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24 Teves 5765 - January 5, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Eisov's Hatred Towards Yaakov

by Rav Yaakov Horowitz

Part II

In the first part, HaRav Horowitz noted that we find for the first time in parshas Shemos that the Egyptians hated the Jews, without any apparent cause. This sets a historical pattern, as Chazal say, "It is a halochoh that Eisov hates Yaakov," meaning that just as halochoh is immutable, so is the hatred. Similarly we find that there is a gap between the uneducated and talmidei chachomim and we see that Chazal took steps to keep a distance from am horatzim since they designated their clothing to impart tumoh. If the Jews do not make kiddush, Rav E. Wasserman said, the goyim will make havdoloh. This we saw in Egypt, when Hashem caused the Egyptians to hate us as Jews became closer to Egyptians and their way of life.


Chazal categorize people into three different categories: talmid chochom, person or soldier.

Talmid chochom — The Tosafos (Sota 21a) explain that the yetzer hora cannot control a regular talmid chochom because he "is constantly engaged in Torah and Torah thoughts, and does not walk dalet amos without Torah."

Odom — Elsewhere (Brochos 11b) the Tosafos asks why one who leaves a succah must recite another brochoh upon his return, while one who resumes his Torah study does not have to make a new brochoh. Then it proceeds to explain that one who leaves a succah forgets the mitzvah he was engaged in creating a hefsek, whereas the mitzvah of Torah learning applies at all times and there is no hefsek because one does not put it out of mind. This principle applies to Jews who fall into this category.

Chayol — Referring to a regular Jewish army, the Torah says, "When you go out to encamp against your enemies, keep away from every evil thing . . . And you shall have a spade among your equipment . . . therefore shall your camp be holy" (Devorim 23:10-15). This is not a description of a beis medrash but of the general army camp. Rashi adds that the camp must be holy because Am Yisroel is constantly contemplating divrei Torah (Shabbos 15a).

Thus we see that in theory — not just talmidei chachomim but — all Jews are engaged in Torah at all times.


Although this may seem a far cry from the present reality, in essence it contains a salient message regarding Am Yisroel. According to the Yalkut Shimoni on the verse" . . . is Hashem among us or not" (Shemos 17:7), "R' Yehoshua says: Said Yisroel, `If He is the Sovereign over all worlds, if He has sovereignty over us we will serve Him, and if not we will not" (262, s.v. Hineni). This medrash demonstrates that the world contains Hashgochoh protis and Hashgochoh klolis, both of which have various levels— one for animals and another for goyim, one for reshoim and another for tzaddikim, and so on.

Following an investigation of sublime matters at that point in the Chumash, Am Yisroel wanted to know whether Hakodosh Boruch Hu watches over the Jews the way he guards His other creatures, or whether a special grade of Hashgochoh is reserved for Jews alone.

This unique Hashgochoh places special attention on human action, requiring zehirus on the part of those being guarded over. The closer they are to Him, the more they come under scrutiny and the more severe the punishments they receive for misconduct.

Am Yisroel did not want a special tie to Hakodosh Boruch Hu because they did not want to be under greater scrutiny than the rest of Creation. And if avodas Hashem demanded more exacting Hashgochoh, they preferred to do without it.

Within the bounds of human understanding, the Torah and mitzvos are a sort of contract between Hashem and Am Yisroel. In exchange for adhering to Yiddishkeit, Hashem promises a good life, but really the essence of life is gashmiyus — enjoying one's children, eating, and such — and the "tax" on this enjoyment is the 613 mitzvos. People want to live their lives, but in order to live one must keep the mitzvos.

This understanding can be compared to marriage (just as Chazal compared the bond between Am Yisroel and Hakodosh Boruch Hu, following the model set by Shlomo Hamelech in Shir Hashirim) according to those who think that marriage involves role distribution. When asked what marriage means, typically one would agree that life cannot be enjoyed alone, and certainly raising a family alone is out of the question. Therefore in order to enjoy life, for practical reasons, one must marry even though marriage is not the primary focus in life.

This, of course, is a skewed understanding of marriage since by definition a couple is not a team whose members are assigned different tasks. Says the Torah, "Zochor unekeivo bero'om . . . vayikro es shemom Odom" (Bereishis 5:2). Only male and female are called, collectively, "Odom." Thus life, by definition, is only when they are together as one, and the obligation to distribute the load is merely a means of maintaining a union.

The same applies in Judaism: Hakodosh Boruch Hu considers matan Torah a marriage (see Yalkut Shimoni, Parshas Yisro, Remez 247, 279). Thus the definition of this marriage is closeness to Hashem. As Chazal say, Hakodosh Boruch Hu and Yisroel are one. This is the essence of Judaism and Am Yisroel — clinging to Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

Says the Torah, "Vo'eso eschem al kanfei neshorim, vo'ovi eschem Eilai" (Shemos 19:4). Hashem promises to carry Am Yisroel on the wings of eagles — not in pursuit of worldly pleasures, but to bring the nation to Him ("Eilai"). Thus life is called life only as long as one cleaves to Hakodosh Boruch Hu, and the life of a Jew without this closeness is not truly living.

