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PARASHAS TOLDOS: Pure Eyes

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Parashas Toldos Year 1 Issue 13
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וַיְהִי כִּי־זָקֵן יִצְחָק וַתִּכְהֶיןָ עֵינָיו מֵרְאֹת וַיִּקְרָא אֶת־עֵשָׂו בְּנוֹ הַגָּדֹל וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו בְּנִי וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו הִנֵּנִי׃

When Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, he called his older son Esau and said to him, “My son.” He answered, “Here I am.” (BEREISHIS 27:1)




Yitzchok Avinu Loses His Eyesight

In Parashas Toldos, the Torah tells us that Yitzchak Avinu lost his eyesight in his old age. The posuk says, ‘Vayehi Ki Zokein Yitzchak Vatich'heno Einov Meire’os’. Why did this happen to Yitzchak, why was he going blind? This did not happen to Avraham or Yaakov!


Rashi brings three different midrashim explaining why he went blind. The first midrash explains that it was because of the smoke from the avodo zoro conducted by Eisav's wives. The second midrash is that when Yitzchak was on the mizbayach and was ready to be slaughtered as a korbon, the malochei hashoreis watched and cried. Their tears fell into the eyes of Yitzchak, and the holiness of these tears caused his blindness. The third explanation is that this was a plan from Hashem: Yitzchak's blindness would facilitate mixing up Yaakov and Eisav's brachos.

There are several questions one can ask about these midrashim.

Why would Hashem 'punish' Yitzchak with blindness as a result of his willing to be a korban? Secondly, the tears could have fallen in other places—e.g., near him, or on his back. Why were they directed specifically to his eyes?


The Ba'aleiHatosfos ask another question: Rivka did not go blind, even though she was also around the smoke from the avodo zoro. So why is there this difference for yitzchok? The midrash explains that Rivka was already immune to the smoke of avodo zoro because it was always around her when she was a child. The Ba'alei Hatosfos further asks about the midrash that says that Yitzchak was in Gan Eden away from everything for two years. Why did the kedusha of Gan Eden not cure him of his blindness? Tosfos answers, ‘I don’t know.’ However, this could testify to the fact that his blindness was not a sickness to be cured. It was not a bad thing; rather, it had a good and positive side. Furthermore, it is possible that this blindness was what enabled Yitzchak to be in Gan Eden.


There is another Tosfos that says that when Hashem revealed himself in Yaakov's dream, He says, ‘Ani Hashem Elokei Avraham Avicho Ve'elokei Yitzchak.’ Hashem never declares His Name on a person unless they have already passed away, since they could change. Here, Yitzchak was still alive, so why does Hashem put His Name adjoining that of Yitzchak? Rashi answers that even though this does not usually happen, Hashem could do this since Yitzchak was blind and homebound, ensuring the certainty of his tzidkus; the yetzerhara was taken away from him. This might be the reason why Hashem made him blind in the first place.


The Kedusha Of Yitzchok – A Spiritual Blindness

Yitzchak was an oloh temimo, a korban. He was not allowed to leave Eretz Yisroel and had to live a life of kedushah. Part of this kedushah was that he would become blind, and he became blind from the tears of the malochim, the kedushah of the akeida. It did not damage his eyesight but rather made it holy, obscuring anything unholy around him. It was not a bad thing; therefore, GanEden did not have to cure him. As a korban, he had to be insulated from tumoh around him, and this is the reason that neither of the other avos had to experience blindness: they were not korbanos.


Vayehi Ki Zokein Yitzchak Vatich'heno Einov Meire’os.’ Why does the posuk add the words Meire'os, from seeing, in this posuk? It seems redundant. The Rishonim answer that the weakness of his eyes was not a weakness in and of itself, but rather a weakness from bad, so that he would not see bad things. The Chofetz Chaim lost some of his hearing when he got older. When people suggested hearing aids, he said, ‘My entire life, I've been trying not to hear. Now Hashem gave me a present. The less you hear, the better it is for you!’


Blindness is a mum; it is generally a bad thing. However, if Yitzchak was a korban, he had to have been complete. When Moshe Rabenu was niftar, it says he had all his five senses. He was old, but they were still complete. The halacha is that a navi must be complete, otherwise they will never receive a nevuoh. They must be strong and sholeim in all their bodily parts. So how then is it that Yitzchak with his blindness was still a korbon?

