Parshas Toldos 5759 - '98

Outline Vol. 3 # 5

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Levels of Kindness

Avraham exemplified kindness. He greeted strangers with great warmth and vitality. At the same time, we note a different characteristic, a certain selectivity: He left family in Haran, he separated from his nephew Lot, and sent away Hagar and Yishmael.

No one is beyond hope, however. The family Avraham left in Haran are reunited in marriage with Avraham's children; he wages war to save Lot from captivity; he again accepts Hagar and Yishmael into the family. Eliezer, Avraham's Caananite servant, is not allowed to marry into the family -- yet is entrusted with the responsibility to find the suitable spouse for Avraham's son!

Compatibility of Rivka and Avraham

Avraham's daughter-in-law was also chosen for the quality of kindness. The girl who would offer more than what she was asked for, would be the right choice. Indeed, when Eliezer and his men approached Rivka and asked for water, she offered to water their camels as well -- until they would be satisfied. Camels, after a long trip, require an enormous quantity of water. The kindness of Avraham had found its match.

Yet, it is Rivka, the epitome of kindness, who chooses between her own sons. Behind the scenes, Rivka manipulated the blessings of her husband without his knowledge. Against Yaakov's wishes, she insisted that Yaakov deceive his father in order to receive the blessings.

Due to Rivka's act, Eisav declared intent to kill his brother. How did it happen, that the woman who represented kindness, act in defiance of the Avos (Patriarchs) Yitzchak and Yaakov,and cause such a difficult situation?

The Power of Blessing

We find that Avraham was given the power to bless whomsoever he chose, yet did not confer any blessings. The Medrash informs us that Avraham faced a dilemma. If he were to bless one of his sons, how could he satisfy the other sons? If he were to bless Yitzchak, perhaps Yitzchak would bless the wrong grandson. Because of the dilemma, he refrained from uttering a blessing. "Let the Owner of the blessings come and bless!" (See the different versions in Medrash and Rashi)

The kindness of Avraham requires certain constrictions. In order for kindness to have the proper effect, it must be limited to a precise measure, applied in the correct time and place, and given to a suitable recipient.

After Avraham's death, Hashem Himself blessed Yitzchak.

>From an early stage of pregnancy, Rivka had prophetic instructions as to the selection process. The "Owner of the blessings" -- through the intermediary of a prophet -- had come to administer the selection...

The Blessing of Suffering

When it was clear that he had lost the blessings, Eisav cried. Yitzchak then blessed Eisav that he could strike at Yaakov, if and when Yaakov did not satisfy the Will of Hashem. The unspeakable horrors of the pogroms and holocausts are thus foretold in the narrative.

The Alter of Kelm added a new twist. What was the reason that Yitzchak wanted to bless Eisav? The Medrash relates that Avraham requested old age, so that the sons would be differentiated from the fathers. Hashem agreed. Yitzchak requested suffering, however. He was afraid of the final judgment, and realized that hardship in this world would be a mitigating factor, promoting leniency in the next world. Hashem agreed to Yitzchak's request, and thus Yitzchak's eyes failed -- as his share of suffering.

Yitzchak intended to give Eisav supremacy in this world, which would, in turn, cause intense hardship and affliction for Yaakov. By allowing Yaakov to suffer greatly in this world, Yitzchak was defending him in the

next. However, it was decided that such excruciating pain would be more than anyone could bear. Yaakov was not allowed to be maltreated to the final extreme, and thus had to receive the blessings.

The blessings did not materialize during Yaakov's lifetime; indeed, Yaakov suffers greatly in spite of them. As the Ramban explains, all the curses in the Torah have been fulfilled, but the blessings have not yet been fulfilled.

The Alter found great consolation and cheer in these words, for they add meaning to our daily hardships and pain. (Chochma Umusar, vol. 1)


In several places, the Maharal explained why it is that certain incidents of the Torah happen by force. Elements that are absolutely essential, cannot be entrusted to human choice. People are frail, and there is always a doubt as to whether the correct choice will be made; sometimes, the decision must be made without consultation. For example: the descent

into Egypt, and the giving of the Torah, are described by the Rabbis as having been coerced. These two episodes were essential to the entire Torah, so they could not be left up to human decision.

It appears that this is the reason Avraham gave the blessings back to Hashem. The decision as to whom to bless, was too great to be entrusted to an individual; only Hashem can make such correct calculations accurately.

Of all the parties involved, all acted under coercion except for Rivka, who was only fulfilling the prophecy (see Ramban).

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Beis Medrash Yeshivas Chafetz Chayim Kiryas Radin

11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156
E-mail: yaakovb@torah.org

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.