June 23, 2024
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June 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

If we analyze the pattern of Jewish wealth over history, we see the following: Whenever Jews became very successful, persecution began, with governments seizing Jewish assets or else turning a blind eye to public vandals who stole Jewish property outright. This occurred with the Romans who conquered Eretz Yisrael and expelled the Jews. The same happened in England, France, Spain, and Germany, and it was also true in the Arab countries of Iraq, Egypt, and Yemen. When the Jews were successful, they were evicted and were not allowed to take their possessions with them.

This pattern is rooted in the brachos that Yitzchak gave to Yaakov and Eisav. When Yitzchak asked Eisav to bring him venison, after which Yitzchak would bless him, Yitzchak’s wife Rivka asked Yaakov to disguise himself as Eisav, so Yaakov would receive the blessings from Yitzchak that were meant for Eisav: “Hashem shall give you from the dew of heaven and the fat of the land and plenty of grain and wine.” Yitzchak realized the deception when Eisav himself later walked in. Eisav begged Yitzchak for at least one blessing. Yitzchak agreed and started off with the same blessing, “From the richness of the land shall be your dwelling place and from the dew of the heaven above…”

How can Yitzchak give the same bracha to Eisav?

Rabbi Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik explains that Yitzchak actually knew his sons’ characters: Yaakov learned Torah in yeshiva all day and Eisav was a man of the field. Therefore, the bracha he wished to give to Eisav was one regarding the physical realm—land and wealth. That’s what Eisav was all about. Such a blessing might not be good for Yaakov, since it could distract him from his Torah learning, so he reserved a more spiritual blessing for him. This is evident from the brachos that Yitzchak gave Yaakov when sending him to Charan to find a wife. “Hashem should give the blessing of Avraham to you and your children and you will inherit the land of Eretz Yisrael.”

Yitzchak wanted Eisav to earn well and expected him to support his brother the Torah scholar! However, Rivka knew her sons better and realized that Eisav wouldn’t cooperate. Yaakov needed to receive the blessing of physical wealth to support himself and that’s what he received, thanks to his mother’s plan.

Yet, the blessing of land and wealth was not granted to Yaakov unconditionally. Yitzchak gave Eisav the same bracha as Yaakov, with a twist. Yaakov had a choice to be able to retain the blessing: If he used his wealth provided to him by Hashem for the spiritual realm, then he would be able to keep it, but if he used the wealth only for his own worldly pursuits then it would be transferred to Eisav.

Yaakov was the initial conduit for the blessing of the land- he would benefit and the world would be blessed through him; however, if Yaakov would not use his material possessions properly, then Eisav would seize the blessing from him. Yaakov must be worthy of the blessing at all times, and if not, all his assets will be transferred to Eisav. That’s why Eisav received the same blessing as Yaakov.

This same idea is alluded to when Rivka tells Yaakov to select two good goats. The Midrash explains that the goats are good for now so you can receive the brachos, and will be good for the future, when the two goats are offered on Yom Kippur in the Beis HaMikdash. There, one goat was designated l’Hashem to be used as a korban, while the other goat was l’azazel- thrown off a jagged cliff in the desert as atonement for Klal Yisrael. Rivka was hinting to Yaakov that he could use his physical blessing either l’Hashem, to strengthen his connection to the Almighty, or l’azazel as a gift to Eisav. The choice would be his to make.

The Seder on each night closes with the poem of Chad Gadya—one goat. The Vilna Gaon explains it’s referring to two goats, since chad gadya is repeated twice each time—one goat plus another goat. The story of the two goats starts with Yaakov and Eisav, identical twins who take divergent paths. Our story then progresses with the two goats Yaakov took to feed Yitzchak, alluding to the future of Yaakov and Eisav through the millennia- always at odds with each other, with Eisav plotting to retrieve the inheritance Yaakov received from Yitzchak. This is what has happened throughout history: when the Jews were successful in accumulating wealth but didn’t use their wealth for appropriate purposes, they were evicted from their country minus their possessions.

Let’s make sure we keep our priorities in order. Our material blessings as children of Yaakov should be used to help us forge a closer relationship with Hashem, via Torah, charity, and the Torah-based education of our children…these are all investments in Jewish eternity, which will protect us from Eisav.

By Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim

 

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