We begin with a late breaking mazel tov! Just got word that Marissa Levitan, beautiful daughter of our friends Bends and Larry Levitan, got engaged just last night to Doron Moskowitz. Details to follow.
Raboyseyee and Ladies:
Blindness: Nine Different Ways
We begin with a shameless plug for a chaver who happens to be a seller of the Silver Cross line of baby carriages. A name from the past mamish for sure, ober it’s back! With a vengeance. And what better parsha to offer a plug for baby carriages and strollers than this week when we read how, after a challenging pregnancy during which Rivka Emaunu (our foremother) experienced giferliche pains, and some unusual kicking every time she passed either a Beis Medrish or a Church (lihavdil), and after visiting Sheim, he the son of Noiach, seemingly still alive in our parsha- twin baby boys by the name of Yaakov and Eisav were delivered by her.
In any event, after being married and childless for 20 years, and after a few pisukim (verses) of our parsha, Rivka and Yitzchok were suddenly parents to twin boys. Though Eisav is much vilified and seems to have gone rogue following his bar mitzvah, he might have been a very cure baby full of red hair, and we can imagine that Rivka took the babies out regularly to the park or wherever. Shoin, how was a mother to transport twins back in Toirah times? Mistama in a baby carriage and had Silver Cross, which was first established back in 1877 been around, mistama she would have had at least one. Let’s recall that Yitzchok was a wealthy man, so the heylige Toirah tells us (Bereishis 26:13). Why was Yitzchok so wealthy? Let’s recall that Yitzchok left Gerar with many parting gifts after Avimelech had Rivka snatched and delivered to the King’s palace. Ober not to worry: the RBSO did not allow King Avimelech to abuse Soro; if you hear or read otherwise, it’s fake news.
Ober the Silver Cross line does have some yichus (pedigree) as the company did supply one of its offerings -the world famous pram- to King George VI. In more recent times, Queen Elizabeth too used one. And even more recently, images online show many people proudly walking their new arrivals in later models. Lest you wax nostalgic and recall that what made Silver Cross a household name for generations was that big suburban-looking pram, avada you should be aware that the company has changed with the times. Today, two nice Yiddin sell a revamped and modernized line which includes lighter, more adaptable push chairs which compete with Bug a Boo and Uppa Baby. They sell all three brands and many accessories. Shoin, if you, or anyone in your family should be expecting a baby or two, or if you see the Silver Cross on any registry, the chaver who owns ‘baby’s den’ over in Brooklyn, has graciously agreed to offer a discount to Oisvorfer readers and followers. As a matter of fact, since we are providing this shameless plug, Baby’s Den has decided to expand the offer to anything found in their store. Click below for the offer marked Ois. Click here and read all about it. This coupon is good for readers all over the world. Ober one thing iz zicher, from the time that Silver Cross was intruded into the United States in 1942, it has been known for quality and has enjoyed a fine reputation. Click here to see the company’s website and don’t forget to fill in the special coupon marked OIS. Shoin, let’s learn some parsha. Ober, ershtens (firstly), a few words from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) where in chapter 151, halocho 17, we read azoy:
“Semen is the vitality of man’s body and the light of his eyes, and when issued in excess, the body weakens and life is shortened. Anyone who overindulges in marital relations, ages prematurely, his strength ebbs, his eyes dim, his breath becomes foul; the hair on his head, his eyebrows, and his eye lashes fall out.” Yikes! And we begin with this thought why? Nu, our topic of the week is blindness; veyter!
Welcome to Parshas Toldois wherein, as mentioned above, we will be introduced to the twins: Yaakov and his older brother Eisav. Our parsha covers the first 63 years of Yaakov’s life and the last 112 of Yitzchok’s. By the end of the parsha Yaakov will be taking center stage which he will occupy until his passing – according to those who actually agree that he did pass- in Parsha Vayichi.
Shoin, in this, our eighth review of Toldois, we will look limit ourselves to but one topic, ober space permitting, efsher a second. We shall begin with the weakening of the eyes: near or maybe even complete blindness, which seemingly struck Yitzchok in his old age, and the fallout which may have occurred as a result. Our parsha introduces and covers in very colorful detail the gantze Yaakov/Eisav brochis (birthright) caper by telling us that Yitzchok’s eyes had become heavy. Rashi and many others will tell us that ‘heavy’ really meant blindness. Shoin, Yitzchok was blind in his old age. And such blindness may have caused him to bless Yaakov with the brochis he had intended for Eisav. Did it? How could a wise man, one of our forefathers, one imbued with ruach hakoidesh (divine inspiration), be fooled by a son wearing skin leathers? He could see the future but not his son standing right before him? What’s taka pshat? Shoin the fallout from that trickery has never ended; medrish and many others teach us that “Eisav Soineh Li’yaakov” (Eisav hates, and is the enemy of Yaakov), seemingly forever! Nu, that’s how the RBSO willed it and azoy iz is. His Chosen People can never be fully at rest; we are instead always on high alert.