This is the difference between Yisroel and the nations. The goyim live a life rooted in This World and pay minimal "taxes" in the form of mitzvos Bnei Noach. Meanwhile Bnei Yisroel do not just pay "taxes," albeit in a different quantity or form. Rather their lives are entirely different.

The whole purpose of their lives is to achieve nearness to Hashem. The life of a Jew is measured according to how closely he clings to Him. For example, everyone wants to be healthy, but the real purpose is in order to be fit as a servant of Hashem, and therefore preserving one's health is also a way of cleaving to Him.

The Jew does not have "free time" to do as he pleases. There is a bond of matrimony between Him and us. Therefore we must cling to Him in everything we do. For some this means learning Torah and for others it means determining that all the energy expended on business affairs is an act of chesed toward one's family members and being careful to avoid ribis and ono'o and similar motivations.

Thus every Jew engaged in learning (or similarly in working) is engaged in a different mode of learning, for his learning becomes the very focus of his life rather than a peripheral endeavor. Although not at the same level of the talmid chochom, every "odom" and every "chayol" as well is constantly striving to carry out Hashem's will, never straying from the marital-type relationship of "vo'ovi eschem Eilai.

Because it can be hard to live this way, Am Yisroel was apprehensive over the prospects of "yeish Hashem bikirbeinu" — total unity with Hakodosh Boruch Hu on the model of marriage — for the entire world of the goyim and of gashmiyus leads and pulls towards the opposite direction.

However, even if Am Yisroel did not remain vigilant He would watch over them, for they cannot be allowed to part from Him under any circumstances. A Jew's entire life is Torah and mitzvos and the rest is merely a means toward those ends. Thus there is nothing to be gained by pursuing Olom Hazeh. The pursuit of worldly pleasures is not necessarily a specific aveiroh, but it can be even worse for it may ruin a Jew at the core. If he does not, Rachmono litzlan, subsequently elect to distance himself from such pursuits the goyim will do it for him.


Upon their reunion, Eisov asks Yaakov, "Mi lecho kol hamachaneh hazeh" (Bereishis 33:5). Writes the Baal Haturim, "When [Eisov] encountered [Yaakov] and saw his sons and daughters he said, `Who are these sons and daughters of yours? This is not [consistent with] how you spoke when we were in our mother's belly battling over two worlds. There you chose the World to Come where there is no "be fruitful and multiply." So who are these children of yours?'"

Since Yaakov was supposed to receive only the World to Come and Eisov This World, why did Yaakov have silver and gold, women, children, servants and maidservants?

Yaakov replies, "The children G-d granted your servant," i.e. all of this is a part of avodas Hashem, whether it be learning Torah or eating. The difference between a talmid chochom and other Jews is the ability to engage in learning unceasingly, for to think about Hashem's will in every action is not beyond anyone's ability, and this is what it really means to learn all the time.


The fundamental distinction between Am Yisroel and the nations is neither in quantity or quality, but in their respective natures. Every Jew is not just an individual with the potential to be a "priest" and Hashem's people is not merely the nation that carries out His will, for the goyim are required to do so as well. The tie between Am Yisroel and Hakodosh Boruch Hu is a bond of marriage, and as such the Jewish people keep Torah and mitzvos with more desire, superior quality and greater quantity. And only such an education can produce a soldier who needs a holy camp.

In order to remain at this high madreigoh, chachomim distanced themselves from amei ho'arotzim. As long as the am ho'oretz felt envy and aspired to be a talmid chochom, he did not hate him. But the moment amei ho'oretz chose completely to live worldly lives, they began to detest talmidei chachomim who chose a very different existence.

To bring about a situation in which each and every person in Am Yisroel wants to be a talmid chochom, or at least to live like a true Jew, such a framework must be made available. For everyone, there are two paths to follow: either a life of Torah and mitzvos or, chas vesholom, a life of persecution and harsh decrees, trials and calamities. But some type of framework must exist, for all of Am Yisroel must be a mamleches kohanim vegoy kodosh, not merely a conglomeration of individuals.

Maran HaChazon Ish said that kollelim must exist if only so that baalei batim will know what questions to ask. In other words to preserve the form of Am Yisroel, a framework of yeshivos and kollelim must be present to support bnei Torah for a number of years. He who is not within the realm of the Torah world and in close proximity to talmidei chachomim places his personal future as a Jew at risk.

According to Rav Yissochor Meir the rosh yeshiva of Netivot, today the yeshiva is the individual's Teivas Noach, and whoever wants to save himself from all the evil in This World must enter the ark, because outside there is a deluge of kefirah and other maladies. He cites the following parable told by the Ponevezher Rov zt'l: Just as the re'eim (an extinct animal) was unable to board the Ark due to its bulk and therefore was tied to the outside with just its snout on the inside, so too the Jew must ensure that at least his nose is inside the yeshiva. Even if he leaves the yeshiva to live a common life, he must maintain at least a minimal tie to the Torah world.

Of course if everyone just sticks his nose in, nobody will be living inside the ark and it will cease to exist. But as long as the yeshiva remains intact, he who wants to be spared must retain at least some connection to it.

HaRav Yaakov Horowitz is rosh yeshivas Ofakim. This essay is reprinted from Doleh Umashkeh.

See also Part I.

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