Excerpts from a lesson given by HaRav Eliezer Berland, shlit"a, Parshas Toldos.
In the story of "The Seven Beggars,"
on the fourth day, the beggar with the crooked neck relates how only he
is able to unite the two birds. All the beggars in the story are
the aspect of the tzaddik. Here, the Rebbe is teaching that all
the shidduchim are done by the tzaddik. The two birds are
described in the story as the only such pair of birds in the world. Every
bride and groom have this aspect of each being the other's only true partner
in the world. This is why it is so important not to delay getting married.
One should get married as soon as he is of age, and not be confused by
all the possible preventions: financial, new responsibilities, etc. More
than this, a person can actually be punished for delaying getting married,
because of the sorrow that he causes his true partner, that she then has
to wait until he decides he is ready.
This is one of the reasons that Nadav and Avihu,
the sons of Aharon were killed. They had decided not to get married in
order to be able to devote themselves wholeheartedly to serving Hashem.
However, there were many women who saw themselves as suitable brides for
them, who then refrained from getting married in the hope that they would
be chosen. The sorrow that Nadav and Avihu caused to these women, and all
the more so, the sorrow that they caused to their true partner, factored
into their eventual punishment.
Before the wedding, a couple can be as far apart
as the opposite ends of the world, similar to the two birds in the story,
and they have to pray very much that they will be brought together, that
they will merit to find their true partner. Even after the wedding,
the couple should continue to pray all their lives that they will always
be as one, living as a single unity. The story explains how it is impossible
to come to the place of the birds by day, due to the incredible joy surrounding
each of the birds created by the words of consolation that their fellow
birds give them. Each of the birds is kept from sadness by their consolation,
and they understand that it is impossible that they will not ultimately
come to find their true partner.
The reason that people, in general, cannot stand
to see happiness is because they themselves are in such a state of misery
and despair. Similar to a person coming out of a dark room into the light,
the slightest happiness confuses them. In the story, the people living
in the each of the countries where the birds were could not sleep at night
due to wailing, but by day, the sound of the happiness could not be heard
outside of the immediate area. This shows us that sadness is stronger and
more powerful than happiness. Similarly, the book of Ezra (3:13)
describes how many of people who came up from Bavel to build the second
Temple had actually been alive during the time of the first Temple, seventy
years earlier, and had seen it with their own eyes. How they wept upon
remembering how the first Temple had been built by Shlomo Hamelech of gold
and silver, and how the second one was now being built out of wood and
plaster. The sound of the happiness of those who were seeing for the first
time in their lives the Temple in Jerusalem was completely drowned out
by the sound of the weeping of those who had seen the first one (see Rashi,
In Likutei Moharan I:30, we see
the same aspect as the weeping of the two birds. In this lesson, Rabbi
Nachman speaks about the weeping of Hashem as he laments over the shechina
that has fallen to the klippot, which are the husks, or the
forces of evil. This separation was caused by the falling of chochma,
wisdom, through the abandoning of the learning of Torah, in favor of the
learning of other wisdoms (secular studies.) As much as one fills his head
with secular studies (which incline one towards improper thoughts, desires
and behaviour,) so he decreases the holy wisdom that he possesses. As Rabbi
Nachman explains, the Gemara relates that when Shlomo Hamelech married
the daughter of Paro, the angel Gavriel came down and stuck a cane in the
sea, and about this cane was built the huge and powerful city of Rome.
The daughter of Paro is an allusion to the outside wisdoms, the angel Gavriel
coming down represents the falling of the gevurot, the forces of
holiness, which resulted in the creation of the city of Rome, renowned
for its unwholesome behaviour.
Regarding the matter of gevurot,
Parshas Toldos begins with with the verse, "These are the generations of
Yitzchak, Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak." Avraham is the aspect of chessed,
loving kindness, and Yitzchak, gevurot, strict judgment. Yitzchak
was able to sweeten the harsh judgments through the application of loving
kindness. In other words, the verse is teaching that the aspect of gevurot
possessed by Yitzchak was sweetened by the aspect of
he had inherited from Avraham. The Tanna deve Eliahu teaches that Avraham
and Sarah had been praying for eighty five years, to have a son, until
Yitzchak was born. Since he was born to Sarah when she was age eighty nine,
and Avraham was ninety nine, that means that they must have got married
and started praying when Sarah was age four, and Avraham age fourteen.
As is brought in Bereishis 18:12, "Sarah laughed when Hashem told
her that she was going to have a child," since she herself had returned
to her youthfulness (Rashi 17:16), but her husband was far too old to have
children. The Kamarner clarifies that her laugh was one of regret--that
in order to be able to bear a child, Hashem had to perform a miracle
for her and rejuvenate her body back to the way it was when she was twenty
Sara, however, had been praying for eighty five
years that she would be like her husband, and be able to give birth in
her old age. The reason for this is that she wanted to be able to conceive
without the slightest hint of desire, that she and Avraham should be like
two dried out sticks of wood. Only this would ensure that the baby would
be born completely pure, without any of the desires of this world, no gevurot,
no evil inclination. Hashem answers her (Bereishis 18:14), " would
this be too hard a thing for Me?" In other words, He could have allowed
it that she would be able to give birth in old age to a child completely
without an evil inclination, but really, it would be far better that she
should give birth as a young girl, the same as everybody else, to a child
with an evil inclination, like all children. Then the child himself
would have to fight this evil inclination and subdue it, sweetening the
through the chassadim. This is what the verse at the beginning of
the parsha is coming to explain, that Yitzchak, at the age of sixty, had
sweetened all his gevurot and had conquered his evil inclination
through the chassadim that he had received from Avraham. He had
become a true descendant of Avraham.