For the many who wish to read about how Yitzchok lied to the king and told him -as did his father Avrohom- that his wife Rivka was really his sister, and for many more givaldig insights into this medrish rich parsha, avada you are encouraged to visit the archives over at www.oisvorfer.com. You will not be disappointed as all the major storylines including Rivka’s pregnancy, the birth, the purchase of the first rights from Eisav, the conspiracy and plot concocted by Rivka and executed by Yaakov to perfection, and its aftermath, are covered.
Let’s get back to Yitzchok’s eyesight and let’s read a few words in the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 27:1) which tell us azoy:
|1. It came to pass when Isaac was old, and his eyes were too dim to see, that he called Eisav (Esau) his elder son, and he said to him, “My son,” and he said to him, “Here I am.”||אוַֽיְהִי֙ כִּֽי־זָקֵ֣ן יִצְחָ֔ק וַתִּכְהֶ֥יןָ עֵינָ֖יו מֵֽרְאֹ֑ת וַיִּקְרָ֞א אֶת־עֵשָׂ֣ו | בְּנ֣וֹ הַגָּדֹ֗ל וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ בְּנִ֔י וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו הִנֵּֽנִי:|
Immediately following this posik, the heylige Toirah dedicates 18 pisukim to the entire plan Rivka cooked up to help her favorite son Yaakov somehow obtain the brochis (blessings) Yitzchok had intended for his favorite son Eisav. Shoin, did both Yitzchok and Rivka have different favorites? Indeed they did; so does the heylige Toirah teach us. Ober Rivka could not bear to see Eisav, whom she perceived as being unworthy, walk away with the blessings her husband had in mind for his firstborn, and it appears that the RBSO was on her side. Ober what has all this to do with Yitzchok’s eyes? And what taka caused his diminished eyesight or total blindness? That, as you would expect, depends on whom you ask; a few of the numerous reasons suggested are mamish mind boggling. Lommer lernin.
Rashi chimes in with not one, and not two approaches, but three different reasons Yitzchok may have lost his sight. And when Rashi offers three answers, we can generally assume that he himself was unsure or unsatisfied with his first and second answers. Let’s then begin with his first approach. Yitzchok’s eyes were weakened by smoke. Was he a smoker? We don’t know. Ober, Rashi tells us that he did suffer from second-hand smoke, perhaps the first person in history to suffer from this malady. And where did the smoke come from? Shoin, earlier we learned that Eisav married a few shiksa girls and it appears that these women would use incense as part of their idol worship service. And? The smoke from the incense they burned made its way into Yitzchok’s eyes and shoin. How did Rashi know that Eisav’s wives were burning incense as part of their avoido zoro rituals? Nu, let’s hark back a few pisukim to Bereishis 26:35 where the heylige Toirah tells us azoy: “Their (idol worshiping) tormented Yitzchok and Rivka.” What’s pshat, and how were they tormented? By using incense during their avido zoro service. And the connection? Since the very next verse tells us that Yitzchok grew old and had trouble seeing, Rashi connected the dots and told us his blindness was as a result of the incense. Shoin!
Ober as stated above, Rashi himself was not overly confident by this causation and then tells us that Yitzchok’s eye issues came about as a result of the Akeydo incident (the binding). Why wasn’t Rashi happy? Nu, efsher he was wondering how it was shayich (possible) that only Yitzchok’s eyesight was affected? Why wasn’t Rivka’s? And why weren’t the eyes of Eisav, and or his wives, blinded? Are people affected differently by second hand smoke? Also, were they all living in one big house? And if they were, would Yitzchok not have noticed that Eisav and his wives engaged in idol worship? Would Yitzchok, despite witnessing such worship, still favor Eisav to a point where he wanted to davka bestow the special blessings on him? Nu, some tell us that Rivka was not affected because she was used to such incense associated with idol worship, that’s what she saw at home growing up, ober Eisav?
Moreover, what taka happened at the akeydo? What has the binding to do with blindness? Nu, anyone who went to yeshiva, even those who mostly roamed the hallways, or were hiding out in the bathroom to avoid the rebbe’s shtekin -sometimes both of them, if you chap- will zicher recall the rebbe saying that when Yitzchok was bound on the akeydo and ready to be slaughtered, the ministering angels looked down and wept. Shoin, if an angel has the ability to cry, zicher it or they can produce tears, and a few fell from heaven directly into Yitzchok’ eyes. As a result, approximately 85 years later, his eyes dimmed. Let’s not forget that he was 123 at this time. Not terribly old but zicher no spring chicken. Ober that explanation too mistama bothered Rashi. Shoin. Rashi offers one more explanation which is mistama what happened: this one found in the medrish (Tanchuma) which tells us azoy: the RBSO caused Yitzchok’s eye diminution so that he could be easily fooled thus enabling Yaakov to walk away with the brochis. In other words: it was the will of the RBSO who was a silent and unnamed co-conspirator! And avada we all know that when the RBSO wills something, there is no further discussion. Gishmak! That didn’t however stop others from proffering other possibilities. Let’s see what they had to say.
