Tag Archives: inheritance

Toldot: Blessings Upon Israel

Isaac and Rebecca endure twenty childless years, until their prayers are answered and Rebecca conceives. She experiences a difficult pregnancy as the “children struggle inside her”; G-d tells her that “there are two nations in your womb,” and that the younger will prevail over the elder.

Esau emerges first; Jacob is born clutching Esau’s heel. Esau grows up to be “a cunning hunter, a man of the field”; Jacob is “a wholesome man,” a dweller in the tents of learning. Isaac favors Esau; Rebecca loves Jacob. Returning exhausted and hungry from the hunt one day, Esau sells his birthright (his rights as the firstborn) to Jacob for a pot of red lentil stew.

In Gerar, in the land of the Philistines, Isaac presents Rebecca as his sister, out of fear that he will be killed by someone coveting her beauty. He farms the land, reopens the wells dug by his father Abraham, and digs a series of his own wells: over the first two there is strife with the Philistines, but the waters of the third well are enjoyed in tranquility.

Esau marries two Hittite women. Isaac grows old and blind, and expresses his desire to bless Esau before he dies. While Esau goes off to hunt for his father’s favorite food, Rebecca dresses Jacob in Esau’s clothes, covers his arms and neck with goatskins to simulate the feel of his hairier brother, prepares a similar dish, and sends Jacob to his father. Jacob receives his father’s blessings for “the dew of the heaven and the fat of the land” and mastery over his brother. When Esau returns and the deception is revealed, all Isaac can do for his weeping son is to predict that he will live by his sword, and that when Jacob falters, the younger brother will forfeit his supremacy over the elder.

from “Toldot in a Nutshell”
Commentary on Torah Portion Toldot

As I write this, it’s early in the Thursday morning, just past 3:30 a.m. If most of you have been keeping up on the events in Israel, you’re aware of the terrorist attacks from Gaza and the response of the IDF.

My wife and children are Jewish. I believe the Jewish people have a right to Israel and a deep connection to the Land. These events may signal not just another round of terrorism and response but a prelude to another war. I can’t know that, of course, but it’s not as if it hasn’t happened before. That’s enough to keep me up at night or to wake me up too early in the morning, but then a friend of mine’s daughter is currently serving with the IDF, so it’s feels personal as well.

But that’s not all I have on my mind.

you realize that israel is the aggressor, right? they’ve been shelling women & children forever… after stealing their land

the US may be the second most evil country on earth, but Israel has 1st place locked up by a few miles.

where do you come up with that? can you show me any evidence? You’re either brainwashed or willfully ignorant.

is that really what you believe? seriously? where do you get your intel? ZionistPress? get real! Israel is the aggressor.

-from my twitter feed

As you can see, I try to follow a variety of opinions on twitter, but as someone on Facebook (ironically) said just recently about twitter, “the noise to signal ratio dropped to nothing but noise.” I want to be fair and give other opinions consideration, but it’s not worth my health or peace of mind, is it?

What does this have to do with Toldot and the story of Esau and Jacob?

I couldn’t help but draw parallels between two warring brothers (and only one becomes the patriarch of the Children of Israel and the Jewish people) and the events in Israel right now. Two related people struggling over what they believe are their rights but with only one, in my opinion and my understanding of the Bible, having the superior claim on the inheritance of the Land promised to Abraham.

The story we read in Toldot ends with Jacob leaving his home for an uncertain future:

So Isaac sent for Jacob and blessed him. He instructed him, saying, “You shall not take a wife from among the Canaanite women. Up, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and take a wife there from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother, May El Shaddai bless you, make you fertile and numerous, so that you become an assembly of peoples. May He grant the blessing of Abraham to you and your offspring, that you may possess the land where you are sojourning, which God assigned to Abraham.”

Then Isaac sent Jacob off, and he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, mother of Jacob and Esau.

Genesis 28:1-5 (JPS Tanakh)

The conclusion of Toldot is a little easier to take knowing what happens next and the ultimate outcome of the journeys of Jacob, but in a very real way, those journeys have not yet ended. The Jews have returned to the land of their inheritance but it is an uneasy return. They face strife from terrorism within their borders, the threat of war from outside, and the aggression of a world that does not believe that Israel has a right to exist, let alone defend itself from hostile people who use the weapons of rockets and public opinion to chip away at the Jewish land, taking the Land and the lives of the children of Jacob bit by bit.

