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  • Rav Moshe Weiss

נהר ופשטיה Nahar U’Pashtei A Weekly Insight From מרן הרה״ג ר׳ שלו׳ ראובן פיינשטיין שליט״א לע״נ משה בן צבי אלטע שרה חנה בת אליהו מירל בת משה Issue #147 פרשת תולדות


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Hidden Evil

The pesukim in this week’s parshah tell us that both of Esav’s wives,“Yehudis” and “Basmas,” were from the Chiti nation. Yet, later, in parshas Vayishlach, we are told that Esav’s wives were Adah bas Eilon, the Chiti, and Ahalivamah bas Tzivon, the Chivi. Rashi famously explains that Basmas was really Adah, and Yehudis’ real name was Ahalivamah. Basmas earned her nickname on account of her offering incense (besamim) to idols, while Esav would call his wife Adah by the name Yehudis to try and trick his father into believing that she had adapted the Jewish way of life, free of idolatry. This is all familiar to us. What remains to be addressed is that in our sidrah Yehudis is referred to as a Chiti, while in Vayishlach she is of Chivi descent. What are we to learn from this discrepancy? The truth is that Avraham Avinu saw a flaw in the Chivi nation, and therefore sought to keep his nation free of these character traits by not allowing any of the Chivi to marry into Klal Yisroel. Timnah, who was the concubine of Elifaz son of Esav and the mother of Amalek, originally had wished to marry into Klal Yisroel. She was turned away from joining Avraham’s family, due to her Chivi descent and the middos that came along with it. Esav knew that his father Yitzchok also despised what the Chivi brought with them, and he therefore pretended that “Yehudis” was of the Chiti instead. And what was this unique trait that the Chivi presented that Avraham felt was so important to eradicate? It was the ability to act, to pretend and assume an alternate identity. And Ahalivamah the Chivi did just that. She served idols, and still put up the facade of being a Torah observant woman, Yehudis the Chiti! However, the great Rivkah Imeinu wasn’t fooled by her charade, seeing through it all. There is a powerful lesson for us to learn from Avraham and Yitzchok’s attitude toward the Chivi way. A person that always has the ability to pretend and to slip from one identity to another will have a difficult time growing spiritually. The ability to act is also the ability to hide. When one can act in a way that is completely not his own nature, it allows him to forgo any necessary reckoning with his true self. To truly grow in avodas Hashem, one must be constantly aware of his direction and his actions, working to improve and eradicate evil. Pretending, and charades, are the opposite of this honest and open approach that propels a person forward. To properly gauge one’s true madreigah, or the madreigah of those he seeks to influence, complete transparency is needed. And not only can one fool others this way, but he can also fool himself! Once he trains himself to live a certain way, he will be convinced that he has come to that madeigah, even though he is not being genuine. Putting on a smile and acting as if he is on a higher madreigah may help a person, and even be mechazek others, but he must make sure it comes from inside, and that he does not build a habit of hidden realities. A gut Shabbos! A Project of the YSI Alumni Association Written by R’ Moshe Weiss