Says the medrish, Yitzchok lost his sight because he would often gaze into the face of Eisav? And what’s wrong with that? Shouldn’t a father, especially one who loves his son as did Yitzchok love Eisav, gaze into his face? Seemingly not. Gazing into the face of a bad guy can lead to blindness. In other words: Yitzchok was punished for gazing. Shoin many of you can only imagine what’s in store for you for illegal gazing at other places, if you chap. And especially so!
Says the Ba’al Haturim and also the Medrish Rabbah: Yitzchok taka lost his eyesight as punishment, ober not for gazing. Vuszih-den (if not for gazing, for what)? What was his sin? Seemingly, he was guilty of bribery. Giving or taking? Say the medrish: he accepted a bribe, say it’s not so. Is bribery always a sin? Shoin that avada depends on the jury, ober let’s not get hung up on that, if you chap, and says the medrish azoy: The heylige Toirah made it quite clear that Yitzchok favored Eisav because he fed him. Eisav was a hunter and always took care of his father. Others suggest that Eisav endeared himself by asking his father questions in order to fool his father into believing he was a good guy. The bottom line: the medrish believes that Yitzchok allowed himself to be bribed and since the heylige Toirah teaches us (Devorim 16:19) that “bribery blinds the eyes of the wise, “we should assume that Yitzchok’s blindness was just punishment. Shoin!
Ober another medrish tells us that Yitzchok’s blindness was caused by a curse that King Avimelech, back in Avrohom’s times cast upon him. What’s pshat? Seemingly, Avimelech, still smarting over the harsh punishments the RBSO visited upon him after he had Soro over at the King’ palace for a visit with the magic scepter, if you chap, cursed Avrohom that his son should go blind. That was back in parshas Vayero. Ober why would the RBSO allow a gentile king’s curse to affect our forefather Yitzchok? Shoin, let’s move on to another pshat.
One medrish tells us that Yitzchok went blind in his older days as a punishment. What did he do wrong? Says the medrish: when Yitzchok lay bound and tied to the akeydo, ready to sacrifice his life, mamish, he was of course lying on his back. But did he close his eyes as his father held a big sword over him? Not! Instead he looked straight up and was gazing at the shichina, the RBSO’s essence. What that means, ver veyst, ober according to this pshat, Yitzchok violated a big no-no and was efsher deserving of the death penalty. Just for gazing? Nu, the heylige Toirah does tell us that no man can see the RBSO’s essence and live. Shoin! If that’s the case, why was he spared and why did he go blind only 85 years later? Shoin, that’s because the RBSO, in His benevolence, commuted the death sentence to blindness and instead downgraded him to blindness. Yitzchok caught a second break when the RBSO delayed sentencing until he was 123 years old.
Ober said Rebbe Yehuda Bar Shimon (also in the medrish) that Yitzchok’s blindness came about only as a result of his own desires for physical afflictions. What? Yitzchak wanted to be physically afflicted? And why? Wasn’t he already married? Wasn’t that enough suffering? Of course the Oisvorfer is just kidding here; avada he loves his wife dearly. Seemingly, according to this view, Yitzchok did not want to arrive to Shomayim (heaven) without having suffered during his lifetime. He thought that a clean slate while on earth, would hurt his chances of getting into Gan Eden. He felt that if he did not suffer enough on this world, judgment in the next world, would be harsh. Therefore he davened for physical afflictions. Shoin, in our times, people not on Yitzchok’s level who desire such afflictions, can either get married, or pay for such services, if you chap.
Ober said Rebbe Elozor ben Azarya, he the same person we read about in the Hagaddah each Pesach, azoy: As Eisav got older, past 15 years of age, he morphed into an evil person. Eventually he personified evil. His behavior was an anathema to Yitzchok. The RBSO felt badly for Yitzchok, ober what to do? The RBSO did not want Yitzchok to be embarrassed by Eisav’s poor behavior. Imagine how embarrassed Yitzchok might have been when he went out to the market accompanied by Eisav and where people might say “this is the father of that wicked person.” Shoin! What to do? The RBSO decided to remove Yitzchok’s sight thereby also limiting his mobility. With Yitzchok blind, he would likely stay home and have Eisav cook for him. Shoin the plan worked.
Ober says the Ibn Ezra mamish a givaldige chidush (breakthrough) pshat: why did Yitzchok go blind? It’s simple. He got old! And says Rabaynu Bichaya: it’s taka so, he got old. Moreover, in a few weeks we will be learning that Yaakov too got old and his eyes too were failing. No one seems to be bothered by his blindness, why is everyone klerring areyn and proffering all sorts of thoughts, a few of which are negative, about the cause of Yitzchok’s? Ver veyst?
Shoin, why did Yitzchok go blind? Ver veyst? In the end, whatever the reason, we must avada believe that it was the RBSO’s will that Yitzchok, efsher as a result of some creativity by Rivka – and avada it’s good to have a creative wife who know how to sew clothing as a prop- deliver the brochis (blessings) to our forefather Yaakov without Yitzchok’s knowledge. Who are we to question the RBSO’s reasoning?
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv