LOWINGER FAMILY EDITION
Esav Hates Yaakov
In this week’s parashah, Parashas Vayishlach, it talks about the confrontation of Yaakov with Eisav. The issues they were dealing with were old issues of the past: Hatred which began when Yaakov took the bechoro. Since then, Eisav hated Yaakov. Through the many years, this hatred did not go away. Yaakov is now afraid that if they see each other, the hatred will renew itself to the point that Eisav would be ready to kill him and his entire family.
The posuk says that the messengers that Yaakov sent came back with a message saying, ‘Bonu El Ochicho El Eisav Vegam Holeich Likros'cho Ve'arba Me'os Ish Imo.’ Eisav is not just coming to confront and argue; rather, he is coming to war with an entire army to fight against you! Usually, war is between two nations. Here, Yaakov did not even want to fight; he sent presents, and yet Eisav came with an army that was prepared to kill!
Rashi says ‘Bonu El Ochicho El Eisav, Shehoyiso Omer Ochi Hu.’ You had an illusion that maybe he would treat you as a brother; rather, he is still entrenched in his hatred. The explanation in the Rashi can be that brothers can fight and get angry with each other for many years, but at some point, it starts to dissipate. However, Eisav was still steadfast in his original hatred. From here, we see the halacha that ‘Eisav Soneh LeYaakov.’ A brother is not supposed to hate eternally, yet here, Eisav hates forever. What is the meaning of this? Eisav did not even want the bechoro, he wanted to get rid of it anyway. So, the fight is actually moot! The psukim say that Eisav was very successful, and there was no way for him to know that Yaakov was successful as well. This is proved from Eisav's question when he asks Yaakov clearly, ‘Mee Eleh Loch?’ Who are all these people? Before Eisav came, he had no idea that Yaakov had riches and a large family; he thought he would be sitting all alone learning. Why then did Eisav, who had a lot of power and walked around with Nimrod's clothing, care about Yaakov? Yaakov sent Eisav a message saying that the berochos did not take affectand gave him presents that proved this (animals instead of produce, to show that his success had nothing to do with the berocho of "Mi'tal Hashomoyim Umeshmaney Ha'aretz").
However, if Eisav sees that the bechoro was irrelevant, he had all the gashmiyus he wanted, and the berochos were not even miskayim. In that case, what were they fighting about? A simple answer can be that they were, in fact, fighting about nothing. That is what most fights are usually about. When people come to me with fights, I tell them to write down all their complaints on a piece of paper. Usually, the paper comes back blank.
It could also be that this is simply halacha, this is the way Hashem wanted the world to be. The reason Eisav and Yaakov could not get along together was so that Yaakov should not want to become partners and join together. That could easily have happened throughout the generations. This way, we stay isolated and the Goyim hate us. Less of a risk of intermarriage…
The Meforshim ask what does it mean that this is halacha?Halachas are dinnim and mishpotim, so what does it mean that it is a halacha that Eisav Soneh LeYaakov? Another meaning of halacha, apart from a din, is a 'way of life,' a fact of life. Other Rishonim explain that when one is in doubt and does not know how to act towards a Goy, act according to the principle that Eisav hates Yaakov. However, what is the root cause of this precept? It has to do with the jealousy of the berochos. What was Eisav jealous of with the berochos? The answer is the difference between a Jew and a Goy: Yaakov thinks 'Achi,' Eisav is my brother and will let go of any former animosity. But Eisav was still saturated with his hatred. The cause for this conflict is that Yaakov is a Jew and Eisav is a Goy.
Reuven’s Character Is an Exemplar Of A Jew
The above is found in Rashi. Reuven, the first of the shevatim, is called so because ‘Ki Ro’o Hashem Be'onyi’ — Hashem saw my pain. We know that there was another reason he was called Reuven: ‘Reu Ma Bein Bni Li'ven Chomi,’ look at the difference between my son Reuven and my father-in-law's son. Eisav hated Yaakov until the end because of the bechoro that he gave away, whereas Reuven loses the bechoro to Yosef, and even so, he goes to protect Yosef. Leah is saying that there is a basic divide between an Eisav and a Reuven.