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  • Rav Moshe Weiss

Constant Growth

How many years did Yaakov Aveinu learn Torah in Yeshivah? This is a question commonly found on chumash sheets, and one that we always make a point of teaching our children. Before Yaakov could face the terrible atmosphere that was waiting for him in Lavan’s house, he needed to prepare himself with dedicated Torah study. Some even explain that these fourteen years of learning were specifically to counter the time that Yaakov thought he would be living with Lavan. Torah is everything. Torah gives one the power to overcome his yetzer hara, and molds his character and his entire way of thinking. Rashi brings R’ Chiya Bar Abba who teaches us that the reason the Torah makes mention at the end of this week’s parshah of how long Yishmael lived, is so we can know when Yishmael passed away and use that as a point of reference to deduce that Yaakov must have been somewhere for fourteen years before he went to Lavan. These “missing” fourteen years were the glorious days we speak of fondly, where Yaakov Avinu connected with the Torah in such a strong way. What does seem just a bit odd is that if this episode is so important, integral in showing us how Torah should be central to our lives, why would the Torah hide it so? Why do we need to figure it out with a calculation of missing years based on a mention of Yishmael’s lifespan, and only then learn that Yaakov Avinu was indeed growing into his spiritual potential in Yeshiva? Should the Torah not seek to magnify this concept? Perhaps there lies a second lesson deep within what we see here. Yes, the Torah does want us to learn of the greatness and potency of learning, and how it changes a person and makes him holy. But the Torah also wants to express the idea that no one should ever think that only Yaakov Avinu (or someone of similarly great stature) can or should do this. By hiding the reality of Yaakov’s Torah study, the pesukim come to tell us that the attitude toward growth in Torah should be that it is not something superhuman or extraordinary. Hashem created every person to grow in Torah and avodah, and the fact that we strive to that end is because we do what we should; it is not something that is beyond anyone. Yes, Yaakov was learning and shteiging; because we can too! That is what we do! Then, after we realize this, we can focus on the dedication and the diligence that made Yaakov unique, and work to emulate him. So, aside from all the lessons we must take from the way Yaakov Avinu approached his avodah, we must own this new lesson as well. Of course, we learn! Of course, we grow! This is our purpose! How to do it and what will drive us forward; these are things that one must constantly contemplate and improve upon, but if we grow cannot be in question! Never, ever should a person’s direction be in doubt! A gut Shabbos! A Project of the YSI Alumni Association Written by R’ Moshe Weiss

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  • Rav Moshe Weiss

A Little Commitment

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In Parshas Vayeirah we encounter the depth of kindness of our father Avraham, as well as the terrible evil that was Sedom. Avraham understood that kindness should not be a reaction a person has, but a way of life. One must feel the pain and inconveniences of others so acutely that he simply cannot bear not to be involved. This was what motivated him, in the midst of his own pain and sickness, to rush to fulfill the needs of others down to the finest detail. The Torah is not a book of rules; each mitzvah seeks to convey Hashem’s intention for man. A person must strive to uncover these directives and mold himself into a true servant of Hashem. Avraham adopted to love this way and became the father of chessed. The people of Sedom were the polar opposites. Not only did they not follow the Torah, but they also believed that they were smarter than Hashem and thus instituted their own morals and standards. The reason why Hashem destroyed these people in a supernatural and devastating way was because they thought they knew better than Hashem. This was heresy that ran so deep that it required complete and total annihilation! Yet, despite all this, Avraham set out to find perhaps some merit that would save them. In the end, not even eight righteous men existed among these repulsive individuals, and they were wiped out. What is very interesting to note, is that we know that Hashem sent Lot out of Sedom before the destruction began. Lot was told where to go, but he made a request of the angels that he find refuge in a nearby city, for that city was not as evil as established as Sedom and its fellow cities. Lot prayed that this city be saved from the fate of Sedom, and his wish was granted! When the great Avraham prayed for the salvation of Sedom he was refused, but Lot should be answered? Hashem had told Avraham that there just weren’t enough righteous people to save the cities, and Lot’s prayer was answered despite this! And the answer is that Avraham did not live among these people, nor was he going to. His prayer was therefore only to seek out any merit that they might possess, and for this reason, he came up empty. Lot, on the other hand, he was going to live in the city he prayed for! As soon as Lot admitted the error of their ways and resolved to influence the people of the city for the better, he was granted his request. The merit of a person who is committed to teshuvah has no limits in the eyes of Hashem’s mercy. And herein lies the lesson to us all. Commitment to be better is key. Realize the power of a true pledge to turn a page and strive upward. An entire city devoid of merit is suddenly viewed as righteous! Before one makes a commitment to improve, his potential doesn’t matter, for no change is apparent. As soon as there is resolve to be better, the potential good rises to the surface again. A gut Shabbos! A Project of the YSI Alumni Association Written by R’ Moshe Weiss

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