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A Cup Full of Warmth

A Cup Full of Warmth

In this week’s parsha it says, “And Yitzchak loved Eisav Ki Tzayid Bifiv (because game was in his mouth), but Rivka loved Ya’akov” (Parshas Toldos, 25:28). Every year we wonder how Yitzchak could have loved Eisav given that Eisav was guilty of murder, rape, and thievery. It is difficult to suggest that Yitzchak had no idea that Eisav was such a rasha. Although it is true that Yitzchak was blind, that was only at the end of his life. Besides, Yitzchak was a navi (prophet), and a navi can see more with his eyes closed that the average person can see with their eyes wide open.

Was Yitzchak so disconnected from his family that he had no clue as to what was going on? Was Yitzchak so distant from his wife and children that he had no idea what was happening right under his nose? It is hard to suggest that Yitzchak was simply living in the dark.

But if we go with the approach that Yitzchak was well aware of Eisav’s involvement in evil, how could he have loved him? Eisav was a criminal. Eisav should have been locked up and the key should have been thrown away. By contrast, once Avraham found out that Yishmael had committed the same type of crimes as Eisav did, Avraham hated him and sent him away (see Rashi, Parshas Vayeira, 21:14, citing Tanchuma Parshas Shemos, #1). If so, how could Yitzchak have loved Eisav?

Rabbi Meir of Premishlan (1703-1773, Ukraine; a disciple of the Ba’al Shem Tov) addresses this question based on a fascinating Gemara in Meseches Shabbos.

In Meseches Shabbos (chap. 9, “Amar Rebbi Akiva”, pg. 89b) Rav Shmuel bar Nachmeini in the name of Rebbi Yonasan explored the meaning of a verse which says, “For You are our Father because Avraham did not know us, and Yisrael did not recognize us, You Hashem are our Father, ‘our Eternal Redeemer’ is Your Name” (Yeshaya, 63:16). Rav Shmuel says that this pasuk is pointing to an event which has not yet happened.

In the future, Hashem will say to Avraham, “Your children have sinned against me.” Avraham will respond, “Master of the Universe, if they have sinned against You, wipe them out and sanctify Your Name.”

Hashem said to Himself that He had better bring His complaints against the Jewish people to Ya’akov Avinu because he had tza’ar giddul banim (pain of raising a huge family). The more a person invests into his family, the more it generates compassion from the parent for his family. As such, maybe Ya’akov would ask Hashem to be merciful on his family, the Jewish people.

Hashem will say to Ya’akov, “Your children sinned against Me.” Ya’akov will respond, “Master of the Universe, if they sinned against You wipe them out and sanctify Your Name.”

Hashem said, “There is no reasoning by the grandfather (Avraham), and there is no council by the grandson (Ya’akov).” With no other choice, Hashem will turn to Yitzchak Avinu.

Hashem will say to Yitzchak, “Your children have sinned against Me.” Yitzchak will respond, “Are they my children and not Your children? When the Jewish people said, ‘We will do and we will obey’ (Parshas Mishpatim, 24:7), You called them Your “Firstborn Child” (Parshas Shemos, 4:22). And now they are my children and not Your children?”

Yitzchak will continue to say, “Besides, how much did they sin anyway? The average life-span of a person is seventy years (Tehillim, 90:10). We must subtract twenty years from the seventy because a person is not held responsible for his actions until he reaches the age of twenty (see Rashi, Parshas Chayei Sarah, 23:1, citing Bereishis Rabba, Parshas Chayei Sarah, 58:1). That leaves us with fifty years.

We must subtract twenty-five years from the fifty because half of that time is night when people are sleeping. When they are sleeping, they are not sinning. Now we are left with twenty-five years.

Now we must subtract twelve and a half years from the twenty-five because people are preoccupied half of that time with praying, eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom. When they are taking care of their basic necessities, they are not sinning. So, even if they spend every other possible moment sinning, we are only left with just twelve and a half years of sin.

So, if You can handle twelve and a half years of sin, do so and forgive them. If that is asking too much, then let’s go fifty-fifty. You carry the burden of six and a quarter years and I will carry the burden of six and a quarter years.

But if You want to place all twelve and a half years on me, then go right ahead because I can handle it on account of the fact that I allowed myself to be sacrificed on the altar as an offering to God.” Hashem will accept Yitzchak’s plea.

