וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת יִצְחָק בֶּן אַבְרָהָם אַבְרָהָם הוֹלִיד אֶת יִצְחָק
And these are the generations of Yitzchok the son of Avraham, Avraham begot Yitzchok. (Braishis 25/19)
On the phrase, “V’aileh toldos Yitzchak” And these are the descendants of Yitzchak, Rashi comments, “Yaakov and Eisav (who are) mentioned in the parsha.”
Zera Shimshon asks, firstly, what was difficult to Rashi that he came to explain. And secondly, what is his answer? Seemingly it is obvious that Yaakov and Eisav are his descendants since right after this pasuk the Torah tells us that Rivkah, Yitzchak’s wife, gave birth to Yaakov and Eisav. Obviously, then, these are Ytzchak’s descendants! Why did Rashi have to tell us this?
Zera Shimshon explains that Rashi was bothered by the fact that it is written, “V’aileh toldos Yitzchak”, And these are the offspring of Yitzchak, with the word “and” and not simply “Aileh toldos Yitzchak” these are the offspring of Yitzchak, without the word “and”.
You might ask, “What is the difference with the “vav” or without the “vav”? Well, it is written in the midrash that whenever a pasuk begins with the word “these….” “aileh” as opposed to, “and these, v’aileh” it comes to separate and exclude what is mentioned from what had been previously mentioned. V’aileh, on the other hand, suggests that what is mentioned is a continuation of what was previously mentioned and adding to it. For example, after the Torah relates that Hashem gave the Aseres Hadibros, the Ten Commandments on Har Sinai comes Parshas Mishpatim, which contains many civil laws such as the laws concerning the payment for damages, the punishment for stealing and laws concerning the responsibility of different types of watchmen. In order that people won’t think that Moshe made up the civil laws by himself, Parshas Mishpatim opens with the words, “V’aileh hamishpatim” and not “Aileh hamishpatim” to teach us that just like the Aseres Hadibros were given on Har Sinai so too Hashem gave us the civil laws of mishpatim on Har Sinai.
Rashi was therefore bothered that our parsha opens with v’aileh instead of aileh. Last week’s parsha ended with the listing of the offspring of Yishmael, and by beginning our parsha with v’aileh instead of aileh the Torah is telling us that the descendants of Yitzchak are similar to the descendants of Yishmael! How can this be? True, Eisav was a rasha like Yishmael but Yaakov wasn’t.
Rashi was also bothered by a seeming contradiction to this.
In this pasuk the Torah refers to Yitzchak Avinu as “Yitzchak ben Avraham” and not simply, “Yitzchak.” Why is this? Since we already know from last week’s parsha that Yitzchak’s father was Avraham why did the Torah have to repeat it. Zera Shimshon suggests that it must be to stress that both children who were born to Yitzchak and Rivka, Yaakov and Eisav, resembled Avraham, their grandfather.
It is easy to understand how Yaakov resembled Avraham, since both were tzaddikim, however how is there even the slightest resemblance between Eisav, who was a rasha and Avraham who was a tzaddik?
In short, how can it be that on the one hand Yitzchak’s offspring resemble Yishmael and at the same time they also resemble Avraham?
A possible answer is that each son is compared to someone else; Eisav to Yishmael and Yaakov to Avraham.
Rashi refutes this and therefore he writes; the descendants of Yitzchak were both “Yaakov and Eisav” and that they both equally resemble Avraham and are both equally compared to Yishmael!
Zera Shimshon gives a fascinating explanation about how this can be.
When Chava ate from the Eitz Hadaas she caused that “sparks of kedushah” became entrapped and entangled in “shells of tummah.” Until the end of time, little by little through the performance of mitzvos and good deeds these particles of kedushah are liberated from the shells of tummah.
Concerning Avraham, it is written, “kee av hamone goyim n’satticha, because I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” Zera Shimshon, explains that this means that Avraham extracted and freed the kedusha that was entrapped in these people.
Zera Shimshon explains that Avraham only began the process. He explains that the pains that Rivkah experienced when she was pregnant with Yaakov and Eisav, wasn’t simply that they were fighting but it was Yaakov fighting to extract the kedusha that was entrapped in Eisav. Yaakov’s effort was very fruitful. On the pasuk, “shney goyim b’bitnaich, there are two nations in your womb,” Rashi explains that it is not referring to Yaakov and Eisav but rather it is referring to Rebbi (the Tanna who wrote the Mishnayos) and Antoninos, who was a descendant of Eisav and although he was the king of Rome, he served Rebbi like a servant serves his master! How can it be that Rivka was carrying in her womb Rebbi and Antoninos who were born more than a thousand years later?
The answer is that Yaakov was able to free the kedusha that was hidden deep in Eisav which was the seed that eventually resulted in Antinonos who was completely submissive to kedusha.
It is in this way that Eisav and Yaakov are considered to replicate Avraham. It is not that they are similar to Avraham in that he was a tzaddik, since Eisav was a rasha and not a tzaddik. Rather, it is that just like Avraham freed the particles of kedusha so too kedusha was freed through Yaakov and Eisav.
The comparison to Yishmael also applies to some of the descendants of Yaakov just as it applies to Eisav like we learn that there are some people who have no portion in the World to Come.
In summary, Rashi holds that both of Yitzchak’s descendants, Yaakov and Eisav, resemble Avraham in that just as Avraham unveiled the kedusha in the pagans who were his followers so too through Yaakov and Eisav the kedusha that was concealed in Eisav was revealed. Unfortunately, both also have elements of Yishmael in their descendants.