and G-d-ordained morality.
The fifth Rebbe of Chabad Rebbe Shalom Dovber Shneerson heard of the danger, and quickly took desperate action. He called his only son Yosef Yitzchak (nicknamed the Rebbe Rayyat'z) who at that time was a young man in his early twenties, and gave him the mission of annulling this decree.
"How important is it?" his son asked, "How much should I sacrifice?"
His father looked him deeply in the eyes and said, "Even if it means risking your life."
The next day the Rebbe Rayyat’z was on his way to St. Petersburg where the minister’s office was found. He didn’t really have a plan but he hoped that another person who lived there could help. His name was Baron Ginsburg a fabulously wealthy nobleman whose mansion covered a full city block and who was very sympathetic to all Jewish causes.
The Baron received him warmly, invited him in, and they spoke for a long while. He was truly impressed by the young Rabbi's earnestness and deepness of thought, but had to apologetically admit that he couldn't help him. He had absolutely no influence on the Minister.
But suddenly he announced that he had an idea.
He told the Rebbe to put on his coat, and together they walked through the snowy streets of the city. A few minutes later they were sitting in the large warm study of an elderly professor that, as the Baron explained as they were walking, had been the Minister's private tutor years ago.
The Baron told the professor that he had brought him a very interesting person, and the conversation that developed truly proved to be lively and colorful.
Over an hour later as they stood up to leave, the professor thanked the Baron profusely then turned to Rebbe, warmly took his hand and almost begged, "Please, do come back tomorrow. I enjoyed our talk so immensely! I'm an old man and our conversation made me feel young and alive again! I feel that we have so much more to discuss. Please promise me that you will return."
The Rebbe returned the next day and then again the next, each time discussing deeper and more interesting topics. But he had trouble steering the topic to his problem. Then suddenly in the middle of the conversation of the third day he could hold out no longer and burst into bitter tears.
The professor looked at him wide-eyed, waited for him to stop crying and asked what was wrong. The Rebbe apologized for his outburst and explained everything.
"I would like to help you, believe me I would” said the professor. "You are a truly fine young man. But I'm afraid that I can't. Stolipin is a hard man. I know him very well. He is very intelligent and was an excellent pupil, but he is ruthless and stubborn. And worst of all for you, he hates Jews. The truth is, he hates anyone else that is not exactly like himself, but he especially hates your people."
The professor thought for a few moments, disappeared into another room, and in a few minutes returned with an official looking card.
"This is an honorary pass to enter the ministry" he held up the card so the Rebbe could see it. "Stolipin gave it to me as a sign of gratitude. I can come and go as I like. Believe me I never even used it. Here, take it. You see it has no name on it. But just one thing." The professor paused and looked at the Rebbe intensely before he let go of the card, "If, G-d forbid, they catch you, do not say you got it from me. May G-d bless you."
The Rebbe took the pass, shook the professor's hand warmly thanking him profusely, and headed directly for the ministry building.
The building was immense and ominous, but the Rebbe thought only of his father's words as he approached. He had to succeed. He walked up to the stone-faced guards standing threateningly before the massive door. They instinctively put their hands on their sword handles. If they saw through his trick it would mean death on the spot. But before they opened their mouths he produced the professor's pass
They looked at the pass, then at him, then at the pass again. Without uttering a word opened the door and the Rebbe strode in.
As the door closed behind him, he walked down the wide, silent, high-ceiling corridor with sure steps, and head held high as though he was the highest of officials glancing from door to door, and miraculously attracting no attention from the occasional officials that passed him by.
Not finding what he wanted on the first floor he walked up the marble staircase to the next floor, and as he arrived he noticed someone exit his room and slam the door behind him. "That must be him," he said to himself. He waited till the man disappeared down the steps at the other end of the corridor and then walked to the room he had just left. Sure enough it was his. The Rebbe turned the knob and entered. There was no one there.
He closed the door behind him, walked quickly to the large desk that stood in the middle of the room and saw that on it were two, neatly stacked piles of papers, one marked "For Inspection" and the other "Inspected".
He had no time to waste. He began with the "For Inspection" pile trying to remove each document calmly without disturbing anything, and....There it was! The request of the maskilim! It was a miracle!! Thank G-d!!
On the table were several rubber stamps. The Rebbe quickly picked up one which read, "Approved". He put it down and picked up the one next to it "Not Approved". He patted it on the inkpad that was there, removed the request from the pile, quietly but firmly stamped it and slipped it into the middle of the "inspected" stack. He gave a last look to see that everything was as he found it, and swiftly but silently left the room, gently closing the door behind him with another thanks to G-d on his lips.
The Maskilim had no idea why their proposition had been rejected.
This answers our questions.
Like our forefather Yitzchak who dug wells in the desert, the Rebbe ReshaB wrote some of the deepest books in Chassidut Chabad. He was able to dig deeply into the secrets of the Torah and reveal the living waters. But, also like Yitzchak, such an intense approach cannot work in all situations. That is why the Rebbe sent his son, and why Yitzchak erred regarding Aisav.
Yitzchak knew that Aisav was a sinner, but he believed that he could redeem him; he would uncover his hidden goodness by just blessing him, something like digging a well in the arid desert.
But he was mistaken. He had no way of knowing that Aisav's was a different type of concealment of good, one that only Yaakov could deal with; the concealment caused by Jews themselves.
The Jews are the "Chosen" people; The spiritual (and consequently the physical) fate of the world is in their hands. If they don't fulfill their awesome job of being G-d's representatives, the result is catastrophic (like today) and the world becomes an evil, confusing place, filled with suffering.
That is why Adam, the first man, is buried together with the Forefathers. Because it is their job, and the job they inherited to all the Jews after them (that is why they are called our Forefathers), to elevate the world that Adam defiled. In other words, to bring redemption, and every time anyone sins, especially a Jew, it makes the job all the more difficult.
But they also inherited to us their unique abilities to succeed; Avraham contributed love, Yitzchak - power, and Yaakov balance and farsightedness.
Therefore all three were necessary. Abraham couldn't do it alone, he was too kind (and therefore Yismaeil, as it is explained in Kaballa, was one of his offspring). Yitzchak alone was too intense (hence, Aisav).
But Yaakov was "Complete" (Tam) and therefore his offspring, all the tribes, were complete (Mitaso Shalema). Only through his balanced attitude, balancing and utilizing the love and power of his predecessors while always having the true goal of Moshiach in sight, could he begin the process of fixing Aisov i.e. getting us out of exile.
And that is what Yaakov began here in this week's section; laying the seeds and setting the pattern for thousands of years of Jewish effort to finally bring Moshiach.
Very soon we will all see what Yaakov meant when he later says to Aisov (see Rashi 33:14).
"I will fix you up in the days of the Messiah as it says (Ovadia 1:24) "The redeemed will arrive at the Mountain of Tzion and judge the Mountian of Aisov"" with the arrival of....
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