The posuk says the reason for Reuven's name is ‘Ki Ro’o Hashem Beonyi,’ so why would Chazal come and give a different reason? Which one is the reason for the name Reuven? The Gr"a says that most of the Shevatim were named because of cause and effect, ‘Al Kein Kara.’ In Reuven's case, it was the other way around: first the effect, then the reason. This is because the posuk is hinting to look in Chazal for another explanation. From here, we can see the beauty of the words in the posuk. Why then does the Torah not just say the reason clearly? What is the secret? There are two explanations. Firstly, the Gemara's reason relates to the future that there will be MechirasYosef, so it is in a remez. Another pshat is as follows: Leah uses the word Chomi, blaming the father-in-law. This is very common in marriage. People often blame the other side. Here, Leah is putting Yitzchak into the picture. It is an embarrassing and private issue, so when people asked her why she named her child Reuven, she said the other reason.
The Importance Of Respecting You Wife
I would say a different Explanation. Reu can mean 'see' in the past or the future. Leah was suffering, she was supposed to marry Eisav and she ended up in the house of Yaakov by trickery because she refused to have children from Eisav. Both reasons are different aspects of the same issue: 'Hashem saw my suffering’ that I did not want Eisav, and, ‘Look what will happen with Eisav who I could have married, and look what will happen with my son.' And for this, I sacrificed my happiness, that I would always be the second wife. Yaakov did not hate Leah, but she was wife number two and as a wife, she feels hated. This is a lesson that a man must make sure his wife knows that she is his Number One: the best cook, the prettiest, etc.…
I know a personal story about R’ Shmuel Kaminetsky. R’ Shmuel was once at a convention and wanted to relay a message to his wife, so he asked someone, ‘Please call my wife from the lady’s section.' The man replied, ‘How will I know who your wife is?’ He answered, ‘She is the smartest, prettiest, and the best woman on the other side of the mechitzah.’
When Rochel asks Leah for the dudoyim, Leah gives her a tongue-lashing, saying, ‘Bad enough you took my husband, now you want to take the flowers of my son?!’ Rochel could have said, ‘Who took whose husband?’ Meforshim say that this was the greatness of the way Rochel gave Leah her husband. Rochel never gave Leah the feeling that she was the second choice. She almost believed that she was wife number one. Rochel never let Leah find out the truth!
I heard from the Rosh Yeshiva R’ Moshe Feinstein Zatzal a beautiful vort. When Rochel was niftar, Yaakov took the bed and gave it to the shifcha of Rochel. This upset Reuven, since at least if Rochel was not around anymore, Leah should be the number-one wife, not a shifcha. Reuven was punished for this. Was he not correct? Wasn't it a bizoyon for Leah in a way? Why did Yaakov do this? If Yaakov had given the bed to Leah, he would have been making a statement that Leah had been wife number two, and now that Rochel was niftar, she was becoming wife number one. This way, by putting the bed in the shifcha's tent, Yaakov is conveying the message that Rochel and Leah were always equal. Reuven's mistake was that he did not fully understand Yaakov's reasoning and questioned daas Torah: Yaakov was honoring Leah, not causing a bizoyon. This illustrates the importance of not questioning what the Rabbonim say. Leah was not second-best but always felt she was in her life. And for her, this was a big sacrifice because she left Eisav and assumed this position of second-best in order to show the world ('Reu') the difference between Eisav and Yaakov's son. From this, we can understand Chazal's complementary explanation for the posuk.
Eisav had no use for the bechoro, and anyway had all the gashmiyus berochos, yet he still hated Yaakov. From a Goy's standpoint, if you take what’s mine, I will bury you alive! A yid is mevater. Although it does not always seem so, the yidden have the ko'ach when it comes to capabilities.