When the Jewish people will hear about Yitzchak’s pleading and bargaining on their behalf, they will say, “You (Yitzchak) are our father” (Yeshaya, 63:16). Yitzchak will say to the Jewish people, “Before you praise me, praise Hashem.”

Yitzchak will show them a vision of Hashem. They will lift their eyes on high and say, “You Hashem are our Father, ‘our Eternal Redeemer’ is Your Name” (Yeshaya, 63:16).

This captivating Gemara leaves us with some questions. For example, how could it be that the only one who was able to defend the Jewish people was Yitzchak? Yitzchak’s middah (characteristic) was gevura (strength, might, power, and discipline). The verse even refers to him as, “Pachad Yitzchak” (the trepidation of Yitzchak; Parshas Vayeitzei, 31:42). It seems so out of character for Yitzchak to become the defending attorney.

How could it be that Avraham suggested that the Jews should be wiped out? Of all people, Avraham would be the last person we would expect to express such harsh criticism laced into the Jewish people. Avraham was all about chesed and kindness. Why couldn’t Avraham defend us?

How could it be that Ya’akov suggested that we all be killed out? How could Ya’akov, the compassionate one, come out so strongly against the Jewish people? What happened to his sympathy and empathy for his children which was cultivated by his tza’ar giddul banim?

Rebbi Meir of Premishlan answers all of this by pointing out that Yitzchak found himself in a very unique position. Yitzchak had a wicked son called Eisav. But Yitzchak loved him anyway.

You see, when Avraham had a wicked son, he (Avraham) kicked him (Yishmael) out of the house. Therefore, Avraham could not have expected that Hashem keep His wicked son, Israel. That is why Avraham had to tell Hashem to get rid of them (the Jews) because that is how he treated his own son.

Regarding Ya’akov, he never had a wicked son. Although some of Ya’akov’s children sinned, they were not wicked. Rather, they were righteous people who made a few mistakes. As such, Ya’akov never had the opportunity to demonstrate that he would have loved even a wicked son. Therefore, Ya’akov also had no other choice other than to tell Hashem to destroy the Jewish people.

Yitzchak, however, was the only one of the Avos who had a rasha for a son whom he loved anyway. Only Yitzchak could say to Hashem, “Master of the Universe, I am just a person of flesh and blood. It was difficult for me to love my wicked son, Eisav, but I did so anyway. You, however, are the Almighty Kind and Compassionate One (Parshas Ki Sisa, 34:6). Therefore, You must certainly be able to forgive Your children, and love them anyway.”

This is the meaning of our verse which says that Yitzchak loved Eisav, “Ki Tzayid Bifiv” (because game was in his mouth; Parshas Toldos, 25:28). The expression “Tzayid Bifiv” does not only mean that Eisav had trapped his father Yitzchak with his (Eisav’s) mouth. Rather, the expression, “Ki Tzayid Bifiv” also means that Yitzchak was able to trap Hashem with his (Yitzchak’s) mouth. This is because Yitzchak worked on himself to love Eisav unconditionally. In this way, he would be able to trap (tzayid) Hashem with his (Yitzchak’s) mouth (fiv) with a defense on behalf of the Jewish people.

One lesson that we can learn from this approach is that showing love even to a rasha has positive effects, either on him (the rasha) or on the entire world.

This could also be the interpretation of a pasuk which we recite on Leil Haseder (Passover night) which says, “Shfoch Chamascha Al Hagoyim Asher Lo Yida-uchah” (pour forth Your wrath upon the nations that do not recognize you; Tehillim, 79:6). An alternative translation of these words could be, “Pour forth Your warmth (Chamascha, from the word Chome, warm) upon the nations that do not recognize You.”

If the wicked would only know about how much warmth Hashem has for them in His heart, they would stop their wickedness. If the reshaim would only know how much Hashem loves them, they would instantly make positive changes in their behavior.

One practical application of this teaching would be to cultivate even more love in our hearts even for people who may have drifted to the farthest, darkest, and lowest of places. That love and affection is extremely powerful and can heal a lot of pain that these people may be going through.

So, may we all be blessed to ignite a new flame of spirituality within us, no matter what our backgrounds are, and may we use that flame to share light, warmth, comfort, and love to everyone that we meet.

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