Friday, Kislev 2, 5777 / December 2, 2016
In this week’s Parsha, Toldot, we read about the birth of the twin brothers, Esau and Yaakov, who were born to Yitzchak and Rivkah. Esau becomes a hunter – a man of the field, while Yaakov is a man who dwells in the tents – a scholar.
At the age 123 and stricken with blindness, Yitzchak decides to bless his elder son Esau, because he thought that he was righteous. But Rivkah, who knew the true character of her older son, wanted Yaakov to get the blessings instead. She commanded Yaakov to dress in Esau’s clothes, pretending that he was Esau and get the blessings from Yitzchak.
Yaakov receives his father's blessings and leaves. Shortly thereafter, Esau enters and requests that his father bless him. Yitzchak realizes that he blessed Yaakov instead. However, he reiterates his blessings to Yaakov when he tells Esau, "He [Yaakov] shall be blessed."
As a result, Esau plans to kill Yaakov. When Rivkah learns about Esau's plan, she sends Yaakov to her brother Lavan in Charan. Before leaving, Yitzchak again blesses Yaakov and tells him to, "take a wife from the daughters of Lavan."
The Midrash quotes the verse in Mishlei (Proverbs), "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him reprimands him.." This, says the Midrash, is what happened with Esau. Since Esau wasn't reprimanded when he was young, he grew up to steal, murder and plot to kill his own brother.
Yaakov and Esau were 63 years old at the time of the blessings. Yaakov’s life was a difficult one for the next thirty six years. Especially the twenty years he spent in Lavan’s home, until he returned to his father Yitzchak. Esau’s life, on the other hand, was trouble-free and enjoyable.
At times, the ways of the wicked may seem to be rewarded. However, it is only temporary. The Midrash brings the following parable: A good person and a wicked one were walking together on the road. As they passed by an inn, they decided to have something to eat.
The wicked one ordered fish, various assortments of meats, the finest wine and all kinds of delicacies. But the righteous man ordered a simple meal of bread, a dish of lentils and a small portion of meat. The wicked one laughed, "Look what's available in the inn. Why don't you order your heart's desire?"
The righteous one replied, "There is a price for everything! How will you pay for all that you're eating?"
But the wicked one just laughed at his companion and ordered more. When they finished the meal, each man was presented with his bill. The good man paid and was ready to continue on his way. But when the wicked one was given his bill, he almost fainted. He couldn't make the payment and an argument ensued and he was dully punished.
Montrealcandle lighting time: 3:53 / Shabbat ends: 5:01
Thursday, Kislev 1, 5777 / December 1, 2016
Today is Rosh Chodesh– the first day of the new Hebrew month Kislev. On the 25th day of Kislev begins the eight day holiday of Chanukah.
In the beginning of this week's Parsha, Toldot, the Torah tells us that Yitzchak (Isaac) and Rivkah were childless for twenty years after their marriage. It was only after Yitzchak and Rivkah prayed that they be blessed with children that Rivkah conceived. She gave birth to twins, Esau & Yaakov.
Prayer is a fundamental and essential part of our Jewish religion. One of the thirteen principles of faith codified by Maimonides is: "I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed is His Name, to Him alone is it proper to pray and it is not proper to pray to any other."
Although G-d promised Abraham that through his son Yitzchak will descent a great nation, yet, it was only after Yitzchak and Rivkah’s prayers that G-d fulfilled His promise.
Q.In the Parsha the Torah uses the word "Vaye'etar" to describe Yitzchak's prayer. The usual expression for prayer is "Tefilah". Why does the Torah use the word "Vaye'etar?"
A.The Talmud explains that “Vaye'etar” is related to the word "Etar" which means a "shovel". "Rabbi Yitzchak said, 'Why is the prayer of the righteous likened to a shovel? Just like a shovel turns the grain from one place to the other in the granary, so too, the prayer of the righteous turns the dispensation of the Holy One, blessed be He, from restraint to the measure of mercy.'"
Q.Three of the Matriarchs, Sarah, Rivkah and Rachel, were barren and, by the laws of nature, couldn’t have children. Their giving birth was miraculous. Why did G-d make this so?
A.Our sages explain that G-d wanted our patriarchs and matriarchs to pray to Him, for He loves the prayers of the righteous.
The Talmud tells that Rabbi Elazar, before starting to pray, would make sure to give charity to a poor person. He would say that one should come before G-d with the mitzvah of Tzedakah (charity).
The Talmudic sage Rabbi Yochanan says, “Why did our sages institute that the prayers be recited quietly? In order not to embarrass the sinners who confess their sins during prayer.”
The Talmudic sage Rosh Lokish says, “Whoever has a house of prayer in his city and does not go there to pray is called a bad neighbor.”
Our sages say, “For everything the Holy One, blessed be He, set a time and season, except for prayer. For whenever a person prays they are answered.”
HAVE A VERY GOOD, HAPPY, HEALTHY AND SUCCESSFUL CHODESH/MONTH