Toldot 5772

November 20, 2011

7 min read


Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9 )

GOOD MORNING! Rabbi Eliezer Silver, a leader in rescue efforts during the Holocaust, visited Europe after the war to help Jews.  One of his missions was to recover Jewish children who were hidden during the war with non-Jewish families.  How was he able to discover which children were Jewish?  He would go into a church during the service and loudly and proudly say, "Shema Yisroel Adonoy Eloheinu Adonoy Ehad!"  Then he would look at the faces of the children for those with tears in their eyes -- those children who remembered their mothers and fathers who put them to bed each night and said the Shema with them.  What is the Shema that it has such power?

The Shema is a declaration of faith, a pledge of allegiance to One God.  It permeates the Jewish consciousness as it permeates the Jewish day.  It is one of the first things parents teach their children when they start to talk; it's recited in the morning and the evening prayers and, as mentioned, before going to sleep.

The second verse in the Shema is: "And you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources" (Deut. 6:5).

What does it mean to love God with all your heart?  The Talmud explains that the word "heart" is metaphorical for "desires."  Even today we colloquially say, "I love chocolate," which means "I desire chocolate."  When the Shema says to "love God with all your heart," it means to use not only your "good traits" like kindness and compassion to do God's will, but also to use your more challenging traits to serve Him.

For example, when you go to a nice restaurant, don't go because you want to gorge.  Rather have in mind that you are eating in order to keep your body healthy, to be able to serve God.  Similarly, if you were buying a CD of music, you should buy it in order to help you relax and better appreciate the world that God created.

What does it mean to "love God with all your soul"?  It means even at the cost of your life.  For generations Jews have given up their lives rather than submit to conversion.  We knew and we know that there is something more important than life itself -- to live, and if necessary, to die with meaning.  There is no greater meaning than sanctifying God's name in both life and in death.

The final part of this verse says to "love God with all your resources."  This is difficult to understand, because typically the Torah presents a series as a progression from easiest to hardest. Here, the order is: Love God emotionally ("heart"), and even be willing to give up your life if necessary ("soul"), and even be willing to spend your money, too!

If this is a progression, are there really people who consider money more important than life itself?!  The answer is yes.  The Talmud (Brachot 54a) speaks about someone walking across a thorny field, and picks up his pants in order to avoid getting them ripped.  The person's legs get all cut up and scratched -- but at least the pants are saved!

In Nevada, where gambling is legal and every hotel has a casino, hotel room windows are specially designed not to open more than a crack -- so people who lose money gambling won't be tempted to jump out the window.  Yes, for some, money is more important than life itself.

There is tremendous merit both personally and for the Jewish people in saying the Shema -- with feeling, understanding and correct pronunciation.  Take a spiritual break each morning and evening and say the Shema.

It is important to understand and concentrate on the meaning of the words.  If you don't understand Hebrew, say it in English (or your native language).  Make it your goal to learn the pronunciation and meaning of the words to be able to say it in Hebrew as well.

It is customary for parents to say the Shema out loud with their children at bedtime.  It is comforting for children to have a nightly ritual of saying the Shema -- a prayer to the Almighty to protect them -- and a wonderful, bonding-experience.  Saying the Shema is a six-word formula to unite all peace-loving people and to bring more spiritual light into our world.  (excepted from Rabbi Shraga Simmon's article


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Torah Portion of the Week

Rivka (Rebecca) gives birth to Esav (Esau) and Ya'akov (Jacob). Esav sells the birthright to Ya'akov for a bowl of lentil soup.  Yitzchak (Isaac) sojourns in Gerar with Avimelech (Avimelech), king of the Philistines.  Esav marries two Hittite women bringing great pain to his parents (because they weren't of the fold).

Ya'akov impersonates Esav on the counsel of his mother in order to receive the blessing for the oldest son from his blind father, Yitzchak.  Esav, angry because of his brother's deception which caused him to lose the firstborn blessings, plans to kill Ya'akov, so Ya'akov flees to his uncle Lavan (Laban) in Padan Aram -- on the advice of his parents.  They also advise him to marry Lavan's daughter.

Esav understands that his Hittite wives are displeasing to his parents, so he marries a third wife, Machlath, the daughter of Ishmael.

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And Isaac loved Esau because he was a was a trapper with his mouth..." (Gen. 25:28).

This means that Esau successfully deceived his father regarding his level of righteousness.

Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler cited the Arizal (a famous kabbalist) that it is a mistake to think that Esau was a complete hypocrite and just tried to deceive his father.  If Isaac made an error, there must have been good reason for such an error.  The problem with Esau was that he kept all his spirituality "in his mouth," without swallowing it.  He spoke spiritual words, but did not become a spiritual person.

Therefore, said Rav Dessler, anyone who speaks ethical and spiritual words without allowing them to penetrate his heart and soul is a colleague of the evil Esau.

The essence of an elevated person is to be totally integrated: the Torah ideals that one talks about must be part of his very being. There are many different levels along a continuum.  Some people are unaware of how far they are from actually feeling what they say.  Such a person can say he loves everyone deeply, but a perceptive person can tell that although he believes that he feels that way, in actuality he is very far from it.  It is not sufficient to just repeat words like a parrot or a tape recorder.  Whenever you learn a new idea, keep reviewing it until little by little it penetrates your soul and your words truly become part of you.


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