This blindness was not blindness in the usual sense of the word; it was not physical blindness. R’ Chaim Shmulevitz was hard of hearing, but for some reason, he managed to perfectly hear Torah learning. This case could be similar. Yitzchak got a maileh: selective eyesight that would enable him to see only certain things. This was his reward from the akeida. Vatich'heno Meire'os—it became difficult for him to see certain things, evil things that would be a hindrance to his kedushah.


From here, we can understand why the smoke of the avodo zoro caused problems for Yitzchak and not for Rivka. Rivka literally became desensitized to it, while Yitzchak’s eyes were kodesh because of the akeida and the tears of the malochim, and therefore, Yitzchok could not tolerate the smoke.


Becoming Immune to the Tumah

There is a posuk that says that Yitzchak was ‘Yefeh Einayim.’ Dovid was also ‘Yefeh Einayim.’ What does this mean? Avraham had an ayin tovoh. Perhaps being blind to part of the world constitutes having a 'good eye'. In some matters, the less you see, the healthier your eyesight is. Nowadays, everything that is going on around the world is available to be seen 24 hours a day. This constant exposure desensitizes us! Rivka illustrates this; although she was a tremendous tzadekes, her constant exposure to avodo zoro growing up desensitized her even much later in life.


When Yaakov comes in to get the brachos, Yitzchak exclaims, ‘Re’ei Rayach B’ni Ke’rayach Hasodeh Asher Beracho Hashem,’ the smell of my son is like the smell of the field. Rashi says that this field refers to Gan Eden. Reb Yerucham explains that Yitzchak was able to pick up this feeling of Gan Eden. It’s amazing!

The ChovosHalevovos brings a story that Eliyahu Hanavi was traveling with another person and he passed a rotting animal carcass. The man accompanying Eliyahu Hanavi closed his nose with his fingers, commenting on the smell. Eliyahu Hanavi, on the other hand, mentioned the animal’s nice teeth. A few blocks later, they passed by a person, a sinner. Here, Eliyahu put his fingers on his nose, and the other person did not feel anything. Says R’ Yerucham, there are certain people who are only sensitive to the physical and not the ruchniyus—for both the good and the bad. When someone is pure, they will become attuned to spiritual senses.


The Scent of Gan Eden, the Mitzvos

Yitzchak Avinu was saying that his sense of smell was very strong, he was able to detect the smell of Gan Eden. What are the fruits of Gan Eden? Beautiful spices; herbs of tzedakah, emunah, and emmes, all different types of spiritual spices. Lots of people put flowers in front of their house to make a good scent. But to make a good-smelling home, fill it with chessed and tzedakah. Many people told me over the years that when they walked into my grandparents' home, there was a feeling there that could not be explained. This was obviously the ruchniyus atmosphere of chessed and shmiras haloshon. Yitzchak was on the one hand sensitive to the smoke of avodo zoro but also sensitive to the smell of Gan Eden.


There is a powerful story I heard from my grandfather about the Alter from Slabodka. Every morning, a bochur would bring him porridge for breakfast. The bochur on duty had to leave for a few weeks, so in his place, he got another bochur to prepare it. This new bochur brought the breakfast, and the Rebbe started eating and yelled, ‘TARFUS!’ The bochurim in the yeshiva came running, and to understand the issue, they went to ask the bochur what he put in the breakfast. The bochur answered that he put in a little milk, butter, etc.… exactly the same as the first bochur. The only change was that he put in two spoons of sugar and butter instead of one. When the bochorim asked the Alter for an explanation, he said, ‘This bochur wanted to make the Alter think that he is better than the other bochur. Although it may not have been his conscious intention, it was in him. And this was something I could not take!’


We would not feel this bad middah since we are desensitized by the bad middos we are constantly exposed to! We see them in films and read them in books all the time. Yitzchak, on the other hand, was completely cut off from this so as to ‘see better.’


Seeing Hashem In Nature

The Rambam asked, how does one come to love Hashem? He answers, when one studies the Beria and sees the greatness of Hashem's creation, one begins to experience love for Hashem. Many people wake up every morning and see nature, yet it still does not seem to influence them this way, so what is the meaning of this Rambam? Conversely, why don't they take yeshiva bochurim on frequent nature walks to help bring out this feeling? The answer is that today, people don’t have the same sensitivity and won’t experience the same thing from a nature walk. We do not pick up the same feelings of love for Hashem since we are too immune to it.