This is the argument that the wise men of Israel
had against the wise men of the nations (Rambam, Shmone Prachim, 6) who
held that it would be better for a man to be born with no evil inclination,
in order for him to be able to serve Hashem with no obstacles and confusions.
The wise men of Israel answered no, exactly the opposite, that precisely
by fighting against the evil inclination can one turn it into a flame with
which to serve Hashem, (as mentioned in last weeks shiur.)
The bride and groom, during the seven days after
their marriage, can also achieve this level. Up until they get married
they have this aspect of, "no evil inclination." Only after
the wedding does the test start: the gevurot come into the picture,
and they must try to sweeten them with chassadim, to use them to
serve Hashem. Never again will they have such an opportunity to have such
longings to serve Hashem.
In the same way that Sarah had laughed,
Og the King of Bashan also laughed. As the Midrash relates, when
Yaakov came down to Egypt with his family, seventy strong, Og was at that
time by Paro. Paro asked Og why had he not killed Avraham, which is what
everyone had wanted, at the time when he had gone against the whole world
with his revolutionary new theory, that there was just one G-d who had
created the heaven and the earth? Og said that there was no need, Avraham
was just a dry stick of wood who was never going to have any children,
and would be dead in a short while, anyway. Then he did have a child.
The Midrash Rabbah states that Yitzchak was the
first child to be born actually as a child. Up till then, all the
children that had been born, were born already grown up. The Midrash
brings a story about a child who immediately after birth had a fight with
a demon. The fight lasted the whole night until the morning. Before daybreak
the demon told the child, "Go and tell your mother that you had a miracle.
That because it is daybreak I have to leave and do not have time to kill
you." The new-born child answered him, "You go and tell your mother
that you had a miracle. If I had not still been connected to my mother
by the umbilical cord, I would have killed you."
When Yitzchak was born, everyone said to Og, "You
see. He did have a child!" Og was convulsed with laughter, "Such a tiny
creature, if I put my finger on his nose he will suffocate." The
next thing they knew, Yaakov was coming down to Egypt with his whole family.
Og put the evil eye on them, but Hashem said, "One of his descendants is
going to kill you." And this is precisely what happened, that Moshe
did indeed kill him.
When Yitzchak blessed Yaakov with the blessing he
had intended for Esav, why did Hashem not reveal to Yitzchak that Yaakov
was really the tzaddik, and should be blessed accordingly, the same
as He had by Avraham, when He told him that Yitzchak was his true descendant,
and not Yishmael. In parshas Lech Lecha, (Bereishis 17:18), Hashem
tells Avraham that he is going to have a son from his wife, Sarah, and
Avraham argues, "May my son Yishmael live before you." The Zohar
says about this statement that it was the start of all the troubles that
have came to the Jewish people ever since. To send Yishmael away into the
desert was the hardest of all the tests that Avraham had to take, harder
even than sacrificing Yitzchak. When all the nations in the land heard
about him sending away his son, they were all in shock. It was written
in all the newspapers of the land, the incredible cruelty of Avraham. A
sick child being sent out into the desert with no water! Who had ever heard
of such behaviour? Only through the direct intervention of Hashem was the
truth made known to him. Why couldn't Hashem do the same thing now? The
Midrash relates how Rivka had said to Yaakov, that if he did not go in
and receive the blessing from his father, she was going to go and tell
him that Esav was completely evil and that Yaakov was the true tzaddik.
She was not going to let him give the blessing to Esav under any circumstances.
So why was it that it had to be this way, that Yitzchak should be so mistaken,
and that Yaakov should have to fool his father into giving him the blessing?
(Surely it would have been much better if Rivka had gone in and told Yitzchak
the truth: that would have been a much more simple solution!) The
reason is that even the mistakes of the tzaddikim are intended from
heaven. If Yitzchak had blessed Yaakov intentionally, should it ever subsequently
happen that a generation should fall below the level that Yaakov was on,
the blessing would automatically have been canceled. But since he intended
to bless Esav, who was a complete sinner, it turned out that even a generation
of sinners, one that abandoned Hashem completely, as Esav had done, would
still be blessed.
Later, for instance, in the generation of Achaz,
who closed down all the synagogues and yeshivas, still the blessing was
not canceled. As is explained in Sheeris Yisrael by the Valednicker
Rebbe (Shaar Hiskashrut, 7:4), sometimes it happens that Hashem drops the
into a mistake in order to bring back in tshuva, repentance, even
sinners that are completely cut off from the Torah. For it can be that
one can sin so much that he completely separates himself from the Torah,
that he has no part in it whatsoever, and only through the tzaddik
making a mistake, for instance saying a mistaken verse, not according to
the Torah, through these words spoken 'outside' the Torah, he can bring
back the soul of the person who has taken himself "outside" the Torah,
through his behaviour.
