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Parshat Toldot (5763)
This week we learn of the battle between Esav and Jacob.
The word Torah means "teaching", positive teaching.
What positive lesson is the Torah teaching us here? What is the point of telling us that twin brothers, the sons of the holy patriarch of Judaism Isaac, couldn't get along? If they couldn't co-exist what chance have we got?
Also, in the end of the portion why did Isaac announce he would bless only one of them, Esav? Why couldn't he just bless both of them equally and put an end to the quibbling?
To understand this here is a story.
The rain was falling, the bus was waiting for them outside the gate and the Rabbis wanted to get home.
"HALLO!!" one of them who knew a bit of Spanish yelled at the gentile guard sitting in his little booth on the side; "Que Pasa?" Que Pasa el Porta?" But it didn't help, the guard refused to open up.
The scene is a cattle slaughtering house in Argentina. The bearded Jews were all Shochatim ('Sho/cha/tim); religious Jews trained in all the details of 'ritual' slaughtering. They had come from all over the world, about fifty of them, to work here for a few months, earn enough money to support their families and return to their homes.
The work was hard, with long hours, the slaughterhouse was a good hour's drive from town and they were tired. But … "Hey open the door already!!" one of them pounded on the gate. "Open!"
"No no!" the guard yelled back, followed by something in Spanish.
"He says he won't open the door till everyone is here" the Spanish-speaking shochet explained, "He says someone is missing and he's not opening till he's here."
"NO one is missing!!! He's probably drunk. Just tell him to open up!!" shouted one of the men. "He's making us crazy!! Open up already!! We want to go home and we have a long ride ahead of us!"
But the guard wouldn't budge. So they talked it over between them; they had to come up with a plan of action.
"Listen," one of them suggested, "either we force him to open the door or we make a count and see if he's right. Maybe someone IS missing." And sure enough…. One man was missing!
NO one could figure how it happened, but they counted again and Zalman the Chabad Chassid wasn't there. Zalman was a quiet fellow so they didn't notice his absence, how the guard noticed no one could figure out, but now besides wanting to go home they began to get worried about their colleague. They went back to the factory to find him.
They searched and searched for a half and hour to no avail. He had disappeared into thin air.
"Hey! Maybe he didn't come today", one of them suggested.
"No, he was on my shift," said another. "I even talked to him today. But where is he?"
They looked in the offices, in the kitchen, in the restrooms, maybe he fell asleep. Until someone yelled out, "I found him! Here he is! Call an ambulance! Come quick!! Help!! Help!!!"
It seems that Zalman had entered one of the huge freezer rooms and while he was deep inside someone closed the door and turned off the lights. Maybe Zalman had become confused, or perhaps he tripped in the darkness, but in any case when they found him he was laying unconscious on the floor almost frozen to death.
They pulled him out, covered him with blankets and began rubbing his body, and by the time the ambulance arrived he was already on his feet, drinking hot soup and ready to go home. It was nothing short of a miracle and of course they couldn't stop telling Zalman how the guard was the one who saved him.
When they all returned to the gate the guard smiled, pressed the button that opened the door and everyone filed past shaking his hand and blessing him. No one knew Spanish well enough to explain to him what happened but when it came Zalman's turn he gave him a big hug, looked him in the eyes and said "Amigo."
But there still remained a few mysteries. First, how did the guard notice one Jew from fifty was missing? After all, they all looked and even dressed pretty much alike. Was he some sort of genius?
The shochet that knew Spanish went back to ask him and several minutes later returned with the explanation.
"The guard said that he has no idea which one Zalman is. Just that every morning when we arrived and everyone would file past him, the only one that would say 'hello' to him was Zalman. Then when we finished every day the same Zalman was the only one that would say goodbye to him on the way out!
"So today he remembered that he had heard a 'good morning' but no "good bye' so it wasn't hard for him to figure out that someone was missing! Zalman's greetings saved his life.
But that wasn't the end of it. They had another question. Zalman was probably the most introverted of the entire crowd!
"Of all people, why was it you that always said hello?" they asked him.
"I'll tell you why" Zalman answered. "Did you ever see the Lubavitcher Rebbe giving out dollars, (for several years tens of thousands of people would file by the Rebbe every Sunday morning to receive directly from him a blessing and a dollar to give to charity) or saying "Lechiam" to thousands of Chassidim, one by one? Well I did and it really impressed me.
"I thought to myself, if such a great person as the Rebbe can give so much time and attention to everyone, I should at least be able to say hello to people.
"So I decided that even though it's completely against my nature, I'm going to do it. And it saved my life."
This answers our questions.
The Chassidic classic "Tanya" (chapt. 9) compares Jacob and Esav to two opposite 'drives' or 'souls' present in every Jew (and to some degree in every person). One is called the Natural Soul and the other the G-dly soul.
The Torah is telling us that just as these two brothers fought each other even in their mother's womb so these two souls fight constantly within each of us for control over our actions, speech and thoughts. But only ONE can win.
Just like Zalman in our story. His NATURAL tendency was to be quiet, but he felt it his G-dly task to be friendly. And because the latter was victorious his life was saved….from freezing. (The natural soul strives to cool us off and make us frozen to anything that deals with Torah and Judaism).
The reason Issac wanted to bless Esav, however is much deeper.
The Talmud (Shabbos 89b) states that the future redemption will come only in Issac's merit and in books of Chassidut (see Torah Ohr, Toldos) it explains why.
Isaac dug wells. He revealed water where there was none; transforming deserts and wastelands to fertile oases.
So the Moshiach will transform even the 'living water' within even everyone to serve only the Creator and accept His commandments (even the evil people as we say thrice daily in the prayer 'Alenu').
That is why Issac wanted to bless Esav. He thought the time had come for redemption and that even the evil in him could be transformed. But Jacob knew better. He foresaw that it would have to wait.
But now the time has arrived.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe announced that the world is ready for transformation. Now it is easier than ever to transform our natural desires to G-dly ones. And soon even the evil forces of destruction will be transformed to serve the Creator and improve His creation. All the gentiles, even the enemies of the Jews, are ready to hear about the seven Noahide commandments and admit the eternal truth of the Torah.
That is the eternal message of our section; today we can succeed in doing what Isaac began some four thousand years ago and bring...
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