A yid forgives
The Rambam says that if someone slights his friend and the friend asks forgiveness, it is forbidden to be cruel and not forgive. How can he say it is cruel? My heart does not forgive! The Rambam calls such a person an achzar. A Goy is called a Nochri — strange, foreign. This contrasts with a Jew, who is automatically connected. Zor means stranger; an ach forgives. Yidden are achim, brothers. One does not have to forgive a zor, a stranger. The Rambam continues that even if the person did tremendous sins to you, you should not take revenge and should forgive them. This is the way of a Jew: to overlook, forget, and put it past you. The Goyim have an expression that 'revenge is sweet.' The Rambam teaches us that Jews, on the other hand, have an expression that revenge is cruel!
Reuven let the bechoro go, reasoning that, 'My brother is a brother.' Later, when the shevatim came down to Egypt and realized Hashem was punishing them for the selling of Yosef, the posuk says, ‘Al Ochinu,’ it’s about our brother. This could mean that even though there were legitimate complaints against Yosef, when he begged for forgiveness, they should have helped him. When a brother begs and you don’t forgive, it's achzarius. Although the brothers knew they were right, because Hashem was with them at the time of the Mechiras Yosef, they still should have forgiven a brother begging for mercy.
Goy Echad Baretz- We Are Together As One
Every morning we make a brocho ‘Shelo Osani Goy.’ There are many different terms for a Goy. Why was this one chosen? The Taz in Shulchan Aruch asks further, why is the berocho worded in the negative sense, that 'You did not make me a Goy’? Why is the berocho not that ‘You made me a Jew’? The Gemara in Eruvin says that it is better for a person not to have been created because life brings a multitude of problems. Therefore, one cannot make a berocho 'You made me' in the positive sense because of its thanking Hashem for creating you. There is another teshuva from R’ Shlomo Kluger. The Or Hachaim addresses a question from someone that he does not want to say ‘Shelo Osani Goy,’ rather ‘Shelo Osani Akum’ since we are also a Goy, i.e., a nation. However, R’ Shlomo says this is almost like an apikores. Akum means ‘Oveid Kochovim Umazolos.’ What if someone is an upstanding guy who keeps the seven mitzvas of Noach, do you want to be like that? Therefore, one must say ‘Shelo Osani Goy.’
The Meforshim ask: When we say Goy, does it mean a lowlife or an aristocrat? Rav Steinman, when he explains the berocho, seems to learn that the word Goy means a lowlife. He brings a story. In Russia, the parliament got together and wanted to make a law forbidding selling vodka in the morning because when people buy it in the morning, they get drunk and do not go to work. The people in the parliament said, 'You gain nothing from this rule. Now people will go and buy the night before for the morning!' However, they concluded that if people will buy at night for the next morning, they will finish it all at night…
R’ Boruch Ber explained it as the aristocrat Goy. The Kedushas Levi would make the berochos in the morning in shul, but one day, he omitted the berocho ‘Shelo Osani Goy.’ When the people asked for an explanation, he answered, ‘I was walking from my house to the shul and I saw a high-class poritz. Then, on the spot, I made the berocho ‘Shelo Osani Goy.’ Incidentally, the Chofetz Chaim used to say ‘Shelo Osani Akum.’ Perhaps he subscribed to the same reasoning as Slobodka chassidim, who didn’t say the word 'goy' because they felt it had derogatory connotations.
R’ Shlomo answers the question of why we say ‘Shelo Osani Goy’ when we, Klal Yisroel, are also a Goy. He answers that yes, as a nation, we are a Goy Echod. But an individual Jew is not called a Goy since he does not live alone. He is not a separate entity. Even an individual non-Jew is called a Goy because he is a nation for himself. One can't say that about a Jew; we are together even when we are alone!
There is a sefer called Ma'aser Hagdolim with a story about the Rothschilds. The Rothschilds were a very rich family. The first Rothschild was R’ Meir Anshall. Often, when he would walk in the street, people would try to degrade him, saying ‘dirty Jew.’ Every time someone would say that he would take out a zloty from his pocket and give it to him to show his appreciation. The people in the town caught on, and all the city would come to call him names; it became a way for them to make money. From then on, instead of giving money, he would say, ‘Shelo Osani Goy,’ thank you for the compliment that I am a Jew, not a Goy.
