Friday, February 03, 2023

Divrei Torah - JewishLink

Zera Shimshon on Parshas Toldos

וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת יִצְחָק בֶּן־אַבְרָהָם אַבְרָהָם הוֹלִיד אֶת־יִצְחָק׃

“And these are the generations of Yitzchok, the son of Avraham, Avraham begot Yitzchok.” (Bereishis 25:19)

On this pasuk, the midrash (Midrash Rabbah 63:1) comments, “And these are the generations of Yitzchak


Planning for Continuity

In last week’s parsha of Chayei Sarah, one of the themes we encounter is how Avraham plans for the continuity of the Jewish people through his son, Yitzchak. The haftorah also deals with how King David planned for the continuity of his kingdom through his son, Shlomo.

Avraham took pains to ensure that his son, Yitzchak, would get married to the right sort of


The Future Is Now

Parshat Toldot is very perplexing: How could Esau sell his birthright for a pot of lentil stew? How could Yitzhak be oblivious to Esau’s faults? How could Yitzhak love Esau as the Torah says because the game was in his mouth? Why did Rivka resort to deception and not simply discuss matters with her husband?

The answer may lie in the verse concerning


Being Good Enough

Parshat Toldot introduces a new phase in Sefer Bereishit and in the lives of our avot and imahot. Beginning with our parsha, we are witness to episodes of intra-family tension and conflict. While there was a bit of tension between Yitzchak/Yishmael and Hagar/Sarah, those conflicts disappeared from the text with little overall impact.

Things, however, certainly


Mezuzah for a Storage Room

Question: I am moving into an apartment and want to know whether the storage room (in the building’s basement) requires a mezuzah.

Answer: We will start with the basic question — whether a room used for storage is considered “beitecha” (your home — see Devarim 6:9). The Gemara (Yoma 11a and b) cites conflicting opinions about whether various


Two Trepidations

Twice in his life Yitzchak Avinu trembled with great trepidation. The midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 67b) tells us that the first time was at the Akedah and the second was when he realized that he blessed Yaakov Avinu thinking it was Eisav. The midrash wonders, which of the two was with greater intensity? The midrash answers, when Yitzchak Avinu realized that he blessed the


The Burden of God’s Words

The very opening of sefer Malachi that we are privileged to read this Shabbat makes it clear why Chazal chose this perek, as the haftarah for parshat Toledot. Just as the Torah reading describes the essential differences between Eisav and his twin brother, Ya’akov and, while doing so, includes Hashem’s choice of Ya’akov over his twin to carry on the mission that



Although Yitzchak intended to give the brachot to Eisav, Yaakov pretends he is Eisav and receives them instead. Yitzchak soon after realized what happened, and then understood that Yaakov was truly the worthy one; and now, apparently, Eisav’s cover was fully blown. Yitzchak became aware of who Eisav really was, as after Yitzchak became aware of what occurred, he


The Case of the Smashed Glass Entry Door

He was a ninth grader, from a nice family. He was studious and his teachers felt that he was well-mannered as well. For some reason, however, he kicked the door in the school building—to keep it open, in all probability. Unfortunately, the door broke.

It was a glass door, and it spontaneously shattered completely. The young man felt badly and informed the


The Essence of Blessing

When Yaakov was given his blessing (27:28), he was told ויתן לך האלקים, “God shall grant you the dew of the heavens …” When his brother Eisav was given a similar blessing (27:30), he was simply told that the dew of the heavens would be his, without mentioning God’s involvement. The difference in formulation was apparently a response to the way


Ongoing Connection

Cheshvan 27 is the yahrzeit of my Zaide, Rav Yaakov Meir Kohn, zt”l. Every year during the weeks before his yahrzeit, I take out the few binders I have of his writings containing his Torah thoughts. Many of those thoughts were written in his distinctive, difficult to read, shorthand writing, hastily recorded on the back of any paper that was in his vicinity. There


Letters Between Samuel David Luzzatto And a Kabbalistic Rabbi in the 19th Century

Part I

I am here going to summarize an article in Hakirah, volume 31 (2022) by Daniel Klein. The article is entitled: “Let Him Bray: The Stormy Correspondence Between Samuel David Luzzatto and Elia Benamozegh.”

Klein summarizes: “Nineteenth-century Italy produced two outstanding Jewish religious

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