It was decades before Jacob could return to Canaan and in the meantime, Esau was there, doing as he willed, and remaining a threat and a barrier to Jacob’s blessings in Israel. Jews believe that in the age of redemption, all Jews will live in Eretz Yisrael and motivate all mankind to seek God (see Inwardness: The Path to Posterity). But as the path for Jacob was not easy and required a great deal of suffering and searching, both in the material and the spiritual sense, so too is the future of Israel between now and the time of Messiah.

And the servants of Isaac dug in the valley, and they found a well of living water.

Genesis 26:19

If a person tells you “I have toiled but I have not found”—do not believe him.

-Talmud, Megillah 6b

Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch was deep in thought, struggling with some elusive idea deep in the recesses of his mighty mind. A bowl of soup had been set before him some time earlier, but the Rebbe was in another world; sharp lines of concentration plowed his forehead, as he sat gazing into the bowl and slowly stirring the soup with his spoon.

The Rebbe’s servant, who figured that the Rebbe must be searching for the egg noodles, exclaimed: “Rebbe, dig in further! The lokshen lies deeper down.”

A wave of contentment passed over the Rebbe’s tensed features. “Thank you,” he said to his servant, “You have revived my soul…”

-Rabbi Yanki Tauber
“Digging for Noodles”
from Once Upon a Chassid

Nothing is final. That Israel exists today is no assurance that it will continue as it is between now and the Messiah’s return. The people who govern Israel today are human. Israel is not yet perfected as a nation. As they are today, Israel is not immune from making mistakes out of their humanity. But that doesn’t mean that Israel and the Jewish people deserve annihilation as the Palestinian terrorists (and the Arab nations) and their supporters in the western nations declare.

I have faith that God will not let the Jewish people perish, but what is to happen in the Land of Israel now, I cannot know. Modern Israel has faced crisis after crisis in its young history. There were many times it looked as if it would be destroyed, only to be sustained by the miracles of God. Just as Jacob and his family ultimately returned and established themselves in Canaan, so too have the Jews returned to Israel. Just as Moses lead his people through the desert, there have been desperate struggles for the Jews. Just as Joshua lead Israel over the Jordan and into their Land, the Land promised to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob, so too will Messiah, son of David, lead his people to take final possession of their Land and into their promised rest.

But there is still much to do between now and then. The first task is to reassure and to fortify ourselves, to lift up and strengthen our faith. Israel is from God. It shall not be destroyed. God urges Joshua, as he takes command of Israel, to be “strong and courageous” four times in the first chapter of the book of Joshua. So too must the inhabitants of Israel today be strong and courageous. So too must we, the supporters of Israel and we who have faith in God’s promises…we must be strong and courageous, though Israel and everyone who loves her will be dragged through the mud and maligned for faith and trust and for obeying God.

Only God knows when the time of “living water” will come. We must be ready.

If you see what needs to be repaired and how to repair it,
then you have found a piece of the world that G-d has left for you to complete.

But if you only see what is wrong and how ugly it is,
then it is you yourself that needs repair.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Perceptive Repair”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

Blessings upon Israel and her people, the children of Abraham, and of Issac, and of Jacob.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill. Let my tongue adhere to my palate, if I fail to elevate Jerusalem above my foremost joy.

Psalm 137:5-6 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

Continue to keep informed on the events in Israel at IsraelNationalNews.com.

Good Shabbos.

Lech Lecha: Choices of the Heart

avrahamThe Torah portion of Lech Lecha relates how G-d commanded Avraham to circumcise himself and the members of his household. By doing so, Avraham became the first and primary individual to adopt the sign of the holy covenant that exists between G-d and every Jew.

This connection between circumcision and Avraham is so strong that the blessings for circumcision include the phrase: “to enter him into the covenant of Avraham, our father,” i.e., the circumcision currently taking place is directly related to our patriarch Avraham. Since Avraham is our father,he makes it possible for all of us, his children, to inherit the privilege of entering into an eternal covenant with G-d.

This kind of inheritance is not at all dependent on any preparations or qualifications on the part of the inheritor — a one-day old infant can inherit everything.

Commentary for Torah Portion Lech lecha
“The Covenant of Avraham”
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, pp. 44-47

The Brit Milah, the covenant of circumcision is something that no one can ask for and no one can reject. Jews males are circumcised on their eighth-day in accordance to the commandment and become part of Israel, and Israel becomes a part of them. But Ishmael was also a son of Abraham. Does the older son inherit along with Isaac? The commentary continues.

