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Shabbat Parashat Toldot 5776

Parashat Hashavua: Better Late Period!

Harav Shaul Yisraeli based on Siach Shaul, p. 81-82

The Talmud begins with a discussion of night (regarding Kri’at Shema). Creation started at night (Bereishit 1:5). Night precedes day. There are two philosophies in this matter: the Jewish and the non-Jewish. Whatever includes more complexity requires more preparatory time. Whoever is preparing for a more important position must work longer for it.

We find, in terms of different periods, that the world we live in is like the night (Pesachim 2b), in which we prepare for the world to come, which is like the day. “It is for us to do [the mitzvot] today and receive their reward tomorrow (in the next world)” (Eiruvin 22a).

Eisav and Yaakov symbolize the different approaches. Eisav came out first, he was born developed, and he continued to develop quickly. He married early and raised families into political/military units quickly. In contrast, Yaakov did everything – raising family, creating a base of livelihood, returning home – slowly. This contrast is of particular interest considering that the directions of Yaakov’s and Eisav’s nations are inversely proportional – when one falls, the other one rises (Pesachim 42b).

Bnei Yisrael do not want to “harvest its fruit in this world.” Even the material success that we are apt to receive for our good deeds is not an ends of its own but a means to continue doing mitzvot so that we can merit the world to come (Rambam, Teshuva 9:1). Eisav is the opposite. He grabs the fruit immediately. He is developed early; he wants to enjoy quickly; and the results follow suit. When one harvests the fruit in his youth, his old age consists of times that are of no interest. An old Torah scholar is different, as his mind becomes more settled as he ages (Kinim 3:6). That is why one who knows how to put the night first will merit having the day shine brightly, whereas one who puts the day first receives a never-ending night.

“Avraham was old” (Bereishit 24:1). Chazal (Bereishit Rabba 65) tell us that Avraham innovated old-age.  In contrast, there is a Yiddish saying about the negative element of Terach’s old-age. This is because all of Terach’s vitality was in his youth, when he had physical strength, and this is representative of the non-Jewish approach. We believe in improving in old-age, as Avraham taught.

The midrash (Bereishit Rabba 63:9) tells of the Roman official who asked a Jew: “Who will seize the kingdom after us.” The Jew answered: “[Yaakov’s] hand was holding [Eisav’s] ankle.” The official responded: “See the old things from a new old man.” Everyone knows about the rise and fall of nations, but this idea came not from a youngster but from a “new old man.” We are an old nation that does not lose its vitality in “old age.” While this surprised the Roman, it is an old secret of our people. Our national trials and tribulations are a preparation for the future – for the time of Mashiach, and we should value the State of Israel as being a step in that direction.

This world is like night … but there is light in the night as well. The light of the Torah may look small to us, in comparison with the sun, or historically in comparison to the success of certain nations, but the success is being stored up and the moon will eventually be restored to its greatness. When do we say Kriat Shema at night? The answer is: when we purify ourselves (see Berachot 2a). It is, for example, when a person comes home from work in the field and does not eat and sleep and spend time with his family first but makes sure to leave time to daven and learn Torah. While it seems too great a sacrifice, this is the way to make sure that one is spiritually ready for the next day’s work so that it will not swallow him up.
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