The Ways Of A Jew
The Chasam Sofer asked a question: If we cannot say She'osani because we would have been better off had we not been created; then why do we say ‘Boruch Elokeinu Sheboronu Lichvodo’?
Before you start davening and say Shema, it's ‘Noach Lo La'odom Shelo Nivroh,’ and you can only say ‘Shelo Osani Goy.’ However, after you daven and are ‘Mekabal Ol Malchus Shomayim,’ you can thank Hashem for creating you. When a person leaves shul, then they can say, ‘I was able to be a Jew.’ Hashem gives every person the ability, the kochos, to make themselves a Jew. Then it is in our hands. Therefore, we don’t say ‘She'osani’ since we are the ones making it ourselves. Rather, we say ‘Shelo Osani Goy.’Hashem does not perform a bris on us; we are the ones who perform a bris on the new baby. We are making him Jewish. The Meforshim say ‘Na'aseh Odom,’ together we will make man. Hashem gives us the body, the soul, and the tools. Then we must do our part in order to actually become a Yisroel. We can be separate and different from the entire world only as a nation, with the help of the Torah.
R’ Chazkal Levinstein explains the difference between a Jew and a Goy is not that one has attributes that the other does not have. Rather, they are completely different creations. psychologists, like tell people ‘Don’t suppress anger, let it out. Deal with it.’ The way of the Torah is to control oneself. Keep quiet. Psychology is right in human conditions, but we are a fully different creation. When Hashem offered all the other nations the Torah, they refused it when they heard what was written in it. How can we understand this? If you offer someone a life of riches, why would they say no just to be able to kill with a clean conscience?
The Goyim were not choosing that; rather, it is in their nature that they cannot control themselves. Torah changes a person's nature completely. When someone learns a Gemara, they are changed. How? The Torah means that a person becomes a Yehudi, and the normal set of rules does not apply to him.
The Gemara tells a story about Shimon Ben Shotach. Once, Shimon Ben Shotach rented a donkey from a Yishmaeli, like renting a car in modern-day terms. He found a beautiful diamond in the glove compartment. Shimon Ben Shotach returned the gem to the owner, and the Yishmaeli replied by saying, ‘Thank the God of Shimon Ben Shotach!’ Why does he not thank Shimon Ben Shotach himself? The Yishmaeli understood that if a human would find this amount of money, they would keep it. Therefore, it must be Hashem's doing that he returned the money.
Yaakov lived in the world of Torah. He looked at Eisav as an ach. For Eisav, who has no Torah, the anger lasts forever. Halacha ‘Eisav Soneh LeYaakov.’ This comes from keeping the Torah, or rather from Eisav NOT keeping the Torah.
Earlier on, there was a discussion of Sholom Bayis. How did Yaakov not get angry at Leah? When a person is an Ish Torah, his emotions and actions are not the same as those of an average person. He is able to forgive and forget.
Hillel from the Gemara was caught in the middle of a bet. People were trying to get him angry. A man came and asked Shamai to teach him the entire Torah on one foot. Shamai just threw him out the door. He then came to Hillel, and Hillel told him, ‘What you hate for yourself, don’t do to your friend.’ The Meforshim ask why Hillel says the statement in reverse and doesn't just say, ‘Ve'ohavto Larei'acho Komocho’? And how was that the entire Torah?
There is a Machlokes Rishonim. The Rambam learns that ‘Ve'ohavto Larei'acho Komocho’ is the literal meaning of what Hillel said. The Ramban says that it is not possible. A Goy would never understand ‘Ve'ohavto Larei'acho Komocho.’ He would just think it is crazy, so Hillel told him the meaning in a way that would make sense to him. This is the entire Torah since it can only be understood with the Torah. It will change you and enable you to live for others, not just for yourself. In the Shabbos davening, we say ‘Goy Echod Ba'oretz,’ versus 'Shelo Osani Goy.' This is the key underlying difference between an Eisav and a Yaakov.