A friend of mine once told me that this father, Rav Daniel, was walking in the Catskills one summer with R’ Moshe Shiskal, the son-in-law of R’ Moshe Feinstein. They were talking in learning, and Rav Daniel was holding a twig and absentmindedly broke it. R’ Moshe said to Rav Daniel, ‘It is alive! It is Hashem's creation! How could you do this?’ From here, one can learn a great lesson: people who are sensitive enough see life in everything around them also recognize Hashem in everything.


Be Sensitive to The Good Around Us

People are so desensitized that when they are confronted with ruchniyus, they do not even see it.

Once, R’ Rinehose overhead the following conversation between a man and R’ Yerucham. The man asked the following: ‘They say that R’ Yisroel Salanter was walking with someone and they saw the sunrise. R’ Yisroel began to dance and made the brocho, ‘Hanosein Lasechvi Vino Lehavchin Bein Yom Uvein Laila.’ He was amazed at what he saw, even though this was a sight he saw every day! We are not so many generations away from R’ Yisroel Salanter; how can we explain the vast discrepancy between how he experienced a sunrise and how we experience it?’ R’ Yerucham answered, ‘We are not so impressed since we know the sun does not rise just for me but for everyone. Going on an airplane as a VIP is only special since it gives you a feeling of comparative importance—that you are important, and others are not! When a person does not have a healthy attitude, this is what gives them enjoyment.’


The more we see from the sevivoh around us, the more it influences us. This not only takes away healthy emotions but rather causes us to have sick emotions that we think are normal. We have today, the media constantly floods us with the wrong hahskafos; we have lot of negative influence around us. We should try to shut it out and look for what’s real.


I heard from Harav Levinberg's father that his grandfather was once sitting at a table with the Chofetz Chaim, and there was a sefer on the table written by a not-so-learned man. In this sefer, there were a couple of mistakes. The grandfather commented, saying, ‘Look what this guy wrote.’ This is not even loshon hora since the author publicized the book with the intent that it should be read. The Chofetz Chaim pushed it away without looking. The man said, ‘It’s not loshon hora!’ The Chofetz Chaim answered, ‘It's true that halachikly it's not an issur, but why must I know about it?’


Not everything that is mutter is healthy. Be mindful of what you are exposing yourself to in order to maintain a positive outlook. If you have this, you will see Hashem every step of the way!

I want to end with the following beautiful story.


The Klausenberger Rebbe went through terrible ordeals in the concentration camps and lost his wife and 13 children. After the war, when they freed the people of the Muldorf[SM2] camp where he was imprisoned, buses came to take people to the DP camp. When he was waiting in line, he asked someone to make the bus wait for a moment. When he came back 15 minutes later, the man asked, ‘Rebbe, what did you need?’ The Rebbe did not want to answer. Years later, this man came to visit the Rebbe and asked, ‘What was it that you went back for?’ The Rebbe answered, ‘We lost everything in the camp. The only thing we had was Hashem, Who we could connect to with tefilla. The halacha is that one must have a set place for tefilla. That was my connection to Hashem! When I was leaving, I wanted to go to the place of this connection one last time to take that feeling with me for the rest of my life.'


Living with Hashem Helps Us Survive the Outside World

From this story, one can learn that there are two worlds: the olom hasheker, a world of dishonesty, evil, and difficulties, and inside it there is an inner world, and that world is pure and beautiful. This is the world where Hashem dwells. The outside world floods us with sheker. Yitzchak lived in the inner world, and although he was blind, he saw a lot more than what most people saw. If you go into the inner world, you will see Hashem even in the most difficult places.


In the tochocho it says that when bad things come to you, you will say, ‘Al Asher Ein Elokai Berkirbi Metza'uni Hatzoros Ho'ele,’ because Hashem is not within me all this evil has found me. It says Bekirbi, within me, and not Iti, with me since this is the deciding factor. If Hashem is within him, there could be lots of evil surrounding him, but he will still be able to function and live a life of shleimus.


Let us learn from this parasha to try to block the outside world and start living our own lives instead of the other person’s life. Otherwise, we will be busy all day about what is happening in everyone else’s life!



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