The Midrash Rabbah brings two stories
of tremendously evil people who repented. The first was the nephew of Yosi
ben Yoezer, who rode up on a horse as the Romans were dragging his uncle
away to hang him. He laughed at his uncle, "Uncle, look at what a
beautiful horse I have!" His uncle laughed back at him, "If you,
who go against the will of Hashem, have such a horse, just imagine what
kind of horse I, who do the will of Hashem, am going to have." "But
Uncle, look at the horse you have now. You are just being dragged along
the ground!" His uncle gave him the same answer, "If I, who do the will
of Hashem, am being taken away in such a fashion, just imagine how they
are going to take you away!" The nephew, on considering this answer,
immediately returned in repentance.
The second story is of Yosef Mashita, who was a
friend of the Greeks who had taken over the country. They were scared,
however, to enter into the Temple. The Greeks told Yosef Mashita that if
he would go in first, he could keep whatever he carried out. He came out
with one of the ten golden menorahs. They changed their minds when
they saw such a beautiful object. They told him that such a thing was not
fitting for a simple person like him, and that he should give it to them,
and go and get something else for himself. He refused. First they tried
to persuade him, then to bribe him, and finally they sawed him apart, limb
from limb. As his soul was leaving him, he repented of all his years of
evil behaviour and cried out, "Woe is me that I angered my Creator!"
On the other hand, this weeks parsha
relates about one who did not repent. At the end of the parsha, (Bereishis
28:9), Esav understands that his two Canaanite wives were a cause of sorrow
to his father and mother, so he marries Machalat, the daughter of Yishmael.
Rashi explains that he was just adding wickedness to his wickedness by
marrying another wife without divorcing the first two. Later, in parshas
Vayishlach, (Bereishis 36:3), she is called by the name Basmat,
and Rashi explains there that the name Machalat, used earlier, is referring
to the fact that a man is forgiven all his sins on the day of his marriage.
So why does Rashi not bring that explanation at the first mention? The
answer is because the day of his marriage was the day Esav sent his son
Eliphaz to kill Yaakov, and he therefore was not forgiven anything, and
is even described as, "adding wickedness to his wickedness."
Parshas Bereishis 27:33
relates that Yaakov "trembled with an exceedingly great trembling" when
he realized that it was not his firstborn son, Esav, that he had blessed.
The Rashbam explains what exactly was this "great trembling." (Despite
the fact that Yitzchak understood that he had blessed Yaakov and not Esav,
as he had intended, he could have been simply 'sorry,' or 'regretful,'
why such a trembling? What was it that brought out such a strong
reaction?) The reason is, that when Yaakov came in, Yitzchak had
straight away suspected that it was Yaakov, "surely, it is the voice of
Yaakov." He felt him on his neck, actually moving the goat skin aside,
to feel his real neck, to check if there was hair there, and thereby to
know if it was Esav or not. In fact, he did find hair, and therefore
blessed him accordingly. Then, when Esav came in, he understood that it
had really been Yaakov that he had blessed. So it must be that Yaakov really
did have hair at the time that he felt him. And this was the reason that
he trembled, for how can Yaakov have hair? Hair is a sign of gevurot,
and Yaakov had already canceled all his gevurot completely, and
did not have any hair whatsoever, as he said himself "and I am a
smooth man" (Bereishis 27:11). The fact is, however, that Hashem
performed a miracle for him, and he grew one hair, which is the one that
Yitzchak found, and it was this miracle that made him tremble.
During the time that Chizkia was king
over Israel, the general Sancheriv came to conquer the land. After destroying
every town in the country he finally arrived at Jerusalem. His astrologers
had informed him that in order to take Jerusalem, he would have to arrive
there and attack on that very day, before sunset. If he failed to attack
on that day, he would lose the opportunity. He had heard many stories
about the invincibility of Jerusalem, and how it could never be taken,
so when he arrived there, and saw that the whole city was only a ten minute
walk from one side to the other, he burst out laughing and told his generals
that he was going to sleep, and that he would attack and destroy the city
in the morning. But his advisers had been correct, that very night, a plague,
sent by Hashem, hit his army, and its one hundred and eighty five generals
and millions of men were all destroyed, and Sancheriv had to run
away and hide. The prophet Yeshayahu informed King Chizkia that it would
be proper and fitting for him to sing praises to Hashem for the great miracle
that had been done for them. Chizkia disagreed, he felt that it would be
more suitable to learn Torah in honor of the miracle. Surely Chizkia had
raised up his generation to such a high level of learning--as it says in
Masechet Sanhedrin that there was not a little boy or girl who did not
know all the laws of the Torah, even those of purity and impurity. This
was a great mistake for Chizkia to make, for really, the singing of the
praises of Hashem is on no less a level than Torah learning. However, when
the time comes to sing the praises of Hashem, even Torah learning must
take second place.
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