Toldot 5775

November 20, 2014


Once again the Netziv in his commentary on this week’s sedra deals with an important, fundamental facet of Judaism…the the physical world is paralleled by a spiritual world. And just as there are laws governing the physical world, so there are laws governing the spiritual world.

Man is made up of body & soul and although we cannot see the soul we know that we have one. We can feel it. Just like we cannot see the wind, only its effects. Unfortunately, the effect, of sin, for example eating non-kosher, on the soul cannot be seen, whereas the effect of drugs or poison on the body are seen easily.

Now to the Netziv in Harchev Davar on chap 27 verse 1.

“Know that Hashem engineered a spiritual teva to work alongside the physical one. We cannot account for how it operates by referring to the rules that govern the natural world, but we are still certain of the existence of this spiritual order. One of its rules is that chesed will be rewarded in this world as surely as the sun rises in the east. No Divine finger will reach from the heavens to make this happen, but it will happen nonetheless. Without overt miracles, without fanfare, Divine Providence will see to it that chesed bears fruit.

Moreover, because this is a law of nature, even if on a spiritual plane, a person need not be righteous or even good to reap the benefits of this law. Physical laws do not discriminate on the basis of moral worth; neither does this one. Chesed will reward even the person who performs it without any reference to the Will of his Creator! Even when informed only by a person’s own subjective moral code, or even if being a giving person is simply part of his nature, acts of chesed will pay off in this world.

Ultimately, this is what “Olam chesed yibaneh” / “The world will be built through chesed[psalms 89:3] ” means: the power of chesed is part of the inner architecture of the universe. Noach made direct reference to this in his berachah to Yefes: Yaft Elokim le-Yefes[Gen 9:27] /G-d will make things beautiful for Yefes. His morality will grow out of the application of rational thought – out of the attractiveness of logical appeal – and lead to moral behavior that is esthetically pleasing and appropriate, including acts of kindness to fellow humans. Those acts will be rewarded. When Chazal speak [Pesachim 118a] of twenty-six generations of mankind sustained by chesed before the Torah was given, they mean the same. Acts of chesed performed during those times fueled the Divine blessings through which people survived, even though they were not serving Hashem.

Yitzchok’s intention was to maximize the effectiveness of the chesed factor in the lives of Esav and his offspring. Just as curses can be potent – but only where there is already cause for punishment – the beracha of the tzadik can intensify and expand the good that is already destined to come as a result of some good conduct. Yitzchok believed that Yaakov should not make use of the Natural Law of Chesed in his avodah. Yitzchok knew Yaakov to be capable of and suited for a more elevated form of service, in which all his conduct was expected to respond to Hashem’s Will. He understood that Yaakov would assume the role of one dedicated entirely to Torah and mitzvos, performed completely le-shem shomayim. His reward would come in the next world, not in ours. (Two factors supported Yitzchok’s conclusion. He knew that Yaakov excelled in chesed, and thus could be held to a higher standard regarding it. Furthermore, Yitzchok’s own midah was din, of responding to Hashem’s expectations with exactitude and precision, and no room for error. He therefore expected Yaakov to “tough it out,” in his avodah, without any special crutches.)

Yitzchok did not see Esav heading for the same kind of life. He did think that Esav was capable of appreciating and performing chesed on his own terms, even if those reasons would not be for the sake of Heaven. He wished that Esav could sustain himself through that chesed, and his berachah was intended to further empower the benefits of those acts of kindness.

Rivkah, in her love for Yaakov, saw things differently. She saw ample room for Yaakov putting the power of imperfect chesed to good use, especially when embellished by the berachah of the tzadik. She did not disagree with Yitzchok that Yaakov himself had no use for imperfect chesed. She realized, however, that the descendants of Yaakov would not all comport themselves like their noble progenitor. She saw evildoers in the future – even some heretics in many generations – who would do much chesed. They would be greatly assisted by reaping reward for their good works.

Hashgachah found a way that Yaakov would receive a berachah that, on the face of things, really did not belong to him. The Natural Law of Chesed was intended to assist the other nations of the world; it was not to be part of the assigned role of the Jewish people. Hashgachah, however, concurred with Rivkah’s assessment that many Jews would have to rely upon it for their well-being, at least in this temporal life.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Wise


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