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Toldot 5768

Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! What would you do if you knew you had two months to live? What lessons about life would you want to share with your family and loved ones? What would you write in a letter to your children?

___In Jewish tradition, it was/is common for parents to leave an ethical will or write a letter to their children synthesizing their insights into life and give their instructions on how to live one's life. One of the most famous letters is that of the Ramban, Nachmanides, who was born in Spain in 1194. The following excerpt is the latter part of a letter written to his son. It is adapted from the translation in A Letter for the Ages by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer (which includes the letter in its entirety along with commentary). The book is available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.

Ramban's Letter to His Son

Let your words be spoken gently; let your head be bowed. Cast your eyes downward, and your heart heavenward; and when speaking, do not stare at your listener. Let all men seem greater than you in your eyes: If another is more wise or wealthy than yourself, you must show him respect. And if he is poor, and you are richer or wiser than he, consider that he may be more righteous than yourself: If he sins it is the result of error, while your transgression is deliberate.

In all your words, actions and thoughts - at all times - imagine in your heart that you are standing in the presence of the Holy one, Blessed is He, and that His Presence rests upon you. Indeed, the glory of the Almighty fills the universe. Speak with reverence and awe, like a servant who stands in the presence of his master. Act with restraint in the company of others: If one should call out to you, do not answer with a loud voice, but respond gently - in low tones, as one who stands before his mentor.

Take care to always study Torah diligently so that you will be able to fulfill its commands. When you rise from study, ponder carefully what you have learned; see what there is in it which you can put into practice.

Review your actions every morning and evening, and in this way live all your days in repentance.

Cast external matters from your mind when you stand to pray; carefully prepare your heart in the presence of the Holy One. Purify your thoughts, and ponder your words before you utter them.

Conduct yourself in these ways in all your endeavors for as long as you live. In this way you will surely avoid transgression; your words, actions and thoughts will be flawless. Your prayer will be pure and clear, sincere and pleasing to God, Blessed is He...

Read this letter one a week and neglect none of it. Fulfill it, and in so doing, walk with it forever in the ways of the Almighty, may He be Blessed, so that you may succeed in your ways and merit the World to Come that lies hidden for the righteous. Every day that you shall read this letter, heaven shall answer your heart's desires...

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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. Yitzhak (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 by his blind father, Yitzhak. 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 first came out red, all over like a hairy garment; and they called his name Esav (Esau)." (Genesis 25:25)

___Esau became a murderer and his red hair became associated with a personality that might lead to murder. (Even today many people think of red-haired people as passionate, sometimes quick to anger personalities.)

___The Midrash, (Braishit Rabbah 63) relates that when the prophet Shmuel went to appoint David to be the king of Israel, he saw that David was admoni, of ruddy complexion. He became very frightened and said, "He too will be a murderer like Esau." The Almighty told Shmuel that there was no need to be afraid. When Esau killed it was in cold blood, but David would only take a life to carry out the just decisions of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court).

___We see from this Midrash that when someone has a basic personality tendency it is a reality of his nature that he will be what he truly is. However, a person has free will to choose how this tendency will be manifested. (The head of the FBI Behavioral Profiling Unit once said that no serial killer was so compelled to murder that he did it in front of a policeman.) Esau's tendency towards bloodshed led him down an evil path. David, on the other hand, was a mighty warrior who would utilize his natural tendencies for elevated purposes.

___This concept is expressed very clearly by the Vilna Gaon: "A person should not go completely against his nature even if it is bad, for he will not succeed. He should merely train himself to follow the straight path in accordance with his nature. For example, someone who has an inclination to spill blood should train himself to become a ritual slaughterer or a mohel (ritual circumciser)."

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Good judgment comes from experience,
and experience comes from bad judgment.
- Will Rogers

With Deep Appreciation to
Frank & Elaine Gelb

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