The following, however, must be understood: In explaining the commandment of circumcision, the Rambam states: (Commentary on Mishnayos, Chulin conclusion of ch. 7) “We do not engage in circumcision because our father Avraham, of blessed memory, circumcised himself and his household, but rather because G-d commanded us through our teacher Moshe to circumcise ourselves.”

And where are these commandments?

For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. –Genesis 17:12

On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. –Leviticus 12:3

The Abrahamic covenant is “honed” and applied within the context of the Mosaic covenant, passing from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to the Children of Israel. Then passing to every Jew across history and to this very day.

But what does it mean besides being a sign of a Jew’s perpetual inheritance of the land of Israel?

Significantly, Avraham was given this name in connection with the mitzvah of circumcision. Circumcision an act which affects the most basic physical aspect of our being, demonstrates that our spiritual quest is not an attempt to escape worldly reality, but is rather an attempt to refine it. Circumcision represents a “covenant in the flesh,” and endows even our physical bodies with sanctity.

-Rabbi Eli Touger
“A Journey To One’s True Self: Avraham’s Odyssey As A Lesson For His Descendants”
Commentary on Lech Lecha
Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, p. 57ff; Vol. XX, p. 59ff, p. 301ff;
Vol. XXV, p. 52; Sefer HaSichos 5750, p. 96ff.

We are all faced with a physical and spiritual journey in our lives that starts the day we are born and continues until our death. This journey begins and progresses whether we want it to or not. It exists regardless of our religious orientation or lack thereof. Atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Taoists, and Jews all walk upon the path of spirit as well as the path of life. No newborn infant can ask to proceed on a spiritual path nor can they refuse it. For a Jew it is the same with the unique sign of the covenant. An eight-day old boy cannot ask for nor refuse the Brit Milah. It is the mark of God separating him from the hoards of humanity and signaling that his spiritual journey is unique among the peoples of the earth. He is a Jew and things will be different for him than for the rest of us. It is not a matter of choice.

Abraham had a choice but in choosing, he also chose for his children, his grandchildren, for Isaac, for Jacob, for the twelve tribes, and for all Jews throughout the corridors of time. He chose for Jews today. And in spite of legal decisions made by men such as Yoram Kaniuk, a Jew can never become a “not-Jew”.

spiritual-journeyThe rest of us have a choice. People who convert to Judaism have a choice, and one of the reasons that Judaism is reluctant to convert others is that the converts, under persecution, can decide to renounce their Jewish identity. Not so the born Jew. The Christian who accepts Christ as Lord and Savior can, under duress or discouragement, choose to renounce Jesus, join another religious tradition, or enter into atheism, acknowledging no God except himself. There is no sign on our flesh marking us as set apart. The circumcision we undergo is on our hearts.

A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. –Romans 2:28-29

But this is really confusing. Who is Paul talking about here?

Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. –Deuteronomy 30:6

These aren’t the only examples of “circumcision of the heart” in the Tanakh (Old Testament)  and the Apostolic Scriptures and certainly not the only illustrations of such a circumcision applied to the Jews. So who is circumcised and what does it mean? Has “circumcision of the heart” replaced the Abrahamic and Mosaic commandments for physical circumcision?

Or does one symbolize the other?

The way I see it, the physical circumcision indelibly marks a Jew as a Jew beyond all undoing. However, not all Jewish individuals dedicate themselves to the service of God and in obedience to the mitzvot. You can’t decide to be or “un-be” a Jew (except if you’re a convert), but you can decide, as a Jew or a Gentile, to serve God or not to serve God. You can make a conscious decision to allow the circumcision of the heart. You don’t get to decide to be born or to start on the journey of spirit and life, but you can decide the specific paths to take between birth and death (and beyond).

Small plantThe uniqueness of the Jewish people in the Kingdom of God is beyond question. How we decide to serve God or to fail God is entirely up to us, as a Jew, Christian, or anyone else. In that, we are like Abraham. God tells us to go somewhere and to do something. How we answer God is up to us.

The Lord said to Abram, Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. Abram went forth as the Lord had commanded him. –Genesis 12:1,4

If the world did not need you and you did not need this world, you would never have come here. G-d does not cast His precious child into the pain of this journey without purpose.

You say you cannot see a reason. Why should it surprise you that a creature cannot fathom the plan of its Creator? Nevertheless, eventually the fruits of your labor will blossom for all to see.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Waiting for Fruition”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

Good Shabbos.