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Toldot 5777

Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  The Torah commands us, "Bind [these commandments] as a sign on your arm, and as totafot between your eyes" (Deut. 6:8). This refers to special black boxes containing passages from the Torah that are worn primarily during the morning the prayer service.

For several years I have been studying Inside Stam, (Stam -- acronym: Sifrei Torah, Tefillin and Mezuzuos) a fascinating book on the laws pertaining to Tefillin, Mezuzos, Sifrei Torah by Reuvain Mendlowitz. I was very excited to have my tefillin checked by him on a recent trip to Israel. Much to my surprise, Rabbi Mendlowitz told me that I needed to replace the "fake straps." Fake straps?

Straps on tefillin must be made from kosher animals and painted black. It seems that an unscrupulous individual had sold counterfeit straps made in the Far East from horse hide bonded with black plastic and passed them off as kosher! What this meant to me is that I, and hundreds if not thousands of others, unknowingly were not fulfilling the mitzvah of wearing tefillin!

To a Torah observant Jew, this is devastating. Tefillin is a very special mitzvah. As Shraga Simmons so aptly wrote in "Tefillin: A Primer" on, "The word mitzvah, commandment, relates at its root to the word 'to bind.' As such, every mitzvah is an act of love that binds us to God. But Tefillin is the paradigm mitzvah, in that we literally bind ourselves to the will of God. Tefillin represents a total dedication and union with the Almighty."

Tefillin is a powerful daily mitzvah of connection and reminder. Kosher tefillin means that both the batim, the boxes and the parshiot, the scrolls of Torah passages inside of the batim, are kosher -- made correctly. There are many laws on what they are made from, how they are made, the intention of the person who makes them. Tefillin are hand-crafted and must be made with the intention of creating holy tefillin.

Through the physical act of binding tefillin upon the arm we remind ourselves to dedicate our actions to the will of the Almighty; by wearing the tefillin above the hairline -- or where the hairline used to be -- we remind ourselves to dedicate our thoughts to the will of the Almighty.

Knowing that one has kosher tefillin and puts them on properly is very important to a Torah observant Jew. One feels a spiritual connection to the Almighty.

There are those who might say, "It's OK. God understands. It's what's you wanted to accomplish and whether the tefillin were kosher or not doesn't really matter." It is presumptuous to assume that we know what God "understands." If the Almighty "went to all of the trouble" to convey so many specific details on how tefillin are made and how they should be worn, then perhaps there is much more to the mitzvah than one's intentions.

When the Hubble telescope was launched into space in 1990, the photographs were not as clear as expected. Upon investigation it was found that the mirror was ground with an error from the prescribed curve of only 10 nanometers -- but resulted in creating a "catastrophic spherical aberration" in the images.

Some things have to be perfect to work.

In life and in performing mitzvot, we must strive for perfection of service, not lackadaisical service. It is upon us to have kosher tefillin and mezzuzos -- and to have them checked by competent, God-fearing sofrim, scribes.

And what about my fake straps? My competent and God-fearing sofer (scribe) unknowingly purchased counterfeit straps. Now, knowing his mistake, he is replacing those straps free of charge.

How does one know if his straps are fake? One can go to an expert scribe -- or boil water, pour it into a hot cup, place the end of a strap into the water and if it has a top plasticized layer which separates, then it is time to replace those straps!


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Torah Portion of the week

Toldot, Genesis 25:19 - 28:9

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 Canaanite wives are displeasing to his parents, so he marries a third wife, Machlath, the daughter of Ishmael.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And the servants of Yitzchak (Isaac) dug in the valley and found there a well of fresh water" (Genesis 16:19).

Why does the Torah elaborate on the wells Yitzchak found?

The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, explains that this teaches us that we should not give up in frustration when we start something and run into difficulties. Do not despair. When Yitzchak dug and did not find water, he kept digging in other places until he finally found what he was seeking. When others quarreled with him and took over his wells, he still did not become discouraged. He continued his digging until he finally found a well with water that he was able to use in peace and he called the area Rechovot.

This, teaches the Chofetz Chaim, is a practical lesson for all areas of our lives. This applies to spiritual and material matters; to Torah studies and to business. Be persistent when things do not at first work out the way you wish. Especially when beginning to study Torah, do not give up if you find it difficult at first. People often fail because they give up too soon.

There are three rules for success in life: 1) Initiative -- you have to try 2) Perseverance -- you have to keep trying 3) The Almighty smiles upon your efforts. Keep trying and you will, God willing, succeed.


Candle Lighting Times

December 2
(or go to

Jerusalem 4:00
Guatemala 5:13 - Hong Kong 5:21 - Honolulu 5:31
J'Burg 6:30 - London 3:36 - Los Angeles 4:25
Melbourne 8:10 - Mexico City 5:39 - Miami 5:11
New York 4:11 - Singapore 6:38 - Toronto 4:23

Quote of the Week

You have to choose happiness --
it doesn't choose you



In Loving Memory of
Avraham ben Kalman
Shayna bas Yakov

May their neshamos
have an aliya
Paul & Helaine Kurlansky

With Special Thanks to
Emilie Socash




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